Center of Attention – A Thorough Look at the Flames Depth Down the Middle



Now that Brendan Morrison is back in the fold, the Flames have at least five NHL centerman at their disposal, including Mikael Backlund, Olli Jokinen, Daymond Langkow and Matt Stajan. The last three guys make $3+ million year while Backlund made a strong case to move up the depth chart last season. Like the club’s ever growing collection of depth defensemen, Calgary’s situation down the middle seems to similar with lots of middling guys and fewer top-end options.

it’s going to be interesting to see how Brent Sutter manages his centerman this coming season because there’s no obvious, clear-cut top-ender. Last year, lacking Daymond Langkow, Brent began with Stajan on the top line, Backlund on the fourth, with Morrison and Jokinen occupying the middle lines. That rotation was essentially inverted by the end of the year, with Stajan skating on the fourth line and Backlund with Iginla and Jokinen and Langkow again somewhere in the middle. This is closer to how I see things shaping up this comiing year, although October will be the first time Sutter has all five healthy bodies available at the same time.

First off, I’ve compiled and ranked each guy’s corrected corsi rating. This measure simply adjusts for zone starts, allowing us to put every guy on even footing.

Player ice time corsi/60 corsi raw o-zone d-zone ZS diff corr corsi cc/60
Backlund 769 14.89 191 216 182 -34 164 12.77
Stajan 946 5.84 92 292 259 -33 66 4.17
Jokinen 1144 -0.82 -16 348 310 -38 -46 -2.41
Morrison 816 -2.95 -40 233 227 -6 -45 -3.30

The table shows each players even strength ice time, corsi/60 minutes rating, raw corsi as well as offensive zone and defensive zone face-offs at ES. The corrected corsi is presented in both raw and rate (/60) form. Daymond Langkow was left excluded because of a tiny sample size.

Of course, the possession numbers are only a part of the story.

Daymond Langkow

Daymond Langkow is a bit of an unknown commodity, having only appeared in four games last year and turning 35 in September. He has been the Flames best hard-minutes option down the middle for years and I thought he looked surprisingly good in his return considering the seriousness of his injury and the amount of time he spent away, but one wonders if or when time is going to catch up to him. Langkow managed a corsi rate of +11.71 in his four-game stint, which is very strong, but of course the sample size is way too small to really judge anything.

If Daymond is indeed fully functional this season, I don’t expect him to land with Iginla and Tanguay. Aside from an ill-fated two month experiment where rolled played Iginla and Jokinen in a power-vs-power role, Sutter has been tried to shelter Iggy a bit by feeding other lines the tougher match-ups. In 2009-10, Langkow and Bourque were more or less chosen for that role while last season Jokinen and Bourque were the guys splitting the tough match-ups.

As a result, I half expect Langkow to be placed in a sort of second/third line shut-down duty with with either Bourque or Glencross, where he’s mostly matched up against the big boys and not expected to score as much. It’s a role he can handle better than anyone other center currently on the club, so if he’s indeed 100% then he may be able to shift the tide a bit more in the Flames favor. 

Mikael Backlund

Although Backlund’s totals weren’t overly impressive last season (10 goals, 25 points) the 22-year old nevertheless made a strong statement in his first full season in the league. Although he was highly sheltered for most of the year, Backlund’s underlying numbers remain impressive with a corsi rate of +14.89/60, by far the best amongst the Flames middle-men.

Backlund spent a lot of time with Jackman in a fourth line role, particularly to start the year, but there’s no question he knocked the ball out of the park. Killing the lesser lights is the first step every kid needs to take in order to move beyond a replacement level player and it’s one Flames prospects have frequently been unable to take.

Although he was a healthy scratch during some of he tougher times at the start of the year, Backlund found himself playing with Iginla and Tanguay near the end of the year when injuries had claimed Morrison and Moss. In the last seven games of the season, his ice time crested 17+ minutes four times, well above his season average of about 12. This is in contrast to Matt Stajan, whose single game high in the same span was 12:59.

The kids game seemed to progress last season by eye as well. By the latter half, he was holding onto the puck in the offensive zone a bit more and seemed to have rid himself of the habit of crossing the blueline and firing the biscuit whenever convenient. His vision and hands were on display to a greater degree the more comfortable he got and I think he was chosen to be elevated above Stajan on merit. As an added bonus, he also scored what might be the Flames goal of the year:


Backlund has spent the first 97 games of his career crushing the other team’s fourth liners, so I think it’s time the kid was moved up the rotation a bit. As it stands, he is my preferred option to center Iginla and Tanguay (assuming the Langkow line takes the heavies, of course).

