I’ll admit that I had no strong opinions of Raphael Diaz when the Calgary Flames signed him following training camp. I believe my initial reaction was, “Well, I bet he signed cheap.”
He did, likely as insurance so that the Flames didn’t have to (a) rush Tyler Wotherspoon back into the NHL after shoulder surgery or (b) have to rely on Corey Potter in the NHL, also recovering from shoulder surgery. As it turns out, injuries meant that Diaz eventually became a regular part of the line-up and Potter inherited his spot as the number-seven defender.
A right-handed defender with decent instincts and a pretty good shot, Diaz more or less performed up to expectations. He occasionally helped the team, probably more often than he hurt them.
Let’s check out his WOWY, with the standard 100 even-strength minute cut-off.
These are pretty good numbers, particularly for a depth player. That said, Diaz rarely saw tough minutes and played a lot with the team’s lesser lights – against other lesser lights. For a good chunk of his season, he played the left side on a pairing with Deryk Engelland, and was given the green light to jump into the play a lot and create offense. He was a regular player by November, and didn’t come out of the line-up until suffering a lower-body injury in early April that sidelined him until the second round of the playoffs.
Diaz has his obvious strengths and weaknesses. Offensively, he’s a poor man’s T.J. Brodie – he’s got a pretty good first pass, is a really fast skater and has a pretty good wrister from the point. However, defensively he’s no great shakes; he lacks a distinct physical element to his game that the regular top four guys (and Engelland) bring, and instead relies on positioning. Unfortunately, on occasion his pinching into the offensive end puts a bunch of pressure on his partner in the form of odd-man rushes. If he were a bit better with anticipating turn-overs or picking his spots, he’d fit on Calgary’s third pairing nearly perfectly.
Even given the holes in his game, he’s still not an awful fit in that role, though scoring just 4 points in 56 games (even in limited minutes) is a tad disappointing.
If you presume that the Flames’ top four is set with Giordano, Brodie, Russell and Wideman, and that the team will stick with Engelland as an anchor on the right side of the third pairing, you’re left with two spots between Diaz, David Schlemko, Tyler Wotherspoon and Ladislav Smid (should he fully recovery from his injuries). Given Diaz’s age and Schlemko being a better defensive player, it doesn’t look good for Diaz in Calgary next season.
That said, he probably played well enough to find NHL employment somewhere as a depth option.
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|