Depth, Creative Destruction and the Calgary Flames

RexLibris
July 09 2013 11:40AM

 

 

I had a look at the Flames depth chart the other day.

I thought the situation for this season was going to be grim going into October. In fact, I was pretty sure that Feaster was positioning the team for a top-five pick in this year's draft deliberately. The quote from the Calgary Flames' website the other day about his perception of the talent available in the 2013 free-agent crop seemed to be sane, realistic and arguably backed up this belief.

“At our meeting with ownership on May 9, we presented a preliminary list of unrestricted free agents at that time,” Feaster said, according to the team’s website. “One of the things we said to ownership was that we didn’t believe the answers to our problems, our situations, our needs were necessarily going to found in unrestricted free agency.”

Then I looked at their roster situation and depth chart and I had to laugh. The kind of laugh that comes out unbidden, when you see someone quite serenely and soberly walk into a calamity of their own volition, and it would appear to be the most natural thing in the world, except that it has everyone around them looking and thinking "what the-?!"

In the Deep End

The current depth chart for the Flames at center, according to capgeek, begins with Matt Stajan, moves on to Mikael Backlund, and then progresses (regresses?) to Blair Jones. Corban Knight appears set to take over as a 3rd or 4th line center, but he has never played an NHL game and with Sean Monahan coming in this year (a prospect whom I was hopeful the Oilers could select) this could result in the Flames dressing two rookies at center along with a developing 2nd line center in Backlund and perennial whipping boy Matt Stajan.

I shouldn't have to tell you that that is not a good thing.

The wings offer Calgary's one hope for fighting chance this season, but this is where the story takes another twist and leads to the heart of the matter.

Of the top-six wingers currently on the team, four arguably have the distinction of being considered bona fide top-six talents: Glencross, Hudler, Cammalleri and Stempniak. Cammalleri is over 30 now and his production is likely to decline (if he isn't post-apex, he can at least see it from here), and Stempniak is a prototypical depth winger. Scott Cullen has a terrific review of NHL rosters every off-season and includes a rating system for forwards. Stempniak makes the cut for a top-six forward just barely. On top of this, these same two wingers are pending UFAs at the end of this season. This is arguably the good news, as it means that the opportunity exists for the Flames to move both for picks or prospects at the deadline and rid themselves of two players who no longer fit the needs of the team.

However, this leads into the other free-agents-to-be for the Flames. This coming season Chris Butler, Kris Russell and Derek Smith are all set to become unrestricted free agents. None of those are crippling losses for the roster as they are all 3rd pairing blueliners. However, it does bring attention to an oft-overlooked weakness of the Flames organization: a dearth of prospects on the blueline. Here we get into the real crux of this article.

Kent Wilson has summed up the Flames development system in a very concise and accurate fashion before by simply saying "they need everything". This was prior to the 2013 draft, but still it could be considered to generally be true. Yet there are some areas that are more pressing needs than others.

To demonstrate, let's run a scenario.

If we were to assume that the Flames lost all three of those players listed above to free-agency, something I think is unlikely given Jay Feaster's penchant for offering contract extension to blueliners early in the season (see Sarich, Cory), it would mean that the team is almost certain to pursue at least two of those three positions through free-agency next summer.

There are very few internal options ready to step in and play at the NHL level right now.

Mark Cundari did have a short spell at the end of last season, and by eye performed well enough to give him another chance this coming year. However, it would be rash to expect him to graduate to a 3rd pairing NHL job next season this early in his development. There is also the towering Chris Breen who has been a top-4 guy in Abootsford for a couple of years. Breen could be a bottom pairing option if his lack of mobility and puck skills aren't too crippling. Fans have hopes for Tyler Wotherspoon, but at this point we don't know what kind of pro he might be.

At the same time there is nothing to suggest that there would be significantly better options available through free-agency next summer. The end result is that the Flames may let some free-agents go only to replace them with statistical dopplegangers who do not move the dial. Without internal options to improve, and with the roster built such as it is, it becomes highly unlikely that the best free-agents would choose to sign in Calgary until the team is competitive, it is difficult to project a scenario that seems marked improvement in this area either this season or next.

Now bottom pairing defensemen are generally cheap, so this isn't meant to suggest that the sky is falling. But it is a symptom of a larger problem within the organization.

Future Flames?

For the most part, I don't have a great deal of faith in Hockey's Future prospect rankings. Where I do find them useful is in how they can provide all of the names of prospects broken into forward, defense and goal positions. The Flames are currently listed with seven defensive prospects in their system. If we account for the general rate of attrition amongst prospects, that would mean that one of those bodies is likely to become an NHL player. And that excludes the higher rate of lost prospects amongst defensemen due to injury.

Of all the names on the Flames' list of blueliners developing, I'd put money on Wotherspoon at this stage. He's made it this far. Sieloff has come along well, and Cundari has already played some NHL games, but it is a long, long way from prospect to player.

The only other area in which the Flames are more desperate for prospects, warm bodies even, would be at Right Wing. Presumably the organization felt that this position was more or less taken care of for the foreseeable future when #12 was on the roster. Today, they have four names listed as RW prospects: Greg Nemisz, David Eddy, Ben Hanowski, and Tim Harrison, although left shooting Emile Poirier can apparently play both wings. Of those, Hanowski is closest to the NHL and will begin his first full professional season this year, likely in the AHL. Nemisz and Eddy are AHL-level talents and Harrison was a 6th round pick this past draft.

