The Rebuild Begins Later Rather Than Sooner

Kent Wilson
August 10 2011 07:58AM

 

 

(Only a few contributor entries left folks)

By: Al MaGuinness**

Jay Feaster, the General Manager of the Calgary Flames, has already started to tinker with the line-up and, even prior to that, has made a well-documented change to the environment in the dressing room. Fortunately for him, his real work starts next year. For the fans, that means suffering through one more year of mediocrity before the light at the end of the tunnel even begins to show itself.

The Long and Winding Road

Looking at the present roster as it is profiled on capgeek.com, the Flames have 15 forwards signed for the upcoming season. They also have 7 Defensemen and, of course, Kipper and Karlsson in net with Leland Irving waiting in the wings. In total, these players add up to a whopping 63 million dollars leaving just over a million dollars in cap space left to navigate through the season. Considering there haven’t been any major changes except the loss of Robyn Regher, this season promises to be a roller coaster ride, just as it was last season. Unfortunately, unless Feaster and Sutter can muster up a continued attitude change for the full 82 games, things could be worse than they were a year ago.

The silver lining? 10 of the 24 players signed for this year are unrestricted free agents so Feaster will have an opportunity to begin righting this sinking ship. The players whose contracts are up include: Daymond Langkow, Niklas Hagman, Olli Jokinen, David Moss, Brendan Morrison, Tom Kostopolous, Raitis Ivanans, Tim Jackman, P-L Letourneau-Lalond and Cory Sarich. Essentially, this leaves the old mess left behind by Darryl Sutter here to toil away for one more year. Feaster will truly put his stamp on this team in the next 12 to 15 months as he looks ahead to the 2012-13 season with a sparkling $22 million + to work with as the rebuild really gets underway.

Beggin' Strips

From this worn-out and ill-used crop of veterans, is there anything worthwhile for the team to keep? A lot would certainly depend on how each player does this year, but sitting from the nose-bleeds with my heroin beer and nachos in hand, there does not appear to be much. Perhaps I should move down a couple of tiers and get a better look…

Daymond Langkow used to be ideally suited as a #2 centre. With his best season now five seasons behind him and the fact he is nearly 35, I think it is safe to say he won’t be with the Flames very long after this year. With his injury history, declining production and an inability to fulfill his usual role, he’s done like dinner.

Hagman? I’d be surprised if he lasts the entirety of this season. The fans hate him. The team is clearly frustrated. He could end up overseas sooner rather than later.

There are some question marks in the upcoming UFA crop for the Flames, however. For example, there were many nights when Tim Jackman was the best player on the ice. He could be a useful fourth liner that can fill in on the third line when needed. Olli Jokinen started to see a revival in his game after Darryl Sutter left office. This is a pivotal season for him. The same could be said for David Moss but in reality he could end up with the rest of the group. Out of work come July 1, 2012. Cory Sarich has a great opportunity ahead of him this year. He’ll get more minutes than he can eat. With a solid year he could earn a spot in the team’s future.

Assessing the Core

Looking into 2012-13, The Flames have Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross, Rene Bourque and Matt Stajan signed. The popular assumption amongst the Sea of Red? Stajan and his ridiculous contract will be deep-sixed sometime in the next year. Michael Backlund, an RFA, will have every opportunity to work his way into the top two center positions and with his ability and steady improvement there is every reason to believe he will earn his place in the core going forward.

The defensive core has some good pieces in place but may need some working over as well. Bouwmeester, Giordano are certain to lead this team in the coming years even though both are on the pricey side of the ledger, to say the least. Babchuk, Carson and Butler all have the potential to be better. The Flames will need to hope that happens sooner rather than later.

While Kipper is always reliable and Karlsson offers everything the Flames need in a back-up, their number one is aging. There are not many goalies that can maintain a high level into their late 30’s and early 40’s although, Martin Brodeur, Tim Thomas & Dwayne Roloson quickly come to mind. So, as he turns 35, how much more does he have left to give?

Sunshine and Lollipops

This year promises, well, nothing. As the Flames have in the last two seasons, they will battle for a playoff spot and end up with a disappointing draft pick to show for it. Sure, there will be a few good runs, the fans will get excited and Harvey will likely fall off the glass while doing the wave and end up hitting himself in the nuts but, in the end, this season will likely be one to forget. That is the easy prediction. The most excitement will be generated on trade deadline day when Jay Feaster cuts more fat and get some picks to build this team the way it needs to be post-lockout. The tough prediction is to identify who will be moved to make way for the next wave of this proud franchise.

