So Painful

Montreal Canadiens v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Five

On Twitter today, somebody suggested that we at The FAN 960 should no longer refer to Montreal’s Mike Cammalleri by name.  Instead we should refer to him as "MC", to which I suggested we take a cue from the 2004 movie The Village and refer to him only as "he we do not speak of".

It’s not because we’re deathly afraid of Cammalleri or because we’re trying to sustain an archaic society within the walls of a forest.  Nope.  It’s because it pisses me, and so many others, off so damn much to see that guy, #13, ripping junk apart in the postseason with the Montreal Canadiens.  Yep, that’s the same guy who wanted to stay here in Calgary, probably would have signed the same five year deal with Flames as he did with Montreal.  And now look.

Is there any guarantee that "he we do not speak of" would have had the exact same success had he been playoff bound with the Flames?  Well, no…11 goals in 13 games is pretty damn special.  And it’s not as if his regular season numbers blow your mind…50 points in 65 games.  But, looking deeper at those numbers, there’s no quesetion his January knee injury had a massive impact.  Before going down, Cammalleri had 26 goals and 48 points in 54 games…using "advanced math", that extrapolates to about 73 points in 82 games.  He had just two points, and no goals, in his final nine games of the season, and it certainly isn’t out of the question to think much of that was getting back up to speed.

But it’s his playoff performance that is drawing the ire of most Flames fans, and for pretty good reason.  "How did Sutter let this guy go?" or "Why didn’t Sutter do more to keep him?" are frequent and fair questions.  Whatever the reasons were for the Flames not to make a big push to resign him look worse and worse every day. I put the whole Cammalleri fiasco in the "bad" category when analyzing the moves of Darryl Sutter…the more I think, the more I wonder if it should belong in the "ugly" category.

He can’t play in the NHL postseason?  Well, clearly that’s been debunked rather loudly.  But at the time, nobody knew 11 playoff goals was in the offing for MC when he signed with Montreal on July 1st.  So lets go without the knowledge of his unreal 2010 playoffs.  It’s still a junk argument.  No one will argue that Cammalleri did not perform as well as expected or needed in Calgary’s first round playoff loss to Chicago last year.  He seemed to become less and less effective as the six game series went along.  But is it really fair to make that judgement as a GM after one postseason?  All kinds of players have had slow postseason starts, in hockey and in other sports. It takes more than one playoff appearance to make a reputation.

Fact of the matter is, at least so it seems, Darryl Sutter didn’t see enough value in keeping Cammalleri around, certainly not enough to give him a long term deal.  I’ve heard the argument that dealing for Olli Jokinen spelt the end for Cammalleri. That may be true in the mind of the GM, but I don’t buy it as an excuse…they made him an offer, so they could have worked him in. I’ve also heard that keeping Cammalleri would have meant no Jay Bouwmeester.  Is that true?  I don’t know, money-wise it would have been a challenge, but if you wanted Bouwmeester enough, I think the Flames could have maneuvered to make it happen.

I don’t want to get into hypothetical numbers of how the Flames and Darryl Sutter would have made certain things work, as I’m sure many have already done it.  Having everything identical from the past offseason AND keeping Cammalleri wasn’t going to happen.  But regardless of the Olli Jokinen situation, I chalk this one up to a gross misevaluation by the GM…the Flames had a young, offensive talent to help build around.  They didn’t keep him.  And now he’s on the brink of helping his team to the Eastern Conference Finals.  It’s too bad so many Flames fans saw this coming.

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  • It’s the truth. It’s been at home and on the road. Again, you’re right, a lot of the time with Calgary, he was playing cushy minutes. But he hasn’t in the playoffs, he’s being counted on as a driving force of their offence.

    The scoring chance counts here, suggest otherwise. Cammalleri has outchanced twice by narrow margins but gotten completely blown out of the water a couple times. And the chances (for and against) that he’s been on the ice for have come against numerous folk.

