FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Emile Poirier

For a team lacking in high-end offensive talent, Emile Poirier was one of the Flames’ better hopes. He was coming off of a rookie pro season with the Adirondack Flames in which he’d scored 19 goals and 42 points over 55 games; what wasn’t to like? He was second on the team in scoring as a 19-year-old, and likely would have been first had he gotten a couple more games in.

So expectations may have been somewhat high for his second season. After all, prospects are supposed to keep progressing, right? And he was a first round pick; whether fair or not, there’s more expected of him. Especially because he was looking capable of it from his draft year onwards.

Except this past season did not go to plan at all.

Season summary

Poirier followed up his rookie year in the AHL by scoring 12 goals and 29 points over 60 games. It was a decline across the board from him, as he dropped from .76 points per game as a rookie to just .48 as a sophomore.

He went from one of the farm team’s top scorers to sixth place, just back of notable offensive force Turner Elson. Poirier did put 140 pucks on net – but that was still fewer than what everyone above him in scoring did. He got 2.3 shots per game; Elson had 2.5 per, and everyone else above him in scoring more than that.

So it’s fair to say this was a disappointing season for Poirier. He went from one of the stronger offensive prospects in the system to a less certain commodity over the course of a year. It was particularly unfortunate as well, because Poirier plays the right wing – and there are a few spots in the Flames lineup that could use a high-end offensive right winger.

He did get in a couple of NHL games this season, though: both at the end of March. While he went pointless, Poirier averaged 13:54 a game (with 56 seconds of powerplay time in one of them) and had three shots on net – compare that to the two he had over six games the season before, and it’s at least a glimmer of improvement. Poirier spent most of his ice time alongside Mikael Backlund, and the two were a 5v5 65.0% CF partnership.

Impact on team

While Poirier’s tiny sample size in ice time allowed hm to be the top Flame in corsi out of anyone who donned the jersey this past season (68.09%), the fact that he barely played, both his games were meaningless, and he was the most sheltered with 50.0% offensive zone starts did point towards a player not yet ready. Not that he’ll never get there – he didn’t get crushed while being sheltered, after all – but not there just yet.

But a couple of minutes in the NHL doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. What really matters was his performance in the AHL, as he went from one of the top-scoring players on his team to in danger of technically falling out of the top six.

Just what happened there? That, I don’t have an answer for – but we can turn to someone who saw and talked to him day in and day out. When asked about his season, this is what Brandon Kisker, the Stockton Heat’s director of media relations, had to say:

Obviously a bit of a letdown for most on Emile’s season from a stats standpoint and I think the man himself would admit a bit of frustration in his own game. For a guy who seemingly had an easier time to compete during his first year and be rewarded with that midseason call-up to struggling to get the offense generated it’s easy to point at a sophomore slump for the first rounder.

He, nor Coach Huska would give you an excuse as to why the lower production occurred, however one thing the stats don’t tell you is how he improved away from the puck.

Us “armchair coaches” might think that a scorer only needs to produce offense to be considered a good player, but as we should all know, there’s a full 200 feet of ice to play on. Emile vastly improved in his own zone over the course of the season and became a more well-rounded player. With a dedicated offseason and a renewed focus, we should see a more complete player emerge ready to compete for a spot on the Flames this off-season.

What comes next?

It’s important to remember that Poirier is only 21 years old. He won’t turn 22 until December. He still has two years left on his entry level deal: he’s young, and he has time to further improve his game. The Flames don’t need to be in a rush with him, they just need him to work to get better.

A year ago, Poirier was one of the top prospects in the Flames’ system, and clearly a much better pick than Hunter Shinkaruk. A year later, it looks as though Shinkaruk has taken his place. Who knows what we’ll be saying in a year’s time?

Maybe Poirier’s offence dipped because he can’t handle this level of play, maybe it was because he got caught up in developing his two-way game, maybe it was simply a blip on the radar. Things will become clearer over the course of the next season – as I stress that despite two seasons played in the AHL, only one year of his entry-level contract has thus far been burned.

Poirier has plenty of time to figure it out. And if he can marry his developed defensive skills with the scoring potential that got him drafted, then the Flames will have another strong prospect on their hands.

It just takes time.

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    • DoubleDIon

      I know everyone rags on you for your views on Huska, but I agree completely. Prospects showed a lot more development under Ward. The only guy who Ward didn’t do well with was Sven. Letting Ward go in favor or Huska was a huge mistake.

      • piscera.infada

        Prospects showed a lot more development under Ward. The only guy who Ward didn’t do well with was Sven.

        Honest question here then. Which prospects developed properly under Ward as a head coach?

        Brodie spent 47 games with Ward over two seasons, Granlund spent 52 games over one season, and Wotherspoon spent 48 games over one season. Outside of that, both Bouma and Ferland spent less than 30 games with Ward over multiple seasons. Are those the prospects that showed marked improvement?

