Flames Next Steps - Functional Toughness

Kent Wilson
May 16 2014 11:00AM

Season 1 of the official Calgary Flames rebuild was, by many measures, a success. The club was competitive on most nights but finished low enough to guarantee a high caliber prospect in the upcoming draft. We saw the emergence of potential new core pieces in Mikael Backlund, TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano and Sean Monahan, while many of the organization's hopefuls (including Johnny Gaudreau, Jon Gillies, Joni Ortio, Markus Granlund, Max Reinhart, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk) had very strong seasons in their respective leagues. 

Despite all the positive indicators, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. The Flames finished second last in the Western Conference, after all. On top of the most obvious and necessary next step - acquire more elite talent - Calgary has other pressing areas of concern that will need to addressed if they want to find a way out of the basement sooner rather than later.

Find Functional Toughness

A lot of the Flames youngsters looking to break into the show over the next few years aren't big bodies. Granlund, Baertschi, Reinhart, Gaudreau - none of them tip the scales. It's also true this coaching staff and executive team is interested in upping the grit factor of this roster moving forward as a result.

The challenge is to do so without undermining the "ability to play hockey" factor at the same time. I've said before that "toughness" as a skill is the only one in the game that also trumps the typical (and very necessary) threshold of "must be able to play hockey at an NHL level" to get a player in the league. Put another way - the only type of sub-replacement level guy who persists on NHL rosters to this day is the guy who has "grit" as a lone item on his hockey resume.

No other player type gets this sort of pass. Unfortunately, the preference for non-functional tough guys can be a trap, particularly for lousy teams. Observe, for instance, how earnestly the Edmonton Oilers have added sandpaper and goons to their roster each and every off-season during their ever expanding rebuild. Notice as well how that has done exactly nothing to prevent injuries or raise the level of the team's play. 

So if the Flames are going to pursue big bodies with fire in their eyes and malice in their hearts, they should also make it a mandate that their targets can actually play the game to some reasonable degree. Otherwise they might as well slap a pair of skates on some MMA fighters.

The Utility of a Nice Bottom End

Let's look at the utility of a functional bottom end of the roster with an illustrative comparison: the Calgary Flames vs the Chicago Blackhawks...

We all know the there is a striking difference between each club's top-end, but there is also a marked advantage for Chicago when it comes to their depth as well. Let's have a look:

Chicago BlackHawks          
Player ES ICE ZS % Corsi % Corsi Rel QoC %
Markus Krueger 13.6 21.1 51.4 -5.2 22.3
Michal Hanzdus 13.4 60.7 51.8 -4.2 22.6
Ben Smith 12.5 26.6 51.1 -5.5 22.2
Bryan Bickell 11.1 69.3 58 3.1 21.9
Brandon Bollig 10.1 18.0 50.9 -5.6 20.3

Calgary Flames          
Player ES ICE ZS % Corsi % Corsi Rel QoC %
Lance Bouma 12.4 38.6 43.5 -3.6 21.0
Kevin Westgarth 6.9 58.1 41.1 -8.0 14.1
Joe Colborne 14.1 51.0 46.5 -1.3 25.0
Brian McGrattan 6.6 57.3 38.4 -9.1 13.6

These tables show the lowest ice time forwards for each team, as well as their average even strength ice time per game, zone start ratio (offensive zone/defensive zone), corsi rate (all shots for/all shots against), relative corsi rate (corsi relative to the rest of the team) and a quality of competition metric (average % of ice time of opponents for each player).

Excluded from the analysis were players who didn't regularly appear in the NHL - so less than 30 games. The Flames in particular had a large cast of rotating characters who had a cup of coffee in the show, but there is sample size concerns with their results.

Discussion

The Chicago Blackhawks mixed a couple of relative heavyweights (Brandon Bollig and Bryan Bickell) in with a couple of capable NHLers in Smith and Krueger at the bottom end (plus Handzus...the one area the Hawks could stand to improve the middle rotation). Every player in question finished the year with a corsi above 50%. In addition, no Hawks player averaged less than 10 minutes of ES ice per night and everyone a quality of competition of above 20%. 

What's noteworthy on the Blackhawks side is Quenneville absolutely buried a portion of his bottom end: Krueger, Smith and Bollig had some of the lowest zone start ratios in the league and they still managed not to be hopelessly outshot in aggregate. That left the Hawks the ability to grant players like Kane, Toews and Hossa the high ground most nights - those guys had zone starts of 62% or better (!!). We call this "the Sedin treatment" because it's what Alain Vigneault did with the twins when they were winning scoring titles in Vancouver.