  • Also…while it’s true, Cammalleri was not put out against top players in the Washington series, the same cannot be said for this past series against Pittsburgh. Of the five even strength goals he scored, including a game 7 winner, in this series…every single one was scored with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin on the ice. Every single one.

    I’d have to verify this, I saw Crosby play quite a bit against that Montreal “checking” line and Olivier’s scoring chances seemed like Crosby played a ton against either Gomez and Pyatt and not as much against Plekanec/Cammalleri.

    • It’s the truth. It’s been at home and on the road.

      Again, you’re right, a lot of the time with Calgary, he was playing cushy minutes. But he hasn’t in the playoffs, he’s being counted on as a driving force of their offence.

  • Also…while it’s true, Cammalleri was not put out against top players in the Washington series, the same cannot be said for this past series against Pittsburgh. Of the five even strength goals he scored, including a game 7 winner, in this series…every single one was scored with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin on the ice. Every single one.

  • That’s all well and good on paper PSteinberg but on the ice, there’s the other team to worry about. I mean having the centre (or even Dman) carry the puck out of your own zone every time is never going to work against a smart forecheck, they’ll just outman you every time. You also have to have the ability to make a good outlet yourself.

    And that depends on a lot of things. Your natural skills, plus the quality of your teammates, minus the quality of your opposition of course, because the better they are the less time and space you have and the more prone you are for making mistakes. The best structure in the world won’t help you when Zetterberg is coming in and you lack the ability to either get by him and his linemate with the puck or make an intelligent pass that he won’t anticipate.

    And then there’s the play going forward, can Cammalleri keep the play alive very often without giving a ton back the other way too? From his year as a Flame he was prone to having the play die on his stick at times, he has a bit of a penchant for trying to beat guys in transition when there’s nothing there. And of course he played a ton with Iggy in soft icetime, so the opposition allowed them more time and space to do what they do best. The best structure in the world won’t help you keep the puck alive in the corners against Crosby.

    So yeah, I’m not buying it at all, there is no way in hell or good green Earth that Cammalleri somehow magically turns into more than what he already is (at age 27) because of Brent Sutter’s “structure”.

  • Pat and R O,

    I think I am more in line with R O’s assessment of Cammalleri’s capabilities, but I think $5 million is value for a guy who can put up 35-40 goals playing second level competition and power plays. There aren’t too many guys in the league who can do that.

    I would offer Phil Kessel as a comparable. Scored 30 goals in 70 games (35 goal pace) and has a $5.4 million cap hit. I don’t think I want him out facing the other teams best night in night out.

    • Brent Sutter’s structure: responsibility from the red line down. Predicated on sound and superior positioning by the fowards in the defensive end to supplement the breakout with speed. That means no stationary play on the defensive half boards, waiting for an outlet to start…watch Cammalleri and how he breaks out, and watch the issues Calgary had at times executing how they did it this year. It doesn’t mean he turns into Mike Richards as a two-way player, but his hockey sense and knack for being in the right place is an outstanding fit.

      Offensively, Calgary was lacking speed during the year, which is why they lacked creativity and relied upon a seemingly out-dated dump and chase, grind-it-out cycle. That is not by design, but by necessity with the makeup of the forward corps.

      Creativity, smarts, speed, and positioning…four hallmarks of Cammalleri’s game. Four things lacking at times throughout the year.

  • While squid was in Calgary he was notorious for long and intense after practice workouts that usually involved shooting drills…… while the captain was at home with his feet up enjoying a latte.

    Darryl had to get rid of him…. he was making the rest of the slugs look bad? or not..

  • I have no data to back that up, but I know that Cammalleri thinks the game extremely well, and has vision that can’t be taught. With the right, structured approach, I believe Cammalleri can thrive, and in more than just an offensive role.

    Right, that’s all well and good, but all that’s done in good cushy soft icetime. PP minutes, or EV shifts with the puck in the OFF zone or going there, or in neutral ice with the opponent’s second or third lines out. Look out if he ever faces a Richards or a Sedin or a Zetterberg or a Toews.

