Rebuilding the Flames

Robert Vollman
December 09 2011 08:59AM

 

 

There has been much discussion about whether the Calgary Flames need to "blow it up" and rebuild the team with high draft picks just like divisional rivals like the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche or the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders in the East.  Unfortunately, there are four fundamental flaws with this approach.

1. It doesn't always work

Finishing near the bottom of the league and getting early draft picks doesn't guarantee a team's success, just look at the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have made the post-season just once in their eleven seasons - a streak unlikely to end this year.  The Florida Panthers might end their ten-year streat of missing the play-offs, but it will have been by virtue of free agency, not the draft.

Worst case scenario for a small market team attempting to rebuild through the draft is the Atlanta Thrashers, who made the post-season just once in their ten seasons, and wound up leaving town entirely. 

2. The effects aren't always permanent

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks both rewarded their patient fans with Stanley Cups, and things have definitely been turned around in Los Angeles and Washington, but how long will it last?  Entry-level contracts protect players for only three seasons, after which they cost you full price, like Drew Doughty and his seven million per season.

Unless the underlying causes of the team's original poor performance is addressed, any improvement through the draft will be temporary. Just ask the fans of the Carolina Hurricanes, who were rewarded with the 2006 Stanley Cup after three early picks, but have made the post-season just once since then, and currently sit dead last in the Eastern Conference.

3. It isn't always necessary

There have been many veteran squads that rebuilt while staying competitive, with the Detroit Red Wings being the classic example, having made the post-season every year since the 1990-81 season. 

There are plenty of other examples of teams that made it a habit to chronically replenish their system and cycle out their veterans, like the New Jersey Devils, who missed the post-season last year for just the 2nd time since 1989-90, the Philadelphia Flyers, who have missed out just once since 1994-95, and the San Jose Sharks, who have made the play-offs 12 of the past 13 seasons, including six 100-point seasons and 2 more 99-pointers.

There are certainly teams that have had little option but to force their fans to watch non-competitive hockey for years on end for a 50/50 chance of being competitive temporarily, but it should truly be viewed as a last resort.

4. They're already rebuilding

The Calgary Flames don't need to blow anything up to rebuild, they are already rebuilding, and in a way that doesn't hurt the team on the ice. Don't believe me? Check out the players they have let go, the ones they kept, and the ones they brought in.



Flames out      Age  GP  GVT   Cap
Robyn Regehr     31  79  6.3  $4.0M
Daymond Langkow* 35  72  5.2  $4.5M
Steve Staios     38  39  4.0  $2.7M
Niklas Hagman    32  71  2.4  $3.0M
Adam Pardy       27  30  2.3  $0.7M
Ales Kotalik     32  26  0.0  $3.0M
Tim Erixon       20   0  SEL  $1.8M
Total            31 317 20.2 $19.7M
*Daymond Langkow's statistics from 2009-10

The Flames let seven players go with an average age of 31 even when you include 20-year-old prospect Tim Erixon, who cost $19.7 million towards the cap but contributed just 20.2 goals above replacement-level, in 317 games. By contrast, here's the group the Flames decided to keep.


Flames kept     Age  GP  GVT   Cap
Alex Tanguay     32  79 17.6  $3.5M
Curtis Glencross 29  79 12.0  $2.6M
Anton Babchuk    27  82 11.3  $2.5M
Brendan Morrison 36  66  9.7  $1.3M
Henrik Karlsson  28  17 -1.1  $0.9M
Total            30 323 49.5 $10.8M
 

The Flames kept a slightly younger group who played roughly the same number of games, but contributed well over double the number of goals above replacement-level, and it cost them about half as much. The group of players they kept together have roughly five times the value of those that left. They also kept AHLers like Brendan Mikkelson, Max Reinhart, Jordan Henry, Leland Irving, Jon Rheault, Carter Bancks and Joe Piskula. And who did the Flames bring in?


Flames in          Age  GP  GVT Cap
Roman Horak         20   0  WHL $0.8M
Paul Byron          22   8 -0.2 $0.6M
Chris Butler        25  49  2.2 $1.3M
Pierre-Luc Leblond  26   2 -0.4 $0.5M
Derek Smith         27   9  0.6 $0.7M
Lee Stempniak       28  82  6.5 $1.9M
Scott Hannan        33  78  3.4 $1.0M
Blake Comeau        25  77  8.5 $2.5M
Total               26 305 20.6 $9.3M
 

They brought in a collection of talent almost identical to those that left, but on average 5 years younger, and at less than half the price. They also brought in more AHLer's like Guillaume Desbiens, Clay Wilson and Ben Walter. To summarize, the Flames correctly identified the players to keep, a collection of players with five times the value as those they let go, who were replaced by a group almost exactly as good, but five years younger and less than half as expensive.

Flames Out: 31 year old, 317 games played, 20.2 GVT, $19.7M cap

Flames Kept: 30 years old, 323 games played, 49.5 GVT, $10.8M cap

Flames In: 26 years old, 305 games played, 20.6 GVT, $9.3M cap

The rebuild is already happening.  If they keep it up, they will soon have re-structured their team into a legitimate post-season participant, and without having to be the joke of the league for years on end.

Ask fans in Columbus, Florida, Carolina and especially Atlanta if the Flames should blow up the team and force us to endure terrible hockey for years on end. The Flames are better off following the Detroit, New Jersey, Philadelphia and San Jose model, an approach that would have avoided their current struggles had it been followed sooner.
 

