Why won’t Bob Hartley play Tyler Wotherspoon?

Tyler Wotherspoon has been a healthy scratch for the Calgary Flames six times so far this season. He has played zero NHL games despite being recalled three times, either as an extra or due to fear of losing one of the regular veteran defencemen.

It took until the third recall for that fear to actually come true, as Mark Giordano was forced to miss his first game of the 2014-15 season. And despite Wotherspoon being present for the game, 31-year-old journeyman Corey Potter, much longer a healthy scratch for the Flames, drew in.

The difference between Potter and Wotherspoon being that while Potter is purely for insurance, Wotherspoon is the Flames’ top defensive prospect; and yet, the only NHL action he has seen this season has been in practices.

Recall the first

Wotherspoon was first recalled after Ladislav Smid went on the injury reserve. The Flames needed a spare defenceman, and with one game left before the All-Star Break, why not bring up their top defensive prospect? At the absolute least, he’d get an NHL practice in; at most, a game. Everyone won.

(Except the Flames, because they ended up losing 6-3 to the Ducks, but that’s neither here nor there.)

That was the Flames’ final game before the All-Star Break, and so Wotherspoon, along with fellow rookies Markus Granlund and Joni Ortio, was returned to Adirondack.

Recall the second

With the All-Star Break over and Smid still injured, Wotherspoon was promptly recalled. This was during the great flu scare of late January and early February, and the Flames were concerned Kris Russell would be unable to play; hence Wotherspoon for insurance.

Except Russell was fine, so Wotherspoon sat four straight games. There’s something to be said for wanting your prospect to catch up, or wanting him to just be around NHLers, or even wanting him to just watch games from above and learn up there. There’s another thing to be said for healthy scratching your top defensive prospect for a week. That’s a lot of playing time lost, in addition to All-Star festivities of both the NHL and AHL variety.

And it’s not as though the competition would have been too steep for Wotherspoon to handle. Two of the four games he sat out were against the Buffalo Sabres (who are pretty much the worst team assembled in recent history) and the Edmonton Oilers (who are the Edmonton Oilers, and therefore astonishingly bad).

When the Flames realized they were never actually going to play him, they returned him to Adirondack and called up Potter to sit in his stead, as it should be.

Recall the third

Giordano got hurt, so up came Wotherspoon. Not that just anybody can replace Giordano, but with limited options, the best possible solution for the loss of their best defenceman was to at least recall their best defensive prospect. 

And then they… didn’t play him, even though he joined the team in time for the game. Instead Potter, who is pretty much strictly an insurance policy, drew in.

Thinking that Potter was a better option than the kid with top four potential was… odd, to say the least. Potter played a grand total of 7:47 against the New York Islanders, while TJ Brodie, Dennis Wideman, and Russell played nearly 30 minutes each (and in Wideman’s case, a little more than that).

Following the game, David Schlemko was claimed off of waivers, giving the Flames another, much more plausible insurance policy. Wotherspoon’s third recall of the season resulted in the 21-year-old being a healthy scratch for just one game before returning to Adirondack. (And then Potter played a second game, this time with an ice time of 7:37 against the Philadelphia Flyers.)

Is he really a worse option than any of the Flames’ regulars?

No.

Way back in the dark days when Smid and Deryk Engelland were the Flames’ go-to third pairing, Bob Hartley would occasionally scratch Engelland to make sure Raphael Diaz didn’t get too rusty just sitting in the pressbox. The same courtesy was never extended towards Potter nor Wotherspoon, although it should be noted Diaz this season has been an NHL-only guy, while the latter two have played numerous AHL games each.

But that just makes the decision to sit Wotherspoon for such a lengthy period of time all the more bizarre. Hartley has shown no fear for mixing up his lineup in the past to accommodate another player. So why the hesitation to play Wotherspoon? Even if not over Engelland, then why not over Diaz? Not over Potter?

Wotherspoon already has 14 NHL games under his belt, and would have more had it not been for a shoulder injury cutting his 2013-14 season short. He was just starting to hit his stride when it happened, too; three of his four assists came in his final games of the year. He also started getting more ice time, including a couple of 17-minute mark games: games in which he began putting up positive possession numbers. While not quite there yet, Wotherspoon was certainly beginning to look like an NHLer.

