Reasonable Expectations: Dennis Wideman

Heading into the summer following the 2011-12 season, the Calgary Flames were in a tight spot. Their core was aging and the team missed the playoffs by a mere 5 points. Opting not to tear it down, then-Flames GM Jay Feaster went on the offensive. Hoping to bolster the power-play, he made a bold move and traded a fifth round pick and the rights to pending minor-league UFA defenseman Jordan Henry to Washington for the rights to Dennis Wideman.

And then he signed Wideman to a big-money, long-term deal.

Shockingly, it hasn’t worked out all that well for the Calgary Flames. Or for the Capitals, who flipped that pick to Winnipeg (who turned it into NAHL player Tucker Poolman). Or for Jordan Henry, who ended up in Europe. I guess Wideman got his $5.25 million per year, so he’s probably reasonably pleased.

Season       Corsi %              PDO          
OZS% Team
2009-10 51.5% 98.0 51.3% Bruins
2010-11 50.5% 96.9 51.7% FLA/WSH
2011-12 49.4% 99.7 49.0% Capitals
2012-13 48.1% 97.2 45.5% Flames
2013-14 46.1% 97.2 62.2% Flames

 

Wideman’s a strange case. His possession stats have gradually tumbled over the past five years. Fairly consistently, actually. He’s been protected and used primarily as a power-play specialist. He follows in a long line of Calgary Flames power-play specialists, notably Anton Babchuk.

Except he’s much much more expensive than Anton Babchuk. (Twice as much as Babchuk was at his earning peak.)

WIDEMAN’S 2013-14 NUMBERS

Wideman had a rough year in 2013-14. He was used either as a second or third pairing defender, primarily playing with Kris Russell (when Giordano was hurt) or Ladislav Smid (when he wasn’t). He also missed 36 games due to injury, and as such you can probably give him some lee-way because he got injured twice.

On the other hand, his defensive zone play has never been anything to write home about. Luckily, it seems that Bob Hartley is a person with eyes, because based on what he saw with those eyes, he smartly parked his power-play specialist in as many easy situations as possible.

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It’s disappointing that his possession numbers are as bad as they are given how sheltered he’s been. But when compared to some of his teammates on the blueline, Wideman was pretty good on the power-play. He only earned four points on the PP all year (of his 21 overall), but he was reasonably productive given he missed 36 games – generating about a goal for his unit every 4 games or so. To put his power-play production in perspective:

PP TOI PP GF TOI/GF
Giordano 220 26 8.46
Russell 201 23 8.74
Wideman 144 12 12.0
Brodie 144 11 13.1
Butler 28 1 28.0

2014-15 EXPECTATIONS

Over the past few seasons, Wideman’s production has ranged from 0.45 to 0.55 points per game. He’s not amazing five-on-five, but he’s not Shane O’Brien bad. He’s prone to defensive lapses, but is heavily shielded to compensate. He starts a decent amount of time in the offensive zone, but makes most of his hay on the power-play. He’s got a great shot but uses it infrequently. He’s a decent passer but tends to shoot more than he passes.

He’s 31 now and his production is bound to tail off eventually. If he gets 40 points this season, that would be right in the middle of the range he’s had for the past five seasons. I’m mildly concerned about his ability to stay healthy, though, and considering he may spend a lot of time with Ladislav Smid and/or Deryk Engelland as his defensive partners, they might not spend a lot of time in the offensive zone.

Wideman would be a decent fifth defender on a lot of teams. He’s functional if flawed defensively and is pretty good offensively, particularly on the power-play. Unfortunately, he makes a lot of money and is well over-priced for his particularly role. I don’t begrudge him for it, but most likely both sides will do their best to ride out his contract and make the most of his skill-set while he’s in Calgary.

That means sheltered even-strength minutes and a decent amount of power-play time. At this point, Wideman is what he is.

  • Parallex

    Meh, Wideman is what he is. My expectations are that he play to his strengths and stay healthy long enough for the Flames to eat half his contract and trade him midseaon.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    “Except he’s much much more expensive than Anton Babchuk. (Twice as much as Babchuk was at his earning peak.)”

    True but if I’m forced to chose between Babchuk and Wideman along with their associated contracts, I’ll take Wideman all day long. Babchuk was hot garbage.

  • PrairieStew

    He is an NHL defenseman – which is something we can’t say about Wotherspoon yet, or Cundari. Its safe to say he is better at hockey than Engelland and even based on his poor season, better than Smid was last year.

    His poor results with Russell may be due to the fact that they are similar players and therefore have similar weaknesses. ( can someone do a WOWY?)If I were coaching against them I’d send out the bangers every time they are out there.

    To be competitive one of either Smid or Engelland needs to step up and play on the second pair with Wideman (probably Smid – left shot)

      • RexLibris

        This is along the lines of what I was thinking.

        For Wideman it is all in the pairings and ZS.

        If Hartley decides to break up his top pairing and puts Wideman with Giordano or Brodie, then it’ll look good.

        If he tries Russell with Wideman, well the poor young man will spend a lot of time covering jailbreaks.

        If he pairs Wideman with Engelland or Smid, I don’t know. Maybe it works, or maybe it makes everyone wallow in misery.

