Just Call Deryk Engelland “The Fixer”

We’ve written quite a bit about Deryk Engelland on this site since he signed a contract with the Calgary Flames two summers ago. Admittedly – and somewhat predictably, given his role and hefty cap hit – the majority of what we’ve written about Engelland hasn’t been overly complementary.

Yet despite his relatively high age (he’s 33, turning 34 in April) and high cap hit ($2.917 million) for his role as a third pairing, limited-minutes defender, Engelland has quietly been arguably Calgary’s most consistent defender this season. It’s this consistency, perhaps, that has led to his specific utilization by Flames coach Bob Hartley: when players have struggled, Hartley has put them with Engelland for a few things to settle down.

We come not to bury Engelland, but to praise him.

BRETT KULAK

Engelland’s first project this season was fresh-faced rookie Brett Kulak, who made the team because of injuries to veteran left-handers T.J. Brodie and Ladislav Smid. Since Hartley seemed hell-bent on putting left shots with right shots – his other pairings were Giordano/Hamilton and Russell/Wideman – this pairing made all kinds of sense. And since a 21-year-old was bound to play limited minutes anyway, it made sense to put him with a limited-minutes, steady, stay-at-home blueliner. Engelland gave him a safety net.

Both guys played well. Together, Engelland and Kulak combined for 57.7% Corsi For, the best performance of any pairing on the team at the time. They played six games together and then Kulak was returned to the American Hockey League, though he went with a lot of momentum due to his bearded, veteran defensive partner.

KRIS RUSSELL

Russell began the season with Dennis Wideman. Things did not go well. Their Corsi For together was 41.0%, which is downright dreadful. So Bob Hartley (smartly) blew up that pairing. Russell ended up going with Engelland, who was fresh off being a reliable foil for a young defender.

Russell’s numbers didn’t get insanely good – and the evidence suggests that Russell actually made Engelland worse than he was away from him possession-wise – but his own possession numbers saw a slight up-tick to 43.9% Corsi For. This modest improvement earned Russell a new assignment after a few games.

DOUGIE HAMILTON

T.J. Brodie returned on October 28, so Hartley shuffled the deck once again. Russell went with Brodie, Mark Giordano got Dennis Wideman, and Dougie Hamilton drew Engelland. After the 22-year-old had struggled, primarily with Giordano and playing big minutes, the logic was probably to give Hamilton a change of pace, some lower-risk deployments and to lower his even-strength minutes a bunch to keep him fresh for the power-play.

Maybe it was the changed deployments, but once together Hamilton and Engelland combined for a 59.8% Corsi For percentage, which is crazy-good considering the personnel. Hamilton and Engelland spent four games together and they were each 10% better together than they were apart.

DENNIS WIDEMAN

The last couple games – since Hartley reunited Brodie and Giordano (and put Hamilton with Russell) – Engelland’s found a new project: Wideman. Like Russell, Wideman had woeful possession numbers. Like Russell and Hamilton, I think the logic is to give Wideman lower minutes, easier deployments and generally keep him fresh for power-play duty. The results haven’t been there quite yet – their combined Corsi For is around 45% through a few games together – but if nothing else, lower even-strength minutes have limited what kind of damage Wideman can do defensively at even-strength.

SUM IT UP

Is Deryk Engelland a world-beating defenseman? Nope. He’s been a third-pairing defender throughout his tenure in Calgary, aside from jumping into the top-four when Mark Giordano was injured. But his value is that he’s a reliable, predictable player that doesn’t need to play a whole heck of a lot to be effective.

And if you basically throw anybody alongside him, his steadiness has a tendency to calm guys down and smooth out bumps in their games. So far this season, he’s mentored Kulak and been entrusted to settle down the unsteady games of Russell and Hamilton. And considering the cap space the Flames have invested in Engelland, it’s heartening to see him find a niche on this club – especially considering how many other players on the club have struggled at times this season to do that.

  • EhPierre

    To be fair, I think it has to do more to the lesser quality of competition the third line pairing has to face than Engelland himself. The only person who actually acknowledged Engs was Kulak himself who said Engs was a calming, steady voice on the ice.

    But then again, I may be bias towards Engs just cause I want him gone.

    • DestroDertell

      QoC is not as important as you think. Playing against a 1C isn’t the same as playing against a 4C but this isn’t football where coaches have a substantial control over the matchups.

      • EhPierre

        Um QoC is pretty important. I agree coaches don’t have control over the matchups all the time, but I’m pretty sure any rational coach would do all that they can to avoid having their third line D pairings against the oppositions scoring line

        It’s just common sense

      • OKG

        Engelland vs tough competition – like 37% possession with Brodie

        Engelland vs easy competition – like 59.6 possession with Hamilton

        And I would argue that visually Brodie is a better possession driver than Hamilton…

  • RickT

    Engelland, in a lot of the circumstances that Hartley has been placing him in, has not made me super worried. I like his usage, and seems to be doing well (when you hear that Engs got scoring chances, after a d-zone start, as an example).

    However, something that remains inexcusable and that I will never understand is Engs on the PK. Hartley has lost his mind.

  • Toofun

    He has been better this year but it is still frustrating when he receives a pass from his defense partner, has all the time in the world, looks up ice and headmans the puck to… absolutely nobody, bringing it back to our own end for a faceoff and killing any type of offensive opportunity we may have generated on the play.

  • KACaribou

    All numbers aside, Engelland brings his lunch bucket to work every day. Besides his steady, but not outstanding play, he brings an intangible that we don’t have in any of the other top 6 and that is toughness. He finishes his checks hard – and will fight with anyone in the league to defend a teammate. Nice to see something nice written about him, good job Pike.

  • everton fc

    It’s clearly the beard. Awesome.

    One thing Kulak said, that Engelland talked to him a lot about things happening on the ice. In other words, it appears Engelland may be a good coach. A good coach to have, on the ice.

  • Derzie

    How appropriate that this article sends some deserved praise at Deryk and lo and behold Hartley feeds him popcorn for Smid. Hartley is losing his mind. Russell should be elbow deep in popcorn, not Engelland.

    • KACaribou

      Good observation, but I think it is because Engelland and Smid are both tough, lunchpail guys, so they are easy to interchange with one another. To be fair, Hartley announced this before the article was published. And for all we know Engelland could be nursing some aches from the pounding he takes by delivering out there.