FlamesNation Player Evaluation: Michael Stone

In a season full of good boys named Mike, there was perhaps one who did not meet the expectations that name entails.

Acquiring Michael Stone was necessary or superfluous, depending on who you ask. Sure, the Flames’ bottom three defence was/is a pile of garbage that needs serious overhaul. But was Stone a solution or a further detriment to that problem? Did he help the team make the playoffs, or was he just along for the ride?

There’s a lot of evidence pointing towards the latter.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

2016-17 season summary

This season was always going to be a test for Stone. Aside from this being a contract year, he suffered an injury late in the previous season to both his ACL and MCL, requiring a six-month recovery period.

And that showed in the first half of his season. In the desert, Stone was on pace to put up his worst season since his rookie year. He was dropped from the first pairing due to his struggles, arguably becoming one of Arizona’s many problems rather than one of their few bright spots. Stone was quite visibly off his game, and it was hurting the Coyotes.

A new beginning appeared to be the cure for what ailed him, and for what ailed the Flames at the time. After limping through January, the team needed a breath of fresh air defensively, and decided to target Stone as a new second pairing defenceman. The Feb. 20 trade saw the Flames send a 2017 third round pick and a conditional 2018 fifth for Stone (at 50% reduced salary). He immediately slotted in the next day against the Nashville Predators, which was coincidentally the start of the 10-game win streak that thrust the Flames into a playoff spot.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

With the Flames, Stone picked up his offensive side, adding two goals and four assists in his 19 games. That meant he finished tied for fourth among defenders in points-per-game with Dennis Wideman, and finished ahead of regulars like Matt Stajan and Alex Chiasson in that same department. His time in Calgary, albeit quite short (he was knocked out with an injury for three games), was well received.

Compared to last season

Via Corsica:

The chart is a bit unfair to Stone. With a 25-game rolling average, his raw CF% from Arizona still haunts him. I added the red line to mark when he joined the Flames, and his CF% improves steadily, almost reaching the levels he was playing at the season prior. That could be an indication of the Flames being better, that could be an indication that he somehow became better. It could be both. All we know is that his raw CF% improved when he came to Calgary.

Digging deeper, there are some problems. Despite his improvement in Calgary, he faced a drop in quality on a year-by-year basis.

Season CF% CFrel% xGF% xGFrel% OZS%
2014-15 49.39 1.29 47.29 2.30  34.77
2015-16 47.23 0.36 45.96 -1.20  30.34
2016-17 43.33 -5.34 42.17 -4.12  27.75

Some of his stats aren’t very strong to begin with – perhaps the effect of playing on the Coyotes – but everything that could be considered positive cratered this year. His rel stats completely fell apart, far beyond what we could reasonably write off as a rough season. Even if you attribute his decline to zone starts, it seems suspect that a second pairing defenceman needs sheltering.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Even if you split his stats for Arizona and Calgary (score and venue adjusted), things don’t look great.

CF% CFrel% xGF% xGFrel% SCF% SCFrel% OZS%
ARI 41.36 -5.14 39.5 -4.87 38.68 -3.53 27.72
CGY 47.16 -6.2 48.7 -2.31 50.94 2.88 27.81

A lot of the raw numbers appear to be the effect of being on a better team, but the rels are still concerning. Even in the one category he did improve, scoring chances, there’s still some concern. Unadjusted, Stone sits at 8.91 SCF/60, and 9.11 SCA/60. In terms of chances for per hour, he would rank first on the team, ahead of Dougie Hamilton by a smidge. Given the histories of those two, one player is likely to sustain that rate while the other won’t.

With regard to chances against per hour, Stone ranks second behind Jyrki Jokipakka in most scoring chances allowed. He has allowed over nine SCA/60 in every season since 2013-14. He’s only ever been over eight SCF/60 once in his career other than this season. His improvement in the for category is likely because of better teammates (and will also likely drop), but he still doesn’t have the ability to deny scoring chances.