On the Flames end of the spectrum, Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan are the obvious outliers. They have the worst possession ratings of anyone involved (both absolute and relative) despite playing by far the easiest minutes available. They mostly skated against other 6-7 min/guys, started more often in the offensive zone and still spent way too much time watching pucks get fired at their own net. As a consequence, Bob Hartley could only afford to give them about 6 minutes of work every night.

The effect of playing a couple of sub-replacement enforcers every night ripples throughout the roster: there are less o-zone starts for the top-6 players since some of them have to be sacrificed to the tough guys. And because enforcers can't defend, score, or play special teams, there is an increased burden on the rest of the guys to get things accomplished, a burden that is magnified when the top is playing through a rough patch or the team is hobbled by injuries.

In addition, non-functional tough guys also drag down the other, potentially useful players who are stuck playing with them. For example, Lance Bouma's corsi rate was 43.5% for the year, but when he was on the ice with either Westgarth or McGrattan, it cratered to 38.2 and 39.5 respectively. In contrast, when Bouma played with Mikael Backlund or TJ Galiardi, his results were much improved (49.5 and 52.3 respectively). In short, it's pretty much impossible to make any 4th line saddled with a pure enforcer to be effective...outside of sitting the big guy on the bench for the rest of the game.

The Way Forward

Bouma is a good example of a guy who may be able to fill this niche for the Flames as he matures: a defensively capable NHLer who is tough but can actually play the game. Calgary's signing of David Wolf may be an indication that the org is starting to look to fill the team's toughness quotient with a Bryan Bickell type player rather than a Dave Semenko.

I've been identified as guy who doesn't like "toughness". My position is a bit more nuanced: I think a lot of NHL coaches and GM's over-emphasize toughness to the degree that it alone is considered a good enough factor to get a player on an NHL roster. In contrast, I consider toughness a tool like any other attribute and not an end unto itself. I'm all for tough guys -  as long as they can leverage that toughness to promote good outcomes (like scoring more goals or giving up less goals). 

Calgary probably doesn't have to worry about skating a Krueger-eqsue line next year since they are still at least two seasons away from competing. Still, the goal for the club for when it finally emerges at the bright end of the dark tunnel should be to have functional toughness taking the place of it's current collection of sub-replacement level ruffians.


39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
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 gussey
May 16 2014, 11:09AM
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Awesome article. Agree on all counts.

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#2 FeyWest
May 16 2014, 11:09AM
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I like that, "Functional Toughness" is a great representation of what we should be trying to acquire if we are going the big, hard to play against mold.

Should coin that before someone takes credit Kent ;D cheers.

"I consider toughness a tool like any other attribute and not an end unto itself..." This is what I hope is in Burke and Treliving's vision and not just plugger hulks. I'm optimistic though and am in your corner regarding size and toughness.

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#4 Lordmork
May 16 2014, 11:33AM
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Great read. I'm not and was never a hockey player, so my perspective is completely from an off-ice viewpoint. To me, it makes zero sense to bring along guys who are tough, but nothing else, if they hurt the team. I recognize there are intangibles that stats may not capture, but if he makes your team worse, I can't understand why you'd want a Kevin Westgarth in your lineup.

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#5 mattyc
May 16 2014, 11:33AM
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I agree on the whole, but I think there is a bit of a tendency to get too wrapped up with the 4th line. As your table shows, Westgarth and McGratton play so little, that even if they're terrible possession players, there's only so much damage they can do when they're only on the ice for 6 minutes (most of it together against other terrible possession players (QoC% in the table).

I only mention this, because we're all going to have conniptions when the flames invariably sign another face-punching leadership/grit toughness guy this summer.

Edit: I should add that I do think it's really important to have a strong 3rd line though...

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#6 RKD
May 16 2014, 11:35AM
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Can't disagree, the bottom six has proven to be very valuable especially in the playoffs when a lot of the offensive forwards go dry. The Flames are going to need guys like a Bollig, Bickell, on the bottom six. If there are better options than the Flames should explore those but yes they do need elite talent on the top six. I don't think the Habs get by the Bruins without guys like Weise, Weaver, Moen, Prust, etc.

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#7 beloch
May 16 2014, 11:48AM
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The fourth line can be a crucial part of a "virtuous possession cycle", or they can be the hole that sinks the boat.

