Random Thoughts - A Big Year For Horak

Kent Wilson
September 03 2013 08:29AM

 

 

This week rookie camp opens up and the young stars tournament goes live in Penticton. Real hockey news everyone! For now, occupy yourself with my last, desperate random thoughts article.

- The big Crawford extension is further proof that NHL GM's still don't really know how to judge and value goaltender talent. I have time for Crawford as a capable, middling puck stopper, but $6M over 6 years for him is a terrible bet. His career SV% is a completely mediocre .913 and that's after his high water mark of .926 last season (in just 30 games, keep in mind). Of course, he was the cup winning goalie and sported a .932 SV% in the playoffs, so he probably had the hammer in contract negotiations. One thing GM's really seem to look for is a guy who can "perform under pressure". Winning big games with above average performance may not necessarily be indicative of future success (hello John Druce!), but there are precious few NHL decision makers who will walk away from a dude with a noteworthy playoff run under his belt.

Of course, the Hawks did just that with Anti Niemi, but the Fin was completely mediocre in his cup run (.912 SV%), so it was easier to assume his success was a result of the team in front of him. Ironically, he's actually been pretty good since Chicago let him walk (although I'd hesitate to call him a $6M goaltender as well).

Maybe Crawford is one of the rare guys who comes from a completely underwhelming pedigree and then figures it out in his mid-'20s. On the other hand, my bet is he's no better than average for a majority of his new deal. 

- A lot of people are asking me how the Flames fan base is approaching season one of the rebuild. Personally most fans I encounter are more optimistic than they have been in a long while. Although a small, vocal minority seem to think Calgary may surprise everyone and be competitive out of the gate, the vast majority are resigned to being plucky but overwhelmed for at least the next two seasons.

The promise of change is powerful in the wake of stubborn, persistent mediocrity. That promise will glow brighter than the gloom, at least in the short-term.

Of course, it will be difficult to keep up that level of optimism alive if (when) frequent failure becomes reality rather than merely theoretical. It's one thing to understand intellectually that the team has to struggle now to be better later, but it's something else entirely to endure night after night of loss and disappointment. Once we're in the guts of this thing, it will be interesting to see how perception shifts amongst the fanbase.

- One guy facing something of a swing year is Roman Horak. He's been a 'tweener since he became Flames property and I'm not even certain whether he will land on the Heat or the Flames this year, given the roster and his past results. Roman is a player on the cusp of becoming an everyday NHL guy, but he needs to take a step or two forward to be anything more than a replacement level forward. To have a future in the organization that doesn't include frequent trips to Abbotsford, he may have to take those steps forward this season.

Horak is in the last year of his entry level deal and he's about to have more than a few young guys challenging him for a roster spot in the next few seasons. The depth chart at his natural position - center - is starting to get a bit crowded with bodies (Backlund, Knight, Monahan, Reinhart and soon Arnold, Granlund and maybe Jankowski), so it seems he'll have to shift to wing to have a real shot at the NHL in Calgary.

When he moves over or stays at C, Horak needs to convert his obvious tools into more consistent results to move up the depth chart and out of the 4th line/AHL call-up churn. Sooner rather than later, lest someone behind him makes the move first.

- If you go back over most sustained rebuilds, you'll find a lot of the coaches and executives don't tend make it over the finish line with the team. Losing and failure is a tough stigma to shed in pro sports, even when the losing is semi-purposeful or at least unavoidable. Of course, sometimes a rebuid is sustained because the guys in question aren't capable of lifting the club out of the basement (See: Tambellini, Steve), so their dismissal is entirely warranted.

It will be interesting to see which coaches and suits prove to be placeholders as Calgary goes through its rebuild. My guess? Bob Hartley plays out his contract and moves on. Fifty-fifty on Jay Feaster being the guy who was forced to burn it down and then is shuffled out of the org (or, "up" to a different position).

- Finally, I've mentioned previously we'll have some feet on the ground at the Young Stars tournament this weekend. Our guys (kevin and Brett from JetsNation) will be accredited so we'll try to get as much source material as possible. Let us know in the comments if you have any particular requests for coverage.