    I mean you’re totally right that with the right approach Cammalleri will produce. That’s called “giving him soft minutes”. Which means someone still has to play the tough minutes… let’s pay that guy, oh wait we can’t because Cammalleri has a bunch of the money we needed to pay him!

    Final comment: Everything you’ve said about Cammalleri, you were probably saying about Jokinen when he arrived and near enough to the time when he was traded. And if not you who said it, then a phalanx of fans who think similarly to you.

  • Wow, hindsight is 20/20 eh?

    It seemed pretty clear to me that Cammalleri was gone the moment that Jokinen was signed.

    And based on their play in the last 20 games, and the playoffs, that seemed like a pretty fair trade off.

    Who knew that Cammalleri would light it up in Montreal and Jokinen would be one of the biggest disappointments in years?

    How many Flames fans were thinking “Man, I wish we had matched Montreal and signed Cammalleri for $6m and 5 years”? Not many.

    Did this end badly for the Flames? Hell yeah. How many of us would have done anything differently at the time? Not many.

    PS – Steinberg: Sorry about your early exit in the FHA playoffs. Glad to see you made it to the dance this year. Whistler (Jack Crompton) is my brother-in-law and business partner.

  • PatSteinberg:

    It’s about the decision making process here. I mean the numbers are all going to be close, a guy with Cammalleri’s point totals will command somewhere in the 5-6 range anyway.

    The point is, do we need that kind of player in the lineup? In the 2008 offseason, Sutter made the decision of Langkow over Huselius, brilliant IMO as the former helps drive the play and has some offensive chops too, the latter is just soft though (and not just in the corners).

    Then he turns around and makes the exact reverse decision, effectively trading Tanguay for Cammalleri.

    Then at the trade deadline he makes another decision like that, trading a useful (and cheap!) Lombardi for a terribad Jokinen.

    If we’re going to construct a roster that can compete with the Thrashers for mediocrity, then we should sign these types of forwards at the price points they command. Even if we bargain with them, we’ll never get anywhere.

    Otherwise we should just let them go even if it sseems like it hurst, because there’s just not enough money. Sign the real impact forwards, even if you have to pay them a bit more, because the salary structure of the NHL practically dictates that it’s not going to be an overpay if the guy is a real difference-maker.

    • Here’s how I read the Cammalleri situation…I really do believe he can be a true impact forward. And I believe Brent Sutter is the type of coach, but not the only coach, to help that process.

      I have no data to back that up, but I know that Cammalleri thinks the game extremely well, and has vision that can’t be taught. With the right, structured approach, I believe Cammalleri can thrive, and in more than just an offensive role.

      I agree with everything you’ve said above, except for the fact that you and I have different opinions on Cammalleri.

  • Pat,

    I don’t base my judgment solely on the Flames situation.

    From my perspective at $6 million for 5 years, you are making an awfully big bet in the 4th and 5th years on a player that, at the time, had appeared somewhat one dimensional. Cammalleri had shown himself very good at what he did but, and I think this is R O’s point, he doesn’t drive possession out of his own end and could be a liability against tough competition. I compare against a player like Tanguay in his years with the Flames by comparison.

    I think there was a strong likelihood that for 2 or 3 or maybe 4 years the $6 million may give you value, but that 5th year is probably a dead ringer to not pay off. Also, note that prior to 2008-2009 Cammalleri had some injury trouble, so that would have to be weighed in on the probability of getting value on the deal.

    • And to be fair, the injury trouble reared it’s ugly head again this season.

      It’s true that Cammalleri doesn’t drive the play, I agree with that, and I don’t even disagree that 5 at $6 mil may be a little steep.

      Conroy’s take was that Cammalleri would have taken 5 at $5 mil here…is that still too much or more reasonable?

