Calgary Flames 2012-13 Season Preview: Battling the Inevitable

Kent Wilson
August 28 2012 10:09AM

 

Despite missing the playoffs in each of the prior two seasons, last year began with a glimmer of hope for Flames fans - the club went on to be one of the hottest teams in the league in the wake of Darryl Sutter's ouster in 2011-12. So although new GM Jay Feaster only made a few nominal changes to the line-up in the summer of 2012, the feeling was the organization would bloom now that it wasn't operating under the dour cloud of Sutter's baleful glare.

Unfortunately, the second half run in 2012 was mostly a mirage. The Flames were (and remain) a fundamentally flawed club who are good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but several steps behind the true contenders in the league. The current construction of the team also makes a real step forward in the near future unlikely; in fact, with an aging core and lackluster collection of players in or near their prime, the Flames will probably continue to trend downwards.

The Forwards

The Calgary Flames face an interesting conundrum - the top end of their roster can't drive play at even strength anymore. Jarome Iginla is still a dangerous sniper in certain circumstances, but he has become a liability at even strength. The rest of the Flames top-six forwards features players of varying offensive quality, from Alex Tanguay to Mike Cammalleri, but none of them can win the possession battle on most nights. Last year, the only Flames forward who consistently faced top-6 opposition and didn't end up underwater in terms of corsi or scoring chances was sophomore MIkael Backlund. Unfortunately for both the player and the team, Backlund saw only 41 games due to several injuries and his percentages were awful when he was in the line-up (PDO = 94.8, personal SH% = 4.7%), so his impact was limited.

As a result, the club labors under a sort of inverted pyramid, where the highest paid forwards who also play the most tend to spend a lot more time in the defensive end of the ice. For example, the Flames two biggest guns - Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla - were double digit negative corsi players last season.

On top of all that, the Flames suffered a swath of injuries to their bottom-end, including Backlund, David Moss, Lee Stempniak and Blair Jones. Their replacements were mostly untested rookies and fringe AHL quality forwards which further sunk Calgary's possession rates. By the end of the season, they finished with the fifth lowest Fenwick tied rate in the entire league (47.15), only better than Montreal, Toronto, Nashville and Minnesota. Even Columbus, Edmonton and Anaheim finished with marginally better outshooting rates than the Flames.

Calgary's summer additions didn't do much to firm up this area of weakness. KHL sniper Roman Cervenka will be one of the rare forwards within spitting distance of peak form (26 years old), but is a completely untested commodity on North American ice. It's an open question whether he'll be a 50+ point center or a complete wash-out.

The Flames also signed former Red wing Jiri Hudler, whose career best 27 goal season was based on an unsustainable 19.7% personal shooting percentage, so he's doubtful to repeat that performance. Hudler has been an okay middle tier forward his entire career in Detroit, putting up respectable if unspectacular counting numbers in extremely cushy circumstances. Hudler's possession rates have never been impressive despite facing other second and third liners and starting far more often in the offensive zone, so it's unlikely he'll be able to help the Flames move the puck north (unless he develops some two-way skill at 28 years old). Hudler also won't be playing with a player of Zetterberg's caliber (his frequent line mate last season), which is also likely to have a deleterious effect on his output.

Gone are Olli Jokinen (Calgary de facto "checking center" the last two years) and David Moss (one of the club's best possession forwards), both lost to free agency. Jokinen was marginal at best as a hard minutes option, but was still solid at putting up numbers at both even strength and on the power play. The team is hoping some combination of Cervenka and Hudler will replace his production, no doubt, although who will take his role as the tough match-up option is still in question.

