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UFA Decisions: Jamal Mayers & The Dancing Bear

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I’ve always been bothered by the idea of a four-to-five minute per night enforcer without other NHL talents, a player whose sole purpose on the roster is to fight the other team’s heavyweight and provide an intimidating physical presence.  I like a good tussle as much as the next guy, but I’ve always been of the opinion that if a player can’t handle a regular shift, he doesn’t belong in the league, no matter what his other talents.

That was Jonathan Willis on the subject of enforcers in hockey and whether or not their presence affects the number of cheap shots/dirty hits in the game. Needless to say, I agree whole-heartedly, and use the word "decisions" loosely in this title of this post. Why waste valuable dollars on a player who likely won't dress for the majority of his teams games and whose only skill is to beat the opposition's goon, or whomever else is willing to engage in a round of fisticuffs, to a bloody pulp--regardless of entertainment value? Especially in today's capped NHL, where nearly every dollar matters and efficiency is so critical. 

Under Sutter's rule, a season has rarely passed without at least one noted pugilist in the Flames' lineup: Andre Roy, Eric Godard, Chris Simon, Darren McCarty in the latter stages of his career, Brandon Prust (although he might tell you otherwise), along with a handful of other guys who were always willing to drop the gloves when necessary. 

The Flames finished third in the league in fighting majors this past season with 74, 14 of which belonged to Brian McGrattan, and 7 to Jamal Mayers. Both are unrestricted free agents come July 1, and I don't think I'd be in the minority if I were to say that I wouldn't bat an eyelash should neither player return to the Flames next season.  


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Brian McGrattan 34 1 3 4 3 86 0 0 0 0 19 5.3

Brian McGrattan played an average of only 3:44 in the thirty four games he suited up for this season. He also played against the weakest competition of all Flames forwards and has the worst corsi relative to his QoC. In the approximately 340 minutes that he played this season, he accumulated 86 PIMS, nineteen shots, and and four points. The team scored 6 six goals with McGrattan on the ice, only one of which belonged to him, and allowed three--hence his somewhat misleading plus-3. He also had the most favourable zone start of all Flames forwards other than Jason Jaffray in his brief three-game stint with the club, starting 57% in the offensive zone and finishing there on 70.2% of his shifts ending in faceoffs. He was on the ice during/after a faceoff in his own zone only 17 times in the 34 games he played; 11 times after a loss and six after a win. The fact that McGrattan played so few minutes speaks to his general uselessness in and of itself, but both his counting and underlying stats certainly don't help his cause.


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Jamal Mayers 71 3 11 14 -3 131 0 0 1 0 75 4.0

It would appear that Jamal Mayers is slightly better at actually playing hockey than McGrattan, and that he is surely the lesser of two evils here. His career season came in 2005-06 with the Blues when he scored 15 goals and 26 points, although he was shooting at 13.5% that season, and was also a career-worst -22. This is a guy who, despite his inherent truculence, worked himself into Ron Wilson's dog house and eventually requested a trade only a few months into last season, his second as a Leaf. Mayers actually faced tougher comp than Eric Nystrom, and also had a better relative corsi. In 27 games with the Flames, he scored one goal and six points, 53 PIMS,  and was a +2, playing about 8:25/game. Touted as a fairly decent penalty-killer upon his arrival in Toronto, Mayers played only 8:53 of SH TOI as a Flame, probably because he spent more time in the sin bin in 27 games than 4 other regular Flames forwards over the duration of the entire season. 

Of all Flames forwards, the team had the worst corsi rate with Mayers on the ice at -11.37, and the best with him off the ice at +11.62. Mayers started in the offensive zone 53.8% and finished there only 49.6% of the time, the worst of all regular Flames forwards and the second-worst after Brett Sutter in his 10-game trial with the big club. Mayers' 55.6 faceoff winning percentage was likely his sole redeeming quality this season; Mayers was winning 56.8% of his faceoffs with the Leafs and taking 10.5% of his team's total draws, more than the 7.6% he was taking with the Flames, who finished the season third-worst in faceoff percentage at 48%. Mayers made $1.4M this past season, and I'm sure there's a team out there that will be willing to match that salary come July; I just hope it's not Calgary. 

If I had to choose one of these two players to re-sign, I'd choose Mayers, but the loss of both players through free agency would likely prove to be a case of addition by subtraction for the Flames.