Flames 2012 RFA Profiles: Akim Aliu

If there’s one player that people will trot out to pledge allegiance to Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward and his work with reclamation projects, it’s probably Akim Aliu. While the stories regarding Ryan Howse’s weight gain (and loss) are fine and dandy, it’s with Aliu that Ward delivered some startling results and delivered a habitually under-achieving player to the NHL.

Well, sort of.


Before this season, Akim Aliu was a cautionary tale. Infamous for some clashes with teammates in junior over hazing, Aliu was drafted by Chicago in 2007 and bounced around the minor leagues for the past five seasons. He played for five different minor league clubs and had his rights traded before landing in Abbotsford on a loan from the Winnipeg Jets organization. Ward liked what he saw, dished out some tough love and ordered the youngster to completely change how he played and carried himself, including buying new suits and getting a haircut.

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The results were some consistency from Aliu, a shortened 14-point season with the Abbotsford Heat and a two-game NHL call-up at the end of the year to try his luck at the big time. While Aliu was out-shot in his two-game recall, he delivered some offense while being thrown to the wolves – he started primarily in his own zone and usually against the opposition’s better players.

Uncertain Role

That said, it’s hard to figure out exactly what Akim Aliu brings to the table. He was great in Calgary, but I wouldn’t expect his offensive outburst to be representative of what he can do on a regular basis. His NHLE pro-rated for a full AHL season is only 12 points, so even with an occasional outburst (like against Anaheim in Game 82), he’s probably around 20 points a year. Hardly an offensive world-breaker.

Aliu was qualified for next season and will likely be retained by the Flames, with a deal probably worth close to $880,000 at the NHL level. Considering he’s likely a fourth-line energy guy at best, that ticket is a bit rich (Lance Bouma and Tim Jackman are both making around $650,000, for instance).

He’s a project who will spend at least half of the year in the AHL, though, so it’s not like re-signing him to see if he can continue to grow towards his potential is a particularly risky venture.

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  • jeremywilhelm

    Why was the 10 minute in Anaheim idiotic? He was sticking up for himself against Parros who was going after him at the bench. Parros got a 10 as well. You let yourself get pushed around when you are young and in the NHL and you look about as effective as Greg Nemisz.

  • Aliu is a project that Troy Ward can take credit for reclaiming. I admire both Ward and Aliu for the work they put in (I hope that Ward can similarly work his magic by rebuilding Ryan Howse). But I question whether the player we saw in that debut at the end of last season would be sufficient to eke out a spot on the NHL roster to begin next year.

    Aliu is a big body, but I don’t see him being more than a fourth liner in the same mould as Lance Bouma who is another bubble guy.

    The $880K you quote would be as a result of him accepting the qualifying offer. While I agree with qualifying him, I don’t think he is worthy of numbers greater than Jackman or Bouma.

  • From an off the ice perspective the Aliu story is a great one. The joy on his face during his call up to the Flames was a sight to see.

    From a hockey perspective, I think you hit the nail on the head Ryan. There is really not much evidence he can be a top-6 or even top-9 NHL player. That being said, taking a shot on his continued development really is no risk. Price tag may be a little high but nothing that will break the bank. If he pans out great, if not we really lost nothing.

    It’s a guy like Irving that really concerns me. The stats don’t really look promising and I just hope he doesn’t go the way of many of our other wasted first rounders from the sutter era.

  • everton fc

    Aliu may have more offencive tools than Bouma, but doesn’t appear to be too good with the mitts off if you check Youtube. Right now. Bouma’s better. Obviously.

    Aliu’s not a bad interview. He seems to want to be a team guy. Looking for a place to fit in. I thinK Ward deserves maximum credit for getting this kid to buy into changing who he is…

    Could Aliu replace Jackman on the right-side of the 4th line by the start of the season? He’d certainly score more points…

  • jeremywilhelm

    Aliu could eventually make the NHL as a 4th liner. Thats about his ceiling. But that doesnt mean thats a bad thing. Kid is big, needs to learn how to skate better and is fearless when hitting. Great Great 4th liner traits that the Flames have lacked.

  • beloch

    Two points about Aliu:

    1. He looked great on the ice when none of the other players out there gave a crap. He was clearly elated to be in the NHL, even if it was just for two games, and knew he had to impress. Calgary had already been eliminated. Anaheim had already been eliminated. The Canucks were trying to clinch the President’s trophy but they still slacked off as the ‘Nucks are prone to doing. It remains to be seen what Aliu can do when playing with/against players who actually care about the outcome.

    2. Against Vancouver he took a roughing penalty. Against Anaheim he took an idiotic 10 minute misconduct because he didn’t have the discipline to shut his yap. He’s been flagged as a discipline problem in the minors and did his best during his audition to prove he hasn’t changed one bit. Cheap, high-energy fourth liners are nice to have, but not if they rack up unnecessary penalty minutes.

    In short, I like Aliu’s story, but I’m still highly skeptical of his worth as a player. He has a lot left to prove.

  • Bikeit

    Yah problems with teamates. It was that little puke Downie who always has it coming to him.

    Ward’s secret is that he gives young players direction (Life and Hockey) as well as hope that if they work hard and play smart they will get rewarded.

    Hopefully Aliu is a late bloomer. He seems like he would be a good thrid line non-checking role. Get the puck in deep and go get it. Then he has goods hands to feed it off.

  • Bikeit

    @ JW: Absolutely he had to stand up for himself. If we are going to bring the skilled kids like Baers & Gaudreau, Cerevenkas & Backlunds, we need guys like Jones & Aliu to open up the ice. No ifs or buts. Give them a chance, I would rather watch the Alius, Boumas & Jones & Jackmans who hit, care & give 110% as opposed to the Kotaliks, Stajans, Hagmans, who get 4 times the pay. What have we got lose next year, lets give them a chance, they may even surprise & pot 10-15 goals. Worst case, we can draft some quality skill next year.

  • Bikeit

    Optimism is contagious.

    We all comment about the unimportance of leadership, and while I agree with that sentiment, there is something to be said about optimism in the dressing room.

    Bodies like Jackman and Kostopolois have a little more to be jaded about, whether they are or not. Aliu will do ANYTHING for the logo on the front of his chest. He is a good employee and thankful to the organization.

    Beyond that, he has some ‘intagibles’ (I hate this term but it fits). This team lacks a true antagonist, and had close to the fewest pps in the league last year (not sure if we ended with the fewest). More important than his points were the power play opportunities he generated. He put us in a position to score.

    For this reason, I would prefer Aliu to Jackman or Kostopolous.

    • everton fc


      Awesome post. I think we need grit on our 4th line. We also need an agitator. Aliu may fit the bill.

      On top of that, he may have some offencive skills. Unlike Jackman.

      And since I’ve seen him interviewed, I also think he’d do anything to wear the Flaming C.

  • Stockley

    Last time I had a comment on this site about tough guys and agitators I was throughly horse whipped by the writers here and advised being toughness had no place in the game. I was told there were no stats to show the value of an aliu or bouma to the team and thus they are useless. Just saying, this article gives a strange message from flamesnation. We actually agree we should keep aliu who would have no statistical value, but would add toughness and a agitator to the lineup. I believe a guy like this, or even better, someone like brandon prust, would be a great addition to the flames 4th line.