Five things: Is this it?

Ryan Lambert
July 10 2014 09:11AM

1. That's your team

Head on over to Capgeek. Click on the Flames page. Look at what you see there.

You see that the Flames have 11 NHL forwards under contract, and two more RFAs to re-sign. They also have six defensemen. And two goalies. That's 21 players, and doesn't include guys who will at the very least get their tires kicked at one point in the year or another (like Tyler Wotherspoon, Sven Baertschi, Corban Knight, and maybe a few others). Looks to me like this roster is finalized.

And so now the time has come to actually think about what that means for the Calgary Flames as they embark on what looks to be a disastrous 2014-15 season, one with no hope of advancing to the playoffs, and probably not even out of the bottom of the West.

Vegas has the Flames as 75 to 1 to win the Cup, tied with Florida and Buffalo. That seems just about right, based on this roster.

2. "Rebuild on the fly"

I think we can all agree now that the concept of this team just needing to rejigger a few things here and there was never a reasonable one that was going to actually come to fruition. In hindsight, it really is shocking to see how many people bought into it.

What we learned since the start of July is that this is a team that still has to overpay for even submediocre free agents, and with no real stars in the offing any time soon, it seems that the climb out of the basement isn't going to be as easy as everyone thought, especially with you-know-who in charge.

I think it's pretty safe to say that in order to be even decent in today's NHL you need top-shelf players. I'd say the worst playoff teams last season — the ones with no hope of winning the Cup or even advancing — were Colorado (who had Paul Stastny, Nathan MacKinnon, and Matt Duchene) and probably Detroit (Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg). It's hard to see Calgary as having someone who even approaches that level.

Maybe you'd say Mark Giordano or TJ Brodie but when your best forward is clearly Jiri Hudler, who needs a ton of shielding from actual difficult competition and his own end, that's a long way back.

3. Dim your views

The problem I've seen in Calgary is that if you say this team is going to be bad — which it is, and was pretty much since this site opened, on an unequivocal level — you are branded as being "negative" and "a troll." The other problem is that there's no way to paint this broken down Oldsmobile station wagon in such a way that it looks anything like even a reliable 2002 Honda.

If you think this team is capable of competing for anything but the best chance at the No. 1 overall pick, you're living in a fantasy world. That's as simple as things can be painted. I think Buffalo is probably worse, still. I think Florida's in the mix but a bit ahead of Calgary because of their center depth and the fact that they've been bad for so long they do have some pretty good young players, and Luongo helps a ton (or hinders, if you prefer).

There are bright spots on the roster, yes. Hudler is still going to put up points. Mason Raymond is solid. Mikael Backlund is as good a No. 2 center as there is in the league in terms of possession. Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are both going to be fascinating to watch this season. Brodie and Giordano are great. Dennis Wideman should be fun to watch if he's healthy.

Beyond that it's a wasteland. Will be for a while. Tough realization to come to, I understand. But I just named eight players out of 20-something who will be with the big club this year and I'm not sure any of them are going to be anywhere near good enough to help the team do much of anything besides lose a lot. Too much dead weight.

4. A quick word on development camp

With that having been said, it's probably wise that the Flames have done so much work to pump up development camp — in as annoying a manner as possible — this week. Gotta sell the future and all that, and they probably kept that in mind when putting Gaudreau and Sam Bennett on the same line.

Surprise surprise, the best amateur hockey player in the world and the No. 4 overall pick who would have been higher (literally and figuratively, I guess) if he'd done a pull-up were really good together and dominated the game. A shocking turn of events there. I wouldn't be shocked at all if that's a regular combination a year or three down the line. Gaudreau seems to have chemistry with literally anyone he shares the ice with, of course, but you want your best players to play together whenever possible, so there's that.

But this was something Kent and I discussed briefly the other day: I basically see no chance Gaudreau plays in the AHL this season. Even if he struggles against NHLers, I don't think it's something sending him to the minors fixes: Every part of his game is battle-tested against elite talent at every level he's ever played, basically, and the only concern is whether he can take the physical beating in the NHL. If he can't it's only going to be worse in the goon-filled dregs of the AHL. He'd also be guaranteed to put up a billion points down there, and at 22 you have to wonder how much there would be for him to learn that he wouldn't learn to greater effect getting fourth-line minutes and power play time in the NHL.