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Rob Vollman of www.HockeyAbstract.com is a regular feature writer on ESPN Insider, co-author of Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 and 2011-12, and regular contributor to NHL Numbers, Flames Nation and Arctic Ice Hockey. Innovator of Player Usage Charts, Quality Starts, GVS (Goals Versus Salary), the Snepsts Projection System, and known for work in League Equivalencies (NHLE). Twitter: @robvollmanNHL
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#2 Kent Wilson
December 09 2011, 09:09AM
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I definitely agree that a rebuild is risky and guarantees nothing. I also think you're right in that the Flames are already starting to re-structure things to some degree.

That said, I'll quibble on two fronts.

1.) Counting the GVT of the guys the Flames retained this summer is somewhat deceiving. I'll eat my shoe if Morrison, Tanguay, Babchuk or Glencross manages those GVT's again. In fact, Babchuk was a decidedly bad bet, Tanguay could very well become one in a couple of years and Morrison, despite his recent outburst, probably should not have received a raise. The best of the bunch is Glencross and I'm guessing he settles in around 8-10 GVT per year for the rest of his contract.

2.) The Flames principle failing (aside from some poor value contracts) is a genuine lack of elite NHL talent. They have nobody in or even entering their peak that could be considered a truly upper echelon player. What's more, pillars like Iginla, Kipper and Tanguay are on the downslope.

There isn't a lot of elite talent in the league, so the options for acquiring it are very limited. Probably the only route for this franchise to acquire some top-end players is the draft, which is the reason contemplating a rebuild is worthwhile.

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#3 maimster
December 09 2011, 09:19AM
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Good article. The one flaw (that I'm sure will be picked up by those commenters who want a blow-up) is that they have a bunch of nice players but no star talent and won't get that star talent unless they hit bottom (and then pick up a Kane/Toews or Crosby/Malkin). However, I heartily agree that hitting bottom is no guarantee of success (and before I hear "oilers" there's certainly no guarantee they'll be a great team in 2-3 years either - a lot has to happen between now and then).

I'd prefer they continue with the approach they're taking now - I'm likely in the minority but I like watching this team more than I have the past couple of years. One or two of the kids hits a star level over the next 2-3 years and the Flames will be fine.

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#5 bookofloob
December 09 2011, 09:31AM
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What good is replacing guys who don't contribute with slightly younger guys who don't contribute? Regardless of them being cheaper? Is that "value"? I don't think so

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#6 Kent Wilson
December 09 2011, 09:31AM
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@Robert Vollman

Fair enough on the Coyotes. No big stars there, however, they have received elite goaltending the last few years and have one of the league's heavy hitters at ES (at least in terms of moving the puck north in tough circumstances) in Martin Hanzal. Flames don't even have a Hanzal on hand, let alone a Datsyuk, Kesler, Bergeron, etc.

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#8 icedawg_42
December 09 2011, 09:41AM
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IMO they have not replaced the outgoing talent with equal incoming talent. Dion was by far the most talented player exiting, and I dont think the replacements for Regehr, Langkow and Erixon are equally or more talented. For the most part they seem to be working out fairly well in their roles, but let's face it...some 'top end' talent has moved on, and has been replaced with some decently-performing middle level talent.

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#10 kittensandcookies
December 09 2011, 09:50AM
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Yikes.

The players brought in actually need to perform better than the ones that leave. Just forgetting about money for a moment, if they perform @ 20.6, just like the old group, then you will end up in the same spot as before.

As for the players kept, you should compare them to what they made before, and how they performed before.

Karlsson shouldn't even be in the list.

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#11 Bob
December 09 2011, 09:56AM
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Let's not overlook the potential of the prospects in the system. I'm not saying we have the next Iginla in Abbotsford, but the likes of Baertschi, Bouma, Reinhart etc...should give us good steady middle tier players for a few years to come. Consider that just a couple of seasons ago we were crying foul over the apparent LACK of potential from our picks, it's a nice turnaround.

I think ultimately when people think "rebuild" they're talking Iggy, Kipper, J-Bo on the way out and trying to get high picks or top prospects back...but I don't think that guarantees a good core of high end talent you can build around. If Iginla or Kipper were to be traded, I'd rather Feaster try to find that next "core group" to put in with Gio and then build around that. An example is Atlanta going out and bringing in Andrew Ladd. Not saying it's an easy thing to execute or that it should be done, just some random thoughts i've had on the subject.

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#12 VK63
December 09 2011, 10:13AM
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Robert Vollman wrote:

One problem at a time, Kent.

You need the cap space before you can get elite players.

You also need a nucleus worth signing on with.

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#13 the-wolf
December 09 2011, 10:51AM
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1) No such thing as a guarantee. There's been a bunch of successful teams who blew it up and won and about the same amount who blew it up and screwed it up.

Even the best of plans cannot withstand bad management. Just ask all of the dumb-assed, spoiled off-spring of successful businessmen who ran daddy's once incredibly lucrative company into the ground.

I refuse to accept the Mike Milburys of the world as a strategical argument.

2) Again, solid management has to be the cornerstone of any plan, but at least those teams stated are legit contenders or close to being legit contenders. What are we?

3) NJ sucked for years and drafted Brodeur. Detroit also sucked for years and drafted Yzerman. The Flames may not need a full blow-up (I could keep Glencross, Tanguay and a reduced Jokinen as well as Gio and Bouw to ease the transistion), but they're headed in the direction of being forced into a full rebuild quickly.

4) The players on those lists need to be looked at as individual transactions. There are good and bad moves lumped in together. Definately cheaper and younger, but anyone can see that the team would be better right now if Regehr was still here.

This team does hurt on the ice. We can barely beat the likes of Colorado and Carolina. We won't be in the Oilers heads forever. We've missed the playoffs 2 years straight and we were 1st round fodder before that.

