With the trade deadline nearing, and the Flames position getting increasingly confusing, Hayley, Ryan and myself decided to sit down and write out what we saw for the Flames in the future. Whether rebuilding is right for the club, how much, who goes where, and so on. Follow the jump and give us your opinions too.
1. Do the Flames rebuild and to what extent?
Ryan: Most Flames fans would like to hop in the Hot Tub Time Machine and zip back to the Red Mile in 2004.
Unfortunately that run is long gone despite team management’s plans to replicate that team with a
group of muckers and grinders.
Unfortunately, that’s the situation the team finds itself in right now. A team full of guys who are suited
for lines 2 through 4 with more of a checking bent to their game than a skilful one. Want evidence? The
Flames as a team have 52.7% Fenwick ratio at evens with the score close. That’s stellar. Unfortunately,
they sport a PDO of 979 in those same situations and a 0.500 record to go with it.
That PDO could mean one of 2 things; the Flames have a very poor skill level (shooting & saving) or
very poor luck. Having watched a fair number of games myself and reading through most of the reader
comments here on M&G, I’m willing to estimate that it’s more a skill deficit than just bad bounces.
With that in mind, the Flames have to rebuild to some extent, but don't have to completely blow it up.
The squad need some young offensive talent, especially at forward. We also need to have a specific
strategy for working 1-3 young players into the lineup, like with Backlund this year. It does no good to
have a stocked farm system if there is no way to work the youngsters into bonafide NHL players.
Hayley: I think they’re pretty much in a position where they have to, to some degree, and Sutter’s resignation/firing was the first indication of that. They’re not a fourteenth-place team,
but they’re not a playoff team either at the moment, and that mediocre standing is almost
worse than being outright terrible. It’s not as if there is absolutely nothing to work with
on the team’s roster; players brought up through the organization like David Moss,
Mikael Backlund, Mark Giordano, and Adam Pardy have showed promise this season
while Tim Jackman, Curtis Glencross, Brendan Morrison, and even Cory Sarich have
proved useful at times over the course of the past 49 games.
The fact of the matter is, Jarome Iginla and other veterans are slowing down and this
team lacks both a legitimate power vs. power line as well as elite offensive talent, and
it shows in games against the better teams in the league. They can no longer compete
with the likes of Detroit and Vancouver. The Flames essentially have an opportunity to
quit while they’re ahead here. Unlike teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, and Chicago
who languished at the bottom of their respective conferences under bad management for
years, the Flames have only been out of the playoffs for a season and a half. With some
interesting prospects like T.J. Brodie and Mitch Wahl coming up through the system in
the next few years, this team has some of the pieces, but not enough; a rebuild, partial or
otherwise, represents an opportunity to acquire the assets the Flames are lacking and Jay
Feaster or whomever else is in charge has to take advantage of that.
Arik: Do the Flames rebuild? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. The question is- will they do so willingly or just continue to slide until they've become the Islanders of Canada? I see there being two types of rebuilds- controlled and unintentional. If you see a rebuild being necessary far enough in the future, you can plan on it, work towards it, start stocking draft picks, sell off the older high end players while they're still good, and generally prepare for a few years of losing and teaching younger players the ins and outs of the game.
Unfortunately, for many teams, that rarely happens. What you most often see is a team refusing to acknowledge its decline, refusing to sell off top players and one day waking up at the bottom of the standings and no first round draft picks to show for it, having been sold for declining veterans in the hope that they'll "spark" the team. Fortunately, Calgary has not hit that point yet- but it's coming up in the rear-view mirror pretty quickly.
2. If trades were easy, which players do you want to see leave the team?
Ryan: First, let me start by saying I know trades aren’t easy, especially when you’re trying to dump salary
at the deadline. But to me, that’s exactly what the Flames need to do. Sitting at 14th in the Western
Conference and owning the 3rd worst goal differential doesn’t sound like a recipe for making the
playoffs. If that’s the case, it’s time to start thinking about next year and the $56m committed to only
The only way to make that more manageable is to start dumping salaries. The Flames have a number of
pieces that might be enticing to teams trying to make a cup run.
The top 3 players in this category to me are Alex Kotalik ($3m), Olli Jokinen ($3m) and Robyn Regehr
($4m). Kotalik might be appealing to someone who wants him on the powerplay, Jokinen for scoring
depth and Regehr as a solid addition to another team’s blueline. The group of them would save the
Flames $10 million in cap hit next year and gives some flexibility to remake the team.
Of those three, Regehr is the only one we could expect a good return from. If we could get a blue chip
offensive prospect for him, Feaster should pull the trigger in a hurry. My reasons for moving Regehr wer
laid out a few months ago. If Kotalik or Jokinen can be moved for even a 3rd round pick I would do it.
The Flames need flexibility more than either of these two players.
The player I would like to see moved is Kiprusoff. I know he has been the backbone of this team since
2004, but he’s not nearly the same player that won the Vezina and he takes $5.8m worth of cap space.
