VOICE OF THE NATION – The Fountain of Youth



 (Today we debut VF’s Voice of the Nation – a weekly from a more fan friendly perspective)

For months we have talked about what the Calgary Flames need to do this off-season to not only remain competitive in this upcoming season, but to also enhance and secure a viable future, with a refocused look on drafting and development in the farm system. This week we debut "Voice of the Nation", grassroots look at what a team can do from within to dig themselves out of mediocrity and strive towards being a contender once more.

Many on Flames Nation have all advocated and agreed that, come this time next year, the Calgary Flames should look dramatically different. Yet, with nearly $23 Million dollars coming off the Cap next year, no one can really say how it will look. Aside from what might come about through free agency or trade, the Flames have made the acknowledgement that there is a strong need to develop the farm and increase the learning curve of the prospects that play there.

In our first part, let’s take a look at the defence and goaltending in the system. With the departure of Robyn Regehr, the Flames made the defence core open to audition. Many thought that this would be the opportunity needed for a young D-man, like T.J. Brodie, to come through the system and join the big club. The re-signing of Anton Babchuck made that a little less certain, and the signing of Scott Hannan all but sealed Brodie’s fate back to Abbotsford, for at least one more season.

The Defence

The building blocks on defence start with Brodie. he is a great puck moving defenceman that possesses great skating. He is 6’1" and 185 lbs, so he will need to fill out a bit more. What is key about Brodie though, is that he will be able to provide leadership and anchor the top defensive pairing in Abbotsford and will push the others in their play. His excellent skating will be a metric for everyone he plays with and should be considered a strong asset on the powerplay. He has a fairly hard shot, but more importantly, it’s an accurate one as well. Last year in the AHL, T.J. finished the year tied for 2nd in team scoring and was the Heat’s only representative in the AHL All-Star game. Although he may start the year down in Abbotsford, look for Brodie to be the first guy called up if the Flames run into injury issues or are looking for a spark in the line up. The physical side to Brodie’s defensive game will mature as he puts on more mass, but the most encouraging aspect to his game is his raw skill and intelligence with the puck. In 68 games with the Heat, Brodie was a +3 playing on a defensive pairing that always faced the opposition’s top lines.

Chris Breen is another hopeful the Flames have on the blueline, and is T.J. Brodie’s defence partner. The 6’7", 231 pounder is going into this season with plans of cracking the Flames line-up rather than remaining on the farm. However, I have him ranked behind his linemate, and since we have seen the Flames pretty much shore up the back end I would say the 22 year old is looking at another year in the AHL. Once again this bodes well for the Heat, and ultimately the Flames. Breen is going to face top opposition in the minors which will further add to his development, a better option than seeing the pressbox as a 7-8 defensive option for the majority of the NHL season. Even at 6’7", Breen is not a physically dominating type player. In an interview back on July 9th, he even stated that he "wouldn’t mind being 240. but if I don’t feel fast? There’s no point to it."

Breen is a solid skater, given his size. He can shoot the puck well, and is accurate much like Brodie. The two should compliment each other, especially on the PP. Having two shooting options on the point, makes it harder for the opposition to hone in and isolate Brodie from the play. Look for the forwards to have more scoring chances presented to them, given that the shot from the point can come from either side. This year should also give Chris the chance to work on the mental side of his game. At times, Breen can be indecisive or not aggressive enough. As his confidence matures playing against teams top forwards, so should his competitiveness, which is what Calgary wants to see in order for him to become an NHL caliber player.

Joey Leach is another tall player that will need some time to grow into his 6’3" frame. Playing the active stick, if he can add some significant mass to him, he has the potential to be a strong shut down defenceman, forcing wingers to the outer periphery. I had the chance to see Leach play last year. He is a strong skater and plays a good positional game. More than likely we are going to see Leach returned to the Kootney Ice. His 3rd year in the WHL should bolster his development. I like this move because, when he joins the AHL next year, it will be in a situation where he can step in under Breen and Brodie. The Flames are starting to show a trend towards leadership and mentorship for their different prospects coming up in various stages. I see Leach fitting nicely into that system.

