Thursdays Hot Coals and Anton Babchuk

TJ Brodie, will he be on the Flames regular roster this season?

Flames Coals:

The Jay Feaster Metamorphosis or Feastaforphosis, as I like to call it, has been noticed by the Hockey Writers in Coal 1 where the Flames new drafting methodology gets a once over. Flames prospects have gotten write ups in distant foreign hockey markets which usually spend their time obsessing about their own teams. Little blurb here on Ryan Howse in the Montreal Gazette Coal 2. The Toronto Sun gives separate articles to Leland Irving Coal 3 and John Gaudreau Coal 4. (Yes I know Vicky Hall is a Calgary Herald writer but still...)

NHL Sparks:

Arbitration time has kicked in. Here is a nice little list of players this year who may have a third party decide their salary unless they come to terms beforehand. In cases where the team elected arbitration Shea Weber and Zack Parise of the Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils respectively are headed to the table. 

In the player elected arbitration category Anaheim Ducks - Dan SextonBuffalo Sabres - Andrej SekeraCarolina Hurricanes - Derek JoslinChicago Blackhawks - Chris CampoliViktor StalbergColorado AvalancheKevin PorterRyan WilsonEdmonton OilersAndrew CoglianoLos Angeles KingsAlec MartinezBrad RichardsonMontreal CanadiensJosh GorgesNashville Predators - Sergei KostitsynNew Jersey Devils - Mark FraserNew York IslandersBlake ComeauNew York RangersBrian BoyleRyan CallahanBrandon DubinskyMichael Sauer / Phoenix CoyotesLauri KorpikoskiTampa Bay LightningTeddy PurcellVancouver CanucksJannik HansenWinnipeg JetsBlake Wheeler.

All linked for your quick reviewing pleasure. Not a whole lot for the Flames to be interested in this year but maybe next year if they end up on one year deals? Discuss as you see fit although it is looking quite a ways ahead in time. 

And onto a little defense of the offensive defense man with Anton Babchuk in a starring role after the jump.

More Regehr Reflection

Just to liven up the off-season I am going to do something taboo here on M&G and question our Godfathers over on Flames Nation. I read Flames Nation all the time, you should too. The analysis from Wilson and Cleave is top rate. Lambert has gotten so negative that sometimes I wonder if he is an undercover Oiler troll but regardless, great work over there for the most part and happy to plug them here. 

Wilson and Cleave rarely get questioned because their analysis is pretty tight. But tight does not mean absolutely right. 

Now I have heard rumors about this thing called Math which seems to have a growing influence on the interpretation of the game. I've taken a rookie contribution position on Arctic Ice, not only because I am a fan of the Jets and full of Jets memories but also to expose myself to some of the best at it (Gabe and Ben and continue to watch Ryan do his thing). Hopefully through osmosis I will one day be able to do a bit of it myself eventually.

Usually I just sit back with a beer and watch the game and get an overall impression.

I didn't have a brain implosion over the Regehr trade (although I was disappointed like everyone else) because based on the last couple seasons I saw a decline in his game. He will still be top 4 in Buffalo and will contribute a significant leadership factor, so I don't think the Flames win the trade by any stretch, they have rolled the dice HUGE on Chris Butler who may or may not even earn a top 4 spot. 

I've watched Regehr for his whole career. He was never fast to start with but he was the slowest I have ever seen him last year. I saw Jay Bouwmeester covering for him, where in the past it was Regehr covering for whoever he was paired with. I'm not sure if the decline in Regehr's game, was that obvious unless you drink from the fountain of advanced statistics, so I am not sure if many outside of Ryan, who plays oracle here to a tee and nailed down the future with a prophet like post in this old M&G one last December. 

Ryan was using that thing called Math to come to his conclusion while I was just drinking beer and going hmmmm, Robyn is having an off game again. After saying that one too many times I was at the same place as Ryan.

Lastly, one last option for the Flames is to find a team with a lot of cap space and give up Regehr for a package of draft picks or possibly just as incentive for that team to also take on a cap-killer contract like Ales Kotalik.

Regehr's Real Value

One reason that it might be time to trade Regehr is that his perceived value may be higher than his actual value at this point.  Reggie has built a reputation around the league as a physically tough, shutdown defenseman.  For years he lived up to this reputation... Ryan P (M&G - Dec 1, 2010)

(Read the rest of it if you can Flames fans, it will make you feel a little better about the Regehr trade.) 

 

Jay Bouwmeester was defensively very good last year, as Ryan shows here again and I think all Flames fans should be grateful on one level that Regehr was paired with him. Jbo takes a lot of heat but really it isn't justified from the defensive perspective as Ryan illustrates. 

Now onto Anton Babchuk

First, Feaster from the Flames NHL site on the Babchuk signing. Mandatory viewing here. This is only a general link you have to go down to the July 4, 2011 interview lower down for the interview. 

Couple take away quotes

What I like about Anton is that he is a confident guy, he is confident in his own ability and he didn't want to do a three year deal because he believes he is going to be a 50 point guy. If we were to do a three-year term he feels he is going to be underpaid.

(Jay Feaster)

No one in creation may have confidence in Anton Babchuk but the kid has confidence in himself and thinks he can improve, this is important and critics be damned.  

I think the reason why we could get it done at that number (2.5million) is because Anton really liked it here in Calgary. He liked the team, he liked his teammates, he wanted to be here and that was a big factor that he wanted to be here. [Anton Babchuk] told me during our exit meeting he said that he has never been around a better bunch of guys, a better leadership group and never felt better as part of a group than he did here [with the Calgary Flames] 

(Jay Feaster)

And then I read this from Mr. Lambert, just so not on the mark. Darryl Sutter did not do his due diligence on Erixon but Erixon is the exception not the rule. Should have had him signed long ago and calling Calgary the new Edmonton is, well, not worthy of comment but it probably made Oiler fans feel good about themselves. 