He would be the hardest to move since his contract runs through 2014. If you don’t believe me about
his declining skills, look at these save percentages:
2007-08 - 0.906
2008-09 - 0.903
2009-10 - 0.920
2010-11 - 0.897
Looking at that, would you say 09-10 was an aberration or indicative of his proper skill level the last 4
years? At this point, I’d say his true skill level is closer to that of a 0.900-0.905 which is sub-par. The
only thing that might make Kipper tradeable is his reputation, not his actual performance. Either way,
it’s time for the organization to turn the page.
The main reason I’d like to see so much cap room cleared is so the Flames can wade into free agency
next summer and find themselves a forward that can match up against the opposition’s best.
Hayley: The short answer is, of course, anyone without a no-trade or no-movement clause, but I
think the Flames still have to be selective in terms of what players they could potentially
move despite their seemingly desperate position. This is by no means a "fire sale,"
and I don’t necessarily agree with moving players like Moss, Glencross, or Bourque
just because you can. That’s not to say that the likes of Steve Staios, Cory Sarich, Olli
Jokinen, Niklas Hagman, Ales Kotalik, and Matt Stajan shouldn’t be moved for whatever
Feaster or his incumbent can attain, but like I said above, there are still some useful
players on this roster.
If you believe the recent rumours that Robyn Regehr has agreed to waive his no-trade
clause, than he should almost certainly be moved as well. As for the more contentious
players like Miikka Kiprusoff, Jarome Iginla, and perhaps Jay Bouwmeester, well…we’ll
cross that bridge when we come to it. At the moment, I don’t want to see any of the
aforementioned players go, but that could change depending on the potential return and
the team’s position as the trade deadline approaches and at the Draft in the summer.
Arik: This will not be a popular opinion: the best as well as oldest players on the team.
Jarome Iginla: That is the cornerstone to any rebuild. He's clearly been on a decline and looks disinterested in games 50% of the time. Right now- he could easily fetch a blue-chip prospect and a first, or some similar return from a team looking to contend. By the time any rebuild is fully underway, Iginla will be too old to contribute in the way we'd like, especially given what a return from trading him would be able to contribute.
Robyn Regehr: Provided the return is better than Tomas Fleischmann (a first, or a decent prospect wouldn't be too out of the question), should go. Again, by the time a new team is ready to compete, he'll be a shadow of his current playing ability.
Jay Bouwmeester: This one could go either way really- a lot of teams won't want a player with the price tag of $6.5M, but a team farther ahead in a rebuild with cap space could make a great offer for the defenseman. This one really just depends on whether or not a return is there- and that'll be a mystery until it happens or doesn't happen.
Cory Sarich: Old, slow, takes bad penalties. Is there any reason not to trade him?
Miika Kiprusoff: Kipper has clearly been on a decline over the past few years (as Ryan demonstrated), with last year as the bizarre anomaly. There's a good chance the Flames front office could capitalize on that and ship him off for the usual early pick or prospect.
Nik Hagman: Another member of the club of guys who will be too old to contribute to after a rebuild, ship him off at the deadline and hope you get a minor prospect who develops into a third line player or something similar.
Rene Bourque: Sent to an Eastern Conference bubble team- Bourque could net a relatively great return. Think a team like Atlanta- right at the edges of the playoff picture, looking to make it for the first time in a while, and most importantly, lacking secondary scoring. Relative to what he currently brings to the Flames, Bourque could bring the best return.
3. Who are the players we absolutely should be considering "the core" of the club?
Ryan: For the most part, with a team that has underperformed this badly, I think Feaster has to consider offers for anyone on the roster if he gets a good return for them. I don’t think we have anyone that is untouchable. That said, here are the players I would be mentally pencilling in to the 2011-12 lineup:
Mark Giordano – in my mind he’s been the Flames best player this season and at $4m per year is playing up to his new contract already.
Jay Bouwmeester – more than anything, I don’t think the Flames can trade him. He’s highly unlikely to
live up to his monstrous contract, but he’s still a very good d-man and fits fine on this team.
Matt Stajan – I know this pick will cause some controversy but hear me out. He’s a second line center
at $3.5m per year. A lot has been made of his lack of goals but he’s one of only 4 players on the team
averaging over 2 points per 60 minutes at even strength. That’s a top 6 scoring rate. He’s facing the 2nd
hardest competition for forwards (behind Hagman) and leads the team in shooting percentage when
missed nets are included. At the age of 27, he’s got 3 or 4 years left at this level of production.
David Moss & Tim Jackman – this two-headed monster seems to be driving the 4th-line-on-steroids.
Combined they cost under $2m per year and outplay just about every 3rd and 4th line in the league.
"Mossman" is a legit weapon and doubles as a cool title for a horror flick about environmental activists.
Mikael Backlund – He’s made great progress in his first extended stay on the Flames and I made my case for him about 3 weeks ago.