Wing is a difficult position to nail down as some players can switch sides, however for the most part a player has a clear preference or competence for one side or the other. Either way, RW is an area in which the Flames would be well-advised to spend some time acquiring and developing prospects or younger players at least.

The Flames have one area of prospect development that is brimming with bodies: goaltending. However, as has been discussed here at FN, that is also one of the least efficient areas of development in which to invest. The percentage of players who turn into useful NHL guys is notoriously small, and when taken in conjunction with the almost voodoo-like methods of discerning goaltending talent amongst prospects, it is a stock portfolio heavily leveraged in lottery tickets. If it pays off, you're set. If not...

But What Comes Next?

So the Flames have a shortage of NHL-tested centers for this coming year (nothing new), a paucity which may force or entice the team to push recent draft Sean Monahan into service. The club is also heavy with wingers whose best-before date is quickly approaching or whose ceiling is well-below elite and are set to become free-agents, a shortage of internal options with which those roster spots can be replaced, and a defense corps that is set to lose marginal supporting players to free-agency thus raising the even-more-terrifying specter of re-signing those players to retain some semblance of an NHL roster, with no obvious TJ Brodie-like internal replacements on the horizon.

But what might be the bright side of this situation? There is a concept known as creative destruction, highlighted in the book "Why Nations Fail" by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, which can be defined as the opportunity which arises from the collapse of a system, leading to the creation of an innovative and adaptive new system in its wake. For the Flames, the collapse of their previous roster paradigm - centered around Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester and Miikka Kiprusoff - has already occurred and a new one is waiting to be established.

It should be noted that the collapse of an institution or system does not inherently demand the creation of a new one to take its place. A vacuum can exist following such a collapse, with no new paradigm or structure emerging to take its place. In NHL terms, this would be those teams who wander the proverbial desert.

For the sake of argument let us assume that the roster holes that exist today will be filled with upgrades, even minor ones, via trade and free-agency, the alternative is the status quo and as much as that has been the norm over the past few years for the Flames, it almost certainly will not be so any longer.

If the Flames address their pending roster holes (on the wings and the 4,5,6,7 slots on the blueline) through free-agency they must run uphill to attract quality, impact players who will improve the team by their mere addition. A difficult sell when the team had a fighting chance, now that they are rebuilding this is a virtual impossibiity. An alternative is that they will have to settle for the second-tier UFAs who can, at the very least, sustain the team and help support those players already there as they continue to develop.

The latter is the option that I believe is most feasible and will be the most desirable in the long-term as it will allow the team to come to rest in its most natural setting and draft accordingly. Thus creating an opportunity for value-added restructuring through improved draft position.

Crafting A Solid Foundation

The Flames have begun to assemble a collection of prospects around which the team intends to build. Statistically speaking, of the past three drafts, it would be reasonable to expect that the Flames will graduate approximately two impact to elite-level NHL players and three to four NHL players at or slightly above replacement level over the next five years.That is in total, not on a per/year basis, for the draft years extending from 2011 to 2013, and obviously this is based solely on those prospects currently enlisted.

Based on that rough projection, and factoring in a rate of attrition with an older roster and impending free-agents coming due over the next three seasons (nine in 2013-14, four in 2014-15, and three in 2015-16) that would require the Flames to graduate an astonishing number of rookies into their NHL roster over the next few years. Upwards of four or five next season, though declining after that. Simply put, their current development system and talent pool does not support this level of elevation.

Obviously this won't happen and they will try to augment this roster need by re-signing some free-agents and acquiring new ones. I'm leaving out trade possibilities because it is impossible to predict.

The rebuilding of the Calgary Flames is currently focused on their drafting and development. However, management has shown a willingness, eagerness even, to pursue trades as a means of adding prospects further along in their development than those currently available.

Regardless of the team's record in either of these departments, the former is the most enticing and ultimately promising area of franchise expenditure. Draft picks are a renewable asset with an historical rate of return - depending on position - and, when handled properly, offer a cheap influx of talent on an almost annual basis.

The rebuilding effort underway in the Flames organization today begins, correctly, with the drafting and developing of a core of players. However, there are several areas of development and multiple factors at play simultaneously. Free-agency, recognizing and re-signing important depth pieces of the roster, leveraging current assets to support the larger long-term goal, and establishing a balance within a poorly maintained talent pool are all requirements. The task ahead would be like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube by moving all sides at once.

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#1 Burnward
July 09 2013, 10:05PM
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That was a well written 5000 words that could have been summed up in 30. Nonetheless, accurate description of where we are.

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#2 Lordmork
July 09 2013, 12:11PM
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In other words, it is going to take time for the Flames to have a shot at being competitive again, and they're going to need to improve the team in a variety of ways for that to happen. Although this may be disappointing, I don't think it is unexpected at this stage in the game. This rebuild was left until our assets were declining and unable to provide enough return, and it was compounded by bad trades and a "win-now" mentality.

That said, I think this may be an opportunity to build the foundations of a team that will be continually competitive for a long time. I hope the team will seize that opportunity. I think I'm more optimistic about the team's future than I've been for a while.

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#3 jeremywilhelm
July 09 2013, 12:48PM
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Yay, we suck again!

