Cammalleri Trade Implications

Last night Jay Feaster made his first major move of the new season, dealing another former Sutter cornerstone in Rene Bourque for disgruntled Hab Mike Cammalleri. Of course, Flames fans remember the latter from the 2008-09 season when he became the first Flames skater in a decade to score more goals than Jarome Iginla (39).

That was the high water for both the player and the team ever since. The Flames haven’t made the playoffs in the two intervening years and Cammalleri’s production and stock have fallen back down to earth. The hope, I suppose, is to see if Michael can rediscover the magic here and reinvigorate the Flames post-season chances in the process.

The Good

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see Cammalleri back on the team. I was thrilled when the Darryl acquired him the first time around and have always liked him as a player. He is crafty with the puck and has a very quick release. Cammalleri is an asset in the offensive zone and will likely make the Flames PP (which is still fairly abysmal) better.

Ridding the Flames of Bourque is also a boon both on and off the ice. Bourque arrived in town as a third-line, PK player who couldn’t score much but could be counted on to take relatively difficult assignments and survive. And despite being one of the Flames strongest overall forwards for the period of about two seasons, he eventually devolved into a third-line, PP player who can score but couldn’t be trusted against any quality competition whatsoever.

Make no mistake, Bourque was a liability and his contract was an albatross as a result. His goal and point totals have been decent since he stepped into the elevator shaft, but he has put up some of the worst possession and scoring chance ratios on the team. Whatever points he was accruing, he was costing the team in spades otherwise. In addition, his unfortunate penchant for taking way more penalties than he draws never went away. This year, for instance, only Corey Sarich has a worse penalty differential than Rene on the Flames.

Cammalleri isn’t a possession king himself, but he’s faced some of the toughest ice for the Canadiens this year and isn’t completely under water. He’s better at moving the puck north, better at distributing and draws way more minors than he takes. He’s also marginally younger than Bourque and his contract terminates two years earlier. The Flames got the better player in the deal.

The acquisition also means Calgary will be able to put together more than one offensively oriented line, particularly when (if?) Alex Tanguay returns. In fact, Sutter may be able to revert the Glencross/Jokinen duo back to a shut-down line and then run a couple of relatively sheltered scoring units including Backlund, Tanguay, Iginla and Cammalleri.

The Bad

When the trade was announced to the Saddledome faithful last night during the game, a big cheer rose up from the crowd. That’s because, as mentioned, Flames fans remember Cammalleri as a 39-goal, 82-point player and it’s those good vibes anchoring their perception of him now.

Unfortunately, Cammalleri’s true talent level isn’t of the 35+ goals, 80+ point variety. He has broken both plateaus only twice in in his career. His 39-goal performance in Calgary was predicated on a confluence of factors that are unlikely to repeat: cherry circumstances, lots of PP time and a career high shooting percentage of 15.3%. One of the reasons he has been unable to replicate his goal totals in Montreal is his SH% regressed back to normal levels (career average = 11.4%). Keep in mind he has just nine goals and 22-points in 38 games this year (47-point pace) which is why he was available in the first place.

Unfortunately, $6 million/year ($7 million in real dollars over the next two seasons) is a lot of scratch to pay for a 25-goal, 60-point guy (at best) who doesn’t necessarily excel against other big guns. While I noted earlier that Cammalleri has been better in terms of ES play than Bourque recently the truth is he’s never been a true heavy hitter at five-on-five. This year in Montreal, for instance, his corsi rate is a mediocre -2.87/60 (-0.4 relative).

For that reason reason this trade isn’t one that will push the Flames over the top. It makes the team better, but not in any earth moving, fundamental sense. The Flames primary weakness was and remains a lack of truly elite ES forwards – guys in the Kesler, Bergeron, Dastyuk mold who play in tough circumstances every night and excel. Relative to those forwards, Cammalleri is a support player – a better one than Bourque most likely – but he’s not a cornerstone figure around which the organization can re-orient themselves and begin challenging the best in business. The Flames range of ability hasn’t shifted from 7-10 in the Western Conference. All Cammalleri does is move the team a little closer to that particular ceiling and little further away from the floor.

