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. 

  • How is that a ridiculus assertion saying Bourque is nothing special? I don’t have the exact numbers infront of me since I’m on my phone, but his PDO and s% the past few years has been high resulting in flashy boxcars. His possesion numbers are also Meh. Langkows hurting us in more ways then one right now, by inflating the values of those around him (Bourque, Dawes, Iginla, hulesius).

    • Well, the PDO is a fair comment, but Bourque has been above water in really tough circumstances for the last two years. He was one of the best players on the team by a lot of metrics the first half of the season last year too.

      A WOWY for Bourque is in order I think. I’ll see what I can do.

  • BobB

    “White was having issues, but is quite obviously a superior player to Babchuk in every way that is important.”

    Really? What makes you say this?

    White cost three times as much. That’s important.

    White was a -10 in 16 games, Babchuk is -1 in 10. That’s important.

    White had 2 goals in 16, Babchuk has 1 in 10.
    Goals are important, pretty much the same.

    White had a shot, good for a small guy, Babchuk has a cannon. He’ll open up the ice for the PP just by being there. For a crap PP, that’s important.

    White is a CorsiRel of -2.7, Babchuk -1.6. Switching teams I don’t think it’s way off base to use that comparable.

    White had no ability to handle guys with any size/speed. Babchuk…..uhhh….

    White was slow and overpaid. Babchuk is slow and paid.

    I fail to see any compelling aspects to White’s game other than some PP points.

    Perhaps White sees the ice better, but he sucked. No doubt about it.

    By “the eye” White was costing the Flames a goal against every other game, with an ill-timed screen or a complete defensive flub in coverage. You may site PDO, which generally I agree with, but with White, I’d say (although you’ll argue this) had something to do with the goalie’s sv% while on. I dunno how a defender repeatedly screening the goalie can’t influence sv%? Babchuk hasn’t been great, but…he’s not paid to be.

    • I don’t consider the cap savings in the deal all that relevant. Both contracts were ending this season, so meh.

      As for White, I wasn’t that high on him, but that dude played in much, much tougher circumstances than Babchuk, both here and now in CAR. He had his issues, but if Babchuk were to be placed in similar circumstances for any length in time, it would be panic time, all the time.

      • BobB

        White, WAS paid to be a top pairing/ top four guy. He JUST signed a new contract that moved him behind only Sarich, who’s old money. He was meant to be our third best guy, and he was far from it.

        He was crap. So we ditched him. The last thing we needed was three guys on the “D” not earning their money (Sarich, White and Staois).

        As well, According to BehindTheNet White is the 4th defender in QualComp in CAR., well behind the top guys and only ahead of Jamie McBane and Jay Harrison. So I think that’s necessity.

        White is no good, and is paid to be.

        Babchuk is paid to be a 6th/7th man with a hard shot. That’s what we got. White couldn’t be gone fast enough. If you think he was worth more, maybe there are a bunch of suckers out there.

  • I think a general “If I were GM” post by Kent, McLovin and Robert is in order.

    Obviously you can’t predict exactly what players would net on the trade market but giving us some broad stroke ideas on how to get out of this mess would be appreciated.

  • I was working on a post about Bourque not so great, but I see you may be going down that road so I will leave it.

    I get a lot of heat for my anti bourque stance in real life, but Ill stick with it. To me, it looks like the guy only scores in games the Flames lose. Id have to actually look to make that a statement statement, but he is inconsistent as hell.

    I lead towards trading him anyways, but when the guy is on he is legit. More baffling bafflements from this team.

    • BobB

      This is also about the most ignorant thing I’ve read today:

      “To me, it looks like the guy only scores in games the Flames lose.”

      That is, unless you mean that we lose so much almost everyone does the same. But I don’t think you do.

      Q: Who has the most GWG on the Flames?
      A: Rene Bourque with 3.

      Q: Who has scored the most shootout GWG on the Flames?
      A: Rene Bourque with 2. And he’s 2 for 2 in the shootout. You mean, that’s like 5 of our 11 wins with Bourque playing an important role? Wow!

      Q: Who makes 7 million on the Flames and has fewer GWG but the same number of total goals as 3.3mil. Rene Bourque (11)?

      A: Jarome Iginla…2 GWG.

      Q: Who doesn’t take shootouts because he sucks in them and makes tons of money?

      A: There are a few, but most notably Iginla.

      That is all.

      There’s plenty of blame to go around, and at times players aren’t at there best. But the blame Bourque or Kiprusoff or Backlund camps. I just don’t see it.

      Sure, could they be better? Of course. Bourque could have 20 goals instead of 11. Kiprusoff could have a .950 evsv% like Thomas instead of .921. Backlund could have 30 pts in his rookie season…but seriously. We’ve got bigger pumpkin-headed, Steve-Staoised, Injured-Langkowed, too-many-penalties problems.

      • BobB

        sadly rene bourque is not a franchise player. second line player who scores in bunches doesnt always show up, and depending on which rene you have that night commits some defensive errors. long term deal that needs to be questioned, fragile and may spend a fair amount of time in the mash unit. depends too much on quality linemates. b rated winger. late bloomer by nhl standards.