46Curtis Lazar Profile
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Shore trade further damns last year’s Curtis Lazar deal

At the trade deadline, the Flames saw they had a problem they needed to rectify. The team has very few right shots, and no right-shot centres. Catching wind that they would be able to pick one up for the Ottawa Senators, they took the plunge, trading a second round pick seventh round pick for Curtis Lazar Nick Shore.

Oh. Um. Whoops.

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Deja vu

The Flames are a team with very few right-shot forwards on the roster. They have Troy Brouwer, Garnet Hathaway, the corpse of Kris Versteeg that they are well on their way to reanimating, and that’s about it: nobody particularly inspiring, and certainly nobody who belongs in a top six role. Versteeg is maybe the best of the bunch, though it’ll take time to see if he can get back up to snuff for the playoff push.

So their eyes must have lit up when Chris Stewart became available for free. Not because he’ll play in the top six, but because he at least gives them another option.

But wasn’t that the point of acquiring Lazar nearly a year ago to the date? A still-young first round pick from 2013 who maybe, one could argue, the Senators had hurt by placing him in the NHL too early. A reclamation project, if you will, that the Flames could use to their advantage, help balance out their lineup and build for the future at the same time.

This is the final year on Matt Stajan’s deal and it seems unlikely he’ll be brought back; if he is not, and with Sam Bennett’s apparent full-time conversion to winger, the Flames did not have anybody to play fourth line centre next season. Hence, Shore: a 25-year-old veteran of over 200 games who has been a positive CFrel% player this season (something Lazar has not been since his rookie season), even with defensive zone starts with the Kings. The final quarter of the season works as a great litmus test to see if Shore could be the Flames’ fourth line centre next season.

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Something that, a year ago, could have been Lazar’s job.

A year in

I want to emphasize that this is not meant to pile on Lazar. Lazar didn’t force himself into the NHL or trade himself for a second round pick. Lazar has had no real control over where he’s ended up, and it’s not his fault others may have overestimated him. He is a completely innocent party in all of this.

But fact is: Lazar is not as good a hockey player as others want him to be. Since the Flames picked him up, he has scored 10 points in 52 games. He’s had eight-, nine-, and 11-game scoreless droughts so far this season, and is currently in the midst of a five-gamer. He averages 9:22 in ice time, and that’s when he does dress; he’s been a healthy scratch for 14 of 62 games – 22.5% of the Flames’ season to date – so far this year, with little coming in the way showing he deserves more. This season, he has a CF of 48.40% (CFrel% of -6.09), and that’s with 50.21% offensive zone starts.

It could be a fair enough point that Lazar isn’t exactly blessed with the most talented of linemates – he’s most frequently playing alongside Stajan – but fact is, he perhaps wouldn’t be much better off alongside more capable players. Stajan is a little over a full corsi percentage point better when away from Lazar. Brouwer, over two percentage points. Ryan Lomberg and Marek Hrivik are the only players with better CF%s with Lazar than without him, and they’ve played all of 31 and 17 minutes alongside him at the NHL level.

Not exactly what one would be hoping for out of “a guy we think is a long-term acquisition”, as Brian Burke put it March 7, 2017 (roughly 16:50 into this radio hit). More like a failed bet – and one that cost a second round pick.

(Alex Formenton, who the Senators chose with said pick, has played one NHL game this season and currently has 38 points in 39 games with the London Knights – not to mention his four points in seven World Juniors games en route to a gold medal – but that’s neither here nor there.)

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So… for a seventh rounder

Shore doesn’t have the potential Lazar did. Lazar scored 76 points in 58 games his final year in the WHL; Shore’s best NCAA year was 34 points in 39 games. Lazar entered the NHL as a 19-year-old; Shore, 22. Lazar was at 36 points in 176 games before he was traded to the Flames; Shore, 50 points in 227 games, a little more around the block without much more to show for it.

