I’d like to discuss Ryan Stone with the denizens of the Nation for a moment. The former Oiler has signed a free agent contract with the Calgary Flames, and while it’s a depth signing he’s a player I’m sorry to see leave the organization.
As many of our readers are aware, in an attempt to try and get some of the data that we know NHL teams track, a group of bloggers have been tracking scoring chances for a select group of teams. The process started with Dennis King, who tallied scoring chances for the Oilers this year over at mc79hockey.com.
The scoring chances +/- list breaks down like most people would probably expect. Three of the Oilers top four forwards by this metric last season were Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner. There was, however, one other player in the top four; here’s the order:
- 1. Ryan Stone
- 2. Dustin Penner
- 3. Ales Hemsky
- 4. Sam Gagner
Many of our readers are also familiar with rate metrics; Gabriel Desjardins provides some at his website, behindthenet.ca. They help to balance out players with different amounts of ice-time, so that rather than seeing raw points we see points relative to time on ice. The usual metric is points recorded for every 60 minutes of ice-time. I’m going to use a similar metric, and show the five Oilers most likely to throw a hit on any given shift. The number is hits per 60 minutes of ice-time:
- 1. J-F Jacques: 17.3
- 2. Zack Stortini: 12.1
- 3. Ryan Stone: 11.0
- 4. Gilbert Brule: 7.5
- 5. Fernando Pisani: 6.0
To be sure, I’m presenting him in the most favourable light here – we’re ignoring quality of competition, offensive totals, and a lot of other non-irrelevant factors. Stone came close to scoring on several occasions, but was not credited with a goal during his limited action last season. He also isn’t blessed with the feet of, say, Andrew Cogliano. Durability has been an issue over his career, at least in part because of the style of game he plays. In short: he’s a player with some noteworthy limitations and I’m not trying to make him out to be something he’s not.
That said, he’s also a physical player with size on a team that needs them. He’s a smart player who minds the defensive zone on a team that sometimes forgets that side of the game matters too. He can play all three forward positions and he’s got decent hands. He can fight a bit, too (hockeyfights.com gives him one win, one loss, and two draws last season):
Again, in short: he’s a fourth liner with a variety of talents, and a guy who looked last year like he could outplay fourth liners from other teams – unlike some of the players the Oilers have signed for next season.
The contract he signed wasn’t a particularly lucrative one: league minimum in the NHL, a hair over $100,000 in the AHL. That’s the kind of money Edmonton could easily have come up with, and I think there’s a case to be made that it wouldn’t be money wasted, even if Stone spent most of the year in Oklahoma City – the Oilers’ AHL team last year had similar needs to the big club, and one would think the Oilers would want to see massive improvements in their farm team given the fresh blood coming in and the move to a new town.
Of course, it’s also possible the Oilers wouldn’t have been able to sign Stone at the same money Calgary did: Stone’s from Calgary, and we don’t know if his history with the team this past season would act as a positive or a negative in any negotiations with him. I almost hope that was the case: Ryan Stone isn’t the kind of player that makes or breaks an NHL team., but he can be a useful cog in the machine at the right price.