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The Flames Blueline Woes: Ladi Smid, Deryk Engelland, and Raphael Diaz

We take a look at Dennis Wideman which includes some positives but a handful of negatives hampering this blueliner. Oh and Rafa Diaz needs to be used in more situations.

Diaz in the press box here.
Diaz in the press box here.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I hope you're all sufficiently distracted from today's news of Sven Baertschi along with David Wolf and Tyler Wotherspoon being called up. Sven seems to have had some success since being sent down while Wolf has seemingly found his game since coming over from Germany in the off-season.

In the mean time let's discuss Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland, and Raphael Diaz. I initally wanted to discuss Wideman after Russell but I feel like these three need to be addressed in some capacity first. In the first post about the blueline woes, I discussed Kris Russell at great length. The long and short of that post went like this:

Kris Russell is overwhelmed, over-used, and not the right type of player for a top-four role on virtually any NHL team besides like five.

The core message I'm trying to stress here is the following: With Smid making $3.5M this year and Engelland making $2.9M this year, what do they do for us beneficially? Both are signed until the end of 2016-17 too. The only real benefit is cap-floor.

Or maybe it's those intangibles everyone is talking about... probably not.

Goals Assists Points PIM Hits Blocked Shots Cap Hit GP
Deryk Engelland 0 3 3 37 75 65 $2.917M 41
Ladislav Smid 0 1 1 13 51 54 $3.5M 31
Raphael Diaz 0 1 1 4 14 28 $700k 25

On the level of basic stats alone, they're nothing really impressive. Literally, nothing they contribute is going to be on the offensive side at this point. The caveat is Rafa Diaz mostly because when he elects to shoot the puck, it's quite nice and a better shot in my opinion that Kris Russell's shot.

Statistically for their careers nothing really stands out as a "wow he's worth having on your team" remark

Goals Assists Points PIMS +/- GP
Deryk Engelland 13 37 50 345 -11 284
Ladislav Smid 12 60 72 466 -61 561
Raphael Diaz 6 40 46 56 -10 170

So the lack of offense illustrated and proven easily, this begs the question: What do they do? The first argument would be tougher zone starts, "shutting down the opposition", and character in the dressing room. So let's go with the first two and get an idea of what type of situations they're being used in.

The Shutdown Defenseman

The true definition of a shutdown defenseman in my eyes isn't someone who blocks shots or is someone who hits hard. It's someone who makes possessing the puck difficult, uses their body, their skills, and whatever tricks they have to prevent you from passing or shooting the puck. Though I feel like a lot of people would agree with this perception, a lot of people seemingly default to intangibles and size. Cough MSM Cough

The ability to also transition and go up ice allowing to alleviate zone pressure, drive play when needed, and chip in offensively are bonuses. Then again, what I'm describing is properly the prototypical defenseman. Something every team SHOULD have many of or at least capable ones to drive play.

Example One: Comparison against the rest of the blueline (sourced from War-On-Ice)

In this we see some very unappealing visuals.

Blue = good, red = bad. The further left means more defensive zone starts while to the right you see more neutral zone and offensive zone starts. More towards the top and they're seeing more TOI % against competition while further down you see less TOI.

Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie are the only things on the blueline keeping this team together. The three mentioned in this article all have tougher starts (for the most part) than Dennis Wideman and Russell but also don't get as much TOI compared to the others.

So let's take another look at the "shutdown persona" in a different light.

Example Two: Shot attempts vs Zone Starts

Once again: Blue = good, Red = bad.

What we see once again is that despite all of the offensive Gio and Brodie produce, they're truly the shutdown pairing. Where are you see the trio, specifically Engelland struggling the most. So they're not actually shutting down much. The data proves their inefficient NHLers and the eye-test also proves it.

Though the lone caveat continues to belong to Diaz. I don't know what to make of him, mostly because he is never deployed with more ice-time or in the second-pairing at all. His shot could probably be used on the PP and he could maybe serve better than Russell at times with Wideman.

Example Three: A look at some data

Glossary - CF% (Corsi For% - All blocked, missed, and shots on net), FF% (Fenwick FF% - all missed and shots on net), CF60 (Corsi For per 60 min), CA60 (Corsi Against per 60 min), ZSO% Rel (Zone Starts - OZ Relative to Team), PDO (On-Ice SH% + SV%), SCA (Scoring Chances Against), SCA60 (Scoring Chances Againt per 60 min)

All data is ES 5v5 - Score Situation All

Deryk Engelland 40.6 42.7 43.9 64.2 -1.3 95.8 246 29.8
Ladislav Smid 42.0 44.9 46.8 64.7 -6.2 94.7 204 30.6
Raphael Diaz 41.1 42.6 42 60.1 0.0 97.2 114 26.1

  • Sample size plays a factor into Diaz and Smid's numbers a bit here. Smid has had some significant IR time this season which has skewed his numbers a bit. Diaz being a healthy scratch for literally half the season has impacted his numbers too.
  • Smid, despite his sample size is 0.3 better than Wideman for FF%, whereas Engelland and Diaz are the bottom of the team. Smid is also the product of -0.5 ZSO% Rel different from Giordano. Meaning he has a very small differential of tougher starts. Nothing to write home about.
  • Diaz in his 25GP this season is third in the team behind Brodie and Gio for CA60. So a positive there, but it's also a skewed sample.
  • All three of these gentlemen are the bottom of the team's CF60. So on ice, they're not generating many shot attempts at all. Their actual differentials of CF60 vs CA60 are alarming to say the least
  • Though they have the team's lowest SCA due to their TOI and usage, it should be noted that Wideman and Russell are the teams pairing that gets destroyed the most in terms of scoring chances.
  • SCA60 has Smid and Engelland placing 3rd and 4th on the team behind Russell and Wideman. Brodie and Giordano are 5th and 6th while Diaz is 7th for obvious reasons.

So what to make of all of this? The TL;DR continues to be: We need help and the core part of their contracts in terms of salary sucks. The only way people would probably take them is if some of their salaries were retained or if we took of advantage of them playing hot. The only thing is: they're hot garbage 24/7.

Some Closing Remarks

Listen, it's a rebuild. We need to keep it in mind, hell I need to keep it in mind. The issue we have continues to be a team riding the play of two Norris caliber defensemen, the unsustainable PDO which has fallen back to earth, and goaltending that seemingly dries up in the worst situations.

I was going to show some WOWY data to show their full impact on the roster but I'm going to post that separately as a follow up. I think any further evidence to their flawed play might make me more depressed.

I wish we saw better usage out of Diaz for starters. He isn't a completely useless, but he is. Mostly because he's used with players who legitimately are questionable NHL-level players. It's easy for me to sit here, behind a computer and make these judgments but let's face it: we all see it.

We'll close off the examination of the blueline with Dennis Wideman soon. So if you're reading this, Mr. Treliving you should probably do something about that blueline of yours.

Data used in article came from: War-On-IceHockey AnalysisNatural Stat