Reflections on Tyler Wotherspoon’s NHL return

It seems that whenever the Calgary Flames call up a player from the American Hockey League, that player either gets parked in the press box for a while or gets to dress but barely plays in the actual game.

So it may be tremendously surprising for you to learn that Tyler Wotherspoon, in his first call-up to the NHL of this season, played a regular shift with another recent call-up on Calgary’s third pairing. The Flames won 5-2 against the Vancouver Canucks.

How did Wotherspoon do? In short? Pretty well given the circumstances.

THE NUMBERS

Wotherspoon had 22 shifts for 15:52 overall, all at even-strength. He played 4:59 (6 shifts) in the first, 5:06 (6 shifts) in the second and 5:46 (10 shifts) in the third. As you’d expect, once the game was no longer in question – the middle of the second period, basically – Bob Hartley seemed completely content just to roll six defenders and keep everybody fresh. Wotherspoon played almost entirely with Jakub Nakladal, and was about middle-of-the-pack in terms of zone starts at 41.67% offensive starts.

Player Corsi
For
Corsi
Against
Corsi
For %
Time
on Ice
Everybody 17 21 44.74% 15:52
Nakladal 15 20 42.86% 14:12
Engelland 1 1 50% 0:54
Giordano 1 0 100% 0:31
Hamilton 0 0 n/a 0:15

Overall, Wotherspoon was pretty composed. Granted, like the rest of the team, he didn’t have the best first period. But once the team got going, Wotherspoon did a good job clearing the zone effectively and even jumped into the rush a few times. Not bad for a guy that was minus-3 in a 6-1 loss in the AHL in the game before he got called up to the big league. (Granted, it was against Vancouver, one of the league’s least consistent teams.)

Hopefully he’s got some confidence after the Vancouver game, because he’ll need it against Anaheim – it’ll be a lot tougher to shelter Nakladal and Wotherspoon against the Ducks.

HARTLEY (ON WOTHERSPOON)

On the play of his third pairing (in the context of the whole team’s play):

Spooner and Nakky on the blueline, they were very solid also. They contributed offensively. Defensively they were sharp. They were moving puck well. They had good decision without the puck.

WOTHERSPOON (ON WOTHERSPOON)

On his improved recent play in Stockton that contributed to his recall:

I just feel like [there’s] more jump to my game lately. Being more aggressive and more assertive out there. If you can do those things, good things are going to happen.

On jumping back into the NHL alongside AHL defensive partner Jakub Nakladal:

Anytime you have chemistry with a guy, it makes it easier to go out there. You know a little bit of their tendencies and I think we did a good job tonight.

      • ApolloRising

        With Gio as their mentor, I think a younger defensive corps will be in good hands. And the rookies certainly look better on the ice than our current vets (so far). It’s too early to say for sure. I just hope they get enough time to prove they deserve to play. Given the chance, I think they will absolutely prove themselves. And yes, Kulak on the second line with Dougie.

      • brodiegio4life

        ya I think all 3 could rotate in the bottom 3 until one steps up to play with dougie. Add in andersson and kylington over the next 2 years and the flames have one hell of a blueline

        • SydScout

          Agreed – development should mean if you are performing on top lines in Stockton regularly, then there is a very reasonable opportunity to go to bottom pairing in the NHL. It is a sensible idea from cap space, reward for top performers in the AHL and follows a linear progression (thus easy for players within the system to understand what progress looks like).

          it also allows for top line time to be handed on to the next level, to see if they can step up. Andersson and Kylington as an example.

          I do wonder if Engelland would be well placed (but overpaid) to mentor in Stockton. Gio is a fine leader, so less of a need in Calgary for that kind of thing. And from all account Derek is a terrific bloke that the younger players respect.

  • hulkingloooooob

    I thought they both looked good. People always say T-spoons ceiling isn’t much more then a stay at home 6D but i see more potential then that. And Naks, well, he could turn into a first pairing guy in 2 or 3 years if he gets regular play, or at the least a 3/4 guy for sure.

    Gets us back around to this: how do we dump 4 defensive contracts (well, three if you assume Russel is gone). should be interesting.

  • beloch

    I don’t intend to be mean by saying this, but I hope Smid, Russel, and Wideman stay out for at least a couple more games so that we can get a good evaluation of Nakladal and Wotherspoon.

  • ApolloRising

    Nakladal and Wotherspoon looked much better than our regular bottom pairing. They didn’t look like a defensive liability and made more offensive contributions. Now if we can just replace Engelland with Kulak. This would save the Flames a tremendous amount of cap space to use on future rookies and entice a top RW. I hope the Flames can make these moves. Out with Smid, Engelland, Russell and Wideman. In with Kulak, Nakladal and Wotherspoon. The Flames defense looks much better with those changes. It also allows for some healthy competition among the upcoming rookie defensemen.

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    Nakladal and Wotherspoon would make a waaaaay cheaper 5-6 D option next year.

    And I’m betting would be about as good or better on the ice than the 5-6 now.

    • ApolloRising

      It’s only been one game, but they looked much better than our usual bottom pairing. I hope they get to keep playing. But the way Hartley plays rookies is really starting to worry me. I’m starting to see why many people want to see us with a new coach. I just don’t know who could replace him. There’s a large number of teams in need of a new coach. The market will be tough.