        Or, were you referring to the Nemisz’s, Aliu’s, Kolanos’s, Street’s, Reinhart’s, Billen’s, LaFranchise’s, Bancks’s, Breen’s, Ramage’s? All of those players played considerably more time with the AHL team than any of those that people generally point to as players “Ward properly developed”.

        • Baalzamon

          And even then, Brodie’s only full AHL season was under Jim Playfair. He played just 12 games for Ward the following season and was a full-time NHLer from that point on (he played 35 AHL games the year after, but only because of the lockout. He played 47 of the Flames’ 48 games that season).

  • everton fc

    This camp will be Poirier’s last chance to really shine. We need him to shine. We need a skilled RW. Now. He has a tremendous opportunity here.

    We shall see what he does with it….

    As for Troy G, bad move punting him. Agreed. And he didn’t so well w/Sven, perhaps because of Sven…

      • DoubleDIon

        When it’s one guy who doesn’t do well then yes I’d say it’s that guy. When it’s every prospect who is offensively skilled who doesn’t, it’s probably the coach. Your sarcasm doesn’t make your point less silly. It’s clear Huska likes working with the Elson/Hathaway types and doesn’t work as well with skilled guys.

        • piscera.infada

          When it’s every prospect who is offensively skilled who doesn’t, it’s probably the coach[…]It’s clear Huska likes working with the Elson/Hathaway types and doesn’t work as well with skilled guys.

          Who are the “skilled guys” in the Flames system outside of Poirier who have taken a marked step backwards?

        • Baalzamon

          And yet, Poirier posted 42 points in his first AHL season. How do you explain that? NO ONE (except Granlund, who did equally well under Huska) did that well under Ward. Including Baertschi.

          You say Huska “ruined” Poirier and Klimchuk. I counter with Baertschi and Wahl.

          I don’t understand why Ward can do no wrong in peoples’ minds. You realize he couldn’t even last a full season in the WHL, right? A league that Huska dominated for years?

      • everton fc

        I liked Ward. And I think Huska has done well, particularly w/Wotherspoon. I wish we could have retained Ward, in some capacity. I’ve never been critical of Huska. And Ward did wonders for Ferland, others (couldn’t save Akim Aliu, though. Who could?)

        I think Baertschi was over-hyped and this ruined him here. He could never live up to the hype that got so nuts, people were wearing his jersey. He may have done the same under Huska. But there were “hints” that he may have been a part of the problem here, as well.

        Bottom line; the moment Burke landed at YYC, Baertshci’s time here was coming to a close. I see him scoring about what Backlund did this season, as a ceiling. Not bad, but his style of play didn’t fit here w/Burke.

  • redhot1

    Seems to be a common theme this year in Stockton. The numbers weren’t there, but (insert excuse here).

    It’s frustrating. Poirier (and Klimchuk) weren’t drafted to be players who can be called up and play a decent 200 foot game. Guess what, the AHL is full of those guys.

    They were drafted to be offensive contributors, and their offensive numbers in the AHL this year were pathetic.

    WW may be onto something here, as crazy as that sounds

    • piscera.infada

      It’s funny, because this right here:

      drafted to be players who can be called up and play a decent 200 foot game

      Is exactly what Klimchuk was, in fact drafted as. He was known as a player that would likely play a middle-six, possession-driving, two-way game at the NHL and had leadership qualities. Despite the fact that he didn’t tear the cover off the ball coming off an injury in his first professional season, he has done nothing to prove he’s not developing into that.

    • T&A4Flames

      Flames hockey has ALWAYS been about playing a good 200ft game. It was demanded of Baertschi as well. Huska was brought in to develop a 200ft game into these players. Kulak, Culkin, Kylington (18 yrs old!!), Wotherspoon and you could even say Nakladal have thrived and developed under Huska just fine.

      And @ everton fc, this year is not his last chance to prove something. If you read the article, he still has 2 years remaining on his ELC. But, I do expect to see a step forward from him this year.

  • freethe flames

    Blame whom ever you want for Poirier’s bad year, the only person who can turn it around is Emile and I personally think he will. Most players drafted after say the top 5/6 on any given year takes 3-4 years to make the show and most have rough patches.

  • freethe flames

    To the writers is there any plan to do FA discussion. I would really like to hear who you folks think would be legitimate players(salary cap considerations) that the Flames might target. Also who might be good trade targets that the Flames should realistically consider.

    • KiLLKiND

      We can’t even afford Joe Colborne, we can’t afford any UFA’s that isn’t a goalie. It would be nice to make a big UFA signing for a RW, unfortunately we simply cannot afford any. Unless we get someone like Byron on the extremely cheap we will be going forward with prospects and bad contract players this season. Wait till next year when Oshie is available then we could afford him with all our bad contracts off the books.

