A brief analytic look at newest Flame Michael Stone

By now, you’ve heard the news. The Flames have acquired Coyotes defenceman Michael Stone, paying a third round pick and a conditional 2018 fifth. 

Certainly a surprising move. The Flames, having already snagged Matt Bartkowski earlier this week, are now at eight defencemen that all require waivers. Stone wasn’t really expected or necessary, considering that the Flames have about two or three other guys on the team that can do what he does. 

So what did the team see in Stone, and what are they hoping to get? Find out after the jump.

What the Flames wanted

In recent weeks, it is no surprise that the Flames have a defensive mess on their hands. Outside of Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton, there is not much to pin hopes on. Matt Bartkowski, having not played an NHL game in a year, was slotted in against Vancouver and many considered him an instant upgrade.

The biggest elephant in the room is Dennis Wideman. Since his magical season two years ago, he’s been trending downwards even faster than expected. There’s been egregious giveaways, blown coverages, slow skating, and everything you do not want out of a defenceman for someone playing 20 minutes a night. 

Let’s be clear: all of these things have been around for a while, but a little bit of recency bias makes the problems even worse. He finally got ice time cut in recent games and, in my opinion, it appears that they’re going to move him to the pressbox full time. Wideman has been an active detriment to the Flames in recent weeks, and with the playoff race tightening up, there’s no choice but to sit him.

They’re down a second pairing defenceman, so they went and got (what they thought) was another one.

What the Flames got

Someone who is not that great:

What the underlyings point to is someone who is so not that great, that he barely replaces the player he’s replacing:

Right now, Stone is currently having his worst possession season in a long time. His CF% of 42.37% is worse than his rookie number of 42.82%. Since becoming an NHL regular, his CFrel% has safely been around zero, indicating that he’s neither terrible nor great. However, this season he has put up a -4.98 CFrel% performance, indicating a major step backwards.

michael stone w/ flames dmen usage

The usage chart perhaps sheds a bit more light. Stone doesn’t play with great teammates and doesn’t get great zone starts, which could perhaps explain his struggles. He also faces relatively tough competition in line with the Flanes’ top defenders. If the idea is that he replaces Wideman on Brodie’s right side, we can maybe hope that Brodie and more favourable start conditions can help Stone.

But there’s a lot of concrete proof that he will still be an anchor. Stone’s WOWYs aren’t promising. When his main partner, Alex Gologoski, is separate from him, his CF% rises by nearly 5%. Hell, nearly everyone’s CF% rises by that same number. That’s absolutely atrocious.

This season, Stone has performed like the many players who have gone through waivers this year. So why would the Flames send away assets for this guy?

What the Flames hoped to get

I briefly alluded to it, but there was once a time where Stone was a very useful player.

From 2014-16, he was probably one of the better defencemen on the Coyotes, behind guys like Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He had positive CFrel% stats (1.29% in 14/15, and 0.36 in 15/16). Even when he was separate from Yandle and OEL, he was not the trainwreck he is this year. OEL jumped by 3.8 CF% at the end of the season, and Yandle only by 1.7 CF%.

What happened between then and now is the two major injuries no sports star ever returns from unscathed. At the end of the season, he injured both his ACL and MCL requiring reconstructive surgery during the offseason. That has definitely impacted Stone, both from a visual and an analytic perspective.

Conclusion

Michael Stone has not been the guy he was for the past two seasons, and to stake your hopes on him being that Michael Stone is not a good idea. He physically isn’t that same player.

Instead of replacing Wideman/Engelland/whoever, he’s likely to join them in the mass defensive exodus that will happen at the end of the year. This deal, while relatively low cost, is still likely going to be a waste of a third round pick. There were better defencemen, right-handed too, out there and the Flames should’ve pursued them instead.

Sure, perhaps he’ll succeed. With easier circumstances and better teammates, it could be viable. I will also remind you that this was the argument for Troy Brouwer.

  • smatic10

    I could care less about the analytics (although I must say this article was a very well written one, good job). What ultimately matters is team success, and an analytics nightmare can still help a team win. Examples? Daley in Pittsburgh and Russell in Edmonton.

    If Stone can step in and keep turnovers and bone-headed plays to a minimum, he is ALREADY a major upgrade. He has size, a shot, and skates decently.

    People seriously under-appreciate all the factors involved in some of Treliving’s moves. Has anyone watched our defense this year? It has been ATROCIOUS at times. What does Tree do? He brings in a right handed, young defenseman with size to help us with our playoff push. Oh and he also brings in a cheap bottom pairing option to help meet the requirements of the expansion draft. Right now, I’d take Stone and Bartkowski over Wideman and Jokipakka.

    Let’s not forget he didn’t pay a premium. What went to ARI? A third and a conditional fifth. That’s it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he manages to replenish some of these picks before the deadline. Tree isn’t afraid to get creative. I still can’t believe he managed to get anything for David Jones but he squeezed out a 6th plus a feel good story in Backstrom. He also maximized returns for Glencross, Hudler, Russell and Baertschi.

    Making moves in the NHL is not easy. But Tree finds a way to make things interesting. As fans, we should at least appreciate that.

    I’m all for the Stone move even if he walks in free agency. I appreciate that management is trying to push for the playoffs but at the same time not harming our future.

    • Derzie

      “Right now, I’d take Stone and Bartkowski over Wideman and Jokipakka.”

      Only because they haven’t had a chance to mess up yet. To be fair, almost anyone is better than Wideman + Kevin right now. We’ll see if these new guys are.

  • The Fall

    The last Flames third round pick to make the team was Bouma. Are the Flames better now with Stone or better twelves years from now with another Bouma.

