Random Thoughts - Calgary's Cautious Summer

Kent Wilson
September 22 2014 10:51AM

random-thoughts


The long summer is finally at an end and aside from hiring a new GM, the Flames had a relatively quiet off-season. They made some nominal additions via free agency, eschewed the trade market and weren't one of the clubs to dive head first into the analytics craze. Probably the best description of the club's activities is "cautious", which isn't a bad thing given where the team is in its new phase of evolution.

- Calgary entered the summer with a lot of cap space, so there was the opportunity to use it to "accelerate the rebuild". The good news is, Brad Treliving didn't go big whale hunting in the relatively shallow UFA pool. Although we can condemn the Deryk Engelland contract as a bad one (it is), in reality it remains a relatively minor misstep in the grand scheme of things. The Flames enter the 2014-15 season with a ton of budget space and a minimum of toxic assets, which sets things up nicely for the future.

- As mentioned, Calgary didn't go out and make any high profile analytics hires like New Jersey, Edmonton or Toronto. That isn't to say the club hasn't taken notice of the new stats, just that the new regime is somewhat tentative about integrating them into the organization currently. If things go well in Edmonton and Toronto this year, look for Calgary to start doing a bit more on the numbers side.

- Similarly, the Flames have yet to extend any of their higher profile RFA's (TJ Brodie, Mikael Backlund) or UFA's (Curtis Glencross). My guess is Treliving wants some time to personally evaluate the established guys before rushing out and giving them a new long-term deal, which is entirely understandable. That said, I still think the team should sign Brodie and Backlund sooner rather than later if possible.

- We've gone into detail on why re-signing Brodie ASAP is a good bet, but not so much on Backlund. Aside form having a career year last season where he scored 18 goals while playing some of the toughest minutes on the team, we've also learned that the 25-year old center is the best forward on the club at gaining the offensive zone and the Flames best penalty killer.

I don't think we'll ever seen Backlund lead the Flames in scoring, but he frequently leads the forwards in many other meaningful categories. I'm not sure we can say Backlund is a Selke caliber player quite yet, but he has Selke DNA. 

- Curtis Glencross is another matter entirely. The speedy veteran's results are far more conflicted over the last couple of seasons and, at 32, he's entering the twilight of his career. Glencross' agent has been vocal about getting his client a big, new extension this summer but the truth is he represents a significant risk on a long-term deal.

On the good side of ledger, Glencross is an efficient goal scorer at even strength. Over the last 3 years, Glencross is 37th in the NHL amongst regular skaters in terms of goals/60 minutes of ice time at 5on5 (0.987/60). To put that in perspective, he's ahead of Jeff Carter (0.980), Jarome Iginla (0.937), Marian Hossa (0.928), Taylor Hall (.923) and Patrick Kane (0.875). This rate is propped up by his personal SH% of about 15%, which is one of the higher ratios in the entire league. That seems suspicious, but Glencross has maintained a 0.15 percentage over 800 career shots, so he's probably just a really good shooter.

The bad news is a player can't just live off of SH% alone. Glencross' two-way play has steadily fallen over the last few seasons to the degree that he was a horrendous liability last year whenever he was in the line-up. Calgary managed a corsi rate of just 42.9% with Glencross on the ice last year and a goal ratio of just 37% at even strength. That means the club was grossly outshot and even more grossly outscored.

The other problem is, even if we grant that Glencross has sniper-like efficiency, he's not really a high volume shooter (62 shots in 38 games last year, for instance) - which means a drop of a percentage or two due to aging or chance would crater his scoring. 

The Flames choices in regards to Glencross are: re-sign the veteran and hope he rebounds and maintains a high level of play as he ages; or try to leverage the asset by trading him at some point this year. Choice one is especially concerning given the fact that Glencross is looking for his "retirement deal" this time around; ie the biggest contract of his career.

At this point, I personally lean towards option number two. My suggestion for the Flames would be to either stick Glencross with a high possession player who can make sure he spends more time in the offensive zone (ie; Backlund), or to shelter him outrageously and play him with other offensive players (Hudler). Either way, the goal should be to goose his numbers so he looks like a shiny object when the trade deadline rolls around. 

