Don’t give up on Micheal Ferland

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. 

Bad Luck

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:

Story 1-8

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. 

Conclusion

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.  

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Hit the nail on the head with putting him on the Backlund, Frolik line. I would be a big fan of this. I bet he pots 10-15 next year if this were the case.

  • piscera.infada

    I’ve been saying this to anyone who will listen for what feels like an eternity. Thanks Kent, completely agree. I hope the new coaching staff realises what they have in Micheal (I’ve never noticed that spelling before), and helps him reach his potential.

    • The Fall

      Coaching will be huge with him. Ferland was Hartley’s project. Given that it is a contract year, I really hope he doesn’t get the Backlund bump; we’ve all seen what that does the past two seasons (Bouma and JoCo)

      …man, Ferland was so bad with Sean and Johnny which worries me.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        You might say that Hartley misused him last season. Playing on Monahan’s RW may not be right for the player at all; some LHS players just can’t adapt to RW.

        What I noticed the most about Ferland’s shifts last year was he skated off (or was pulled off) when the puck was in the O-zone. It usually happened when another Flame had the puck and he was near the slot.

        • The Fall

          You might say Hartley misused most players last season. All these articles are fun time-killers until we actually see what Gully has to offer.

          But on topic, I feel Ferland will be out of his depth as anything except than a bottom six grinder with a little up-side.

          • piscera.infada

            You sort of missed the point of the article though. His underlying numbers seem to indicate he can be more than that. No one’s saying he’s going to be an elite top-line forward, but he will likely score at much greater rate next season (assuming proper utilisation), in addition to being a solid possession driver. Those are players that are infinitely more valuable than simply “a bottom-six grinder”.

          • The Fall

            I should have clarified — I don’t mean ‘grinder’ in the old-school sense (Bollig). I mean the ‘new’ NHL grinder: heavy guy that can hit and move the puck up ice… Shot suppression, skating and general possession upside are now required for anyone of his age bracket.

            Ferland will top out with 10-12 goals. His job is to punish defenders who dare go into the corner first.

  • everton fc

    If they simply leave him on that 3rd line, he’ll produce. Of course, many hear think Bouma should be on that 3rd line, and well. And many think he’ll produce w/Backlund and Frolik/Whomever.

    We shall see. I’ve always liked Ferland since his days as a Wheatie.

    Wonder how much the consussions have affected him, though. He hasn’t scored goals since he was shipped to the Blades in the “W”. It’s been a relatively long slump for Ferland.

  • Baalzamon

    Personally, I’m of the opinion that Ferland would be a good linemate for Bennett next year (so long as the other winger is someone who can reliably score goals. Brandon Pirri? I’m almost serious about that).

    Unless of course Bennett is flanked by both Tkachuk and Shinkaruk. Which seems unlikely.

    • T&A4Flames

      I agree. There always seemed to be something missing when he played with Johnny and Mony, even though he seemed to get a lot of chances. He often seemed to defer to the other 2 instead of showing the confidence to commit to shooting, likely causing a poor focused shot attempt.

      With Bennett, I though he seemed more confident and engaged. I t felt like it was only a matter of time before the shots would start going in. If we were to add a skilled winger on the RW, a guy that can distribute the puck, I think Ferland will starting burying a few more of those shots.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I am not ready to write off Ferland but he was given a lot of quality ice time on the first line and barely got any points. He has the skills to play on that line, I just don’t think he sees the game to play on this line. I doubt he will have that type of scoring bad luck two years in a row. I think he is realizing that he is not big enough to go out and hit everything like he did in the playoffs.

        • T&A4Flames

          “Quality ice time” sure. But he was asked to do it playing the side he is unaccustomed to playing”. That’s why I think he looked more comfortable playing alongside Bennett.

  • FireScorpion

    Agree to put him with Backlund. But split Frolik off that and give him to one of our younger scoring lines. (As has been stated Backlunds line isnt expected to score )Why is it always Backlund and Frolik . Backs is a big boy…he can have his new reclamation project Ferland and his old pal Bouma . No need Frolik there. We saw how much secondary scoring we got the first half last year when Frolik and Backlund were together. I’d rather not repeat that

  • Druds

    your team is full of third liners which are trying to be dressed up as quality….There are maybe three proven quality forwards and 2 of them need huge raises that are still hanging….the brilliant Treliving should have had that done ages ago but still there is silence…me thinks Johnny wants 10 million to put up with having to wear goofy cowboy hats

  • KACaribou

    I think Coach Bob did a good job with Ferly. He got him to the NHL, he talked to him about addiction problems, he helped make him a man.

    Now it is up to Ferly.

    1) He has to be in Iggy shape to become what he could be. He’s Farm-Strong, but he could have more wind and become even more of a menace.

    2) Does he have concussion issues still? Is he still thinking he’s one hit from the end of his career?

    3) The new coach has to clarify exactly what the job is… hit anything that moves… use the slick moves and soft hands… but how much of each? That’s going to be the job of the new coaching team.

    Any fan foolish enough to give up on this guy hasn’t much knowledge of the complexities of hockey.

    Good article Kent.

    • wot96

      I find myself disagreeing with you often, but not this time.

      This kid could really be something but it depends on how he turns up and his usage. So much potential, and even average puck luck and his numbers change dramatically.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I agree, Hartley saw something in Ferland and showed he believed. He did more for Ferland off the ice than he could ever do for him on the ice. Ferland owes a lot to Hartley, and has come too far to not progress.

