There was a time, not long ago, where Dennis Wideman may have been regarded as the biggest waste of cap space on the Calgary Flames roster.
Reports were that last summer, the Flames did everything they could to rid themselves of his contract. They couldn’t, and luckily for them, Wideman responded with his best offensive season in years. In the locker room, he seemed jovial and much more at-ease than he had in years past. It came across in his play, particularly down the stretch as he and Kris Russell were heavily relied-upon with Mark Giordano on the sidelines.
But offensive numbers aren’t everything. How was Wideman’s season on the whole?
100 even-strength minutes together is my cut-off for WOWY analysis:
If you’ve already read the Kris Russell rundown from earlier, you can see that this is basically the exact same pattern. Jooris and Byron – good possession players – perform well with Wideman, possibly because they do so with everybody. Everyone else? More or less unchanged, or appreciably worse.
This is a dangerous, dangerous thing particularly with guys like Wideman and Russell, who played a ton of Calgary’s even-strength minutes this year. Calgary was insanely dependent on two defensive pairings. One, Brodie and Giordano, generally made all the forwards they played with better in terms of possession. The other, Russell and Wideman, generally made everyone worse. That’s something that’ll need to change for the Flames to get better.
In terms of his points and offensive contributions, he did quite well. He had a career-best season with 56 points in 80 games, and he added 7 assists in 11 playoff games. To put that in context: he more-than-doubled his Flames career points total based on this season alone, and had his first 50-point season since 2008-09. However, he did score more than a third of his points (and 6 of his 15 goals) on the power-play, which shows you where his strengths really lie.
Let’s be blunt: Wideman is a player with a great shot and tremendous instincts in the offensive zone. He’s a great power-play contributor. But wowzers, he is not particularly good at even-strength, and his deployments are reasonably tough but a lot easier than Brodie and Giordano’s, but relatively he’s struggling.
If Wideman was used more like David Schlemko was – sheltered third-pairing minutes, along with some power-play time, his impact on his team’s possession game probably wouldn’t be nearly as negative.
On a good team, Wideman’s a rock-solid #5 defender with some power-play minutes. On Calgary? He’s a #4 who’s in a bit over his head and, as a result, he’s dragging down the players on the ice with him a bit. (For the record, Russell’s a #4 who’s playing as a #3, and having a similar drag-down impact on his teammates.)
Wideman’s figured out his offensive game, but he needs some sheltering to figure out the defensive side. To give him that shelter, it’s likely the Flames will need to make some off-season changes.