Olli Jokinen

My favorite target for derision and nicknames had himself an okay season considering how Brent Sutter used him. Joker has never been a heavy hitter at ES, mostly feasting on easy match-ups and PP time to put points in the past. He and Bourque split tougher minutes with Iginla and Tanguay and they struggled to keep their heards above water (although the anchor seemed to be Bourque rather than Jokinen). Olli didn’t get completely crushed in that role, however, plus he did manage to produce with the man advantage unlike his first tour of duty in Calgary.

With Langkow back in the fold, Jokinen can probably face second and third lines again, particularly if he skates with, say, Glencross and Moss. Glencross and Jokinen formed a fruitful partnership for a brief period in the middle of season last year. It could happen again, especially if the Big Fin isn’t expected to skate against the big boys. A third line-center, first unit PP role for Jokinen is probably ideal.

Matt Stajan

The centerpiece of the Dion Phanuef trade has been a total bust in Flames colors so far. Stajan began his time in Calgary as the guy tabbed to center Jarome. By the end of his first full season, he was playing 10 minutes a night and looking every inch a fourth line centerman. 

Stajan certainly had some things go wrong for him last year. His SH% dropped to just 7.4%, a career low. Of course, his shot rate also fell to just over one per game, which is defensive defenseman territory. As a player, Stajan doesn’t seem overly good at anything, but has a few glaring weaknesses. Primarily, he seems to struggle to win puck battles and physical contests along the boards. He gives up the puck really easily, even in the neutral zone, and he doesn’t produce enough opportunities at the good end of the ice to excuse his lapses elsewhere. He also tends to get clocked by an opposing defender pretty regularly.

Stajan produced pretty well for the first month or so, but it was pretty much all percentages. Once those regressed, Sutter busted him down the depth chart and buried him, preferring to move up guys like Morrison and Backlund instead. Sutter even turned to David Moss to play center rather than elevate Stajan mid-season. That’s as strong an indictment of a $3.5 million veteran there is I think.

Stajan could probably put up more points if he was given more ice time and that SH% is bound to bounce back up to career norms, but I’m not convinced he’ll ever be good enough to justify his contract in Calgary. His underlying numbers this past year were mediocre even though his circumstances in aggregate weren’t too much different than Backlund’s. I suspect the latter guy is as good or better a player right now and will certainly be in the future. Despite the disparate price-tags I assume (and hope) Sutter defaults to Backlund as the better option going forward.

Brendan Morrison

Signed out of desperation after Ales Kotalik and Daymond Langkow were declared not fit to start the season last year, Brendan Morrison provided a surprising amount of value for his $750k ticket. The 36-year old was really productive given his price-tag and he managed to bounce around the line-up, filling holes at both center and wing where ever he was needed.

It turned out to be a serendipitous acquisition for the club. No center was more efficient than Morrison at producing points at even strength. He also managed 4.7 power-play points per 60 minutes of ice, second behind only Olli Jokinen. It was appropriate, although ironic, then that his season-ending knee injury was considered such a blow to the Flames play-off hopes in March.

That’s the good stuff. On the other hand, Morrison’s underlying numbers are the very worst of those discussed here. His corsi rate per 60 was bottom-of-the barrel of any Calgary skater. If we look at corsi tied (which eliminates playing-to-score effects on possession), Morrison was dead last on the club with a .452 ratio. This means he spent the most time chasing the puck around the defensive zone of any center, and that’s even with Olli Jokinen playing a role that was above his head.

Morrison traded on some team-best percentages to stay afloat. His PDO (on-ice SV%+SH%) was 102.7. No other regular centerman crested 100. This was mostly driven by an on-ice SH% of 10.16% at ES. To put that in perspective, the NHL average SH% at 5-on-5 is sually about 7-8%. Matt Stajan was second on the team with a 8.88% rate. 

There’s a couple of conclusions here: either Brendan Morrison is finding a way to drive percentages to a greater degree than most NHL forwards can manage or the hockey gods saw fit to smile on him last season. Given that we know percentages typically regress towards the mean in the long-run, I’m going with door number 2.