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#4 Lionlager
July 09 2013, 12:59PM
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Doom and gloom.

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#5 Kurt
July 09 2013, 01:06PM
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Lordmork wrote:

In other words, it is going to take time for the Flames to have a shot at being competitive again, and they're going to need to improve the team in a variety of ways for that to happen. Although this may be disappointing, I don't think it is unexpected at this stage in the game. This rebuild was left until our assets were declining and unable to provide enough return, and it was compounded by bad trades and a "win-now" mentality.

That said, I think this may be an opportunity to build the foundations of a team that will be continually competitive for a long time. I hope the team will seize that opportunity. I think I'm more optimistic about the team's future than I've been for a while.

"I think I'm more optimistic about the team's future than I've been for a while."

EXACTLY!

I agree with the general idea that we are just starting to enter a dark time. Its going to take a lot longer than most fans are thinking, but I'm encouraged by Feasters recent action (and non-action) that he might for once get it....

I truly have more hope and optimism now than I have in 5+ years. At this moment in time, we probably are the worst we've been in 25 years. We have potential, but expecting anything out of kids with zero NHL games is crazy. Yet I still feel so energized with hope for the future. For the first time in a long long time....

I'd much rather be terrible for a year or two (more) and rebuild this thing properly with the hope of becoming the next powerhouse in the west instead of the pray for the final playoff spot BS we've been enduring for 10 years.

Can you imagine in February just knowing you are in the playoffs, because you team is a favorite and already basically locked up a spot. Going into the trade deadline looking to add pieces and go on a run, not debating if we are buyers or sellers. For the first time in a while I can dream like this!

I'm glad Feaster appears to be accepting a lotto draft pick in 2014! Maybe my kids will be able to grow up cheering for a good team.

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#6 SeanCharles
July 09 2013, 01:07PM
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If goaltending is better this year, than it was last year, I dont think we will be as bad as everyone thinks.

We will be like Pheonix and Nashville. No star players, just a group of middling players who compete hard and arent easy to play against.

Its also reassuring having a couple blue-chip prospects in the cupboards. I dont think Sven is far off from breaking out in this league so we can only go up from here.

Its nice to know ppl can stop talking about how our team is on the decline with diminishing assets as the central pieces of the team..

We will be a future Cup contender, its just a matter of when..?

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#7 Kent Wilson
July 09 2013, 01:10PM
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I don't know. Doesn't strike me as doom or gloom. Over course, I've been preparing for this for a couple of years, so maybe I have a different perspective.

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#9 Scary Gary
July 09 2013, 01:32PM
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I appreciate the article, it's a bit negative but that's the situation we're in. Our D is a little thin prospect-wise but first things first, drafting centermen. Years of neglect aren't going to be wiped away that easily. That being said it may be funny when the flames are neck and neck with the oilers next year; bahahaha.

Perhaps Leon Draisaitl as a target for next year? A buddy of mine in SK is high on him. He was basically a point a game player at 16 and is a centerman; 6'1, 200 lbs at 17 is pretty solid.

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#10 Southern_Point
July 09 2013, 01:51PM
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Great article! There is no perfect formula for a rebuild and I think a management group with the right sense of timing is integral to building lasting success. I don't mean to take a dig at the Oilers but I find their rebuilding through the draft experiment, interesting and- only slightly- cautionary. You can't make moves for the sake of doing something interesting but when there is a real opportunity to add a long term impact talent at the expense of an organizational strength, or prospects at little less far along in the development process then I'm never opposed. To clarify if the flames were into Tyler Seguin for the 6th overall pick, and Johnny Gaudreau than it was a deal they should have done. However if the flames were looking at trading the same package for someone late 20s or older with very little appreciable room for growth putting 65+ points per year I would be opposed to it seeing where we are in our rebuild.

The Oilers I believe have a decent prospect base, and a core of young hockey players that will only continue to get better. Therefore their goal at the moment should be to fill out their roster with players currently in their prime, or still useful veterans available at a discounted rate. This is where I think the fork in the road separates wandering in the desert and competing for championships. The Blackhawks drafted cornerstone players in Toews, Keith, Seabrook, and Kane. They further added integral pieces in Hossa, Oduya, Stalberg, Leddy, and Sharp through trade or free agency, which is something that the Oilers have been unable to do yet.

This is a little all over the place but the summary of the post is that in the initial phases of a rebuild- the part that the flames are currently in- the goal is restock the the prospect base, with an eye on consistently producing young cheap NHL level talent that will come to training camp and compete for jobs year after year. While at this point drafting and developing franchise cornerstones is also a priority, and with emphasis on finding a number 1 centre. It is almost impossible to find a franchise anything through free agency or trades, let alone centres which is why I and I think others placed so much value on the not yet elite franchise building block that is Tyler Seguin. However at certain point in the rebuild- the part I believe the Oilers are in right now- the team needs to begin acquiring players who can impact the team now and complement the emerging elite talents they already have, using assets that maybe don't fit the plans of the organization, are talented but pushed down the depth chart because of an existing organizational strength, and in in essence the loss is overshadowed by the gain.

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#11 Sean Bennett
July 09 2013, 01:52PM
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I don't get it. Is he saying we're gonna suck?