      • freethe flames

        BT said that sometimes it is the little moves that make a difference and what I am asking for is the writers views based on fancy stats, something I think really matters and am fully aware I don’t have a ton of expertise about. There may be other RFA’s that we can trade for that might fit. I am pretty sure that the Flames despite the salary cap issues are having these discussions. One never knows what shakes loss with trades, buyouts and the PA asking for a raise. Maybe the Flames go with a low cost goalie and tries to fill another need.

  • freethe flames

    Another thought as I just finished doing the poll, is there any plan to use the poll device on draft night to make the draft some what interactive. Or is that a much more complex task than I envision?

  • KiLLKiND

    Yes Poirier had not as great of a year as anybody including himself would have liked, but it’s his response to having a down year that will really show us what we have in him. Will he put in more work than ever before to prove to himself and us that he shouldn’t be counted out because of one not amazing year in the 2nd best league in North America? Or will he continue his performance on from last year and show us that his rookie season was more of a fluke.

    To anybody agreeing with WW ask youself this why listen to somebody who has never even watched the Heat this season? Huska has not “ruined” any prospects. Many Heat players had great years and took noticable steps forward in their game; Wotherspoon, Nakladal, Kylington, Grant , Elson, Hathaway, Hamilton, and Kulak performed above expectations even Seiloff had a better year. To say that Huska is “ruining” our prospects is not even close to the truth.

    What may be closer is that Stockton is in California and Poirier enjoyed the sun a little too much, I see more logic in that than saying a coach is single handily ruining our prospects, despite every time we called a player up they were playing better than the player who they replaced. Our forwards in Stockton are rather young and inexperienced at the pro level and Klimchuk was never a top point producer either so don’t point and say he was “ruined” either.

  • KACaribou

    There are no guarantees that doing well in the AHL will translate to the NHL, so I wouldn’t strictly count point production in the minors as a sure thing NHLer.

    Justin Schultz looked like the best D-man in the AHL, getting a point a game in the 2012/13 strike shortened season. Up to the NHL with the Oilers he was horrible.

    Don’t short-change the AHL either, there are good seasoned pros there. And the Stockton Heat have a very young group.

    It’s disappointing that Emile hasn’t found his groove yet but there are still only 6 players younger than him on the Heat. Poirier and Klimmer were late first rounders, no guarantee. It’s actually pretty rare for a late first rounder, or high second rounder to become a star in the NHL.

    That seems to be what we are asking of him.

  • Jake the Snail

    Never trust QMJHL points stats. Graduates from the Q have to learn to play a 200 foot game which is what Poirier was doing under Huska. Why I am leary of taking Dubois in the draft.

    This has been said a hundred times before on FN: Ward had a team laden with veterans and coached to win. Huska was hired to have their prospects develop into NHLers, not career AHL players.

    • piscera.infada

      This has been said a hundred times before on FN: Ward had a team laden with veterans and coached to win. Huska was hired to have their prospects develop into NHLers, not career AHL players.

      A-freakin’-men. Properly developing prospects takes a lot of time and effort. It inherently will come with ups and downs. It will inherently come with some successes and some failures–the reality of transitioning to the NHL, it’s mostly failure.

      Huska has a long history of coaching/developing/whatever valuable, impact NHLers in the junior ranks–that’s why he was hired here–and I have no doubt he will continue. But of course, just as some people love to pencil prospects right into the NHL lineup with no regard for the reality of the situation, they also want development to happen immediately (a very dangerous oxymoron).

      As an aside, Ward was brought into the organization with a very different mandate from the beginning than Huska was. Ward’s job was to create a competitive team that would grow the Flames’ brand (by way of the Heat) deep in the heart of Canucks’ territory, while simultaneously growing the AHL game in Abbotsford. Both those objectives failed–granted, they were futile. As the rebuild kicked off in earnest and management knew they would be graduating prospects to the professional game, they needed a coach that made that the number one priority. That’s Huska. Personally, as evidenced by how the callups have faired when given playing time in the NHL and the amount of AHL games I watched this season, he’s done a pretty good job–all things (read: inexperience) considered.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    So the Penguins farm team played the Sharks farm team in the final tonight.

    The Flames farm team is in last place because Huska is teaching them the 200 foot game…..



  • Brodano12

    One thing about Huska is that all the prospects we called up this year did very well possession wise. Wotherspoon, Nakladal and Kulak all led our team in possession, and Poirier, Grant and Agostino all had relatively good possession stats in their limited time, as did Shinkaruk (though less so given him having less time in Stockton). In terms of actual production, they weren’t great my any means, but all our prospects have been groomed to succeed in the NHL, not just get meaningless AHL points by playing only offense. Give Huska another year to fix his offensive system and maybe even regress the AHL team’s shooting percentage to the mean, since they had a unsustainably low and unlucky shot% this year.