The Cynical

There are other reasons to view this move with a jaundiced eye. The acquisition of an expensive, 30-year old former Flame is an echo of the prior (failed) Darryl Sutter regime. The Flames surrendered two futures in the deal (a second round pick and Patrick Holland) and while neither of them is a good bet to be impactful in the future, the decision suggests the focus of the club hasn’t notably shifted despite the changing of the guard. For those urgently seeking a sign that the organization has finally fixed their gaze on the future, this recent move is anathema. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

In my Follow the Money article I noted the Flames would be disinclined to pursue a true shift in direction owing to noteworthy revenue/gate receipts. While the club hasn’t enjoyed any real success on the ice in recent memory, the market has consistently reinforced the Flames brass and ownership’s management nonetheless. Winning is the surest way to market a team and leverage your stars for profit, but it apparently isn’t the only way.

The cheers I heard while attending the Ducks game were, I think, as much the goal of this addition as anything else. With the Flames sinking to 12th in the conference, suffering through multiple injuries and playing a brand of hockey that can only be described as "soul sucking" (six shots through two periods last night folks), a sizable portion of Cammalleri’s not insignificant ticket may be written off as "marketing expense".

The buzz around Darryl’s return on Satruday has increased from a low hum to a anticipatory rumble thanks to the Cammalleri deal. Just last week I heard rumors they were swaths of lower bowl seats empty during recent ‘Dome games. I can guarantee there won’t be a single empty ducket for the game come tomorrow night, however.

The Cammalleri addition was ostensibly made to renew the Flames playoff drive, but it will also enliven the fans obviously flagging interest as well. It may not accomplish the former, but the latter is all but assured.    

  • NateBaldwin

    I don’t want to bad mouth a player, but I felt like bourque’s contract was trending towards being more of a boat anchor than an asset. Maybe not this year, but with four years on the deal, and considering i felt we’d already seen his value peak, the only thing left for his contract was depreciation.

    Also I wonder if, and personally hope that conroy played a hand in this deal in some way.

    I think that goalies develop slowly so at 25 the prospect tag may still be appropriate.

    • Dr. Nick

      I have to admit, I am not a fan of that article. Bob is great and I am a huge fan plus he is 100X better than Spector, but that article is almost like an athlete apologizing after venting to the media. You know that the athlete meant what he said and is only apologizing so he doesn’t get egged in the parking lot or booed in a grocery store. Bob seems more like he is hedging his bet than making an honest opinion. The stats in the article don’t count for anything because comparing goals per game is like comparing plus/minus. Bourque may have more goals per game than Cammalleri over the last three seasons but Cammalleri recovered from more injuries than Bourque, dealt with more checkers than Bourque because he didn’t have a player like Iggy to keep them away from him, plus he played a different system under a different coach and played different teams more regularly. Cammalleri was facing more higher quality goalies like Thomas and Ludquivst on a regular basis than Bourque was, so that might account for some off those stats. So to include stats for why your opinion changed that are completely subjective, is just Bob’s way of apologizing to Hab fans for saying that the Habs got roasted by the trade.

  • RexLibris

    Spector used to get regularly booed in Edmonton too because he called out management and said they should have taken their chips off the table and cashed them all in after the Cup run in ’06.

    I get that what Spector wrote would royally tick off most Flames fans. Trust me, I’ve been there. He called the Oilers a team of in-betweens and never-gonna-bes and he was right. But while Spector can be a little divisive sometimes and he loves to call out mistakes as he sees them, he can be right. I’m not a Spector apologist, there are some things on which with him I will usually disagree. That being said, his generalizations about what Flames fans ought to support and not support aside, I have to say that overall I generally agree with his take on things. And in this regard, I tend to agree, but I’m not a Flames fan, so frankly what I think is only worth what anyone reading this believes it to be.