Most common linemates


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


Stone has some weird results. He paired well with T.J. Brodie, although Brodie was the one doing most of the heavy lifting. He held up well with the 13-23-79 line, but was not great away from them. For whatever reason (likely related to the player on the far right of this chart), Stone just did not gel well with the third line.

Generally, he works with people who can carry him. Otherwise, things are suboptimal.

What’s next?

Considering the assets they paid for Stone, it’s highly likely that the Flames try to keep him. And I can get behind that as long as it is a short-term, low-cost deal where he’s on the third pairing.

But that’s highly unlikely considering all of the boxes he ticks. Young-ish, right-handed, appearing to be back on the up-and-up, well-liked, and surrounded by good narratives. Given the precedent his last contract sets, he can probably argue for $3M+. He’s going to command a salary and probably a bit of term next year if both player and team want to stick together.

That’s not something the team needs right now. Stone is more likely to be a burden – both on the team and the cap – than to be a key piece down the stretch. There’s very little proof that he can make a positive impact on the team, and if he does, it’s only when he’s extremely sheltered. The team can certainly find better players on the market (or in their own farm) who will fit their needs without tying them down to a bad contract.

#1 – Brian Elliott #5 – Mark Giordano
#6 – Dennis Wideman #7 – T.J. Brodie
#10 – Kris Versteeg #11 – Mikael Backlund
#13 – Johnny Gaudreau #17 – Lance Bouma
#18 – Matt Stajan #19 – Matthew Tkachuk
#23 – Sean Monahan #25 – Freddie Hamilton

  • HOFer_dirty30

    Getting a #4 dman is going to be a real tough task. With the expansion draft just about every team will be looking for one. Maybe bt can work out a trade with Vegas? Idk. Id hate to over pay for a bust. I don’t think stone is a 4 so hopefully bt works a miracle but i wouldn’t be surprised to see stone at 4 next season. Hopefully ras, kulak and company can work there way up this next few seasons.

  • TheRealPoc

    I don’t think Tre sees Stone as a true #4; any time he was asked over the last 4 months, he’s been very coy about bringing him back at all, let alone trying to cement him as a top four option for this group. But given the situation back in February, I still don’t mind that trade at all. The 2nd pairing desperately needed a non-bombscare upgrade from Wideman that wasn’t “let’s try pushing Engelland up the lineup again,” but the acquisition cost couldn’t be absurd or impact expansion draft protection status. Getting an expiring UFA RHD on 50% salary for a 3rd & conditional 5th was good business, and Stone genuinely seemed to play better as the season went on – obviously this is a bit of fun with sample size, but no doubt IMO that his best hockey came in the Ducks series: 51.2% CF & 54.9% SCF at evens (adjusted) and looked very steady in doing so. Not sure what else you could hope for.

    Is that enough to cement him as Brodie’s partner? Hardly, but hypothetically if you could bring him back at a $3M AAV for a couple of years, with the understanding that he’d replace Engelland in the bottom pairing (at effectively the same price), I think that’s something you seriously have to consider. Stone appears far more apt at playing up the lineup than Engelland if circumstances were to necessitate it, which is a nice bit of insurance to have at the bottom end of your group. On top of that, looking at the results that a Kulak-Engelland 3rd pairing have put up in 285ish minutes @ 5v5 over the last two years, is it outlandish to suggest that should represent a baseline expectation for what a Kulak-Stone 3rd pairing should be able to produce? You’d be giving Kulak a very similar fit stylistically, except his new partner has improved puck skills.

    The question is, how do you properly valuate a #5 who can play up in an emergency? Maybe a $3M AAV on your bottom pairing isn’t all that intelligent; maybe setting the bar at “better than the last guy to earn $2.9M/yr as a bottom pairing fixture” is still way too low. But I’m not going to sound alarms if Stone does end up back in Calgary…assuming the extension required to get it done isn’t egregious.