And he’s been having a good season in Adirondack this year. Wotherspoon leads all Adirondack regulars with 19 assists, and his 1.83 shots per game is the most out of all defencemen. He’s the clear standout, much more offensively minded and keener to move the puck than the standard bottom pairing options. While Potter may serve as a mentor in the AHL, Wotherspoon is the superior player at that level, too.

So for a team with clear defensive depth issues to repeatedly recall its best prospect at that position and never play him just doesn’t make sense. It’s not like he could be any worse than the current options. And if given the chance, he might just be a pleasant surprise.

That would involve actually giving him that chance, though.

  • prendrefeu

    What’s up with the recent articles lately?
    Arii, it’s like you’re on a campaign against Hartley.
    Other writers, most but not all, seem to also just be writing negative sh*t – and with little acknowledgement of the people who post comments (which pay for the site! advertising needs numbers, commenters provide those!)

    I’m not writing that all articles should be positive, but what the heck is this lately? Yeah ‘negativity sells’ but are you all now following the Ryan Lambert method of getting attention?

    How about some articles on the prospects in the coming draft? Articles on how other teams are operating, developing their talent (ie, Detroit) and how the Flames org is adapting. How about articles that aren’t necessarily negative, but provide an analysis without some incredibly biased slant to it?

    Arii, your articles both here and MSG are well written, there is no doubt about that. But, to be honest, if I read it out loud it would sound like the biased diatribe of a talk radio show. You can do better, you have the talent for it.

    It seems like the basic course for most ‘supporters sites’ go like this:

    1. Celebrate wins, but still find a reason to complain about something.
    2. Always, always, always criticize management no matter what.
    3. Always, always, always over hype a high-draft player and express severe anger and disappointment when reality doesn’t match the hype on an athlete. Ignore data which shows that draft-place does not always correlate with results.
    4. Write and preach, through various methods such as long articulate articles or pointing to select data, about things as if the writer knows more than the people actually operating the team (or even playing the game as professional athletes).
    5. Completely ignore the fact that no one knows sh*t about anything and we’re all just fans, but carry a bunch of ‘followers’ to your creed through the internet to make yourself feel better.

    You’re better than this, seriously.

    • Colin.S

      I love this site, it offers opinions that are not reguritated opinions from the Flames PR people(Fan960, Newspapers, Sportsnet). And yes a bunch of that content is going to be of a more critical nature because thats almost the nature of advanced stats, to take a critical look at players through other means than the old eye test. As to your points:

      1.) Yes even in wins there is always something to critique or is possibly negative. Just because the Flames win doesn’t mean that Engelland isn’t still shit or Bollig magically became a top 9 forward. Just because a team wins doesn’t mean that we should ingnore things like unsustainable SV%/GAA or SH%, or being one of the worst possession teams in the NHL.

      2.) All right than, lets do the opposite, let’s be the Oilers, Management is always right and even when they are the worst team, its not managements fault they couldn’t draft/sign/develop players, it’s their fault cause attitude problems and things.

      3.) This points hillarious cause everyone is now overhyping the second round pick the Flames got for Sven. That pick has barely a 40% chance to even make the NHL nevermind be any sort of impact player.

      4.) Even more hillarious because I read a bunch of people talking about how BB/BT are bringing this team back to respectability after all of Feaster/Wisebrods mistakes. So now we can question all of JF/Wisebrods moves(even drafting sven like some people suggested yesterday) but we are suppose to just blindy follow these new guys and we are not suppose to write about any data or anything to suggest they are making mistakes, but those last guys, total screw ups.

      5.) I don’t even know what that point is. Pretty simply if you are unhappy with the content on a site or the poeple who post on it, there are plenty of other websites, thats the great thing about the internet.

    • Colin.S

      I don’t even know where to begin. If you don’t like the content being produced on here, go read somewhere else. All of Ari’s articles are based on logic and analytics.

      Look at them through a critical thinking scope. Enjoy the wins but look at them from an objective lense. Many teams have taught us before that Wins and losses can be incredibly deceiving and masking of problems

      Seems like Ari and everyone else supported the Glencross trade, the Shore trade, and so fourth.