    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      I don’t see Ferlund being more than a third line player. His skill set is good but probably more suited to a third line winger that can skate , forecheck , hit, fight when needed and get 15 goals , but that doesn’t make you a top six forward.

        • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

          Nonsense. Ferlund was supposed to be a big power forward in the top six , or at least that’s what people on here keep saying. Good player . Not top six though. If he plays in the top six then it just shows a lack of depth.

          • piscera.infada

            First of all, you can learn how to spell the guy’s name correctly–it’s only written a total of 49 times on this page (unless you’re simply illiterate).

            Second of all, he’s a fifth round pick. Please tell me again about what he’s “supposed to be”…

          • Jake the Snail

            Ferland at a fifth round pick has more potential than your number one pick of Yakupov who Chia can’t seem to trade for a bag of pucks…it is what it is.

          • Your whole reason for being is confrontation so stop with the the high-horsery. And of course you don’t want to talk about where players were picked; look at how bad your team (FILLED with high first-rounders) performs every year. Is it starting to feel like the movie Groundhog Day?

      • wot96

        Score a bit, skate, forecheck, hit, fight and character guy. Doesn’t necessarily make you a top six forward but it does make you useful. Sounds like Lucic, actually, except for the price tag and that whole character guy thing.

        #respectthepostgamehandshake

  • Stu Cazz

    Ferland is a great kid and a huge asset for the Flames. My only concern are his concussion issues. I know as a fact the Flames are very concerned and take extra precaution whenever he takes a serious knock to his head…..rightly so they have under played this issue…hopefully he can get over this and be able to play his physical game.

  • RKD

    I never gave up on Ferland, he probably was unlucky if he gets that many shots off this year he’s probably going to score more. You need a guy like him in the lineup.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    I’m of two minds on Ferland…think he has talent but has never shown in NHL except the hitting part in playoffs vs Vancouver. And of course the low shooting percentage make him seem like he should be better. Also think he has been given lots of chances, and I liked Hartley’s motivational abilities, but not his old school thinking on player deployment…so conclusion is this year is very vital to his future in NHL instead of AHL or Europe.

  • ChrisR

    Watching ferly against the Canucks in the playoffs was an amazing experience. He was one of the biggest difference makers in the whole series. Ever since he got hit against the boards in Anaheim he has not been himself. If he could ever rebound from the concussion issues he could be a dominant second line player

  • SmellOfVictory

    Even if he never breaks 20 points, Ferland is a perfect bottom 6 player, in my mind. He’s clearly smart, makes good reads in all three zones, hits like a truck, and can handle the puck reasonably well. He’s already a success story, but I won’t complain if he breaks out offensively next season.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I am the first to admit that chemistry at one level of hockey rarely translates to other levels, etc, etc, etc.

    But at the Penticton tournament a few years ago (the one which IIRC Ferland led the tournament in goals, points, and PIMS), the line of:

    Gaudreau – Bennett – Ferland

    was absolutely out of this world.

    Tantalizing enough that I think it’s worth a shot again in the big show in the next year or two.

  • NHL93

    I used to see him as a poor-man’s Gary Roberts (mean with soft hands around the net). I would love to see him resemble that in the future. We’ll have to wait and see, I suppose.

  • KACaribou

    I can see how if you haven’t watched a lot of Ferland, you might assume he is bottom 6 material.

    Then after crashing someone through the boards, he might get into fancy mode and make a smooth play that bottom 6 guys just don’t have the ability to do.

    That’s when you think there might be more to this guy than meets the eye. Not saying it’s a guarantee; there are a lot of factors that influence success or failure.

    But you have to clean the oyster to find the pearl.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Bottom 6 guys sometimes can make fancy plays, though. It’s really consistency that separates the top 6 guys from bottom 6 in many cases.

      A good example of a “skilly” bottom sixer is Eric Nystrom. People were calling him Nyzerman because he’d sometimes make an absolutely sick play, but he was never more than a good 4th liner (maybe a decent 3rd liner for a short period).

  • Derzie

    Hits don’t need to be crushing to be effective. When they are, it can give an emotional lift but in general, taking a player off his game is the prize of the hit. Ferland needs to learn that. As does Bouma. Hitting everything that moves can quickly turn into an injury plagued season. Remeber, the hitter is out of the play along with the man being hit. Can’t score if you are plastering guys into the boards. Take guys off the puck with your strength. The Scott Stevens era is from a bygone decade.

  • Jake the Snail

    Darren Haynes reported that “Flames prospect Eetu Tuulola is leaving his club team to play in the WHL in 2016-17. Everett holds the rights to the big 6-foot-3 Finn after drafting him in the CHL Import Draft two weeks ago. There’s been no announcement from the Flames yet.”

    Good news if it confirmed! He would be at the Young Prospects tourney this year!

  • BlueMoonNigel

    The tone for the Flames disappointing 2015-16 season was set very early in the first period of the first game when a Canucks’ ruffian decided to tear a strip off Ferland, who had terrorized the Canucks in the playoffs. While the fightin’ Canuck failed to deliver the decisive knockout blow, he won on points and in effect ended Ferland’s reign of terror against Lotuseaters.

    As for Ferland, kid had centre stage just seconds after the puck was dropped. He knew the scrap was coming and with all eyes on him, he failed to live up to the all the hype from the spring. If ever a player crashed and burned in his moment to shine, it was Ferland at that key time. Epic flop. Following that, he suffered through a really rotten season individually which was only matched by the team’s lousy campaign.