FN Mailbag – January 31 2015

mailbag

Welcome back to the FlamesNation Mailbag!

This week, we dive into a common question: So just what’s the point of having Brandon Bollig and Deryk Engelland on the team?

(We’ll take a look at Mason Raymond in-depth later in the week)

Deryk Engelland was signed in the off-season. He has a $2.9 million cap hit. Engelland’s a veteran who shoots right and is much more physical than the other five defensemen on the team. The team wanted to add size and a veteran presence (and some playoff experience), so adding Engelland does make some sense. As for the cap hit? I do not know.

Here’s Engelland’s usage among defenders.

engelland

His possession stats are BAD, but that’s not why the Flames wanted him. He’s fought. He doesn’t play a heck of a lot. He hits guys. He’s reputed as being “good in the room.”

The Flames traded for Brandon Bollig at the draft. They gave up a third round pick.

The
Blackhawks needed to shed cap dollars, and Bollig – a bottom six guy on
that team – was a big body who could play bottom six minutes that
didn’t have a big cap hit. I can see why the Flames wanted him. The only
dedicated functional bottom-six body the Flames had last season was Lance Bouma (and Bouma arguably has upward mobility). So they brought in Bollig to play a similar role as Bouma, and to fight if needed. Basically, Bollig was brought in to be a back-up Bouma who could fight. (And has an excellent beard.) Oh, and he has a Stanley Cup ring.

Here’s Bollig’s placement on a player usage chart: he doesn’t get shielded all that much (lots of defensive zone starts) but he plays almost exclusively against other team’s lesser lights. (But hey, if you think he’s here to fight, he plays against the players on the other teams that would probably fight, too.)

bollig

So, that’s why the Flames wanted these guys. Why are they playing, though?

Well, it’s a simple matter of development, I’d imagine. The two guys probably best suited to the roles these guys are playing – small minutes, playing a physical role in the defensive zone against lesser lights – are likely Michael Ferland and Patrick Sieloff.

Would you rather have Ferland and Sieloff getting lots of minutes in many situations in Adirondack, or a teeny bit of ice time in a role that they haven’t proven at the NHL level that they can fill? The Flames paid a pretty penny to bring in Bollig and Engelland, in part because they wanted size, but also because these guys have proven they can fill these specific roles elsewhere. Their success in these roles in Calgary notwithstanding, you can at least fathom the whys.

And, let’s be honest, the role of fourth line (and third pairing) players is usually to not get scored on too often while eating up ice time while the skilled players on other lines get their wind back on the bench. That’s probably not the best spot to throw kids into unless you don’t think they can do anything else.

So, the short answer is: Engelland and Bollig were brought in to fill roles they had filled before elsewhere, and they were brought in rather than kids because the nature of the roles themselves probably aren’t conducive to the development of prospects.

    • Burnward

      Cmon WW! I’ve seen you post decent stuff but this party line is a little too blatant to stir cow dung. Bollig & Engellend were established role players on playoff teams & they were basically to transition & upgrade a little toughness from Mcgrattan & Wesgarth type players. They have accomplished that & now we need the likes of Wolf & Ferlund to transition/upgrade Bollig out of ice time. That hasn’t been established yet. BT didn’t have your hindsight at the time they made these acquisitions. Make no mistake, if we get real lucky & make the playoffs, these players will be playing very important roles. If you want to take it 1 step further, obviously their influence has been successful considering they occupy a playoff spot after 49 games. I didn’t see your brilliant hindsight predict that in September.

  • MattyFranchise

    With Hartley cutting down ice time for the bottom six forwards and 3rd defense pairing in the third period this is a valid argument for playing Bolling and Enggeland to keep the peace, while Seiloff and Ferland hone their skills playing a lot in the AHL.

    Now, what about Raymond and Diaz? they could be replace by Baertschi/Wolf and TSpoon for a game or two instead of just watching from the pressbox??

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I’ve liked both Raymond and Diaz of late. Raymond’s been (at least not bad) for 3 straight games and I’d even say good. I was at the game the other night, and I thought Diaz played a solid game, even with his boat anchor for a defense partner.

