It’s been a disappointing season so far for the Calgary Flames, although just five points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand and only 20 per cent of the season behind them means it’s not yet time to panic.
But for blueliner Ian White it is time to get it together. He hasn’t necessarily been standing out as a defensive disaster waiting to happen, but White’s minus-10 mark heading into today’s tilt with Phoenix is easily worst on the Flames, and 692nd overall in the NHL before last night’s games. Considering how much he plays — 21:44, just 0:08 behind Mark Giordano — and that his regular defence partner has been shutdown stalwart Robyn Regehr, and that no other blue-line constant is a minus, White’s numbers are strange.
Stranger still when you consider his track record. A never-say-die type, White is generously listed at five-foot-10, 200 pounds. The undersized former Swift Current Bronco isn’t afraid to get physical with players inches taller and much heavier, and has a sneaky good shot, one that helped him to 13 goals and 38 points between Toronto and Calgary last season.
Prior to being part of the package that headed west for Dion Phaneuf last January, White was Toronto’s most consistent blueliner. He played just 56 games for the Maple Leafs, but by season’s end only Tomas Kaberle topped White in defenceman scoring and White’s nine goals were the most Toronto got from the back end. He was also one of just five Leafs with a positive plus-minus rating and at the time of the trade was second in average ice time.
The 26-year-old is heading towards unrestricted free agency and is likely not to be re-signed by the defence-heavy Flames. That means White will be selling his services on the open market, problem is he’s on pace for the worst season of his career. Maybe not points-wise, but unless you’re a 50- or 60-point shooter, most teams prefer defensively responsible blueliners. White’s numbers thus far don’t indicate he fits into that category.
If things don’t turn around soon, there’s no way he’ll get close to the $3 million he’s earning this season. Which will be a shame for a guy who has worked as hard as he has to prove he belongs in the NHL.