FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Dennis Wideman

On June 27, 2012 – four days after the 2012 NHL Draft – Calgary Flames General Manager Jay Feaster took a big, big swing. After two seasons just a smidge outside of the playoffs, Feaster attempted to upgrade the club’s power-play by acquiring pending unrestricted free agent Dennis Wideman and signing him to a five-year, $26.25 million contract.

Four seasons into the deal, the contract doesn’t seem like a particularly great move in retrospect. Aside from a 2014-15 season that saw everything go right for him, Wideman has been a sheltered offensive defenseman who hasn’t quite produced to the degree that was hoped.

The 2015-16 season wasn’t everything going wrong for Wideman – the Don Henderson incident aside – it was simply a return to form, and a return to average puck luck.

SEASON SUMMARY

The thing the majority of folks will remember about this season, in terms of Wideman, is that he missed 31 games due to a combination of poor judgment and poor luck.

But here’s the key takeaway from Wideman’s 2015-16 campaign: he wasn’t all that great, and it wasn’t an unrepresentative sample. After a career-best season in 2014-15 with 15 goals and 56 points (and a PDO close to 103), the bounces evened out a bit – even with his defensive play improving a little bit in terms of Corsi events against – and Wideman had a sparse year offensively.

And possession-wise? It wasn’t pretty to begin with, and it got worse from there.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 8.21.47 PM

He played primarily with Kris Russell and Deryk Engelland. Russell and Wideman were a decent stopgap last season when Mark Giordano went down, but they really struggled this season. And the Engelland pairing was effectively Bob Hartley trying to settle things down for Wideman by sticking him with Engelland, the club’s security blanket of a third-pairing blueliner.

Wideman was a fixture on the power-play for most of the season, offering a right shot from the point. He had 21 power-play points last season, a reflection of how dangerous he was when he was given time and space. Just as he cooled down at even strength, he did on the power-play, and he had just eight points this season with the man advantage. He could be relied upon to score the proverbial big “next goal” last season, but like so many others this past season, he just couldn’t bury the puck when he was given the chances.

IMPACT ON TEAM

Wideman was basically a third-pairing defender this season, though occasionally he crept up to the second pairing depending on match-ups, partnerships and injuries. He played primarily with Russell and Engelland. In terms of deployments, he faced a mixture of weaker competition – far weaker than Giordano and Brodie did – and got a lot of offensive zone starts relative to the other defenders.

And despite this, as we noted before, his possession numbers weren’t that good. Here’s his usage relative to the rest of the team; he’s there in the middle, right beside Russell.

Wideman also tended to have a general downward effect on the underlying numbers of the players he spent time with. Here’s a look at his most common linemates:

wideman

Nope, it’s not good. Notice how the blue dot is always below or at the same spot as the red one? That means that basically every teammate that played with Wideman either saw their numbers crater as a result of playing together or basically had to hike up their socks and drag Wideman kicking and screaming to their level.

So essentially, Wideman is a $5.25 million third pairing defenseman that was sheltered in terms of zone starts and opposition, was given a ton of power-play time and relied upon to score goals. He wasn’t able to, and he’s been used similarly for three or four seasons while in Calgary and only really produced last season, when everything was going in all the time for everybody (especially at key times).

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Did I mention that he still has another season remaining? And a no-move clause in his contract? And that the salary cap is going up only slightly, so it’ll be tough for the Flames to unload him. And if he’s on the team, he’s expensive and his underlying numbers have been quietly deteriorating for a few seasons.

Dennis Wideman: free to a good home.

    • piscera.infada

      Based on his body of work on the first PP unit this year, I’m not sure he should be there. He has the shot to be effective, but he wasn’t getting it through to the net as much as he did in 2014/15. Moreover though, he just doesn’t have the vision, nor the creativity to be an effective powerplay option when his shot is consistently being taken away.

      I also think you could come up with far better options for a third pairing, if he simply wasn’t there to take up a roster spot.

      • Stu Cazz

        Piscy…as usual you provide a very narrow view of things based primarily on Wideman’s poor performance during the past season. Any thoughts on his play during the 2014/15 season?

        Having said that I take the view that his career is on the decline and he must go along with his horrible contract…

  • beloch

    The strange thing is that the Flames’ blueline seemed to improve with Jokipakka and Nakladal in and Russel plus Wideman out. Wotherspoon and Kulak looked ready for third pairing duty too. Also, Smid is still under contract. The Flames bottom three is a little too crowded right now.

    Wideman might have a bounce-back season next year and could fetch a decent return at the trade deadline. Or, he might not. Is it better to gamble those minutes on Wideman or spend them developing a rookie defender? It will be interesting to see how Treliving addresses this.

    • jakethesnail

      If Tre can’t dump Wideman’s contract this summer and has to wait until the trade deadline it will be a lost season for the D-men in waiting like Wotherspoon and Kulak.

      If he reamins on the roster I just hope that the new coach figures out how NOT to use him, for which Hartley had no clue.

      • The Fall

        5. Find 1-RW.

        6. Buyout Stajan.

        7. Help Bollig and Raymond move their stuff to Stockton.

        8. Sign Ortio.

        9. Call Jim Benning to see what he’s willing to part with…

        10. Draft no. 6 overall…

  • cjc

    I don’t really believe we’ll move Wideman, but assuming he is healthy, here is an interesting fit: Dallas. Why? They only have 4 D under contract – 2 of those are young’uns. They also have an albatross goalie to ditch in Lehtonen. Dallas would have to throw in something else or take a second bad contract like Raymond or Stajan since Lehtonen has a higher cap hit and an extra year on his contract. I assume Wideman would accept a trade to Dallas.

    I don’t like the idea of Lehtonen as our starter, but he could be a serviceable backup or platoon. It would also free up a space for someone in the crowded bottom 3. And it would give us a goalie to expose in the expansion draft.

    Then again, maybe the cure is worse than the poison. Really Wideman has a snowball’s chance in hell of being traded. Only way I see him leaving is via a buyout.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Rule 1 of bad asset management says never trade a bad contract for a bad contract and especially when the incoming one is bigger than the outgoing one. Simply put: why take some other team’s problem when you have enough of your own?

    • freethe flames

      How about this deal instead: Wides, Colborne or Jooris and their 2nd back(we can add a prospect as well say Agostino/Hathaway) for Niemi, Nichuskin and Ritchie.

      We get a goalie; a RW(2 maybe) we need, and they get a defenceman (he can be traded for an asset at the trade deadline), they get rid of a goaltender they may need to buyout, they get their 2nd back and a forward who can play for them.

  • The Last Big Bear

    A veteran defenceman who can score at a 40 point clip is an asset many GMs would like. His lapses are mostly things that you can’t measure, while his biggest strength is the thing that is measured first and most often – points.

    As a rental at the deadline, where his salary doesn’t really mean anything, I expect he’ll bring back a worthwhile asset. I’d say a 2nd rounder, give or take. He’ll likely be the highest-scoring defenceman on the market.

    You may see a guy who can get points, but is best suited only for 3rd pairing minutes. But others will see a guy who can be given 3rd pairing scraps of ice time and still score at a 40 point pace. If I’m going to have a scrub on the 3rd pairing, it may as well be one who can lead my blue line in scoring.

  • GodsGotSandals

    Kinda off topic but what do people think about getting wiercoch (however you spell it) as the 4 th dman. I think we would have to move wideman and engeland for there to be room. But if we could the nakladal and Kevin are the bottom pair which would be good. Still no room for a younger guy from the A to get minutes barring an injury.

    Thoughts?

    I just have Visions of 6’5″ wiercioch and 6’6″ Hamilton on the second pair.

      • GodsGotSandals

        If we could move wideman and Engeland wiercioch at 2.7?? Isn’t to bad although his contract is up so maybe he is expecting a raise?

        Moving both wideman and Engeland is a long shot though I will admit.

    • freethe flames

      I was going to mention Wiercioch as well. How about this as a deal: From Calgary: Eng’s or Wides(we retain 1/3) salary, Bouma and Sieloff for Wiercoch and Chiasson. Calgary adds a depth defender who needs a new start and a RW wing who can play and may need a new start, Ottawa gets a defender who can play(and is RH and they can move at the deadline) and a physical LW who needs a new start and a prospect.