On a great possession team, the fourth line is typically going to start in pretty rosy circumstances. Higher lines will, more often than not, turn the job over to the fourth line when the puck is in their opponents' end. Some opponents, when hemmed into their own end, might try to get their fourth line out there, but many will keep a higher line out. Whether it's a fourth line or a dead-tired first to third line, the quality of competition is not high. A good fourth line can take advantage of their circumstances to keep the play in the opposing zone for long enough to give the top three lines a decent rest.

The "energy line" grants the whole team more energy, not with crushing hits or goonery, but by keeping the ice tilted while their teammates rest. Tired players make more mistakes and are injured more often. Players who are well rested, and who know they will continue to get rest, can skate harder and faster, and with more confidence, than players who know they will barely be on the bench before it's time to go over the boards once more. A fourth line that plays a lot makes the top three lines play better. If a fourth line does its job and gives the top three lines some rest, the top three lines can dominate the other team, wear down their players, and make the fourth lines job easier. It's a feedback loop when things work well.

Now, consider the poor opponent of this possession colossus. Constantly hemmed into their own end, they are in perpetual jeopardy. Their fourth line is a goon squad that is exceedingly dangerous to deploy when play is in their defensive zone. Even on a good night the goon squad never plays more than 5 minutes. Their top three lines all play more time as a result. If they were rested they might be good enough to drive play forward, but tired and wore down, they cannot tilt the ice enough in their favor to deploy the goons and get a rest. They will play their entire game with a shortened bench. This is why any fourth liner who can't play hockey is a detriment to his team, no matter what his merits as an enforcer may be. The energy line is important for giving the whole team energy, but that energy comes from minutes rather than hits and punches.

The Flames fourth line played 5 minutes or less for far too many games this season. Toughness, bigness, and truculence are all great, but must come paired with the ability to play hockey for more than five minutes a night!

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#9 TheRealPoc
May 16 2014, 12:06PM
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Great piece Kent, this is spot on.

Wholeheartedly agree, and I #PlayedTheGame

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#10 Back in the Winter of '89
May 16 2014, 12:13PM
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I think Kent did a great job of outlining the butterfly effect that is really at play with having 1 and especially 2 non-functional tough guys in your line up on a nightly basis.

Full marks!

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#11 SmellOfVictory
May 16 2014, 12:15PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

That's true, but it's a chicken and egg thing - if they were better players, they'd play more than 6 mins per night. And even at that minimal amount they are getting their head absolutely kicked in on a regular basis.

My blueprint as a GM would be a 4th line that could potentially play 10 mins a night, start way more often in the defensive end without fear and move the puck with some efficiency.

Agreed. The fourth line should be for guys who have limited offensive capability, but can acquit themselves reasonably well in the defensive/neutral zone. They don't even have to be able to gain offensive zone entry; just be good enough to prevent shots/goals against and dump the puck into the other end while the other three lines get a rest.

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#12 ChinookArch
May 16 2014, 01:01PM
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To Burning Sensation,

I told you the 2013/14 Season was the first year of the Rebuild, it says it right here on the internet.

"Season 1 of the official Calgary Flames rebuild".

Thank you Kent Wilson for settling the debate.

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#13 T&A4Flames
May 16 2014, 01:06PM
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I find it interesting that Bouma has better corsi % with Galiardi than with Backs. I know Gali siffered with some bad luck last year but if he and Bouma can push possession on the 3rd line, that could be a very good 3rd line, reminiscent of Moss, Stajan, Glenx. At least a start to it.

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#14 mattyc
May 16 2014, 01:11PM
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@Kent Wilson

For sure, that would be the ideal. I don't even know if they need to be defensive stalwarts - they just need to be able to beat other 4th lines. This should also be one of the easiest things to acquire.

Ultimately, though, I think you live and die based on your best players (who play 2-3 times as much as the bottom of rotation players). If your best players are beating the other best players head to head, you'll be controlling the majority of the play.

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#17 DoubleDIon
May 16 2014, 02:24PM
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You're a good writer Kent. I agree with most of your opinions too. Since I'm going counter to my usual loathing indictment of bloggers I'd like to offer one final compliment. You have a top flight mustache.

PS. Will you go to prom with me?

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#18 DoubleDIon
May 16 2014, 02:29PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

That's true. Still, as a GM, I'd be looking for incremental ways to improve my chances of success everywhere on the roster. What if your top guys are injured? Or playing hurt? What if you're facing Pittsburgh and you basically have very little chance of your elite talent beating out Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

You build a more robust roster if you look to have capable players everywhere. Their relative importance slides gradually as you make your way down the roster, but you might as well try to win every possible minute of every 60+ minute segment per game I'd say.