Define competitive:

The Flames organization defines it as maybe being able to make the playoffs where upon 'anything can happen.'

I define it as being a legit contender (not a miracle run) for the Stanley Cup. Full stop.

Facts are these:

a) Calgary has tried to stay competitive since '89, even in the Young Guns era. Since '89, we've gone past the 1st round once.

b) All of the Cup finalists have 3 or 4 young stars in their 20's. They've all drafted about half of their roster. Coincidentally, look at the '89 Flames roster - ditto.

Even the '94 NYR, who lots of people say 'bought' the Cup, still drafted Richter, Leetch and other important contributors.

Detroit or otherwise, succesful drafting is absolutely the key to success.

A team can certainly stay competitive after building, but first things first, let's stop putting the cart before the horse.

Besides, when I was suggesting doing what Philly does (look at them now without Carter and Richards!) and moving Iginla after he scored his last 50, how many people would've agreed with me?

You need large brass stones to do what Philly did and most GMs do not have large brass stones. It's fine to say it, but most organizations would've been unwilling to make those moves.

Also, are the Flames rebuilding or tinkering? Yes, some core guys have been moved, but largely for cap purposes. No new era, with a new star or new leadership has come in. In fact, even moving Regehr can be argued as trying to keep the status quo by silencing any resistance towards Iginla.

IMO, it's somewhere in-between, a non-commitment towards any one thing, hoping that things just work themselves out.

It's not fair to lump everyone into 2 camps of either 'blow it to hell' or 'stay as competitive as possible while adding here and there.'

I'm somewhere in the middle, though I sometimes might rant otherwise. As I noted above, there are established guys I'd be fine with keeping, but there are certain players that need to go because they're the only assets we have that we can ship to a wanna-be contender that will possibly get us some future top line players in return.

It's a lack of these top line players that has killed us for years.

Again, no guarantees, but keeping all of our best established players means certain death in about 1.5 seasons.

Do it, just don't screw it up.

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#14 the-wolf
December 09 2011, 10:54AM
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Bob wrote:

Let's not overlook the potential of the prospects in the system. I'm not saying we have the next Iginla in Abbotsford, but the likes of Baertschi, Bouma, Reinhart etc...should give us good steady middle tier players for a few years to come. Consider that just a couple of seasons ago we were crying foul over the apparent LACK of potential from our picks, it's a nice turnaround.

I think ultimately when people think "rebuild" they're talking Iggy, Kipper, J-Bo on the way out and trying to get high picks or top prospects back...but I don't think that guarantees a good core of high end talent you can build around. If Iginla or Kipper were to be traded, I'd rather Feaster try to find that next "core group" to put in with Gio and then build around that. An example is Atlanta going out and bringing in Andrew Ladd. Not saying it's an easy thing to execute or that it should be done, just some random thoughts i've had on the subject.

I'm excited over a lot of our young guys as well, but it will still be about 2 more years before we know for sure exactly what we have.

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#15 mslepp
December 09 2011, 10:58AM
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Did Ken King pay you to write this? If he didn't... he should. This is the best piece I've seen so far that sheds a very positive spin on the teams horrendous transactions.

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#16 Sincity1976
December 09 2011, 11:03AM
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Teams like Detroit and Philly have continued to thrive based on success of the draft and having the right youth mingled with their core. Both have remained attractive markets for free agents, and Philly has shown a willingness to make strong moves.

Calgary has seen a decade + of poor drafting that is just now starting to get turned around. Cap space or no cap space it will be difficult to attract the right kind of free agents. Also, given the number of NTC across the league getting the right players via trade will also be difficult.

Do we really want to hear how we almost got Parise next season? Do we want our own versions of the Heatly or Souray shows? Can we afford risking losing Iginla for nothing in a season?

Rebuilding isn't a great option for all of the reasons you listed. But it may be the only reasonable option. It also isn't as morbid as you make it out to be. Sure there is no guarantee. But many of the perpetual bottom feeders are in the basement due to a lack of budget. Some are just poorly managed.

Besides, the worst part of a rebuild is the first 3-seasons when management refuses the inevitable.

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#17 RexLibris
December 09 2011, 11:04AM
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A good read, concise and effective. I agree that rebuilding isn't a "guarantted way to winning" and have argued that each team needs to find a path that works for them. Columbus tried the finish-low draft-high, and it backfired, Atlanta, I believe, tried it for awhile but ended up repeating the process through inept management more than overt strategy.

The Detroit model is a nice one to use, but frankly Detroit is an anomaly and organizations that attempt to copy their model need to take some things into account: even Wings' officials admit that they got lucky with the drafting of their current core in Franzen, Datsyuk, and Zetterberg. They have done so well for so long due to a combination of being terrible and drafting high, being one of the first to exploit the Swedish and Russian talent pools, and then having a deep-pocketed owner who could sign the best free agents to compliment a core assembled with care and good fortune. For the Flames to attempt to copy that model they would have a very, very, very long way to go. 1st, they don't have the core group to start with, 2nd, the drafting record doesn't support a comparison (they'd need at least two more years of results like last spring to demonstrate clear improvement), and 3rd, it takes more than money to attract elite level free agents now, namely a clear chance of success, and the Flames don't have that.

The Flames need to rebuild, but primarily in their administration and hockey operations. If they draft better, make shrewder trades, and create a more competitive, and exciting, roster then the free agent market will be a greater boon to the team. Until then they seem likely, in my opinion, to use that cap space chasing free agents and finishing second.