None of this is to say Morrison is altogether terrible and useless. I think with Matt Stajan falling off a cliff plus some of the injury concerns last year, Morrison was often thrust into positions that are technically above his head at this point in his career (top-six rotation). The percentages masked his struggles to the degree that he remained preferable to other options, so he continued to see more ice time than his true talent might warrant. 

The data here is cautionary: on one hand, Morrison was one of the most efficient producers of points while he was on the ice for the Flames last season. On the other hand, he spent a lot of time getting outchanced…Iginla’s scoring chance ratio with Morrison, for example, was 47.6%. Without Morrison, it was 55.3%. Morrison’s own SC ratio last season was 50.8%, the third lowest of regular Flames forwards. The risk here is assuming the percentages will hold for BMo and he’ll continue to score like a top-six forward despite the puck heading the wrong direction when he’s on the ice. That’s likely a bad bet.

As such, I hope Morrison doesn’t return from his injury and bump a guy like Mikael Backlund down the depth chart or to the wing. The old guy should be used as the utility player he is, not the second-line center his counting stats suggest. If he lands in the bottom-six as a winger or replaces Stajan as the fourth-line center (assuming the club could ever move Stajan’s ticket out of town), I’ll be satisfied. 

Overall, the Flames have some options and I think fans should be heartened by the return of Langkow (who can take on the tougher minutes) and Backlund (who appears ready to take a big step forward ia afforded the chance). As mentioned at the onset, the club doesn’t have a truly above-average to elite option down the middle which may cause problems against the better clubs in the league and could result in a lot of game-to-game shuffling of the deck if the team goes through some hard times.


  • Given that the Feaster/Sutter era forged ahead in a very similar fashion to the “previous” regime… I’d say a 2nd-year player being given better ice-time than a vet like Morrison is wishful thinking. Although I hope you’re right and believe it needs to happen.

    I wasn’t impressed with Langkow in his season pre-injury, wasn’t impressed by his return last season and am pretty sure I won’t be impressed by him this season. But, I’ll hold out blind hope that he returns to his old hard-working self.

  • Yup, that pretty much spells it out.

    One of the few hopes I have for the Flames actually being a better team this coming year is that Langkow can return and play the effective hockey we’re accustomed to and if not, le sigh.

    It makes sense to me that:

    Backlund, Iginla, Tanguay are the “#1” role (fed Sedin-like zone starts)

    Langkow, Bourque and perhaps Morrison (as the face-off guy) or other (Hagman? if he’s around) are the “#2” (face the toughs, fed to the wolves)

    Glencross, Jokinen and Moss the #3 role (kick the teeth in of the “third lines” of the league)

    Morrison (or Stajan), Jackman and Kostopolous, are the energy line.

    Either way Morrison plays, we’ve got to rid ourselves of Stajan… or Hagman. I’d rather hang on to Hagman since his contract is gone at years end than Stajan, but… maybe that’s not possible.

    I just don’t see room for Stajan, and when you factor in his contract, he’s a disaster. He’s not going to compete for a top-two center… and if not, he’s a massive overpay.

    GO to the Islanders young man!

    OUT with Stajan, IN with defenseman please!

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I would guess that if Backs is the top line centre, they’ll need Sedin-like zone starts. I’m OK with that if Langks and Joker can handle the heavies, and maybe BMo can be a good #4.

    Stajan… can the Flames send him to Abby, or does the NMC I assume he has forbide it? I’d love to see him elsewhere. Is it possible he’s spent the offseason developing the muscle and skill to hold on to the puck in the NHL?

    Great read by the way, Kent.

    • I don’t know if it will have to be as extreme as the Sedin ZS, but match-ups against second liners and something around 55% or better would probably work.

      According to capgeek, Stajan has a NTC, not a NMC meaning he could be sent down.

  • Morrison’s spot is all theorhetical at the moment. Scuttlebut is that he won’t be recovered from surgery at training camp or by the start of the regular season… That being said I echo what Kent says and I wouldn’t at all object to rolling with the following lines out of camp:

    Tanguay – Backlund – Iginla

    Glencross – Langkow – Bourque

    Hagman – Jokinen – Moss

    Kostopolis – Stajan – Jackman

    Properly utilized I think that can be a competative line-up against much of the league. By properly utilized I mean if Sutter coaches like he has the team that he has rather then the team that he would like to have. Using the Iginla line like Vancouver uses the Sedins and the Langkow line like the Kesler line.

