Deryk Engelland does not have an amazing contract. When he signed his deal, initial Twitter reports were “three years, $2.9 million.” A $967,000 cap hit for a veteran, right-shot defenseman? Good deal. Three times that much? Not as much.
But two seasons into his contract, you can kind of see why the Flames wanted to grab Engelland off the free agent market. On a team full of defensemen still trying to realize their full potential, Engelland seems to be a bedrock player that knows what he is, knows what he can do, and doesn’t get over-extended too often. It’s probably not a skill-set you want to shell out $2.917 million per year for, but perhaps Engelland just has a really persuasive agent.
Let’s dig into his 2015-16 season!
There are two big things to note about Engelland’s 2015-16 campaign: he stayed healthy all season and because of that he was used with basically every other defenseman who cracked the NHL roster.
He began the season with Brett Kulak (during T.J. Brodie’s injury). Then he played quite a bit on Dennis Wideman’s left side and Ladislav Smid’s right side. When Dougie Hamilton struggled a bit, Engelland was put on his left side to settle him down. When Wideman was suspended, Engelland played a bit with both Brodie and Mark Giordano. He even wore an alternate captain’s A for the last couple months of the season, primarily due to Wideman’s absence due to injury.
Offensively? Engelland was fine. He had three goals and 12 points, which is about what you’d expect given his track record. Defensively, he was also fine. He plays a more physical game than his teammates and that heavy game likely comes at the expense of some foot-speed, so occasionally he gets caught flat-footed when he’s out against faster and more-skilled forwards than he’s used to.
He’s a 47% Corsi player at home (with three goals) and a 43% Corsi player on the road (with no goals). He requires some sheltering at this point in his career, but he has been useful for the Flames. Should he have been getting ice time ahead of somebody like Hamilton? Nope. But is he a useful companion in sheltered minutes for the team’s younger and emerging defenders? Sure.
IMPACT ON TEAM
Engelland played a bit with everybody, more or less. His versatility has positive value. His performance, in terms of relative puck possession? It’s less positive.
Engelland played primarily (but not exclusively) on the third pairing and on the secondary penalty killing unit. He was among the team’s more sheltered blueliners in terms of opposition quality – though Smid, Jokipakka, Nakladal and Wotherspoon (all of whom played less than Engelland) faced weaker competition – but he was just slightly more buried in terms of defensive zone starts than Giordano and Brodie. That’s probably a product of him being shuffled around the lineup in terms of linemates; he largely was used as a third pairing player in terms of quality of competition, but depending on who he was paired with his zone starts varied quite a bit.
While Engelland’s versatility was useful, the underlying numbers seem to indicate that he was a bit over his head. Here’s a WOWY chart of his most frequent teammates on the ice.
Notice how the blue dot (together) is frequently below both the red (teammate apart) and green (Engelland apart) dots? That means that for half of Engelland’s most frequent line-mates (Wideman, Colborne, Gaudreau, Stajan and Monahan), they had underlying numbers better when apart from each other. That’s not great.
Jooris and Bennett were better with Engelland on the ice than without him (and so was Engelland), but the tale of the tape of Engelland is that for the most part, teammates either carry Engelland but aren’t helped by his presence (Giordano, Frolik), or are slightly worse (Backlund), or are dragged down into the muck (everybody else).
His versatility is great, but his performance in terms of puck possession impact seems to indicate that there’s a reason he’s a third pairing, sheltered minutes player. He can play a lot, but if he does, he’s likely to drag down his team’s underlying numbers by a decent chunk.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Engelland’s likely to continue on for one more season in his current role – a #6/#7 defender forced up the depth chart by circumstance and necessity – as his cap hit is probably too rich to bury in the AHL, and his performance is not quite poor enough relative to his compensation to warrant changes. (Compare his performance and cap hit with those of Ladislav Smid and Dennis Wideman and ask yourself which of the three you’d most like to have.) But with the Flames having some younger, cheaper options available in the pipeline, it’s quite likely that the 2016-17 campaign will be Engelland’s last wearing the Flaming C.