The Flames are replete with soft minutes/PP type scorers: Iginla, Cammalleri, Tanguay, Cervenka, Hudler, Stempniak and (potentially) rookie Sven Baertschi are better served being deployed against a softer underbelly than other high-end players. The list of checking/two-way/Selke type players is much shorter - Mikael Backlund might turn into a Frans Nielsen type option if his percentages rebound and Curtis Glencross has been a high possession player in the past (albeit not last year). Erstwhile Lightning center Blair Jones could develop into a defensive specialist at center, although he's closer to replacement level at this point in his career. Waiver wire addition Blake Comeau had decent possession rates in a third line role last season, but he doesn't forecast to get much better than that.

In short, the Flames top-end up front is over 30-years old and can't quite carry the mail against other team's big guns. They have decent enough depth options, but almost nobody who can thrive in a tough minutes role. Jarome Iginla remains the incumbent big gun, but his steady decline into liability territory and the club's inability to effectively protect him means the Flames are again a good bet to spend more time in the defensive zone than anywhere else this coming year. 

The Defense

Like the forward corps, Calgary's back-end boasts precisely zero all around elite talents. Much maligned Jay Bouwmeester is a capable shut-down option, despite complaints about his physicality and compete level. Last year Bouwmeester faced some of the toughest minutes available with 25-year old Chris Butler as his frequent defense partner. The pairing didn't excel, but they weren't completely buried either. In fact, when they were on the ice with anyone but Jarome Iginla, they were almost even terms of possession and scoring chances.

Bouwmeetser will continue to draw criticism thanks to his big contract and below average offensive production, but the Flames don't have an adequate replacement in the pipeline. Although the off-season is thick with Jay Bouwmeester trade rumors, the truth is Calgary could only afford to trade the former Panther if they received another hard minute defender in return or if they decided to move him for picks and prospects and jump start a rebuild.

The rest of the blueline is solid, but not particularly above average. Freshly signed Dennis Wideman was added because of his decent offensive numbers and the fact that Calgary had one of the lowest scoring bluelines in the entire league last year. The 28-year old isn't particularly adept in his own end, however, and probably doesn't measurably improve the Flames back-end in terms of defensive prowess, even though his $5.25M contract runs through to 2016-17.

The formerly undrafted Mark Giordano had his first generally unimpressive season since jumping into the league as a regular. Giordano battled through a significant leg injury mid-season and was also saddled with a doddering Scott Hannan, a burden which proved to be overbearing: with Hannan, Giordano's corsi ratio was .454. Without him, it ballooned to .548. Hannan, in contrast, fell down to .434 absent Giordano.

The good news for the younger man and the Flames in general is Hannan was allowed to walk as a free agent, so Gio should be partnered with a superior option this season, be it Wideman or Butler.

On the bottom-end, Calgary has a host of options, including Derek Smith, TJ Brodie, Anton Babchuk and veteran Cory Sarich. Babchuk was an ill-considered signing from last summer, a pure PP specialist with a booming shot, lackluster hockey sense and slow feet. He could be a third pairing option for new coach Bob Hartley, although with Brodie primed to take a step forward after a decent rookie season and Smith/Sarich ready to provide capable enough play at even strength, Babchuk is again unlikely to crack the roster on a nightly basis.

Sarich was a curious re-signing by the team this off-season. Although he is still more or less functional in a bottom-pairing role, Sarich has battled chronic injury issues for several years and spent the last two seasons in and out of the line-up, either because he was in the infirmary or simply as a healthy scratch. Not the most mobile defender at the best of times, Sarich doesn't have much ability in the offensive zone and can struggle mightily at moving the puck or defending against anyone with above average speed.

While Sarich certainly brings a physical edge to a blueline somewhat lacking in size and aggressiveness, it's debatable whether the 34-year old will be able to adequately keep pace with the game over the course of his new two-year deal.

In Net

Against long odds, Miikka Kiprusoff had a bit of renaissance last season. His .921 overall SV% was the 9th best in the league and his best personal save rate since 2005-06 when he won the Vezina Trophy. Kiprusoff stopped 92.8% of the shots he faced at even strength, again one of the top save percentages in the NHL and a number he has only matched once in the last five years. Indeed, it's safe to say the only reason the Flames were in the playoff race by March was Kipper's top notch performance, particularly given how consistently the club was outshot.

