Weekend Open Thread - To Tank Or Not To Tank?

Ryan Pike
December 28 2013 10:44AM


(courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Well, the Calgary Flames lost last night to their most (or second-most) bitter rivals, the Edmonton Oilers. The loss was Calgary's 87th against the Oilers, 35th in Calgary against them, and the first time they've been shut out at home against the Oilers.

And you know what? That may be just fine.

In the 2014 Draft Lottery Dive, the Flames sit with 34 points in 38 games (with a 14-18-6 record), which puts them a whopping 10 points ahead of Edmonton. Prior to Friday night, the Flames had played maybe two or three stinkers in their prior 37 games. Three of the four teams below Calgary in the standings are from the Eastern Conference, which gives those teams the advantage of playing more games against arguably worse teams than the Flames do. If the Flames have a snowball's chance of getting a crack at Aaron Ekblad or Sam Reinhart in this year's draft - and their best shot may be winning the draft lottery at the end of the season - they need to take advantage of their chances to come up short against teams like Edmonton.

In all seriousness, a rational observer should look at Calgary's 2-0 loss last night with a bewildered shrug and then move on. It was a home game after a three-day break with no practices. Players were surrounded by family members and presents (and food) for three days. The post-Christmas stumble is not a rarity in hockey, but hopefully this just lasts this game. And it's not like there aren't any positives to take out of the game, as Reto Berra was fairly solid, and Paul Byron and Mikael Backlund continued to play well. And Sean Monahan played well enough to get off of the fourth line. All in all, Calgary's ability to make lemonade out of their lemons this year roster-wise - face it, they're no world-beaters on paper - has to be one of the most interesting stories of 2013-14. But it's frustratingly (for the club's futures) arguably driving them further and further away from a great draft selection. But what's the alternative? Tanking? As we've seen up north, that's no guarantee of success.

For those looking for something to do on Monday night, the Kootenay Ice are visiting the Calgary Hitmen - albeit without Sam Reinhart, which is a bit like Garfield Without Garfield. But it's also a good chance to see how the Hitmen are playing. Jake Virtanen, Radel Fazleev and Ben Thomas are all 2014 Draft eligible players who are garnering attention and, from a Flames perspective, Virtanen is almost the personification of "truculence" on the ice. Either way, puck drops at 7pm down at the Saddledome.

What's your take? Are you more excited about this year's on-ice efforts or worried about the draft? Or are you somewhere in the middle?

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Now in his fourth season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers and the Wrestling Observer.
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#51 piscera.infada
December 29 2013, 12:43PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

If I put a list together of most useless hockey personalities in the NHL, Glen Healy would top the list. That said, building around an aging post apex Jarome Iginla can't be considered a rebuild, so regrettably Healy probably has a better demarcation point. Feaster attempted to fix big problems with the organization (the farm team, cap jail etc.), but I don't personally consider that the point when the rebuild started.

While I agree with you about the "start" of the rebuild, I don't think you can overlook the work Feaster did as a factor in rebuilding. Typically the "start of a rebuild" is a function of having absolutely nothing left in the organization. Like him or not, Feaster actually put the team in a situation where once the rebuild was truly embraced, there was something to work with. As such, I don't see the job that needs to be done by Burke and his new GM as being a "total rebuild". Yes, they need to value draft picks - not trading them away on quick fixes, but also making deft choices at the draft. That said, there is a situation where this rebuild doesn't have to take 5 years of sitting around hoping against hope.

The problem with the rhetoric surrounding a "rebuild" is that people get too hung up on timelines - when it started so we can accurately put 'x' number of years towards it's completion. That's not the correct way to look at it though, as you get locked into rebuilding in perpetuity. Obviously things need to change, new talent needs to come in, and a system has to be cultivated, but I think when we talk about "rebuilding" in absolute terms we lose sight of what the goal should be - creating a new team. That (at least in my mind) is moreso a product of opportunity and skill in management/coaching, than simply sitting back and "allowing the 'rebuild' to happen".

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#52 coachedpotatoe
December 29 2013, 12:46PM
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beloch wrote:

Great teams usually have at least some elite talent, which the Flames currently do need, but they also usually have very few "holes". A "hole" is a player that bleeds turnovers, etc. and can be exploited by the other team. The Bruins have very few holes, while half the team up in Shelbyville are holes.

So, which Flames are holes? Corsi is actually pretty good at showing who they are. Here's a list of the worst Flames by relative Corsi (I'm leaving out players who are either not regulars or who just haven't been up in Calgary for quite a while).

-MacGrattan (-17.8): What a surprise!
-Smid (-15.5): (see below)
-Lance Bouma (-12.6)
-Sean Monahan (-11.1): This is his 18 year old season, so he's not a hole, just a rookie.
-Chris Butler (-9.7)
-Shane O'Brien (-7.8)
-Chris Breen (-6.7): Not a regular, and probably shouldn't be. A larger sample size would probably make him look a lot worse.
-Curtis Glencross (-5.1): Struggling?
-Sven Baertschi (-3.4): Like Monahan, he's still figuring the NHL out.
-David Jones (-2.2)
-Joe Colborne (-1.0): It's a pleasant surprise he's not much higher on this list!