Exactly, if you look at the best Flames teams of the past 25 years that was how we stayed competitive. Outside of the 5 years of Iginla's prime we've had no real elite talent on this team. The 04 team we all love won by having really solid guys in the bottom 6. All of them could drive possession. Centermen like Langkow, Conroy and Lombardi while all 2/3 type of guys offensively could drive the play. We have Backlund who does that now and Monahan looks like he could become that.

Honestly, I don't think we're bad enough to land a McDavid/Eichel type in the next draft. But Backlund's are available every year if you make solid trades/picks.

Hello Burmistrov?

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#20 mattyc
May 16 2014, 02:55PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

That's true. Still, as a GM, I'd be looking for incremental ways to improve my chances of success everywhere on the roster. What if your top guys are injured? Or playing hurt? What if you're facing Pittsburgh and you basically have very little chance of your elite talent beating out Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

You build a more robust roster if you look to have capable players everywhere. Their relative importance slides gradually as you make your way down the roster, but you might as well try to win every possible minute of every 60+ minute segment per game I'd say.

Yeah, that's a good point.

To play devil's advocate a bit: I wonder how much the salary cap limits your ability to balance your roster well. Having $2million 3-4th liners playing on your 4th line ultimately amounts to 3-5$ less to spend at the top of your roster, which could be the difference between getting a Hossa/Parise type versus a Stempniak or Glencross (all things being equal, blah blah blah).

I guess it comes down to a strategy thing (assuming of course you can choose your strategy and elite players fall to you instead of playing the cards you're dealt). Do you try and built a top-heavy lineup, or balance it throughout your lines? Personally, I'd probably spend allocate my FWD budget on lines 1-4 as 40-70% on the top 6, another 20-40% on 3rd line, and whatever's left on the 4th line replacements.

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#21 ChinookArch
May 16 2014, 03:00PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I was unaware there was a debate.

There shouldn't be, but BS has promoted his view that the Flames rebuild started with the Regehr trade.

And . . . I thought I'd just poke the bear a bit.

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#23 jonahgo
May 16 2014, 03:01PM
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@mattyc

I actually think that having a decent 4th is a great way to make up for a lack of elite talent or to help elite talent shine. Chicago, as Kent points out, is an excellent example of the latter, and, to a lesser degree, Columbus is a good example of the former.

Look at the final four teams... there are no McGrattan-esque black holes on any of their rosters. Over an 82 game schedule, I would actually expect the quality of a team's fourth line to have a significant effect.

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#24 dotfras
May 16 2014, 03:35PM
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Shouldn't Galiardi be included in that analysis?

I'm assuming he gets re-upped and fills a hole on our 3rd or 4th line nightly.

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#26 JayD54
May 16 2014, 04:23PM
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Functional toughness, as coined here is a reasonable assessment.

I would like to float, though, the idea of a broader toughness (not unlike what we see in the LA Kings), not truly 'truculence' of just a select number of players, but a level of grit and sandpaper up and down the roster.

Illustrations on the current roster are Gio and, yes, Bouma, but think that Curtis Glencross is another who isn't shy in the corners. In the system, we have someone like Michael Ferland, who has always demonstrated a bit of a touch around the net to go with a snarl. From watching Tyler Wotherspoon in the Dub and before he got hurt during his recall, he has demonstrated that he can make it difficult in front of the net. Even Emile Poirier, whose PIMs belie his scoring numbers, might, given his size, develop into a feared power forward. And at the draft, Sam Bennett appears to be soft hands with a mean streak, ditto for Nick Ritchie.

Just an alternative to employing solely that designated 6 minute a night guy. . .

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#27 redhot1
May 16 2014, 04:32PM
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For an ideal team, the fourth line should;

- Be able to cycle the puck competently and consistently

- Be physical (to be effective physically, you need to have some speed)

- Occasionally chip in with some offence

- Have one, or even two who can kill penalties

Our fourth line last year with the terrible two didn't really address any of these, with the exception of McGrattans scoring streak in March(?)

In my opinion, Bouma can be a really good fourth liner for this team.

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#28 coachedpotatoe
May 16 2014, 04:39PM
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Functional toughness, I like it. It's pretty much how I would like to see the Flames approach next season, however I would like to see them roll 4 lines. Yes I'm pounding that drum again, quite frankly it's not very different than Kent's idea of having a 4th line that is defensively responsible. How many times this last season did we cringe when Westgarth, McG and whomever was centering them get stuck in the defensive zone for what seemed like forever only to have them ice the puck or get scored on. This in my mind does not need to happen as often as it did. Or watching both McG and Westgarth stapled to the bench for all but 4-6 minutes of the game, again far to often and not needed.

