It's a statement that would have got you cut-off at the bar the last couple years, but this season, truer words may never have been spoken and it sums up what's been a disappointing start for a team in which there were greater expectations.
But seriously, as the club's oldest player at 34 years and seven months, Engelland has played a simple, no-frills game all season. If the Flames were getting anywhere near that degree of consistency out of his much-higher profile and higher-paid colleagues like Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton and Dennis Wideman, this team would not be in the mess it finds itself.
"Probably the best start to a season I've ever had, for sure," said Engelland, when I asked him this weekend if he felt he was playing the best hockey of his career. "So far, I'm pretty happy with my game individually, but we've got to work on some things as a team."
At 5-10-1, the Flames wake up Monday morning as the owner of the league's worst record. Only Arizona has fewer points but the Coyotes hold two games in hand.
While plus-minus is a stat has its detractors and I get it, this is also a results-based business as they say. In this instance, that statistic seems to support what the eyeballs are seeing and that is a guy that has been Calgary's most consistent defenceman over the first 16 games.
A glance at how the Flames defence have performed at even-strength:
- TJ Brodie - 16 gm, 18:48 TOI, 18 GA (-11)
- Dougie Hamilton - 16 gm, 14:11 TOI, 16 GA (-9)
- Mark Giordano - 16 gm, 18:12 TOI, 15 GA (-3)
- Jyrki Jokipakka - 12 gm, 14:20 TOI, 8 GA (-3)
- Deryk Engelland - 16 gm, 15:29 TOI, 7 GA (+8)
- Dennis Wideman - 9 gm, 16:23 TOI, 6 GA (+3)
- Brett Kulak - 8 gm, 15:14 TOI, 5 GA (+3)
No team has a greater negative goal differential than the Flames at minus-20 (Vancouver is next at -15) and yet somehow, Engelland ranks in the top 20 in the entire NHL in plus-minus (+8). It's astounding, really.
"He's gotten more minutes this year and he's ran with it," says coach Glen Gulutzan. "He's one of the guys that has taken what we've given him and gotten better with it."
Trust Breeds Confidence
A word you hear all players -- young and old -- talk incessantly about is confidence and it's a frame of mind that can be elusive. When you have it, you play at your best, but when you don't, every shift becomes much more difficult.
The latter is no way to play effective defence in the world's best hockey league.
"He's a mature NHL player," says Gulutzan. "He knows what his role is. He knows how to play within himself. When he doesn't, I remind him and it doesn't take him long. His ups aren't that high and his lows aren't that low. He's an evolved NHL player. He knows his role in the league."
Gulutzan, of course, knows Engelland from when he coached him for two seasons in the ECHL over a dozen years ago, back when he was fresh out Moose Jaw in the WHL.
"He was a guy that I knew his character," Gulutzan sayss. "There was probably a level of comfort with me with him. He's a real leader in our locker room. The style we're playing, he's played before. He's played in Pittsburgh and a lot of the things weren't new to him and he's hit the ground running. He's a guy that obviously we trust and we lean on for leadership."
"He goes about his business the same way every day and it shows in his play," says the 22-year-old understudy. "His consistency is always there and you know what you're going to get from him every night and that's why I've thrived playing with him. I know we're going to be simple in our own zone, we're going to talk a lot and just play a hard game."
Twelve years apart in age, Kulak says he can learn a lot from seeing how Engelland -- 15th oldest defencemen in the league -- goes about his business.
"Just watching him, it goes back to his consistency and I'm sure he's learned that over his career. He never comes to the rink with the thought, oh I need to do way more than this or way more than that. He just trusts his own game and knows he'll just do the right things."
While they've only had a short time together, goaltender Chad Johnson enjoys playing behind Engelland because you know what you're going to get.
"It's just that simplicity in his game. Being in good spots," Johnson says. "It's the experience that he has that makes him consistent. If you have an older guy, you want him to be steady, relied upon, can play big minutes and kill penalties, block shots. He does that for us."
