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Photo Credit: Sergei Bel

WWYD Wednesday: About that Flames third pairing…

Prior to the trade deadline, GM Brad Treliving did some fairly major surgery to the Flames’ backend. He signed former Canuck Matt Bartkowksi out of the AHL, more or less consigning Jyrki Jokipakka to the pressbox. Then he traded for Michael Stone from the Coyotes, bumping Dennis Wideman to the sidelines.

He did this because it was clear Calgary’s depth options on the blueline weren’t really working. It seemed like any change might be a good one at the time. And then the Flames won 10 in a row. Huzzah! The switch up worked.

Or… not really. In the case of the Flames’ newest third pairing of Deryk Engelland and Bartkowski, the winning streak was entirely coincident. Now that the magic of that run has dissipated, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the team still has a problem on their hands.

Since Bartkowski has arrived, the two have played just over 230 minutes together. In that time, they boast some of the worst underlying numbers of any Flames duo this year: a corsi ratio of 45%, a scoring chance ratio of 32% and an expected goals ratio of 39%.

To put those numbers in context, The Engelland-Jokipakka pairing put together a CF of 45%, a SCF% of 40% and a XGF% of 41%. The only difference is, Jokipakka didn’t get the benefit of a crazy percentages spike, so he was run out of town.

As such, all available evidence suggests Calgary’s third pairing is a huge liability and potentially the worst available option, at least of the experiments they’ve run this year. The only problem is… the club is just a couple of games away from the postseason with no clear alternatives at hand.

So what to do?

Calgary currently has two guys on the sidelines: the much maligned Dennis Wideman and the completely untested Rasmus Andersson. Both are right shots, meaning they’d have to bump Engelland from the lineup or go against Glen Gulutzan’s strong preference for matching handedness on the backend. Neither is a great bet to somehow stabilize Bartkowski, who was plying his trade in a lower league earlier this year for a reason.

The best partner Engelland has had all year according to the math is Brett Kulak. Together, the pairing was actually above water by most metrics: corsi (52%), XGF% (54%) and SCF% (59%). We can safely say that’s skewed by sample size somewhat (because Engelland has never consistently put up numbers like that in his career), but it’s encouraging enough to be worth another look.

Problem is, Brett Kulak is on the farm. And injured.

The Flames are on a path to either face the dreaded Anaheim Ducks or the imposing Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. As things stand, their third pairing looks like it will be a potential Achilles heel in the postseason.

What would you do, if anything, to try to fix it?

  • redricardo

    Try anyone else. Andersson if you have to. Bartkowski is a train wreck, and you know what you have isn’t working. The fact Bartkowski and Stone are a part of this blueline is the biggest weakness any team we play will try to exploit, and replacing them has to be job #1 in the offseason.

  • nikkomsgb

    Agreed they are getting eaten alive, and something needs to be done about it.

    However there is a small part of me that is grateful Engelland is on the ice during games like the one last night and against LA. I’m not for a return to coke machines and the like, but when our best players get sucked into scrums and sucker punched, I’m thankful that he will at least jump in and bail them out.

    It’s not like i’m wishing for another McGrattan, Engelland plays 15-20 mins a night so he is on the ice enough to do something. Going forward we need more skill in our bottom pairing, of course, but for right now I can’t say he isn’t helping to some degree.

  • trox

    The big fixes will come (I pray) in the off-season. In the short-term, we should definitely give Andersson a spin to see what he can do. There is another potential fix too, and that is to ride our top 4 heavily in the play-offs in terms of ice-time (Hamilton, in particular, could take on another ~5 minutes a game I would think).

    • The Doctor

      I feel good about the prospects we have in Stockton and coming up in our system (Rasmus, Kylington, etc.). And if management doesn’t move at LEAST one of these guys into the Flames roster to start next season, well then why in God’s name have a farm team at all if you’re not going to use it?

  • everton fc

    I can see our bottom three defenders being a top priority in the off-season. I can live w/Stone in a 5/6 role with someone like Kulak. And maybe Andersson can step into Stone’s spot w/Brodie. And that solves some issues back there.

    We shall see…

    If Kulak isn’t picked by Vegas, he’s a starter next season. Andersson probably gets a spot out of camp, and Stone either stays for cheap in a 5/6 role, or signs elsewhere. He certainly seems to want to stay here, and would be okay, “on the cheap”. Maybe…. I could also live w/a one year deal for Engelland, again “on the cheap”, as he does add value in chippy games like last evenings… But in a 6/7 role.

  • Brodano12

    Tyler Wotherspoon has had an amazing season in Stockton. 18 points in 51 games is back to his 2014/2015 pace in the AHL, but this time he is a plus 31! He had one really tough game when he finally got a chance to play in the NHL this year, but imo he’s a solid 3rd pairing guy and is definitely better than Bart.

