The play of Ryan White this year has been a pleasant surprise. When the Flyers signed him as a UFA this past offseason I admit my expectations were extremely low in terms of what kind of positive impact he might have on the team. There has been a lot of talk over the past couple weeks about how the Flyers should seriously consider bringing him back next year. I decided to take a look at his time with the Flyers so far as well as his career numbers.
I just want to take a moment to look at some basic stats here. Ryan White is having a career year in terms of points. He is currently riding an extremely high shooting percentage. Prior to this year, his career shooting percentage was roughly 3.4%. In the past he was used in a more defensive role than during his current tenure with the Flyers. We’ll take a look at that later. Even if we assume that his true career shooting percentage is now at roughly 6.6%, I think it’s fair to say he will ultimately be a slightly more productive point producer than Zac Rinaldo. In fairness to White, we generally aren’t expecting fourth line players to put up points night in and night out. You want to make sure they can help shoulder some of the defensive burden and not be a total liability.
Trying to truly assess White’s career is a bit tough considering he’s only played more than 30 games once in his career. We’ll just have to make do with what we have here. With the exception of this year, White has been used in a fairly defensive role throughout his career. During the 09-10, 11-12, and 13-14 seasons he received a decent amount of time on the penalty kill. Since joining the Flyers though, he has not seen similar usage. When he first joined the Flyers after coming off of IR I was hoping that he would help take some of the defensive burden off of Giroux, and Couturier to a certain extent. At least, I was basing that off of the way he was used by Montreal in the past. Up until White joined the team, Giroux was the Flyers only right-handed centerman. He frequently has to go out and take “important” defensive zone draws where a right-handed player was necessary. This is where a guy like Adam Hall is really missed.
I have seen quite a few people compare the potential loss of Ryan White, to the loss of Adam Hall. I just don’t see it that way. First of all, their usage during their time in Philadelphia could not be more different. Hall was used in a strictly defensive role and saw significant time on the penalty kill. Now, it’s tough to slot White into the penalty kill since the forward units are already set and have been together for most of the year. He has been used on the penalty kill in Montreal, but I don’t believe he was ever one of their top guys. Adam Hall was very successful throughout his career in his defensive role. With the exception of the 2007-2008 season, he has been very good at suppressing shots while receiving strictly defensive zone starts. That hasn’t been the case for White.
Now I don’t want this to seem as if I don’t appreciate or enjoy the play of White so far this season. He’s done well taking advantage of the opportunity given to him. He’s been fairly successful at exiting the zone and making sure he maintains possession. When I watch him, it appears as if he always tries to have a plan and make a play when he does have the puck. He doesn’t just chip it out the zone and chase after the puck hoping to regain possession. There is almost always an attempt to hold onto the puck and try and make a play. It’s definitely something I appreciate when I’m tracking these games.
Assuming there aren’t a lot of changes on the roster next year I’m not sure White even fits in the lineup. If the Flyers were to re-sign him with the intent of having him replace Rinaldo then I’d be much more open to idea of keeping him. We’ve been through two coaches now, both of whom feel Rinaldo fills a certain need and continues to be a mainstay in the lineup. I’m not sure how much of that is likely to change even with a new coach next season. Scott Laughton is probably going to become a regular in the lineup next year. I’d like them to re-sign VandeVelde since he and Bellemare have created quite the duo on the penalty kill. I think they’ve also done an admirable job with whoever they get stuck with on their line at 5v5. Lecavalier and Umberger are still around next season. Where exactly are you going to find space for White?
Considering there haven’t been any contract talks as of yet between White and Hextall I don’t believe they are prioritizing him, which is good. If the Flyers aren’t going to adjust White’s role to a more defensive one I just don’t think it’s really worth bringing him back next year. While an increased cap hit would be fairly minimal, that money would be best allocated elsewhere.
*data pulled from war-on-ice and puckalytics*