    My view is that this trade, while positive in that it brings in a better player right now and moves out one that had shown a clear inability to bring a consistent work ethic to the game, is only serving to further entrench the franchise in the now, at the expense of the future. If that’s what Flames fans want, well then, who cares what anyone else says. You’ve got a better team today than you did yesterday.

    I know the statistical evidence for the % of 2nd rounders that turn out to be good NHLers is in the 15% rance, but what I don’t understand is using that metric to try and justify trading those same picks in consecutive years. Sure, a 15% chance isn’t great, and the Flames have more failures than most at the draft table, but does not even taking a chance somehow improve those odds? To quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. I have noticed a great deal of apathy and disregard for draft picks outside of the first round in many comments made here. I get that feeling. I used to feel that those selections were just a waste of time because it seemed like the team I cheer for couldn’t have found their behinds with both hands at the draft table. It was always the New Jersey’s and the Chicago’s that were finding the right players.

    The fact that Feaster has moved out both 2nd rounders for the next two years isn’t a sign of a management team thinking about tomorrow. And if he’ll move those picks and a prospect like Holland for Cammalleri any fan would have to ask himself: “what is the price for Baertschi?” I believe that Feaster is going to keep moving players and assets until he feels the Flames are safely into the playoffs. And what Spector said about a 1st round matchup with Vancouver, well, I can’t say that he’s wrong, and I have said here that I’d like to see the Flames kick the Canucks out in the first round.

    So, like I said, if Flames fans wanted to improve right now, you did. You got the best player and shipped out an inconsistent player with a bad term contract. If Flames fans are worried about tomorrow, well I can’t say that right now I would disagree with them.

    Anyway, sorry if I’ve offended anyone, but good luck on the playoff run.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I completely agree with you on the value of second picks and as you quoted, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. You’re also right to say that if fans are looking for a rebuild that trading away 2nd rounders is not a winning strategy. That said, this trade as it stands is not neccessarily indicative of what will come in terms of future deals or the overall future of the Flames. I will (try) to be patient with Feasters activities until I see what he has accomplished before the start next season. I will then examine his entire body of work as the Flames GM.

      I may be alone in my view, but I think Feaster has improved the Flames (long term) a lot since starting, especially given the lack of wiggle room left behind by the last management team. Here is a quick review of his moves since becoming the full time GM that improve the Flames longterm:

      – drafted skilled fast players at draft (this may seem trivial, but it has not happened here in a long time.

      – turned around the Flames farm team in Abbotsford, by stacking the team with NHL talent, in particular on defense. He also hired an offensively minded coach, in Troy Ward. The Heat were terrible last year and at Christmas were near the top of the standings.

      – traded Regaer for a faster and younger player (Butler), as well as opened up cap space.

      – traded Langkow for a faster and younger player (Stempniak), as well as opened up cap space.

      – picked Blake Comeau (a faster and young player) off of the waiver wire.

      – traded an AHLer that was not going to make the big team for a speedy, gritty and young player (Blair Jones).

      – rid the team of an inconsistent player with an onerous long contract for a faster, more intense difference maker with 2 years left on his contract (Cammalleri).

      When you look his entire body of work, I think most will acknowledge that some progress has been made.

      • RexLibris

        I agree that Feaster has improved some aspects of this team, with the caveat that what Sutter had done to this roster was almost inexcusable (failing to dress the required number of skaters because you’ve screwed up your cap). So far, I would say that Feaster has accomplished more effectively what Sutter was trying to do: retrofit an aging core by acquiring talent through trades. Had Sutter made some of these trades they’d be conditional 1st rounders rather than 2nd rounders (I’m kidding, but that has been one noticeable change). He’d likely also have stubbornly maintained his draft habits.

        I counted last night and based on some rudimentary math (my fingers) I figured that Feaster has traded away and for 4 draft picks each. I may be wrong, but I think he’s breaking about even in that category in terms of numbers. He has, however, moved more higher round picks than he has obtained.