**Al is a wandering vagrant that is mired in a state of disillusioned self-pity as his greatest athletic moments are now all just a distant memory. Remarkably, he is a compulsive writer and die-hard hockey enthusiast that is ironically connected to technology at every waking moment. For example, try connecting with him at almaguinness@gmail.com.

 

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Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 mslepp
August 10 2011, 09:02AM
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Of the UFAs you mentioned, I'd say Moss and Jackman should be re-signed and will probably both get raises. Depending on Langkow's ability to come back from his injury I'd give him a look as well at a much-discounted rate to his current deal.

I'm not really quite sure what else to comment on as I feel you touched on a lot of subjects, giving us a recap of the off-season, but never really gave me any meat to chew on.

Also think we might all be in for a big surprise if we think things are going to suddenly change at the end of this year when all those contracts are up.

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#2 Sworkhard
August 10 2011, 09:08AM
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Enjoyable writing style. Very easy read. Although other articles provided more substance, I'd read pieces by this author.

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#3 mendicant
August 10 2011, 09:49AM
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I liked the apple picture.

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#4 Kevin R
August 10 2011, 10:11AM
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Like your writing style and creative graphics. You state the obvious but really didnt put your stamp on anything. Sometimes it's good to make observations but as a Blog writer you need to lead the reader somewhere whether we agree or not. Controversial can be fun. That's what will generate the passion and the dialogue from FN. The best science fiction movies are ones that have a bit of truth & facts in it. JMO.

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#5 JF
August 10 2011, 11:05AM
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@mslepp

Frankly, I probably won't want Moss and Jackman if they want raises beyond the percentage that the cap is over what it was when they signed. They're good value for money but I only want them if they continue to be good value for money.

As far as Langkow goes... we'll see how he bounces back from his lost year. I have a lot of time for Daymond Langkow and wouldn't mind having him return at a reduced rate provided that he demonstrates that he can still play the game at a high level.

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#6 Al MaGuinness
August 10 2011, 12:11PM
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@Kevin R

Your comments are definitely fair.

I think where the controversy comes in is that the Flames as an organization are content with their present business model and will be patient with making changes until they are more able to move bodies. They have high season ticket sales and the Fanattic sells what looks to be more jerseys than any other team out there. Business is good. They can afford to wait until the trade deadline to really start the rebuild with a full stadium. What will really anger people is the fact that the Oilers will have a head start in this regard and the next few seasons will be painful to say the least.

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#7 Al MaGuinness
August 10 2011, 12:15PM
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@JF

I agree with you about Moss and Jackman but I think Langkow is the odd guy out in this equation and is definitely not a long term solution down the middle. With Stajan (ugh), Jokinen, Backlund and Morrison in the fold, Langkow will struggle to get ice time unless he makes a splash in training camp. He isn't a number 1 guy, Backlund will be a #1 or #2 and Morrison certainly proved he still has modest value. Essentially, Langkow will battle Stajan for 4th line minutes this year...

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#8 ALL THE WAY IN
August 10 2011, 12:16PM
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Redundant, but its not your fault. These topics have been conversed, disputed and exausted (IMO) all summer long.

As far as writting style, not bad. I would read your articles as soon as there's new topics to discuss.

Kent, any chance The Nation Network runs a hockey pool or two for this season? I think it would be awsome if you guys ran a live fantasy draft for any "citizen" who wants to participate.

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#9 skirby09
August 10 2011, 12:19PM
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Good blog Al! I like the editorial style. While it lacked some the facts and figures of a more analytical piece, it did show a good writing style and kept me interested. Also like how you broke up the blog into sections. I'd read more from Al.

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#11 mslepp
August 10 2011, 12:32PM
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@JF

That philosophy makes no sense. You pay them based on their production at a rate hopefully less than market value.

No one's saying to give Jackman a multi-million dollar raise, but to bump him up to the neighborhood of 750k to 1mil per for 2 years is more than fair regardless of what the cap was/is.

Same goes for Moss. A raise on his 1.4mil is inevitable and will have nothing to do with the increase in the cap. If 24 goals gets Glencross 2.5 then a 15-20 goal guy is gonna get around 2 to 2.5 as well (without delving deeper into the stats, but some would argue that Moss is even more valuable than Glencross).