  • R O,

    I don’t know if Cammalleri is better than Langkow, but they each bring different things each night. What Cammalleri brings in terms of his goal scoring, ability to find openings and being a threat on the powerplay is a rarer talent than Langkows all round, all game states, proficiency. Player salaries are a market question and I think if the Flames could have signed him for $5 million that is value for those skills.

    In any event, it is irrelevant because the Flames were allocating the Cammalleri dollars either to Jokinen (my personal belief and the clear implication from acquiring Jokinent) or JBouw (Darryl’s post facto revisionist version used to please the season ticket holders).

    And if the question is “Who is more likely to outscore the other team’s best?” and the possible answers are Cammalleri or Jokinen – one answer qualifies you to comment intelligibly on the NHL and the other is Darryl Sutter’s (revisionist history excepted).

    As for the price point, I feel the same as Kent. At the $6 million he got from Montreal, and the 5 year term, I may have let him go too.

    • @Kent

      When you guys say you probably wouldn’t take Cammalleri at the price point, in what context do you mean it?

      Is it that you wouldn’t do the 5 years 30 mil considering the circumstances the Flames were in? Or is it that you wouldn’t do the deal period?

  • While I don’t agree with some of the moves made this past season I think we need to move past Cammeleri. Again keep in mind that the guy who signed him lost his job largely due to his offseason signings. Also keep in mind the Habs would have finished in 12th place in the west and missed the playoffs.
    The sky is not falling

  • Yup one of the “BAD” moves or non moves Sutter made. We talk so much about having chemistry with Iggy. This guy had it. After Jokinen came in his stats dropped. Even at $5.5M I’d take him. He is of the mold of todays NHL, small, quick and can score. He was a perfect person to potentially take over for Iggy. It pains me to see him in a Habs uni, especially since he may be the 2nd ex-Flame in a year to wear a “C” next year.

  • I agree Patty.

    What we had in Cammy was someone who could finally come in and take the pressure off of Iginla. He was the first person to outscore our captain in, what, 10 years? As Iginla grows older and starts to recede more into the 50-60 point category instead of the 80-90 point category, Cammalleri could have been the new face of the franchise. It was incredibly short sighted of Darryl Sutter to not re-negotiate with someone who stated emphatically that he was interested in staying with Calgary.

    Darryl’s argument during the “town hall meeting” was that he didn’t choose Jokinen over Cammy, he chose Bouwmeester over Cammy, which got a standing ovation from the presumably hypnotized crowd in attendance. The only problem with that argument, however, is Bouwmeester isn’t even the team’s best defenseman. Mark Giordano is. And six months later, with the trading of Phaneuf (which I still agree with by the way – Ian White ended the season with more points than Dion or JBo, plus we locked up Ragin’ Stajan long-term), we aren’t much further ahead than we were last summer. Sure, the goals-against were way down, but so were the goals-for. Bottom line is, no goals = no playoff run.

    This win-now mentality has plagued the Calgary Flames over the past 5 years. Brought about by Darryl’s addiction to the feeling the playoff run gave him during the 2004 campaign. Oh how he would give anything to recapture that feeling. But he hasn’t. Instead “win-now” has cost the team the ability to see into the future. Looking ahead to 2010-2011, we may not be able to win now, or later.

    While I think Backlund, Wahl, Nemisz, Cameron, Erixon, Seabrook, Brodie, and Negrin are all exciting prospects, they’re still long shots to be high-end talent. With guys like Regehr, Sarich, Iginla, and even Kiprusoff getting older, what exactly does the future hold?

    Who knows, a couple of good signings might change everything. One thing I’ll always give Darryl credit for is, he can sure woo players into signing with Calgary. Marleau, Frolov, Holmstrom, Armstrong…a decent UFA talent pool to choose from, no doubt. And the draft is always Darryl’s playground. Could a Robyn Regehr or Cory Sarich deal swing us a first or second round pick? Anything is possible.

    Oh, and Darryl needs to re-sign Ny Ny and Toskala.