    • dontcryWOLF88

      Thing is, nobody can properly evaluate Stone just yet. I wouldnt count his stats from Arizona for much. Everybody on that team has bad stats. My guess is Tre thinks he is a construct-able talent. That may be true, or it may not be. I certainly wouldnt throw serious dollars at him just yet in hopes of future growth. However, I do think with proper coaching and a decent team, that Stone can actually become a legit top four D-man(not quite there yet, though). I think he has the skills to get himself there. He just needs to get some focused schooling on shot prevention and breakouts…in my opinion thats all thats holding him back atm. He’s got the hands, the shot, the intensity, and the size. Perhaps he doesnt have the hockey IQ to pull it all together, but if it was my call id be willing to offer him a bridge deal to see what he can do with a real team around him. He needs a good mentor though, and im concerned Brodie isnt going to be suitable for that. Brodie also could have really used another year under Gio’s wing..but, then, Hamilton progressed a TON getting to play with Gio. We need another consistent vet to teach these guys how to be pro’s. Franson or Alzner..its been said numerous times, but i really think that the meal ticket for bringing the whole show together.

      Engellend and Bartowski need to be gone. It can not be overstated how much they dragged down the Flames this year. Engelland is a true warrior, and i have tons of respect for the man…but he needs to be gone if the Flames want to go anywhere. Bartowski?…well, crap…hes a great skater, and can make a decent rush here and there, but dreadful at almost everything else.The Flames will bleed goals if he’s in the lineup again next year. Everybody knows the only reason he played a single game is because of the expansion draft, but lets just go ahead and put him where he belongs after that…in the AHL.

  • Newbietwo

    If Arizona was trading stone as not a rental deal the five to them would have been more than we gave.. the intention with stone also wasn’t short term.. I really think they will make a play to bring him back at engs past contract roughly $3.2 mill

  • everton fc

    Stone and his family want to be here. His wife’s from here. He’ll not push things, if the Flames are interested. I think both he and Versteeg will sign contracts to stay here, versus testing the UFA market. If Stone gets too much outside Calgary – gets over-paid… He could find himself in the AHL if his skill set drops a bit, and his cap hit exceeds sanity.

    He’s a 5/6 defender. And Kulak paired well with Andersson “on the farm”. Can Kulak pair well with Brodie? I find myself believing in this tandem, as I’d like to see Stone as an affordable 5/6 defender (and Bartkowski in the “A”).

  • buts

    The guy has a great shot and played very well. If the flames would use him on the pp the demand to keep him would be a lot higher than it is. Let’s hope they sign him to a fair term as he’s a decent 2nd pair D and an excellent 3rd pair D.

    • everton fc

      His wife will be involved in any contract negotiations! 😉 So we may get him at the old “hometown discount”. He might come cheaper for a little term, to make his family happy. I think some players consider family a lot more than some fans may think.

      I would….

  • OKG

    I think Stone is a #4/#5 tweener. What I do know is that few teams have a #4 who is clearly better. Nashville does, but even then, look at the playoffs where you’re facing bigger heavier forechecking teams and even Josi-Ellis have gotten hemmed in more often than Brodie-Stone did. I trust a Brodie-Stone second pair. Maybe that’s predominantly Brodie but that’s okay.

    I am a lot more concerned about having room on the third pair for Kulak, Andersson, and Wotherspoon.

    • Josi/Ellis was 50CF% with 31% OZS. Brodie/Stone was 46.49CF% with 26.84% OZS. Seems untrue to say that they get more hemmed in. Sure, they get better zone starts, but they also seem to be capable of driving play.

      And if there are “few” teams with a 4D that is better than Stone and his -6.2CFrel%, the NHL must be having some sort of defenseman crisis. There were 194 defenceman who played 500 5v5 minutes and 184 of them (score, venue, zone adjusted) who finished with a better CFrel% than Stone. The Flames can do much better than him. If you (rightfully) believe that Brodie is the primary driver on that pairing, then you can logically put a slight upgrade with 7 for slightly cheaper and have similar or better success. A Brodie-Kulak pairing would be exponentially better than Brodie-Stone.