The difference between his situation and Monahan's a year ago is that Gaudreau doesn't have other options to keep the sands from falling through the hour glass. Send him to the AHL and a year of his deal expires just as it would in the NHL. The Flames also have no better options on the left side than Gaudreau. Unless you count Brandon Bollig and a wheels-falling-off Curtis Glencross.

5. But guess what

Being this bad is responsible from Flames management.

Be bad until you're ready to be at least somewhat good. Standing on the middle ground and saying it's progress is idiocy. Fans want to see them win, but that thing the Sabres said last year about having to suffer through some lean times to get the good ones? That's the case with every team in the league that's been elite in the past few years, save for Detroit. Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Vancouver. All terrible for a prolonged period.  The Flames are in that boat now. 

I've said it a million times: Rushing anything to get to 40 wins instead of 35 would be crazy and counterproductive. So to see them not-doing that now is pretty much good and acceptable.

686dfac3780611cb7acad6ce5166c6c1
Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#51 piscera.infada
July 10 2014, 01:24PM
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Bean-counting cowboy wrote:

I agree with Christian on this. My understanding is the Eichel is a bigger body playing a tougher style game whereas McDavid is a bit more finesse type player. McDavid may end up with the higher counting stats in the NHL but Eichel will be hard to handle. He will certainly NHL ready.

Following however many years Eichel chooses to play in the NCAA, that is. Plus, Monahan projects to be a reasonably big body and Bennett projects to be physical with an edge. The Flames (with the exception of Gaudreau and possibly Baertschi) still lack elite skill (or finesse, more narrowly). I agree with most others. You take the BPA, who at this point looks to be McDavid.

Probably a moot point though, as the chances of the Flames drafting first overall next year are at best 25% (and possibly lower depending on the changes to the lottery format).

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#52 chillout
July 10 2014, 01:26PM
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If we win the draft I say we pull a Burke and somehow manage to get 2 of the top 3 picks in some sort of crazy trade around that we win hands down.

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#53 Nick24
July 10 2014, 01:27PM
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FeyWest wrote:

For discussion sake... We get 1st OA this season, given we don't know the final scouting reports and stats of the next draft class, forgetting the fact that McDavid is apparently the "Second-coming..." type talent, do you just take him just because or do you evaluate all the options and take what seems best for the team given the context of what we have brewing already.

Only reason I ask is from someone who hasn't seen much of any of next seasons draft class, what type of players are McDavid and Eichel... do they complement our center depth or are they similar types of Bennett or Monahan?

Of course there's the case where he is the best option going forward and in that case the debate is null, I was just curious because a similar discussion should have been had regarding the Oiler's 1 OA picks and I don't want us making the similar debatable choices.

Every organization should fully evaluate each player and decide who is the best player. Drafting should always be done by best player available, and that's something that every one on this site has been over quite a bit.

Everyone knows that McDavid has the potential to be the next Sidney Crosby. During the World Juniors last year, Bob Mackenzie was saying that Eichel is more of Ryan Getzlaf+ kind of player, and I haven't really hear a lot on Hanifin.

Monahan and Bennett are players that are good at a lot, but don't blow you away by any one facet of their game. Mcdavid and Eichel would be players that have the big offensive pop.

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#54 RedMan
July 10 2014, 01:31PM
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everton fc wrote:

How about Gaudreau/Monahan/Ferland? Let's all hope Ferland comes into camp in shape, and dominates in the pre-season. You never know, but this would be an interesting line to put out there, during camp.

I just think, on that line, Bollig get 10-15 goals and about 50 assists, and then we can trade him, after his "break out" season, for a first round pick or something :-D

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#55 Baalzamon
July 10 2014, 01:47PM
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@chillout

What if the Flames win the lottery, and the Sabres have the next two picks (Islanders in the bottom 3). Do the Sabres want McDavid enough to trade #2 and #3 for #1?

haha.

Not likely anyway, as New York is likely to improve next season simply by virtue of having Tavares back.

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#56 Christian Roatis
July 10 2014, 01:49PM
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RedMan wrote:

I just think, on that line, Bollig get 10-15 goals and about 50 assists, and then we can trade him, after his "break out" season, for a first round pick or something :-D

Here's to positivity! No matter how outlandish or unrealistic it may be! :D

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#57 Bean-counting cowboy
July 10 2014, 02:04PM
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piscera.infada wrote:

Following however many years Eichel chooses to play in the NCAA, that is. Plus, Monahan projects to be a reasonably big body and Bennett projects to be physical with an edge. The Flames (with the exception of Gaudreau and possibly Baertschi) still lack elite skill (or finesse, more narrowly). I agree with most others. You take the BPA, who at this point looks to be McDavid.