Regarding the permanence of a rebuild, Pittsburgh won a Cup in 2009. They could win again this year, or next perhaps. With the parity of the league today that is the best a fan base can hope for when it comes to building a legacy. If Pittsburgh goes through another 15 year cycle without another Cup win, then the argument about the permanence of a rebuild could be made, but it has only been two (and a quarter) seasons since they were champions. Less than that with Chicago.

While a full-scale rebuild hasn't been deemed necessary in Philadelphia, New Jersey, or San Jose, only one of those teams has actually achieved a championship in the last 10 years ('02-'03). New Jersey and San Jose are close to going through, at the very least, a partial restructuring of their roster due to retirements and an aging core that has failed to win a Cup.

Finally, I should say that, yes, the Oilers aren't guaranteed to be the "Next Big Thing" and Flames fans would have every right to feel that they are sick of hearing about "the kids" from every media outlet. But as I have said before, it was more or less the only option left to us. The Flames are in a different place and they'll need to find their own way.

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#18 rubbertrout
December 09 2011, 11:07AM
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You also need the value younger players to still be value value players when you free up the cap space to sign the elite players.

If you are talking about needing 2-3 years to effectively free up enough cap space to be able to pay "eilte" players (I know they will have space next year but they also need to be able to field a squad which will eat up a fair bit of that space) then some of those younger players on value contracts will be requiring more money to stay around.

There has to be some short term pain in order to effectively turn this around. The problem is that the Flames so-called "elite" players (Kipper and Iggy) will be well past the best before date by then.

In some cases a rebuild can be done in smaller steps. In the situation the Flames are in they may need more of a "scorched earth" approach for a couple of years. There are risks with that for sure but wallowing in mediocrity by tinkering with the product when a clean slate is needed just makes the process take that much longer.

Avoid the mistakes of the first 3 years of the Oilers "rebuild" when they used the cap space to sign (or try and sign) high priced talent when they failed to recognize that the balance of the team wasn't that good.

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#19 Jeff Lebowski
December 09 2011, 11:17AM
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I think a misconception people cling to is: (1st rd) draft pick = NHL elite player.

It's logical and easy to look at the elite players in the NHL and see how many were 1st rd picks. However, it is also important to see how many 1st rd guys a)never make it to NHL b) have only mediocre careers.

The point is, there is no gaurantee. It stands to reason that the high picks gives you a better chance at getting elite talent but it is not assured.

I believe there is an overvaluation of a 1st rd pick (outside of top 5). I think most teams will likely have identical rankings of the top 5 players (those positions may differ only because of team need) but outside of that team rankings vary substantially. The rest are gambles. Potentially expensive and organizationally crushing gambles.

The better strategy IMO is to acquire young players already in the league or already drafted. If you're trying to rebuild your team by trading assets why not take the inherent overvaluation of draft hype out of the equation.

Perhaps this is a way not to overpay and put your franchise even further back.

I've watched Blake Comeau come here and I see a very good skillset (super fast-his speed backs defenders off, he protects the puck really well, he can finish etc) and we got him without giving up anything. Comeau was quoted as saying the Islanders have a lot of good young forwards and he got squeezed out of playing time, his numbers go down and his role changes. However I look at him and think, how could this guy have gone pointless with the Islanders?

There are other teams with that same scenario. Bad for long time, higher draft picks not enough NHL slots to play all their acquired talent. Maybe to take the next step they need a David Moss type so they would be willing to part with what they have in excess.

If on top of that, you are able to develop the prospects you already have into good players (like Vancouver did with Kesler, Raymond, Edler or Detroit with Filpulla, Helm etc). In the case of Calgary, they transform quickly without having to trade their best players. You stay competitive and you rebuild.

Those young players you integrate are sheltered by the established stars and are able to develop without having to play against tougher opponents or the burden of expectation from being traded for an Iggy or Kipper. They are set up to succeed and their confidence grows. Detroit had Yzerman then Federov then Datsuyk.

If you can get a top 5 talent then that's something different. However you have to be certain that they will fill the roles of the guys you gave up and fast.

If you had that top 5 talent other teams want, what would you want in return? Older guys?

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#20 kittensandcookies
December 09 2011, 11:18AM
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@rubbertrout

"Avoid the mistakes of the first 3 years of the Oilers "rebuild" when they used the cap space to sign (or try and sign) high priced talent when they failed to recognize that the balance of the team wasn't that good."

Sorta like how the Flames signed Bouwmeester, Stajan, Bourque, Tanguay...

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#21 Graham
December 09 2011, 11:34AM
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4. They're already rebuilding

Yes, we are building from an older team filled with bottom 6 forwards / bottom three d men to a younger team filled with bottom 6 forwards / bottom 3 d men.

This type of a rebuild will doom the Flames to a middle of the pack finish for years

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#23 the-wolf
December 09 2011, 11:45AM
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@Lebowski - the only way to get a top 5 pick is to draft him.

- I'm very happy with the Comeau pick up ,but those are few and far between and he's no game changer.

- people love that 'guarantee' word. What's our guarantee now? To finish 8-12th? Even Feaster openly stated that it only works for half the teams which I found amusing and deoressing all at once. Our GM basically stated that a full rebuild through the draft gives a 50-50 chance of winning the Cup. But who would want that?

Our chance of winning it now is almost zero and without acquiring top end talent only available in the top end of the draft it will remain zero.

- Agree on development. To me it's not a plit, it's 100% drafting and 100% development. And no, not ervy one will work out, but that's why picks can't be squandered or devalued.

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#24 suba steve
December 09 2011, 11:55AM
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I'm with Wolf, what the heck has our guarantee been the past 5 years? If we had one I want to redeem it now for some skilled youth.