John Ramage is a player that I’m personally looking forward to see play in Abbotsford. During his stint with the US World Junior team last year, he looked very impressive. His service as their captain showed that this kid has leadership skills. Being the leader of a group of all stars demonstrates a level of respect amongst your peers. If this is how the US players saw Ramage, I’m all for him bringing that trait with him to the Flames organization. He is a smart player with a great sense for the puck in all three zones of the ice. He is the guy that doesn’t take a shift off and can play a physical game without taking himself out of position. the downside of Ramage is that he wants to remain in Wisconsin for one more year, so the Heat won’t have the luxury of his play this season. The good news is when he does join the Heat; he will bring instant credibility and leadership to a team that has already had a one year jump on this new phase of development. That won’t hold Ramage back and expect him to step in seamlessly and contribute instantly.


Leyland Irving has definitely played himself into the conversation for the future of the Flames. Even with the re-signing of Henrik Karlsson, the Flames plan to give Irving every opportunity to win the back-up role in training camp this year. That being said, it is more likely that Leyland comes to camp and learns a lot about the areas of his game that he needs to work on. Taking those lessons learned back down to Abbotsford only helps build upon the overall development of the team. If the players can play their game with the knowledge that they have a more than capable tender behind them, you have the foundation of a pretty cohesive group.

Irving’s play last year gave the Flames the peace of mind that they could call him up in case of injury to Karlsson or Kiprusoff. Irving was 2nd in the AHL in wins (30) and led the league with 8 shutouts. He had a 2.30 GAA and a 0.913 SAV%. Look for Leland to carry the majority of the mail this year, providing the Heat a chance to develop Joni Ortio at their own pace.

This brings us to Ortio. Since he only got to play in one game last year with Abbotsford, this is going to be a year of adjustments for the young Finn. It is often said that one of the big things he has to work on is his positioning. This undoubtedly will be something that the Heat and Jordan Sigalet will work with him on, especially since he is moving from European to North American sized ice. Where Ortio excels, is his instinctual play. According to Hockey’s Future, he has good reflexes, rebound control and quick lateral movement. Even as a young player, he has been able to demonstrate composure under pressure, and mental strength when facing breakaways and shootouts, then the Flames depth in goal definitely shows developmental progression in the years to come.

In part 2 of the series, we’ll take a look at the development of the forwards in the system, and the new direction that the Flames have taken towards the Fountain of Youth…

        • Vintage Flame

          haha, let’s put it this way he is not a quality defender. Anyway, what are people’s opinion on the potential for Brodie/Breen? Top 4 d-man? Top pairing potentially?

          • Vintage Flame

            Really risky pegging a potential ceiling on prospects, IMO anyways. Until you see either positive development or severe regression, it’s tough to say.

            According to Hockey’s Future though the gradings for Brodie are a 7.0B and Breen is rated a 6.5B

            They are not stellar ratings but promising. I think they can change too. Nothing set in stone.
            Here is the explanations of the rating system.

          • 7.0B and 6.5B – Nice!

            7.5B, 8.0C, 7.5C, 7.5C, 7.5D – The City Of Champions top prospects as rated by the KNOWLEDGABLE staff at HF!

            After this year, Calgary will just be the new Columbus. Constant suck, no playoffs. The only place they differ is that Columbus is now on the way up while Calgary is falling harder than Neo when he tries the jump for the first time

            Go Capitals! (Playin Vipers tonight for start of Playoffs)

          • Vintage Flame

            Hahaha.. Yet according to the good people at HF..

            C – May reach potential, could drop 2 ratings – has shown some flashes, but may ultimately not have what it takes to reach his potential. The potential rating is multiplied by 80 percent for depth chart purposes to show the uncertainty of a player reaching his potential.