    My big fear with Morrison is that Sutter is going to elevate him immediately upon him being cleared play rather then let circumstances dictate his placement.

    • Craig

      I like these lines I think they’re pretty good except I’d switch Glencross and Hagman. In order to rekindle the chemistry between the GlenX Joker Moss line, I think after a year playing together they will be a pretty decent third line. I don’t like Hagman but he could be marginally effective on that second line playing with Langkow and Bourque.

      • That’s another possibility. Keeping in mind that in my mind that second line eats the really hard minutes and I’m not sure I’d trust Hagman to eat hard minutes (or at least not to the extent that I trust Glencross to do the same).

  • Michael

    I suspect that Feaster is feeling the same pressure from King that Sutter felt… keep the team in a playoff hunt and scarifice the longer term vision to do so…

    Feaster has basically kept the same team intact that failed to make the playoffs twice, has handed out more NMC, traded Regehr for a marginal return, failed to sign Erixson, traded a second round pick to dump Kotalik, actively tried to sign Smyth (with a cap hit of $6.2 million), tried to sign Richards for $65 million / 9 years, almost maxed out our 50 contract cap with…. at best marginal NHL talent.

    I suspect that coach Sutter will feel the same pressure from Feaster, take what you have and field the best possible mix, produce points.
    That will translate into Kipper playing far to much, and younger talent like Backlund not seeing much ice time.

    • That’s certainly possible Michael. The line combos will likely be determined by early success or failure as well…coaches tend to mix things up as soon as the train goes off the rails a bit (for better or worse).

  • marty

    Great read Kent,

    I agree with what you are saying especially in regards to Lanks. I hope Backlund gets some added minutes. I also look at Lanks and Bmo as security blankets for Backlund. (ala connie) if the top line struggles brent will probably throw Lanks or morrison up there and this will happen a few times this year. Also I really hope kipper doesn’t see more than 62 games, hopefully with a full year under his belt the tower can play 20 or close to it.

  • Craig

    I’m glad to see the sentiment is shared that Backlund should be given the oppurtunity to anchor the top line. He’d be the first real “skill” guy that probably sits on that line in a long time. I thought that was the reason he was drafted, a highly skilled guy that was gonna play a top 6 role. If he’s not gonna be utilized at all that way this year and guys like BMO, Langks, Jokinen and hell Stajan are played on higher lines than him, I’d rather him be traded and we at least get a decent return right now than at the end of the season when he becomes another 3rd/4th liner.


    That seems to me the best bet on the forward lines. Now that open spot on the second line is there because I don’t like either Hagman or Stajan there to start the year and BMO may not be ready to start the year. So there is a chance for a Byron or even Baertschi(his 10 games at least) to sit in that spot to start the year, so at least there is the illusion of a spot for the younger players.

  • Craig

    I keep hearing comments like “we’re not going for the cup this year anyway.”

    Perfect: so then there’s no excuse not to throw Backlund on the top line between Iginla and Tangs. We’ve learned that it doesn’t necessarily matter who lines up between those two. We are talking about two 32+ year old veterans… Is there a better place to put a 22 year old? Two very experienced, skilled players and all Backlund would have to do is use his speed, and make the simple plays. The top line would be much quicker as a result. Might ignite Iggy/Tangs to play with a youngster, rather than Morrison/Langks.

    In my opinion, it is more difficult to succeed in a 2nd line centre role in the Western Conference than a #1 role. Iggy and Tangs are somewhat sheltered as is… so let Backlund grow and evolve in that role. You’re not doing any favours for him, nor the organization if you put him in a #3 centre role. He would just turn into yet another Eric Nystrom or Dustin Boyd. He showed he can be responsible defensively, he showed he can use his speed and skill to get Iggy and Tangs moving a bit more, and he’ll continue to progress between two very skilled veteran forwards. Langks/Jokinen are useful tools, but I think both would provide more value to your team as #2/#3 centremen. Assuming no Staj/Hag trades:

    (Kostop, PL3 exras)

  • Id also like to see Byron play alongside Langkow on the #3 line. I think we saw how effective a small, skilled winger can be, playing with good ol’ dependable Langks (example: 15 goals in 60ish games for Nigel Dawes in 09/10). I think it would provide a bit of a sparkplug to an otherwise lunch-bucket line (Langkow, Moss). Of course, this is not possible if the team is unable to ship out at least one veteran (Stajan, Hagman, Kostopoulos…) But, of course, this is not something I will get my hopes up for

  • Greg

    So are we going to have the oldest and most expensive 4th line in the league this season?

