Micheal Ferland’s unanswered questions

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It’s now down to Micheal
Ferland when it comes to unsigned restricted free agents for the Calgary
Flames. GM Brad Treliving kicked it into ludicrous speed over the last week,
signing Lance Bouma, Turner Elson, Josh Jooris, and Paul Byron to contracts.
Despite being the only man left on Unsigned Island, I think many of us
hope the 23-year-old Ferland will continue being an impact maker next season.
I think he absolutely can be just that, but he’s going to have to answer a few
questions first.

Ferland was an absolute
wrecking ball for the Flames as they went on their unexpected playoff run. The
guy grew to cult level status as he punished Kevin Bieksa, Yannick Weber, and
the rest of the Vancouver Canucks in round one. Calgary’s expectation for
Ferland for the coming season has to be for him to be a full time NHLer. Before
he does that though, let’s outline those questions he has to answer.

Is he durable enough?

That picture above kind of
sums up Ferland in round number one. He was devastating, he was on the line and
sometimes over it, and he was anything but irrelevant. But, as Ferland can
attest to, you have to pay a price to pay that type of hockey. It remains to be
seen if he can play that way over an already long and gruelling NHL season.

Remember, after playing
all six games of the Vancouver series, Ferland had to leave game one in Anaheim
early on and didn’t return until game four thanks to an oblique injury. Now,
I’m not saying having him for the entire stretch against the Ducks would have
helped matters much, because it wouldn’t have. But it is evidence of how
Ferland’s style can be taxing on the body.

In some ways, Ferland is a
big guy. In some ways, he’s not. At 6’2 and 215 pounds, the guy would be
intimidating to go up against on American Gladiators. But in the hockey world,
there are lots of guys who are heavier, bigger, and stronger than he is. That’s
something Ferland will have to contend with the rest of his career knowing the
type of power game he’s going to play.

It’s too early to say that
Ferland won’t be able to hold up to the physical rigours of an NHL season.
However, I do think it’s fair to discuss his durability and how it might
translate at the highest level. For various different reasons, Ferland hasn’t
played a full season since being a member of the Brandon Wheat Kings
in 2011-2012. Injuries have played their part, but some of that has been
the adjustment to pro hockey. Last year was a tough one, though.

After getting off to a great
start in the American League, Ferland got his recall and made his NHL debut
against the Nashville Predators on October 31st. That debut lasted less than
ten minutes, though, thanks to an Anton Volchenkov hit that would earn the
d-man a four game suspension. Ferland missed eight games with a concussion
before returning and eventually being returned to Adirondack. The second injury
he suffered happened in the postseason, as we already documented.

To me, whether Ferland’s
hard, punishing style of hockey can hold up over an 82 game season is my
biggest question for this season and beyond. Lots of guys get injured, and I
rarely expect anyone to play every single game. But can he play 70? And can he
do it the same way he did against Vancouver in the playoffs?

Can he play smart enough?

We all remember game one
of Calgary’s series with the Canucks. Ferland lost his head a little bit and
took a crosschecking penalty late in the first period in retaliation to a Derek
Dorsett hit on Kris Russell. Now, the Flames ended up killing the penalty off,
but it was an example of how an overzealous Ferland could hurt the team.

Credit Ferland, though,
because I think he did a really good job of adjusting his game from there on
out. He knew he had to find the line and toe it, but not go over it like he did
in game one. Ferland knew he made a mistake and made the necessary changes to
make sure things like that didn’t happen again.

In fact, I felt Ferland
read the series almost perfectly from there on out. The officials were letting
two rival teams play one another hard and they let a lot, and I mean a lot, go
unpunished on both sides. Many of Ferland’s crushing hits likely
would have been penalized in October or November action. In the series against
the Canucks, however, they were fair game.

So therein lies the
question. Will Ferland be able to read things game to game when there isn’t a
playoff series going on? Personally, I think the guy is pretty sharp and won’t
have many issues with it, but until we see it, you never know.

Game 81 against Los
Angeles was played under Max Max rules, if you remember, and Ferland really
made an impact there. I don’t think game six of this year against Washington,
however, will be called in the same manor. As such, adjusting the line he
toes on a game by game basis is going to be very important for Ferland.

