Reasonable Expectations: Deryk Engelland

The Flames did their best to make a splash on July 1st this year. Signing Mason Raymond and Jonas Hiller were both moves that were widely applauded as sensible pickups for decent dollar amounts. However, there was a third signing that fateful day. 

The Flames signed Engelland for three years and an average of $2.9 million per (about 400k more than Glencross will be making this year btw) in a move that was largely regarded as one of the biggest head-scratchers of the day. 

If not just out of a masochistic desire to pick scabs, lets let’s get to meet Deryk (sic) Engelland!


When Engelland was signed, I remember plenty of adjectives being used to describe him on TSN including “policeman,” “hard-nosed,” “gritty,” and “enforcer.” Sadly, it is hard to measure how effective one polices the ice in a given game, especially when he is hardly allowed on it, so we will just have to take them at their word.

Also, I am sure by now we all know that Deryk Engelland isn’t – as Ryan described our old buddy Laddy Smid yesterday – ‘Mr.Corsi’, but did you know he is also a human boat anchor? Using a random sampling of a few Penguins from last season, let’s take a look at Engelland’s WOWY numbers.


Engelland played more with Orpik (230:37) at even strength than any other defender and even Orpik, who didn’t exactly have the best season himself last year, was far better off without Engelland. Virtually every Pen who played with Engelland last season was dragged down CF% wise which I am sure isn’t surprising anyone. 

This should be alarming for Flames fans because there isn’t exactly a wealth of players who can drive possession that are able to carry Engelland around the ice (think of a Russell/Engelland pairing for instance). The presence of DE on any pairing is likely to exacerbate the weaknesses in that other d-man and sink that pairing into possession sludge.  


What we can tell from his usage is that although Engelland wasn’t exactly sheltered but didn’t exactly do well either. This leads me to wonder just what kinds of situations he will be put in here in Calgary. It seems like there isn’t an ideal spot to put him in, other than with the guidance of a much more adept defender, which barring a BrodanoThe players around him on the chart also reveal the kinds of players Engelland was likely playing with at defense and forward. 

Oh right! I forgot to mention, Engelland can(‘t) play either forward or defense, much like a Jim Vandermeer I suppose. I am not sure what horrifies me more, the thought of a Smid/Engelland pairing (as discussed in Ryan’s piece yesterday) or a Engelland/Bouma/McGrattan fourth-line Truculescent Gritastrophy. Actually, the more I think about it, I am liking that forward line as some sort of postmodern critique of the NHL forward…



I kid.

There isn’t really a chart, table, or graph that is flattering to Engelland so there isn’t really a lot of point to examining him on the basis of statistics. Right or wrong, the Flames believe that there are things that Engelland offers that cannot be measured by statistics and that’s why they felt it was necessary to lock Engelland down. 

My problem isn’t with the move on paper, the Flames have oodles of cap room and aren’t making any noise this year anyway so what’s the harm? My problem is the philosophy that is perpetuated by the seemingly endless string of Engelland-like signings. The Flames are clinging to an antiquated model by continuing to employ players that only offer this one, murky, and famously hard-to-quantify part of the game and it is frustrating.

That being said, Deryk Engelland suiting up for the Flames is not the end of the world, I understand that, and hopefully he won’t be given an opportunity to do much damage minutes wise. 

As far as what to expect from Engelland this year? Fights, 6-7 defencemen minutes, and some hair-raising defensive plays. Realistically, the best the Flames can hope for is that one of the younger d-men usurp Engelland’s spot and that Hartley has the sense to surrender is spot if he isn’t playing well. 

Last season, the Flames (eventually) had the good sense to banish Shane O’Brien when it became plainly obvious to everyone involved that he was essentially a surly turnstile. Here’s hoping Engelland enjoys a late-bloom in Calgary or becomes very familiar with press-box popcorn.    

    • beloch

      Another brilliant comment about a player who has yet to practice or play with the team. “Unmitigated disaster” used to describe a player you have likely never seen play. Think maybe you should give him training camp and 10 or 20 games before developing an opinion?

      • Matty Franchise Jr

        Are you suggesting that being on the Flames instead of the Penguins is going to make DE, at the age of 32, suddenly become a non-boat-anchor for possession of the puck?

        • Why don’t you give us your knowledgeable assessment of him based on watching him the past five years? I will choose to believe in the Flames GM at this point. If he’s an “unmitigated disaster”, I’ll be the first one to admit it but I don’t base my opinion on mob mentality like many on this site.

