This is a big season for Micheal Ferland.
Ferland’s coming off a superficially disappointing year: just four goals and 18 points in 71 games (and an ugly -15 rating on top of it). He has just one more year left on his contract, meaning this might be his last chance to make a lasting impression in the Flames organization.
The 24-year-old LW has all the tools to be a useful NHLer: size, grit, smarts and decently soft hands. The problem is, outside of the first round series against the Canucks a year ago, he hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. At least, that’s what his counting numbers suggest. If we peer beneath the surface, however, we see a player who might be ready to break out.
Ferland managed 122 shots on net last season, but only scored four times. That’s a SH% of 3.3%, which is ghastly. It’s so bad we can reasonably assume he was unlucky. To give that number some context, Cory Sarich’s career SH% was 2.5%. Deryk Engelland has scored on just over 5% of his shots over his career.
So 3.5% is usually what you’d expect out a defensive defensemen. It’s almost impossible for any non-good forward to be that bad.
Which is why it’s a safe bet that Ferland simply suffered through a dry streak. Although 122 shots sounds like a lot, it’s a small sample in the grand scheme of things. It’s also a safe bet to assume Ferland has more offense to give because he was a 40-goal scorer in junior. While that doesn’t guarantee success at higher levels, we at least know he’s been able to put the puck in the net at a decent rate before.
Ferland’s poor luck didn’t stop with his personal SH% last year though. His PDO (the sum of his on-ice SH% and on SV%) was just 96.83, by far the lowest on the team amongst forwards last year. Remember, PDO tends to regress to the league mean of 100.0 for most skaters over time, meaning Ferland is bound to see better bounces as a matter of course.
Ferland’s on-ice SH% (meaning, the goal rate while he was on the ice at even strength) was less than 7% (6.96), a dismal number in the NHL. The Flames’ goalies also only stopped about 89% of the shots they faced when he was on the ice last year.
Meaning, while the opposition scored at around 11% at 5on5 with Ferland skating, the Flames only scored at about 7%. Yikes.
It’s important to remember that often times, percentages like these represent randomness more than the talent of the player in question, particularly when we’re talking about a single season of a third liner. There’s also other data that hints Ferland deserved much better in 2014-15.
*all stats from Corsica Hockey
The Good Stuff
Here’s the good news – the possession and scoring chance stats say Ferland drives play. His relative possession rate was fifth best on the team last year behind Backlund, Frolik, Gaudreau and Hudler (with Gaudreau and Hudler seeing much easier zone starts). That’s good company for a rookie to keep.
If we look at relative expected GF% (which is an expected goal differential model based on shot volume and location), Ferland moves up to fourth on the team behind only Backlund, Frolik and (surprise!) Josh Jooris (more on him at a later date).
Ferland’s Hero Chart tells a similar story – his relative possession impact from last year is above average across the board:
The lower bars on the right hand side illustrate Ferland’s shot generation, suppression and useful possession (relative shot differential) versus league average. As you can see, he rated as a solid second liner or better by these measures.
Unfortunately for Ferland, his lousy percentages completely overwhelmed his shot differentials, hiding his capable two-way play. As those percentages regress towards the mean, his personal points totals and goal differential should greatly improve.
The Flames have been searching for “heavy hockey” and “functional toughness” since the onset of the rebuild. Although he seemed to struggle last season, Ferland’s package of skills and many of his underlying numbers suggest he is the coveted big bodied, two-way forward the organization covets.
Ferland will definitely stick around for one more season given his small price tag ($825k). From my perspective, he is the perfect LW complement for a Backlund-Frolik shutdown line. And, given what we know about the Backlund bump, that line combination might just be the thing to end Ferland’s dry spell and kickstart his confidence.