Other Stuff - Shirts and Nuttiquette

It's come to my attention that some folks have yet to receive their Got Loob? shirts. If that is the case, please contact me (if you haven't already) via email and we will track down your order. Obviously we aren't a shirt production and distribution outfit so we had to outsource a lot of this stuff to a third party. This was our first attempt at doing the shirt thing in Calgary and there have been some hiccups which we are now ironing out. Anyways, if your shirt is AWOL, email me your name/email address and order confirmation number and we'll get after it for you.

On the other hand, if you have your shirt and love it (of course you do), we'd love to see pics of it in action. Send those to me too and we'll likely publish them on our facebook page.

On a completely unrelated note, the Cancer Society recently asked us to help them out with a testicular cancer awareness campaign they recently launched. It's a great cause so naturally we agreed.

Here's their video, gracefully titled "a dude's guide to checking his nuts": 

 

Some quick facts from the cancer society: 

  • Only 50% of young men have had a medical check-up in the last 12 months.
  • 77% of men surveyed don't know the symptoms of testicular cancer.
  • 79% of men surveyed said they were more likely to check for testicular cancer when educated about the disease.
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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 Jeff Lebowski
September 03 2013, 09:13AM
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Hopefully the youth movement in Calgary will mentally free up Horak to play looser and therefore more productively.

During Horak's time with the Flames, the roster has been vet loaded and the (unrealistic) expectation was to challenge for playoff seeding. Fourth line spadework with players not known for their offensive ability was Horak's niche with team. The scrutiny by successive coaching staffs was to limit mistakes, play exceptionally safe hockey in that role. He played tight.

When you look at Horak, it's hard not to see the skill set. The question is if Horak believes he can be an offensive guy at NHL level? If he believes his skills are as good as productive 3rd line players then this iteration of the Flames should allow him the opportunity to play higher in the lineup with better players for longer TOI without the pressure of mistakes meaning not seeing the ice for long stretches. If he thinks his skills aren't as good as some other guys, he'll be an AHLer.

If he can free himself up and make plays, take some offensive risks while still being dependable he will serve himself well. I think he can be like a Val Filpulla. I'm not saying he will score like that dude (skill on Detroit helped him) but their games' match.

I agree about Crawford. He's not a guy where I go, ok don't need to look for goalies anymore. You look at him and think, upgrade required.

What is interesting to me is the playoff performance question. I agree about the one off guys but what about those dudes who, on several occassions, raised their play in the playoffs compared to their regular season. Although Pavelski has become more consistent in both seasons, initially his regular season paled to his post seasons or a guy like Claude Lemieux?

Both those guys were evidently good players but their ppg in playoffs seemed to improve.

Should pay be weighted heavily on 82 game season? Probably. However the point is to win the cup right?

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#2 Parallex
September 03 2013, 09:31AM
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I think Hartley staying/going is entirely dependent on Feaster. If Feaster goes I can't imagine them retaining Hartley but if Feaster stays then I don't see see Hartley going anywhere... maybe I could see him going to a new Nordiques team if one where to arise and the team wanted an experienced francophone voice.

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#3 McRib
September 03 2013, 11:04AM
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People have called me a homer for being so positive on FN regarding Flames Prospects. So I must keep my credibility when the opportunity arises. Roman Horak does absolutely nothing for me!!!

I think plus skating got him to the NHL quicker then expected, but outside of a good forecheck nothing else in his games really stands out. He has zero hockey sense, very little finish and worst of all seems to be someone who is hard to develop chemistry with as he is all over the ice most shifts. He also has failed to adress any of these weaknesses the past two offseasons and isn't someone who is physical enough to be a third line energy guy. I heard him interviewed last year and he said he had not been on the ice all summer until rookie camp..... Are you kidding me its not 1979 anymore kid.