- Of course, the decision to trade Glencross hinges on the development of the kids. Right now players and coaches are saying all the right things about trying to make the playoffs, but the more realistic objective of 2014-15 is to suss out which of the forward prospects between 21-24 are true NHLers. That grouping includes Sven Baertschi, Johnny Gaudreau, Markus Granlund, Max Reinhart, Michael Ferland, Bill Arnold, Corban Knight, Lance Bouma and David Wolf. 

That's a lot of names so Treliving won't get a definitive read on all the kids, but ideally at least two guys from the above list will establish themselves as NHL options by April. If at least one of them looks like a top-6 option going forward, it makes moving on from Glencross a lot easier.

- Finally, there are still a few clubs in salary cap jail whom the Flames may be able to take advantage of before the season starts. Boston needs to sign both Reilly Smith and Torey Krug and they are already rubbing up against the ceiling. Marc Savards LTIR isn't enough to re-sign both guys, let alone leave any room for mid-season moves. The Blackhawks are also shopping around guys like Nick Leddy and Kris Versteeg to help ease the pressure. 

Naturally, teams are loathe to part with a quality asset for nothing, which is why the Flames haven't been able to make one of these kinds of deals yet. With the clock ticking down, however, they have a better chance of either stealing away a useful player (Johnny Boychuk or Nick Leddy) or accepting a salary dump with a prospect or top 60 pick.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
Avatar
#51 Stubblejumper
September 23 2014, 03:08PM
Trash it!
5
trashes
Props
9
props
Kenta wrote:

Calling the off season "cautious" is quite generous. Other than drafting Bennett, BT has been mediocre so far. He has gone out and loaded up on bottom pairing defencemen and 3rd & 4th liners. Quantity over quality isn't going to get this team out of the basement. Lets hope BT follows some of your sound suggestions going forward.

Cautious is one word that could be used; smart or astute may be better.

I am not usually one to "pump BB/BT's tires" - frankly there are a couple moves I am concerned with.

However what I do appreciate is:
- BT recognizes where the Flames are at (rebuilding), what the Flames current potential is (bottom 8 standing), and timing for playoff rebound (2-3 years);
- BT isn't rushing to use up cap space, make lavish FA deals, and looking to immediately become a playoff contender (and a middling team again for the next decade);

Instead BT has:
- stabilized goaltending which alone could reduce GA by 30;
- rebuilt the bottom 6 with greater size, mobility, skill while setting the stage to eliminate the exclusive goon/fighter position;
- added competition and a lot of depth, particularly in areas lacking NHL ready prospects (e.g. defence);
- actively promoted the continuation of the meritocracy team culture and identity established last year, easily the single greatest achievement.

Specifically to your point, the biggest criticism the Oilers have received is not surrounding their top-skilled talent by improving their supporting cast and depth on D and the Bottom 6 over the last 3 years. MacT has almost exclusively focused on addressing these deficiencies over the last 18 months.

I for one am glad BT is:
- addressing these key team-building issues now in order to challenge the top-contending heavy teams eg. LAK, SJS, ANA, STL, CHI, DAL;
- not reaching for the playoffs this year while still potentially supporting a top pick this year;
- adding depth judiciously to support the integration of young new skill players late this year and next.

Avatar
#52 coachedpotatoe
September 23 2014, 05:55PM
Trash it!
6
trashes
Props
6
props

Cautious? Hopeful? Inadequate? All terms that could be used to discuss the Flames offseason. Cautious in that other than signing England for to much money and to much term the Flames did not do anything to significantly upgrade their defensive depth. I believe that BT attempted to do so because I believe he is a prudent and intelligent man. However the end results is that not enough was accomplished in this area.

Despite bringing in 3 NHL forwards that upgraded the forward ranks I still believe that the top prospects we have upfront will in the not to distant future be some of our top forwards, They will have to earn theses spots and bringing in vets that buy time is okay but they cannot be allowed to prevent the development of the prospects. I think they are hopeful that will happen and that Wides and Smid will both have bounce back years. Also I think they are hopeful that Spoon continues his development and that Sieloff can be healthy enough to make significant improvement.

