Calgary Flames State of the Union

Kent Wilson
August 08 2011 07:46AM

 

 

(The FN Contributor search resumes today with the fourth installment. Again, please keep comments either supportive or constructive)

By Derrick Newman**

The middle of summer is not the most exciting time for hockey. Free agency is over and done with – well the exciting parts at least. There’s minor tinkering going on in GM’s offices everywhere and arbitrators are bearing down to make the unbiased decisions that could have drastic repercussions on the state of certain franchises (cough Nashville cough).

The Calgary Flames, for the most part, have done their work and are now simply waiting for training camp to begin and the season to get started. The dream of jettisoning a Matt Stajan or a Niklas Hagman from the roster to free up space is slowing fading and the reality of the Flames being stuck in certain salary cap purgatory is sinking in. As of now they sit with 24 players under contract with roughly $1.3 million of headroom.

They have 14 forwards under contract, plus Raitis Ivanans whose contract will most likely be put in LTIR giving the Flames $600,000 extra to play with. As it sits now the forwards look like this:

 Tanguay- Backlund-Iginla

Glencross-Jokinen-Bourque

Hagman-Langkow-Moss

Kostopoulous- Stajan-Jackman

Extra: Morrison-Leblond +Rookies

Ivanans – LTIR - $600,000

I was never a fan of bringing back Morrison. I realize he played quite well last year, but I simply see it as a spot that could have been used by a rookie like Nemisz, Bouma, Howse, etc. I’ve never been a fan of supplanting a young up and comer for older player. The team has enough of “these” players and I’m tired of the same old strategy. Morrison is also coming off surgery and likely won’t see the ice until November. That being said I’ll probably eat my words, but I’m sticking to my guns on this point regardless how much flak I receive.

My wish also, as is evident in my proposed line-up, is that Backlund finds himself on the top line to start the season. He played great at the end of last season and I think fits perfectly with Iggy and Tanguay. Once fully developed, his pure skills might be better than anyone on the team (See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3txqTGxmX0 ) This is a chance to see if he has the goods and can be a number one center in this league – which I believe he can. My bold prediction: 2011/12 is Backlund’s NHL coming out party. The Flames need it to happen more than anything.

The defence:

Bouw-Gio

Sarich-Babchuk

Butler-Mikkelson

Carson-Brodie/Negrin/Breen, etc

My biggest worry is the lack of depth on defence with the loss of Robyn Regehr. A lot of the pressure, I think, will fall on Chris Butler as he will be seen as the guy filling Regehr’s shoes so to speak.

Fair? Probably not, but its professional sports and it comes with the territory. There is a lot of praise for him coming from Feaster, so hopefully he will step up to the plate and provide that needed stability in the lower ranks of the Calgary defence. I would also hope that we will see one of Brodie, Breen or Negrin make the permanent jump. The big money should be on Brodie as per his performance in last year’s camp, but stranger things have happened. Seeing a towering force like Breen blossom could lessen the burden of losing Keith Aulie in the 2010 Darryl Sutter Panic Button fiasco.

In net:

Kiprusoff

Karlsson

I have no qualms with the current situation in the Flames crease. The only minor thing I would like to see is Irving jump up for a few games. Otherwise, the Flames risk the chance of losing yet another draft pick because he never got the chance in the show. He is the rightful heir to Kipper’s throne. Karlsson is a fill in and a good back-up, and nothing more IMO.

The Flames are a good team on paper. On paper. They aren’t great and will most likely be riding the wave from of the western conference playoff bubble for much of the foreseeable future. They got worse if anything else with the loss of Regehr. But as a wise man once said, you must take one step back to take two steps forward, or something to that degree. Problem being though that the Flames have been taking steps in the wrong direction for so many years that it’s hard to delineate how far BACK the Flames really are in the grand scheme of things.

**Derrick is a budding sports journalist currently freelancing for the Calgary Sun and interning at CTV Calgary. He created TheSportsRoundup.com and also is the lead Flames contributor at TheCheckingline.com. Possibly a little bit pessimistic when it comes to the Flames, but he just calls it tough love.

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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 Eric
August 08 2011, 07:51AM
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I still think we're kidding ourselves if we think Hagman is going to be a regular roster play for the Flames. Bouma, Nemisz, & Byron are all going to be knocking at the door for an opportunity according to Feaster. The Flames brass seem to have no problem burying a $3 million contract in the AHL as we saw with Kotalik. Of course, he and Stajan could both come in with strong camps, but realistically both are first on the chopping block.