  • Graham

    Maybe it is just me, but boy, do I lack motivation for next season. We are looking at the same old front office, no draft picks, a team with serious cap issues, a lack of talent on both the big club and farm team and on and on…

    • Seriously. The last few off-seasons, I’ve been at least optimistic with the future of the franchise. This year there’s not much to keep me hopeful. I keep hoping that all the wheeling and dealing Daryl did this season was looking to the off-season and having the prospect of getting us something big. Honestly, though, I have no idea who would want to make a deal with us.

  • Graham

    Aside from Pierre McGuire, Elliotte Friedman has reported (more than once, I believe) that Cammalleri was never going to re-sign with the Flames simply because he was intent on going to the East (though the Canucks had an outside chance of landing him due to Cammalleri’s relationship with Mike Gillis).

  • You’re right – it’s entirely possible that Cammalleri was going to flee for free agency anyways and there’s little the Flames could have done about it. I think the issue may be the fact that Sutter implicitly denigrated Cammalleri’s playoff efforts after he left town, suggesting the Flames weren’t interested in his services anyways (based on a 6 game sample, which is foolish).

    Also, Cammalleri wasn’t signed by the Flames. Sutter traded CGY’s first round pick to LAK for him.

  • The fixation with Cammeleri is mind boggling-who is to say the Flames didn’t want to keep him-coming off a lacklustre palyoff performance was he worth 6 million? Bob Gainey lost his job for some of these signings. I like Cammy and I think the Flames did as well-not getting hime doesn’t mean they didn’t try.
    Pierre Mcguire had said that Cammy wanted to go to Montreal and they certainly paid him more than others were willing to. How about a different spin-Cammy was signed by the Flames a year earlierfor around $3 million-maybe that was an extremely astute signing. Losing players to free agency happens to every team every year.
    In the free agency era the cost of overpaying and taking on long term risks

  • I’m torn on the Cammalleri issue. I wouldn’t have paid him what Montreal did, but I think $5/season is arguable. His season in CGY he was about level with Iginla at ES and better on the PP. And he’s 27 years old, which is prime age.

  • OK, in no universe is Cammalleri a better player than Langkow. Seriously, in terms of helping teams win, Cammalleri can’t hold Langkow’s jock.

    I’m not in favor of having Kotalik and Stajan on $3M+ contracts, nor was I ever in favor of having Jokinen at any price point he commanded.

    And damn, it feels like I’m beating a barely-breathing horse his but context of icetime is a *paramount* consideration. Could Cammalleri have contributed to outchancing and outscoring the other team’s good players? Because at $5M and few other impact forwards, that’s a responsibility he would have had to take on.

  • Ummm…I would have had Cammalleri at $5 million over Jokinen at $5.25 million. Certainly if the math is Cammalleri+Lombardi+(Prust or Vandermeer)+a 1st round draft pick v. Jokinen I know which side any reasonable GM would have come down on at any time.

    $5 Million is only $750,000 over Langkow and only $2 million more than Kotalik, Stajan or Hagman. Dude was on a 40 goal pace this year and potted 39 last year. We paid Jarome $7 million for just under 40 goals this year.

    I may be using hindsight, but particularly in light of the Flames dearth of scoring, Cammy would have been a nice fit. As a further Mind Experiment, lets trade Phaneuf pre-season for the same trade Darryl made, and signs JBouw, the Flames line up is


    JBouw-(Pardy, Vandermeer, other assorted spare part)

    In what possible universe is that inferior to what we lined up this last season?

  • The reason that Cammalleri was let go (keeping Jokinen) was awful but I was never in favor of keeping Cammalleri at the price point he commanded.

    I mean the writing was on the wall when Tanguay was traded, we were going to experience a downgrade at left wing. Cammalleri can score and isn’t a total sieve but damn, who would feel comfortable having the guy in a difference-making role? Which is what he would have had to do, at $5M on a team with as much money tied up as Calgary.