          • PrairieStew

            I don’t think its a mob mentality. What it is, is people using the tools and data that they do have at their disposal to discuss and make predictions. I would have loved to seen the guy play 60 or 80 games over the last 3 years – but I am not (nor is anyone else commenting here) a professional hockey scout.

            There is consensus that this player is not going to be a positive difference maker from what information is available. He may buck that trend, but it is, in my opinion, highly unlikely. If you think that is a mob mentality or that commenters here are a bunch of negative nancys, oh well, sorry.

          • RexLibris

            Seems like you’ve already formed an opinion based on what BT and BB have said about the player, which seems pretty similar as to what you’re accusing.

      • PrairieStew

        I’d be willing to wait for the guy to prove the numbers wrong but the numbers are pretty clear and it is the trend that is most troubling. From :

        In 2011-12 the Penguins scored 0.85 goals per 20 minutes of ES time that DE was on the ice and allowed 0.72. Sounds good , but his ratio still placed him 6th among Penguin defenders

        In 2012-13 it was 0.86 for and 0.64 against in the short season – an improvement but still 7th on the Pens

        In 13-14 that Goals for per 20 drops drastically to 0.67 and the goals against zooms up to 0.82 and again ranks him 7th among Pen defenders

        I’d be willing to accept a down year and potential for bounce back if the guy was under 30 but he is not.

  • PrairieStew

    With Russell makes sense – then perhaps the third pair is not completely abysmal. By default then the second pair is Wideman ( who barely belongs on a second pairing) and Smid ( who barely belongs on a third).

  • dudeguybro

    It really does feel like a move towards tanking… Why on earth would anyone sign this guy? He is just horrible, and does anything think there is about to be a miracle at age 32? I doubt it, he will be 35 by the time the contract is done and is already an untradeable contract.

    Why buy out Shane O’brien and basicly resign Shane O’brien to a 3 year contract…..

    Want to take on someone for 1 year? Go ahead I don’t care as 1 yr doesn’t handcuff us… but this 3 yr contract is the exact reason a Glencross is saying ahead of time “No hometown discount”

        • Burnward

          The fixation on beating the truculence/grit horse is getting tiresome. Don’t know what the big deal is, he’s an overpaid depth defenseman, who will give us a little physical presence as we play our many many young, small but very talented forwards that are very important to the future of this team. The players that are going to lead this team back to the playoffs are going to get tested & bullied as they cut their NHL teeth. You cant play Mcgrattan or Wolf on the top 2 lines & 7-8 minutes a game on the 4th lines doesn’t help Gaudreau or Sven if the 4th line is on the bench. Engelland is basically spreading the beef to give these kids a little more deterrent when they are on the ice trying to create offensive opportunities. Like last year, I have zero expectations of making the playoffs this year. All I want is the team to give these young players a chance to showcase their talent & hopefully become future star players. So I tend not to look at the past stats of this player but rather view this as more of a move to create future stats for players that matter. It just happens to cost Murray Edwards 2.9 mill per year to cultivate & re-establish new stars on his hockey team. The price of hockey poker. Sorry, just my rant, I knew what was going to happen once I read the Title of Expectations for Engelland. I knew his signing wasn’t a move to make the team a contender. A defender that is tough & can hit & clear the net is a huge need for this team, even Feaster knew that when he traded for SOB. Whether Engelland is successful or not is not the issue, the need for this type of player is undeniable.

          • Parallex

            “The need for this type of player is undeniable”

            I wouldn’t call that anything close to undeniable.

            I mean… can you provide any objective (as opposed to subjective) evidence to support it’s undeniability?

          • dudeguybro

            The problem with Engelland isn’t so much that he adds to the #gritchart on the backend. The problem is that he lacks as much functional toughness as say a FA like Mark Fayne. Fayne signed with the Oilers a club as equally as bad as the current edition of the Flames, so it is not out of the question to think he would have signed in Calgary. He would cost more on AAV and maybe term compared to Engelland, but the cap floor, not ceiling is the Flames issue. Fayne plays the right side, has good corsi numbers as a shut down stay at home guy. Paired with Russell as the puck moving partner that is a competent pairing behind Brodano, leaving Wideman and Smid to play 3rd pair. That looks like an NHL calibre defense that can help the young players by limiting chances in their own zone and being able to push the puck up the ice.

          • RexLibris

            The only hole in your hypothesis is Engelland ism ‘t that type of player. He is an overpaid low skilled goon. At that salary and term, his success on the ice is an issue.