Of course, that means the 36-year old is in line for some regression this year. Kiprusoff has bounced around the goaltending ranks in terms of save percentage since about 2006 - at times flirting with replacement level rates like in 2008-09 (.907 ES SV%) and again in 2010-11 (.916 ES SV%). Post 2006-07, Kiprusoff has more or less settled into a league average tender (around .920 ES SV%) albeit with wild swings between the extremes.

On the bad end of things, that means Kiprusoff is on schedule to have a below average season, particularly if time and wear-and-tear start to catch up to him. Realistically, though, fans and management should expect him to finish a lot closer to his average ES SV% (about .920) than to what he managed last season. If that happens, the club should expect to give up another 13 goals at five-on-five assuming a similar work load for Kipper; bad news for a team that finished last season with a -24 goal differential.

As always, there are significant question marks surrounding the Flames back-up position. Henrik Karlsson's second turn as Kiprusoff's stand-in last year didn't go very well (.900 SV% and one win in nine starts) and by the end of the year the tall Swede had lost the coaching staff's confidence. He was eventually benched in favor of rookie Leland Irving, who had to be called up from the minors to shunt Karlsson to the sidelines.

Irving alternated between great and average performances during his time in the NHL, but nevertheless struggled to outplay free agent signing Danny Taylor in Abbotsford. Taylor was the Heat's established starter by the time the AHL playoffs rolled around, with Irving relegated to back-up duty. Perhaps as a result, RFA Irving suffered through an extended contract negotiation with the Flames this summer, finally settling on a one-year, two-way contract which signals neither the player nor the team is terribly certain about his future in the organization. 

With Karri Ramo spending one more season in the KHL and no other Flames prospect anywhere on the horizon, Irving will likely get a shot to prove he can be a worthwhile back-up at the NHL level in 2012-13. If he doesn't excel, however, there's a good chance he won't be retained by the Flames going forward.

Future Hope and Expectations

 

The best Calgary management and fans can hope for in the short term is for the team to run in place and remain a going concern in the 7-10 range in the West. Many of their key pieces are still functional, but are drawing pay checks for peaks that have come and gone. Their roster has a sizable hole in the middle of it in terms of age range - almost everyone on the club is either over 28 years old or under 23. Mikael Backlund (23) and Roman Cervenka (26) are the only two bodies up front who will likely play more than a supporting role and who are also in that sweet spot in their career arc.

The risk for the Flames is guys like Iginla and Kiprusoff taking a step backwards at 35+ years old. Jarome's play has already begun to tail off and the team has no one in the organization ready to take over for the sniper should he drop off completely or decide to flee to greener pastures once his contract expires at the end of the year. Calgary's uncertain net commodities behind Kiprusoff also means the team can't afford to see the previously unflappable Fin give in to the ravages of time. The Flames are in tough even if Kipper returns to average - if he struggles further, Calgary could be entering draft lotto territory and the chances of one of Irving or Karlsson stepping in and providing anything above league average netmiding is slim.

There are a few reasons for optimism, however. Backlund and Comeau should be in line for rebounds given their below average PDO's of 94.8 and 97.4 respectively. Sophomore defender TJ Brodie excelled in a support role last season and may be ready to take a step forward into the team's top-4. Mike Cammalleri suffered injuries as a Flame and a dry patch in Montreal, but still remains a crafty offensive zone presence with a quick release, so he should put up better totals as well. Roman Cervenka's NHL equivalence coming from the KHL is about 51 points, so if he fulfills his promise the Czech born player will add much needed offense to the Flames top-6. Finally, Dennis Wideman and a Hannanless/healthy Mark Giordano should mean a better blueline for the Flames, particularly in terms of generating offense. 