    Kent, as possible fodder for an off season article, I’d love to see a breakdown of the first half vs second half advanced stats for last year. We had a long stretch of .650 hockey in the second half and I’d be curious to see which of those two halves is more realistic for setting expectations this year, especially since it’s virtually the same roster.

  • Oyo

    Should we trust bourque to take on the heavies with an aging langkow?
    We all saw how bad he was this year at that role and I’m jot wondering if glen x wouldn’t be better suited just to stay above water

      • Oyo

        … the same time however i dont reeeally want to break up the joker glen x moss line… but if i was to do lines my way… (b/c i wanna be cool to lol)

        tangs backs iggy

        glen x langkow bourque

        baerstchi (for first 10 games)eventually replaced by morrison joker moss

        kosto stajan jackman

        i think this line up give you the best odds of winning right now

        defense is a mess tho

    • Why not use both? I think you give Bourque the chance to redeem himself, Langkow the chance to show he’s still got it and Glencross the chance to show he can handle it. If they don’t work out then by all means do some rejigging but I think the potential benefit is to good to not give it a go early in the year.

  • Oyo

    While it is perfectly understandable that so many fans want to see Stajan out of here , I wonder if we might not see a significantly improved season from him in 2011-12.
    Certainly his contract is too big and too long, but the question I really have about him is how much he was hampered by injuries last season.
    Because teams provide so little information about injuries I think at times we as fans are hard on guys who may have had a good excuse for not performing, up to our expectations.
    I think a really good example of this is David Moss.
    If we go back three seasons he scored 20 goals then the following year he was way down . I don’t remember , but I think it was a single digit year. Then this past year he was back up to 20 goals. When you check this out what you find is that two years ago he apparently had several injury issues, but they weren’t mentioned much.
    Stajan is still relatively young and if he is healthy he should be able to do way more than we saw from him last season.At least I hope so.

  • I will get roasted for suggesting this, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the following lines trialed:


    Why? Well I think the team needs a couple of competent shut down lines to takes some of the heavy lifting off of the top line (aka Vancouver).

    Langkow has worked very well in that role with Bourque. They also did it with Dawes on the LW, so I think Hagman would fit in fine.

    Backlund is showing flashes of strong two-way play. My hope is he turns into a Kesler type player. Even Jokinen did okay playing in a shut down role between Moss/Glencross, so if you are going to see how he does in that role that is a pretty good place to start.

    That leaves Jokinen and Stajan. Jokinen excelled in Florida in a sheltered role. He isn’t going to get that on the top line with Iginla. He also has no chemistry with Iginla. So put him with Morrison/Jackman in a sheltered role and let them attack the white meat.

    Which leaves Stajan. I know he was bad last season, but he hasn’t been bad most of his career. Hopefully he is returning healthy and can slot in between Tanguay/Iginla taking a high amount of offensive draws.

    That leaves you with line focused on offensive draws. Line 2 and 3 able to share a shutdown role. And Line 4 who is going to get the soft competition.

    • That’s not a terrible roster, although Stajan will have to improve to hang with Iginla and Tanguay. You can only protect Jarome so much because opposing coaches always target him with better players to some degree.

  • RKD

    Maybe the Morrison signing is an indicator of a trade with the glutton of centers.

    I don’t know why on Flames Nation a ton of people have Jokinen on the third line with random dance partners. Jokinen may not be the 39 goal, 90 point guy in Florida, but he is a legit #2 centre.

    If Brent Sutter is smart, you start the season with Glencross-Jokinen-Moss on the second line.

    I know Langkow can shut down other teams tops line, but he’s missed virtually all of last season. Langkow elevates Bourque, even if Bourque doesn’t score 27 next season I would rather him learn to play more defensively.

    The biggest ‘it’ factors on this team next season are Jokinen, Langkow and Stajan. All Jokinen has to do is play north-south hockey, he was great during the latter half. Stajan has to be way tougher, he’s playing way too soft.

    • RKD

      That people have Jokinen on “third-line” isn’t really indicative of anything. He’s just not on the ES primary scoring line, the tough minute shutdown line, or physical low minute energy line. I mean I think we can all agree that Joker isn’t the ideal figure for any of those.