      Re: this article. What exactly don’t you? The Flames have a terrible defense after Brodie. Statistics show this, being outshot and outchanced every game shows this. She makes a well thought out article based on statistics that you can’t argue with.

      You want to read those articles? Write them yourself. The underlying theme of all those articles is that you don’t like reading anything that might be negative to the team of adults playing a children’s game you choose to cheer for.

      You are clearly not better then this

      • piscera.infada

        It’s not the argument that Wotherspoon may be a clear upgrade that people have an issue with, it’s the extension of that point to “prove” that Hartley “yet again” is failing a prospect. That, many contend, is patently false.

        It’s not so much the substantive argument about Wotherspoon’s game, but rather the narrative being created about Hartley that is completely unsubstantiated. It’s extremely easy to read this article and yesterday’s article on Baertschi, and follow the logic she’s trying to convey.

        Well written article, horrible conjecture. It seems to paint ‘the Wotherspoon situation’ as ‘the Baertschi situation part II’. Which it isn’t–it’s not even a ‘situation’.

      • prendrefeu

        I don’t even know where to begin.

        Well, you can begin by re-reading what I wrote carefully.

        All of Ari’s articles are based on logic and analytics.

        Again, re-read what I wrote. Did I write that she isn’t writing based on those things? No, I did not.

        It’s this point, which piscera.infada writes, that you are clearly missing:

        It’s not the argument that Wotherspoon may be a clear upgrade that people have an issue with, it’s the extension of that point to “prove” that Hartley “yet again” is failing a prospect. That, many contend, is patently false.

        It’s not so much the substantive argument about Wotherspoon’s game, but rather the narrative being created about Hartley that is completely unsubstantiated. It’s extremely easy to read this article and yesterday’s article on Baertschi, and follow the logic she’s trying to convey.

        Well written article, horrible conjecture. It seems to paint ‘the Wotherspoon situation’ as ‘the Baertschi situation part II’. Which it isn’t–it’s not even a ‘situation’.

      • prendrefeu

        Likewise. I’ve read plenty of your comments on other articles regarding stats analysis which were condescending to people who have brought up genuine questions.

        • Burnward

          Except that’s not true at all because they’re not genuine questions 99/100. Anyone who approaches a “stats analysis” with genuine questions on here, is given a thoughtful response.

          Example

          Q: Could the Flames be just taking better quality shots

          A: No. Tracking their shots and statistics we can see that the Flames do not take higher quality shots then other teams and it has more to do with just not possessing the puck more.

          I honestly don’t remember many times when someone just asks a question, without any other opinion attached to it and has gotten the type of response you give. If you can find me examples of people just asking genuine questions on here and getting the responses you give, I’ll bite my tongue.

          ———————————————————

          • piscera.infada

            Honest back and forth is good, let’s have more of it.

            Your claim that a simple question has gotten a straight-forward answer? …not so much. This very thing was asked in comparing results of the Oilers vs the Flames, and the answer came back clearly that Calgary did indeed take higher % shots versus the preponderance of outside shots for the Oilers.

            But don’t bite your tongue, that doesn’t prove/help anything. Just respect another’s views and let’s keep the discussion going. Perhaps over time we’ll all learn.

  • Colin.S

    I don’t get ANY comparisions between this kid and Sven, completely different situations.

    Does anyone even remember how he looked in the preseason? I don’t, I don’t remember him being good or bad. He played 14 games last year on the team and again I don’t recall any particular strength which said he has to play over other guys.

    As well Hartely knows the guys he’s currently playing and they all have a decent amount of NHL experience and have played in high pressure situations before. As well I think it’s easier for Hartely to put young forwards in the line up because if they do screw up you can bury them on the fourth line and play them for all of 6 minutes. If you play a defenceman and they are not ready or they screw up bad and have terrible night you can’t just sit him because thats hell on the other 5 guys. I guess with Hartely he wants the guys he knows.

    The only thing that can be gathered from Wotherspoon not really earning a call up is how bad the Flames defensive prospects are if even the Flames supposive best defensive prospect can’t get into the lineup. How bad is the Flames defensive depth, maybe they should have traded Sven for some of that?

