It is technically way too early in the year to be writing something like this. Just six games in, we don’t have very much info about anyone on the club. It’s entirely possible any of the trends we’re seeing right now will reverse themselves over the long-term.
But I don’t care. I’ve seen enough of Chris Butler. Send him packing.
With the score tied, Butler is at 28% corsi ratio (!!). That’s 51 shots at net against, 20 for. Holy cow. Small sample, but man…
— Kent Wilson (@Kent_Wilson) October 17, 2013
Butler has been awful (empahsis needed) so far this year. He capped off a rough first five games with his worst performance of the season against the Ducks last night. He and Shane O’Brien’s first shift was a study in incompetence: Butler flubbed a routine defensive zone break-out attempt, resulting in a minute or two of Ducks dominance. After spending most of the period bobbling pucks and passing three feet behind his teammates, Butler topped it all off with a blueline give-away that led to the Kyle Palmieri goal. Later in the game, he took an ill-advised penalty.
Sometimes the numbers and the eyes don’t line up. Not so with Butler. He boasts the worst possession rate(s) on the team. His numbers aren’t merely relatively bad, but bad on an absolute level. The team is getting only about 30% of shot attempts in score close or score tied situations with Butler on the ice. That’s enforcer, fresh faced rookie, Mike-Brown-on-the-Oilers level of bad. Particularly since a vast majority of the rest of the team are 50% or above by the same metrics – meaning he’s not being dragged down by a sinking ship.
In fact, with the score tied, Butler’s corsi ratio drops down to just 28.2% – which is a number so lousy, I can’t remember the last Flame to post something similar, even in a 5-game stretch. He ranks 529 out of 536 players in the league who have seen 4+ games so far by this metric.
We as a fan base could be more forgiving if this was a new thing for Chris, but he was completely terrible last year as well. His WOWY (with or without you) analysis showed that he made almost everyone he played with worse in 2012-13. When we adjusted his possession numbers for factors like competition and zone start position, Butler was the worst on the team (except for Brian McGrattan). And, like last year, pretty much everyone who plays with Butler this season sees their numbers take a nose-dive.
A Trade Lost
Acquired for Robyn Regehr by Jay Feaster during the 2011 draft, Butler has take big, firm steps backwards ever sicne arriving in Calgary. Originally paired with Jay Bouwmeester in a top-two type role by Brent Sutter, Butler struggled somewhat to keep his head above water, but that was at least understandable given his circumstances. He had merely mediocre results in those days.
Since Hartley arrived, however, Butler’s minutes have gotten much easier, at least in terms of who he plays against every night, but his numbers have gone south anyways. Although Butler can skate relatively well and isn’t exactly small, he frequently struggles to make basic plays, particularly when trying to escape his own zone or when pressured by a forecheck. He has no offense to speak of, isn’t really all that physical and at 27 years old, probably isn’t going to improve. I suspect his possession numbers will regress upwards a bit just as a matter of course (because, really, I can’t imagine anyone is actually this bad), but we’re getting to the point in his tenure in Calgary where there doesn’t seem to be any upside to keeping the player.
Quite the opposite in fact. He’s been one of the biggest liabilities on the ice for the Flames since the onset of 2012. I don’t think pairing him with Shane O’Brien (who is slow and can’t handle the puck) has done Butler any favors this year and is probably a contributor to his problems. Unfortunately, if a guy in his mid-20’s is a dragged down to below replacement level on a team’s third pairing, regardless of partners. he’s probably part of the problem rather than the solution.
Calgary has surprisingly solid underlying numbers across the board, aside from a few, putrid outliers.
Butler’s one of them.
The rebuild is primarily about sourcing and acquiring high level talent since that’s the organization’s biggest area of need, but they can make little incremental improvements by quietly replacing duds like Butler with guys who are at least average.