Inadequate because no new young defensive prospects where acquired either through trade, draft picks or free agency. I'm not talking about over the hill guys or never were guys(we signed Engs and few others to PTO's) It would have been great to acquire a 26-30 year old 4/5 defender. I believe in all my heart that BT tried but failed to do so and as hockey is a professional sport failure to address your needs both short term and long term is inadequate. By next year the shortage of 4-6 defenders needs to be adequately addressed or a 2/3 year rebuild could easily be a 7/8 year rebuild.

Avatar
#53 Koolmoedee
September 23 2014, 06:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
6
props

The Flames did hire a stats guy, in 2011. Chris Snow is the Flames' Director of Statistical and Video Analysis.

Avatar
#54 Cccsberg
September 23 2014, 07:13PM
Trash it!
4
trashes
Props
8
props
coachedpotatoe wrote:

Cautious? Hopeful? Inadequate? All terms that could be used to discuss the Flames offseason. Cautious in that other than signing England for to much money and to much term the Flames did not do anything to significantly upgrade their defensive depth. I believe that BT attempted to do so because I believe he is a prudent and intelligent man. However the end results is that not enough was accomplished in this area.

Despite bringing in 3 NHL forwards that upgraded the forward ranks I still believe that the top prospects we have upfront will in the not to distant future be some of our top forwards, They will have to earn theses spots and bringing in vets that buy time is okay but they cannot be allowed to prevent the development of the prospects. I think they are hopeful that will happen and that Wides and Smid will both have bounce back years. Also I think they are hopeful that Spoon continues his development and that Sieloff can be healthy enough to make significant improvement.

Inadequate because no new young defensive prospects where acquired either through trade, draft picks or free agency. I'm not talking about over the hill guys or never were guys(we signed Engs and few others to PTO's) It would have been great to acquire a 26-30 year old 4/5 defender. I believe in all my heart that BT tried but failed to do so and as hockey is a professional sport failure to address your needs both short term and long term is inadequate. By next year the shortage of 4-6 defenders needs to be adequately addressed or a 2/3 year rebuild could easily be a 7/8 year rebuild.

You seem to have forgotten the 2 D we did draft, but perhaps it's just that you're upset about some other choices and choose to be negative. BT has been and is doing fine. I'm sure we'd ALL be crying if a bunch of over-the-hill vets were brought in and several promising prospects traded trying to get to the playoffs a la BB's "I'm impatient" comments early on. In truth I think BT is doing a great job, the team is progressing, prospects progressing and there is a good balance overall. This year will continue that with opportunities to pick up several draft picks later in the year in a D heavy draft year...

Avatar
#55 Rockmorton65
September 23 2014, 09:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
9
props
Derzie wrote:

It is not about what to do it is about what NOT to do. Don't draft a forward because he's freakishly big (Smith). Do Draft someone with higher skill or a D prospect. Don't waste an early pick on a goalie (McDonald 2.0). Don't bring in a washed up ex-Oiler (Potter). Don't sign a lifetime plugger to an all-world bad contract Engelland). Don't kill Sven's confidence (Burke). Don't bring in another rodeo clown (Bollig). The list goes on.

You do realize all those players (save Sven) are placeholders, right? There's a veh-heeeerrrrr-rrrrry good reason why there is no one signed beyond the next three years. Once the Bennett's/Gaudreau's/ Baertchi's of the world are ready to play pro, these placeholders will be moved out/waived/buried. There is no contract on this team that will be a burden down the road. Who knows how the draft will turn out? I don't understand how anyone here can say "X was a bad pick - 3 months after he was drafted. Give it 4-5 years before you call it a dumb move. And sorry, dude...you weren't going to get a "high end pick" or "top d pick" in the second round. Maybe the Flames see potential in McDonald and knew he wouldn't be there for their next pick. Chill, pre-season has only begun. BT has stated that he plans in moving "a couple pieces" within the first month or two of the season.

Avatar
#56 MonsterPod
September 23 2014, 10:41PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Props
1
props
coachedpotatoe wrote:

Cautious? Hopeful? Inadequate? All terms that could be used to discuss the Flames offseason. Cautious in that other than signing England for to much money and to much term the Flames did not do anything to significantly upgrade their defensive depth. I believe that BT attempted to do so because I believe he is a prudent and intelligent man. However the end results is that not enough was accomplished in this area.