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#12 RexLibris
August 10 2011, 01:26PM
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Good article, and nice synopsis of the situation. But I was waiting for a theory or proposition of how to remedy the situation. You mention a rebuild in your title but aside from some allusions to Feaster making his move after the UFA cull next summer you don't mention what you think those moves will be (promote from farm, free agent signing, trade for roster players). Maybe looking at Feaster's history of moves and behaviour in previous organizations, or the trends of the teams that he was a part of to give some clue as to his general approach.

I like the article's pace and readability, I just think there could be more.

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#13 ChinookArch
August 10 2011, 05:30PM
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I agree with your overall assessment, it's going to be a tough year and next year the team will have an opportunity to make more player changes. You provide no supporting arguments in some of your beliefs. Besides an opportunity to see more minutes why do you think Cory Sarich will show improvement and therefore be signed? You don't want Moss or Jackman back, but they are by far the best value for the dollars the dollars earned, and I bet most fans and management are very happy with the roles each of them play. I'd be happy to give them a raise and sign them again.

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#14 jimirude
August 10 2011, 08:08PM
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Good article. Short and sweet. Possibly lacking in the depth of analysis but a fun read and a good take...

I agree with you for the most part. I'm of the opinion that there is a certain segment of the fan base that keeps screaming for a rebuild and yet fails to see the rebuild that is and has already begun within the franchise. This is a team very much in transition and I fully expect this to be a transitional type of year. If they make the playoffs... great... but not at the expense of building for next year and the future beyond it. I expect the team to be extremely active in the UFA market next year and then and only then will I begin to critique the team that Jay will have assembled. Until then I see this year as the purging of the Darryl Sutter era and the mistakes of his final 2 seasons...

I disagree with your assessment of Daymond Langkow. In terms of the depth chart, I'd say, based on the tough minutes he plays (that Jokinen can't), I'd put him on our 2nd or 3rd pairing and play him against top players defensively. I understand that he lost the year last year and that his body has certainly logged a lot of years and injuries (a horrific vertebrae injury being the worst of them) but that shouldn't effect his hockey IQ and really that's Langkow's game over everything else. If he can play up to even a 75% of the player he once was I'd still take his defensive game over any of our centre men and play him in almost any situation.

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#15 BCFLAME
August 10 2011, 09:15PM
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Al MaGuinness wrote:

I agree with you about Moss and Jackman but I think Langkow is the odd guy out in this equation and is definitely not a long term solution down the middle. With Stajan (ugh), Jokinen, Backlund and Morrison in the fold, Langkow will struggle to get ice time unless he makes a splash in training camp. He isn't a number 1 guy, Backlund will be a #1 or #2 and Morrison certainly proved he still has modest value. Essentially, Langkow will battle Stajan for 4th line minutes this year...

Langkow will not be battling for fourth line duties -that I can assure you, my friend. We have a lot of centers in this organization, but, maybe aside from Backlund in a few years, none would crack the top two on a play-off team, let alone a contender (frankly, I would trade our entire stable of centers for Jordan Staal and whatever pricey contract Pittsburg wanted to get rid of in a heartbeat).

Langkow, to put it plainly, is the best two-way player on the team. Yes, he has aged, but players of his ilk rely on sound hockey sense and positioning as the fountain of their success, not on blinding speed and a great set of hands (of course, if you have all of the above, you're pretty much a lock for the hall of fame once you retire like Crosby, Yzerman, etc.)

Langkow will most likely compete for a spot on either the second or third lines, alongside Borque and Hagman/Jackman. This trio will get the tough minutes against quality comp, as Langkow did for most of his tenure in Calgary.

Moreover, while his production did decrease two seasons ago, his effectiveness was starkly on display in the four games he played last year. I was a bit shocked that despite suffering a horrendous injury that took almost 13 months to heal from, Langkow could still fight quality competition to a draw. This despite the fact that he was unable to train or practice with the team for an extended period of time at the end of the year.

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#16 BCFLAME
August 10 2011, 09:20PM
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In fact, I am of the opinion that Langkow will mitigate the loss of Regher somewhat, as his pairing with Bourque or Moss actually gives the Flames a shut-down line -something they sorely missed last year.

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#17 Captain Ron
August 11 2011, 12:46AM
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Al, I'm just not feeling it with this article. You've basically stated the obvious. Your apple picture was hot, but your writing was not. Try to go a little deeper next time.

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