Dec. 6 Potpourri

 

 

With the Flames languishing in the conference basement, here’s a collection of thoughts bouncing around my head in no particular order.

– Mikael Backlund is an NHLer, but he should be sent down to the farm.

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 26: Mikael Backlund  of the Calgary Flames in action during a hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flames won 3-2. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
 

 

The kid has been good enough in the third-line type role he’s been assigned this year that he hasn’t been a detriment on most nights. That’s a win for most 21 year olds in this league. There’s also evidence of growth relative to last year considering his increasing willingness to drive the puck to the net with authority. His possession numbers are excellent, albeit in a sheltered role this year. His results aren’t quite as impressive (just five points in 26 games), but a 4.4 SH% and zero power-play time will do that. The arrows are pointing in the right direction I think.

Unfortunately for Backlund, the Flames are full to bursting with guys in and around his current talent level: Olli Jokinen, Curtis Glencross, David Moss, Ales Kotalik, Tom Kostopolous, Tim Jackman, Craig Conroy, Brendan Morrison – these are all bottom of the rotation guys in an ideal world. Keeping Backlund around to float in-and-out of the line-up in order to battle for 10 minutes a night doesn’t strike me as a prudent development avenue. Especially since he can still be sent back down to Abbotsford without incident.

Demote Backlund, un-clutter the bottom six picture somewhat, free up a bit of cap space and let him play 20+ minutes a night for the Heat.

– The Flames immediate future is utterly grim. They are 5 points out of a playoff spot, but nearly everyone above them has several games in hand, including the San Jose Sharks (2), Nashville Predators (2) and Columbus Blue Jackets (2). Only the Ducks and Blackhawks have played more games than the Flames in the West so far. Point of interest – Detroit, who is leading the parade with 37 points (14 more than Calgary) has three games in hand.

For the record, I don’t think the Flames are last in the west bad. They’d have a lot of one-goal games go the wrong with in the early going and their goal differential is a modestly poor -8. That said, I also don’t think the Flames are good enough to go .650 the rest of the way to squeeze into the final playoff spot. Outside of a few post-season home games for the owners, I don’t really see the long-term utlity of gunning for the 8th anyways.

– The Ian White trade is a baffling one. I noted this at The Score earlier, but observations of the players in question has lent some clarity to the analysis now. Given Anton Babchuk’s obvious flaws and the fact that Kostopolous looks to be marginally above a replacement level NHLer, I continue to wonder just what the impetus for making that deal was. White was having issues, but is quite obviously a superior player to Babchuk in every way that is important. His value would have went up around the deadline, perhaps enough that Sutter could have asked for a top-60 draft pick in return (hell, Stave Staios fetched the Oilers a player and a third rounder last March).

As it is, the Flames ended up with a guy that is detrimental even on the third pairing at ES and a forward so redundant on this roster that even he must wonder what the hell he’s doing here. Kostopolous makes $1.1M in real dollars next year, by the way.

– At some point, the team is going to have to decide which players go in the "keep ’em" pile and which go in the "trade ’em" pile. Of course, those decisions will be up to the GM…so the real question is: is Darryl Sutter the guy to be making those distinctions? The season is too early to be going into sell off mode yet, but that day draws closer with each subsequent loss. I hope the owners are assessing their other options now; having either them or Sutter pull some knee-jerk move in January is the worst possible outcome for this org.

– Craig Conroy has the second best possession numbers on the team (+12.9 corsi/60), with the fourth most difficult zone start (51.9%). I know the bottom end is crowded, but he should be playing (assuming we’re still trying to win games here). The old man isn’t going to give you much in the way of points these days, but he can still do everything else right. For example, he has the best face-off win rate of any regular center on the club (54.4%). What makes that more impressive is the fact he takes a lot of own-zone and PK draws whenever he’s in the line-up and teams tend to lose more draws in those situations.

Scratch Kostopolous, move the 48% Brendan Morrison to wing and put Craig back at center.

– If Bourque doesn’t start turning things around, I’m going to seriously wonder how much of his previous success was built off of playing with Daymond Langkow.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01:  Daymond Langkow #22 of the Calgary Flames celebrates with teammate Rene Bourque #17 after Langkow scored a third period goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the NHL game at Staples Center on November 1, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. The Flames defeated the Kings 3-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
 

It strikes me as a ridiculous assertion even after watching him struggle the opening two months here, but outside of a hidden injury, I can’t otherwise account for the degree to which Bourque’s play has dropped off this season. He has also struggled at the end of the year last season in Langkow’s absence, for those who don’t recall. 

A return to form by Bourque wouldn’t turn this team into a contender. The real reason this is an issue is that Bourque is signed till 2016 at $3.33 million per year. Which means If he needs Langkow in the line-up to be a value contract, the Flames need to consider putting Bourque in the "trade ’em" pile sooner rather than later. 

  • PrairieStew

    once again, poor asset management by darryll. concensus is that white could have fetched a better return.a more sensible return with the franchises best interest in mind. one only needs to look at the staios deal.

