2012-13 Reasonable Expectations: Dennis Wideman

 

 

Outside of bringing in Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka to the organization, arguably the most important addition to the Calgary Flames this summer was Dennis Wideman. In fact, he may be more crucial to the success of the club than any of the new forwards.

To be blunt, the Flames got very little offense from their blueline last season. Consequently, their power-play also got very few goals from their back end. Enter Wideman, who was tenth in points among NHL blueliners and, had he been on the Flames, he would’ve had more points than anyone not named Iginla, Jokinen, Tanguay or Glencross.

But how will Wideman fare on the Flames?

EXPECTATIONS AND COMPARABLES

The Flames have basically the same defensive crew that they had last season, save for Wideman stepping in for Scott Hannan. I think it’s safe to say he’s an upgrade.

Internally, the Flames probably expect Wideman, based on his age and previous production, to be the team’s leading defensive scorer. Stop me if you’ve heard this song before with Jay Bouwmeester. That said, Wideman has a much stronger offensive pedigree and will be relied upon to do different things. In the past five seasons, Wideman’s points-per-game rate has been between 0.39 and 0.63, meaning that barring a massive collapse in production, he’d be expected to produce between 32 and 52 points in a full season.

In contrast, last year’s highest scoring Flames blueliner (Jay Bouwmeester) had 29 points.

The difference between his low and high-water estimates probably falls to his special teams capabilities. Last season, the Flames got really lacklustre production out of their defenders on the power-play. Bouwmeester and Giordano each had 10 power-play points. (They were sixth and seventh on the club.) Wideman had 20 points with the extra man in Washington, although granted he was playing with Alex Ovechkin, Nik Backstrom, Alex Semin, etc.

The big question marks for where Wideman’s production will fall are as follows:

How much will bringing in Bob Hartley change the Flames power-play?

How much of the power-play disfunction was related to personnel?

As covered elsewhere, the Flames were truly awful at face-offs with the man advantage. Jay Bouwmeester at times looked like he couldn’t hit water if he fell from a boat, let along hit a net from the point. The power-play “plan” seemed like it relied entirely upon making a dozen passes that ended with a Jarome Iginla one-timer. You can see the results of this strategy in the stats: the Flames averaged a medicore 48.6 shots/60 minutes of PP time last season. However, the regulars on the first unit actually averaged significantly less, including Iginla (42.6), Jokinen (43.9) and Tanguay (44.6). To put those numbers in perspective, the 6th worst rate by a team last season was 45.1/60.

So Unless Hartley and the new coaching staff overhaul the philosophy, adding Wideman to the unit probably won’t change much.

Presuming they change some things, let’s ball-park Wideman’s full-season production at around 42 points. That’d put him in the top 20 of the NHL most seasons, which is both probably where the Flames hope he will be and where he should be based on his pay-grade. On the other hand, another mediocre season with the man advantage by the club could sink him to the 30-35 point range.

The only other risk faced by the club with Wideman is the length of his contract along with the added NMC – if the 29 year old begins to falter in the later years, it will be a highly difficult contract to swallow.

OPPORTUNITY

The Flames desperately needed to get a bit more juice out of their special teams, a fact that was mentioned by both general manager Jay Feaster and the new coaches during the off-season. Wideman’s excellence with the extra man means he’ll get many, many chances to help the power-play.

Even strength, it depends on who he plays with. The Flames top four seems to be some combination of Wideman, Bouwmeester, Giordano and Chris Butler, and it’s unclear which partner Wideman will end up with. My guess is either Giordano or Butler, but it could vary. A more defensively-oriented partner would allow Wideman to jump into the rush a bit more. Things could get a bit ugly for him if he land with Jay Boumweester and the pairing see similar minutes to the Butler/Bouwmeester duo last year.

Either way, the Flames expect him to be an upgrade over Scott Hannan. If he plays a similar role at ES to Hannan, he probably won’t disappoint.

CONCLUSION

Dennis Wideman came to the Flames in the most high-profile move of the summer. He’s got a big contract and fairly big expectations on his shoulders. The upside is that, unlike the Bouwmeester signing of yesteryear, the Flames seem to have a ready-made complementary spot for Wideman to fit into and he’ll slot into the top four rather nicely.