"He's consistent and as a team, you model yourself around the consistency in the way he plays. Not his style, obviously, it has to be your own way, but the way he brings that consistency and that focus in practice and you expect that steadiness from a veteran guy."
In contrast, Johnson says much of the rest of the team is almost trying too hard.
"When you're not having success, everybody pushes. Everybody tries to do sometimes too much," says Johnson. "For us, it's up in our heads, and making sure we're dialed into the details. What is killing us right now is little mental mistakes in either coverages or positioning and at the end of the day, the teams that make less mistakes will win hockey games, especially when they're in the area around the net.
"For us, the mental side is making sure we're dialed in every game, from start to finish, every shift, every play, making sure we're engaged and not trying to over-coach. Everybody wants to say oh we've got to do this, we've got to do that, these guys should be doing this, they should be doing that. It's hard not to just say control what you can control as an individual and make sure you're focused."
If there's one thing we've learned lately is the NHL is becoming more and more of a young man's game where 30 seems to be the new 35. The league is faster now than ever before.
That makes it even more surprising that Engelland, not the swiftest of skaters, has been able to enjoy some modest success. We're still talking about a third-pairing calibre of player, but used frequently in a top-four role this year, he hasn't hurt the team. Far from it.
Going back to 2002-03, Calgary has only had three defencemen in the line-up that have been older. Included is their age in years and days (per Hockey Reference) as of their final game for the Flames:
- Bryan Marchment - 36 years, 351 days - Apr. 17, 2006
- Adrian Aucoin, 35 years, 298 days - Apr. 27, 2009
- Cory Sarich - 34 years, 253 days - April 26, 2013
Playing the best hockey of his career, the pending unrestricted free agent come July 1 doesn't feel like he's near the end. Far from it.
"I'd like to definitely get a couple more years in, for sure. My body is feeling good, I feel healthy. If I can get (a contract), I'm going to take it," Engelland says.
"Either way you're going to play there," he says with a wry smile.
Fair enough. Whether it's as the home team or the visiting team, it's safe to say he would enjoy that opportunity.
"At the end of the day, I just want to get a contract, no matter where it is. I don't want to set my sights on one place, and then you don't have anything and you're going on a PTO. My main goal is to continue to play well, and hopefully the contract will take care of itself."
"That would be great, but right now. I'm just going to go day by day, playing my game, and trying to help us win."
"I've always believed on teams that I've been on that those kinds of guys are the guys that make the difference. The third and fourth line guys, the 5-6 d-men, that's where it matters," says Johnson. "Everybody has a top two lines that are pretty equal. You have other teams that have skilled guys like Johnny, they all have goal scorers, but it's the bottom lines, the guys that do the dirty work, that don't get a lot of recognition, who make the difference in winning hockey games."
The Flames quest to find consistency as a team continues Tuesday night in Minnesota. They're back at the Saddledome on Wednesday when the Coyotes come calling.
Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick -- both on the Flames 2016-17 season, and on what could be Engelland's final season in a Calgary uniform.
Recent Flames Reading:
- FF80F Podcast: Episode 8 - Wes Gilbertson Stops in to Discuss the Flames Woes - PostMedia beat reporter Wes Gilbertson joined me for the latest podcast where we get into all the topics that have Flames fans frustrated and angry. (Nov. 12, 2016)
- Too Early for Final Judgment: 5 Reasons for Fans to not Give Up Hope Quite Yet - While things may look hopeless and maybe the Flames are who they are, there are compelling reasons in which it's too early to wave the white flag. (Nov. 8, 2016)
- Five Sunday Morning Musings Between the SoCal Back-to-Backs - Reflections on a 5-0 spanking to Los Angeles, which was arguably the second worst loss in team history. Also, time for Nicklas Grossmann to be put on waivers. (Nov. 6, 2016)
- Wild 22.8 Second Ride: Gritty Shift for Stajan Preserves Win, Showcases Value - A fun look at the final shift of the game for Stajan as some furious defending helped Flames emerge a 3-2 winner in San Jose. Plus a feature on the man himself. (Nov. 4, 2016)