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#25 drewski
December 09 2011, 12:01PM
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Great article, it takes a positive look at some of the recent moves without turning into a Polyanna remake.

I have to say (and Regehr was my favourite flame), that we would not be a better team with him on the roster this year. I watch a lot of Sabres games solely for the purpose of checking up on Reggie, and he is not lighting it up out east. The Regehr tunnel of doom that we all loved gets smaller and smaller every year. Let alone that Robyn was never the most mobile, or a breakout specialist.

I think if ownership really wants me on board, they have to find a way to ship Stajan. That guy is emblematic of all the problem's Darryl put on the team (and let's not forget that King was his auto-approved yes man). I think its even debatable whether buying him out is a bad move. At the very least it would get Downey soft Stajan off of our roster, and open up minutes for our young guys.

On a sidenote, does anyone think Kolanos can keep up his pace in Abby?

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#26 Nuck Fan Looking In
December 09 2011, 12:10PM
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I'm not really sure how you can get elite talent from the UFA market thats really going to make a long-term difference in an organization. The most typical situation it seems is that you overpay for elite talent that doesn't perform as elite talent.

The UFA market seems to best fill out that middle of the road piece of your roster (forwards 5-10)

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#27 everton fc
December 09 2011, 12:54PM
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Bob wrote:

Let's not overlook the potential of the prospects in the system. I'm not saying we have the next Iginla in Abbotsford, but the likes of Baertschi, Bouma, Reinhart etc...should give us good steady middle tier players for a few years to come. Consider that just a couple of seasons ago we were crying foul over the apparent LACK of potential from our picks, it's a nice turnaround.

I think ultimately when people think "rebuild" they're talking Iggy, Kipper, J-Bo on the way out and trying to get high picks or top prospects back...but I don't think that guarantees a good core of high end talent you can build around. If Iginla or Kipper were to be traded, I'd rather Feaster try to find that next "core group" to put in with Gio and then build around that. An example is Atlanta going out and bringing in Andrew Ladd. Not saying it's an easy thing to execute or that it should be done, just some random thoughts i've had on the subject.

Baertschi, Reinhart (maybe we can draft his kid brother Griffin), Ferland, Ramage... Leach... Wotherspoon... Arnold... Perhaps Gaudreau and Larson... Granlund... Holland... Nemisz... We have a decent group of youngsters here. I wouldn't personally put Bouma in this group; he may be a career AHLer. Or a career 4th line mucker. Who knows. I'd certainly not put Byron in this group.

I have brought up my dream of seeing Matt Dumba on our backline for years... If there is some way to draft him... We'd need to be in the #2-4 slot to have a chance. That'd be quite a coup. I also like Griffin Reinhart. Ditto Poulloit. Ditto Thrower.

As for a rebuild... JBo would be one I'd try to move, along w/Kipper if Irving proves he can play on a regular basis. Moving Kipper for a #1 pick... Or JBo for a high #2... I think smart moves. Columbus needs a goalie...

Baertschi being the playmaker he is... Might work well with Iggy. I thought about this in traffic yesterday.

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#28 Sincity1976
December 09 2011, 01:10PM
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@everton fc

My experience is that Calgary fans are overestimating our prospects. Probably becase we finally have some prospects to look forward to.

The reality is our prospect pool is still comparatively shallow in comparison to most teams across the NHL. Especially in the area of goaltending, defense, and AAA forward prospects.

We have alot of prospects that will provide effective depth. I am interested to see a second line of Baertschi-Backlund-Bourque or a third line of Glencross-Reinhart-Nemisz down the road. I am very intersted to see how Granlund does in transitioning his game to North America and if Gaudreau ends up as an NHLer. But we still have a LOT of work to do on the farm.

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#29 Jeff Lebowski
December 09 2011, 01:10PM
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If you look at some recent 1st rd drafts (2003-2008) you see some startling facts. A very small percentage of players really pan out (when taken in context of where exactly they were taken). After a cursory look I wanted to see how many 1st rounders have developed into quality (not even elite, lets say all star) players and of that total how many came from the top 5.

2003 - 12 total quality (4 from top 5) 2004 - 3 (2) 2005 - 5 (3) 2006 - 6 (4) 2007 - 1 (1) 2008 - 4 (2)

Obviously the more recent draft still have to pan out.

However it shows that in terms of elite players it's like 2-3 guys/year.

Let's say Calgary traded Iggy for a player to bridge the gap and the 10th overall pick. (I think it's unlikely to get both a young prospect and high draft pick. I think people would be pretty happy with the 10th overall pick. However, it's more likely they use that 10th pick to get another Eric Nystrom, Andrei Kostitsyn, Boris Valabik etc.

Teams that turned it around wasn't because they had high draft picks, it's that their picks developed. How do you best develop players?

There are those rare guys like Ovechkin and Crosby that can step into the league and dominate against the best right off the bat but those are generational talents. Even in those type of players Crosby had Lemieux, Stamkos had St. Louis/Lecavalier (Only Ovechkin really had to do it with no one else, which would be the case if Calgary traded Iggy. If we trade Iggy what are people hoping for in return? That elite player who can do it on his own, we don't have anyone else. Can you get the next Ovechkin for Iggy? Who is the next Ovechkin? You sure about that?).

This is why some teams are bad for so long even with all the high draft picks. You have to develop players. Why didn't their players develop?

I firmly believe that Calgary's draft performance will be drastically better with Feaster. I think they look for a different kind of player than before and I think they are looking at different, more advanced ways to identify those guys.