Despite bringing in 3 NHL forwards that upgraded the forward ranks I still believe that the top prospects we have upfront will in the not to distant future be some of our top forwards, They will have to earn theses spots and bringing in vets that buy time is okay but they cannot be allowed to prevent the development of the prospects. I think they are hopeful that will happen and that Wides and Smid will both have bounce back years. Also I think they are hopeful that Spoon continues his development and that Sieloff can be healthy enough to make significant improvement.

Inadequate because no new young defensive prospects where acquired either through trade, draft picks or free agency. I'm not talking about over the hill guys or never were guys(we signed Engs and few others to PTO's) It would have been great to acquire a 26-30 year old 4/5 defender. I believe in all my heart that BT tried but failed to do so and as hockey is a professional sport failure to address your needs both short term and long term is inadequate. By next year the shortage of 4-6 defenders needs to be adequately addressed or a 2/3 year rebuild could easily be a 7/8 year rebuild.

t o o

Avatar
#57 coachedpotatoe
September 24 2014, 05:44AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
1
props
MonsterPod wrote:

t o o

Indeed correct and I realized it after I pressed send.

Avatar
#58 coachedpotatoe
September 24 2014, 06:04AM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Props
2
props
Cccsberg wrote:

You seem to have forgotten the 2 D we did draft, but perhaps it's just that you're upset about some other choices and choose to be negative. BT has been and is doing fine. I'm sure we'd ALL be crying if a bunch of over-the-hill vets were brought in and several promising prospects traded trying to get to the playoffs a la BB's "I'm impatient" comments early on. In truth I think BT is doing a great job, the team is progressing, prospects progressing and there is a good balance overall. This year will continue that with opportunities to pick up several draft picks later in the year in a D heavy draft year...

I indeed did forget the two guys(maybe they will not become forgetable prospects, I hope Hickey and OM work out) I am not upset because he did not pick my guys, rather I am upset that the obvious need of this organization was not addressed over the summer, and I'm not one of the people who thinks we are in for a quick fix. Engs may be a great place holder but a 3 year deal for a journeyman defender who is already over 30 is not my idea of mid term planning. As for the draft being heavy in D are you suggesting that if we finish 29/30 like many of scribes are suggesting that we take a defender over either of the 2 generational forwards?

This year our 1/2 pairing is very good and should remain that way for 2/3 years, after that Gio will likely be a 3/4 guy.(age catches up to defenders who play as hard as he does.) Or 3/4 pairing is being manned by two 4/5 guys unless Wides has a major bounce back year and our 5/6 pairing is manned by 6/7. The immediate help in our system is at best a 5/6 and help two/three years down the road is likely more of the same. I think it's hard enough enticing 1 3/4 UFA defender a year a but next year BT will need to find 2.

Avatar
#59 piscera.infada
September 24 2014, 07:25AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Props
8
props

@coachedpotatoe

I'm not talking about over the hill guys or never were guys(we signed Engs and few others to PTO's) It would have been great to acquire a 26-30 year old 4/5 defender. I believe in all my heart that BT tried but failed to do so and as hockey is a professional sport failure to address your needs both short term and long term is inadequate.

Yes, because those guys are not difficult at all to acquire, especially when you don't really want to trade young players. Obviously, it's not going to cost a Baertschi or Gaudreau, but it would still likely cost you one of your mid-tier near-NHL-ready prospects. Face it, acquiring young-ish, NHL defenseman doesn't cost you peanuts. Defensemen are at a premium, young ones even moreso, and good ones prohibitively so.

If I'm BT, I'm waiting to actually see (with my own eyes) what I have in those mid-tier prospects before I start jettisoning them with any surety - you make a couple of bad trades with that ilk of prospect, and you've effectively hampered the entire rebuild. Quite simply; cautious, safe, whatever you want to call it, was the pragmatic course of action for the Flames front office this year - take a few shots in the dark (acquiring high first-round picks to take on bad contracts) and if they stick, good. Don't, however, start messing with a pretty good situation in the forward pipeline unless something you can't refuse comes along. This season is likely lost unless something unexpectedly good happens, so not going full-on panic mode is probably the best idea.

Avatar
#60 piscera.infada
September 24 2014, 07:46AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
5
props

@coachedpotatoe

As for the draft being heavy in D are you suggesting that if we finish 29/30 like many of scribes are suggesting that we take a defender over either of the 2 generational forwards?