      We’re basically talking about putting him on a scoring line that has a lighter defensive match-up, less preferential starting circumstances and PP only special teams assignment (With Olli probably drawing the #1 PP unit assignment and Moss the #2 PP unit assignment). Frankly, I think that’s the kind of assignment where Olli Jokinen could be most effective.

  • the-wolf

    Count me in with the giv eBacklund more ice time group. The team has to avoid turning him into a career 3rd liner.

    At the same time, the coaches will have to make sure he adheres to 2-way play, especially if he’s centering Tanguay/Iginla.

  • the-wolf

    I wonder if Stajan would be more effective as a third line winger?


    Langks can handle the work in the corners against tough opposition in the D zone, Bourque is all shot and Stajan is a pure passer… seems like a decent third line to me

    • Flamin Cannot's

      Do you realize you are paying more for the 3rd line than you are on the #1 line & over twice the price of the 2nd line. When you look at minutes & situational play of each line, that is really poor cap management. You will never get over achieving results from that 3rd line & it cap restricts us from having a true top 3-4 defenceman. There’s a reason why a 4th line should be of the nature of a Bouma, Desbians, PL3, Kostopolous. Those are your energy guys & the price tag on that line should be always under 2.5-3.0Mil. Your 3rd line plays tougher minutes but they should average 10-12 minutes. The salary average of that line should be around the 6.0Mil. 2nd line should be higher minutes, #2 power play unit, some penalty kill, dangerous ES. If you can get that cap hit down to 9-10 mill, great. 1st line needs your marquee players, budget 15-18mill. Forward group cap hit target would be around 32-35mill.
      Top 4 dmen should come in around 20mil
      5-6-7 dmen should revolve around 2.0-2.5Mill
      Your 2 goalies should be in around 5.0Mil

      You start spending 3.5 mill cap hits on 3rd or 4th lines on one player, something has gotta give. This pretty crude & generic & every GM has there own formula, but its so imperative you have at least 2 basement bargain players to get you some flexibilty & that should be every GM’s role is to turn over every stone to get it. Thing is, fact, a young kid called up & plays way beyond expectations at dirt cheap will occur more often than the chances of the Morrison windfall signing we scored last year.
      Moral of story, make room & give the kids a chance, not 35-36-37 year olds.

      • Flamin Cannot's

        Do I realize? Yes. I realize.

        I’m aware the Flames management has poorly structured their cap dollars. They have a number of overpaid players in replaceable positions, that are undesirable for other teams. I was simply making a suggestion as to where Stajan might be a decent fit, rather than in a top-line C or 4th line C role. No one is suggesting the Flames have a young team, or that Stajan/Langkow/Bourque aren’t overpaid. The dollars have already been allocated to these players, those decisions have already been made. For the love of god, don’t tell me you would organize the line-up for your hockey team based on salary structure.

        • Flamin Cannot's

          Obviously not. It’s just one of many things you can look at to see if you are spending your cap dollars in a wise & balanced way. It also might give you a direction with signings & trades. My lord, what would have happened if we signed Richards? Richards would have been a walk in the park if we didnt have the salary committed to 3rd & 4th lines. It also allows you to give opportunity to young players on a yearly basis because there are positions up for grabs. I’m just saying something isnt working when you pencil more cap $$$ to 3rd line than the 1st line.I’m just saying, you only have so much money to spend so there has to be some consideration to player/salary/cap management and development. Difference between the likes of teams like Detroit & Nashville & the Flames.

  • Flamin Cannot's

    I have always like Joker as a winger. They should move him to wing…

    Tang – Back – Igy
    Borq – Lang – Joker
    GlenX – Mor – Moss

    The scariest thing about this team is the thin blue line….also not enough top end skill in the top two lines…

    8 place at best

  • Flamin Cannot's

    I am of the opinion that the Flames don’t have a reasonable chance next season. They lack defensive depth. They have too many players that are over paid and underachieving. They don’t have many budget players left on the roster. And they consist of a core that missed the playoffs the last 2-seasons and were quick exits before that.

    Not saying they shouldn’t try. Not saying they absolutely won’t be successful. But I am saying the chances are we are biding this season until dollars come off next.

    Which is why I would really like to see both Backlund and Stajan put into a position to be successful. They are the only 2-centres inked beyond next season and I would hate to see Stajan as a future anchor or Backlund developed incorrectly.