If Calgary could replace of few of their current guys with Comeau like guys that's all that's required. If you could turn Stajan, Bourque, Morrison/Moss into younger Comeau-esque players while continuing to develop the Bartschis, Backlunds, Horaks and even Byrons plus drafting for high end skill (which is what Feaster did last year) Your team can become very good very fast. If you have Iggy and Kipper to give the organization time to develop these players that's what I would do. That's why I think trading these guys is a mistake.

The team is changing. You see it clearly these last few games. You see Brodie and Comeau pushing and the other young guys are pushing to. You also see those young guys being protected in terms of who they play against and having Kipper there.

I'm excited by what's happening. I want Feaster to continue to work this plan.

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#30 wawful
December 09 2011, 01:21PM
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The key to becoming a perennial contender, like Detroit, is to become a rookie factory. You get to use decent talent cheap until they become free agents and you get the first crack at locking up any elite talent you develop. Plus, the more rookies your factory churns out the better your odds of finding an elite player!

What makes a good rookie factory? Obviously, the machinery has to work. You need good scouting, good farm-team coaching, and a system where rookies get a crack at the NHL lineup (not one clogged with 30+ mediocrities!). You also need raw materials to run through your rookie factory. That means you don't just need to avoid trading your picks away, you need to trade players away for other teams' picks. The profit cycle is simple. Draft a player, develop and prove him at the NHL level, and then trade him before he gets expensive for more/better picks than it took to acquire him.

Calgary has taken some steps towards fixing up their machinery. They now have the same number of 30+ forwards as Detroit, and their average point production from last season is just one point behind. Rookies like Horak are getting their shot, and that's exactly as it should be even if the Flames farm teams are still a little short on prospects. The drafting of players that seem to be performing above their draft number, like Baertschi and Gaudreau, is also promising, although only time will tell if the 2011 draft was just a fluke.

Where the Flames need to show improvement is in finding fuel for their factory. Darryl Sutter traded that fuel away for years and now we're paying the price. It must be replenished. Having Morrison and Moss back in the lineup is great. They're good players. However, they're bumping rookies. It's time to trade somebody for picks or prospects. When it comes to replacing injured players, it's better to have a farm-team full of prospects ready to move up than a press-box full of aging veterans.

The years of trading picks for playoff pieces are over for the Flames. They have to be. I just hope Feaster recognizes that, no matter where Calgary is in the standings come the trade deadline, the Flames need to be buying picks. At the trade deadline there are always teams like Calgary was under Darryl Sutter who will trade their future for mediocrities. Calgary has the mediocrities! We need the future!

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#31 everton fc
December 09 2011, 01:42PM
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@wolf

I'm with you; somewhere in the middle. Guys I think we keep:

Jokinen Tanguay Iginla Stempniak Gio Comeau Glencross Butler Hannan (1year/cheap 5-6 role) Backlund (though I think he's a career 3rd lien centre) Horak (if Backlund is a career 3rd lien centre, where do you play Horak?)

Guys I'm on the bubble about

Moss (Love him, but w/Stempniak...) Hannan (cheap 5-6 role) Jackman Morrison (unless in a wing role, or in a coaching capacity; I think he's a perfect 3/4 wing, and a great guy to have around for young guys development) Byron Bouma Nemisz(deserves a look) Carson (who knows??) Irving (I think he may surprise us)

Guys I'd look to move whule they have value

Bourque Kipper (to try and get a high #1 pick, like Dumba) Bouwmeester Smith Karlsson Kosto Perhaps Jackman Perhaps Morrison (at the deadline) Moss (at the deadline, if the team feels he'll ask for too much) Perhaps Hannan (at the deadline)

Guys I'd part with

Stajan Sarich Babchuk PL3 Ivanans

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#32 everton fc
December 09 2011, 01:44PM
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@sincity

Ferland's one I am excited about. But I hear you.

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#33 Kevin R
December 09 2011, 01:51PM
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Rebuild has got to happen for this team. To what level is all semantics and to what success will all depend on the multitude of variables, trades, injuries, timing, drafting, spending prudently on future contracts.

Just from a business asset management model, to rule out trading Iggy & Kipper would be fool hardy and condemn this team to the status quo or even set the organization back even further than we feel we have already fallen back to in the D Sutter win now era. The 2 biggest keys to running a hockey club is player asset management & cap management. When one is out of whack, there is no way a team can have success. We have both out of whack but I do feel Feaster has made & taken the proper steps to rectify some of these problems. But as Wolf has said, our situation is such that it will take big kahunas to take the next step. That is why if Feaster does trade Kipper or Iggy, he must get not only a 1st rounder(which we all agree is no guarantee) but also an NHL ready/proven player that will be immediately on the roster & time is now to flourish on an NHL team. After seeing the trade today with Montreal & Carolina, tis the season of urgency panic & overpayment is upon us. This win streak & players performing better couldnt have come at a better time.

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#34 shutout
December 09 2011, 03:03PM
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I am not sure that it needs to be a full blow up rebuild. I think that three trades could help the Flames organization for the next ten years. I think that if we continue on the path we are on we will have the same sort of results and will likely be out of the playoffs for the next five years, and then it will get really ugly and we will be forced to rebuild.

Be very careful about using Detroit as an example of a team that never needs to rebuild. They drafted Yzerman when they were crap and then got lucky with a third, sixth, and seventh round picks that turned out to be top five in their positions. They are drafting good players but they are not finding these superstars any more. Detroit is on the downside, and the only thing that is keeping them steady is an ingrained organizational philosophy of how to play the game and that the logo on the front means more than the name on the back.