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#12 KetchupKid
July 09 2013, 02:06PM
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Soo... You're saying if we get Olli Jokinen back, we can start planning the parade?

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#13 backburner
July 09 2013, 02:10PM
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I'm enjoying the fact that there is no pressure to make the playoffs this year.. no under achieving superstars, just watching developing players. Will we suck? Yes!!! Come Hell or High water! Go Flames Go!!

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#14 Kmp
July 09 2013, 02:12PM
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No mention of Ramage as a defensive prospect? I think he surprises a lot of people, he is physical, moves the puck well and has sound positioning.

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#15 McRib
July 09 2013, 02:21PM
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"Statistically speaking, of the past three drafts, it would be reasonable to expect that the Flames will graduate approximately two impact to elite-level NHL players...."

Of Sven Baertschi, John Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk, I see at least four elite forwards with up to five. Not to mention Corbin Knight, who was as good as any NHL Prospect this season in the NCAA. Watching both him and Nick Bjugstad on the BTN, I don't understand how Nick gets so much more hype (first roudner?).

I think in a year’s time most people around the NHL will have changed there opinion on this forward prospect crop, as to me and reputable scouting firms, it has Homerun potential.

Emile Poirier in particular is going to make people scratch their heads as to what they were doing biasing there opinions on this kid solely off of ISS, NHLCSS and Corey Pronman. This is one of those picks that some private firms just didn’t see (Not Red Line Report/McKeens) and any NHL team that saw him loved him, just because Bob MacKenzie “talks to scouts” means nothing, good scouts stay miles away. Two teams called us to make a trade for the 22nd pick, but they both wanted him… Anyone who thinks he was a reach wasn’t at the draft, all anyone could talk about was "How this kid added another step to an already powerful stride this season" . You want a reach take a look at Marko Dano or Michael McCarron, outside of TSN and ISS every other publication had these two down at the 50-70 range. You know ISS is biased out of Florida, Lol.

As for Morgan Klimchuk all everyone wants to do is compare this kid to Jordan Eberle (number of points his draft year on weak club, elite release/hands, willingness to improve on weaknesses, international performance at U18s, training partners with Jordan) definitely suggest a valid comparison for me. If we only get two elite forwards out if this crop, I would be shocked.

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#16 mk
July 09 2013, 02:25PM
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@KetchupKid

First we'd have to acquire Brandon Prust though, then trade him for Jokinen... :)

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#17 McRib
July 09 2013, 02:26PM
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Other than that decent article, Haha.

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#18 Kurt
July 09 2013, 02:26PM
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McRib wrote:

"Statistically speaking, of the past three drafts, it would be reasonable to expect that the Flames will graduate approximately two impact to elite-level NHL players...."

Of Sven Baertschi, John Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk, I see at least four elite forwards with up to five. Not to mention Corbin Knight, who was as good as any NHL Prospect this season in the NCAA. Watching both him and Nick Bjugstad on the BTN, I don't understand how Nick gets so much more hype (first roudner?).

I think in a year’s time most people around the NHL will have changed there opinion on this forward prospect crop, as to me and reputable scouting firms, it has Homerun potential.

Emile Poirier in particular is going to make people scratch their heads as to what they were doing biasing there opinions on this kid solely off of ISS, NHLCSS and Corey Pronman. This is one of those picks that some private firms just didn’t see (Not Red Line Report/McKeens) and any NHL team that saw him loved him, just because Bob MacKenzie “talks to scouts” means nothing, good scouts stay miles away. Two teams called us to make a trade for the 22nd pick, but they both wanted him… Anyone who thinks he was a reach wasn’t at the draft, all anyone could talk about was "How this kid added another step to an already powerful stride this season" . You want a reach take a look at Marko Dano or Michael McCarron, outside of TSN and ISS every other publication had these two down at the 50-70 range. You know ISS is biased out of Florida, Lol.

As for Morgan Klimchuk all everyone wants to do is compare this kid to Jordan Eberle (number of points his draft year on weak club, elite release/hands, willingness to improve on weaknesses, international performance at U18s, training partners with Jordan) definitely suggest a valid comparison for me. If we only get two elite forwards out if this crop, I would be shocked.

It depends on your definition of elite. I agree with Rex, hoping for 1 or 2 elite. Personally I wouldn't consider Eberle elite. I'd say only Taylor Hall has proven himself elite, and the Oilers had 3 1st overalls.

5-6 elite would give us a romp to the cup and a dynasty. If you mean 5-6 good players, then yes that is possible (unlikely still).

None of our players have prove anything... People are annointing Johnny G. Those people look up the NCAA career, awards, MVPS, stats and general hype of recent Sabres compliance buyout Nathan Gerbe. Look it up, it'll be sobering. That guy IS Johnny G, in fact he had better stats.

My point is, lets take it slow and not start proclaiming the rebuild over and that we are on route to be the next Pittsburgh Penguins (who don't even have 5-6 elite players)

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#19 Kent Wilson
July 09 2013, 02:37PM
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@McRib

Of Sven Baertschi, John Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk, I see at least four elite forwards with up to five. Not to mention Corbin Knight, who was as good as any NHL Prospect this season in the NCAA.

I don't know how others here define elite, but to me I'd say the Flames will be lucky if one of those guys turns out to be that kind of high quality of NHLer, to say nothing of 4.