That said, everything will have to fall in place for Calgary to realistically battle for a playoff spot this coming season. Without at least modest puck luck, consistent performances from every key player, a big uptick in possession stats and at least one or two surprise seasons from other guys, Calgary will be in line for a 10th place or lower finish. Some may hope that new coach Bob Hartley will be able to squeeze more out of the roster than the deposed Brent Sutter, but that remains to be seen.

In the far flung future, the Flames might have a bit more to look forward to. Former 13th overall pick Sven Baertschi tore the cover off the ball in the WHL last year, averaging a CHL high 2.0 PPG pace over the regular season. He turns 20 in October and is poised to make the Flames out of camp. While he probably isn't ready to make a truly significant contribution at the NHL level quite yet, Baertschi is the organization's first blue chip forward prospect in recent memory and represents the organization's best chance to finally pick and develop a homegrown star.

In addition, youngsters Johnny Gaudreau and Max Reinhart could be decent NHLers a few years down the road. The former was picked in the 4th round in 2012 owing to his small stature (5'7", 150 pounds), but nevertheless went on to score at a PPG pace as a freshman for Boston College and capture numerous awards, including the "Bill Flynn" trophy as Hockey East's most valuable player. Gaudreau will always be considered something of a long shot because of his size, but his results as an 18-19 year old in College are difficult to ignore.

Reinhart is a former 3rd rounder who doesn't have quite the offensive credentials of either Baertschi or Gaudreau. The eldest son of former Flame Paul Reinhart is nevertheless highly regarded in the Flames organization for his high hockey IQ and ability to contribute in all areas of the ice. It's unlikely he will jump directly into the big league like Baertschi, but he is expected to be an impact centerman for the team somewhere down the road.

Outlook

After three years out of the playoffs, the Flames are nevertheless a team who will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into a rebuild. The point at which management has no choice but to start selling hope in Edmontonian fashion could come this year as the key players age and the gap between the top end of the roster and the Flames next generation widens. The club possesses zero all around elite talents anywhere in the line-up, the vast majority of their top-end is more likely to decline rather than improve and yet they boast the third most expensive roster in the league.

With a majority of the West's playoff spots spoken for (LAK, DET, VAN, SJS, STL, CHI) and their NW rivals in Minnesota, Edmonton and Colorado in line to improve this coming year, the Flames will have to roll a lot of 7's to make a go of things in the short term. 

If Calgary once again fails to make the post-season, hard questions about the futures of key cogs like Iginla, Kiprusoff and Bouwmeester will have to be faced. With four years of expensive payrolls and limited success, "status quo" will become an untenable strategy, both on the ice and at the ticket office.

This article has been cross-posted on two websites on the Nations Network. For more team annuals, visit NHLNumbers.com. For more Flames content, visit FlamesNation.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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#2 Robb
August 28 2012, 11:09AM
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Good read, Kent. Thanks.

I have really high hopes for Baertschi this season. I'm certainly not going to hold it against him if he only puts up a modest 30 or so points, but i really feel like we might see something really special from this kid in his rookie season...hopefully being this year.

Also, while I can't disagree with you saying that statistically, Kipper is in line for a regression, I feel that wideman is a pretty vast improvement over Hannan...I would assume he's a tad better defensively than Hannan and he's probably a heck of a lot more mobile than him too. He's also going to be ten times better at making a first pass and chipping in offensively, therefore keeping the puck in the opponent's end more often. I'm sure what we've heard about him being a turnover machine and not a very 'smart' player are true, but after watching Hannan struggle last year the way he did, I think I would describe him the sane way. Hannan was obviously considerably cheaper though, in fairness.

Thanks, Kent.

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#3 PabstBR55
August 28 2012, 11:11AM
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You are a talented writer, Mr Wilson. Great read.

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#6 Kevin R
August 28 2012, 11:26AM
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So Kent, this looks like a classic case of same old same old. Would like to see what a lockout & loss of a year changes things or does it? Looks to me 2013/14 looks like the beginning of the rebuild. Maybe we'll get lucky & a few teams fold & we can pick up some elite talent in the dispersal draft.