        I think fans in Calgary should be happy with the improvement in Abbotsford but cautious that the success is being had through the work of veteran AHLers rather than developing talent. The good news is that when players like Reinhart and Baertschi get to the AHL they will likely come into a successful farm system.

        I also understand the excitement Flames fans feel about finally drafting what appears to be, by all accounts, a actual NHL prospect. I know I’m being a little facetious here, but I really do get it.

        For me, I’d wait until next year’s trade deadline/draft (that’s 2013) to really analyze what Feaster has done for the team. Tambellini tried to acquire Hossa, Heatley, and then went out and got Khabibulin in his first year. Bad. But his management decisions in bringing in MacGregor, Mike Sillinger, Todd Nelson, and a host of others and his commitment to rebuilding through the draft patiently have been successful thus far. The key word for assessing any GM though, is patience. Be patient with Feaster to see what happens with this roster, not in a single game, but over the course of an entire season. I say the same thing when people say Tambellini sucks because the Oilers still suck. We’re rebuilding through the draft, most of those players we’ve drafted and that will make the biggest difference are still in junior or the AHL. I don’t know why this seems to come as a shock to hockey fans, but the draft is seven rounds, some picks take time. Bobby Ryan was in the AHL for two to three years after he was selected 2nd overall behind Sidney Crosby.

        One difference between the two GMs, is that Feaster will probably still be around to see the culmination of his project, for better or worse. GMs who architect rebuilds, however, rarely survive the growing pains.

        Feaster has shown that isn’t afraid to move bodies, and when it comes down to it, that may be what he does best for the Flames franchise.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          I don’t neccessarily disagree on giving Feaster the 2013 Trade Deadline, in order to judge his effectiveness of GM, in terms of improving both the present team and the future prospects. I should carify that what I’m really looking to judge is the direction and overall plan that Feaster has for the team. It might not completed fair, since he may not be able to complete the trades he wants to at the deadline or after the season ends, and this would blur the true direction.

          On on the Abbotsford Heat, again I agree Feaster stacked the team with veteran AHLers, but this is exactly what I’m happy about. He has made he best of another bad situation (not enough quality prospects that are capable of making the NHL). So far, we’ve witnessed 3 benefits: 1. It’s now a winning team, which is a better environment for the young prospects 2. Feaster managed to make something out of nothing (Mikkellson for Jones) and optimistically, he may be able to do the same with Kolanos and Clay Wilson. 3. The new depth has helped the Flames (particularly on defense) with all the injuries this season.

          Lastly, I forgot to mention Feaster’s best move, which was to to hire John Weisbrod, who I think is the real architect behind the moves.

          • RexLibris

            Interesting point about Weisbrod. I had a discussion here a few weeks ago with someone (I can’t recall exactly who) that was less-then-enthused about Weisbrod’s involvement with this group given his own track record with the Orlando Magic. I think Weisbrod may, at this point, be like the Mike Gillis hiring in Vancouver. If it works out well King and Feaster will look like geniuses that outsmarted the hockey world. If it doesn’t, it will look like law-school nepotism.

            I think the Flames are attempting to take a page from the Red Wings structure (something that the Oilers are also in the process of doing) which is to surround a management team with “good” hockey minds and have the strengths of each create a stronger whole. Thus far it seems to largely consist of Conroy, Weisbrod, and Feaster (there are probably more, but I don’t know the whole structure that well).

            Trying to chart the direction of the team right now appears to me to be: take this veteran group, add some complementary talent and upgrade at the necessary positions, use entry-level contracts where available, and aim for a mid-level playoff seed with the goal of challenging for a Stanley Cup. Sound about right?