Baertschi, Gaudreau might get there in terms of offensive production if everything falls right. Monahan might get there as a two-way threat in the Kesler/Bergeron/Backes mold, though there's still a lot of uncertainty there.

The other guys aren't great bets to be regular NHLers period, to say nothing of stars.

I don't say this to slag their abilities, only because elite NHLers are extremely rare. The Flames haven't picked a single elite forward in the draft since...uh...I don't know. Corey Stillman was the last Flames pick who was well above average for a significant portion of his career, tho I don't thing anyone would call him elite.

We'll know this coming year if Poirier, Klimchuk or Janko are anywhere near high level prospects. Those guys almost always start to poke their head above the crowd in their 18-19 year old season. Right now, all we know is that each guy has a decent package of skills that is projectable.

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#20 Kent Wilson
July 09 2013, 02:38PM
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@Kurt

Mostly agree, except Gaudreau's stats are superior to Gerbe's at the same age:

http://flamesnation.ca/2013/4/10/a-closer-look-at-john-gaudreau

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#21 Fats
July 09 2013, 02:39PM
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Rangers have a lot of payroll... any chance we can sneak Derek Stephan away from them now that the have Brassard?

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#22 Kurt
July 09 2013, 02:42PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Of Sven Baertschi, John Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk, I see at least four elite forwards with up to five. Not to mention Corbin Knight, who was as good as any NHL Prospect this season in the NCAA.

I don't know how others here define elite, but to me I'd say the Flames will be lucky if one of those guys turns out to be that kind of high quality of NHLer, to say nothing of 4.

Baertschi, Gaudreau might get there in terms of offensive production if everything falls right. Monahan might get there as a two-way threat in the Kesler/Bergeron/Backes mold, though there's still a lot of uncertainty there.

The other guys aren't great bets to be regular NHLers period, to say nothing of stars.

I don't say this to slag their abilities, only because elite NHLers are extremely rare. The Flames haven't picked a single elite forward in the draft since...uh...I don't know. Corey Stillman was the last Flames pick who was well above average for a significant portion of his career, tho I don't thing anyone would call him elite.

We'll know this coming year if Poirier, Klimchuk or Janko are anywhere near high level prospects. Those guys almost always start to poke their head above the crowd in their 18-19 year old season. Right now, all we know is that each guy has a decent package of skills that is projectable.

^^ THIS!

Not being negative, I just saw my Coiler buddies go through this in 08 or 09'ish. They had Gagner (top 10 pick), Cogliano, Mark Pouliot (2003 star who played with Crosby), Robert Nilson (top 10 pick), Alex Plante (mid 1st rounder), Gilbert Brule (top 10 pick) and were sticking it in my face about all the elite prospects they had.

5 years later... Cogliano is a decent 3rd liner (for another team). Ganger is good player, but not remotely elite. I don't think the rest are even in the NHL. I believe the Oilers just cut Alex Plante, and the rest are in the AHL or Europe.

Point is, hopefully we do better than the Coilers, but lets not look as dumb as my buddies did starting to brag about prospects that likely aren't going to reach the potential we all hope.

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#23 McRib
July 09 2013, 02:43PM
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@Kurt

Our definiation of elite players is different Top. 3 All-Stars like Eberle are elite in my eyes. Crosbys/Makins are Superstars.

Lets put it this way Sven Baertschi, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk and at least one of John Gaudreau/Mark Jankowski/Corbin Knight all look like very good Top. 6 forwards to me.

At least for me I don't look at this years draft as getting a 6, 22, 28 overall picks. Its more of getting three first rounders (that I liked) in the second deepest draft in a decade. Very very solid start to the rebuild, now that we are fairly set at forward for the forseeable future lets get a defender, everyone is talking about Aaron Ekblad or Roland McKeown, but a Brycen Martin or Haydn Fleury will do as well.

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#24 the-wolf
July 09 2013, 02:43PM
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Kurt wrote:

"I think I'm more optimistic about the team's future than I've been for a while."

EXACTLY!

I agree with the general idea that we are just starting to enter a dark time. Its going to take a lot longer than most fans are thinking, but I'm encouraged by Feasters recent action (and non-action) that he might for once get it....

I truly have more hope and optimism now than I have in 5+ years. At this moment in time, we probably are the worst we've been in 25 years. We have potential, but expecting anything out of kids with zero NHL games is crazy. Yet I still feel so energized with hope for the future. For the first time in a long long time....

I'd much rather be terrible for a year or two (more) and rebuild this thing properly with the hope of becoming the next powerhouse in the west instead of the pray for the final playoff spot BS we've been enduring for 10 years.

Can you imagine in February just knowing you are in the playoffs, because you team is a favorite and already basically locked up a spot. Going into the trade deadline looking to add pieces and go on a run, not debating if we are buyers or sellers. For the first time in a while I can dream like this!

I'm glad Feaster appears to be accepting a lotto draft pick in 2014! Maybe my kids will be able to grow up cheering for a good team.

Agree with everything you said. First time I've been optimistic in probably 5 years.

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#25 Colin
July 09 2013, 02:46PM
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I'm not so down on our Defence as some people. I think before Brodie went to Abby you'd be hard pressed to find someone who thought he was the top of our propsepct list.

In the 2011 list from Hockey Prospectus(http://www.hockeyprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1012) Brodie wasn't even mentioned.

