I really didn’t want to write this article. I really didn’t. Yet it’s become apparent that some people need to be reminded that the Calgary Flames didn’t miss the playoffs because their top players weren’t good enough.
After browsing through numerous chat sections on our site, on the Flames main Facebook page, and other sites such as CapFriendly.com, we need to remind ourselves just how lucky we are to have some of this high end talent on the Flames.
We knew coming into this season that the Flames didn’t lack the star-power, we knew they lacked depth scoring. Ultimately it was depth scoring that sunk them this year, so that’s where our focus should lie, not on the Flames top guys this season.
Dom at The Athletic shows us how good Calgary’s top guys were using his very well done “Star Power” metrics, tying for third highest league-wide. This again emphasizes the Flames inability to bolster their bottom six forwards once injuries starting happening.
Of course hockey is a team sport so the failure of the team becomes the failure of all players, coaches, and management, but to say that the Flames would get somehow better by trading the top level guys they have is ridiculous.
If you’d like a couple examples of how trading your best players has worked out, I’d encourage you to look up the road in Edmonton, or out east in Montreal. If you’d like an example of a team staying the course when they easily could’ve panicked, let me point you to the Winnipeg Jets.
Other GM’s won’t toss Calgary a lifeline, they’ll toss them an anchor, and will be waiting to pounce on a panicking Calgary making rushed decisions.
Let’s run through a few players who catch a lot of unnecessary flack from fans:
*I didn’t include Matthew Tkachuk in this because he’s received widespread love from the Flames fanbase thus far
Johnny Gaudreau has the 13th most points in the NHL in the four years he’s been in the league. He’s one of the most dynamic players in the league and dazzles on an almost nightly basis. He’s been to the All-Star Game in all four of his seasons in the NHL. He was the first Flame since Theo Fleury in 1992-93 to have 60 assists in one season. He’s 24 years old and on a contract that looks like an absolute steal for the next four seasons.
But he should be traded right?
I’m not saying Gaudreau isn’t without is flaws, as I wish he could work on giving the puck away less or maybe shooting a little more. However the fact that some people think Gaudreau isn’t a good player because he lacks “grit”, doesn’t hit, and doesn’t fight is absolutely astonishing.
In a league that’s trending away from the strong gritty teams (Anaheim, LA) for faster skilled play (Vegas, San Jose), is all that grit really necessary? And oh yeah, is it even wise for Gaudreau to be trying to hit guys who are on average 5-8 inches taller and 50-75 pounds heavier? Could he stand to gain a bit more push back or a bit more of an edge? Sure, but expecting him to go out and be this guy that’s laying other guys out and starting fights is just ridiculous.
Gaudreau was top five in points for most of this season before the entire team hit that wall in March and it’s not crazy to expect him to hit 90 points next season. He’s a star and we’re lucky to have him.
His name has been bounced around in the trade market basically since the day he got to Calgary and it’s absolutely ridiculous. Why the Flames would ever want to trade a top pairing, 24 year old, right handed shooting defenceman, for anything is beyond me. Did I mention he led the NHL in goals by a defenseman this season?
Yes I do agree with some of the dissenters who think Dougie takes too many penalties, but if it’s a trade off for his offensive upside, I’ll take it. It is a lot easier to teach a young defenseman to avoid taking penalties than it is to teach a young defenseman to become a 45-50 point scorer.
He has formed one of the top pairings in the NHL with Mark Giordano for a couple seasons now and they were spectacular again. Why they didn’t get more ice time than the faltering Brodie-Hamonic pairing is beyond me. Why Hamilton also wasn’t an immediate fixture on the top powerplay unit was another questionable decision that is probably a good reason why Glen Gulutzan’s crew finds themselves jobless today.
With three more years left at a very reasonable $5.75M per season, Dougie Hamilton is a steal of a player, and the Flames would be absolutely insane to trade him. Hopefully it’s all just rumors conjured up by media and fans like it was last season.
Backlund is a guy who I’ve been hearing more gripe about over the last 2-3 weeks than usual.
Simply put, Mikael Backlund is one of the best two-way centres in the league and has been the most important piece of the 3M line over the last two seasons, although Matthew Tkachuk has played a big role as well. Backlund still put up a respectable 45 points while having another strong year driving the play.
I think a big reason why people are getting hung up on Backlund is his (well deserved) contract extension that he got this season. I’ve also seen some people pointing out his ugly looking -21 rating. Plus/Minus has become an overrated stat but it is also worth noting that a whopping -13 of that came in the final 13 games of the season where Troy Brouwer and Sam Bennett were his regular linemates instead of Frolik and Tkachuk.
We waited so long for Mikael Backlund to develop into what he is now, but now that he’s a great shutdown centre, people still don’t think he’s enough. People want him to score like Sean Monahan, but we already have a Sean Monahan, we need Mikael Backlund to be our shutdown, play-driving centreman.
A) I’m not going to speak one way or the other to Giordano’s leadership within the dressing room because I’m not in the dressing room. Look at the Oilers if you want to see how branding a player as a “locker-room cancer” and then trading them works out. We see all the good that Giordano does off-the-ice and I think he wears the C with a terrific amount of dignity and class.
B) Anyone that expects Giordano to come close to his 2014-15 offensive output under the run-and-gun Bob Hartley era is crazy. I’m much more happy with his stout defensive play over the last two seasons.
While Giordano turns 35 this season, any notion of trading him should be put to bed. As mentioned with Hamilton above, they still are one of the best defensive pairings in the league and to give up on that would be insane. Gio hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down with age, and he continues to be a top pairing defenseman in the league.
There hasn’t been as much flack given to Monahan yet, but every now and then there are some inklings and I want to get out in front of it.
When you take into account that Sean Monahan was basically duct-taped together for his final 20 games or so of the season, it makes the fact that he still tied his career high of 31 goals really impressive. He had four surgeries immediately after being shut down for the season which were all on different body parts (Significant wrist surgery, both hips, and his groin). I really hope Monahan didn’t jeopardize his future health by playing through these injuries.
In our preseason predictions, I said that Monahan would come close to 40 goals this season, and I believe he would have hit 40 had he stayed healthy this entire season. With the eight games he missed, and his injuries clearly affecting him late, the fact he still had 31 goals is promising for his continued development. He has more goals in the first five years of his Flames career than Jarome Iginla did.
Oh yeah, he’s also only 23 years old and on another good value contract for another five seasons. Sean Monahan is a young first line centre in this league, and any idea to move on would be ludicrous.
The Flames were a top heavy team this season, we all know that. But the notion that getting rid of some of the top guys on this team will somehow make them better is ridiculous. Could this team use more mental toughness? Yes, but trading the best players is not going to do that.
Calgary needs to make a couple improvements to their scoring depth such as finding a true top line winger, and hopefully get a league average powerplay. Hopefully they can find a coach that gives them some tough love and gets them ready for the big games. This is all a lot easier said than done, but there’s one definite in all of this.
Trading your best players in the position that Calgary’s in, will simply not make them a better team next season.