Seeking to plug a hole in his lineup, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving acquired Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes prior to the 2017 trade deadline. In concert with adding Matt Bartkowski, Stone’s addition displaced Dennis Wideman and Jyrki Jokipakka and helped solidify the team’s blueline – and probably got the Flames into the playoffs that year.
In a word, that’s what Stone has been as a Flame: solid. There’s very little that’s flashy or exciting about his game, but that’s arguably the entire reason he’s on the team.
2017-18 season summary
For the vast majority of the season, Stone played on the third pairing and played primarily with Brett Kulak. While he undoubtedly tried really, really hard as a second pairing player during the 2017 stretch drive (and playoffs), it’s probably not controversial to declare that he slots better as a depth player rather than a primary piece.
Stone plied his trade for just shy of 17 minutes a night, with his third pairing minutes being supplemented with second unit duties on the penalty kill alongside TJ Brodie. His playing style is low event – he’s effectively a replacement for Deryk Engelland in terms of minutes, playing style and handedness – and he had several stretches of the season where you’d be surprised to learn that he played.
He rarely hit the scoresheet, he rarely made impressive or disappointing moves, and he was essentially a safety blanket for young Kulak for much of the season.
|Games played||Goals||Assists||Points||TOI/GP||5v5 CF%||5v5 CF% rel||OZS%||PDO|
When Travis Hamonic was briefly absent, Stone moved up and played with Brodie, and he also played a bit with Matt Bartkowski on a few occasions where Kulak was a healthy scratch. In terms of his Relative Corsi, the Kulak combo was the most effective (-3.43%), followed by Brodie (-5.32%) and Bartkowski (-10.03%). All of his most-used combinations are negative Relative Corsi options, because that’s essentially what happens when you’re a depth defender – if Stone was able to generate offense more readily, or defend more effectively, he wouldn’t be a third pairing guy.
Case in point: he briefly played on the power play. He displayed a really hard shot at the mid-season skills competition and fans seemed excited for him to get a chance to use it. It never really materialized, because in game situations he just can’t get his shot off quickly enough (or accurately enough) to be overly effective. Despite those limitations, he was third among Flames defensemen in even strength goal-scoring. (Yikes.)
Compared to last season
2017-18 was Stone’s first full season with the Flames. He was used in the prior season as a second pairing option with Brodie, but he seems to have been slotted better on the third pairing – he’s less often in a position to create offense, but he’s also in a situation where bobbles or gaffes would hurt the team less. He averaged two minutes fewer per game in his new role.
His offensive underlyings were strong – his Corsi For, Fenwick For and Shots For Per 60 Minute rates were all close to career bests for him – but as was the theme for the Flames, his chances rarely went in. His defensive underlyings weren’t amazing, but it was among his best seasons in limiting Shots Against Per 60 Minutes. (His Corsi, Fenwick, Scoring Chances and High-Danger Chance rates were around his career average rates.)
In general: Stone was fine.
What about next season?
Stone seems like a decent bet to return (he’s under contract through 2019-20), but he’s also arguably the most replaceable Flames defenseman. If you trade or otherwise move Stone you gain $3.5 million in cap space and provide Rasmus Andersson an opportunity for regular NHL minutes. Andersson’s likely an upgrade on Stone offensively, at least based on his recent AHL performances, and he’s at worst a slight downgrade defensively. The goal differential calculus is potentially a wash and it’s likely that a 21-year-old will get better at both ends of the ice, while a 28-year-old Stone basically is what he is at this point.
The “he is what he is” factor probably made Stone an attractive commodity when Treliving was scrambling to solidify his defensive group a year ago, but given the team’s limitations it probably presents a current opportunity to upgrade the roster with some tinkering around the lineup fringes.
|#5 – Mark Giordano||#7 – TJ Brodie|
|#8 – Chris Stewart||#10 – Kris Versteeg|
|#11 – Mikael Backlund||#13 – Johnny Gaudreau|
|#15 – Tanner Glass||#18 – Matt Stajan|
|#19 – Matthew Tkachuk||#20 – Curtis Lazar|
|#21 – Garnet Hathaway||#23 – Sean Monahan|
|#24 – Travis Hamonic||#25 – Nick Shore|