  • everton fc

    Random thoughts that hopefully contribute positively to the roundtable discussion. “Here goes”:

    I believe the only way to really judge our current situation (i.e. dilemma) as a franchise is to judge the personnel moves made since the Cup run of 2004. Particularly since to 2006-07 season, when we our top four in scoring were Iggy, Tanguay, Langkow and Huselius, quite a foursome compared to our current top four in scoring. We also brought Conny back this season – one of our better moves, and one of the few good moves since this season.

    1. Jim Playfair coached this team. True, we finished 8th, but we were in the top 6 in scoring, with a respectable defence. True, too, Playfair struggled to keep the squad inspired (could Phaneuf have been the problem this early on?) but many players defended him after he was demoted for Keenan. Keenan proceeds to run off both Huselius and Tanguay in 2007-08. We have not had the playmaking ability of Playfair’s squad since. In fact, Keenan’s Goals For when down considerably. Also note this was the last season we had a respectable backup for Kipper, that being “Noodles”.

    2. Sutter’s choosing Jokinen over Cammy, and losing Lombardi, as well, has to be one of the worst moves in franchise history, though I’ll mention a few more in a moment. Would we rather have Cammy or Bouwmeester now? Would we rather have Lombardi or Jokinen/Kotalik now?? Again, a fatal move, followed up by our sending Joker to the Rangers to pickup Kotalik. Again, could we have spent some of the $3mill on Lombardi or Cammy? Would we all prefer Lombardi over Stajan??

    3.Giving up a draft pick (and Aaron Johnson) for an aging Staois is as bad a move as the Joker for Lombardi fiasco, other than Staois doesn’t hurt us as bad. But it’s close, and makes absolutely no sense.

    So… after Playfair’s tenure was cut short as a failed experiment… We have floundered. Whether Keenan had any input into some of the player personnel decisions during his reign, I don’t know. I do know that neither Tanguay nor Huselius wanted to play for him, and left. And we have been hurting ever since.

    Losing Prust could be added here, but Prust would not solve, nor help, our current situation. But can you imagine a fourth line with Prust and Jackman? Centered by Conny… Alas…

    Kent had mentioned Conny – how he should be playing, based on stat-data. Agreed. The log-jam prohibits this, though. Is Kostopolous really better than Conny, or would a fourth line centered b y Conny, flanked by Morrison and Jackman be better? Probably. Does it really matter now?? Arguably, no.

    Maybe, somehow, we could have signed Cammy and kept Lombardi. We’d be small down the middle, but adding Tanguay – can you imagine a first line of Tanguay-Cammy-Iginla? It could have been possible, I think. We didn’t even consider this…???

    So what’s the solution? To me, the first steps are obvious. I will say I am okay if Darryl gets pushed up. But he should not be involved in player personnel. Not so certain I trust Feaster – could this be #4 above? Could Brent be maintained in some capacity?? Why??? Do we bring back Playfair? Why not??? Could Feaster and Playfair improve things??? I’m not convinced.

    If the intention is never to bring back Playfair, I hope he gets a real good gig with a team of youngsters he can mould. He deserves better. So do us fans.

    As for the fast-moving bandwagon shouting, “Trade Iginla and Regehr,” I’ll stay off that stage-coach. It’s the middle-layer of “talent” we need to cut loose… replaced with some big, young, skilled, fast and physical signings, whether by trade, draft or free agency…

    This is our future. Not to be squandered anymore.

    • PrairieStew

      By middle level talent who do you mean ?

      Are you suggesting Hagman, Stajan and Bourque be moved ? Gio ?

      Middle level salary of Kotalik, Jokinen, Sarich and Staios not helping the situation but the fact remains that because they are middle level salary and not up to that std of play their market value is essentially nil.

      Buyouts might have a cathartic pleasure but the pain is extended, though reduced somewhat. Once you have headed down that road, you are saying rebuild and then it becomes pointless to keep Iggy, Kipper and Regehr.

    • PrairieStew

      “So what’s the solution? To me, the first steps are obvious. I will say I am okay if Darryl gets pushed up. But he should not be involved in player personnel.”

      …dude, are you serious? Darryl would essentially be the boss of the new GM. His very presence WILL directly or indirectly have an impact on player personnel. If the Flames don’t make the playoffs or are essentially eliminated early in the new year, why in GOD’s green earth would you promote the Darryl for failure? That’s a great blue print for an orgainzation 🙁 If you don’t have an organization functioning as a meritocracy it becomes a dysfunctional club of wannabe gangsters and politicians. If the team makes the playoffs he has essentially preformed well enough to keep his job, but not be promoted.

      “As for the fast-moving bandwagon shouting, “Trade Iginla and Regehr,” I’ll stay off that stage-coach. It’s the middle-layer of “talent” we need to cut loose… replaced with some big, young, skilled, fast and physical signings, whether by trade, draft or free agency.”

      …big, young, skilled, fast, and physical? How are the Flames going to get those types of players without giving up our most valuable assest via trade (which are aging and will be worthless soon)? Most players via the draft are 5 years away from making an impact in the NHL. A team is lucky if a couple players per draft year ends up making the NHL in any capacity. Free agency you can pick up little piece to help fill certain weaknesses but you can’t build a team through it (especially in the salary cap era).

  • PrairieStew

    …one more point I forgot to make about Calgary attracting players via free agency. Calgary may be a great city, but in terms of attracting high end free agents, it is probably just above Edmonton in terms of desirable destinations for UFAs.