Thanks to injuries to David Moss and Brendan Morrison – plus a total lack of capable forward prospects – the Flames recalled Ales Kotalik this morning from the Abbotsford Heat. The $3M boat anchor acquired for Olli Jokinen (subsequently re-signed!) has operated at a point-per-game pace in the AHL since his demotion with four goals and 19 points in 18 games, which at least suggests he hasn’t completely fallen off a cliff.
Given his history as a mediocre even strength player, Kotalik was always a bad bet at $3M per year. It was bad when Sather signed him to that contract and bad when the Flames acquired him. That said, a confluence of circumstances have conspired to paint him as worse than he actually is in the NHL, meaning he might actually be a worthwhile addition at half price.
Kotalik began the season in Calgary injured. When he returned, he struggled to fit into the line-up. In 20 games, he scored a lousy three goals. His corsi rate was mediocre (+0.56/60) despite relatively soft circumstances (middling competition and a zone start ratio of 54%). Of course, Kotalik has always been pretty bad at driving the play north at ES, so none of this is unique to his current struggles.
What really suppressed his output below career normal levels in Calgary was a mix of terrible bounces and a lack of PP time.
We’ll deal with the latter point first. Kotalik has long been known as a PP/shoot-out specialist in the NHL, owning in no small part to his cannon if a shot. During his 20-goal seasons in Buffalo, Kotalik routinely garnered nearly half of his goal totals from the man advantage, including 12 in 2007-08 and 10 in 2005-06. He averaged more than three minutes of PP time per game in each of those seasons and produced as a result.
In Calgary, Kotalik was down at 1:26 per night and often on the Flames "second unit". That’s simply not enough for a guy like Kotalik who is unlikely to hit the ball out of the park at 5-on-5.
As for the bounces, Kotalik was also terribly unlucky during his 20 game stretch for Calgary. His PDO (on-ice SV% + SH%) was a paltry 92.6, due mainly to his ridiculously low on-ice SH% of 3.67. With the league mean around 8% and the tendency for percentages to eventually regress towards the average, this suggests Kotalik is in for a big rebound at some point in the future – should he he ever play in the NHL again, that is. Add in a personal SH% of just 6% this year and you have an overpaid, mediocre player deployed in less-than-ideal circumstances getting kicked around by the hockey gods.
As mentioned, Ales is a bad bet at $3M, even if we grant a bounce back up to career normal levels. However, at $1.5M and considering the Oilers need for established NHL veterans going forward, Kotalik might represent a worthwhile addition. Waiver rules preclude Edmonton from playing Kotalik this year should he be claimed, but with just one season left on his contract he could be a capable enough performer for Edmonton in 2011-12, even if it’s mostly as a PP guy.
Of course, the best part about claiming Kotalik would be sticking the Flames with $1.5M in dead space next season, particularly since they’ll be battling some significant cap issues as it is. While the Oilers aren’t likely to contend with Calgary in the short-term (think: next season) that is no reason not to make Calgary’s life a bit more difficult if possible.