Bear with me here

Over the last few weeks, while the Flames have been scheduling tee times and sitting around the house watching playoff hockey, we, the lowly hockey fans and writers, have been wallowing in a series dismal of "what-if" scenarios. But here’s a what-if no one has tackled yet.

We know all the sad, sorry facts about this team for both the remainder of the summer, next season, and possibly the one after that. Too many guys taking up far too much room against the cap and not playing nearly well enough to justify the huge money they’re being paid. Too many bad decisions by Darryl Sutter clogging up the roster in too many top roles. Too much dead weight preventing any good transactions to improve the team. Too little hope for a playoff appearance in the next two seasons.

But here’s the what-if: What if, somehow, miraculously, the Flames not only sneak into the playoffs next season, but win a pretty decent number of points (say, 98-100) and compete for, or even get, a home ice spot?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

What then? Of course it wouldn’t excuse this horrific lost season, nor would it make up for all the talent down on the farm that Sutter has lost in the last two or three seasons while trying to cajole his big club, by any means necessary, into the postseason. But let’s go with this premise.

I’ll wait for you to stop laughing. Okay? Okay.

Now, I know it’s farfetched and I don’t expect it to happen, obviously, but let’s say everyone that had an off season rebounds. Iginla picks up 45 goals and Bourque stays healthy and Bouwmeester becomes the Bouwmeester we thought the Flames were getting.

Maybe Phaneuf and Jokinen were, indeed, the problem. The team played at more or less the same pace (28 points from 26 games, 1.08 standings points per game) after The Trades as before it (64 points from 56 games, 1.14 points per game) and that’s with their having mailed it in through a series of Toskala starts when all hope seemed lost.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I hate to be the optimist of the group, but I have to think this isn’t a terrible playoff team. For all the team’s problems in the regular season, grinding out wins wasn’t one of them. Hell, this is a team with grind-line depth that starts on the first line (though only for lack of any other players worth putting on the top unit). They do a decent job CORSI-ing their way through games even if that doesn’t necessarily reflect on the record book at the end of this season.

This is a team that, if it performs to what I’m sure will be greatl diminished expectations next season, can easily make the playoffs. If it does, then Darryl Sutter will no longer be the colossal idiot we all currently consider him, Jarome Iginla probably won’t be the washed-up bum he’s been painted as for the last month, and Bouwmeester will cease to be a pile of wasted $80,000 game checks.

Even if they crash out in the first round. Which we all know they will.


  • A reasonable what if scenario, but likely? I really doubt it.

    The reality next season is $53+ million already tied up for 16 players, leaving 6 players to sign for roughly $3-$4 million TOTAL.
    That’s either 6 players at NHL minimum (roughly 1/4 of the team) or we move people like Regehr just to be able to resign White and or Nystrom
    and have 4 / 5 guys at the min salary.
    This year, at least the GM could point to a good team on PAPER…

    We need to bite the bullet and start a rebuiding program, move Iggy, Regehr, Sarich
    and hope for good prospects / picks in return.

    • Graham, there’s lots of potential to rebuild on the go.

      I posted this scenario on another board.

      Borque and Stajan salary increases negate Toskola’s salary dump.

      Langkow, Sarich, Mayers, and Conroy need to go. That’s 10.5 million in cap space.

      That leaves the Flames with 9 forwards, 6 defence, and 1 goalie.

      6 rosters spots to fill (4 forwards, 1 defence, 1 goalie) for 14.5 million (10.5 million in salary dumps + the 4 million they already have in cap space).

      Sign back Nystrom (1 million-ish), Higgins (2 million-ish) and White (3 million-ish).

      This leaves 8.5 million in cap space for 2 forwards and 1 goalie. These spots can be filled for 3 million, leaving minimum 5.5 million in cap space.

      With a little maneuvering the Flames could add a good free agent forward to the mix. There’s a few out there.

      Younger UFA’s include Lombardi, Plekanec, and Frolov. Frolov could be a steal considering the off year he had. Older UFA’s include Demitra and Koivu. Koivu would fit in good with the other Finnish players. The best UFA’s are Marleau and Kovaluchuck. They will both command between 7-9 million and would be difficult to squeeze under the cap. Marleau is from Western Canada, would fit in nicely.

      • There has to be major salary dump. You mentioned, Mayers and Conroy, both are UFA, no need to count their money. Higgins I wouldn’t bring back, too big of a risk for nothing. White for $3M, ouch. But he may get that in the open market. If that’s what he is asking, nice knowing you. Regehr has I think two more seasons left at $3M+ and a No trade clause.
        Here’s where you try to dump salary:
        Hagman: $3M, via a trade, may get tops a 2nd rounder or middle prospect
        Kotalik: $3M, Doubt any team would want him, either Europe or the AHL.
        Langkow: $3.5M, should be able to get a decent return on him. But I would be reluctant to trade him.
        Staois: $2.8M, again way too much, doubt you’d get much. Maybe a young team with lots of space for a 3rd rounder.
        Sarich: $3.5M+, same as Staois.
        Regehr: $3.5M, can’t move him he has a NTC. But if you could, you may get a serivable D-man in return, prospect or a higher rounder.
        Moss: $1.5M+, should be able to get something for him, he had promise, but has fizzled under the Sutter system.
        That’s over $20M if you can do it. Get younger, faster and scoring. Listened to Eric Duhatschek, the other day and he mentioned thats what Calgary needs, then said, isn’t that what Mike Cammalleri is?