  • BurningSensation

    There is a long BT interview on http://www.calgaryflames.com The gist is he’s preaching patience even with the prospects–Bennett, Poirier. Every other playoff contender will likely make trades to shore up their chances. Calgary will trades only if it requires not deviating from the long-term plan. Surely a third starting goalie is not part of the long term plan. We could get something for Stajan. I’d love to see if Wolf could fill Bollig’s role better.

    Burke said he is “not a patient man.” BT seems willing to miss the playoffs this year. I think patience is a rationalization for being overly cautious. The players have played their hearts out to be where they are. The fans deserve a shot at the playoffs THIS YEAR. I certainly don’t want to give up any A prospects like Poirier traded, but how about some B- prospects like Agostino or Reinhart. A competent replacement for Englland bumping him to 7th could pay big dividends. Wotherspoon played solidly last year. He is being sat.

    I think a better team could be iced including Baertschi, TSpoon and Wolf. Not sure why the Flames are sticking with Bollig and Englland. Maybe one of the two to play a physical enforcer role, but Wolf looks like he can play that part and had lots of penalty minutes in Germany.

    Go Flames Go!

    • Burnward

      The thing is about B- prospects is, they don’t really have much value. Who do you think you could get for Agostino and Reinhart?

      Also, Wolf has just stated to find his game in North America. You and I are both hoping he can fill that role.

      I think patience is the best action for us right now. If we make the play offs, great. If not, our AHL prospects will be that much better next year and can likely come to camp and earn their spot.

  • Burnward

    You “don’t know” about Engelland’s cap hit – seriously! At first most observers assumed his annual salary was for the entire 3 year term not per year. A terrible signing by BT.

    He could have found players for both roles described above for a much lower price. Sure you need to get to the cap floor but do so by acquiring useful assets like Hillier, not slugs like Engelland and Bollig.

    • Burnward

      Who did you have in mind & did you talk to those players agents???
      Who cares if the Flames overpaid a few players on short term deals? I don’t get the negativity on some of this stuff. If they rushed Wolf & Ferlund & Tspoon in they mob here would criticize BT of running the club like the Oilers & ruining prospects. Nobody is giving us a long term piece to go on a playoff run. There are no moves for BT to be a seller. Only hockey trades & if that means we give up Klimchuk or Sven & Reinhart or Agostino to get a young blue liner, fine. Otherwise, lets see if this group can carry the ball all the way to the playoffs. I don’t think they are too raw yet but then I never expected to be where we are.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        I’d argue that Cory Potter would be no worse, and likely better than Engelland at this point, at less than half the price. Pike’s arguments for why he was signed are valid, but the term and dollar amount for Engelland were a clear mistake.

        You’re right when you say that the Flames would be roundly criticized for rushing young prospects too early, but bottom 6 players are frankly a dime a dozen. For me both signings were a mistake.

        • supra steve

          I pretty much agree with your statement, the term and dollar amounts for Engelland were hard to like at the time the deal was signed. However, it sounds like if the Flames hadn’t offered the term and dollar that they did, they were not getting this player. A $1.5mil/yr 2 yr deal was not going to get it done.

          Now, would that have been the worst thing in the world? No. But then you still need to find another 3rd pairing NHL D-man, and I’m not sure that that is Cory Potter.

          I guess they could have chased the guy that the Oilers got, Nikitin, but that hasn’t turned out well either.

          BT was not anticipating any kind of a shot at a playoff position this season, and he conducted himself accordingly during the off-season. He gave up no asset, other than money over a 3yr term, and brought in a marginal NHL D-man with the reported upside of being a great teammate, and he got the club over the cap floor in doing so.

  • Burnward

    IMO, the thing with guys like Engellend and Bollig is that while their skill level may not be there on the ice, no one sees what they bring off of it.

    Players like this, that have had to scratch and claw to get where they are, certainly don’t allow prima donna attitudes to fester in the room.

    For a young team to have this level of accountability on a daily basis is certainly worth something.

    Not saying they are the best options, but there is something to be said for this aspect.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I am not a fan of either guy yet despite this we are still in a playoff position and will likely continue to be in the race right until the end of the season. Should we consider upgrading these guys and moving a couple of others from the roster; absolutely but only for the right pieces. Don’t overpay for rental players and don’t overpay for guys who are well past their prime; we don’t need anymore reclamation projects. I would rather miss the playoffs and give the prospects a chance than trade for questionable assets and finish 8th and lose 4 straight. (Ideally we can still make the playoffs with what we have and with the prospects)

  • You forgot “to boost us to the cap floor”. Flames have the cheapest roster in the NHL right now.

