So far in this series we’ve seen one guy who was an obvious benefit to his linemates (Mikael Backlund) and two guys who’s results were equivocal (Giordano & Brodie). This time around is a guy who is at the wrong end of the spectrum: Chris Butler. When I look at these results and take into account his age and circumstances, there probably wasn’t a skater on the team who had a worse season than the former Buffalo Sabre.
Acquired in the Robyn Regehr deal, Chris Butler spent most of the previous year just trying to keep his head above water on the top pairing with Jay Bouwmeester. There were some evenings where he clearly failed at that task, but I was willing to give the 25 year old a pass since he was thrown head first into the deep end of the pool.
Not so much this year. With Wideman in the fold and TJ Brodie moving to the head of the class, Butler was dropped down the rotation, meaning his underlying numbers should have improved as a matter of course. They didn’t, in fact devolving to the point where it’s a question if the kid is a viable NHLer or not.
Here are Butler’s basic possession stats. (This indicates where Butler placed amongst regular defenders on the Flames)
corsi: -13.50/60 (last)
relative corsi: -11.1 (last)
zone start: 46.6% (middle of the pack)
Primer (skip if you are familiar with corsi analysis)
Corsi is the differential between shots at the net for and against while a player is on the ice (at even strength). It is a proxy measure for offensive zone puck possession and indicative of a players overall performance/effect on the ice. Selke winners and dominating players tend to rate highly in corsi, including Datsyuk, Crosby, Kesler,, Karlsson, Lidstrom, Bergeron, Toews, etc. Corsi also consistently correlates with scoring chance differential, which we’ve discovered from counting chances for years.
The zone start stat is a ratio of offensive zone to defensive zone faceoffs at even strength for the player in question. A low ratio indicates more starts in the defensive zone and therefore a more difficult assignment.
In aggregate, Butler faced roughly the same level of competition as TJ Brodie and his zone start ratio was roughly the same as well (46.6% vs. 47.9%) but he ended up with the worst relative corsi rate amongst regular blueliners on the team. When we corrected corsi rates for quality of competition and zone starts, Butler finished way back of the pack. The next closest regular skater was Derek Smith, who was a full seven shot attempts per hour better.
Those are the basic underlying numbers. The WOWY (with or without you) analysis isn’t complimentary either.
These are all skaters who played at least 100 minutes at even strength with Chris Butler, ranked from most to least time on ice with him. Stats via hockeyanalysis.com.
|Player||With Butler||Without Butler||% diff|
Yeesh that’s ugly. Only three guys were better with Butler on the ice (Tanguay, Glencross and Jackman), while a lot of players were made markedly worse by his presence. Cervenka goes from a below replacement level skater with Butler to a guy sawing off the competition without him, for instance.
Now in graph form:
These results are so bad it’s almost hard to fathom, even if you never liked Butler. His minutes got easier this year and at 26 years old he should be in the prime of career, yet he stepped off a cliff instead. Butler’s personal corsi rate was 43%…that’s something you maybe live with if a guy is buried against top competition. In any other circumstance, it probably means he’s completely over his head and shouldn’t be in your regular line-up.
By all accounts, Butler should have improved this year because of natural progression/career arc or because he wasn’t facing the heavies any more, but he did the opposite.
If he wasn’t fighting through some debilitating injury or personal issue, the Flames should seriously consider moving on from the RFA this summer. Dudes who hamstring the rest of the line-up when they are playing against middling competition are addition by subtraction.