  • I’m all for Wotherspoon seeing big minutes in the AHL and what not and if they’re gonna sit someone I’d like it to be Potter. However, if you’re in a desperate situation like they were last night and you’re giving Potter less than 8 mins, I figure you might as well try Wotherspoon.

    Arii’s point about Wotherspoon at the AHL level vs. Potter is a good one.

  • NHL93

    Questioning the team? I want my money back..

    But seriously. It is strange to call the kid up several times and not play him.. obviously something behind the scenes is at work here. Probably some sort of lame-ass homework assignment or something. Kid gets called up, learns some things, goes down to the A and implements them.

    • prendrefeu

      Tomorrow should be the weekly tirade from Lambert. It’s Thursday, afterall, and the site needs hits and lots of comments to up the advertising rates.

      Also in the pipeline:

      • Why the Flames should trade all of their 2nd round picks for a first round pick.
        Follow-up article post draft: Not Trading all the picks for another 1st rounder was a total failure of Treliving, also Brian Burke did it.
      • Hartley gets excited when the Flames score, a clear indication he isn’t a serious coach.
      • Data and Analytics showing the rate of Hartley smiling behind the bench correlates with the team’s CORSI, PDO, and losses
      • The 2015-2016 Season will be a total failure based on our projected analytics, tanking is the best course of action until Giordano gets cloned
      • Was the time Giordano and Gaudreau spent making those commercials detrimental to the Flames’ success?
      • King should fire Burke and everyone else, hire Babcock no matter what the price
      • Fire King, bring back Sven no matter what the cost.
      • Truculence

        LOL!!! Finally, some Flames fans on this site with some humor. Man, I didn’t even see the kind of vitriol we have been subjected to the last couple of days during the last couple of years of Iggy’s tenure.

        We’re in a fricking play-off spot in the second year of a rebuild! There are awesome prospects in the pipeline.

        Somebody post that goddamn Iggy on a horse pic to cheer some of these guys up!!

      • piscera.infada

        Oh yeah. Those Flames Nation fat cats writing articles like these to get the comments up and get those big, juicy advertising dollars. Floob and Wilson have forgot what it’s like for the common man living in their ivory towers.These are people taking time out of their days and jobs to write about something they’re passionate about.

        There’s a lot of good things going on with the Flames right now. A lot of people on this site have commented on that, the Glencross move, Sam Bennet, the play of Brodie, Monahan, Gio and Gaudreau. There’s also a lot of bad things and there’s been some questionable moves made. I’m glad there are articles written about those things. Looking at things through an analytical, objective and critical thinking lense is something sorely lacking in sports.

        Does TJ Brodie make Giordano better is not a negative article. Not in the slightest.

        Lance Bouma has had a lot of success. Identifying what is behind that luck is not a negative topic. Seems to me with all the data on hand, the most logical explanation is that he’s benefited from playing with Backlund and while not likely a 2nd liner, is still a solid 4th line contributor.

        Tyler Wotherspoon has been called up a lot and not played. The Flames defense has been there biggest weak spot this season outside of Gio. Why is this? Is it that he is worse then the players playing right now? No. Seems like a good article after a night when the Flames defense really struggled. She lays out the facts of the story and then makes a convincing argument he should be playing.

        Again, the Flames have a real lack of defensive depth. Giordano goes down, this is an issue that is well worth talking about. Not sure how anyone could argummet that the Flames don’t have a big problem with the lack of depth on the blueline.

        These are not negative articles. These are articles based on relevant events happening with this team and then the author having a different opinion then yours.

        You don’t want a bias slant when it’s negative even though you present a ton on your own and back them up with not even half of the information she does to make her points.

        • prendrefeu

          You’re still missing the point, dude. Take your blinders off, to start.
          Go back and read, slowly, and see what a few of us are actually pointing at. Take notes if you have to. Print it out, use a highlighter, whatever works.

          Literally *nothing* that you wrote in your retort was anything I disagreed with, you’re stating what’s already known. That’s not what is being pointed out in the criticism of the writing here.

          • prendrefeu

            I don’t think I have at all.

            You’ve criticised here for being too negative.

            Said these articles are basically to drive up the comments sections.

            Said she is writing these articles from some entirely bias point of view. Hard to see that anywhere in this article or any others.