Regarding Smid:
He sucks. I'm sorry, but he just does. He's slow and has hands of stone. He's a big truculent mofo, but he really is a step too slow for the NHL. He's getting crushed out there. Initially, I wrote his insanely bad possession stats off as being played in a situation above his ability with crap team-mates in Edmonton, but his Corsi has actually gotten worse in Calgary. Admittedly, he's been playing against tougher comp here too thanks to all the injuries on the blue-line, but he still sticks out as being remarkably bad. No matter how much Edmonton fans like to point to the Smid trade as evidence that their team is mismanaged, the Oilers might have actually won this trade! Smid is a player we should be looking to move, perhaps to a club that values truculence even more than Burke.

Key to future success: Plug the holes.
Monahan and Baertschi are obviously not holes, just rookies. Glencross might just be struggling, but if a good offer comes along... Colborne has taken enough steps forward this season that I'd be fine with giving him another season to prove himself. The rest of these holes have got to go! Smid and MacGrattan are especially bad even though they are poster boys for size and truculence. Will Burke (or his future side-kick) have the intelligence to plug the team's two biggest holes even if it means losing some truculence?

Note: Relative Corsi is a measure of players' possession relative to the rest of their team. Upgrading all players with negative Corsi Rel does not guarantee the team will be good at possession, just better than they are now. A corollary to this is that Flames with negative Corsi Rel aren't just bad by league standards, but by the standards of one of the bottom five teams in the league. There are no doubt some Flames with positive Corsi Rel that would be holes on a team like the Bruins.

Does Corsi tell the whole story? Is Bouma as bad as his Corsi suggest or is in part who he has been saddled with. I agree with the need to move on from McG and I would also be prepared to move on from Smid, DJones and Ob if we could,

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#53 Kevin R
December 29 2013, 01:29PM
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MontanaMan wrote:

The challenge is keeping the floor on the salary cap. Unfortunately to do that, Burke will need to acquire some overpriced veterans in his trades. It's a sad day when a team needs to overpay just to reach the floor but if Burke moves Cammy, Wideman, Stajan, Step, etc this very well may be the case. And if that's the case, he may just choose to keep the overpriced players he has.

WW - the tournament isn't over yet so don't hurt your arm patting yourself on the back. Unlike fair weathered fans only around for the wins, I will cheer for Team Canada and Sutter (win or lose) for the entire tournament.

Why trade Wideman or Hudler? They are vets playing decently with multi years left on their contracts. Unless you are totally blown away with the offer & like Trav said, you listen to any & all offers, you keep them. You keep your captain. Those 3 guys are 13 mill cap hit & very good vets as we develop our younger players. I see Russell getting Brodie money & he deserves it too. Smid we keep until maybe next year as I am hoping Seiloff & or Tspoon make him expendable.

Tank is just another word for rebuild. We will suck because we are letting young players get relevant NHL experience. I expect this team to play hard & compete every game. The phrase `Suck with a Purpose` is relevant here.

I think Reinhart or Knight will be more than adequate replacements for Stajan. We may still have 1 more year to evaluate who we keep between Berra & Ramo, then 1 of the 2 must go.

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#54 BurningSensation
December 29 2013, 02:13PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

If I put a list together of most useless hockey personalities in the NHL, Glen Healy would top the list. That said, building around an aging post apex Jarome Iginla can't be considered a rebuild, so regrettably Healy probably has a better demarcation point. Feaster attempted to fix big problems with the organization (the farm team, cap jail etc.), but I don't personally consider that the point when the rebuild started.

A. I TOTALLY agree with you about Healy. I absolutely cannot stand him. I practically cheer everytime the camera pans away from him to Elliotte Friedman so we can get an actual intelligent opinion about something.

B. 'Rebuild' is a massively loaded term, especially when you are using it with your favourite team. For me, a 'rebuild' is what you do when you are;

- changing the 'core' of your team - making large adjustments to your farm system/talent procurement (ie. new AHL coaches/mgt, new scouting dept., new fancy-stats guys, etc.)

Up until Dutter was turfed, Flames mgt insisted on moving the pieces on the peripherary around without impacting the core. Once Feaster took over we saw both an overhaul of the Flames talent pipeline (long overdue), and the first of the core players moved out. I can't see how you don't start the 'rebuild clock' with Feaster's ascension.

C. Once Feaster was in charge, I think it was clear there was a plan (especially in hindsight) to let Iginla get to the end of his contract before flipping him, and to let Kipprusoff play out the string, accept a trade, or retire, as he saw fit. I suspect strongly both were KK directives. That said, even though the team was letting both ride it out, that is not an indication the Flames were still 'trying to build around' them.

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