I have far less worries that we can get an effective defender out of our prospects than we can an elite or even top 6 worthy forward. In the last 10 years or so of Drafting there is two guys who right now look to be full time NHLers(Backlund/Baertschi) of any significant role(Not discounting our recently drafted propsects but they haven't done anything at the NHL level yet). We did draft Kobasew/Nystrom/Van Der Gulik as well, but again, I'm not worried about depth positions, thats a lot easier to draft/develop for. We have guys like Reinhart and Bouma to fill in those positions and maybe Arnold.

The biggest issue going forward for the Flames is drafting, retaining and developing top end forward talent. And I think it's going to be a long road ahead till we can find some of that.

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#26 Southern_Point
July 09 2013, 02:51PM
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@Kurt

To me any definition elite comes down to an ability to control the game at both ends of the ice, and win games singly handedly and they must be able to do this consistently. You have maybe only handful of elite players in the NHL at any given time, we are talking Toews, Crosby, Karlsson, Lundqvist, Stamkos, Getzlaf and Perry. There are few I am missing as well but the point is you don't often just pluck them out of the draft like candy, and you don't really know if you have one until they start doing it consistently at the NHL level.

There are ton of real quality NHLers first liners and difference makers even that I wouldn't even throw into that category. So, Nobody is slightly our prospects by saying they aren't elite level, simply because that is an exponentially high water mark to measure their success by.

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#27 DoubleDIon
July 09 2013, 03:00PM
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Kmp wrote:

No mention of Ramage as a defensive prospect? I think he surprises a lot of people, he is physical, moves the puck well and has sound positioning.

I think there is no mention of him because he was talking about future NHLers. Ramage would be a below average AHLer at best.

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#28 Parallex
July 09 2013, 03:01PM
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@Kurt

No he isn't/didn't...

They played in different leagues pre-college but if you consider the NAHL and USHL to be roughly equivalent Guadreau managed a better PPG pace.

Gerbe: Draft +1: NCAA - 0.47PPG Gaudreau: Draft +1: NCAA - 1.00PPG

Gerbe: Draft +2: NCAA - 1.15PPG Gaudreau: Draft +2: NCAA - 1.46PPG

Guadreau has had better stats at every same point comparison interval. Really beyond them both going to Boston College I really don't see why you would compare them... because they're both smaller? If that's the case then I have to point out that Gaudreau is 4 inches taller then Gerbe.

http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=9216 http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=88391

That's not to say that Gaudreau is some surefire guy, sometimes guys just can't translate to the next level but it's erronous to say that John Gaudreau IS Nathan Gerbe.

But on another tack I second the desire to restrict the term "elite". Realistically Sven Baertschi, John Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk are not all going to be elite and it's highly unlikely that most of them (four out of seven) will acheive that lofty designation. 1 or 2 of them might end up elite (If we're lucky), I think that is a strong group with the majority likely to become at least complementary players but to me when I think of the word "elite" I think of the level of guys that make up Canada's Olympic team.

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#29 DoubleDIon
July 09 2013, 03:05PM
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@McRib

Anyone who compares Klimchuk and Eberle hasn't watched them play very much. Klimchuk is a way better skater than Eberle ever was. He doesn't have Eberle's elite hockey sense though. He has a chance to be as good, but he'll do it in a very different way if he is.

He compares much more to a Stempniak on the low end or Parentau on the high end than he does to an Eberle.

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#30 DoubleDIon
July 09 2013, 03:13PM
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Kurt wrote:

It depends on your definition of elite. I agree with Rex, hoping for 1 or 2 elite. Personally I wouldn't consider Eberle elite. I'd say only Taylor Hall has proven himself elite, and the Oilers had 3 1st overalls.

5-6 elite would give us a romp to the cup and a dynasty. If you mean 5-6 good players, then yes that is possible (unlikely still).

None of our players have prove anything... People are annointing Johnny G. Those people look up the NCAA career, awards, MVPS, stats and general hype of recent Sabres compliance buyout Nathan Gerbe. Look it up, it'll be sobering. That guy IS Johnny G, in fact he had better stats.

My point is, lets take it slow and not start proclaiming the rebuild over and that we are on route to be the next Pittsburgh Penguins (who don't even have 5-6 elite players)

Deleted because it was redundant to other comments.

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#32 McRib
July 09 2013, 03:22PM
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@Kent Wilson

I do understand that I sound like the biggest homer Flames fan in the world, Hahah. But having been to the draft in NJ, after watching NHL scouts talk about Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk afterward. It’s interesting once we selected them and scouts can show their cards most for the first time openly talking about these two prospects you get a great feeling.

They seem like they have only scratched the surface and most teams were kind of hoping these two had fallen to them. People always ask why “redrafts” of prospects are done only a year or two after the draft, but all it takes is for the whole scouting community to get together for the first time and make an opinion.

It’s what Bob Mackenzie attempts to do for his draft rankings every year, the problem is scouts don’t say crap about a hidden gem like an Emile Poirier to him, until after the draft is completed. Remeber when Jay Feaster looked directly at Bob Mackenzie during his draft preview show about what he thought of Craig Button's picks... and said "everyone wants to tell us who we should take" and smiled. Clearly he saw that MacKenzie was oblivious to Poirier.

