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2014-15 Flames report cards: Dennis Wideman

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Today we examine the enigmatic and polarizing entity known as Dennis Wideman. His middle name is Earl if you didn't know that. What a great middle name.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to understand Dennis Wideman is a complex and frustrating dilemma. On one hand, you have a guy who can for the most part put up points. On the other hand, you have this incredible liability that when left to his own devices, in his own end is a lot like seeing him try and take a shot at the shootout:

This also included being healthy scratched on the second game of the season.

This season we saw the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Wideman. Swaths of time, Dennis put up great numbers (including two four-game point streaks) and it should be noted that how great (though semi-inflated) they were. His 15 goals were good for 7th in the league for defensemen. Six of which came on the power play. His 41 assists were his highest since his second full season with the Bruins in 08-09.

To contrast that other times, he struggled playing in his role. To compensate for that, we assumed Kris Russell would help him. But we know that the pairing together in just under 1261 minutes were a 43.5% CF pairing. So the safety net to allow Wideman to play risky didn't really help. While on the ice per 60 minutes, Wideman allowed 19.41 high danger scoring chances against. The highest of all defensemen with a minimum of 500 minutes at even strength on the team.

arii (C):

Some of my best friends are Capitals fans, and we have so many inside jokes about this guy from the time he’s spent on both our teams. These jokes have a common base rooted in reality, though: the man’s defensive decisions are perplexing and could be significantly better. Like Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman played in heavily sheltered circumstances, even when on the top pairing, and was often completely outmatched.

He did have a career year offensively, though, and was pretty major in the Flames having one of the highest scoring backends of the league. Here’s the thing, though: if anyone is trade bait, it has to be him. Wideman is not going to score 50 points again. He shot at 8.7%, the highest of his career. You can’t rely on that repeating itself. For context: remember when everyone hated him the season before? He shot at just 3.9%. Percentages are fickle, and will dominate your perceptions of a player. Don’t waste this career year, because it’s not going to happen again, and there are very real options to improve the top four immediately that may cost just as much as he already does.

Mike FAIL (C):

Dennis Wideman is the apex of one-dimensional players on the Flames. The fact that he was scratched early on in the season after playing some of the worst defense I’ve seen in years along with some off-ice stuff only added to it. But hey, he scored a buttload of points and everyone praises that over being able to play semi-capably in his own end.

Recency bias has such a huge factor in driving opinions of Wideman (see Ari’s very clear point about his SH%). If he puts up points, folks excuse his nearly incomprehensible play. If he goes without putting up points, folks come out in droves to pitchfork him and demand his head on a pike. A career year at the end of his "peak years" is a very clear sign of "trade Dennis Wideman". Trade him, sell high, and reap whatever benefits we can gain from this.

HockeyGoalieEh (B+):

Wideman gets a lot of flack for being a bad defender. While he isn’t great, he was somewhat serviceable in the roll and he was fantastic offensively. He put up 56 points in 80 games which many people ignore due to the poor possession stats, but while the possession stats were poor the fact of the matter is that he was contributing to the main component of goal differential - that is to say scoring - which offsets that.

He did all of this while partnered with a possession sieve defensively. While Wideman is slow and not quite as capable as he once was of denying a zone entry, Kris Russell never met a zone entry that he wanted to deny. Russell didn’t put up the point numbers that Wideman did and Wideman was the clear cut driver of the tandem’s positive goal differential statistically speaking. He also contributed heavily on the power play.

Many online argue that Wideman’s shooting percentage isn’t sustainable and that he’s likely to regress. While that’s likely true, penalizing him for scoring at a high rate on a year-end grade felt like the equivalent of docking points off of a kid’s math test because they weren’t likely to get all the answers right again. He ultimately gets a B+ with a high chance of that dropping back down to earth relatively soon.

saltysyd (B):

Wideman is currently the highest paid Flame. That doesn’t seem right. Sure, he contributed offensively this year, racking up 56 points in 80 games - a career year. That’s all well and good. But his defensive play is worrisome. Most of the defensive blunders for the Flames this year came from Dennis. He’s fine to have, but not on the top pairing. And he needs a stronger defensive partner to back him up and allow him to play more offensively. While people are in love with his career year though, the Flames should be looking to sell high - you’re never going to get this trade value from him again.

ctibs (C):

Wideman is a confusing player. I’m still in awe that he managed to score over 50 points this year despite his horrendous corsi stats. He’s a good second pairing guy, but shouldn’t really be relied on for massive ice time. When he gets the puck, he can move it well, but his defensive skill limits him from getting the puck in the first place.

LiamPMcCausland (C):

I honestly don’t mind him. Never should he be on the first pairing, but he’s quietly reassuring and does his business with little trouble. I’ve got no real complaints about him.

cofstats (B-):

Add Dennis Wideman’s name to the list of Calgary defensemen who had career years - 56 points in 80 games which, quite frankly, is incredible and good for fourth place among all NHL defensemen. He uses his size effectively in his own zone, however he lacks the speed to force turnovers and turn the puck up ice, which led to below average possession numbers even by the Flames’ poor standards.

Overall, Wideman makes for a decent second pairing d-man, but at 32 years of age and coming off a career year, he’s definitely prime trade bait. One potential problem, however, is that Wideman has a no-movement clause. He would likely consider waiving this for a trade to a contender, which would see the Flames netting prospects in return.

As you can see, most of our opinions revolve around a central list of concerns that have plagued Wideman for a lot of his career. With that in mind, we've given Dennis Earl Wideman a steady C+ for his efforts this year. On one hand you have career highs in points, on the other you have massive liabilities. As cofstats mentioned, he is 32, and potential trade bait pending some list of suitors. Selling high would be a very sensible idea for the team.