The fact of the matter is that Iginla and Kiprusoff are assets of declining returns. Keeping them is a downward slide in productivity, trading them provides assets that will be on an improving and then peak performance pace for the next ten years.

Coaches need to look at winning the next game. General managers are supposed to be looking at winning the next Stanley Cup. Why be in pro sports if the ultimate game is not to win the Stanley Cup? Why is the ultimate goal of the Calgary Flames, or should I say the Calgary Iginlas, to just try and make the playoffs? Thats like entering a nascar race with the only goal being to finish the race. Why be there then.

First off, rebuilding or not rebuilding, we need to look at trading Bourque. I do not see why we could not do a Bourque for Brassard trade with Columbus. They have the same salary and term, Bourque maybe older, but he is also more of a proven commodity, and would provide secondary scoring.

I think that we dont blow it all up and that we keep our defensive core. I think by having that continuity it will ease the learning curve burden in other areas.

I think that there are maybe one or two of the upcoming UFA players on our roster that are worth resigning. Rebuild or not rebuild those decisions would be made the same.

The crux of the arguement that gets overblown is trading Kiprusoff and Iginla. And by far the more risky deal would involve moving Kiprusoff. That said I think that there are a number of great young goalies out there that we could acquire.

Right now with Tampa Bay floundering and in great need of solid goaltending, I think that the opportunity is there to trade Kiprusoff to the Lightning for Carter Ashton, 2012 2nd/3rd round pick, and Roloson (need to bring cap dollars back to help Tampa). Ashton has the potential to be a top two scoring winger for the next dozen years. Why would we not want that in the organization?

Second deal that I think is out there is to trade Sundin, (oops, sory about that I meant Iginla) to the Capitals. I think that they need a change, and shot in the arm, and somebody that Hunter can use to create a new culture in their team. I think that we could get the two first round picks from the Capitals in a deal. Washington would have to find a way to move out Semin, and that will help to offset the assets they are sending out. Colorado is terrible, and we would have a legitimate lottery pick on our hands. How good would Yakupov look replacing Iginla as our top right winger. Here is my prediction: over the next five years Yakupov would outscore Iginla as the top right winger for the Flames. By keeping Iginla we would have fewer points than if we moved him and brought in an asset like Yakupov.

Two deals that will help the future of the team. Not a complete demolition and blowing it up and rebuilding effort. Two players out, and at least four solid assets that will help for the future. Stop with the political fear mongering about what will happen if we trade Sundin or using idiots like Milbury, Mclean, and Risebrough as excuses for not wanting to accept change. Right now the keep Iginla supporters are coming off like the people that decried the automobile and wanted to stay with horse driven carrigages because they could not foresee the future, or could not understand that everything needs to change, and only by embracing it can we use it for our benefit.

Now if the arguement is that we should not trade Iginla and Kiprusoff because we think that the Feast is an idiot, moron, and complete and utter incompetant than I am open to those discussions. Because that is a valid arguement and fear for not trading an old declining core. But then the arguement should still not be if we should trade them, but if and when we should fire our general manager and who we should put in his place.

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#35 rubbertrout
December 09 2011, 04:52PM
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kittensandcookies wrote:

"Avoid the mistakes of the first 3 years of the Oilers "rebuild" when they used the cap space to sign (or try and sign) high priced talent when they failed to recognize that the balance of the team wasn't that good."

Sorta like how the Flames signed Bouwmeester, Stajan, Bourque, Tanguay...

Exactly. Although one could argue that the Flames were a lot closer to being an upper echelon team when J-Bou et al were signed than the Oilers were when they went whale hunting with Hossa and Heater and signed the oft-injured drunk for big money on a forever term contract.

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#36 rubbertrout
December 09 2011, 04:55PM
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@everton fc

Guys I'd part with Stajan Sarich Babchuk PL3 Ivanans

Compelling choices. Good luck dumping the worst guys on the team who have little to no trade value.

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#37 rubbertrout
December 09 2011, 05:02PM
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First round picks are not the answer in and of themselves. You need to build the team around some quality depth veterans.

The Oilers are better this year. Sure that is in part due to the progression of Hall and Eberle as well as the hot start for Nugent Hopkins, but I'd say it had more to do with (finally) getting some quality goaltending from Khabby and having Gilbert emerge as a true top pairing D-man. Those things, plus having another guy that can play a shutdown role and win a draw (Belanger)so Horcoff wasn't always put in situations where he couldn't succeed. Having Smytty find the fountain of youth helps as well.

The beginnings of the turnaround in Edmonton are partially due to the draft picks, but also partially due to the management finally starting to look for depth instead of trading away legit NHL players for handfuls of magic beans.

I don't think that the Flames should be trading away good quality NHL players for nothing more than a pick that may turn out to be the next Rico Fata. Getting a return can involve getting back NHL players too. Some combination of picks prospects and players for hired gun stars is the fastest way to come back. Provided of course that your amateur and pro scouting depts know what they are doing. That my be the first hurdle for the flames.

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#38 kittensandcookies
December 09 2011, 05:27PM
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Robert Vollman wrote:

Karlsson was re-signed June 20, 2011, so he does belong on the list of players they chose to keep.

And you're right that the incoming group isn't performing better than the outgoing group, but they're five years younger, meaning at least they won't decline!

Plus, they cost half as much! You can't "forget about the money" because the money can be used to bring in other players.

It's not like that money just sits in a pile in someone's office, it gets spent on players that will cause this new group to significantly outperform the outgoing group (potentially by double!).

I don't think Karlsson should be in there because you're comparing based on goals, and well, he's not supposed to score goals.