          • Jeff Lebowski

            See the thing is. With a “thug/goon” as you call it on the blue line, he can deflect the ire of the opponent way more than a Mcgrattan or Wesgarth could of playing 5-6 minutes a game against the other teams 4th line heavies. They neutralize themselves out so to speak. A defenseman has the opportunity to get a lick in on one of the opponents top 6. It’s enough to change the flow & tempo of a game. Term was probably needed to get him here. I don’t like the 3 years,2 would have been sufficient, but the $$$ meant nothing, we needed to spend & the brain trust of the team felt they needed a blue liner that brings what Engelland brings. Again, they guy played shifts on a perennial playoff team. He played with Orpik & look what a GM paid that guy. Lets watch him play & hope he brings what the Flames management thought he would bring when they offered him the contract.

      • Parallex

        I don’t buy that explanation. If he just had a bad attitude they could have waived him and assigned him to the Eagles (Flames new ECHL affiliate) if/when he passed. The team would still be eating most of his salary so the cap floor wouldn’t be an issue and I’m pretty sure you could find some equally bad mutant to provide #gritchart at a replacement level salary making up the difference on a 1-year deal.

    • Parallex

      “It really does feel like a move towards tanking…”

      Yeah, but everything the Flames have done this offseason feels like moves towards tanking… the only actual improvement the team made was at back-up goaltender. Everything else was undisputably either a downgrade or a push at best.

      It feels like tanking because IMO it is tanking.

      A team with money (which the Flames are) doing anything else doesn’t make the moves they made while having the lowest payroll in the league (having had amoung the highest just a few short years before).

    • RexLibris

      It really does feel like a move towards tanking…

      For three years? I get making a commitment to rebuilding by adding marginal players, but that doesn’t mean they had to sign him for three whole season!

      Maybe Engelland will be the Flames’ Khabibulin – a harbinger of consecutive 1st overall picks.


      • I did follow that up by

        “but this 3 yr contract is the exact reason a Glencross is saying ahead of time No hometown discount”

        I am not on board at all I would be ok with it for 1yr however. And keep renewing what ever piece of garbage players a year at a time till its time to start improving.

        3 yrs is prohibitive, and no one on this planet is taking that contract ever… without a 1st rd attached.

        • RexLibris

          I know, I just couldn’t resist taking that sentence and running with it.

          And scissors. I like to run with scissors. Makes me feel alive.

          Three years is a problem.

          There has been some talk about Boychuk in the Edmonton Journal the last day or two (local boy working out in Edmonton right now) and when they were talking about his pending UFA status the first thought that went through my mind was “why didn’t the Flames just sit tight and try to either trade for Boychuk later in the summer or keep their powder dry to sign him next July?”

  • Parallex


    Heh, I like that.

    Seriously you know your team has made a bad signing when the people reporting it have to clarify that the amount they reported was the AAV on a three year deal and not the total value.

    Reasonable Expectation: Don’t suck anymore then Butler sucked (and even that’s pushing the boundries of the word “reasonable”).

  • You can only assign players to ECHL if they’re on an entry-level deal. O’Brien was one of the consistent low-lights of practice from all accounts (I saw a few bad ones myself), and my guess is they didn’t want to pay him NHL money this season to eat up a roster spot in Adirondack that a kid could have.

  • dudeguybro

    That postmodern critique line had me laughing, nice work Taylor. As for DE, honestly I hope he gets 2nd pairing minutes all season to prove exactly how much more he has to offer.

    Then we can draft McEichel, and BBBT just might reconsider their signing with this added information.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Unless they are committed to icing a terrible team this year ie doesn’t matter how good kids play, our plan is to have them put in set, strict, time (200 AHL games) in development leagues, Engelland should sit in the press box.

    His attributes, even if you acknowledge some necessity in the game, ARE FAR OUTWEIGHED by his weakness in ability. One doesn’t need corsi to realize this. Slow d are an invitation to the other team to do whatever the hell they want with the puck in your end.

    Its real easy to say: “kids have to earn it” but what does that mean exactly? What exactly, proves they have earned it? What are the performance metrics? Or is it a matter of wisdom? Conventional thinking? What?

    Its like a performance review at a job. They can always find something to keep you in your place – if they don’t like you.

    (That may sound like personal sour grapes. it’s not. lets just say i know the tricks of the trade)

    What are the avg ht/wt/PIM of NHL 4th lines that a 6-7 pairings are ideally supposed to face? When on the road, wouldn’t a coach change on the fly to take advantage? So the thinking is more consistently applicable to home games – and still you can game it.