  • C Watson

    If any plans on going anywhere then you have to beat the best. Accept destiny and count on the Hawks as 1st round opponents. For sure play Andersson for the final two games. So what he is a right shot, leftie – rightie isn’t working in bottom pairing anyway. Might just be pleasantly surprised and (cough) wind up playing the Ducks.

  • O'M

    Bartkowski hurts on the eye test. TSpoon supporters should probably start letting go; he reminds me of David Hale. Clearly an NHL-quality skater but the lack of puck skills ultimately makes him ineffective. For WWYDW, I would actually try out Kulak-Andersson and give all PK responsibilities to the top-four. Will be nice for Engy to get a little break.

    Decided to write today because the last time I brainstormed a list of top-four DMan to pursue (we desperately needed a RHS puck mover who could fit on a powerplay) we landed Dougie! He didn’t even make my list that summer because it seemed so unrealistic to land him.

    But here is a list of targets to think about. I was looking for a RHS partner to pair with Brodie. Needs to be an effective top-four guy by today’s NHL standards (effective puck mover, can retrieve pucks, can handle speed) but in terms of cap fit, I wasn’t looking for $4M+ guys. I also looked for grit; I’m a little worried about our ability to get gritty come playoff time. Because of our “softer” core, these gritty games seem to throw us off of our game. So natural grit is a nice ingredient (guys that are naturally willing to engage in post-whistle scrums / throw down occasionally / don’t get thrown off by bully-tactics).

    Many of these targets are potentially plucked by Vegas and then traded to us post-expansion draft pre-July 1.

    Here is a list and some comments:

    Josh Manson – man he looks effective out there
    Travis Hamonic – highly doubt he will be left exposed but NYI does have “too-much” depth.
    Petrovic – might be locked into FLA but definitely gritty
    C. Wideman – like the look of his game
    S. Johns – unproven; looks like a good skater but hard to tell for me if he can be a top-four guy
    K. Miller – a big reach as a top-four guy but great price tag
    C. Miller – more expensive to acquire than K., and likely an expensive re-sign next year
    T. Van Riemsdyk – likely plucked in expansion draft

    Anyways, of that list, the only realistic guys I see Vegas (or their existing team) trading are K. Miller / C. Miller (Carlo locked in, and making room for McAvoy) and Van Riemsdyk (Vegas probably will have better top-four prospects on the right side than him).

  • Flames5295

    I think their numbers resemble how they are being used. Alot of defensive zone starts and used as a strictly defensive pairing opening up more offense opportunity for the top four. I don’t see alot of mistakes costing us goals and I think they are doing pretty well. Both physical guys which will be good in the playoffs. Offensive production is just a bonus. If they were used differently there numbers would resemble that. Case and point England paired with gio early in the year was our best dman numbers related. Classic case of analytics not telling the whole story. Our Achilles heal will be our star players (Johnny mony especially and even backs, frolik, brodie and dougie don’t thrive when things get physical) disappearing when the game gets rough and tough which it eventually will.

    • I can’t believe we are watching the same games. These guys are like a tire fire every shift. When Engelland is a steadying presence on a pairing you need to be worried. He is the guy normally trying to get rid of the puck as fast as possible because (I assume) he is aware of how bad he is when he hangs on to it. That can often times put Engelland’s partner in a bad position because of a rushed pass. Now, Bart is the one that panics and gives it to Engelland to count on to make the right play. Of course we know how it usually turns out. Neither person wants the puck and each looks lost when they happen to get it. ANY coach would see this and put out their better lines to put a bit of pressure. This of course happens and the puck is coughed up more often than not. How the hell is an alternative not being explored? Rass or even Wideman is a better option… Rass if not better skill wise at least a better option in that he gets a couple games of experience in rather than sitting in the press box.

  • kittensandcookies

    Unfortunately Bartkowski is here for another season.

    He’s looking increasingly lost out there. The emotion of being traded is starting to wear off I think.

    What’s the deal with Wotherspoon? He should be out there instead of Bartkowski.

  • Burning Ring of Fire

    Its funny to read these comments now. A few weeks ago everyone was poo pooing any comments suggesting that Stone and Bart weren’t as good as advertised. Funny how quick people change direction and pull out the daggers.

  • SeanCharles

    Kulak looks to be healthy again:

    Gio-Hamilton
    Brodie-Stone
    Kulak-Engelland

    Bartkowski has really struggled lately which shouldn’t come as a surprise since he was in the A for most of the year. I don’t have anything against him but I feel we have better options available because he makes mistakes and young player make mistakes so I’d rather give that valuable icetime to an up-and-comer.