          • RKD

            Hey Rex. I see it a little bit different. Helped by injuries Feaster has been able to see young players outperform veterans at a fraction of the cost. I call this kind of the Ottawa effect. We are only 3 points out of playoffs, what a bonus if we kind blow up the UFA’s & get picks back & have unexpected suprises scratching the playoffs. I think that Cammi trade has really set up this scenario. Guys like Moss, Sarich, Hannan, Stempniak, Comeau, Babchuk, depending on overpayment, the likes of Kosto & Jackman all can replaced with players that are hungry, cheaper and playing just as effectively(Jones & Bouma). The bigger deals can wait until the off season. I have stated over & over that Darryl Sutter had such a dysfunctional cap/player structure where 3.0mill players were healthy scratches or playing on the 3rd & 4th lines and that smothered players like Brodie & Horak & Backlund from opportunity & restricted the Flames to acquire stars for the top line.Feaster is shifting this structure and is being reinforced with what has been happening.
            I’m finding how this is all unfolding quite interesting. So I think Feaster is saying, we want to make the playoffs, what else is he going to say, but he is shifting this player salary cap structure as quick as he possibly can. I dont think a Stanley Cup is what he expects if he were to take a polygraph.

          • RKD

            Great point, I also see this as a positive thing. At first I didn’t like what feaster was doing but looking at his body of work i am starting to change my opinion. He’s created a winning atmosphere in the ahl. And he is unloading boat anchors like kotalik and bourque. I’m not a fan of blowing the team up. I think it is possible to rebuild while staying somewhat competative.

          • RKD

            Well if you think about it, with the amount of UFA’s that are going to turn over either at the trade deadline or just not resigned is pretty close to a blow up & that without moving any big pieces. That still may happen this summer. Some things you just have to let take its course.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I just don’t see how people are saying that since we’re getting cammy it prevents the team from rebuilding. Cammy isn’t old, he’s 29/30. Most importantly his contract ends in 2 years. It is more expensive than bourques but calgary is not stuck with a player that is known around the league to have motivational issues. Borque is way tougher to move, If we didn’t do it now I don’t think we could have gotten as big a return. Cammy is way easier to move if they need to. We got him for pretty cheap because of how he’s been playing this year. His return at next years trade deadline could be double what we payed. I’d say that makes this an excellent trade.

    I just don’t see how this trade hurts the team 5 years from now. loosing a second rounder sucks, but the draft is still half a year away. There is ample time for feaster to pick one up if he wants to.

    Also I thought most people here really really wanted to trade bourque… now that we do we aren’t happy about it???

  • icedawg_42

    Like Kevin R said. I think feaster is trying to have his cake and eat it too (we all know how much he likes his cake). I am starting to see a glimmer of hope. I think he may be able to pull it off.

  • RKD

    Feaster has made this team younger by trading Langkow and Regeher. A lot of youth has been injected into the lineup with Brodie, Smith, Horak, Byron, Butler, etc.

    However, if you listen to Feaster carefully in his most recent interview before he says “We want to make the playoffs this season”, he says “We want to win now.”

    I agree Feaster is setting himself up for a long term plan, but as long as the Flames are anywhere from 7-12. They will still be buyers. My guess is they just ride out the season and a let a whole stack of contracts expire.

    If they do miss the playoffs again, something bigger has to be done in the offseason. A real impact cornerstone franchise player needs to come here.

    Someone Iginla can pass the torch to. Lanny McDonald>Theo Fleury>Jarome Iginla>???

  • RKD

    Don’t think the Cammalleri the Flames are getting back is anywhere close to the one that they lost to free agency 3 years ago. He scored a lot of goals using his speed in his first season in Montreal but never got his speed back after successive knee injuries. He then turned from a guy that could create chances for himself into a player totally dependent on high quality playmakers to feed him passes in open nets. He is no longer capable of carrying the puck through the neutral zone and blue line and he will stay away from the slot against physical defenses. I strongly feel the most that can be expected out of him now is 20-25 goals if he plays on the first line and even less if he’s asked to carry a 2nd or third line on his back. Bourque is nowhere as much of a defensive liability as Cammalleri is. Cammy is accumulating minus differential faster than dow jones in 2009. This at 7 millions a year will make him one of the most grossly overpaid players in the league. The Flames will be lucky to get more than 5-6 goals out of him through the last 30 games.