But potential means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t come to fruition, and there were warning signs surrounding Lazar before the Flames acquired him. A year later, those signs have proven to be mostly true, to the extent that the Flames went out and picked up an older, better Lazar from the exact same team at a much cheaper cost. Lazar’s CF this season was noted as being at 48.40%; Shore had 52.78% in 49 games with the Kings and 56.04% in six games with the Senators, with more defensive responsibility.

Not to cry over spilled milk, but worth reflecting on. Sometimes general managers make bad bets. This was one of them, and that they were able to pick up Shore at the price they did – that they felt the need to get him to begin with – proves it.

      • McRib

        The minute Burke leaves Treliving will FINALLY be able to put skilled prospects into our bottom lines/pairings like Rasmus Andersson, etc like every other good team is doing right now. I dream of this day, but it will likely never happen (because I don’t get what I want). Burke is holding this franchise back with his outdated truculence desires.

      • Jessemadnote

        Ya there seems to be a tendency to focus on bad moves management makes rather than the good ones. I’m interested to hear the author revisit her initial reaction to the Mike Smith trade.

        • McRib

          When you “move on” it forces one to rehash the Hamonic trade over and over in your head. The Curtis Lazar trade looks great comparatively, let’s focus on that longer. Lol

        • The Doctor

          Good points. It’s one thing to focus on obviously stupid moves, but nobody has a crystal ball. We all knew at the time that Lazar was a bit of a reclamation project. But he was a highly regarded prospect. Some stuff doesn’t work out. Conversely, look at all of the low-round and undrafted picks that have worked out, e.g., Ferland, Gaudreau, Giordano.

  • FL?MES

    How can any player expect to have a positive Corsi playing on our fourth line? Most nights these players are at the bottom of our Corsi list because they often get steam rolled by the oppositions weakest line. Our 4th line in general is the problem.

    • Jessemadnote

      What you do is start targetting fourth liners, like Shore, who have borderline elite numbers when it comes to shot generation and suppression. Then you replace the existing players on the 4th line.

  • aye

    Shore trade looks like Tre saying to Dorion you owe me for Lazar.
    Well, the 2nd round pick for Lazar is sunk cost now, no sense dwelling on it. Remembered Lazar was captain of the world junior gold medal team, so there’s no guarantee Formenton or our own pick turns into anything.
    Given how draft picks are such a crap shoot, it wouldn’t be so bad if Lazar turns out to be a solid bottom 6, which is still possible.

    • HOCKEY83

      Throw anyone from our top 2 line down on to the 4th make them play with Brouwer and Stajan and give them just 8 minutes a night to prove themselves and see how well they do.

  • Zalapski

    The Curtis Lazar trade hasn’t been great, but he’s also been treated exactly the way he was treated in Ottawa. Playing with plugs does not make a star. He looked good with Bennett and JG for all of 2 periods. He should play on the third line. He has effective speed, and is smart defensively. Sure he should be in the minors proving what he’s got, but that isn’t an option. His name should be written in stone in the top 9, unfortunately players like Troy Brouwer, and Garnett Hathaway are getting chances before him. I don’t like that. He should play every single day. He should be on the PK, and he should get a chance. We all know what Hathaway is. He is found Money. Lazar cost a significant investment, I don’t understand his usage.

  • Burnward

    Meh. Lazar is under contract for two more years. Contract is minimal. RFA after.

    He got an NHL player with at least five years of control over magic beans.

    Lazar is a bet, but it’s one that isn’t even close to being called yet.

    • cjc

      But he still needs to be on the cap and roster because he isn’t waiver eligible (and they don’t want to lose him for nothing). That’s a problem because it means better players are being blocked.

  • Skylardog

    Don’t have time to research it right now and post, but Lazar’s time with our top players can almost be measured in seconds, not minutes. When he has spent time with Mony and or JG, they are over 4.00 in GF/60, a darn good rate. We best make sure we have given everyone on this roster a proper chance before we toss them into the garbage pile.

