Heading into deadline day I had given myself a spectrum of expectations for Brian Burke, a scope of return from acceptable to great.
Under great is what I mapped out a few months ago when Matt Stajan was re-signed: a 1st, a 2nd and a 3rd and a prospect. That was Michael Cammalleri for a top prospect or a 1st, Matt Stajan for a 2nd and Lee Stempniak for a 3rd. Get rid of the assets that will reap the biggest return. Of course, Stajan was retained, ruling the 2nd rounder in this scenario moot. Meaning about the best they were going to be able to get would be a 1st, 3rd, maybe a prospect, maybe another later pick.
Under acceptable: a 2nd and 3rd rounder, assuming he was only able to deal Michael Cammalleri for a 2nd and Lee Stempniak for a 3rd.
Anything less than the acceptable scenario would've meant a total fail on the part of the management team. As it stands, I'll give them a pass, which is truly amazing considering they weren't able to deal Cammy. Now, the hope has to be that they re-sign 13 to an extension but the problem with that would be that he's going to want long term and decent total price while best case for the Flames would be short term with high(ish) price. That would allow the Flames to showcase Cammalleri next season and attempt to trade him again for a decent asset.
I say all of this again with the following goal in mind. The Flames should be working towards building a contender, not a playoff team, a contender. In order to do that, you should compare what the organization has now to the elite teams and see where they stack up.
Let's take a look at the current depth chart for next season with some minor assumptions. *Not necessarily accurate line combos*
2014-2015 Depth Chart
Cammalleri (U) - Stajan - Hudler
Glencross - Backlund - D. Jones
Baertschi - Monahan - Colborne (R)
Bouma (R) - Reinhart/Granlund/Knight - McGratton/Byron (R)/Hanowski (R)
Giordano - Brodie
Wideman - Smid
Russell - O'Brien/Wotherspoon/Billins (R)
A really weak team once again. Lottery-bound no doubt.
Now, taking the players on this list and comparing it to what we would all expect from a contender in order to determine the holes that need to be filled.
1st LW - 1st C - 1st RW
Glencross/Cammalleri - 2nd C - Hudler
3rd LW - Backlund/Monahan/Stajan - D. Jones
Baertschi/Bouma - Reinhart/Granlund/Knight - Colborne
- Gaudreau, Poirier, Klimchuk further muddy the LW waters and are currently the only other real FWD prospects.
First of all, I'm being fairly generous to GlenX as he's probably a really good 3rd liner on an elite team and even Cammalleri might be a stretch, but that's the role he needs to fill. Hudler would be a decent 2nd RW.
Most will balk at Mikael Backlund being listed in the 3rd line C. If he continues to ascend, no doubt he will top out at a 2C, but currently, he's just not there yet. I'm a big fan, always have been, but he just needs to keep growing. Monahan also stands a chance to progress, but I can't assume progression, it's what gets teams in trouble. And he's currently not capable of being a 2C on a good team. Stajan, well, he's a hole filler and will be considered dead weight within 2 years of his new deal. David Jones is a stretch at 3RW as well.
The 4th line is filled with youth and potential. Outside of Bouma who will be a 4th line winger probably for his career, maybe a 3rd at times.
HOLES: Most importantly, 4 top 6 holes. Please don't assume that the prospects will fill those holes. If they do, great, but chances are only 1, maybe 2 of the guys currently drafted will make their way up there.
1st D - Giordano
Brodie - 2nd D
Russell - Smid/Wideman
The defense isn't too terribly bad with Giordano playing like his old self. But, they still lack an actual elite defenseman. There may be one available at the top of this draft in Aaron Ekblad, but the Flames just can't seem to get to be as bad as the Oilers, making Ekblad difficult to attain.
Brodie is an excellent 2nd pairing defenseman.
Russell and Smid make a decent 3rd pairing although I'd prefer an upgrade to Smid as it appears all he's really capable of doing is blocking shots. He's had the skill beaten right out of him Jim Playfair-style. Dennis Wideman can serve a purpose on mediocre teams but seems to have fallen off a cliff. It was a bad signing from day 1 and he'd better get back to work if he wants to avoid being Redden'd or Amnesty'd.
Wotherspoon and Seiloff look to be really nice defensive prospects.
HOLES: 2 big ones, 1 on the 1st and 1 on the 2nd line. I'm not as concerned about this as the forwards. 2nd pairing guys can come available fairly cheap. Acquiring another 1st pairing D will be hard, maybe the draft? Or, maybe if they continue to stockpile picks and prospects they can make a nice package.
Ramo looks like he will make a decent backup G in the NHL, meaning if he wants to start he'll probably head back to the KHL following his current deal. Ortio looks to be progressing nicely but is a backup at best currently and more likely just a fringe-NHLer.
Gillies has broken out of his slump in the NCAA and still has all the makings of a top goalie prospect. Don't assume with him either because he's probably still a few years away and goalies are a giant crap-shoot. Just ask the Florida Panthers and Jakob Markstrom.
HOLES: Starting G. Another big hole, but one that can be filled without mortgaging the future. Waiting on the prospects and taking chances like the Oilers have done with Scrivens and Fasth are ways to look. Fortunately, the Flames have a bit of time to figure it all out.
Here are the big holes the team needs to fill.
- entire 1st Line of FWDs
- 2nd line C
- 1st pair D
- 2nd pair D
- Starting G
No fewer than 7 very large holes. I caution all the time not to expect these spots to just be filled by the prospects. How many actually turn out on average? Even if we assign 3 of these holes to be filled by current or upcoming draftees that still leaves 4 gaping spots before the Flames can actually be legitimate contenders.
Brian Burke needs to shut his trap when he talks about being a buyer at next years deadline. The biggest mistake he made as GM of the Leafs was overvaluing his team and if he's serious about buying at next years deadline then he's seriously overvaluing the Flames too.
The Flames have the following draft picks:
2nd Rd - Col (Reto Berra)
3rd Rd - Pit (Lee Stempniak)
... plus some low-round picks. And, they do stand the chance of losing their own 3rd if Joe Colborne hits 10 goals. Unlikely, but he does see favorable ice time.
The great thing about having multiples in the 2nd and 3rd rounds is the ability to use those picks to move ahead in the draft. I'd love to see them try to get back into the mid-1st.
If Burke and Co can get through this draft without any Kanzig's then they will likely stand to have a prospect cupboard that they can finally boast about. I know people love to talk about it currently, but it's barely above-average right now. It is only after another good draft that the Flames can finally look at where they are and begin to map out a plan for becoming a contender.