            D – Unlikely to reach potential, could drop 3 ratings – a player who has a chance to reach his potential but is unlikely to do so. The potential rating is multiplied by 70 percent for depth chart purposes, indicating that the player’s potential is extremely fluid.

          • LOL I know, prospects rating is just as fun as points prediction ๐Ÿ˜›

            If you wanted to hear all of our B prospects, id glady deliver a copy to you via pony ride. Considering HF has the flames ranked 30th in terms of prospects, it eliminates any use of your prospects vs ours

          • ChinookArchYYC

            All the endless talk about the Oilers future from their fans, and yet the Hockey Prospectus ranks their prospects at 16th. Kinda pathetic for a team that’s been as bad as Edmonton.

            See your boys at the Labour Day Classic, too bad we won’t see them in the playoffs. LOL!

          • If ya delve a little deeper into it, they dont consider Hall, Eberle, Paarjavi, Peckham and Dubnyk prospects anymore. So when he says it lacks top end talent, there are many that have “graduated” already. If you changed the perameters to 21 and under, we’d be #1 or #2 at worst.

            Sadly, as much as I love the smos, they’re just decimated right now. Top 4 receivers out. Labour day isnt lookin good but that hasnt stopped me from attending in the past. Were used to the suck at this stage! We’ll be in the playoffs guaranteed tho!

          • icedawg_42

            How did your Capitals do last night? ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚
            Where did Edmonpuke sorry I’m an Albertan too, I meant Edmonton place in best Cities to live in in the World?
            What’s that noise I here? Oh its Taylor Hall’s moving truck roaring down the highway back to Calgary the first chance he gets. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

          • LOL the Capitals better win this! They dominated the last series and then chunked it up big time! They usually do quite well on cheap beer night ๐Ÿ™‚ #SquashTheSnake

            Clearly, the people rating that article love heffers! Edm was as cheap as Dave Poile there for about 30 yrs. Things are a changin my man, centered around a hockey arena, not a dild…errr tower. The only way Hallsy is going to Calgary on a non-gamenight is to steal your most beautiful woman to bring back home, ALA Troy! Its a shame we already know about the trick of getting “inside the gates”. Oilers policy is NO flames, Flames policy is MORE Oilers (Steady Steve, GlenX)

          • RexLibris

            I’ve always been a little leery of the ranking systems that HF uses. I understand that they are trying to quantify and specifically rank some difficult targets but I’ve never found their source for those rankings. It’s nice to look through your teams prospects and find three or four or even six or seven top-ranked players who have the potential to turn into Seabrooks and Webers, but I always try to temper the enthusiasm.

            That being said, the Flames have had recent success in finding defencemen and that can save a team with limits on their offensive production or who run into injury trouble. I think the next 5 years of player development in Calgary will be very telling for the future of the franchise, more so than for about 2/3rds of the other teams in the league. I think you’re looking at needing at least a 50% success rate for your current list of prospects to avoid having to jump through hoops to attract the UFAs to fill those spots.

          • Vintage Flame

            I’m not really a fan of even ranking prospects. Especially in their first 2 years.

            Speculate all you want based on what you see, but to say this kid or that kid is going to slot here or there.. I don’t buy it.

            I can see rankings coming into the NHL, based on if the player has played to potential and shown development, or if they haven’t and shown a regression. But to say they will slot here or there is presumptuous to say the least.

            I defer to my previous comment that I’m sure no one predicted Gio would be a 1-2 D-man when he joined the Flames. Look at him now. I believe a player can out play their potential if they have the desire and the work ethic.


      I don’t get why people are always talkin smack about Babchuk. He played great for us last year. Sure he was sheltered, but he never gave me a reason to say “oh, he sucks!”. Throughout the season I saw this guys play improve to where he was blocking shots and his outlet passes were on mark. With the right matchup he was almost never a liability.

  • icedawg_42

    I should also say – I would not be surprised at all to see Sarich warm the pine for most of the season (if not all) and Carson get sent down for the season, if Brodie (or even Breen) is a stud in training camp.