          • Colin.S

            Wrong! Although the articles are well-written, just look at the headlines for each:

            When Did the Flames Go Wrong With Sven Baertschi?

            Why Won’t Bob Hartley Play Tyler Wotherspoon?

            Its pretty clear from the titles that there is accusation against management in both articles. Also clear that its a management issue, and not at all, in any way, perhaps a player issue. I think this is the primary issue PrendreFeu is making in his comments. He disagrees, as do I, but he’s not even saying don’t say it, rather just acknowledge what you’re doing and be accountable for the views.

            The articles are well-written, with lots of facts, but the underlying premise of each is strictly opinion… but presented as fact. Its not fact. There are other views out there that have validity. If everyone accepted THAT we’d all get along better.

          • Colin.S

            How the heck should you title an article that questions why the coach won’t play a single player? She is simply wondering why. She is not condemning Hartley as a terrible coach in this article. There is nothing in here presented as fact that is an opinion.

            I’ve read this article over a ton and still boggles my mind where anyone could at al disagree with anything she is saying or asking.

          • Colin.S

            Agreed. In this and the Sven article, the points are factual, historical moments and the arguments laid out in questioning those moments are very logical. However, nobody refutes those points, they just attack those who support them while attempting to gag any sort of critical discussion. I feel like I’m arguing with the Obama administration on here sometimes.

          • FeyWest

            It just sounds like an agree to disagree moment now, it’s become more personal than it is progressive in discussion.

            While I agree it’s questionable, I’m not all that concerned at this point. My thoughts on why he isn’t I don’t know but possibilities could stem mostly from practice, he’s working just as hard as everyone there but maybe he isn’t as well conditioned as the rest of the D combined with the lack of experience, in drills he could be slightly behind where Hartley likes. All of which if someone else is injured while he’s in (or he himself since again he was injured last year when he drew in) then all of a sudden the 3rd pairing is picking up the slack.

            Do I believe that Tspoon could handle it? Sure why not just like stated he could probably replace Potter’s or Diaz’s time and match them. In the last month I’ve been happy with Diaz’s play especially on the PP, and Potter’s only played a few games, with Schlemko now here Potter gets the popcorn seat and Tspoon is helping Addy to a playoff spot. So while questionable on why he couldn’t have played a few games or more at this juncture I don’t think there was anything detrimental to him being here, if not useful and a good learning experience, I think he’s shown almost ready for a bigger role next year if not earlier depending what happens in the next little bit.

        • prendrefeu

          “The Flames defense has been there biggest weak spot this season outside of Gio. Why is this? Is it that he is worse then the players playing right now? No. Seems like a good article after a night when the Flames defense really struggled.”

          You have some good points but lost me here. Last night was one of the best games of the season for the defence, and I’m specifically mentioning ALL the defence which played inspired and came away with a win.

          Secondly, WHAT team are you watching? The Flames defence has been a huge bright spot this year, even outside of Gio. Gio and Brodie are arguably the best 1st pairing in the NHL. The defence as a whole LEADS the NHL in scoring from the defence. They’ve got 3 D men with over 10 goals, Wideman is having a career year, along with Brodie and Gio.

          If you want a reasonable discussion get YOUR facts right and stop exaggerating to support your untenable argument….

          Finally, Wotherspoon not playing… strange? YES… A problem? Not really. He’s still developing, and I’m sure it happens all the time in the NHL. As writers it would be nice if you don’t create controversy where there is none, especially when we/you don’t have all the inside scoop.

          • Colin.S

            The final shot attempts by the Flyers compared to the Flames were astounding. The 2nd half of the game the Flames got run over. The defense played hard but they barely hung on last night. I think most people would agree with that. Ramo stood on his head.

            Wideman is not having a career year. Every statistical evaluation shows while his offence came back for the start of the year, he is still struggling mightily in the defensive end.

            The 3rd pairing has been even worse this season. It’s not being overly negative or anything, the Flames are a rebuilding team and outside of the 1st pair, they have a pretty below aveage defence. This is in large part due to Russel and Widemen having to be a 2nd pairing when they’d be much better as a 3rd. All the statistics available show that the Flames have some holes on the back end.