Where is his all round game?

We all know what Ferland can do physically and we all know he’s tough as nails. We also know the guy possesses a cannon for a shot and used it a few times in the postseason. But where is his all round game and is it NHL ready? If the postseason was an indication, it might be very much on the right track.

We’ll look at Ferland’s underlying numbers for the playoffs, which is when he made his largest impact this season. Despite it being a small sample size, you can start to get an idea of how he was used and how effective he was.

In nine games, Ferland’s possession numbers were just okay when you look at them out of context. With a Corsi For rating of 42.86%, Ferland ranked 11th among Flames forwards in the postseason, which isn’t very strong. However, take into account how he was utilized and it paints a much clearer picture.

Ferland started just 26.2% of the time in the offensive zone during the playoffs, which was the lowest figure on the team for players who played regularly. With less starts in the offensive zone than anyone on the team, his possession number doesn’t look as dire as it might have.

To put it into context, Ferland saw a lot of defensive time and did a decent job with it. While he didn’t necessarily drive things forward a ton, he also didn’t get his head beaten in (can you tell I’ve been reading Kent Wilson for six years?). Not everyone can be Patrice Bergeron or Ryan Kesler, and Ferland’s trio with Matt Stajan and David Jones was a pretty solid group for how they were deployed.

For me, this is a pretty good sign. It shows that Ferland can take a defensive shift and not be forced to run around in circles in his own end. Sure, having Stajan as a centre was probably helpful, but there’s a fairly decent chance that’ll be Ferland’s linemate once again this season. Regardless, I’m a whole lot less worried about Ferland’s all round game now than I was watching him play in November.

ferland_sbisa_gm4.0

If Ferland answers the questions above positively, this could be a really strong year for him. I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s exactly what ends up happening, even if it’s not right away. Even if it takes a little time for it all to come together, Flames fans can still be pretty excited. Five years ago, Ferland was a little known fifth round pick taken by Darryl Sutter. After watching Bieksa get planted on his ass a few more times, remember that it’s that same fifth round pick doing the gardening.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Ferland is one of 3 Flames that I’m really excited to watch in the upcoming season. He, IMO, exemplifies the hard-work and dedication he has brought to his game in the last few months. He has struggled in personal life but, instead of hiding from it, he has countered it head-first. He has been sober, more disciplined and has matured exponentially.

    Here is a kid who can hit, skate, and score at 23 and will only get better with the young teammates around him and Bobby Hartley can put his finger on the trouble area to get this kid to improve further. I would love to see this kid become a “core” here along with other young talents.

    He is going to be one of the most relevant Flames in the playoffs. Again, I am a fan!!

      • First Name Unidentified

        1) A full NHL season of Sam Bennett
        2) It seems to me Poirier will get a decent look on the right wing and he’s the third Flame I’m excited to watch

          • Trevy

            With the amount of players the Flames now have under contract and given the potential cap crunch in the near future, I’m sure the likes of Jones & Raymond have been shopped around for the last several weeks! Those players given their respective salaries will be extremely difficult to move. You would at the very least have to retain some salary just to get a low draft pick in return or package them with a more valuable younger player. Hopefully BT can pull off another miracle!

  • Cofred24

    Good article….and cue the “Ferkland” comments 🙂

    More seriously…this year is for Micheal to “prove it”.

    Every team is looking for the elusive power forward …skill, size, skating, hitting, temporament, presence. He has the package..but can he bring it for a full year on a measured approach.

    Let’s hope so cause he could be a very good one!

    • Cofred24

      I think Ferland to a great extent did show what he was about last year so I am not really expecting a show me contract like some of the other guys got. I think we see a 2 year bridge deal like what Colborne got. I think we can get him for a little cheaper but I would have zero problems signing him to a 2year 1mill per year deal. I think he will have no problem taking Jones or Raymonds spot in the lineup.

      • Cofred24

        I would point to the questions Pat brings up regarding Ferland needing to prove reliability for a guy who has played what, 10 games at the NHL level?

        Don’t get me wrong…I really like him. But I can’t see Treliving handing out a $2M 2 year contract to him at this stage yet.