For me what I would want the Flames to do is have 2 lines that play 14 minutes even strength, 1 line 12 minutes even strength and a line to play 10 minutes even strength making 50 minutes and then most games have around 10 minutes of either pk/pp time and players get used as best suites their skills.

Each line would consist of more skilled forward, a solid two way forward and one of those functional toughness guys referred to in this article. Based upon who is signed at this times my lines would look something like this:

Johnny G/ Backs/Bouma

Hudler/ Monahan/Colborne(Wolf)

GlenX/Stajan/Ferland(Poirier)

Sven(Byron)/Granlund(Knight)/Djone(McG) depending whom we were playing.

In a season where you are developing and evaluating your organizational depth you would be able assess and develop a lot of players as you would still have some of the guys in brackets playing in the AHL as well as the following other players in the AHL chomping at the bit: Rhino, Arnold, Agostino, van B and anyone else I missed.

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#29 Mountaincity@hotmail.ca
May 16 2014, 05:42PM
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mattyc wrote:

I agree on the whole, but I think there is a bit of a tendency to get too wrapped up with the 4th line. As your table shows, Westgarth and McGratton play so little, that even if they're terrible possession players, there's only so much damage they can do when they're only on the ice for 6 minutes (most of it together against other terrible possession players (QoC% in the table).

I only mention this, because we're all going to have conniptions when the flames invariably sign another face-punching leadership/grit toughness guy this summer.

Edit: I should add that I do think it's really important to have a strong 3rd line though...

What about the penalties that tough guys on a fourth line incur - surely that hurts the team

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#30 Reidja
May 16 2014, 06:34PM
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Do we know whether or not Heartly would have a tendency to deploy elite talent (should we obtain any), in Sedin-esque circumstances? He seems more of the egalitarian ilk where ice-time and good opportunities are concerned.

I'm 100% bought-into having responsible 100% bought-in guys who can play hockey in our bottom 6. I guess I'm still looking for proof that the Flames are building a team with the strategic intent that Kent suggests is nessisary. It seems we are currently adding guys that are big. Full stop.

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#32 mattyc
May 16 2014, 08:31PM
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Yeah, imo at least, you can't really do the Sedin thing unless you have a Kesler line that can play the other team's best players to a draw at least.

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#33 Greg
May 16 2014, 08:47PM
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@jonahgo

That's a good point actually. Makes me curious... Of the teams who still have a westgarth type on the roster, who finished highest in the standings?

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#34 loudogYYC
May 16 2014, 09:07PM
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Functional Toughness - I love it! It perfectly describes the balance that is lacking in some stats vs gut debates.

Call me an optimist, but this is what I believe Burke actually believes in, and the Treliving hire will prove it (I really hope). A skilled team surrounded by meat that can actually play NHL hockey.

@mattyc

I agree regarding the Kesler line; and to illustrate it even more, Kesler's counting stats exploded when he had a capable 3rd line centre behind him in Malhotra.

The young budding stars like Gaudreau and co. won't accomplish much if Backlund, Galiardi and co. don't excel in their respective roles too. It's all about balance in the salary cap world.

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#35 coachedpotatoe
May 17 2014, 08:53AM
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Speaking of functional toughness I wonder how much that will play into the draft and what factor it will have in BAP. Both Trevling (wanting a team to play heavy) and Burke(truculence) have made it clear that it will be a clear factor in their definition of BPA. I doubt it will play a key factor in the first round I suspect it will be a key factor in later picks.

Look for the Flames to add size with their second and third round picks:

34th overall:(all speculation as we don't know who will available)McKeowan(D), Lemieux(LW),Magyar(RW) or a stretch to H Smith(RW, 6-7/220).

5?th overall from Colorado: Jacobs(D), Macleod(D), Chatham(RW), Lernout(D), Sanheim(D)

64 overall: guys from the same list plus: Peters, Collins

I'm looking forward to see what transpires between now and the draft.

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#36 coachedpotatoe
May 17 2014, 09:04AM
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Kent said: On the Flames end of the spectrum, Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan are the obvious outliers. They have the worst possession ratings of anyone involved (both absolute and relative) despite playing by far the easiest minutes available. They mostly skated against other 6-7 min/guys, started more often in the offensive zone and still spent way too much time watching pucks get fired at their own net. As a consequence, Bob Hartley could only afford to give them about 6 minutes of work every night.

