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.

  • Colin.S

    That Regehr/Butler trade just looks worse and worse. Butler seemed okay that first year like you said, but at this time there are better options, like Smith, or hell anyone currently on a contract with the Heat.

  • mattyc

    ” 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 Flames traded Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik and a 2nd round selection in 2012 to the Buffalo Sabres for Chris Butler and Paul Byron.

    Basically we traded Regehr and a 2nd to get rid of Kotalik.

  • TheRealPoc

    “Proud” to say I’ve been sippin’ on the Butler haterade since day one. I have never seen it with this guy.

    Kent and I exchanged tweets last night after Monahan’s first shift, where he totally trainwrecks an easy behind-the-net outlet pass, banking it off the net and forcing Baertschi into an almost impossible position to retrieve the puck in his corner, with his back to the rest of the play. The result is a dominating Ducks shift for a minute and a half, one which never should’ve started in the first place. Just pathetic.

    I think should start a pool to buy his one-way Greyhound ticket to Abbotsford. I will gladly contribute to that fund.

    • Greg

      I haven’t followed Regehr at all since the trade, but that’s been my view as well. We got nothing – but from what I’ve heard we gave up nothing also. Was wondering if anyone’s looked closely at Reggie lately and could confirm or deny that impression?

      Also, on the Kotalki/2nd component of that trade, I say meh. That was the going rate for that size of salary dump at the time. It still annoys me, cause the flames didn’t need to dump that contract, and should be on the buying side of those types of transactions, but it was fair market value at the time.

      Point being – nothing + contract for nothing + pick wasn’t a win (or a loss) for either side (pending further commentary on Reggie’s post-trade value).

  • @Colin. I would argue that Ramage, Wotherspoon and Sieloff are all viable options. Although they will like Brodie did have a steep learning curve. All three though have proven to have better sense then Butler.

    So it’s not as bad as one might think. Only way to truly find out what we have though is to give them a chance to play, which i suspect will be coming soon.

  • 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.

  • Lordmork

    Because why the hell else are we playing MacDonald so much, if that isn’t the plan? I’ll be curious to see if they actually give Ramo the start on Saturday.

  • 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.

  • DoubleDIon

    Butler sucks. But he does everything below average, so no one area stands out as the problem. I think he’d look good in Europe. Seriously, in a rebuild you want potential and quality vets to show the way. Butler doesn’t meet either of these criteria, I don’t understand why he’s still here. He’s basically Smith, except Smith can make an outlet pass. On another note, my favorite player Glencross has looked like junk so far this year as well. I thought he’d be our best player and he definitely hasn’t been. Perhaps a game in the pressbox when everyone gets healthy if it continues?

  • 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?

  • DoubleDIon

    On another note, it would be nice to have someone who could win a faceoff. I’m not sure the Ducks beat us last night if we had a guy who could win the occasional draw. We were awful in the dot.

    • RedMan

      I’m sure Joel Otto may make himself available to become a faceoff specialist coach. :}

      I think the Flames are missing that big shut down dman capable of playing top 4. Similar to what Rocking Robyn used to be able to do. We have suddenly got a surplus of good young forward prospects where at least 3 of them are down in Abbey in Reinhart, Horak & Knight & I would have lo9ved to see what these 3 guys could do up in the bigs. It’s going to get even more crowded at the end of the year with our trio of Collegians coming in Arnold, Johnny & Agostini. We have some pretty decent goalie prospects coming up that we cant even get them all developing in Abby as they should be. Curious, would a package of Reinhart or Horak & Brossoit or Ortio & maybe a 2nd to Buffalo for Myers be enough? be stupid on our part? I think Myers needs a change & I think Hartley could bring out the best in that kid & he certainly would be a big piece in our top 4 & get Russell playing in 5-6 & get that friggin Butler out of here, waive him & maybe we get lucky & he gets picked up.

  • Bikeit

    Boy that first rounder for Jokinen (aka Brandon Gormley) would sure be looking good right now to slot into butlers spot. Like it or not this is not totally about mildly losing that trade, but the Vaccum of up and coming NHL blueline talent Sutter left the flames. Thus Butler plays.

  • beloch

    I’d love it if Burke swung another one of his patented used-car-salesman jobs to find a replacement for Butler but, honestly, all he has to do is wait for a far superior player to hit waivers. That should take less than a week.

  • seve927

    I just want to see what O’Brien could do without Butler. I’ve thought he’s been fine so far, but it’s so hard to tell when pretty much all his ice time has been with the boat anchor. For the love of God, let someone else play.

  • the forgotten man

    Kick Butler to the curb, he was a terrible acquistion from day one. Yet another bad trade that haunts for years. Surprised Burke hasnt picked up JM liles yet.

  • DoubleDIon

    What is scary about Butler is he would make the Oliers blue line better. The Flames need to get busy with this rebuild, by that I mean it’s time to start seeing what Smith has, what Breen has and of course Ramage, Cundari, and Billings. Sieloff is hurt and I would still give the Spoon a couple of months in the AHL before he gets the call up. We know what Butler is, not good enough. We need to also find out if any of Knight, Rhinhart, Jooris or Horak are better than Breen and Colborne. This is the year to figure out what else we need and we can’t do it watching the guys who we know won’t take us to the next level.

    • Greg

      Its way too soon to get down on Colborne. He looked better last night, and wasn’t saddled with the worst available line mates for once (since Jackman helpfully took himself out of the game).

      • Greg

        I am not overly down or upset with Colborne I would just like to see some of the other prospects. Colborne indeed had his best game as Flame and maybe he should play with Glencross and Stemp instead of Street. My real point is i would like to see some of the other prospects sooner than later. Maybe they have a plan for some sort of rotation and development slash experience. Who knows.

      • RedMan

        And no news on Jackman yet – guess that means he doesn’t get a suspension, which surprises me.

        No Flames news on Jackman either unless i missed comments somewhere… but surely there is a hefty cost to Jackman for this bizarre behaviour

  • RedMan

    Was at the game last night and had two overriding thoughs. One, it sure is painful to see Stempniak, Glencross and STREET line up against Getzlaf, Perry and their third wheel (Penner) to start the game. Two (and more appropos to this discussion), the first two D pairs for the Flames are solid (even Russell had a reasonably effective game) but the dropoff to the third D pair is massive. The second Butler put the clearing on Palmeiri’s stick (even before the goal was scored), I was asking loudly for his immediate release.

    (Oh, and in unrelated news, Backlund is the best player on this team – does everything well. Just unfortunate he lacks the elite scorer’s instincts)