        • First Name Unidentified

          I do get what you are saying but I think the best comparable is what the Flames gave Colborne. 2 players that are big & play the type of game Hartley, BT & BB want to see out of this team. I would confidently say that people have a much greater appreciation of what Ferland could do versus what Colborne had proven prior to getting his 2 year bridge deal at 1.25 mill per. In fact, I see so much similarities in how management regards both of these players that I would take side bets Ferland gets a 2 year Colbornish type of extension.

    • everton fc

      If Ferland can control his emotions, which he’s shown he can, for the most part, at the pro level, he’ll eventually put pucks in the net. If he has the right linemates, I think goals are a guarantee. Maybe not to Tocchet’s #s, but I get where your going with your comment.

      If need be, the kid can play the heavy. Meaning, he’s not a goon, never has been, but can protect his teammates quite capably. I don’t see a 2 year deal, though. I see one year, like Byron and Jooris. Maybe a contract like Byron’s. Jooris has earned more than Ferland at this point. Keep it simple, see if the kid can play without constantly being injured, and if he can do this… We have a potentially dangerous player here.

      Always been a fan, so I’m hoping he plays here for years.

      • If need be, the kid can play the heavy. Meaning, he’s not a goon, never has been, but can protect his teammates quite capably. I don’t see a 2 year deal, though. I see one year, like Byron and Jooris. Maybe a contract like Byron’s. Jooris has earned more than Ferland at this point. Keep it simple, see if the kid can play without constantly being injured, and if he can do this… We have a potentially dangerous player here.

        Yeah, as much as I like Ferland and as high as I think his ceiling is, it wouldn’t make much sense to give him anything but a one year deal. He hasn’t proven much at the highest level.

  • al rain

    Does anyone else think we’re a bit ahead of ourselves on this player? I mean, I’m all for the sky-high possibilities, but dude’s played 26 regular season games. It’s a bit early for Rick Tocchet talk.

    • I think he has a lot of potential and I’m excited to see what his ceiling is, but that’s why I wrote this piece. Before we can be talking about him as a full time NHLer, he has to be a full time NHLer. If he answers the questions here, I think he will be.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    This is an easy one. Even if he’s a mere shadow of the Ferland we saw in the playoffs, he’s already better than Bollig. He’s capable of taking a regular shift without being a liability. He’s also a guy opponents have to be aware of while on the ice, and that has value too.

    Sign him and demote Bollig to the AHL unless Bollig ca be traded, of course.

  • Greg

    I think calling him Ferkland should be a requirement of having a Flamesnation account. 🙂

    His impact on that Vancouver series, and on Bieksa in particular, is the best memory I have from last year’s playoffs. He could flame right out and never play another game, and he’ll still hold a respectable place among flames folklore forever… “Ferkland” is right up there with other memories burned into my retinas like theo’s knee slide, niemenen’s double suspensions, “Brennan Evans insurance”, gelinas’ “it was in”, Leopold getting robbed, and “I go to toronto”. To name a few.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Ferland is the model of what we have awaiting to play for this team. So I say bring on the Carrolls, the Shores and the rest of the young studs with fire and desire burning in their bellies. I feel we do not need anymore high priced help. Let’s lose some dead weight, give these young guys a shot, who knows with the core we have this could give this team a chance to develop into a champion squad working together. These are all young guns with speed, size & skill and want to serve notice that they are ready to make a difference. Let them play together and in another 2 – 3 yrs the Flames may just get the cup they are after!

  • Trevy

    I’m totally excited to have a calibre player like Ferland on the Flames. In keeping with the descriptive phrase of the week, he “fits the DNA of this team”. I believe once he gains more experience and paces himself with his Kamikaze style hits, he’ll become a more well rounded player and stay healthier. He seems to be going all out to show what he can do right now and he’s definitely proven that! I’m sure Treliving will sign him soon as he’s also a Hartley favourite and they risk losing him on waivers!

  • Trevy

    Looking at all possibilities the staff will have some difficult decisions. Is Ferland waiver exempt? Can he be sent back down to Stockton? (I’m not saying I would do so) Same question on Granlund?

