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
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.
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.