    Just explain the thinking. They think goalies are getting run and hurt all the time? Is this borne from fact? Or playoff trend?

    I get dismayed because slow hockey is the worst hockey to watch. Just brutal.

    • I agree re: the weighting of his abilities. If we assume that those attributes are of some value it seems they are given primacy over attributes like: ‘ability to play’ as well. It goes back to what Kent has spoken about at great lengths, functional toughness. DE does not seem like he fits that description.

  • Byron Bader

    I am truly confused why there were multiple teams in on this gentleman. Comparable to the Mike Commodore and Jeff Finger signings. Do they all have the same agent? Maybe I should give him a call and line-up an NHL deal for myself. I have a nice smile and a good attitude … start the bidding.

  • Mercy…

    Perhaps he shall fill in for Harvey the Hound when days off are needed?

    then again.. Harvey has to meet a certain level of awesome that this guy seems incapable of achieving on his very best of days.


  • beloch

    I’ll admit, after this signing I got the feeling that the Flames owners had said to Burke and Treliving, “We want you to get to the cap floor while improving this team as little as humanly possible so we’ll be in on the McDavid sweeps.”.

    Last season the Flames picked up Westgarth, who initially appeared like he might be a slight possession upgrade on McGrattan. Unfortunately, not only was he just as bad at playing hockey, Hartley put both him and McG out at the same time! Westgarth is gone, mercifully, but I fear we’re going to see Engelland and McGrattan on the ice together a lot this season. It’s going to be messy.

  • beloch

    ~ Upside ~ to Engelland signing :

    – solid 4th pairing Dman
    – contributes to gets the Flames to the salary cap floor
    – outside potential to contribute to draft position efficiency.

  • PrairieStew

    Has anyone done the math on our three NHL defensive pairings: If Gio and Brodie play together the salary hit is $6.15 m, Wides and Russell $7.85m and Smid and Engs $6.4m does anyone else think this is crazy?

  • Burnward

    @ Parallex & A rye morning:

    Well, I guess the thinking is that Engelland will be a way better upgrade to SOB (cant be worse that’s for sure) He played regular shifts for the Pens during the playoffs, way more than what could be said for majority of our current D. I’m willing to see what he does & even if his numbers are meh to OK, I believe that will be worth having him on the ice for the make sure things don’t get too out of hand on our young smaller skilled players.

    As for having a Weber or Subban or Suter or when Regehr was younger, who are nasty, hit & clear the front of the net, yeah that is undeniably a need for our team. & no Engelland is not anywhere close to these players, but then you don’t get these players in free agency, so you get the best version you can when you lack this component on your team. We are all holding our breath hoping Seiloff can develop into that kind of Dman we need. We all like to jump on the Dion Phaneuf hate, but his first few years he played that role beautifully. Guys like that take the attention away from the likes of the JG’s & Svens because the other teams heavies are after a guy like him. There is no stat or way to measure that intrinsic value.

  • RexLibris

    I remember when Mcgratten first came to Calgary everyone was losing it. Since then I have become a fan of his because of what he seems to bring to the room. Seeing him in the hallway in Van. will always make me smile. Yes he isn’t the best hockey player but he does have value to the team. I don’t know what Derek s character is like but I will reserve judgment until he has proven his worth one way or another. Money and term are terrible but there must be a plan.

  • seve927

    I’m just not convinced we really know much about this player. I think as more teams adopt analytics, we’ll come to have a much better understanding of what each player contributes. Big Bear has suggested recently that Corsi isn’t a good measure for defensive defenseman, and I think there could be some truth to that. Some guys job is to reduce quality of shots (be it blocking, causing mental trauma to the shooters, whatever), and get the puck out of their end. How often is it that, once out of their end, they are off the ice and an ‘offensive defenceman’ comes out on the fly. This wouldn’t be captured by zone start percentages. Sure the guy coming off the bench is probably better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the defensive specialist isn’t providing value.

    I’m not saying this is the case, I’m just saying I don’t think we have enough information to be too judgmental on some of these guys. Butler was terrible in his time here, but his Corsi numbers were fine to good in Buffalo. Why? Did he really lose that much ability as he developed in his prime years? I look forward to some of the new studies being done on zone entries/exits, shot attempt generation efficiency, shot quality and all the other stuff we haven’t heard of yet.

    Low expectations, anything he can provide will be a bonus.