Anyway this is the first time ever that I will be looking forward to your NHLE, Hahah. As I think Monhan, Poirier and Klimchuk have a lot more offensive potential in store.

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#34 DoubleDIon
July 09 2013, 03:26PM
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McRib wrote:

I do understand that I sound like the biggest homer Flames fan in the world, Hahah. But having been to the draft in NJ, after watching NHL scouts talk about Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk afterward. It’s interesting once we selected them and scouts can show their cards most for the first time openly talking about these two prospects you get a great feeling.

They seem like they have only scratched the surface and most teams were kind of hoping these two had fallen to them. People always ask why “redrafts” of prospects are done only a year or two after the draft, but all it takes is for the whole scouting community to get together for the first time and make an opinion.

It’s what Bob Mackenzie attempts to do for his draft rankings every year, the problem is scouts don’t say crap about a hidden gem like an Emile Poirier to him, until after the draft is completed. Remeber when Jay Feaster looked directly at Bob Mackenzie during his draft preview show about what he thought of Craig Button's picks... and said "everyone wants to tell us who we should take" and smiled. Clearly he saw that MacKenzie was oblivious to Poirier.

Anyway this is the first time ever that I will be looking forward to your NHLE, Hahah. As I think Monhan, Poirier and Klimchuk have a lot more offensive potential in store.

I like Klimchuk, haven't seen Poirier other than clips on the internet. Klimchuk reminds me most of Ty Rattie. I think both will be serviceable 2nd line wingers, but nothing spectacular. Shinkaruk was the guy I thought had a chance to be really good. Not sure what the hole in his game was, he's not great defensively, but lots of kids aren't at that age. IMO, he had more offensive game than all of the number 5-10 picks do with the possible exception of Nicushkin.

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#35 Baalzamon
July 09 2013, 03:29PM
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@Colin

"In the 2011 list from Hockey Prospectus(http://www.hockeyprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1012) Brodie wasn't even mentioned."

That's not an accurate statement. If you click the "Calgary" link, it brings you to the team's top 10 page. Brodie is listed at #2, and Pronman says he could be an above average 2nd pair guy.

People like to pretend Brodie came out of nowhere, but he was on the radar from the year before he turned pro (when the only thing keeping him off the WJC squad was the fact that Canada had generational blueline depth that year) at the very least.

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#36 McRib
July 09 2013, 03:50PM
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@RexLibris

This is in all likelihood going to end up as being the third best draft in history (1979/2003).... Not to mention the cohort is sure to have improve from 1999-2009. One thing is already for certain this is the best QMJHL Crop in history.

An Oscar Klefbom this year would have been lucky to go where Robert Hägg did at 41st, no way he cracks the Top. 30. Shea Theodore put up 50 POINTS and most didn't have him as a first rounder.... Plus he led Seattle into playoffs for first time in 7 years?!?!?! Ryan Pulock went 16th this year, but had more points LAST year than four of five WHL defenders that all went Top. 8 (Murray, Reinhart, Rielly, Dumba, Pouliot).

Look at Emile Porier (drafted 22nd) and compare him to a Colton Gillies (drafted 16th overall in 2007). Both had similar blazing fast speed and a great turnover inducing up-tempo forecheck. Only thing different is Gillies (GP65 G13 A17 P30 -20) was drafted with the hope of finding an offensive touch (Mr. Stone Hands), Poirier is looking to improve on decent numbers already (GP65 G32 A38 P70 +0).

This year a Colton Gillies with a major flaw in his game would be lucky to go in the top of the third round and Emile Poirier any other year is a surefire Top. 10. Don't worry though the fact that a Jackson Houck went to the Oilers at 94 was criminal, he is a Top. 40 any other year.

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#37 BurningSensation
July 09 2013, 03:53PM
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I think the biggest issue is the use of the word 'elite'.

If by 'elite' we mean 'perpetual All-star', then yes, we will be lucky to have 1-2 of the prospects turn out to be 'elite'.

But if you mean '1st line forward/top line D/above average starting goaltender', then I think the conversation changes.

Looking at the Oilers, you can fairly say that they have only one 'elite' talent in Taylor Hall (perpetual All-star), but you could also fairly say that they have a core of 6 guys (Hall, Eberle, Nuge, Yakupov, Schultz and Klefbom) that all project to be 1st line/top pair guys.

Justin Azevedo and I were having a tete a tete yesterday that essentially revolved around just this sort of distinction. We know the Flames have some very nice prospects (in his mind around 20 NHL caliber guys), but of those, he thinks only 3 or so (Sven, Johnny G, Monahan) have a real shot to be 'elite'.

The good news is that our current mgt is clearly focussed on brining in more young talent to perhaps find more 'elite' guys that we clearly need.

Buckle up, it's going to be a fun ride!

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#40 Jeff Lebowski
July 09 2013, 06:51PM
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The definitions of which individual players are elite is kind of immaterial. The question is really about the collective team.

Take the 2010 Blackhawks. How many players on that team were 'elite'? Was Patrick SHARP? Andrew Ladd? Put them on different teams, where their roles change and perhaps their stature changes.

The success of any team is going to be, more or less, determined by how well the top minute guys fare 5 on 5. First line guys, top pairing guys are going to play 17-20ish minutes a game (not counting special teams). The majority of games are played EV (of course you can have a team score 3 PP goals to win 3-2 but that reliance is not sustainable).