Most depth charts have him as a third liner for us this season and I just don't see it at all. I think multiple guys will pass him and he really is just a fringe NHLer if that for me. Watching Roman Horak in Abbotsford he got crazy first line ice time to start, but in the second half Max Reinhart completely passed him on the depth chart and should have been there all season. If Reinhart fails to sieze an opportunity with the big club to start the season, I think a Markus Granlund could easily suprise and take Horaks role anyway. Roman Horak is a one skill wonder who just doesn't have what it takes to be an everyday NHLer. To be honest I don't see the Flames signing him past this season I think he is a guy who can fill a hole until Gaudreau, Arnold, Agostino, Poirier, Klimchuk, etc show up in a year or two.

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#4 piscera.infada
September 03 2013, 09:41AM
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When I saw the Crawford deal the first thing I thought was "yikes", but I think it has more to do with the Niemi saga a couple years ago. While not an elite goalie, I would hardly call Crawford mediocre. He had some horrible games last year that brought his stats down but most of those were clustered around his injury. I predict his regular season numbers will be better this coming year knowing that he's "the guy" - many goalies note they play better when they get into a rhythm, instead of playing time-share (exit, Emery). As such, I see Crawford as still being in the upper echelon of NHL goalies while not elite. Perhaps he's not worth 6 million over 6 years, but I would assume the Blackhawks would rather pay that then be out scouring the earth for another guy, with only the ex-"Calgary Tower" waiting in the wings.

On Horak; I agree. I think the kid has talent, and I'm a huge fan of how he plays. I've always seen the upside, so I hope he gets a chance. That said, I think he'll need to move to the wing - which detracts from some of the effectiveness of his game. I had him locked in as the third line guy prior to the signing of Knight, but now I don't see fourth line centre as a particularly great opportunity for him. Thus, if he can't get his offensive game going this year (as the wing would necessitate), I don't see him being part of the team much longer. It's too bad he's a left shot - would love to be able to add him to the right side of the depth chart.

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#5 Kurt
September 03 2013, 10:02AM
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piscera.infada wrote:

When I saw the Crawford deal the first thing I thought was "yikes", but I think it has more to do with the Niemi saga a couple years ago. While not an elite goalie, I would hardly call Crawford mediocre. He had some horrible games last year that brought his stats down but most of those were clustered around his injury. I predict his regular season numbers will be better this coming year knowing that he's "the guy" - many goalies note they play better when they get into a rhythm, instead of playing time-share (exit, Emery). As such, I see Crawford as still being in the upper echelon of NHL goalies while not elite. Perhaps he's not worth 6 million over 6 years, but I would assume the Blackhawks would rather pay that then be out scouring the earth for another guy, with only the ex-"Calgary Tower" waiting in the wings.

On Horak; I agree. I think the kid has talent, and I'm a huge fan of how he plays. I've always seen the upside, so I hope he gets a chance. That said, I think he'll need to move to the wing - which detracts from some of the effectiveness of his game. I had him locked in as the third line guy prior to the signing of Knight, but now I don't see fourth line centre as a particularly great opportunity for him. Thus, if he can't get his offensive game going this year (as the wing would necessitate), I don't see him being part of the team much longer. It's too bad he's a left shot - would love to be able to add him to the right side of the depth chart.

I find the Crawford signing intriguing... Our goalie situation is so up in the air that it really boggles the mind to think where it might go. What will do if all our options flop?? This shows that even a perceived average #1 goalie is expensive to acquire or retain.

For some reason the Crawford signing makes me think about Doobnyk (I realize thats spelt wrong, I don't care to look it up). As Flames fans we have been quick to laugh and point at the Oilers tending woes and say he isn't good enough. I just noticed because in the fallout of the Crawford signing I've seen a bunch of goalie rankings by various metrics. On almost every list Doobnyk and Crawford are side by side in stats. Usually Crawford slightly behind. And on a terrible team. Makes me wonder.. Which goalie is better?? Logic would say the same results on an atrocious team is better, no?