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#2 sanehockey
August 08 2011, 08:27AM
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I agree with the Morrison take, I was under the asumption we were having a bit of a youth movement. Morrison has decent numbers, showed worse underlying numbers and since then has only one hip.

The Fames seem to have let Irving have one more year but really I think it's just to give Ortio an easier transition. Irving might already be on the non prospect list.

Good Stuff as always man.

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#4 Ryan Popilchak
August 08 2011, 08:49AM
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Just a thought, but from what I've seen and heard I'm hoping Paul Byron might get a shot in the lineup before Nemisz or Howse.

Any thoughts from the readers?

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#6 Kevin R
August 08 2011, 09:33AM
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Not totally agreeing with you on Karlson. From what I saw last year, he triggered our magical 2nd half when Kipper was either playing injured or was just in a real bad groove. Before you slot him in permanent backup, I think we need to let him play at least 25-30 games irregardless of importance and lets truly see what we have. I think drafting goalies in the first round is a complete waist of a first rounder based on how long they take to develop & the ease of acquiring nhl quality, in their mid-late twenties, goalies.

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#7 otto
August 08 2011, 09:46AM
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That D-group scares the hell out of me!Personally I'd rank Carson or Brodie ahead of Mikkelson.Him and Babs are arguably the worst pair we've ever had.

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#8 TheCalgaryJames
August 08 2011, 09:50AM
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Nice job Newman. I've been a fan of your blogs for a while. You're level headed and have a balanced approach to your writing between humour and analysis as well as postive thinking and the reality the flames have them selves saddled to... which is a refreshing change from a lot of what I've come across re: the flames lately. I also think your game recaps are some of the best ive read and will continue to read them as you post them. Good on ya and good luck!

I do have one critique about this blog and you're writing in general. I've noticed you use qualifiers like 'I think' and 'in my opinion' probably more than you need to. We already understand that it's your opinion, stating it just sounds like a lack of confidence. You have a good take here but it can sound too timid if you're constantly apologizing for it. Own your take and see how many of the 'I thinks' and 'in my opinions' you can lose. If you do that I think you'll be surprised by how much the tone of your blogs can solidify and become some real strong writing... Take it for what it's worth, I suppose. A great read regardless.

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#9 mslepp
August 08 2011, 09:59AM
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God help us all if Sarich and Babchuk are paired together! And, I'm pretty sure Carson would one-up Mikkelson on the Sutter/Feaster depth chart.

I'm hoping for continued improvement from Backlund. Is he ready for first line minutes yet? Probably not, but an increased role? I think he certainly deserves the chance to prove himself.

Also - Sven Baertschi should be considered a wild card to make the team. I hope they leave him in the dub another year and don't "Gagner" him... but it's possible he could help (maybe he gets a 9-game tryout at the beginning?)...

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#11 TheCalgaryJames
August 08 2011, 10:06AM
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Eric wrote:

I still think we're kidding ourselves if we think Hagman is going to be a regular roster play for the Flames. Bouma, Nemisz, & Byron are all going to be knocking at the door for an opportunity according to Feaster. The Flames brass seem to have no problem burying a $3 million contract in the AHL as we saw with Kotalik. Of course, he and Stajan could both come in with strong camps, but realistically both are first on the chopping block.

This is my general take as well. One of them (stajan and hagman) has a NMC though, don't they? Kent? Anyone?

I think we have yet to see the last of jay feaster's moves this offseason. As we get closer and closer to training camps and gms begin to assess exactly what they have on their rosters, I think we'll begin to see more movement on he flames front. In this scenario you have to think that the first guys jay would like to rid himself of are Hagman and Stajan... Of course, that's easier said than done.

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#12 Emir
August 08 2011, 10:08AM
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I wasn't overly excited by the article. It lacked a real statement and it was more of a off season summary than anything. You make some assertions that spark my interest but then dont pursue them in depth. I think if this was an article posted on another fan website for another NHL team giving a summary of the upcoming flames it would be a good article. But for FN you need to go deeper into a topic and gives us rabid fans something to mull over and think about.

On another note, I agree with you on Backlund. It looks like this will be the first strong year from him and I can't wait to see it.

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#13 Ryan Popilchak
August 08 2011, 10:08AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

That's certainly possible. He's older and had better results in the AHL.

That said, NHL teams sometimes promote based more on player type than player ability. So if the club has an opening on the4th line, they may go with Bouma before Byron because he's considered more of a "energy line" type.

I agree that most teams promote with a player type in mind, but I think Byron adds something the lineup is missing, speed and offensive ability.