Also, finishing 29/30th is not a plan in and of itself either. Insofar as the Flames need blueline prospects (which they do, no one's disputing that), you can't force that issue. Would I have liked the Flames to pick another d-prospect or two this year? Yes. However, I'm not as bullish as some (you) are about claiming that it was a major mistake not to.

Avatar
#61 cccsberg
September 24 2014, 08:15AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
5
props
coachedpotatoe wrote:

I indeed did forget the two guys(maybe they will not become forgetable prospects, I hope Hickey and OM work out) I am not upset because he did not pick my guys, rather I am upset that the obvious need of this organization was not addressed over the summer, and I'm not one of the people who thinks we are in for a quick fix. Engs may be a great place holder but a 3 year deal for a journeyman defender who is already over 30 is not my idea of mid term planning. As for the draft being heavy in D are you suggesting that if we finish 29/30 like many of scribes are suggesting that we take a defender over either of the 2 generational forwards?

This year our 1/2 pairing is very good and should remain that way for 2/3 years, after that Gio will likely be a 3/4 guy.(age catches up to defenders who play as hard as he does.) Or 3/4 pairing is being manned by two 4/5 guys unless Wides has a major bounce back year and our 5/6 pairing is manned by 6/7. The immediate help in our system is at best a 5/6 and help two/three years down the road is likely more of the same. I think it's hard enough enticing 1 3/4 UFA defender a year a but next year BT will need to find 2.

Even as the Oilers are realizing, you can't address every need in an instant, but need to do so over time.

That said, I think the major thing BT has addressed so far is to balance out the roster, bringing in several RW prospects as well as beefing up with (hopefully) functional toughness vs "just" face-punchers, both of which were ALSO huge needs on the team.

He also got Gaudreau signed and hasn't tossed anyone yet, before he has a chance to really see what they can do. I'm also impressed with the management team he's put together and his keeping our coach, who's not HIS guy but has done great with a limited roster and helped set the tone of the team for the future.

As for D, yes that still is a need and even as we've seen with the lower end of the D roster recently, will become more critical as we move forward. BT will be judged by what he does overall, not just regarding the D. The next few month's will be critical as we probably unload a bunch of vets and deal with contract renewal issues (i.e. Glencross). This area is where Feaster seemed weak and it remains to be seen how BT fares.

As for next draft I think I'll wait to see what happens over the year. Certainly with all the hype out there if you had the #1 pick McDavid seems a no-brainer, but I'm not so sure. If you read the the recent scouting lists and reports, it seems like there are several top-level picks who you might consider.

Lets do a thought game, shall we? IF we could project the top 4 picks as comparables to previous players (of course you can't, but that's the thinking...) what would you pick if you had this choice? McDavid = Crosby Eichel = Messier Hanafin = Niedermeyer Kylington = Lidstrom We can probably all agree in this scenario that it a tough choice, especially trying to compare Centers vs Defense. If you did have 1st overall and believed the above was a possibility, at the least you might be tempted to use the hype to your advantage and trade down one or two picks to get something in addition to a different, exceptional player.

Beyond the first pick, we hopefully can get some more picks via trade and I'm sure the 2nd round will also have some very good choices.

In any case, that's a year away. Right now we've got a new season nearly upon us to enjoy. Looking forward to it.

Avatar
#62 SavardianSpinorama
September 24 2014, 08:27AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
1
props

@cccsberg

Wasn't Gaudreau signed by Burke and company?

Other than that, agree with everything you said.

Avatar
#63 piscera.infada
September 24 2014, 08:32AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
1
props
If you did have 1st overall and believed the above was a possibility, at the least you might be tempted to use the hype to your advantage and trade down one or two picks to get something in addition to a different, exceptional player.

Exactly. If (and it's a huge 'if') you were to get that number-one overall pick next year, you hold all the cards - and those are very, very valuable cards to hold.

Avatar
#64 cccsberg
September 24 2014, 10:08AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
SavardianSpinorama wrote:

Wasn't Gaudreau signed by Burke and company?

Other than that, agree with everything you said.

You may be right, certainly all the late courting was BB, the drafting and all the early courting by Feaster.. Just checked, you ARE correct. BT was hired April 28, 2014, after the end of the season.

Comments are closed for this article.