The effect of playing a couple of sub-replacement enforcers every night ripples throughout the roster: there are less o-zone starts for the top-6 players since some of them have to be sacrificed to the tough guys. And because enforcers can't defend, score, or play special teams, there is an increased burden on the rest of the guys to get things accomplished, a burden that is magnified when the top is playing through a rough patch or the team is hobbled by injuries.

I agree with Kent but would also like to add that by not being able to play McG and Westgarth you may contribute to fatigue related injuries as well as reduced production from some players caused by fatigue as well. These are just two of the factors why I advocate for rolling 4 effective lines.

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#37 Stubblejumper
May 17 2014, 09:19AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Yeah...he and Byron were in the 14.5 ES minute range which is getting into top-9 territory. I really only included Colborne to round things out a bit.

The Flames actually have pieces who could be good bottom-sizers: Byron, Colborne and Galiardi as well as Bouma isn't a bad start.

Thanks Kent..loved your post..a nice follow up on Ryan's McGrattan discussion and Wolf's signing a couple days ago.

Regarding your Chicago comparatives if your article is more about functional toughness than 4th line players then I might suggest including PIMs in your evaluation to determine which players to select for comparison.

As such I am not sold on including Handzus (16 PIM)and Smith (2 PIM) and even possibly Krueger (36 PIM). Instead for Functional Toughness I might include Andrew Shaw, while just 5'10", but who has 72 PIM (along with 20G & 39 Pts), would likely be a better prototypical model possessing both Grit and Skill/Capability.

For the Flames if Bouma, VanBrabant, Wolf and Ferland can provide Grit (energy, tenacity, physicality, protection) while also showing Capability (skating, possession, Corsi, defensive responsibility), while playing 10+ Min per night on different lines, this would be gold!

Maybe its too much to ask (especially for the 3 rookies), but it would be great to see all four of them aiming for 8-12 goals each, a relative Corsi of -3 or better, and 10-13 min ATOI whether with the Flames or developing in the AHL.

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#38 coachedpotatoe
May 17 2014, 09:21AM
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dotfras wrote:

Shouldn't Galiardi be included in that analysis?

I'm assuming he gets re-upped and fills a hole on our 3rd or 4th line nightly.

I'm one of the people who liked how TJG played last year although he did not have the traditional stats to back up his play. While I would like to see him re-upped I'm not sure he will be (if he is a LW he is likely behind: Hudler, GlenX, Johnny, Sven and Byron, if he plays RW he's behind Bouma, Colborne, McG, Wolf, Poirier or Ferland) I see him as being next years version of BJones but better.

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#39 coachedpotatoe
May 17 2014, 09:27AM
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Stubblejumper wrote:

Thanks Kent..loved your post..a nice follow up on Ryan's McGrattan discussion and Wolf's signing a couple days ago.

Regarding your Chicago comparatives if your article is more about functional toughness than 4th line players then I might suggest including PIMs in your evaluation to determine which players to select for comparison.

As such I am not sold on including Handzus (16 PIM)and Smith (2 PIM) and even possibly Krueger (36 PIM). Instead for Functional Toughness I might include Andrew Shaw, while just 5'10", but who has 72 PIM (along with 20G & 39 Pts), would likely be a better prototypical model possessing both Grit and Skill/Capability.

For the Flames if Bouma, VanBrabant, Wolf and Ferland can provide Grit (energy, tenacity, physicality, protection) while also showing Capability (skating, possession, Corsi, defensive responsibility), while playing 10+ Min per night on different lines, this would be gold!

Maybe its too much to ask (especially for the 3 rookies), but it would be great to see all four of them aiming for 8-12 goals each, a relative Corsi of -3 or better, and 10-13 min ATOI whether with the Flames or developing in the AHL.

My question is where do you play them? (Bouma, VB, Wolf, Ferland) Do you create a 4th line from them? Or do you play them throughout the line up?(my choice) Don't forget McG who in the last 10 or 15 games was more effective than the start of the season. Poirier (IMO)also brings many of those same things but with more skill .

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#40 Stubblejumper
May 17 2014, 09:57AM
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coachedpotatoe wrote:

I'm one of the people who liked how TJG played last year although he did not have the traditional stats to back up his play. While I would like to see him re-upped I'm not sure he will be (if he is a LW he is likely behind: Hudler, GlenX, Johnny, Sven and Byron, if he plays RW he's behind Bouma, Colborne, McG, Wolf, Poirier or Ferland) I see him as being next years version of BJones but better.