I love that the Flames beat up on 3rd and 4th lines last year with guys like Glencross and Jackman, Byron might do well in the same situation.

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#16 Newman
August 08 2011, 10:15AM
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@jimirude Aprreciate the contructive criticism. It's duly noted.

Totally agree that our defence scares the crap out of me and with Babchuk being in our top four I'm worried to say the least.

@Eric I dont think they will bury Hagman, unless they can find a suitor in Europe. I think the Kotalik was a temporary thing let go by the owners because Feaster needed some help. If the Flames didnt mind doing it again, they wouldnt have bother trading Kotalik, which forced the 2nd rounder into the equation. Hagman will either be traded for pucks, sent to europe or play for the Flames. He wont be in the minors

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#17 mslepp
August 08 2011, 10:21AM
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@Kent Wilson

Well, that's good then. I don't think it's as out of the question as you - but I'd rather he stay and develop in Junior and play in the WJC.

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#19 TheCalgaryJames
August 08 2011, 12:42PM
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Agreed. It's a tough conversation to have between one's brain and one's heart...

I think baertschi's gonna be a really solid prospect with a tremendous offensive upside in the NHL but having him in the NHL this year; playing the minutes of a 3rd or 4th line guy, is a bad developmental decision to make. This guy needs to play 19-20 minutes a night in the WHL and then the WJC and build up the confidence and skills needed to compete at the NHL level.

I'm in favor of giving every player a chance to make the team out of camp but if you're gonna be an 18 yo on a 2way, entry level contract (on a team with a log jam of 1way contracts) you better have the best camp of your life to even get a sniff at the big club. I'm not sure how reasonable it is to expect that kind of camp and frankly it's not necessary to put him out in front of up and coming prospects like Byron, Nemisz, Bouma, etc. who already have had a taste of the league and fill that 3rd-4th line role better anyways.

As to Backlund, I have to say I'm a pretty huge backlund supporter. I still believe he was a steal to get him where we did in his draft year and he's been steadily progressing every year since. It all culminated at the end of last season when he started looking right at home on the top line with Iggy and Tangs. His underlying stats are pretty respectable albeit in a pretty sheltered capacity. He should be given every chance to take that next step and I believe he will.

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#20 Vintage Flame
August 08 2011, 02:04PM
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While I think Backlund is absolutely going to get a shot at top line minutes, his place there will be tenuous at best. Had the Flames landed Moby Dick [aka Brad Richards], he would have obviously been the man centering the top line. The fact that they signed Morrison after not reeling in Moby, leads me to believe that Mo is probably also going to see top line minutes.

Quite honestly, the whole thing leaves me shaking my head at this constant revolving door of a position on the #1 line. It not only leads to inconsistent play, but it messes the hell out of the bottom lines. I know a lot of people figure Langkow will also see the top line [See what I mean?], but I'm seriously hoping the Flames knuckle down here and show some consistent lines.

I for one am all in favour of Backs centering Iggy and Tangs. That being said, I'm not entirely convinced he is capable of those top minutes yet.

If it holds true in Kent's analysis of Iggy's minutes being more sheltered every year, then it seems like a no brainer to ease Backlund into that scenario. The confidence of sheltered minutes with the skill of Tanguay and Iginla. Good development program right?

Well if he doesn't make an impact immediately, especially with the need for Iginla to get off to a good start, I could easily see him quickly demoted. Then what? For one I would like to see the Flames move Morrison to the wing, and I wouldn't mind seeing Moss with the top line. Moss has that grit and has shown a massive improvement to his game until he got hurt. He has shown the initiative and drive that just might be a key start for Iginla and to a lesser extent, Tanguay.

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#22 Vintage Flame
August 08 2011, 02:36PM
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@Kent Wilson

True enough Kent. Which I think just exaggerates the need for the Flames to make a move here before the season starts. I guess in a round-about sort of way, it brings us back to Hagman.

Feaster needs to find a team looking up at the cap floor and move Hagman there. I honestly don't care what they get in return, but they have too many Centres, and it goes beyond having depth. In moving Hagman, the Flames could then move Jokinen to the wing. This clears up the log-jam at Centre without sacrificing the depth.

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#24 Vintage Flame
August 08 2011, 03:27PM
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@Kent Wilson

I wouldn't have a problem with Morrison on the wing. Possibly a line of Morrison - Langkow - Bourque. It might even be easier on his hip. Also as RCN mentioned, possibly moving that slug Stajan to the wing.

