A Case For Cory Sarich


I’m not a huge Sarich fan. I think he’s capable enough when he focuses on the small things, but he’s slow, not very agile, and provides little to no offense. That said, the Flames should absolutely look into re-signing the blueliner.

A lot of Flames fans and writers seem to think Sarich is indicative of the problems that plague the Flames – this is true, to an extent. His cap hit is (or was) too large for what he brings (or rather, doesn’t) to the team, and that limits who Calgary can bring in to fill in on the blueline. He represents the classic Darryl Sutter style of management, which is to say "Bigger and harder hitting is better" regardless of skating ability. So while Cory Sarich is a fine example of these two basic problems, he’s hardly the larger problem itself.

As a UFA this year, the first issue is easily fixed: Sarich clearly isn’t in line for a pay raise and the Flames could probably have him for something in the realm of $1M. With the salary cap likely to go up again, can anyone really argue that $1M is way out of line with what Sarich should be earning?

The second issue, in a sense, was already fixed by the Flames last season. Sarich was given slightly tough zone starts (47.8%- sixth toughest on the team among skaters with at least 30 games) and slightly easy competition (8th easiest on the team). How’d he do with that ice time? Better than you’d expect: Sarich ended up with the second highest Relative Corsi on the Flames at +12.0 (his most frequent partner, Brodie, was first at +17.0, though in slightly easier minutes).

Bang for the Buck

So while it’s clear Sarich isn’t Nik Lidstrom in terms of longevity as a quality NHL player, he’s certainly not a liability in limited minutes. Still, there has to be a better defenseman for the bottom of the pairings, right? Actually, not particularly. There’s plenty of roughly "equal" players, but most of them will cost more and are less familiar with the team and the city.

Sarich, on the other hand, will almost certainly come cheap for the Flames. It’s also worth noting he’s not an "Anton Babchuk" bottom pairing defender either – he can play 16 minutes a game and not be an absolute trainwreck given his decent possession numbers. Babchuk, for the sake of contrast, began more often in the offensive zone and saw easier competition than Sarich and ended up with a worse relative corsi rate (-2.8/60).

The real reason to resign Sarich, however, is one of hockey philosophy. The Flames won’t gain anything by letting him walk to another team. Sarich on the Flames is not a question of rebuilding or not rebuilding he could likely be had for a cool $1M, which wouldn’t preclude the Flames from signing other players. If he stays, the Flames have a known quantity who’s not a complete liability for cheap. He’s familiar with the city, management, and the rest of the Flames.

Sarich isn’t a player hockey operations should expend more than a modicum of energy trying to re-sign, but if he’s happy to stay at a low cost, there’s more reasons to do so than not.

  • BobB

    I agree with Kent, and I actually really like Cory. I don’t like his contract, but I do like his game.

    Unfortunately, that game is very limited today and I think that he’d be better suited in a environment that can use his skillset to less detriment.

    The Flames are not going to suffer not having Cory in the lineup, and if they do, it doesn’t really matter.

    I’d rather see the spot go to someone young who could either really fail, or exceed expectations.

  • I think Clay Wilson takes Sarich’s spot as the 7th guy next year. Again this is now Feasters team, he has no ties to any of the players Daryl brought in. So beyond any reason than Sarich has been here for a long time we won’t be seeing Sarich back next season. He is very easily replaced by any number of younger more mobile players and other than nostalgia there is really no reason to bring him back.

  • I agree with both you and Arik actually

    Depending on how free agency goes, if Sarich sits on the market a little longer there could be value there.

    What I worry about is attitude. There were some dust ups this season with Sarich sitting in the press box. I worry about jading some of our promising young players. I would hate for Baertschi to lose that swagger and Horak to lose his excitement level.

    Its tough to gauge how having a sour vet would impact other players, but its not something I want to test. If Sarich comes back, his role has to be well defined, as well as what he needs to do to win more responsibility. To have a meritocracy players have to understand it and where they fit in. I think the team has been missing that in recent years.

  • CitizenFlame

    He is also one of the few players on the Flames defence last year that hit anybody. At least with Sarich teams need to recognize he’s on the ice. Calgary doesn’t have the element currently.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Wow, Kent is a great boss 🙂 , calling out your work in a public forum in your first week. Kent throw your resume in for the head coaching job!

    Kidding aside, I would resign Sarich as the number 7 if the price tag is low and Babchuk is gone (also if they let Hannan go). If Sarich is sheltered properly, he could be of great use against deep offensive teams (ahem Vancouver).

  • Some decent points. Allow me to counter though.

    First, Sarich doesn’t really fill a need on the team. Calgary is already swimming in bottom pairing defenders – TJ Brodie, Anton Babchuk, Derek Smith, Clay Wilson (one-way deal next year).

    Second, he’s at the age where performance for slow, physical defenders really starts to drop off. He turned 33 last August and will be 34 in September.

    He’s a dude that battles chronic injury every year as well.

    It wouldn’t be a terrible error to re-sign for one year for cheap, but…