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#7 NHL93
August 28 2012, 11:34AM
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I think I finally understand what ownership wants to achieve with this team(bear with me as I live in England); get as much money out of the Iginla and Kipper marketing machine before the inevitable reset which may be in 12 months. God I hope it's in 12 months and not 18 months.

Perhaps a fantasy forum in the next few months re:dispersal draft? Martin Hanzal anyone?

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#8 Derek T.
August 28 2012, 11:51AM
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Best entry in this series I've read so far and there have been some terrific ones. Great job Kent. Really comprehensive and informative.

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#9 schevvy
August 28 2012, 11:54AM
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Kent, you need to borrow Lambert's smiling Iggy/ Feaster sun MS paint masterpiece. Most of that article was depressing. (but true)

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#11 Michael
August 28 2012, 12:14PM
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A depressing, but thoroughly realistic view of the Flames lineup for next season. Ownership has certainly provided the budget, the Flames have one of the highest team salaries in the league, but successive management’s have simply misspent the money.

With the number of contracts coming off the books, this was supposed to be Feaster’s opportunity to put his ‘stamp’ on the team. Feasters stamp, status quo reigns supreme in Calgary, a management style that many ostrich’s would be proud off, bury your head in the sand, and hope that things get magically better.

Hope that Iggy, Kipper and the older guys find the fountain of youth, and age backwards not forwards; that the backup goalie can actually play 15 games, that eight or so of the top nine forwards can suddenly play some tough minutes and don’t all need to be sheltered, that the #1 and #2 center ice position’s can be filled by converting wingers to centers, that the terribly average defensive group can actually help keep the puck out of the net, and mercy me, that Begin can add the sandpaper that is almost entirely missing from the club.

The Flames simply don’t have a balanced lineup, we’ve gone from Sutter’s ‘rugged WHL type guys’, to Feaster’s 'smaller and softer’ players.

Another missed opportunity, and if we get one, what looks like another wasted season.

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#12 Austin L
August 28 2012, 12:22PM
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Very good read and in depth analysis of all the problems the Flames are facing this year. At least if they don't succeed in making the playoffs we can always look forward to 2013 draft class which looks pretty solid. Not a preferable option, but it's looking like thats what it's coming too. By the way, is Cervenka eligible to win the Calder??

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#13 the-wolf
August 28 2012, 01:16PM
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Well I have no doubt that Baertschi can play and survive with at least modest success in the NHL this season, there's a big part of me that feels like he should play a full year in the AHL with Reinhart.

Let him develop his offence as a first line, first pp option pro, build chemistry with Reinhart and avoid the absoltue mess and dearth of leadership that is the Calgary Flames.

Reinhart probably needs 2 years in the AHL.

2013 - Baertschi

2014 - Reinhart and Gaudreau

2015 - Jankowski

Kipper and Iggy traded by the deadline, please, for the love of everything that is logical.

Stajan and Sarich bought out next summer as well.

Pick up some high draft picks an dhopefully some decent prospects and lets start a new er already.

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#14 jeremywilhelm
August 28 2012, 01:31PM
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Haha, until I saw your comment I was wondering why you had posted this one. I mean, you could pick any number of posts from the last 3 months where you put a similar topic up about how mediocre the Flames are gonna be this season.

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#16 mcculb
August 28 2012, 01:53PM
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When we look back at this article in 10 months everyone will say "Kent was right". He is that close to the mark with this organization.

Didn't Feaster promise playoffs last pre-season? What is the sell to fans this year? "Ahh, playoffs are over rated. Come give us your cash anyway and spend a great night out in a great barn."

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#18 SeanCharles
August 28 2012, 02:38PM
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I think a big reason our possession rates were so terrible is because of Brent Sutter's system. Thus, I think we should see what changes the new coaching staff can make before we write them off. I'm not saying everything is peachy but we've been hearing about this over and over again. We, at least I, get it, and to a certain extent I agree: we need more top end players who can drive possession in the right direction. And we are in trouble because the best assests to help achieve that are good centermen, which is an area with alot of question marks within our organization.

But if Backlund takes a big step forward and possibly gains some chemistry with Beartchi thing may not be as bleak as it seems.

Plus, not that we've addressed it by addition, another issue with possession was our faceoffs. Jokinen was horrible at faceoffs, hell our whole team was, except for Iggy and Stajan. Jokinen gone makes us a better faceoff team, plus i'm sure all our centers, including Cammy, left in the offseason knowing they needed to work on this.

Another issue with our possession last year was Hannan and Sarich were not the greatest at making outlet passes. Wideman and a greater role for Brodie could improve this. I agree with a lot of your assesments its just I've heard it all before and its always the same reasons why: because Iggy and co. are too old and need to be better sheltered and we lack top end talent. There are teams with a lack of top end talent that have strong possession numbers. Our possession problems, in my opinion, were largely due to a poor possession system Sutter implemented, a poor faceoff percentage from our centers (particularly our top center in Jokinen), and poor line matching done by Sutter. All of these things are different now, except for our returning centers. I just think there are less obvious reasons why our team has been horrible instead of Iggy on the downside of his career and no top end talent.

Don't get me wrong I want more top end players but it cant be a coincidence that we made the playoffs 5 years in a row, then Sutter comes and we miss 3 years in a row. Also revealing is that no one has hired Brent Sutter even though there have been openings. He is a good coach but I knew it after the first season that he was the wrong man for the job. We need to see what a new coach does with this group before we know more. Some may say, we've been through a handful of coaches but, honestly don't some of you think (I watched this series on NHL classics) we could have beaten Chicago in Keenans final season, if Regehr, Phaneuf, and Giordano didnt all get injured? I know it was a different team then but that team looked solid, then the very next year falls off the map with Brent behind the bench...? I dunno I'll wait to see before I make my mind up

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#19 Kevin R
August 28 2012, 03:38PM
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I think if all things go well we can compete for the playoffs. This team is not a contender & I dont see Feaster being in a position to be able to acquire the type of pieces needed for a long playoff run. Then again, when was the last time things went right for this team, 2004? Like last year, we'll have good things that come out of next year & some bad. Thing is, the harsh splash of cold reality will hit a lot harder at the end of this year.

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#20 RexLibris
August 28 2012, 03:44PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Thanks for the kind words everyone. I somewhat expected more reactions like "not more of this s*** again..." so I'm glad I haven't bored everyone completely (yet).

I'm picturing Patrick Swayze in Ghost (bear with me here) singing "I am Henry the Eighth I am...Second verse same as the first".

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#22 negrilcowboy
August 28 2012, 05:59PM
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great read, kent.

perhaps the flames pseudo brain trust should peruse this site. it seems that there is more hockey knowledge and insight here than at the round table.

i hope the igbots don't rise up against you, for laying the underlining numbers out for all to see.

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#23 SeanCharles
August 28 2012, 07:34PM
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@Kent Wilson

You're probably right Kent but I still want to see what a new coach does after watching numerous times when an oppossing team would ice the puck after having a long shift, and our top line hadent been out on the ice for a shift or two, Sutter would toss the fourth line out there, the other team would get it out and no chances were produced.

Not to mention he would dress Babchuck some games but then only give him a minute or two on the powerplay. You saw it with Kotalik also, I hated that trade, I did, but Sutter wouldnt play him on the powerplay, or he would refuse to put him on the point where it is his specialty, instead he would toss Regehr out there.

I respected Brent Sutter for certain qualities, but if you got in his doghouse, and didnt have the support players like iggy gets when he struggles, you were in trouble. He did not use his team to its advantage in ways that he could control. Its the Sutter mantra they are stubborn and try to prove points to get a message across, but what they dont realize is those messages fall on deaf ears after awhile.