I bring this up, because I wonder how we will evaluate our goalies. If the rebuild goes as expected and we get shellacked for a few years. Will we be even able to evaluate? Or will it be an unfair situation with so many quality chances skewing the evaluation metrics?? Why is Crawford perceived to be better than Doobnyk when they have virtually identical stats and Crawford plays on an elite team?? Just thinking out loud... Just shows that the job of evaluating talent gets harder when your team is in a full blown rebuild.

This year is gonna be ugly but thinking/talking and watching things like this evolve excite me so much more than hoping Iggy can grind us into 8th place for 5 years in a row. Can't wait for things to start!!!

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#7 beloch
September 03 2013, 02:58PM
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Chalk me up as another person who would like to see Horak convert to RW. One-trick (speed) ponies are more viable on the wing and the Flames have a serious shortage of RW prospects. Plus, Horak has a way better chance of staying on the big team if he's competing against Jackman, Jones, and MacGrattan.

Also, I'm one of the people who have said the Flames probably won't be breaking the bottom five this season. This isn't optimism. It's quite the opposite! The Flames had league worst goal-tending last season and played to lose by fielding a lot more AHL'ers than the competition a lot of nights. Feaster can keep doing the latter but, if Ramo turns out to be an upgrade from MacBackup, the Flames will most likely pick somewhere in the teens. The Flames are far from rock bottom. They have plenty of mediocrity left!

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#8 Veggie Dog
September 03 2013, 09:26AM
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Now I am going to go hug my testicles.

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#9 SmellOfVictory
September 03 2013, 11:38AM
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Horak always struck me as very Boyd-like: he's fast, he looks like he's got some skills, but it tends to end up as doing not-very-much and looking good doing it.

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#10 McRib
September 03 2013, 12:14PM
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@Kent Wilson

That's my issue outside of skating he needs work but doesn't seem to be putting in the effort needed. I think he thinks he is closer than he actually is to being an everyday NHLer.

As there is a big difference between being an everyday Flame this year and an everyday NHLer. Once roster spots become more competitve with added prospects/depth he could easily be pushed out if he is not careful.

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#11 beloch
September 03 2013, 04:41PM
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@exsanguinator

The Flames allowed 1408 shots on their own net last season, and the goalie squad stopped all but 153 of those, giving a team Sv% of 0.891. The league average Sv% (total saves/total shots) was 0.912. Had the Flames received league average goal-tending, they'd have had 29 fewer goals scored on them. Yes, approximately one in every five goals scored on the Flames last year can be blamed on crappy goal-tending!

With 128 goals for, Calgary was #11 in the league, which is good. 124 goals against would have placed them at #15 for that stat, right in between Montreal and Phoenix (instead of #28 with 153 GA). It's always possible for luck to break the wrong way such that a team could lose a lot of one-goal games and win relatively few blowouts. However, odds are that a team that is above average at scoring goals and bang-on average for letting them in *should* make the playoffs. Goal-tending did not cost the Flames just a spot or two. It literally sank them right out of the bubble!

Bear in mind that this doesn't even take into account the deliberate tanking in the second half of the season.

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#12 beloch
September 03 2013, 06:34PM
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@Baalzamon

The new division makes it significantly harder for the Flames to make the playoffs, but it only makes finishing in the bottom five slightly easier because the Flames still have to out-suck all the other nose-diving teams in the league. The Flames are undoubtedly worse without the stars who have been shipped out, but how much worse? How much better was Bouwmeester than Brodie will be this season?

My point is that the Flames weren't really a bottom 6 team last year and are therefore not a lock for the bottom 5 this year. They're a bubble team that looked far worse than they really were last season thanks to exceptionally poor goal-tending and deliberate tanking (There was at least one game where the average player on the Flames' bench had played in just 40% of the teams' games so far that season!).

Top-5 suckage is one way to jump-start a rebuild, but the Flames may well not be free of their mediocrity just yet!

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#14 Kurt
September 03 2013, 10:22AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

JW looked at the Crawford and Dubnyk comparison here:

http://oilersnation.com/2013/9/2/chicago-extends-crawford-what-does-it-mean-for-dubnyk

Interesting read.... I hope the Oilers follow along and sign Dubnyk long term for mega bucks. HA!

