Calgary Flames 2012 Year In Review

Kent Wilson
January 02 2013 10:36AM

 

 

See: the previous year in review.

That's more than a tab glib, but the truth is despite the change in management and other shuffles in the upper office, the Calgary Flames season was more than a little reminiscent of the one before it: the club came out of the gates slowly, sunk to the bottom of the western conference by Christmas and then rebounded just enough in the new year to challenge for a playoff spot, eschew any meaningful roster changes and then bow out of the playoff picture in the last week or two of action. A familiar script three years running.

So because of that - and the fact there has been no 2012-13 action to talk about to date - there's little to discuss on the ice. At least at the NHL level.

Prospects and Managers

Off the ice, things were much more interesting. Jay Feaster had his first calender year as the organization's GM. John Weisbrod, Craig Conroy and Martin Gelinas are now permanent parts of the management/coaching regime. Brent Sutter was ousted in favor of Bob Hartley. Chris Snow was hired as a video/new stats analyst and the team starting looking beyond the WHL to places like college hockey and Quebec High School leagues for prospects.

Perhaps the most notable news in Flames land over the last year was the rise of Sven Baertschi and Johnny Gaudreau, both 2011 draftees. Baertschi scored at a two point per game pace for the Portland Winterhawks in his final junior season and then managed three goals in three games during an emergency call-up with the parent team. There's no question Baertschi is best forward prospect the Flames have had in at least a decade and that he would be plying his trade in the NHL right now if games were being played.

Gaudreau was the ultimate darkhorse when he was picked - the smallest player ever chosen by the franchise, his point-per-game freshman season turned out to merely an appetizer for his rise as a Boston College leader and favorite for the Hobey Baker award this year. Gaudreau is still very small and there remains sizable obstacles in his path to the NHL, but his rapid development since being chosen in the 4th round in 2011is compelling. Baertschi is the best prospect the team has seen in a long time, but Gaudreau might be the most interesting.

The Rebuild

Of course, the main question in the hearts and minds of Flames fans is if and when the team will actively begin to rebuild. There was a sense the tear down may begin this summer after a third straight year of high payroll and no post-season action. Instead, Feaster more or less chose to stay the course by hanging on to guys like Iignla, Bouwmeester and Kiprusoff while supplementing them with additions such as Dennis Wideman, Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka.

So while changes swirl behind the bench and in the Saddledome's offices, the stage was set for more of the same on the ice this season.

As mentioned in this space previously, the club is stuck in a sort of nebulous grey area from which there is no obvious escape; not bad enough to necessarily warrant blowing everything up and starting fresh, but not good enough to reasonably compete for a championship. The club's primary difference makers are, to a man, past their prime. The roster is especially light on guys in the 23-28 age range. On top of all that, Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff are entering their late-30's and rapidly approaching the final years of their respective contracts, meaning there's a non-trivial chance one or both will either fall off a cliff performance-wise or be playing elsewhere in the near future.

The DNA of the Flames has for so long been based on a model of "play Iginla and Kipper as much as possible and, uh, find some supporting players" that the organization doesn't seem to have the emotional or intellectual wherewithal to deviate from that roadmap. At some point, though, the issue is going to be forced upon the decision makers one way or the other and that day looms larger every time the sun sets.

What the club does to prep itself for the inevitable change over will determine how successful - or how painful - the immediate aftermath of the post-Iginla/Kipper era will be in Calgary.

Conclusion

At some point action will resume (probably) and we will finally get a chance to see what impact additions like Bob Hartley and Dennis Wideman will have on the ice. The primary narrative going forward, however, is the enduring game of chicken the org is playing with a rebuild. The team won't be able to spin it's wheels as 9/10 club in the west in perpetuiuty, so the question is: will they be able to heave themselves above the playoff fold again? Or will they bottom-out completely and face an Oilers style reconstruction?

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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 Bean-counting cowboy
January 02 2013, 11:42AM
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I wonder if the lockout has given the decision makers a little more time to get intelectually honest with themselves.

Realizing that you could potentially blow the last year of Iggy's contract and Kipper is that much older in my mind should be a wake-up call.

If the season does start this month, I for one am hoping we see a bit more of a shift come deadline time from the going for it mentality.

p.s. hat trick for Mr. Baker today against the Czechs!!!

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#2 Jpinto
January 02 2013, 11:52AM
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Oiler style rebuild is not necessary. Assuming the Flames are a ways out of it by the trade deadline here is what I would do.... The pieces are there to start with. Trade Iggy for for picks, prospects and a 3rd line player. Trade Kipper for a pick and a younger goalie. Dump whatever bad contracts you can without costing yourself future. Fire your GM!! Fire Tod Button!!!

