Early in the day on Tuesday, Chris Stewart signed a one year, one-way deal worth $750,000 with the Philadelphia Flyers
Later in the day, Twitter became a war zone. Takes of, “this is a terrible move,” and, “this isn’t a bad move at all,” circulated everyone’s timelines. Quite frankly, it was exhausting.
Between all the dross that flooded Twitter Tuesday afternoon, you had tweets like these that really put things into perspective.
Chris Stewart is fresh off of a stint in England where he played one season for the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL. Stewart chose the EIHL over the KHL for personal reasons. Stewart posted 13 points in 23 games for the Panthers.
So why are people so incensed that Stewart earned himself a contract with the Flyers?
For starters, the Flyers are tight against the cap. According to CapFriendly, the Flyers have a shade over $280,000 in cap space remaining. With Nolan Patrick and his $925,000 slated to be coming back soon, hopefully, there will likely be some corresponding moves made to accommodate Patrick’s contract.
The Flyers could have avoided this cap crunch if they kept Stewart on a PTO. However, what’s the point of keeping him around if he isn’t able to play? Signing him to a contract is likely a sign that there isn’t much confidence in rookie forward Connor Bunnaman. That’s not a bad thing.
Sending Bunnaman down to Lehigh Valley would get him more minutes than the 4th line minutes he’s currently logging. Chris Stewart has nothing left to gain from an AHL stint. That makes him a better choice for 13th forward than Bunnaman.
Another gripe centers around the whole, “he’s taking a spot from one of the kids,” argument. Let’s get one thing straight: any kid worth griping about in this situation needs to see more minutes than a fourth line role presents.
What would Farabee learn playing 8 minutes a game when he could be playing 15 or more in Lehigh Valley? How would Morgan Frost progress accordingly if he’s only seeing 8 minutes of even strength hockey a night?
“But Derrik, his corsi is putrid and his expected goals against per 60 is abysmal.”
Let’s get one thing straight, Chris Stewart will not be an analytical darling. He wasn’t signed to be one. Our buddy Ray here sums it up in one tweet.
Analytics have a place in the game today. There’s no doubt about that. However, you can’t expect your lineup to have a positive corsi rating from top to bottom. Your team’s relative Fenwick for percentage isn’t always going to be optimal. What I’m trying to say is, this isn’t Moneyball.
Advanced stat junkies are fumbling over their heat maps and line graphs because there’s no number to quantify what Chris Stewart brings to this Flyers team. The thing is, that’s ok! Not everything needs to be a number that says “good,” or “bad.”
Of course, you can put a number to size (6 foot 2 inches and 241 pounds, to be exact.) How can we measure veteran presence? How can you measure the weight that Stewart’s words carry in that locker room? Quite frankly, you can’t. Again, that’s ok!
Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Matt Niskanen, the list goes on. Why aren’t these guys’ presence enough? Considering 2 of the 3 are part of a core that hasn’t really won anything, that might be why adding more isn’t exactly a bad thing. This isn’t to say that there needs to be a big change, but it is to say that adding another veteran voice could maybe freshen things up a bit and get some of these younger forwards to listen up. You’d typically listen to a guy who stacks up like Chris Stewart does.
Don’t be blinded by the bright red ink blotches on your heat maps, or the zig-zagging lines on your line graphs. Understand that there’s more to hockey than just numbers. Stewart likely won’t be taking minutes from players who deserve to play above him in the lineup. He’ll likely only slot into the lineup every so often, for injuries and such.
It’s ok to have a player like Chris Stewart on the team. Say it with me again. It’s ok to have a player like Chris Stewart on the team.
Mandatory Credit – Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports