April 15 2016 11:00AM
I was lucky enough to be in Minnesota in the summer of 2011, covering the NHL entry draft for the Nations. I was with now-retired contributor Robert Cleave somewhere deep in the Xcel Center concourse when Johnny Gaudreau was drafted by the Calgary Flames. We were looking for a power outlet to recharge our laptops and figured the important work had been done by the team already anyways.
Man were we wrong.
April 11 2016 08:00AM
So that's all she wrote. The Flames ended the 2015-16 season better than they began it, but the team's decision makers will be on the hunt for some answers this offseason nevertheless.
Despite the disappointing year, the org has some nice things to build on, from the Gaudreau and Monahan duo to the dynamic backend featuring Giordano, Brodie and Hamilton. The club's holes are still significant, but obvious - the way forward includes a legitimate starting goaltender, at least one more top-6 winger and (maybe) a new coach.
Even under ideal circumstances, the Flames may face at least one more year of desert wandering thanks to the restrictive cap situation Brad Treliving finds himself in. After next year, things open up significantly with the end of a lot of undesirable contracts (Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland, Denni Wideman). So while the goal this summer will be to take another step forward, the Flames executive team may be forced to institute a holding pattern for 2017-18, when they will have legitimate budget flexibility.
April 04 2016 08:00AM
There's just a few games left in the year and I've already moved on from watching the games to thinking about the offseason. The next step is the post-mortems and after that a reckoning of assets, priorities and obstacles. The Flames have a plenty of each in what promises to be the most interesting - or at least the most challenging - offseason in Brad Treliving's brief career as the org's GM.
While the Flames' roster has clear areas of need, what's unknown is just how the club will fill those holes given their problematic cap situation. How will they afford the raises to Mark Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and still find a way to solve their RW depth and net issues? There're no obvious solutions from where we stand today.
In this edition of the mailbag we look at surprises and disappointments this year as well as the chances of the Flames challenging for a playoff spot next year.
March 28 2016 10:51AM
Ask and you shall receive. Yesterday Pat Steinberg wrote that he'd like to see Derek Grant, Brett Kulak and Hunter Shinkaruk get a chance to play some games before the Flames season end. Well, all of those guys, (plus Emile Poirier) were called up by Calgary from Stockton today.
March 28 2016 08:00AM
Welcome to the (almost) all goaltending edition of the FlamesNation mailbag! In the wake of the latest below average goaltending performance (Backstrom vs. Minnesota at the time of writing), the Flames' crease seems to be the top priority in the minds of fans heading into the offseason.
For good reason. Calgary has suffered through the worst goaltending in the entire league this year (.912 SV% at ES). Although the club still has a lot of wrinkles to iron out, puckstopping is definitely the number one culprit behind the Flames' lack of success in 2015-16.
Problems in goal can be a kind of blessing or a major curse. A blessing, because goaltending is the only position that can be instantly fixed with a single acquisition: one, good goalie. Everywhere else a GM needs to build a depth and variety of players, but not in net. A single guy can make a major difference.
A curse because that single guy can also sink an entire roster. This is doubly problematic because decision makers in the NHL stink at evaluating goaltender talent relative to forwards and defenders. Put these two things together and you have conditions for some very bad decision making. Think "Ilya Bryzgalov in Philadelphia".
Brad Treliving faces this conundrum in the offseason. His roster is maturing to the degree that he has to start writing big cheques and making tough decisions. That means the Flames are starting to enter "win now" territory, but without any clear answers in net. A misstep could be another few years in the Western Conference basement, while a good bet could mean a huge stride forward next season.