Get Rid of Chris Butler



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.

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But I don’t care. I’ve seen enough of Chris Butler. Send him packing.

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.

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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.

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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.

  • Greg

    Let’s not forget it cost us Brandon Prust to get kotalik!!! Let’s review our cost…Prust, Reggie and a 2nd round pick (plus lost out on 2 second picks which buffalo collected for Regehr), to get rid of kotalik and pickup a liability in butler and non factor in Byron. Hopefully were done with these types of deals

  • thymebalm

    Finally, something the “observant fan” and the “advanced stats blogger” can agree on.

    It baffles me to see him being put in the line up night after night. Of the things that ring alarm bells for me, dressing these guys that need to be sat is at the top. MacDonald, McGrattan, O’Brien and Butler have all been bad to start the year and yet have been rewarded with continued ice time.

    I’m sick of Glencross playing poorly, too! He seems uninterested in Hartley’s physical forechecking system. He loses all puck battles.

    So here’s the question. If we are rebuilding, it’s possible that Giordano, Brodie, Wideman and Russell could be a part of the top 7 of that squad.
    But it’s not possible at all that Butler/O’Brien/McGrattan/McDonald are in the line up of a (Stanley Cup) winning team. So why waste spots on them?

    I could see the point if they were passable players… but all of them are below replacement level. sub .900 sv%, Grats can only play 4 minutes a night, Butler is the worst Corsi and O’Brien is the Guildenstern to Butler’s Rosencrantz.

    Please, I know we won’t win the cup this season, but having these guys on the club is a poison.

  • RedMan

    Just once, in an article like this, lose the provisos and conditions characteristic of your careful thought and writing, and tell it like it is! No, it is not “technically way too early in the year to be writing something like this.” In fact, it is exactly the time to write something like this–before we have to watch any more of this crap play from a fringe NHLer! It is NOT “possible any of the trends we’re seeing right now will reverse themselves over the long-term.” In fact, you make that case rather well against this…

  • RedMan

    Good lord yes, getting rid of him is a fabulous idea and should be imperative But how, and for what? Can we expect a trade and get anything in return? Methinks it’s a “cut your losses thing- put him on waivers and pray that somebody takes a Flyer on him.

    • RedMan

      Or they could trade him to the Flyers for Meszaros. As always, the answer to the question “How many bad trades does Holmgren have to make before he’s canned?” is “At least one more.”