I think when the Flames played Sutters system to a tee they would get outshot, outchanced and would win by a goal. But thats the thing with one goal games, they can go either way, especially if you cant win in extra time.

Then there were games where the team would lose badly in those games, usually because of one mistake. Hockey is a game of mistakes and I grew tired of listening to Sutter say one mistake cost us the game, it may be true sometimes, but when its a 2nd period mistake it doesnt count as an excuse.

The team would continue playing the way they were told and wouldnt end up getting the win. You could see that the players were frustrated last year playing Sutters system. One thing I know is that Iggy and Tanguay have finally got their wish cause I think Iggys been hoping for a more offensive system for years. They may succeed, they may fail, and given most of your points they more than likely will struggle again.

But one thing for certain is that it should be at least entertaining, new offensive system right as Baertschi and Cervenka come into the league, right when Backlund needs to produce, right as Brodie is coming into his own. I'm excited for this season ( I may not forgive the NHL if there isn't one). The best part is: if we fail again I know Feaster will start making major moves,and he's done an extremely good job in his trades and drafts. Some signings might be questionable but all in all he is a good GM, so far, IMO. (I toss in so far cause I loved Darryl in the beggining: finding Kipper, Huselius, Gio, trading for Cammy). I trust Feaster will fix this team sooner than some people expect and he wont make an epic mistake in a trade that handicaps the organization for years. Thus, I will wait and see, I have high hopes for this organization under Feaster/Weisbrod's watch...

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#24 SeanCharles
August 28 2012, 07:50PM
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^I notice my first response has been edited to include proper paragraphing, then I go ahead and do it again. Sorry haha. I will remember to do that from now on, especially since I tend to go on rants....

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#26 kidgloves
August 28 2012, 09:17PM
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correct me if I'm wrong but I thought I read somewhere that wideman was high up there with blocked shots around top 5 in that catagorie if this is true people should cut him a little slack about his defensive play...

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#27 RKD
August 28 2012, 09:35PM
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Hard to disagree, I don't think any Flames fan would be surprised if the Flames were to get worse before they get better.

This team has spent months of Oct. and Nov. being in the Western basement. This plan of using guys like Wideman and Hudler to transition could backfire. Cervenka and Baertschi are unproven.

Why are the Flames so poor in term of possession? Are the players not good enough on the Flames to be a puck possession team? Bob Hartley stressed he wants the Flames to be a puck possession team.

Is this going to be a repeat of players unable to play the coach's system? Will it be the excuse of underachieving? When I hear of guys like Baertschi, Hudler, and Cervenka I think of possession and skill.

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#28 Franko J
August 28 2012, 09:48PM
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Great summarization of the state of the Flames. Excellent post as always. "Unfortunately, the second half run in 2012 was mostly a mirage. The Flames were (and remain) a fundamentally flawed club who are good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but several steps behind the true contenders in the league. The current construction of the team also makes a real step forward in the near future unlikely; in fact, with an aging core and lackluster collection of players in or near their prime, the Flames will probably continue to trend downwards." Q • This comment is the most realistic assessment of the Flames I have read on FN.

I'm in a wait and see approach with the Flames. For me the biggest wildcard in the mix will be the dynamic between the coaching staff and the players. Whether or not the coaches can get this group of players to finally over achieve for once. Eventhough this team on paper may have its flaws and warts so to speak, all I want as a fan is to see this team from first drop of the puck out work and out hustle the opposition on a nightly basis. Too many times in the past three seasons I was unimpressed more with the work ethic of this team than the talent.

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#29 Jeff In Lethbridge
August 28 2012, 10:48PM
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Well organized synopsis.

But, what does the coaching style and different game plan do to these players?

they struggled under Sutter's "defensive" game plan... how will the different game plan play out with THESE players?

This, for me, is the unknown... the wild card...

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#30 rude
August 29 2012, 05:17AM
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This years squad is like a team from a disney movie, except they wont win. But i'll still cheer for them.....