        Wideman looks great on the powerplay and decent with a strong partner, but he is equal parts offensive ability and defensive liability and on a weak and imbalanced defensive group like the Flames have, that doesn’t look too promising.

  • PrairieStew

    He’s a legit dman, who’s good on the power play. It’s not the player you should hate, but the contract. Don’t hate the player, hate the game…

  • RexLibris

    A healthy Dennis Wideman when playing well will become valuable trade bait for the Flames. At this years trade deadline his contract term will be reduced to a reasonable length.

    Unload him for a defensive prospect or 2015 draft choice. A team gunning to go deep in the playoffs will need an experience mobile defenseman like Wideman.

    • PrairieStew

      I think there are forwards that you could move and get more for at the deadline than for Wideman. 2 more years (after this year) @$5.25 brings his market value down. Pending FA’s Glencross, McGrattan, Byron would be easier to move. If they are playing well – forwards with one year left @$4m – Hudler and Jones would also bring much more. Add to that there are many forward prospects knocking on the door and very few D prospects.

    • RexLibris

      This is a great idea except; teams that are looking to make a deep playoff run will be near the cap. Will ownership be prepared to eat most of his salary for another 2 years while he plays for another team. Probably not.

      • Parallex

        Why not? It’s a pretty easy sell job to get ownership on board I figure… just tell them that Wideman’s remaining contract costs 13.0M (Estimate based on a dealine deal), you feel that another player making X can provide similer value to Wideman… So long as X + Wideman Retention is equal to or less then 13.00M then any asset gained is effectively free.

        Now the problem is that if the Flames are paying Engelland just shy of 3M per and that represents the degree of overpay we need at our present junction to lure a free agent D-man here then it’ll be difficult to get someone of any actual quality for the differential (that includes home grown replacements since the Flames blueline prospects are pretty dreadful in terms of upside). Regardless, I’m pretty sure whatever plan the Flames F.O. have sold to ownership doesn’t have Dennis Wideman as a piece that put them into surplus revenue (either immediate or future revenue). Therefor they should have no issue with with it at least in theory.

      • Tenbrucelees

        Desperate teams will take his contract on for sure. That’s where BB/BT cash in on there low salary cap benefits…they take on a bad contract that will make room for them to absorb Wideman’s contract…..

        In return the Flames potentially secure a 1st rounder plus a high level defensive prospect!

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I think he’s a 4 in the very best circumstances (healthy, paired with a legit 3). But yeah pragmatically he’s a 5 even on average teams.

    The value is putting the puck in the net. His usage is exactly how he should be deployed.

    When you don’t draft and develop these attributes you overpay for it, either FA or trades.

    The interesting thing to me is what would he get back? Can he get back what Quincey did?

    That’s how I look at him. He was brought here under certain boundary conditions (playoff contender) that don’t exist anymore. The exit strategy is important because his attributes must be replaced. It’s all timing so I hope he plays well.

  • RexLibris

    I don’t think Wideman’s is a very attractive contract for a team to take on at this time.

    Perhaps when he is a pending UFA, subject to where the cap sits and the situation he is in with his NMC.

    Either way, this is not the season for the Flames to be hollowing out an already paper-thin defensive corps.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I can’t really think of a team that would want him.

    A team trying to get to the cap floor is probably hoping they don’t have to get to the floor the following season, and so his contract length is a problem.

    A team looking to shore up its blue line for a playoff run is probably near the cap and his contract size is a problem.

    I think Wides is a Flame until the final year of his contract.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I wish I could say you are wrong. If the Flames took back money over the term, then I could see them picking up an asset, but without taking back money he will be difficult to move. As much as Burkie says his willing to take on other teams problems, these kinds of deals don’t happen very frequently.

      By other teams issues, I mean their ability to fit a cap hit like Wideman’s in.

  • beloch

    To be fair to Wideman, his deployment has changed considerably over the last several seasons. In 2012-2013, the Flames made him their #2 defender, whereas he had been second pairing prior to that. Also, last season he was clearly not the same player after returning from his injury.

    If Wideman stays healthy and on the second or third pairs he should be better than he was, on average, last season.

    It’s not impossible that another team might want a defender that can put up the points Wideman does, but his salary is definitely too high for the return to be significant. Given that the Flames won’t need to dump salary for the next season or two, Wideman has a good chance of completing his contract in Calgary.

  • beloch

    He’s a guy that isn’t going to do too much, he’ll put up his points on the powerplay but that’s about it. He’s not really going to help you in the long term, he’s not a leader for the younger players. He came here because he knew he was cashing in when Jay offered him a sweet deal. Right now, his contract and play are a burden. If he stays healthy he would be a good asset to trade if another team wants to take on his contract.

  • Tenbrucelees

    For the Flames, the money on his contract is virtually irrelevant at this point in time. If he can recapture his pre injury form, then he is an asset worth keeping regardless of his currently agreed term / dollars.

  • Tenbrucelees

    Wideman at $5.25 million per or Engelland at an average of $2.9 million per? I’ll take Engelland thank you. Wideman has an offensive upside and a decent shot from the point but is a liability in his own end and softer than butter in July. He has some value on the second power play unit but with Gio and Brodie eating up most of the PP time, he will have limited opportunity. Engelland will not dazzle and is not the most fleet of foot but he’s tough as nails and will do anything for the team. Wideman can’t leave soon enough in my books.