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.

  • Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

    Kent, you’ve got this all wrong. The Flames need to play Butler. A lot. That way they’ll be 3-4-2 when Monahan’s nine games are up and it will stop the insanity by making the decision to send him back down that much easier.

    Like how I made this all about Monahan?

  • 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…

  • Lordmork

    It seems to me Chris Butler is a great guy to have on board. Kind of like MacBackup, the team can play him in the quest for a high draft pick this year, without looking like they’re purposely tanking. And better yet, his contract expires this year.

  • RedMan

    Feaster and Burke have both mentioned that teams in cap trouble will be looking to make trades. It seems that at the very least we should be able to get back a better defenseman in a trade that saves another team dollars. Swapping UFA defenseman assets, at least would provide us the option of an okay return at the trade deadline.

    Butler – $1.7

    Pittsburgh – Brooks Orpik – $3.75

    Detroit – Kyle Quincey – $3.775

    Philadelphia – Kimo Timonen – $6.0

    Philadelphia – Andrea Meszaros – $4.0

    Tampa Bay – Sami Salo – $3.75

    Now maybe for some of the teams, Butler is not worth only $2M in cap space, but I have to think that one of these options has to be available. This is strictly looking at taking back and expiring bigger defenseman contract. We dont want to bring in anybody older with a big contract that has more years on it.

    Better option that sending Butler to the AHL, and I have to think that everybody listed above is an upgrade on Butler and will have some sort of trade deadline value.

    • It’s a nice Idea. Burke, however, then shot this down at his latest press conference in which he said and I am paraphrasing here.

      | That they went through and calculated potential cap problem targets in which they might be able to improve the team via trade. However, they quickly found that teams like Philly, Detroit, Pit etc. Have been able to find ways around the cap with LTIR, and other various ways to hide money from the cap. And so that all opportunities they felt might be available were exhausted and not worth their time or effort.

      So don’t expect any trades from that avenue to happen. I’ve been thinking this would be the case all summer. Unfortunately. Burke basically confirmed what we all know to be true the cap ceiling is somewhat of a joke.

      I could however, see someone like Philly going into panic mode and and Holmgren trying to save his job. This might provide some opportunity through packaging a butler with cammy/glencross to try and improve the blue line. Though again I wouldn’t put too much hope into this either.