    One way of possibly making space is to waive Raymond and Engelland (both were UFA’s and cost us nothing last year in terms of assets but both are assets that you would like to get something for) the same could be said for Hiller as well.

    • Trevy

      I answered my own question. Ferland would have to clear waivers so there is no way they send him down Granlund is waiver eligible and I suspect he would be the guy sent down.

  • KACaribou

    If a player does well in the regular season, people say “yeah but can he do it in the playoffs when it really counts.”

    When a player like Ferland does it in the playoffs as a raw rookie with little regular season experience people say “yeah but can he continue it in the regular season.”

    Oh, brother…

  • KACaribou

    Personally I could care less what he makes, or what they sign him for. Just do it.

    Hey if you don’t think he’s proven squat put him on waivers and see what happens. You may find others are quicker decision-makers than yourself.

    Call me crazy but I like guys who are difference-makers. Sure pay him less than Jooris, who cares? But I will tell you one thing, I have watched a lot of Flames games and just once in a while a guy comes along who gets you going with his skill-set, and Ferly is one of them.

    I am shit-sick of reading hockey blogs about either some random statistical spread-sheet nonsense, or about money and contracts.

    Hockey is for eyes and senses, emotions, excitement and fun. Decide on that basis I implore you. We didn’t win squat last year and it was the most fun Flames team to watch in decades.

    Anyone like talking hockey anymore?

    Anyone like talking about a power-forward who has soft hands and hits like a freight-train?

    Or should we continue to pontificate about somebody we don’t know, who it would take many here 10 years to earn what Ferly will earn from now till June?, no matter what they end up paying him.

  • KACaribou

    Personally I could care less what he makes, or what they sign him for. Hey if you don’t think he’s proven squat put him on waivers and see what happens. You might find others are quicker decision-makers than yourself.

    Call me crazy but I like guys who are difference-makers. Sure pay him less than Jooris, who cares? But it’s just once in a while a guy comes along who gets you going with his skill-set, and Ferly is one of them.

    I am shit-sick of reading hockey blogs about either some random statistical spread-sheet nonsense or about money and contracts.

    Anyone like watching hockey anymore? Hockey is about excitement and fun and tension and thrills, not looking at analytics after the game that tell you everything you saw is possibly wrong. Trust your own judgement. Everyone here knows hockey.

    Anyone like talking about a power-forward who has soft hands and hits like a freight-train?

    Or should we continue to pontificate about somebody we don’t know who it would take many here 10 years to earn what Ferly will earn from now till June?

    Train 79 makes it more fun to watch the Flames and that’s what I care about. Last year we didn’t win squat and it was the most fun Flames team to watch in decades. Even if the possession numbers tell me I am wrong.

  • Great article, great comments.

    I agree with you Pat, I think he gets a Jooris type deal for next year.
    But I think we see him break out this season too.

    Ferland is that power winger we’ve been looking for. He was a 96 pt guy in his senior season with brandon, he has the hands and skills that you look for in a bigger guy and oh btw he can actually skate too. I firmly believe in developing from within (et la manchester united through the 90s) and throwing people from the farm into the fire to either sink or swim i think Ferland has reached the peak point in his developemnt either he shows the brass this year that he can be conisstent and play in the nhl or he doesn’t. I think he does and I think he has at minimum a bouma type season this year maybe even better because he uses his body a little more smartly in the offesnive zone than bouma with a goal scorers instinct.

    Looking forward to it. My only concern is guys like Bolig, Colborne, Raymond etc being favoured by Hartley for their “veteran” experience over him, which i hope doesn’t happen but we’ve seen before.

  • Great article Pat, hoping the kids (Ferland, Shore, Bennett) get a chance to play regularly and continue their development this season, moreso than guys like Raymond and Byron who have already hit their ceiling.

    I agree that Ferly has all the tools, my only question Pat is what number Ferland will receive this year so I can have my Ferland jersey ready for the start or the season!!!

  • As a Canucks fan, I’m thoroughly pleased with that gif of “Ferkland” running over Sbisa.

    Please resign him so I can see Sbisa on his ass more, so that Jim Benning knows what a moron he is for signing him at 10 million for 3 years.