    We overpaid, how are we going to get the most out of the investment?

    • oilcanboyd

      Right now he is bringing in negative returns on our investment. He is not doing anything much, and hurting the progress of someone else now on the farm who could benefit from some NHL experience this season and be more useful than Lazar next season.. A positive move would be to cut ties with him

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Lazar’s showing this year has not been encouraging. I remember there being some outcry from Flames Nation when that deal went down. How many times has this site and its fans seen through managements failed attempts? Seems FN and many of its posters have once again got the call right. Yes there is time for Lazar… and yes FN doesn’t get it right 100% of the time. But I bet if you went back over the years, the decisions as suggested by FN would have this team in a much better position (No Brouwer, no Lazar, no Wideman, giving Backs & Ferland more ice time earlier on in their careers… I could go on)

  • canadian1967

    Get over it. Lazar has the pedigree, and is now starting to show what he can offer. So we paid a 2nd rounder for him. Who cares? In 2011 we picked Mrkus Granlund and Wotherspoon in the 2nd round and then Johnny in the 4th round.
    Ryan Strome was picked 5th overall ahead of Scheiffle at 7th.
    The point being Lazar is worth a 2nd rounder or a 7th rounder, who cares their all the same and you could get a player anywhere including guys who were never drafted.
    Relax. Lazar IS an NHL’er.

  • Joeyhere

    Tre overpaid for lazar no question (3rd rounder should have been his max) but it was a gamble, a kid with a good foundation who was injured and poorly used. It was worth a bet. But you also have to recognize when bet goes bad and when it’s time to walk away. Even if Lazar is better then he’s shown we don’t have the faith or coach to put him in a position to try and prove it. I don’t begrudge Trev for taking a risk, but it just doesn’t make sense that we paid a big price for lazar than did the same thing Ottwa did and somehow expected different results ( guess we did that with Cameron too)

  • BendingCorners

    I’m not a fan of Lazar but there’s only one more year of him; maybe he improves a bit since he’s only 22, or maybe he can be moved this summer. Not all bets are winners.
    If Shore works out at 4C then with Hathaway/Brouwer at 4R and Mangiapane/Versteeg at 4L, Lazar becomes completely surplus to requirements. Just a spare part to keep on the shelf while the search resumes for a proper RHS RW for the top six.

    • BendingCorners

      Of course, if I had to choose between Brouwer and Lazar, I’d buy out Brouwer to free the cap space for a better acquisition, and make Lazar my spare C/RW.

  • Trevy

    If Lazar actually panned out, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It’s a gamble that didn’t play out. Same as if we used the 2nd round on a prospect and they didn’t make the cut. You win some and you lose some, life goes on

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      Yup, just look at our 2nd from 2014 – Hunter Smith, I hoped he would be better than he is but it is what it is…. I don’t think many here would complain about a Hunter smith for Curtis Lazar trade would they?

    • HOCKEY83

      We’re only having this conversation because he hasn’t been given a proper chance to pan out. Throw Lazar on a line with the 2 players that most everyone wants gone from this team and wonder why he can’t generate any offense. The same reason why Mangi didn’t generate any offense. None of our prospects have had the same luxury Tkachuk has had to go and play with talent the moment he stepped on the team. Even Bennett has been mired on a line with rookies or brouwer and not been given the same chance as Tkachuk.

  • Al Rain

    A year ago I was optimistic, said wait and see. Welp, I’m in agreement with the prevailing opinion now – Lazar is not thriving by underlying numbers or by the eye. My suspicion is that his career won’t live up to others’ expectations. And yes, the Shore deal kind of drives the point home.

  • Justthateasy

    Someone said Lazar can’t hit the net. Well why isn’t he staying after practice and practicing practicing practicing his shot.?
    Just because you are in the NHL it doesn’t mean you have arrived. You need to work on your weaknesses.
    Coaches wake up!