March 18 2013 10:57AM
With only about 2 weeks separating Calgary from the trade deadline, and 4 points separating them from 8th, things are starting to heat up on all fronts for the Flames. Over the next 14 days or so the club will have to decide if it's going to sell at the deadline and, if so, who it should be putting on the block.
- Obviously I think the Flames should be sellers. Although they are only 4 points back of the final playoff spot right now, there remains six other teams clustered ahead of them. Calgary's schedule doesn't get any easier through the rest of the season either: the Flames have played 57% of their games on home ice to date and have enjoyed (a probable league high) 9 opponents on the second night of back-to-backs so far. Meaning, although they have run through the softest part of the season, they are 20th in terms of score close possession overall which is reflected in the fact that almost every high paid player on the club is underwater by this measure. Sports Club Stats puts the Flames chances at making the playoffs at just under 1 in 4.
In short, this isn't a team I would bet the future on. They have been unlucky so far for sure and I think the goaltending will improve and with it the Flames fortunes to some degree. However, they remain a relentlessly mediocre team and management's true priority should be leveraging certain saleable assets at the deadline if possible.
- The big one, of course, is Jarome Iginla. Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis and San Jose are the probable suitors come April and with a potential dearth of big name rentals available it's possible Feaster will be able to establish a bidding war for the Flames captain. Especially in the east, where the Bruin and Pens may want to acquire him as much to keep him away from their rival as anything.
We'll take a long look at Iginla and his potential returns as the day approaches.
- Another guy to consider is Matt Stajan. His resurrection under Bob Hartley is getting a lot of attention in town and rightly so - prior to the season he was considered by everyone both inside and outside of Calgary as the most likely buy-out candidate on the club. Now he centers Calgary's first line match-up option.
That said, the perception of Stajan is being goosed by a team high on-ice SH% of 14.52 (!!) and team best PDO of 103.5. All of his other underlying numbers, however, are just like Stajan himself - just okay.
A decent 20+ game run may not have been enough to rehabilitate his value in the eyes of the market at large, so he may not be worth moving at the deadline. That said, it's a guarantee his percentages won't be shy-high forever so this is definitely the time for Feaster to find out if he can "sell high" on asset that was considered only a few months ago to be less than worthless.
- Tyler Dellow recently took a very close look at Mark Giordano and Jay Bouwmeester to determine how close the former is to the latter in terms of performance over the last few years. The results may surprise you. Tyler examined shot rate and scoring rate for each guy over a three season period and Giordano comes out looking as good or better than Bouwmeester from most angles, even when the quality of teammates and linemates is taken into account.
All of which is to say, I’m not entirely convinced that Jay Bouwmeester is a puck moving defenceman. He certainly soaks up a lot of minutes but they’re offensively dry minutes for the Flames. His teammate, Giordano, sees the Flames generate more shots overall when he’s on the ice, creating a scoring edge that isn’t simply shooting percentage.
I bring this up because there seems to be a growing movement amongst the Flames fanbase to try to move Giordano this year, in part because of his perceived struggles so far. There's no doubt Gio has had more than his fair share of obvious gaffes this season, most of them noteworthy because they have invariably led to the puck ending up in the back of the Flames net. Unfortunately, Giordano has labored in front of an even strength SH% of just .866 this year (lowest on the team), which is worse than most NHL goalies manage on the PK. As a result, his every misstep has been magnified.
Despite all that, his relative corsi rate is 8 ticks better than Bouwmeester this year and only TJ Brodie and Dennis Wideman have better possession rates than Giordano (having played much easier opposition in aggregate of course).
As such, I think moving Giordano would be a mistake. He is signed until 2016 at a reasonable rate and remains one of the Flames best options in the top-4. His first 20-or so games aren't necessarily indicative of his abilities, not to mention moving him right now would be selling low on a guy who has proven in the past to be pretty useful (and likely will again in the near future).
- Finally, I noted this on Friday night both here and on twitter, but Lee Stempniak has been a revelation for the Flames the last two seasons. This year, for example, he's third amongst regular forwards in terms of possession rate (+9.8/60 relative corsi) , second in terms of even strength points scoring rate (2.49/60) and second on the team in overall scoring (20 points) - all while facing quality opposition (third toughest on the team) and starting way more often in the defensive zone (ZS 43.4%).
Those are remarkable returns for a guy who, until arriving in town, was merely billed as a streaky third-line scorer. He's playing the big boys and more than holding his own and costs as much as Anton Babchuk in terms of annual cap hit. Stempniak is singed for one more season after this one and is a guy the club should hang on to with an iron grip. If he is anywhere near this good again next season, Jay should be looking to re-up the former Leaf a third time.
The Flames management has caught a lot of flak lately, but the Langkow deal is one Feaster won hands down. Daymond was an excellent center in his time and the club is still struggling to replace his contributions, but time and injuries meant he was pretty much at the end of the runway by the time they moved him out of town. Stempiak, in contras,t is in his prime and has developed into one the club's best value deals.
Draft Street Freeroll
We have another Nations freeroll going with Draftstreet this week. My brother is the more ardent fantasy game player/gambler in the family and he sings Draftstreet's parises daily to me, so if you haven't given it a go I'd suggest taking a look.
This week, build your free roster for this Saturday's schedule. The pot is $300 as usual.