Yeah, it only takes one to bite on Hagman, or I think we see him in Abbotsford, for some period of time anyways.

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#25 mslepp
August 08 2011, 04:07PM
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@Vintage Flame

I believe Morrison started on the wing with the team last year before injuries and other things led to him moving to the middle. So I'd say he'd be one of the first to move to the wing.

I loved Moss between Tanguay and Iginla simply for the fact he's a big body, not afraid to go after the puck deep in either zone. We know Tangs doesn't like to and isn't built to do that and Iggy now prefers to find open ice looking to get a shot off, so Moss is a really nice fit to do some of the dirty work and keep plays alive.

But - Kent is right about the log-jam at centre and the refusal to move Olli to the wing (even though it makes a lot of sense).

If Moss doesn't end up on that line, which is probably unlikely anyway, then seeing him back with Olli and Glencross to try and keep that line going would be fine with me. Moss/Glencross have always seemed to have chemistry even back when Dustin Boyd used to get the odd shift between them.

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#26 Vintage Flame
August 08 2011, 05:35PM
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@mslepp

Yeah the problem I have with this is that I just don't want to see Moss end up on the 3rd line. The last couple of seassons have been good for Moss developmentally. I think he has earned the right to at least try and prove himself there. It's just a matter if the Flames give him that chance, even though he is a winger.

Most likely Morrison is going to be slotted in on the top line, and I think that will be a mistake and we as fans are going to see a similar start that we have become accustomed to.

Don't get me wrong. I think Backlund is still a great option for the top line especially since he will still be sheltered to a certain degree. It also builds his leadership for centering the top line for the up and commers, like say for Howse and Bartschi. Unfortunately I just don't see the Flames connecting the dots in this menatlity.

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#27 mslepp
August 08 2011, 07:09PM
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@Vintage Flame

I'm a big Backlund fan and fully support him getting more opportunity while he grows. I think he can become a very good two-way centre. The way he picks guys' pockets in the neutral zone reminds me of (and I use this loosely) Pavel Datsyuk. Obviously he has a long way to go, but it's nice to see him actually develop, which has been a well-documented problem for the Flames in the past.

We'll probably all get bent out of shape by Sutter's lines to start the year and then by the 5th game of the season we'll have seen every line combo known to man and it will all be thrown out the window, lol!

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#28 Kypreos
August 08 2011, 08:04PM
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Sorry to say Backlund is not ready for top line minutes. He had few good games at the end of last year, but I would not dream of slotting him in there.

Morrison is a good signing that will not hurt you with that salary and besides he seems like a great guy to have around.

I think the flames will be a suprise this year if they can stay healthy.

I have not seen anyone in the minors who have impressed me enough to say they are ready to make the jump in the way of forwards.

I am not concerned about the departure of Regher as this is one spot in minors we may still have some depth. Regher was good but father time was catching up to him and it has shown over the last couple of years.

We will be fine..

Prediction flames finish 5th in the west

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#29 kbignell
August 08 2011, 08:10PM
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Giving backlund a chance like that would be great, we could see a young prospect finally blossom within the flames system.

On hagman, i think he should get sent down to the minors and bring up someone like bouma or nemisz. The whole stajan situation is rocky, with the cap hit around 4 million per makes it difficult to move him. but stajan can work out as a third or fourth line centre, who is just way over paid for that role.

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#30 kbignell
August 08 2011, 08:25PM
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@Vintage Flame

I agree that it would have been nice to land somebody like Brad richards, but the term that the flames offered him was 9 years. I would have love to seen richards there but not for a nine year deal. This draft year gave out some ridiculous contracts and maybe that is why jay never landed a big fish. I think jay will make a move closer to the season as there are teams that are over the cap.

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#31 Vintage Flame
August 08 2011, 09:48PM
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@kbignell

I'll agree with that. Although Richards seemed like the sexy signing, a term of 9 years would have been a step backwards for what this team needs to do over the next few years. A pretty expensive handcuff.

"I think jay will make a move closer to the season as there are teams that are over the cap."

Not sure about this unless they find some way to shed the roster of Hagman or Stajan, or both.. And I really don't see them being able to deal Stajan.

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#32 joey joe joe jr shabadoo
August 08 2011, 10:30PM
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VF,

yeah I'd have to agree. Moving Stajan would be very difficult right now, it really isn't even worth discussing. He won't be going anywhere. For one thing his pay-out is higher than his cap hit. I don't know of a single person in hockey who would think that literally, in a cap sense,overpaying an underperforming player is a good move. Secondly, if the Flames were to move him they would almost certainly have to attach a mid to high draft pick just for the other team doing them the favour. And they've already played that card this year. Simply put, I don't think there is a snowballs chance Stajan gets traded this year. Next year when his actual payout is lower than his cap hit, well that is a different story all together. If Matt wants to be a Calgary Flame he had better make a strong case for it this year.