In previous discussions Galiardi's Corsi/relCorsi etc stats were shown to be mildly positive, especially considering team factors. However the team invested 14 ATOI and received 4 Goals in return..a poor return overall.

While many want to re-sign him I believe the higher priority is to support the ~15 prospects needing his NHL minutes. We could provide 5 prospects with 15 NHL games experience each, speeding their development.

If I was Treliving I would find it very difficult to re-sign TJ and take away that opportunity from team development. DJones is also a big question mark.

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#41 Stubblejumper
May 17 2014, 10:03AM
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coachedpotatoe wrote:

My question is where do you play them? (Bouma, VB, Wolf, Ferland) Do you create a 4th line from them? Or do you play them throughout the line up?(my choice) Don't forget McG who in the last 10 or 15 games was more effective than the start of the season. Poirier (IMO)also brings many of those same things but with more skill .

I too would prefer to roll 4 equitable lines rather than a 6 minute 4th line which is detrimental. At RW I would likely play Hudler, Colborne on the first & second lines.

I'm thinking Poirier (eventually 1RW or 2RW)will likely start the first half year in Adirondack with a call up or two, and then come up for the last third of a year after trading a vet.

So that means rotating VB, Wolf, and Ferland as 3RW / 4RW as an initial plan for now...?

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#42 coachedpotatoe
May 17 2014, 10:09AM
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Stubblejumper wrote:

In previous discussions Galiardi's Corsi/relCorsi etc stats were shown to be mildly positive, especially considering team factors. However the team invested 14 ATOI and received 4 Goals in return..a poor return overall.

While many want to re-sign him I believe the higher priority is to support the ~15 prospects needing his NHL minutes. We could provide 5 prospects with 15 NHL games experience each, speeding their development.

If I was Treliving I would find it very difficult to re-sign TJ and take away that opportunity from team development. DJones is also a big question mark.

I don't disagree with you. He is a bubble player but I see him a shaving some value especially if he could be moved up and down as happened with BJones and Street last year(although I think he would be picked up on waivers)I also agree that providing the prospects with NHL game experience as they earn it is more important, which is one of the reasons I'm an advocate of 4 real hockey lines.

In regards to DJones, I'm mostly commenting on him being in the line up for the following reasons: one he is signed and his salary helps us be closer to the cap floor, both Hartley and Burke endorsed him at the end of the season, he is one of the few natural RW we have and he is big(maybe not truculent but heavy for sure). He is not part of the long term plans and if they could move him I would not be against it. When I make lines etc I only go with what we have; I don't like to speculate about whom we might acquire or sign as that just get's silly.

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#43 coachedpotatoe
May 17 2014, 10:15AM
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Stubblejumper wrote:

I too would prefer to roll 4 equitable lines rather than a 6 minute 4th line which is detrimental. At RW I would likely play Hudler, Colborne on the first & second lines.

I'm thinking Poirier (eventually 1RW or 2RW)will likely start the first half year in Adirondack with a call up or two, and then come up for the last third of a year after trading a vet.

So that means rotating VB, Wolf, and Ferland as 3RW / 4RW as an initial plan for now...?

Where do you see Bouma playing? Has Hudler played much RW? My problem is we don't have many natural RW and I'm not sure which of the veteran LW would adapt best. I agree that Poirier will be moved up and own through the AHL/NHL during the course of the year. I also suspect that Ferland may need to start there as well depending on his knee.

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#44 Stubblejumper
May 17 2014, 01:28PM
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coachedpotatoe wrote:

Where do you see Bouma playing? Has Hudler played much RW? My problem is we don't have many natural RW and I'm not sure which of the veteran LW would adapt best. I agree that Poirier will be moved up and own through the AHL/NHL during the course of the year. I also suspect that Ferland may need to start there as well depending on his knee.

I recall Hudler playing RW a fair bit, most often when Glencross was in the line-up. I agree we have DJones as about the only natural scoring RW but personally I'd rather buy him out, free up his minutes for player development and invest his $$ into a good 3-4 D.

If Hudler and Colborne play RW, that leaves 5 heavies for 2 positions including McG, Westgarth, VB, Wolf, Ferland. By signing Wolf with the intention of finding someone who can be both tough and functional/capable, Westgarth will likely not be re-signed. His ability to actually play beyond being a tough guys was limited.

So we're really down to 3 (less McG and Westgarth) to figure out which 2 can actually play, along with slotting in some Poirier development times a couple times during the year.