  • icedawg_42

    ceiling wise? always tough to say..but based on the small sample I saw from last pre-season, if Brodie filled out and continued to develop at this rate, I could see top 4 puck mover at his ceiling. I dont think I’d go as far as saying top 2

    – I personally haven’t seen enough of Breen to make a call.

  • Vintage Flame

    I love reading articles from you VF because your point of view and mine are similar. It gives us reason to be optimistic about some future flames and that even though the organization isn’t loaded to the rafters with future talent, we do have some things that are on the horizon. So it is t all gloom & doom.

    Now im curious to see where you put guys like Howse & Reinhart in your next segment.

  • icedawg_42

    So Schevvy posed an interesting question: What’s Brodie and Breen’s ceiling? – I have Brodie top 4, I have Breen sliding nicely in at ???. How about you Vintage, Schevvy?

    • Vintage Flame

      I think Brodie for sure can be a 3-4 guy. If he builds his mass and can keep the speed, who knows right. Did anyone think Gio was a 1-2 man when he came back from Russia?

      Breen has some work to do, but if he’s willing to do all the little things and really focus on what he does well, while learning the things he doesn’t do so well, he could be a 3-4 guy too.

  • Super_Gio

    LOL Baboon he totally does look like that when he skates…
    Nice article VF, really excited to see how Breen does this year along with Brodie of course, but Breen is sort of the question mark for me

  • Super_Gio

    The way I see it, there are 3 d-man that in my opinion will be the core defenceman on this team for years to come J-bo, Gio and Brodie. Now maybe I’m putting too much faith in Brodie but judging from what I saw from him last year at camp and during the pre-season this guy could become a really good defender for the Flames. I don’t know much about Breen, so I’m not sure what to expect of him, maybe 4-5 d-man? not sure

  • Vintage Flame

    All this hockey talk and this chilly weather is too much to handle. I need hockey already!!!!

    And I agree on the thought of it being risky to peg prospects ceilings VF. Anything is possible in the NHL. That’s because people are capable of anything…

  • @ VF

    I hate it when im on here from my phone and posting. I tend to mess up my messages with typos. For example, in the first paragraph of the post you quoted a typo made my last sentence opposite of my intention. The lone “t” was supposed to be not. But the typo bug got me. Its not all gloom & doom I say!!!

    And I’ll keep reading unless you start sucking. Blogging is a business just like the game and its all what have you done for me lately. Lol im kidding.

    On another note, I feel like with this upcoming roster of the flames we would not be shocked by any result. Flames finish 3rd in the west we would say they played to their potential. Flames finish in 8-10 we would not be surprised since its nearly the same roster. If the flames finish last we would say they under achieved but would also say that feaster & co. Did not set them up for success.

    Vegas, you are screwed lol.

    • icedawg_42

      My gut is a 9-11 finish again, but without the season long roller coaster ride…no peaks/valleys, just a long boring ride to the edge of the playoffs. Hope I’m wrong and Butter can wring some success out of this roster. One thing is for certain I am curious to see the on ice product.

    • Scott

      I don’t know, if they finishe 3rd in the west, I think that would be cause for a parade regardless of how they do in the playoffs! But your right anywhere from 7-15th would be the expected range for next year. So pretty much no one will be surprised with how this team does.

  • icedawg_42


    Hey you better get out of your Delorian and come back to the times. Edmonton has offensive talent but after that it goes down faster than the thermometer in Siberia. So even though you has some good prospects you guys still have yet to build a team. Plus you might want to be more than a one year wonder too.

    As for the flames finishing third, well think about this. If Iggy, backlund, kipper, tangs, jbow, gio, jokinen, Bourque, and so on play to their potential its not a shock right? We just don’t see that here, we have too much under achievement like our friends to the north.

