And lo, Tyler Wotherspoon - he who may have been good enough to push for a spot during training camp, were a shoulder injury sustained in early April 2014 not holding him back - was recalled, and promptly healthy scratched.
Rinse and repeat for however many games over four recalls, and you have his season in a nutshell. While playing big minutes in the AHL, those evaporated every time the Flames had an injury scare on the backend. It was understandable, though, right up until the minute Mark Giordano's season ended.
When Giordano's season ended, Corey Potter was the seventh defenceman on the Calgary Flames. He was banished from big AHL minutes to NHL practices and NHL pressboxes. But then, he started playing in NHL games, while Wotherspoon - nine years his junior - sat.
And continued to sit, even as Raphael Diaz went down, forcing Potter back in. Right up until the last, meaningless game of the NHL regular season, when Wotherspoon was inexplicably thrown out against top competition after having not played an NHL game in over a year, despite several opportunities to do so (including games against the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers which, honestly, should just be gimmes and fodder for prospects).
Wotherspoon was eventually able to overtake Potter in the playoffs, instantly putting up a better performance until Diaz returned. And, well, that's... pretty much it. That was his year.
We only have seven games with which to judge him, but judge we shall:
We saw very, very little of Tyler Wotherspoon. Too little, in fact. While last season, in 2013-14, he started working himself up to 17 minute games - and those were his best games - this season, he was recalled four separate times and was a healthy scratch right up until the games no longer mattered. (In the final regular season game, he was given the toughest assignments out of all the players, though, which is odd considering how when the games actually did matter, he was untrustworthy for some reason?) Playing Corey Potter over him was perplexing for a few reasons: not only does Potter not have an NHL future while Wotherspoon very well might, but Wotherspoon is actually already better. We especially saw that in the playoffs.
The kid deserves an actual chance, but fortunately, it sounds like that’s what’s in store for him next season. Last season’s offseason he had to rehab from shoulder injury and missed the chance to win a spot in training camp, and that won’t be the case this year.
Mike FAIL (C):
Good job using Tyler, Bob. I really enjoyed whoever Corey Potter is over a guy who probably could have been decent if used. We saw one game of him where he made a mistake (funny how sitting for weeks can do that) and then he was banished again. I hope he gets a decent look in training camp this fall, he didn’t look bad last fall.
Much like Joni Ortio, Wotherspoon didn’t see a lot of ice time so it’s a bit difficult to grade him. When he did play, he was pretty terrible. He saw incredibly sheltered minutes, played mostly in the offensive zone, and still played rather terribly. The only individual worse than him in relative scoring chances was Deryk Engelland and for all the talk about how Potter shouldn’t have played over him, Potter put up better Corsi, Fenwick, and scoring chance numbers than Wotherspoon did.
There is a huge difference between Wotherspoon and Ortio however, and it involve the position they play. While obviously it would have been better to give a prospect more minutes to see what the team has over a journeyman player, when said prospect is getting outplayed by that journeyman and many state that the journeyman shouldn’t have a place in the league there’s a problem. While it’s true defensemen take a while to mature, he should be showing more improvement down in the A.H.L. than he has. His 24 points in 61 A.H.L. games last season projects to about 13 over the course of a full N.H.L. season according to equivalency models.
Wotherspoon will be 23 next year. He doesn’t put up a substantial amount of points, has shown no signs of lifting possession, and doesn’t get defensive zone minutes. It’s hard to see him as being anything more than a sixth defenseman at best even over the long haul. The team may not see him as part of the future and given the statistics it’s hard to blame them. If they can get a type of deal where they can trade him to another team and cut their losses much like they did in the Sven Baertschi deal it would behoove them to do so.
Such a small sample size, so it’s hard to grade him anything other than average. He was never a noticeable liability, so that’s something. Unfortunate that he was called up so many times and never got to play since he was supposed to be the Flames’ best defensive prospect. Hopefully we’ll see him a bit next season, though he’s not ready for a full time position just yet.
We didn’t see a lot of him (thanks Bob) but his postseason performances were pretty good on a depleted defensive corps. Hopefully he gets a real shot at the NHL next season.
We didn’t see enough of TSpoon to warrant grading him, in my opinion. Let’s hope Bob Hartley remedies that next season (HINT HINT).
In all honesty Tyler Wotherspoon did not play enough hockey with the Flames to warrant a grade. In his six playoff appearances, Wotherspoon saw limited and sheltered ice time, getting offensive zone starts against the opponent’s bottom lines. Either way he did his job by keeping it simple and not making costly mistakes.
HGE aside, we're all pretty much in agreement: Wotherspoon didn't play enough, especially not with the opportunities that could have been afforded. Collectively, though, we've given him a C- for his (limited) efforts.
So basically, there are two camps amongst us in regards to Wotherspoon: either he'll be working to earn the spot most of us felt he should have received when repeated injuries made the opportunity available, or he simply isn't going to be an NHL player, period, and what we saw of him in the playoffs may have been the last we see, period. He's still just 22, and while the clock is starting to tick, he does come from a position of advantage: the Flames are thin on defensive prospects, and that could bring him in.