Rene Bourque – At $3.3m he doesn’t have to light it up in order to live up to his contract. He’s not
having a great year, but no one on the team is and he’s still on pace for 30 goals which is a rarity on this
team. My only concern is that at 29 I’m not sure he’ll get much better at this point.
Jarome Iginla – yes, I’ve changed my tune and want to keep him. If the team can get materially younger in the offseason, they’ll need someone to teach the ropes to the young guys. Iggy fits that bill and could still be one of the best 2nd line players in the league. He’s also a Calgary icon. The only way I would sanction a move is if 2 blue chippers are involved. Think Brayden Schenn and a 1st rounder.
That’s only 8 players I’ve listed. That leaves a ton of room for roster movement.
Hayley: At the moment, very few players. With ongoing debates about the trade value of players that were once considered "core" like Kiprusoff, Regehr, and Iginla the consensus seems to be that the Flames should get a package that includes draft picks and young prospects and/or roster players in exchange for some of the aforementioned names. If I had to table a guess, I’d probably say Backlund, Bouwmeester, Bourque, and Giordano—in short, some of the few players on this roster under 30.
Arik: When identifying the core of a rebuilding team going forward, two things need to be taken into account: current age and expectations for the team during the rebuild. Chances are, you don't want to be the New York Islanders in a rebuild, or just as bad, the Edmonton Oilers. You want a team that doesn't look completely awful on the ice on a nightly basis. Yeah, you can expect to lose, but so long as the team entertains and is worth watching, you'll be alright. So who should the Flames target to keep to fulfill these two requirements?
Mark Giordano: Not just a solid defenseman, but a youngish one who will still be a viable player throughout a rebuild. More importantly, he's really the heart and soul of the team right now. There is no player who gives more on the ice on a nightly basis- and that's what makes a team worth watching. Send off Iginla, give Giordano the C.
Mikael Backlund: About the only prospect who's truly developed since Dion Phaneuf, and he's still learning a lot as a player. Mickis shows creativity in every game, and seems to really care about the team. He'll get a lot better over the next few years
Matt Stajan: People love to complain about Stajan. I can understand this. But all the same, it's hard to blame him for signing an absurd contract. Fact is, he's a pretty okay second line center. He's defensively responsible, can generate a decent amount of offense, and in a rebuild, those are the players you want.
Jay Bouwmeester: With Bouwmeester- it's all about the return. If you can get a solid return- trade him, otherwise he's good enough and young enough to keep around throughout the rebuild.
4. What's your best-case scenario when the trade deadline is over (being realistic of course)?
Ryan: I’d love to see Kotalik and Jokinen gone for a spare jock and Reggie sent off to a team that could use him with a blue-chipper in return. Last summer the 3 players I mentioned that could really help the Flames were Logan Couture, Thomas Hickey and John Carlson. Two of those three are absolutely tearing up the NHL right now and Brayden Schenn probably would have been a better pluck from the Kings roster than Hickey at this point.
Some player’s I would love to see in return for Regehr? I’ll refer to the Hockey Prospectus 2010 Top 50 NHL prospects. I’ll list prospects from team’s that might need Regehr, but I’d much prefer a forward to a defenseman at this point. The number in the list is his ranking in the top 50.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – D, Phoenix (6th)
Brayden Schenn – F, Los Angeles (10th)
Vladimir Tarasenko – F, St. Louis (13th)
Mikkel Boedker – F, Phoenix (26th)
Jaden Schwartz – F, St. Louis (44th)
Louis Leblanc – F, Montreal (45th)
Evgeny Kuznetsov – F, Washington (48th)
I only chose players from teams I thought might need Regehr and were possibly in the playoff hunt. Any of those players would dramatically upgrade the Flames future offensive ability.
Hayley: With the deadline little more than a month away and the Flames’ playoff chances very
slim, it seems evident that they’re going to be sellers at the deadline. By then, Feaster
should have a good sense of who can be moved and who is available for what. I think
ideally, I’d like to see some bad contracts like Stajan's or Kotalik's moved for whatever they
can get in return, but I think the player with the highest trade value who could be moved right
now is Regehr. With one pick in the top-100 at the Draft this summer, I’d like to see the
Flames try to stockpile some draft picks even if they’re not in a position where they could
potentially pick in the top five.
Arik: I'd really love to see Regehr traded. Not because I have anything against the guy, but because it's a realistic trade. I mean, I'd hope to see Iggy flipped for Brayden Schenn and Anze Kopitar, but it's not going to happen. Regehr for a solid prospect though? That I can see. Someone like Loktionov, Boychuk, or Niederreiter. None of them blue chips, but all of them near sure-NHLers.
On a similar note, Sarich needs to be gone. Give his ice time to TJ Brodie, get a mid-round pick back. Depending on the market, the Flames could theoretically get a second for him, but that remains to be seen. Realistically speaking, that's about all I fear we can expect. Kotalik isn't leaving. Neither is Jokinen or Staios. Unless, of course, another franchise hires Darryl Sutter before the trade deadline.