That means expectations won’t be muted for Wideman, and he’ll be counted upon to produce points on a regular basis. Should he not, he could go down as a very bold, and very expensive, mistake for Jay Feaster. But if he does produce, he’ll improve the Flames power-play while potentially firming up the second pairing at 5on5.As a result, he could be worth a couple of wins to the Flames if everything breaks right.

And if the Western Conference is as tightly contested as it has been in recent years, a handful of games could make all the difference.

 

  • McRib

    If wideman can produce in the Top Ten in the NHL offensively for defenseman like he has in the past he is worth every penny, the pair of him and Gio just feels like it will work.

    Getting Bouwmeester off the first unit is key, the guy has the biggest muffin for a shot in the league. How he scored 15 goals in Florida is beyond me.

    Icing TJ Brodie/Babchuk for our second PP Unit, gives Butler/Bouwmeester more even strength time.

    No one has said it but possibly decreasing Bouwmeester’s ice time from 25+ minutes a game to 18-20 could be very beneficial. He is a mobile defender but you cannot tell me we are getting Jays A game by him logging as many minutes every night as he did last year. Getting Wideman if anything gives Bouwmeester a few needed shifts off.

  • McRib

    The Alberta Labor Relations Board was the one who potentially was going to block the flames players from attending… It was never the flames players saying they weren’t going to attended… Then the ALRB dropped their impeding case with the NHL and it was a non issue. The Flames couldn’t attend if the ALRB was going to have any validity against the NHL in their case.

    People need to chill out!! Don’t worry Matt Stajan will be there! haha

    Why the Flames brass didn’t reschedule it when they became aware that 10-11 players had an obligation to be in NYC during the charity golf tournament like Vancouver, San Jose, etc.

  • McRib

    “Stajan added that “10 or 11″ Flames players are travelling to New York to attend the meetings.. At the end of the day, the guys who are in Calgary will be going to the tournament . .”

  • RexLibris

    Back to Wideman for a second, if he is such a defensive liability on the PP then it will be interesting to see if aggressive penalty kill units target him for turnovers. His defensive partner might begin to resent the assignment.

    Interesting comments about the golf tournament. I’m trying to resist, but it is just too easy so here goes…ahem…”maybe the Flames are tired of golf from all the time they’ve had on the course these past few years?”. And yeah, I know, with all the time the Oilers players have had at the golf course they should be qualifying for the PGA tour yadda yadda yadda. 😉

    Honestly though, where did the information come from about who is and isn’t attending? I’d love to read about it.

  • supra steve

    “The fact that the Flames players are not going to play in the Flames Charity Golf Tournament has absolutely nothing to do with the NHLPA or the CBA.”

    “You misunderstood what I meant. Of course the Flames players are not playing because of the current CBA issues, that much is obvious.”

    All righty then 😉

  • Vintage Flame

    This is disgusting. I cant believe the Flames players & their player rep, you know, that brilliant under achieving, over paid Stajan made a brilliant call on this one.

    I am just about done with group as well. I am tired of paying tickets to watch these greedy over paid players saunter through their games. I think we just blow this SOB up, trade every player that doesnt show up & start over & build some character & leadership on this team. This is for C H A R I T Y, not CBA or NHL.What an insult to the City of Calgary. Right now I dont care how bad we suck as long as my money isnt going to this selfish group.

  • RKD

    Kent, just curious why do say Wideman has more offensive pedigree than Jay-Bo? The comparables look eerily similar. Jay-Bo like Jokinen had inflated point totals from a weak SE divison with an easier travel schedule in the Eastern Conference.

    Since coming to the Western Conference and competitive NW division, Jay-Bo has turned into a shutdown d-man putting up 29, 24, and 29 points in his three season as a Flame.

    Dennis Wideman has not played in the Western Conference since for six years, is he not guilty of inflated point totals in a weak SE division? I’m not trying to be negative, but it’s going to be harder for him in the West to sustain those higher point totals. I still think Wideman strengthens our defence and is a better option than Sarich, Hannan, or Babs.