        • Graham

          Your numbers are incorrect and your analysis suspect, but I follow your point, at least on the Cammalleri topic. Hindsight is always 20/20.

          The going rate for a 20 goal scorer is 3 million. Kotalik, Higgins, and Hagman are all proven 20 goal scorers, and Higgins is only 26.

          Your speculation that Moss “fizzled under the Sutter system” is erroneous. Dawes and Moss are comparable players in terms of output and potential, and Dawes’ production didn’t decline as a result of coming to Calgary. They are both probably just career 3rd liners, and 10-20 goal scorers.

          All that being said, I agree that moves need to be made. But after all, this is Darryl Sutter we are talking about. Ever since he came to Calgary he hasn’t been afraid to pull the trigger and make moves when the team didn’t live up to expectations. There were no expectations before he came to town, he helped create the expectations (paraphrasing of his end of the year press conference). Just food for thought FLAMESNATION. I know some of you out there live to, ummm, “complain” ;), but come on people.

      • Graham

        At the moment I see $53.50m committed to the players all ready under contract, 10 forwards
        (including Backlund) $28.30 million, 6 d men
        $18.3 million and Kipper at $ 7 million…

        Iggy $7.0
        Langkow $4.25
        Bourque $3.33
        Moss $1.30
        Glencross $1.20
        Hagman $3.0
        Kotalik $3.0
        Dawes $0.85
        Stajan $3.5
        Backlund $.875

        Bouwmeester $6.6
        Regehr $4.0
        Sarich $3.7
        Gio $1.075
        Pardy $0.70
        Staios $2.20

        Kipper $7.0

        That leaves roughly $3.5 million (with a $57 million cap) to sign 3 forwards, 1 d and a backup tender.. roughly $700,000 per position – that’s entry level talent

        If you resign White ($2m?) and Nystrom ($1.3m?)
        you have $200,000 to sign 2 frwds and a backup.

        My point being, we will need to move a big salary (Langkow, Sarich or Regehr), just to be able to fill the remaining positions.

        $200,000 plus $4.0 million (say from moving Regehr) gives you $4.2 million to sign the 2 forwards, 1 additional d man and the backup.
        Say you spend $3.5 of the $4.2 (to leave a little cap room), you are back to four players at very low salaries.

        It isn’t looking pretty… subtract another ‘key’ piece like Regehr just to balance the books.

        At least Mr Sutter is the type of GM who is willing to make the big moves…

  • I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Flames make the post season next year. Hell, if the Avs hadn’t been the luckiest team in the NHL for 60-odd games, the Flames would have made it this year with the exact same performance. They would have been first round fodder before the likes of SJ though.

    Unless the team takes a very real step forward, however, another 7/8 finish and first round exit won’t alter my opinion of the club nor it’s management.

  • We could make the playoffs next season I’m sure. I mean we were technically still contending for a playoff spot until the final few weeks, it wouldn’t take much of an improvement to turn that around and squeek into the #7/8 spot… but then what? Another first round thumping at the hands of the ‘Hawks or Sharks? Pass. Prospects of a Stanley Cup (or even a deep playoff run) are pretty dim in my mind.

    In regards to the contract situation I’m a bit more optimistic. There are three contracts the Flames should really rid themselves of before opening night Sarich, Staois, and Kotalik. I think Sarich could be dealt (He’d still has some value to someone not named Sutter), I think you could convince the money managers to waive and then stash Staois in the AHL (I mean if his principle benefit is “Hardworking Experienced Leadership” we’ll get some value out of him his final year if he can impart that on the farm prospects), then that just leaves Kotalik (Who I think we’re stuck with I don’t think ownership would agree to stash him in the AHL to the tune of $6,000,000.00 nor do I think any other team would trade for him on his own with no money back or pick him up off waivers. In which case Butter needs to use him more effectively… Put him on the third-line at even strength and play him on the Point during the PP (I think he could be effective against other teams third-liners and he still has a plus shot for the PP). I think that would give the flames enough cap space to fill in the roster slots with adaquate replacement value.

    That’s my short-term plan for the Flames anyways. YMMV.

  • Graham

    Ya I was grabbing numbers from memory. What I think is the key here, is Sutter’s inability to manage the salary cap as well as the inability to price skill.