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#31 Kevin R
August 29 2012, 12:47PM
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@SeanCharles

Where do you assume Hartley doesnt have a defensive system not that much unlike Sutter? This game is about accountability, skating & being on top of the opposition in both ends of the ice. That is what Hartley is going to preach, is that very much different than Sutter? Is Iggy going to stop floating for a breakaway pass because Hartley is now the coach? Hartley's days in Atlanta he had a young Heatly & Hossa to build a true #1 line & play the "P" out of. Frome what I hear he is as defensive of a coach as Sutter. Only thing, we dont have 2 young studs to have a proper #1 line.

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#32 purple haaze
August 29 2012, 05:31PM
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Great analysis Kent!

In my eyes the best thing that could happen to the Flames next season is that we find ourselves in the Western Conference basement by the mid-way point. Which finally kick starts a proper re-build that I've have been hoping for a couple of seasons now. Trade Iggy, Kipper, Camy, and J-bo ... don't really care about what players we get back in return as long as each of them brings back a 1st round pick in next years draft giving us 5 1st round picks! (including our own lottery pick). That's what I'm hoping for next season.

Worst case scenario for next season is to be sitting in that 8-10th spot come trade deadline and Feaster does nothing because he thinks we're going to win the cup. Then we don't end making the playoffs and Iggy walks in the offseason and Kipper retires because he's only getting paid $1 million next year. Lets all pray this doesn't happen because it seems more likely than my dream scenario.

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#33 SeanCharles
August 30 2012, 01:28PM
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@Kevin R

He said so himself- Hartley said it would be a more exciting offensive brand of hockey, I'm not saying defense won't be part of it, cause every team must play defense. I think the biggest issue with Sutter's system was the players were in their heads too much instead of just naturally reacting, using instincts. He had them over thinking the game, too worried about mistakes, when hockey is a game of mistakes. Harley will instill more creativity within the group, but there still will be a defensive aspect to his system.

Sutter's system allowed the opposing team to have the puck more so than Calgary, and the Flames had to play a more positional, defensive, brand of hockey as a result. I get the impression, weather successful or not, Hartley wants his team to have the puck more often than the opposing team, thus being less time defending.

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#34 Dave Casselman
September 01 2012, 08:29AM
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The "ayes," have it Kent - it's a great read!

I also agree whole-heartedly with your synopsis; the Flames are in a very awkward place as we roll in to 12-13.

I like Jay Feaster. I think he's a knowledgeable hockey guy, aggressive, and confident in his abilities. As contracts come off the books, only now is he finally in a position of having a little bit of money with which to work.

Unfortunately, his roster looks a bit like the Oiler roster of 09-10, (although certainly much more talented,) a collection of aging stars, young kids and not much in the middle. More, thanks largely to Daryl Sutter, the cupboard on the farm is rather empty short of future star Sven B.

We saw what the Oilers chose to do - they blew it up. Jay Feaster says that will only happen in Calgary over his dead body, he'll build a winner through trades, free agency and shrewd drafting. Would that we only knew what goes on behind closed ownership meeting doors for it seems inconceivable to me that he'll be able to do it that way. His star players not only have lots of hard mileage on their odometers, they'll simply be too old to participate in any kind of meaningful turnaround.

So. Over to you ownership group. I and many others fervently hope you come off your position of making a silk purse from a sow's ear. It simply cannot be done, so blow it up boys, time for an infusion of talented youth. Only then will we have a shot at the Cup, because simply making the playoffs isn't enough by half.

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#35 yawto
September 01 2012, 02:06PM
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Great read. If only the Flames were as talented as the guys writing about them they might have a sniff of success this year. Going forward it is looking rough for this team. Seems as though the river of denial is shifting south out of Edmonton and down through Calgary. Sad that as our team begins to go up, this one goes down. Will we ever see two competitive teams in this province at the same time again?

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