  • The golf tournament is a big, big fundraiser for the Flames Foundation for Life, which is the club’s primary (but not only) charitable component.

    Almost every charity that gets money from the Flames gets their money via the Flames Foundation for Life. They do a lot of good work in the community.

  • Vintage Flame

    The fact that the Flames players are not going to play in the Flames Charity Golf Tournament has absolutely nothing to do with the NHLPA or the CBA.

    Almost all of the Rangers players played in their charity tourney last week, so clearly this is not move that is suggested or sponsored by the PA.

    I have to agree with Wes’ sentiment. It’s a disgrace.

    Would you be going to a work-sponsored fundraiser if your boss was locking you out of work?

    Eric Duhatschek was on the Fan 960 this morning. Having been through a lockout/strike when he was with the Herald, he was asked if he would attend a charity event under these circumstances.

    His reply was an emphatic “Of Course, without doubt. It wouldn’t even be a question.”

    • supra steve

      Sounds like a pretty good fit with either JBo or Gio. Maybe Brodie plays top 4 with the other by the end of the year, and it could be a very good top 4. Even with Butler, not bad.

    • PrairieStew

      I hope he is paired with Giordano. They seem like they will have good potential to score every time they are on the ice and Gio is pretty responsible defensively. Jaybo and Butler were pretty capable last year in that very tough shut down role. I dont know why you would give up on that…

  • While JayBo reminds us of potential, remember Anton Babchuck? While he may help on the PP everything I’ve read about Weidman is he’s a liability on even strength. His advantage is cacelled by his disadvantages.

      • supra steve

        Wideman will be making a truckload of money in the coming years, but he won’t come to the Flames charity golf tournament (as with the rest of the players). I’m almost DONE with these guys. What charity is getting bent over here?

          • supra steve

            First off, let’s clarify. My situation at work is very different then that of the Flames players. Their situation is very public and they are high profile members of the community. If they don’t show up they WILL be missed. Me, not so much. But if the fundraiser was as important as this one is, you better believe I would be there.

            It’s not like these players are going to lose their jobs, they will eventually agree to a new CBA and go back to work for the Flames. Most of them do fundraising for various charities in the city and elswhere, good for them. But this, this is just a complete miscalculation by these players (on par with Risebrough’s Gilmour trade, as BAD miscalculations go). Anyone (VF) who claims that there is no link between this decision and the NHLPA/CBA is not being completely honest with themselves. Of course there is a link, and a very direct one. May not be a PA directive, but it’s definately CBA related.

            I had two tickets to half the games last year. Not this year, I will probably follow the NHL here, tv, radio, paper, etc. but I will not be spending any more money (directly) to feather these (stupid) players nests.

          • Vintage Flame

            Anyone (VF) who claims that there is no link between this decision and the NHLPA/CBA is not being completely honest with themselves. Of course there is a link, and a very direct one.

            You misunderstood what I meant. Of course the Flames players are not playing because of the current CBA issues, that much is obvious.

            What I was referring to is that their decision not to play is not a directive they have taken from the NHLPA. It’s not a collective decision by all NHL players.

            This is why I said it was a call made by this team and its players on their own.

            When I said it had nothing to do with the CBA, I mean that snubbing a charity golf tournament is or should not be part of the negotiating process in the CBA. These events are not put on for the benefit of the teams or the players.

            When I hear that the players are not there to support the charities, even during these times, it makes me question their motives when they have attended. Do they only go because they have to when they’re under contract?

            If so, then I will have lost a lot of respect for them all.

          • supra steve

            The PR alone would make it worthwile to go.

            The money raised is not for the “boss” it’s for the community that helps pay their salaries.

            A small sign of appreciation to the community that supports them.

            douche bag move by the players!

  • It will be interesting to see who lands on the PP units this year. Wideman and Gio are pretty much guaranteed to be the pairing on unit 1 and then Brodie, Bouwmeester and Babchuk (maybe) for unit 2.

    Up front, it’s a big mess – Iginla, Tanguay, Hudler, Baertschi, Cervenka, Backlund, Stempniak, Glencross…not sure what the combos will be.