Calgary needs to find the top minute guys who when compared to other teams top minute guys come out on top. Obviously.

What the current roster is faced with are non sexy top minute guys. However, the season's relative gruesomeness is going to come down to just how bad/good Stajan, Backlund, Giordano, Wideman + goalie do against the new division. I think it will be bad. Are they going to push other teams back on their heels? Are they going to cycle it down low? Jones and Galiardi will help but I think more often than not Calgary's top 6 will get punished.

The coilers, for all their off the rush talent, finished poorly because of that, I think. Their top guys were so good but too young. Their vets sucked (and got hurt) and they relied on their first overall draft picks. I don't know the stats but I'd guess their top 6 were positive corsi guys but they still finished minus players. I think they drove the play, scored a lot of points but still gave up more than they got. Their bottom 6 didn't give them anything. I think they've gotten better at realizing that. I think they will really show smarter decision making and conversion of chances or quick transition offence (pounce on mistakes).

With Calgary, I really don't want to see the kids getting killed by playing top 6 (not even Sven). Unless they prove they can and not just hang on but flourish. My expectations are to see good effort but really want to see a dynamic 3rd line. Best young guys who can play well there (Hopefully Monahan with Sven). Maybe even a 4th line that can bring some skill (doubt it with McGrattan and Bouma's presence on the roster).

At this point in time I hope Calgary's bottom 6 (comprised of the youth) win more often than not and bring excitement. At the end of the day, I see last in division and bottom three team. I love the Flames and don't want them to be bad but sometimes you just gotta take your medicine.

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#41 clyde
July 09 2013, 07:39PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I would classify "elite" somewhere between your first and second definition. Partially because I don't put a lot of stock in All-Star appearances. Unless you are Alex Ovechkin.

Ales Hemsky was a star, and flirted with being an elite player. He was always an elite-level talent, but injuries and a poor roster likely prevented him from reaching what we could agree on as elite-level status.

I would agree with your list of the Oilers' players who likely will or are close to qualifying as "elite" level players.

I would also agree with your list of Flames potential elite level players. I'm not yet sold that Baertschi becomes that, but I think he likely falls somewhere between elite and Hemsky territory. Time will tell. Gaudreau has a long way to go. The talent is there, but it has to go through one or two more chrysalis stages before we'll know if he can become an elite-level NHL player.

The Oilers have also had the luxury of adding elite level players with 1st overall picks. That makes scouting a tad easier. If the Flames can find three amongst their current group then Weisbrod and Button, not to mention their development staff, will have done their job.

I would add that truly elite players have the ability to make others around them better and make their teams much better. They also have the ability to rise to the occasion at the most crucial times. Daytsuk, Zetterberg, Bergeron, Chara, Crosby, Keith, Quick, etc are elite. There are no current players on Calgary or Edmonton who are elite. Some may eventually get to that level.

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#42 negrilcowboy
July 09 2013, 07:46PM
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these prospects are at this point prospects. not one has proven anything of substance in the big show. realistically if half have somewhat sucessful nhl careers the flames are in good shape, however the fact still remains that the holes in the organization are still gaping. feaster needs to build a nhl level supporting cast through ufa,rfa and trades. my prediction is with the current lineup the flames win 30 games, and the goaltending is terrible. the flames have a surplus of mid level nhl forwards and a porous defense.

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#43 KetchupKid
July 09 2013, 07:53PM
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My definition of elite only requires two words: Corban and Knight.

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#45 BurningSensation
July 09 2013, 09:03PM
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clyde wrote:

I would add that truly elite players have the ability to make others around them better and make their teams much better. They also have the ability to rise to the occasion at the most crucial times. Daytsuk, Zetterberg, Bergeron, Chara, Crosby, Keith, Quick, etc are elite. There are no current players on Calgary or Edmonton who are elite. Some may eventually get to that level.

As much as it pains me, Edmonton does have at least one (and IMO likely more) elite player;

Taylor Hall.

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#48 Scary Gary
July 09 2013, 09:29PM
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RexLibris wrote:

The line of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle were a corsi machine last season against top competition.

The second line was a curious disaster that sharper minds than I have spent the off-season examining.

The third and fourth lines were basically place holders until the first line could come out again.

Ground gained by line 1 was usually lost during the ice-time of lines 3 and 4.

Hall finished the season +5, Nugent-Hopkins +3, and Eberle -3. The two Schultz's were buried at the bottom of the spectrum and for the most part, you are correct in that the supporting cast was woefully insufficient to assist the young core players. That is being addressed this off-season.

If Calgary can develop depth players at the same time that they try to find one or two elite players they should be able to put together a decent roster. However, as I pointed out, their defense prospect pool is nearly non-existent and given that those players take longer to develop the Flames timeline for internal promotion is a long ways off. They will have to find ways around that roster obstacle should they manage to develop the forward talent and depth.

Ummm but we've signed Billins, I mean come on.

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#49 BurningSensation
July 09 2013, 09:33PM
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RexLibris wrote:

Don't worry, we won't speak of it again.

I have the sad feeling Hall is going to kick us in the teeth for a very, very, very long time.

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#50 chillout
July 09 2013, 09:37PM
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@BurningSensation

nah he's one head down charge from being Eric Lindros'd right out of the league.

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