Probably a moot point though, as the chances of the Flames drafting first overall next year are at best 25% (and possibly lower depending on the changes to the lottery format).

From what I have read, Eichel would likely only be in College for his draft year and would likely play in the NHL right after being drafted. The reason for going the college route was for development purposes relating directly to his size combined with scoring prowess, where there was maybe a bit of a concern about not being challenged enough in the junior leagues - he wanted to play against men.

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#58 Bean-counting cowboy
July 10 2014, 02:06PM
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Bean-counting cowboy wrote:

From what I have read, Eichel would likely only be in College for his draft year and would likely play in the NHL right after being drafted. The reason for going the college route was for development purposes relating directly to his size combined with scoring prowess, where there was maybe a bit of a concern about not being challenged enough in the junior leagues - he wanted to play against men.

Also, I thought I had heard that the draft lottery changes wouldn't take place until at least after the next draft - or am I misplaced in this?

I do agree with you. I think our list goes McDavid, Eichel, Hannifin.

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#59 FeyWest
July 10 2014, 02:12PM
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@Christian Roatis

Thanks for the insight Victory, Christian, BCC, and Nick. I'm fully on board with the BPA mentality as opposed to positional drafting (can be seen from my posting history on many different fourms). As long as effective identification of BPA's is done, the long term value is greater than that of the risky positional pick.

I believe the Hockey Gods will make the right decision come next years draft lottery =D

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#60 Parallex
July 10 2014, 02:28PM
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Bean-counting cowboy wrote:

Also, I thought I had heard that the draft lottery changes wouldn't take place until at least after the next draft - or am I misplaced in this?

I do agree with you. I think our list goes McDavid, Eichel, Hannifin.

From what I understand the changes in lottory weighting take place for this (2015) upcoming draft while the changes to lottory eligible picks (Picks 1-3 last I heard) take place in the draft (2016) after that.

I waffle on where to put Eichel or Hanifin (McDavid goes #1).

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#61 Scary Gary
July 10 2014, 02:40PM
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Lambert we all get the flames are not a playoff team, that's obvious. But beating up management for not making us better while stating we should be bad until we're ready to be good is a contradiction.

As you say we're in the boat now so let's stay positive, hope that some of these prospects develop with NHL experience and that we can trade our veterans for assets when the time comes. I came to this conclusion last year and knew we'd be worse this year than last, you're a bit late to the party.

Also you didn't mention our improved, likely league average, goaltending at all.

Eichel!!!

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#62 Clyde
July 10 2014, 03:40PM
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mattyc wrote:

Treliving said at the FA presser that he felt the D prospects weren't quite 'knocking on the door' the same way the fwd propects were. So take that for whatever it's worth...

Then I hope we get a Del Zotto type rather than an aulie. Is Ellerby on the market?

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#63 Kevin R
July 10 2014, 04:17PM
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FeyWest wrote:

For discussion sake... We get 1st OA this season, given we don't know the final scouting reports and stats of the next draft class, forgetting the fact that McDavid is apparently the "Second-coming..." type talent, do you just take him just because or do you evaluate all the options and take what seems best for the team given the context of what we have brewing already.

Only reason I ask is from someone who hasn't seen much of any of next seasons draft class, what type of players are McDavid and Eichel... do they complement our center depth or are they similar types of Bennett or Monahan?

Of course there's the case where he is the best option going forward and in that case the debate is null, I was just curious because a similar discussion should have been had regarding the Oiler's 1 OA picks and I don't want us making the similar debatable choices.

You know what Fey, I think for the Flames very 1st #1 overall, they take BPA & they have to take McDavid. The Oiler debate was in my mind truly the 3rd time around. At that point, they already had 2 #1's in their forward group. I really think they could have flipped Yaks for a top 10-15 pick, a decent big bonafide top 9 forward & a top defensive prospect almost NHL ready. Pinch me, but if we were to suck out like the Oilers & get the next 3 1st over alls, by the 3rd one I think most of us would be saying trade the sucker for organizational needs that impact the team immediately. JMO

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#64 Ed Wailin'
July 10 2014, 05:04PM
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If nothing else can be taken away as s positive of the last few years of wandering the desert, its nice to see management and fans put a high priority back on the drafting and developing of prospects.