          • Colin.S

            In the game last night the flames dominated for most of the 1st period. After they went ahead the team tended to sit back and go into their shell to protect the lead, going into Score Close mode. The final tally is irrelevant (though I realize stats nerds totally disagree), as of course they’d get outshot in that mode.

            Wideman we’ll have to agree to disagree…. looking at different things.

            “The 3rd pairing has been even worse this season”? Worse than what? The 1st or 2nd pairing? That’s the way it works on basically EVERY team in the NHL. You’re really trying hard to make a point that the Flames D is terrible outside of the 1st pair, but, it ain’t so… They’ve been OK, and offensively as a whole D, terrific.

            Can we improve? Yes, in many areas.

          • Colin.S

            Actually (stat nerds) have something called score effects which highlights just that issue of teams being outshot while having a lead. It jsut doesn’t apply as much when it’s 2/3 of the game. The problem is the bottom 4 Flames defensmen have gotten outshot all year no matter the score.

            I don’t think I’m trying really hard. The statistics clearly show the struggles of the Flames defence. THat being said, you seem to really on just your observation as opposed to stats. No harm in that

          • RKD

            Personally I believe Score Effects apply for as long as they apply (as long as a team is in that position), which last night was more than 2/3 of the game. Also last I looked ALL the Flames defensemen have gotten outshot all year, including our top pair and Norris candidate Giordano. Regardless, for me stats are useful and I actually like them. Its just that I don’t believe they tell the whole story and actually leave a lot to be desired therefore I need to look deeper or elsewhere to figure things out. Hopefully over the next few years we’ll all together be able to advance things….

          • Colin.S

            Agreed cccsberg….since Gio’s injury the D has really pulled together. Wideman played the most minutes against the Flyers last night1!

            Sure TSpoon played 14 games last year, playing with Smid and did OK….Flames were out of the playoffs then so this year is a different situation as they are in a hunt for a playoff spot.

            He got some valuable experience last year and will get more this year if the Flames don’t secure a playoff spot.

            He would have played if Russell couldn’t suit up on that call-up as he was called up because of the possibility of Russell not playing.

            Diaz and Potter are pending UFAs this year and who knows if Smid will be able to return… TSpoon will have a better chance to make the team from training camp next year.

  • Reidja

    Woah… We are into some serious meta- double negative- anti- anti- stuff now. Let’s just all simmer down and get to talking about hockey eh? Or at least ganging up on the oilers and not each other.

  • doubledown

    Looks to me like theyre giving wotherspoon a bit of the Sven treatment. I don’t really like seeing him sitting in the press box for a week or more. He’s seen enough games from the box, play him here or play him in the AHL. Continually calling him up just to sit is frustrationg to watch as a fan and must be even more frustrating for the player.

  • piscera.infada

    I agree with the article. It makes no sense, just another example of a player that Hartley doesn’t care for for whatever reason. Wotherspoon’s saving grace though is he’s by far the best D prospect and the only one ready to step in. So watch Hartley cut him out of camp; “You know, like, you’ve got to earn it, never given, you know.”

  • MichaelD

    Why does everyone think that it’s EA sports and the more minutes played=the better overall. Sure he hasn’t played at the nhl level this year yet, but he has had practiced and is working out with an NHL team, and if misses out on how many games at the AHL level? is it a big deal? But he isn’t Potter with a season ticket to the saddledome press box, he’s played 46 games this year, so suggesting he’s ‘rusty’ and wasting ‘development’ is a not a good argument.

    Whats wrong with a coach managing his players? He isn’t the manager, and weren’t you just complaining about Sven’s usage like you are the know all about treating prospects like gods. Wotherspoon has a very good chance to be a great defenceman, it’s articles like this that ruin prospects.

    I read this site cause they post articles with thoughtful insight to prospects plus current Flames players. If I wanna read about coach-player drama and conspiracy opinions about player usage, I’d go to the Maple Leafs Facebook page.

  • RKD

    Does BB have it in for Wotherspoon too? Jk. The recalls really don’t make any sense if they aren’t going to play him. If he’s recalled and he’s not playing for the big league and he’s not playing for the farm team what good is it for his development? Engelland, Diaz, Potter over Wotherspoon, really? Give this kid a chance to play. Maybe the Flames are waiting to debut him later this season or maybe next year he starts playing at the same time as Bennett.