As for Hagman, I'm not so sure Feaster trades him right away. I mean Hagman is actually an asset and the Flames should leverage that into something. Simply dumping him to NYI for a 4th rounder (for example) isn't really the answer in my opinion. If one of Byron, Niemsz, or Bouwma outplays Hagman during training camp, then fine, move him out get what you can and give one of the young guys his chance. But, Hagman will (should) still be considered a decent depth addition come trade deadline time. If he shows up this year and shows his 20-25 goal form, the Flames could get a little bit more than a token draft pick for a guy who can probably still play. Afterall, if the Oilers can get a 3rd and a depth player for a 36 year old Steve Staios with a year left on his deal, surely the flames could get at least a 3rd round pick for Hagman........right......?

anyway, if Hagman is still here come November, I think it basically says none of the three (Byron, Niemsz, Bouma) are ready for full time duty to the point where they will bury a 3 million dollar NHL vet in the minors. besides, sending Hagman to the AHL only furthur diminishes his value around the league, and judging from my (albeit limited) viewing of Niemsz, Bouwma, & Bryon I doubt the Flames would be that much better off with any of those players in the line up than Hagman.

To conclude, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hagman playing regularily this season, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see his elsewhere come the deadline and one of the young three forwards mentioned up with the Flames at some point.

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#33 Vintage Flame
August 08 2011, 11:05PM
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@joey joe joe jr shabadoo

Good. So we both agree no need to discuss Stajan any further? Moving on..

Let's discuss then this Hagman Paradox. I have a couple ideas on this. According to you, Nik is an asset in terms of depth. I can see that point. further to that, I think Hags is in a similar situation to Mr. ahhh, err.. you know that guy mentioned above. Anyways.. What I mean is that I don't think his season can be any worse than it was last year.

However, if he does get the playing time he takes a roster spot away from these kids we want so much to develop. I for one, want to see Byron play. I've heard that Nemiscz looks bigger and faster, so he is a prospect of interest. And of course Bouma played well enough last year to try and earn a regular job with the big squad.

If Hagman plays, and then stinks out the joint, then it will be very, very hard to deal Hagman to anyone, and as result the Flames will have to give em the "Kotalik" [Someone cue-up the "Call on Me"?], and bury him in Abbostsford. I, for one, don't want to see that.

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#34 Nolan Moore
August 09 2011, 01:15AM
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I agree about Morrison. Who knows if he would even come back. He may not, and if he does will he (36 years old) be the same as a 35 year old? I'm 37 now and saw a lot more grey hair, and aching bones in that one year difference. My point is high risk, i'd pass, maybe have a spot open for him in September if he's still not signed. I agree with defense. The Flames in my view, have only 1 quality defenseman, Gio. JayBo is average, 2 others that are serviceable. To say Butler will step in and take over, he's played parts of 3 seasons and didnt catch on full time, just see him as another guy. Things dont look good. I say Sutter is gone by January. To say also that next summer the Flames will have buckets of money to spend on UFA's, who will want to come here. A team missing the playoffs for 3 years, going down, aging, etc. ?

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#35 joey joe joe jr shabadoo
August 09 2011, 02:00AM
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that's the risk. and I could also see the Hagman situation play out much like the Kotalik situation from a year ago. Meaning he'll get his chance to play, but if he is an absolute dog come January/Feb. I wouldn't be surprised to see him with the Heat and one of the three forwards up with the club. I'm not suggesting this is the best way to do things, or the way the flames should do things, but history has shown this is how the flames do things.

At first glance it would seem to me that Bouma would be a good replacement for a Tom Kostopolous type should the Flames move him. Nemisz/Byron could step into the the hole created by a Hagman departure, if that is what happens.

the concern I have for Niemsz is he didn't seem to scream "NHL ready" in his brief stint with the flames last year. He did rack up an entire (aprox.) 2:30 of total ice time in one of his seven (?) games. As for Byron, I don't know or have seen enough to really coment, but one thing the flames (as well as every other team in the league) does, is they oversell their assets.......so time will tell if Byron is knocking on the door like Jay Feaster says he is.

I just hope if one of these guys replaces Hagman, it's because they are actually better than Hagman and not because they are younger than Hagman.

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