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    Interesting take but; the author suggests that there are other RH D available and the Flames should have pursued them.

    Ok then; who? What cost? How do we know the Flames didn’t pursue them? For such a thorough analysis this statement leaves the reader wanting more.

    Also, I’m sure I have seen other Flames nation contributors write that Stone should be targeted ahead of other potential post season D additions (Alzner).

    Personally, I’ll withhold judgement till Stone gets some game action in with the Flames. I do have a hard time believing this will be a minor improvement over Wideman. BT & the Flames are not that dumb. There’s just no way.

  • Greatsave

    Let’s put it this way:

    We would think it ludicrous to trade a Gaudreau or a Monahan or a Dougie in the middle of a down year. On the flip side then, maybe Treliving is picking up a good player having a down year for next to no cost. He is UFA this summer, won’t even cost an expansion draft protection spot.

    Or maybe Michael’s our path to Mark…

  • Greatsave

    Let’s put it this way:

    We would think it ludicrous to trade a Gaudreau or a Monahan or a Dougie in the middle of a down year. On the flip side then, maybe Treliving is picking up a good player having a down year for next to no cost. He is UFA this summer, won’t even cost an expansion draft protection spot.

    Or maybe Michael’s our path to Mark…

  • Greatsave

    Let’s put it this way:

    We would think it silly to trade a Gaudreau or a Monahan or a Dougie in the middle of a down year. On the flip side then, maybe Treliving is picking up a good player having a down year for next to no cost. He is UFA this summer, won’t even cost an expansion draft protection spot.

    Or maybe Michael’s our path to Mark…

  • SeanforMVP

    He’s having an off year and everyone seems to think he’s terrible. Its funny cause lots of people I know are saying the same thing about league worst plus minus tj brodie but i know most of us know he’s not garbage. Maybe I’m overly optimistic but one off year doesn’t mean stone isn’t worth the gamble

  • shaner

    I’ve been planning the parade route, what do you guys think of just taking a really slow stroll down 17th, then ending up at the saddle dome?

    I love the pickup but not quite as much as the ultimate flames cheerleader Eric Francis on SN

    We will be the first team ever to run the table in the playoffs 16-0 book it

  • freethe flames

    This trade improves the Flames chances of making the playoffs but does not guarantee anything. I still expect more moves to be made today. Either a body must be traded or sent down. The most likely player to be sent down IMO is Hathaway; he is waiver exempt.(he’s also been a healthy scratch for a couple of games) There is nothing wrong with having an extra defender for a day or two while other moves are made.

    Interesting times. Now step up and win tonight boys.

  • freethe flames

    This trade improves the Flames chances of making the playoffs but does not guarantee anything. I still expect more moves to be made today. Either a body must be traded or sent down. The most likely player to be sent down IMO is Hathaway; he is waiver exempt.(he’s also been a healthy scratch for a couple of games) There is nothing wrong with having an extra defender for a day or two while other moves are made.

    Interesting times. Now step up and win tonight boys.

  • KenBone18

    So we “upgraded” or D by signing a guy with no NHL experience in the last 1/3 of the season, then traded for a 6th / 7th D man from Arizona? All while trying to make a play off push? Like seriously…

    Is Tre TRYING to botch his contract renewal?

    • supra steve

      Who is this “we” you are referring to troll?

      Oh, you’re the stealthy troll, posing as a Flame fan? Well played, you must be one of those rare trolls who’s IQ exceeds 75…but not by much.

  • Arminius

    Michael Stone welcome back to Calgary. He did have the bad Injury and has not been the same as pre Injury however has been better the last month with a +6 his last 14 games compared to his -11 in the first 31.

    Fact

  • Arminius

    Stone and Backlund have a little catching up to do as Stone absolutely demolished him in open ice in Game 6 or the 2009 WHL Final. You can find it online..trust me that Backlund remembers it

  • Zalapski

    The New York Islanders traded defenseman Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday for the 16th and 33rd picks in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Islanders selected center Mathew Barzal from the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League with the No. 16 pick.

    That says it all. Say whatever you want about standings, but Chia’s no Picasso when it comes to asset managment.

  • The GREAT WW

    The Oilers could have had (were gifted because of their suckage….) Barzal (plus), and Tkachuk……instead they ended up with Reinhardt and Nail2.0 Puljujarvi…

    Gifted the world for 10 years and keep F-ing up!!!!

    WW

  • Armchair genius

    I think you all had the same argument about Bennett and Leon, and we all know that’s turning out! I think I’ll wait and see on JP before I say Tkachuk is better and Barzal may never develope into anything or have a couple good years and sign a 6+M contract and then stink it up aka Johnny Hockey. So Mr. White I don’t think I’ll go with your expert analysis of hockey players.

  • The GREAT WW

    Because of their suckage; the Oilers had first right of refusal for Drisaddle. The Flames never had the chance to pick. Same with Hall, RNH,Yakupov, McDavid…suckage rules in draft order!?

    The Oilers did have the opportunity to pick Tkachuk, Brodie, Giordano, Gaudreau etc….

    Keep sucking Oilers….

    WW

  • Stu Cazz

    I think I will go with the WW analysis over yours….after all your an Oiler fan…a supporter of the worst pro franchise in history over the last 10 years…what do you know…..

  • TrumpeterSwan

    WW looks to be about right to me. I watch both clubs when I can and Puljujarvi definately was not NHL ready. Up until recently he was no better in the AHL. The fact that the columbus GM was a finn and passed on him really should have given the oilers some pause. Who knows, PJ may turn out but for now Tkachuk looks a lot better!