Paul Byron made the big jump last season, going from being a pretty good but not quite NHL-caliber forward to being an everyday player. His speed and hockey sense made him a valuable commodity on the team – a player that Bob Hartley could slot in basically anywhere and with any linemates and get value out of him.
He continued this strong play in 2014-15, but he just couldn’t bury a break-away chance.
You could tell the Flames really missed Byron during the playoffs. He’s fast and small, but plays physical and is a strong back-checker. And for the second straight season, when he was healthy, he was one of the Flames’ most consistent players.
Behold, Paul Byron’s WOWY. He’s pretty good.
So, the only person who’s worse-off with him is Raphael Diaz. Everybody else is either a little bit better or a fair bit better. And that includes the possession killers of the defensive pairing of Wideman and Russell – their numbers are bumped up more than 5 per cent with Paul Byron merely on the ice. Deryk Engelland, who is objectively bad at possession hockey? He’s better! I’m willing to shrug and say Raphael Diaz is an aberration.
And when you bear in mind that Paul Byron was playing hurt for a big, big chunk of the season, his numbers are pretty impressive, despite his inconsistency. Here’s a rolling five-game Corsi chart.
Byron also slid down the line-up card during the season – partially because he was banged-up, and partially because the team saw guys like Top Six Forward Lance Bouma, Josh Jooris and others deserve to play more. So Paul Byron got dropped to the third and fourth line, despite playing well, because the team needed to give time to other guys. His deployment was relatively middle of the road, and changed a lot throughout the season.
Byron’s a pending restricted free agent and I believe he has arbitration rights. If he re-signs, he’ll be pretty inexpensive. He historically hasn’t scored a ton, but he’s good away from the puck and he creates chances. If the Flames pair Byron with a finisher, he could be very valuable. However, given his age, I’m not fully sure he gets a long-term deal, because the Flames have kids coming up that they probably want to see in the NHL (and Byron would require waivers to get bumped down to the farm.)
But hey, if Paul Byron ends us being the Flames 13th or 14th forward next season, it means that a couple kids are playing really, really well. Or that he’s hurt again.
2014-15 BY THE NUMBERS
|#1 Jonas Hiller||#19 David Jones|
|#3 David Schlemko||#21 Mason Raymond|
|#4 Kris Russell||#23 Sean Monahan|
|#5 Mark Giordano||#24 Jiri Hudler|
|#6 Dennis Wideman||#25 Brandon Bollig|
|#7 T.J. Brodie||#29 Deryk Engelland|
|#8 Joe Colborne||#31 Karri Ramo|
|#11 Mikael Backlund||#32 Paul Byron|
|#13 Johnny Gaudreau||#33 Raphael Diaz|
|#15 Ladislav Smid||#60 Markus Granlund|
|#17 Lance Bouma||#79 Micheal Ferland|
|#18 Matt Stajan||#86 Josh Jooris|