I brought the whole thing up because I think the concept of evaluating goalies is going to become very relevant to us. If we get absolutely spanked all year but Ramo posts a 0.915 or something. I just find the goalie stats to be so unfair to a goalie on a bad team and often skew it up for goalies on good teams. I know many disagree, but is Schneider even as good as people think? Or was he just on a good team....

Tall task for mgmt this year, trying to evaluate a crucial goalie situation while also icing a rebuild roster.

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#15 RexLibris
September 03 2013, 03:15PM
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@beloch

Way to look on the bright side!

I'm thinking the Flames could finish so as to draft anywhere from 4th overall to 8th, depending on how the new divisional play works out.

I suspect there may be a great cry from Calgary about the Flames making hay on Eastern Conference teams to their draft detriment.

That being said, who knows what happens, but preparing for heartbreak is always a sound strategy.

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#16 exsanguinator
September 03 2013, 04:17PM
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beloch wrote:

Chalk me up as another person who would like to see Horak convert to RW. One-trick (speed) ponies are more viable on the wing and the Flames have a serious shortage of RW prospects. Plus, Horak has a way better chance of staying on the big team if he's competing against Jackman, Jones, and MacGrattan.

Also, I'm one of the people who have said the Flames probably won't be breaking the bottom five this season. This isn't optimism. It's quite the opposite! The Flames had league worst goal-tending last season and played to lose by fielding a lot more AHL'ers than the competition a lot of nights. Feaster can keep doing the latter but, if Ramo turns out to be an upgrade from MacBackup, the Flames will most likely pick somewhere in the teens. The Flames are far from rock bottom. They have plenty of mediocrity left!

I'm not quite sure how to figure this out but how many points would league average goaltending actually get the Flames compared to the trainwreck with Kipper last year?

I don't think it would have been enough to get them picking in the teens. Just a guess over here but I think that the points from those extra wins would have landed the Flames picking 7th or 8th instead of 6th.

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#17 exsanguinator
September 03 2013, 04:52PM
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Did a little bit of research and some math, not that I'm a stats guy or anything, but I looked at GAON at 5 on 5 for goalies playing 10 or more games last season. There were a total of 2477 goals allowed across 57 goal tender for an aver GAON of 43.45. Kipper clocked in at 62 goals against putting him ~18 goals higher than the league average.

I've read that 3 goals equals 1 point in the standings meaning that Kipper only personally cost the Flames 6 points which would have put the team ahead of New Jersey but behind Dallas in the overall standings. Picking 9th overall.

League average goaltending is a start but it's by no means the entire solution. Maybe I need to be more thorough, I dunno, I'm pretty new to this whole fancy stats thing.

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#18 exsanguinator
September 03 2013, 04:53PM
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Hmm, didn't see your post until I posted mine.

edited to make me look less stupid lol

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#19 The Last Big Bear
September 03 2013, 05:16PM
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Horak will be a perfectly serviceable depth NHLer.

And im happy with that.

Filling depth positions with home-grown quality players, on cheap contracts, is important.

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#20 Baalzamon
September 03 2013, 06:04PM
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@beloch

New, brutal division. Lack of Bouwmeester.

There are many reasons why the Flames could finish in the bottom five with average--or even above-average--goaltending.

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#21 Burnward
September 03 2013, 09:44PM
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Yep, this one was certainly random Kent.

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#22 coachedpotatoe
September 04 2013, 07:06PM
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I have been trying to figure out what type of former Flame Horak represents and it seems to me that he is a combination of Nystrom, Moss and Lombardi; not good enough to take you to the next level, but good enough to play. You look at his effort and his skill set and you always expect more but you never get as much as hoped for. Like looking at dessert only to find that the cake was pretty but very dry. I hope I'm wrong but that is what I think. He will be able to play PK and a regular shift but will never quite get the points you would like from him.

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