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#3 Kevin R
January 02 2013, 11:58AM
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I really hope we do have a season & that will get us a chance to make the moves so we can begin this painful rebuild. Its coming & I just dont see how we can get around it. We just dont have future elite players coming into their own in the next 2-3 years & no one is just going to give us some. Iggy/Kipper/JBO represent very good players that carried that elite label(some will argue about JBO)but are not anymore but all these players could be valuable pieces for the right teams. It's time to get what we can and get some gems that will grow with the likes of Baertschi, Gaudreau, Cerevenka & Brodie. I like having Wideman/Tanguay/Hudler/Cammi around to give these kids room to develop. Facts are facts, this team is no longer a contender with Kipper & Iggy, just a lot more competitive. Time to get younger pieces so we can contend again. A few lucky trades & picks & some players blossoming & it may happen a lot quicker than one may think.

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#4 Derzie
January 02 2013, 12:36PM
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Flames with 5 horses in the WJC? 7 or 8 points today alone between Johnny and Granlund? Wotherspoon showing some promise. Strong young crop of goalies. Sven. Whoever made these calls should be given more chances to do the same. Weisbrod? Feaster? Even Button? Who knows. One side note with Sven, I can't help but see Marc Savard's face and it scares me a lot. Too much concussion time for our boy Sven in the last 2 years.

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#5 Michael
January 02 2013, 12:44PM
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Flames management had to understand that the NHL was looking to reduce the share of revenue paid to the players, and that this would lead to lower cap numbers going forward. The team could well find itself in cap hell this year and next.(and not for the first time) The team missed a huge opportunity to dump salaries at the trade deadline, and handed out a couple of large 'free agent' contracts, that may well cripple flexibility going forward. Feaster and the new management team seem as unable to manage the cap as the previous team.

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#6 MC Hockey
January 02 2013, 01:01PM
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Derzie wrote:

Flames with 5 horses in the WJC? 7 or 8 points today alone between Johnny and Granlund? Wotherspoon showing some promise. Strong young crop of goalies. Sven. Whoever made these calls should be given more chances to do the same. Weisbrod? Feaster? Even Button? Who knows. One side note with Sven, I can't help but see Marc Savard's face and it scares me a lot. Too much concussion time for our boy Sven in the last 2 years.

Sven had concussions? Seriously?

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#7 John Deere Green
January 02 2013, 01:04PM
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If the season starts shortly, does the trade deadline remain the same? The only way the Flames can become relevant in the next few years is by trading Iginla, Bow, and Kipper for picks and 1a/b prospects. I know that picks and prospects are not garaunteed to make you a contender year after year, but it sure as hell ups the odds. They arent a playoff team with these 3 untouchables, so why not go in a different direction and give the fans something to cheer about, players giving a crap.

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#8 Steve
January 02 2013, 01:18PM
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The 2013 draft is a huge chance to become relevant again in a hurry. But everybody else knows that too. No one's going to want to give up picks. If they could find a way to get their hands on Drouin, that would be a giant first step.

@Jpinto - I don't think we need to waste Kipper to acquire a younger goalie. I'm sure we could sign Taylor or Brust, and Ramo is in next year; Ortio, Brossoit, and Gillies for the future - enough goalies!

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#9 suba steve
January 02 2013, 01:23PM
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Jpinto wrote:

Oiler style rebuild is not necessary. Assuming the Flames are a ways out of it by the trade deadline here is what I would do.... The pieces are there to start with. Trade Iggy for for picks, prospects and a 3rd line player. Trade Kipper for a pick and a younger goalie. Dump whatever bad contracts you can without costing yourself future. Fire your GM!! Fire Tod Button!!!

In general agreement about moving our stars, but why fire Button? Draft history of this club has been not great for over 20 years (my opinion). Admittedly, Button has been a part of that having been with the club for what, 10 years or more? There have been reports that D. Sutter had a large amount of influence on drafting during a large part of Tod's tenure, particularily early picks. However in recent years (without Darryl), I would argue that the Flames have drafted better. In 2011 alone they grabbed Baertchi, Granlund, Wotherspoon, Gaudreau, and Brossoit. None are contributing to the parent club yet, but I think it could be realistically dreamed that they could all get there some day. 2012 saw the Flames grab Janko, Sieloff, Gillies, etc. Janko could boom or bust (as is the case with all these players), but at very least I feel confident in saying that there seems to have been an improvement in the selections this club is making, and Button would seem to be a major factor in these picks.

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#10 RexLibris
January 02 2013, 01:32PM
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"the organization doesn't seem to have the emotional or intellectual wherewithal to deviate from that roadmap"

Yes.

Great read, Kent.

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#11 RKD
January 02 2013, 05:26PM
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Another year of missing the playoffs was another failure of the organization. The Flames are working hard to rebuild their cupboard of young talent, it still will take time.

To me they are still in transition mode, serious decisions need to be made about Kipper, Iggy, and Jay-Bo. Is this team really underachieving or is what we saw the best they can perform?

Maybe the hope is the additions of Wideman, Hudler, Cervenka can erase the void of Jokinen and Moss and add some more.

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#12 SmellOfVictory
January 02 2013, 10:50PM
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MC Hockey wrote:

Sven had concussions? Seriously?

Yeah, he was concussed during the 2012 WJC. It's also possible that he suffered a concussion recently, although the official statement is that it's a neck injury.

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