    Reading between the lines in the offseason when both were acquired, it really seemed like the Flames thought that both guys were kinda buried by the depth of their former teams and could maybe turn out to be greater contributors if given bigger roles. Obviously there were mistaken.

    • supra steve

      Finally an honest assessment…..none of this crap about having to overpay to reach the cap floor or that they are good for the kids or that they have anything to do with the current success the Flames are having.

      Straight up: Engelland was a terrible signing and Bollig was a wasted third round pick.

      WW

    • BurningSensation

      Agreed, the mistake was thinking that these guys might have untapped upside that Calgary could exploit, as it is pretty clear from the Vollman sledgehammer that they don’t.

      But that doesn’t make signing them a mistake. Neither have onerous term or $ figures associated with them, and they do force younger players to exceed an NHL vet before claiming a job – especially important for a young team.

      What is more, they know their role, and if a young player should outperform them and push them to the box they aren’t going to become toxic prima donnas about it.

      • Rockmorton65

        Good post!! Probably no one is more surprised than BT that he under estimated the young talent beating down the door for big team minutes. Even if the signings are weak, it’s not like we brought in a Kotalik when we are already Cap strapped.

    • Canrock 78

      Kent I would like to Congratulate you and the rest of the stats community for your perseverance and dedication to your craft where the NHL felt it was valuable enough to be used on a full time basis.
      I do not agree with the if we cannot explain it on a spread sheet it must be luck argument. My hope the more data that is collected the less LUCK is used as a reason for success.

      Obviously the moves made over the summer have had a positive impact somewhere weather it be in the room or on the ice. Either way I think the biggest thing I looked for this year was steady improvement we have that no question.

      My guess is as the hockey intensifies and our talent level is exposed more we will slide, I hope I am wrong and believe in the character of the team. If we do make the playoffs it will be because of the veteran presence as the games get more important the kids start to squeeze their sticks a little harder, hopefully Bollig and Engelland and the playoff experience will help to calm them.

      WW please become an oilers fan if your not already you would fit in nicely there.

    • The Last Big Bear

      I have my own take on the Bollig and Engelland signings.

      The reason Engelland was so highly sought-after, is because of all the enforcers in the NHL, he is the best defenceman out the group.

      That is to say, if you rounded up all the designated face-punchers in the NHL, and held a try-out to see which one was the best at actually playing defence, it would probably be Engelland.

      The same rationale applies to Bollig. Of all the face-punchers in the NHL, he was arguably giving his team the highest quality minutes, playing 10:00 each night in tough circumstances on a cup contender.

      I think the Flames made a systematic attempt to gather together the best defenceman out of all the NHL’s enforcers(Engelland), the best forward of the enforcers (Bollig), the best enforcer of the enforcers (McGrattan), and the best up-and-coming goon who’s not in the NHL yet (Wolf).

      They were willing to overpay to get them because Burke has never been shy about paying a premium to get the exact guy he wants. Not just a guy “like” the guy he wants, but the exact player (ie the Sedins, Kessel, Pronger, etc).

      In this case, the pursuit of “functional toughness” led to acquiring the most functional of the tough guys. It’s easy to say that it hasn’t been overly successful so far, but at the same time its hard to say that the team has been doing anything except wildly outperforming every possible expectation too.

      I’m not going to say they’re winning because of Bollig and Engelland, but nether will I say that they’re winning in spite of them. And Hartley (whom I give most of the credit for Calgary’s success) has been very adamant about keeping these guys on the roster, and in the games.

  • Burnward

    Crazy to think there’s a chance that Calgary ends up finishing as low as third last in the conference.

    It’s a process that has been expedited this season, but there are still a lot of good teams out West.

    Even with these two guys the Flames aren’t floundering in any of the traditional counting stats.

  • Derzie

    They are terrible acquisitions. We should be playing youngsters in those roles. Not the high ceiling guys, just the guys that should make the NHL. BT has yet to make a mark in a good way. Trash all you want but it’s true.