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#45 Stubblejumper
May 17 2014, 01:39PM
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Regarding DJones, potentially better than a buy-out would be to trade him for a late round pick and pay 1/4 of his salary as his market value likely tops around $3M.

Also if Poirier plays the first ~10 games up with the big club in Oct, then goes to the AHL for 3-4 months to further develop, he would be in good position to take over from Hudler if/when Hudler is traded in Feb/Mar.

This then continues to allow 2 of Ferland, VB, Wolf to fight it out for the 3RW & 4RW slots.

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#46 suba steve
May 17 2014, 02:25PM
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Stubblejumper wrote:

Regarding DJones, potentially better than a buy-out would be to trade him for a late round pick and pay 1/4 of his salary as his market value likely tops around $3M.

Also if Poirier plays the first ~10 games up with the big club in Oct, then goes to the AHL for 3-4 months to further develop, he would be in good position to take over from Hudler if/when Hudler is traded in Feb/Mar.

This then continues to allow 2 of Ferland, VB, Wolf to fight it out for the 3RW & 4RW slots.

So with Jones gone, and the Flames paying $1M of his salary, they then would have to come up with another option towards the other $3M in order to get up to the Cap floor? Why? I'm already hearing that the team may have to overpay some UFAs in order to reach that floor, why not just overpay this player that you already have under contract?

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#47 Stubblejumper
May 17 2014, 04:48PM
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@suba steve

We're at $39M for 14 players, leaving $12-$14M for 10 players. Selling off Jones reduces current spend to $36M for 13 players, leaving $15-$17M for 11 players, or roughly $1.4M per player.

Resigning Colborne, Byron, Bouma, Breen will cost ~$3.5-4.0M. Butler or equivalent will cost ~$3M-$4M. A reputable back-up goalie will be ~$1.5-$2.5M.

Playing 6 kids at a time will cost $4.0-4.5M (Poirier, Reinhart, Wotherspoon, Sieloff, Baertschi, Granlund, Ferland, Knight, Arnold, Wolf, VanBrabant, Kanzig, Culkin, Kulak).

So that's ~$12-$15M for ~12 players. The numbers work.

Of course, as perhaps you are intimating, maybe the easiest thing to do is to keep DJones, see if he has another poor year, then bury him in the minors and absorb his full salary.

That way we reach the cap floor, go aw shucks we sucked and get a Top 3 draft pick and rebound quickly in 2015-16 with a generational player in hand along with prospects who've had good development time.

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#48 MC Hockey
May 19 2014, 12:50AM
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Stubblejumper wrote:

We're at $39M for 14 players, leaving $12-$14M for 10 players. Selling off Jones reduces current spend to $36M for 13 players, leaving $15-$17M for 11 players, or roughly $1.4M per player.

Resigning Colborne, Byron, Bouma, Breen will cost ~$3.5-4.0M. Butler or equivalent will cost ~$3M-$4M. A reputable back-up goalie will be ~$1.5-$2.5M.

Playing 6 kids at a time will cost $4.0-4.5M (Poirier, Reinhart, Wotherspoon, Sieloff, Baertschi, Granlund, Ferland, Knight, Arnold, Wolf, VanBrabant, Kanzig, Culkin, Kulak).

So that's ~$12-$15M for ~12 players. The numbers work.

Of course, as perhaps you are intimating, maybe the easiest thing to do is to keep DJones, see if he has another poor year, then bury him in the minors and absorb his full salary.

That way we reach the cap floor, go aw shucks we sucked and get a Top 3 draft pick and rebound quickly in 2015-16 with a generational player in hand along with prospects who've had good development time.

Ummm, so NHL rosters are only 23 players just to be clear, not 24. David Jones has upside, they need his salary to reach floor (unless Cammi re-signs) and could store 20+ goals, under 30, and is big so will stay. I hope, but don't necessarily expect, that Flames get a 2nd good goalie since Ramo is still unproven so Elliott or maybe Hiller would be possible but cost $3M to $5M as proven goalies (less for Elliott). Colborne and Bouma will be back but don't see both of Breen and Byron back due other prospects needing a chance, more likely just Byron on a 2-way contract. And Butler likely back but will only cost 2.5M. And I actually think Cammi returning is likely as Burke would not let him walk, so that means $6.5M or more for 3-5 years as I think he stays and drops down in lineup in 2 years as young guys move up. So no worries reachng cap.

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#49 #DropDaPuck
May 21 2014, 03:01PM
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Burmistrov ??? I sure hope so

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