Babchuk signed at a discount to play in Calgary, as did Tanguay, as did Glencross and if you think otherwise I don't think you are in tune with the FA market. Personally, I think the kid could have got himself at least 3 million if he simply went to the highest bidder and yes that would have been another over-pay on a long list of FA overpays.

 Yet despite value, short term and a good attitude illustrated by being very positive about the team, the city and a desire and personal belief that he will improve his game the kid hits everyone's or most everyone's shit list. 

*Sigh*

Wilson and Cleave of Flames Nation write excellent criticisms of the signing and you might want to give them a gander now, if you haven't already.

The real world isn't black (all negative) and white (all positive). They raise several correct criticisms that I do not disagree with. If anything my point from here on out is that solid analysis is shades of grey, not black and white but I think they are both too much to the dark grey, while I am definitely on the lighter side of grey for Mr. Babchuk.

Yes - Anton Babchuk is a sheltered D-man. Yes - he is a 5-6 pairing. Yes - putting him on the PK is not a good idea. Yes his corset isn't pretty enough, I mean Corsi, and he only scores average on the funwick scale, guess he isn't the life of the party. Isn't this typical for an offensive Defense man though? 

Babchuk has a bomb of a shot and it is accurate. Surprisingly accurate. Something Wilson acknowledges at the end of his article in the just too brief "pro side" of it. Wilson is ready to predict that Babchuk will freeze at a 5-6 D pairing but will not give him the benefit of the doubt that he will also maintain his elite D man shooting %? Yes regression on Babchuk's shot is possible but so is Babchuk's evolution into a legitimate 4th D man then.

Why so glum?  

My issue with Wilson, simply put, 9 paragraphs on the Cons of Babchuk and only one sexy picture and 2 paragraphs on the Pros. There should have been at least two sexy pictures and two positive paragraphs.

There is more upside here. This is a good signing in value, term and role for Anton even if he must remain sheltered and used in a limited way. The kid has the potential to pop 35-50 points and make the Flames PP something to be reckoned with. That alone makes this signing solid. 

Cleave acknowledges the value of the signing and his lack of concern about the NMC / NTC, something I agree with on both points as well. But Cleave is still a little down on the signing despite acknowledging a lot of the positive aspects. Good value, short term, PP injection.

  That inability to help the club do the work that defencemen are ultimately essential for is really at the heart of my objection to keeping Babchuk.

Robert Cleave (Flames Nation - July 6, 2011)

This is a fair point on Babchuk but this is a question of perspective. I don't think anyone is seeing or anticipating Babchuk to fill the role of all-around defenseman. There may be some long-shot optimism that he will crack the 4th D spot but this is not the absolute plan, nor does it need to be. 

Babchuk is an offensive Defensemen in the same spirit of the 4th forward tag that offensive D sometimes get tagged with. He pinches, he shoots, he scores and he looks lost in his own zone and needs to be sheltered. 

Conclusion:

My point is that there is a Darryl Sutter hangover going on here, even from some of the best Flames bloggers in the business. Sutter was very much about Defense. Flames fans are so used to a solid top 4 D that the fact the team has left this mold is extremely uncomfortable for a lot of fans.

Not me, the team has a new GM, he is going to transform the team. This is the fun part as a fan. 

Darryl Sutter prioritized Defense and a team of hitters and grinders. Jay Feaster does not. Jay Feaster is putting less focus on Defense. This seems to have created a lot of confusion for some who are still looking at the Flames from the same mold of Sutter expectations, oh Ryan Lambert, you jester you. 

Feaster knows exactly what he is doing and he hinted at it in his first interviews when he was hired last July as Assistant GM.

He was brought in to challenge Darryl Sutter's views, he openly commented when he was first hired that he saw the future of the NHL to be about speed and skill, not so much about defence and goaltending. He quickly caught himself in that interview, probably realizing how Kipper was viewed in the fan base, that he felt goaltending was important but still you had enough of a hint where Jay Feaster saw the future of the NHL game.

A desire to go after an aging Brad Richards should again further drive home the reality that the Flames under Feaster will be an offensive team, not a defensive one. 

He is drafting players based on skill, not size. He may or may not obtain a legitimate top 4 D man and yes Joe Corvo is a good D man and would fit into the top 4 but I don't think Jay is interested in older D men. I don't think he really prioritizes the D anywhere near as much as Darryl Sutter did. 

Everyone talks about how the Flames have had nothing for prospects for years. Well, remember Anton Stralman who they threw away for nothing but a 3rd round pick, he seems to have done pretty well cracking the top 4 in Columbus.

Dare I remind Flames fans of Keith Aulie. Fact is the Flames have been thick on D prospects, we may get a surprise on how quickly they transition. After just a single year Aulie ended last season on the top 2 pairing with Dion Phaneuf over in Toronto. My point, the D prospects may be a lot better than some may think and after years of fans wanting to see youth I think we will be seeing it this year. 

Time to adjust perspective, the Flames are changing and expecting moves similar to ones that Sutter would have made isn't the right perspective. Feaster very well may go into the season as is and keep his options open with the Cap Space to pick up an extra D man only if blatantly needed. 

I see no problem with the Babchuk signing, it was a solid one and I also think the D prospects are going to surprise. They may be much further ahead on NHL ice than is typical because of the Sutter obsession with developing them for so long. 

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