  • BendingCorners

    I’d rather see Brett/Tyler with Rasmus as our third pair next year and trade a forward for a decent defenseman – maybe Brett Pesce from Carolina or Radko Gudas from Philadelphia. Both teams need more scoring and we need a top-4 defenceman. It would hurt to give up Sam Bennett or Michael Frolik or Micheal Ferland but if that’s the price we might have to pay it. If we separately trade prospects to Minnesota for Nino Niederreiter then we would still come out okay.

    • everton fc

      I’d like to see Gudas on our backend. Especially if we lose Kulak to Vegas.

      I guess I’d like to see Stone stick. If we could run with Gio, Hamilton, Brodie, and a bottom three of Kulak, Stone, Wotherspoon, Andersson… If that would be an slight improvement over Wideman/Bartkowski/Engelland…

      But it’s a dice roll, indeed. I don’t think we have to give up much this summer, as I don’t think we are far from being a consistent contender. Remember our record after January 1st. The core guys know GG’s system. I think goaltending, and moving Brouwer and Bouma’s contracts are high-priorities. I think with a good, reliable tandem in net (Chad Johnson, like Gaudreau and Hayes, is looking sharp on Euro-ice, in “The Worlds)…

      BT will be wise in terms of not making another blunder like Brouwer. I’m personally excited to see a full season of Gaudreau-Monhan-Ferland. I’d be even more excited to see Gaudreau-Monahan-Hayes, not because I don’t think Ferland can produce – I’ve predicted 20+ goals from Ferland next season if he’s left with those linemates. But bringing in Hayes and going with a third line of Versteeg-Bennett-Ferland – if we keep the 3M line status quo… We have three strong lines. A 4th line centered by Jankowski or Stajan, with Chiasson on LW, and one of Jankowski/Lazar/Hathaway/Klimchuk/Shinkaruk/Freddie H/Lomberg on LW… all this assuming Brouwer and Bouma are “no more”… I like those four lines. With two good goalies (Fleury/Johnson/Grubauer/Rittich/??) and if we keep Stone, and add Kulak and Andersson (or Wotherspoon, or a guy like Gudaus, the latter being ideal)… I think we are much better.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I don’t think you can understate what a torn MCL can do to an elite athlete that relies on explosiveness and lateral movement. Typically the repaired knee ligament is stronger than it ever was but it takes time to heal.

    • 1. Dan Girardi has had a few similar injury (MCL sprain in the 2016 postseason, some apparently have been undisclosed) and has gotten worse/shown no improvement as time goes on

      2. It seems unwise to bet that a player will suddenly be better after a bad knee injury and pay him for what you think he could be rather than what he is. Stone hasn’t been good enough this year to warrant the contract he will likely get in the offseason (someone is going to pay him $3M/3) and by giving him that contract you’re making the guess that he can return to form after a catastrophic knee injury. It’s unlikely, and you’re probably going to regret that contract

      (and what he was before was barely worth that money anyways, so)

  • Just.Visiting

    And I believe that CORSI said that the LA Kings were a great team this year….There’s obviously something wrong with my eyes. I routinely saw intelligence, being consistently in position, functional toughness, size, having a plan with the puck in his own end (vs looking at it like a hand grenade that had to get off his stick as soon as possible), making his partner noticeably better, a wicked shot, very few mistakes and intelligent positioning on the offensive perimeter. He also seems like he is a good fit with the team, and that he would be a good fit with the community. And I really think that there is much more of a correlation between his arrival and the change in the team’s performance than many here believe. He also is much, much less scary to me in his own end that Dougie, notwithstanding what the CORSI gods would say….I’d welcome Stone back as a 4/high end 5 that can move up as needed. If we have someone good enough to be a number 4 above him that bumps him to the 5 spot, we’re going to be a very competitive team next year.