I have yet to see how the extra cap space has improved the team. The team still has a very high cap hit and is basically where they were last year.

That's the problem with cherry-picking players for statistical analysis. You need to look at the entire context. I realize that Feaster's moved salary, but in the end the performance hasn't improved.

Cap space is mostly irrelevant for this team, because the owners still seem to be willing to the max.

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#39 loudogYYC
December 10 2011, 03:07AM
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CENTREMEN!

You won't build a contending team without serious depth at centre. Every Cup champion since the lockout has won with at least 2 elite/solid centremen.

Carolina 2006: Eric Staal-Brind'Amour-Weight-Cullen

Anaheim 2007: Getzlaf-McDonald(In His Prime)-Pahlsson(IHP)-Marchant(IHP)

Detroit 2008: Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Filppula-Draper

Pittsburgh 2009: Crosby-Malkin-Jordan Staal-Talbot

Chicago 2010: Toews-Sharp-Bolland-Madden

Boston 2011: Krejci-Bergeron-Marchand-Kelly

Let's not forget that before the lockout, Tampa beat us with Lecavalier-Richards as their 1-2.

Boston has taken centre depth to a new level, they have Seguin tearing it up now and had Savard been healthy, they would have 6 centres that are better than almost all of ours. They even traded Thornton away in 2005 and still managed to put that depth together in the next 5-6 years.

This is why I'm not sold on keeping Iggy or putting high hopes on Baertschi or signing Parise next year. These guys can't do it if you don't put quality centremen on their lines. Right now we have Jokinen, Backlund, Horak and Byron that are somewhere between 2nd or 3rd line centres at best. Hopefully management lets them fight it out while they try to acquire a real #1.

I don't mind the way the renewal or "rebuild" is going so far. Slow and steady but, it's getting close to the time where Feaster has to back up all those intelligently put together speeches.

Great article BTW, Robert.

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#40 RKD
December 10 2011, 12:19PM
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I guess people overlook the failures of other teams and assume the Flames will be able to stack a bunch of draft picks and win a Stanley Cup.

The reality with Pittsburgh is that Sidney Crosby is one in a million, the best player since Gretzky. He will be top 5 all time if his health doesn't fail him.

Chicago also got lucky with Toews and Kane, you need to assemble the right team with the right players.

Los Angeles hasn't taken that next step, in fact they are struggling to be a top team. Washington hasn't won a Cup with Ovechin, Green, etc.

The Oilers are far too top heavy, offence is important but you need a solid defence too.

The cupboard is not as bare with the emergence of Sven Bartschi and Max Reinhart. There's Leach, Holland, Ferland, Granlund, Bouma. We still have Backlund, Horak, Byron, Brodie, Smith, Butler, Piskula and Irving, phew! I'm sure we all want Bartschi's talent x3, but that's just not realistic. It's much more promising now then in the past when we were only talking about Kolanos, Chucko, Negrin and Pelech.

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#41 Kevin R
December 10 2011, 01:26PM
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There is no guarantee with any direction this team goes. Rebuild could be futile, plugging in more veterans will probably produce what we have seen for the last 3-4 years. I think maybe we should just focus on what really is the right decisions to make on players within the organization in hopes of finding that right mix of young & experienced players. This process needs to be unfortunately done in a very business like manner. So looking forward to the next 18-20 months, what decisions really need to be made. Well the biggest white elephant in the room & most contraversial is Iginla. As a GM you know the basics, he's a franchise face and long time captain. He's also mid 30's & we have him under contract for the next 136 games barring injury. He is still the team leader but clearly is not as effective without a supporting cast which includes something the franchise has not had for him, a #1 centre. Efforts to get that last summer via free agency failed & there are no acceptable trade options out there. His cap hit is the highest on the club & his role is diminishing so something has to give. Which is the worst and most desirable of potential outcomes? A GM must consider the following scenarios: Better Scenarios: 1/ Have discussions now with player about future role, future realistic expectations of the hockey team.Player indicates he wants to retire a Flame no matter what & wants to be part of a youth movement & retool to get back to being a playoff contender. Player realizes, role will change, perhaps even relinguish Captaincy to Assist Captain, extend current deal by 3-4 more years to a cap friendly contract. Problem solved, no more Iggy trade rumours. 2/Discussions now with player indicate he is ready & needs a change for the next 2-3 years in pursuit of a Stanley Cup with a real contender. Understands the direction the organization has to go, Agrees to a trade for young Players/prospects & draft picks. We grind out teams to obtain top value to help accelerate the youth/retool movement. Bad Scenarios: 3/Discussions with player indicate he needs a change of scenario & he is traded to a contender for a package of middling players like the Phaneuf deal. 4/Team & player refuse to discuss the future in a wait & see attitude & hopes the current team can find the magic to make the playoffs & make a miracle run. By this time next year, the player refuses to discuss contract negotiations and wants to wait for the end of the season. Another slow start & still denials of trading the player. Come off season, player still wants elite player contract, team wants a cap friendly home town discount, player opts to go free agency where he gets his money & the team get zero value for a franchise player.

The moral of this story, if I'm Feaster, I would be ignoring the fact there is one more year left on his contract & have discussions to see if scenarios #1 or #2 is what Iggy wants & act accordingly & put this white elephant back in the box. This one aint going away any time soon.

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#42 loudogYYC
December 10 2011, 01:29PM
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@RKD

I agree that there are some good pieces in place for the future Flames. But Washington is a clear example of a good team that doesn't have enough depth at centre. Maybe that Johansson kid is good enough to form a strong 1-2 with Backstrom, but until that day arrives they're probably not gonna make it past the 2nd round of the playoffs.

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