    • Scott

      I really don’t know if we can expect more out of Iggy, Tangs, or Jokinen then we got from them last year. especially now that Jokinen will be playing more defense. Kipper i beleive could come back to form, and a great rebound for Bourque would really help. I think those things alone get us close to the playofffs. The tipping point will be what can Backlund and Gio do above their results last year with new roles and more ice time. If they play to their potential consistently throughout hte season we should be able to get into the playoffs. We also need Sarich and Hannan to play crazy good defense and have babchuk put up 40+ points and have Butler hold his own.

      I’m not even gonna bring up Jbow.

  • Vintage Flame

    @ Scott

    I agree with you that its unlikely to see all the players be their best this season and would rule out the top of division finish. I’m just saying that its outside of the realm of realistic possibility for the squad.

    • Scott

      Yah Fair Enough, actually thinking about the players and how the improvement is possible made me think we may actually have a shot at playoffs this year. I was kind beleiving that Langkow was going to be that guy. But that being said, banking on a rebound year didn’t work out so great for this team the last 2 years, so I’ll wait an see.

  • I think you’re looking at needing at least a 50% success rate for your current list of prospects

    Man is that ever bad news since the Flames success rate at converting prospects to NHLers is well, well south of 50%. In fact, that’s a tall order fr the best teams in the league at player procurement.

    That said, after 2012 there may be a whole lot more openings on the roster…

  • I think you’re looking at needing at least a 50% success rate for your current list of prospects

    Man is that ever bad news since the Flames success rate at converting prospects to NHLers is well, well south of 50%. In fact, that’s a tall order fr the best teams in the league at player procurement.

    That said, after 2012 there may be a whole lot more openings on the roster…


      I think that conversion rate had a lot to do with D. Sutter attitude toward bringing in veterans over young players, while he was trying to “win now”, and he didn’t really seem to care what condition the farm was in. Prospects were ignored and the team wasn’t competitive, recipe for disaster.

      • I think Sutter cared about the farm. His need to keep the parent team forever within striking distance of winning and the total dearth of high end talent procured by the draft team during his time here sank things though. That and his penchant for dealing draft picks meant a small pool of talent and a very low rate of conversion.

        I was a pretty vocal critic of Sutter, particularly near the end. One thing I’d never say about him though is that he “didn’t care” though. There’s no question in my mind he hated to lose and wanted the Flames to be successful. He just lost his way at some point unfortunately.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    @ Scott

    Wait and see is the best approach to the year. However the first big loss of the year will suck to watch but will be hilarious because of all the people that will be lining the rooftops of Calgary while they post that its all going to hell. I’m twisted and am amused easily.

    As for lanks it does suck to see him go however it gives us flexibility to make trades if we are going in the right direction. If we suck and stemper has a 20+ goal season we could get a second for him at the deadline and I like those options. We flames fans are forever poisoned by sutters win now ideology so we are less open to this line of thinking.

  • RexLibris

    I agree, 50% is a gargantuan number and no team can reasonably expect to turn that many prospects into players, so I’m not trying to pick on the Flames development record. It has been abysmal, but there aren’t many (maybe any) teams that don’t have that period somewhere in their franchise history. My opinion is based on the observation made by yourself and some others that the Flames are in a slowly declining situation and that under those circumstances it is very difficult to attract cornerstone players as UFAs and as such some pieces will need to come internally. To that end, a top-line centre, a shut-down centre, some secondary scoring depth, a solid second-pairing defence, dependable plug-and-play 6th and 7th defencemen, a starting goaltender to take over from Kiprusoff in the next 3 years. Some of those things you have, some you don’t, but the ones that the Flames don’t have are pretty tough to find. Thus do I agree with some of the statements above that have said that right now prospects are having to achieve their respective ceilings in order for the team to improve.

  • Dr. Nick

    As much as I would like to see Breen and Brodie get a chance to play with the Flames, I would also like to see Clay Wilson and Derek Smith get a real chance to play decent minutes with the Flames. They have proven what they can do in the AHL, now they need a legitimate shot at the NHL. They may be career AHLers but someone has to give them the opportunity to succeed. But unless the D-Corp gets hit with a serious case of Injurious Significantus, me thinks that this is just wishful thinking.