Promoting a system of competition at every position in every stage of development is the right way of doing things in the new salary cap era. The days of trading for a superstar and actually getting value out of it are done. the UFA market is the same.

I for one am happy we are going through these growing pains now and developing a system to identify and develop talent at an early stage. Because its going to be a rude awakening for teams that have to do the same in a few years time.

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#65 DoubleDIon
July 10 2014, 06:04PM
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@cccsberg

Monahan was extremely fortunate in his percentages. I think he'll be around the same as last year. Who exactly do you think can score 30 besides Glencross? I think it's ridiculous to expect anyone other than Glencross to score 30 at this point. One day any of Monahan, baertschi, poirier, gaudreau and Bennett could but not this year.

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#66 CitizenRed
July 10 2014, 09:21PM
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Bold prediction: the Flames will make the playoffs next season IF:

1. Gio is healthy and plays the full year

2. Goalie tandem posts save avg. of 9.20 or higher

3. Gaudreau is the favourite for Calder by the end of the regular season.

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#67 Reidja
July 11 2014, 12:01AM
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Here's a fun retro read at the start of those mediocre years and a very lementable chapter in Flames history:

http://flamesnation.ca/2009/7/24/under-pressure-2

Thank goodness we didn't buy out Kipper! Can you imagine?!

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#68 jeremywilhelm
July 11 2014, 01:09AM
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@DoubleDIon

Gaudreau, book it!

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#69 wes
July 11 2014, 02:29AM
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Not trying to be mean or condescending to Ryan but, through reading these comments it seems apparent that Flames fans are just too smart for Ryan's little jabs.

There's just too many sensible responses to the obvious barbs throughout his articles. Kind of puts the kibosh on his incendiary stances.

I really believe Puck Daddy is a much more suitable platform for his style; it just seems to fall flat here.

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#70 EugeneV
July 11 2014, 03:37AM
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chillout wrote:

If we win the draft I say we pull a Burke and somehow manage to get 2 of the top 3 picks in some sort of crazy trade around that we win hands down.

I don't consider what he did with the Sedins to be a win.

Because of them being brothers. Drafting 2nd & 3rd in the same draft without handcuffing yourself to 2 sisters would be ok though.

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#71 EugeneV
July 11 2014, 03:51AM
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Why do the stats heads keep saying Monahan will regress with "his LUCKY s%"? So, if he does, then they will get to say "I told you so"? I've looked through the s% of some comparable players and find many, many, many who are mid teens s% and higher.

Monahan has the look of a goal scorer to me. by the eyes.

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#72 Burnward
July 11 2014, 03:56AM
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wes wrote:

Not trying to be mean or condescending to Ryan but, through reading these comments it seems apparent that Flames fans are just too smart for Ryan's little jabs.

There's just too many sensible responses to the obvious barbs throughout his articles. Kind of puts the kibosh on his incendiary stances.

I really believe Puck Daddy is a much more suitable platform for his style; it just seems to fall flat here.

I think most of us feel sorry for him having to attempt it.

Tough being a one-trick pony when that trick sucks ass.

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#73 zepfan1976
July 11 2014, 09:23AM
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I usually take assessments of this team with a grain of salt. basically, I have heard all these statements from Non NHL Brass or scouts, and non main stream media before, so, it never comes as a surprise that the "Team" always contradicts through work ethic what nay sayere say.

we are 1 season removed from year 1 of the rebuild, where Flames posted a 79 point season. Glencross scored little. Cammi didnt have a season like 2008 where he had more goals than Iginla.

Now Cammi+Stemps are gone. yet, we have more young scorers. more goals equals more wins. we also have a damn decent goalie duo with Hiller+Ramo. less goals against equals more wins

hell, in Aug. we may sign Hayes. johnny+bill+hayes equals goals.

playoffs: not yet. but, 85-90 point season? doable

I will say i told you so after game 82

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#74 jeremywilhelm
July 11 2014, 09:42AM
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@zepfan1976

Except, after Gio and Brodie, the defensive depth is garbage. And that was one of the biggest problems last year. Not goal scoring, porous defense outside of the top two and Reto Berra playing too many games.

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#75 Sam
July 11 2014, 12:52PM
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I've never heard of this Lambert guy. Does anyone actually pay him for his dribble or does he do this from his mom's basement? Maybe if he could stop surfing porn for more than 5 minutes he could actually try and write something of value ?

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#76 Chainsawz
July 11 2014, 02:51PM
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Bruins haven't been bad for a prolonged time since the 60's.

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