Why the Calgary Flames should not be interested in Jason Arnott

Jason Arnott, Johnmaxmena/Wikimedia Commons

August starts tomorrow, and the Calgary Flames still look weak up the middle, with many suggesting some combination of Mike Cammalleri, Roman Cervenka, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Backlund and Matt Stajan as the team’s top-three centres.

The free agent market has been pretty much picked over, but one ‘name’ centre remains. 6’5”, 220 lb Jason Arnott scored 17 goals last season, went over 50% in the faceoff circle, and unlike a lot of the Flames current options is a natural centre. Despite that, he’s not the solution to Calgary’s problems.

The problem is the role that Arnott has played over the last couple of seasons. What the Flames have in abundance are guys with the ability to play offensive minutes; what they lack is a strong two-way option down the middle to give the coaching staff a guy to match against top opponents. Jason Arnott does not solve that problem.

According to behindthenet.ca, Arnott ranked 11th among Blues forwards with 40+ games last year in Quality of Competition, narrowly ahead of Scott Nichol and Brandon Crombeen. The year prior is a little more difficult to ascertain because he played for multiple teams, but applying his Quality of Competition to the New Jersey Devils roster, he would have ranked ninth among regular forwards. The last time he was regularly matched against top opposition was 2009-10 in Nashville.

Arnott is also a few years removed from significant defensive zone duty. In St. Louis, he started 60% of his non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive end of the rink, one of the highest totals on the roster (of the Blues other centres, only Alex Steen at 52.6% saw more offensive zone than defensive zone starts). The last time he saw as much defensive zone time as offensive zone time was 2009-10 in Nashville, where he had a 50/50 split.

Despite getting tons of offensive zone minutes, Arnott didn’t do a lot of actual scoring. He was an excellent power play option for the Blues, but scored just 1.44 points per hour in 5-on-5 situations (a hair higher than 2010-11, where he scored 1.40 points per hour). For the sake of comparison, on the Flames’ roster last season that 1.44 points/60 would have slotted between Lee Stempniak (1.72 PTS/60) and Matt Stajan (1.30 PTS/60).

At this stage in his career, Arnott can play a depth role at even-strength (where he adds size and faceoff ability) while aiding a team on the power play. That’s not the kind of player the Flames need – if they’re going to add an NHL contract, they need a two-way player who can help carry the load at even-strength.

Jason Arnott’s still a useful player, and there are NHL teams that could use his skillset. It’s just a poor fit in Calgary.

  • loudogYYC

    Arnott would have been great in Calgary back in the 2005-2008 era when they relied on Langkow for everything.
    Now he’s too washed up and still a prima donna. He’s useless on a team that isn’t already stacked. Philly should sign him if they have to trade one of their C’s away.

  • jeremywilhelm

    I wasn’t aware that anyone anywhere was connecting the Flames to Arnott!! I find the possibility frightening.

    an alternative to the 2way/defensive center would be a guy who can play with Iginla (through trade, obviously). I say this because Backlund seems like he can be decent in the 2way/defensive role (and he’s pretty much guaranteed to be that guy anyway, unless the Flames make a fairly significant move).

    if the Flames were to add Langkow in free agency, I would hope they’d drop a winger for a draft pick or something. So many contracts. So many forwards (wingers).

  • McRib

    Dallas signs Jaromir Jagr (40 Years Old) and Ryan Whitney ( 40 Years Old) and people are praising their off season talking about how they are so much better after they traded their second leading scorer (Ribeiro) for a smaller unproven prospect and dumped their second line character centre (Ott) for a guy who had serious injuries two season ago and is undergoing surgery, who also only really had one good year in a contract season (Roy). Every fan I know of Buffalo was ecstatic that they got Roy off their books because he hasn’t broken a sweat since signing that contract

    Yet half of the so called Flames fans are saying we are a worse team for picking up a Top 10 offensive defenseman, the Second Best European Free Agent (after Jakob Silfverberg) and a winger who registared 50 points with zero PP time.

    Man I cannot wait for the season to get going and silence the need for this ridiculous total rebuild talk. When was the last time Detroit had a total rebuild? As long as we keep drafting well the prospect will come.

    I agree Jason Arnott is not a good fit for the Flames but how is signing two 40 year olds making another club better and we need to trade two future Hall of Famers because they are 35, please stop being so fickle.

    • jeremywilhelm

      I’m curious, who is saying the Flames are worse? Certainly the center depth is concerning, but I don’t believe anyone actually thinks the Flames’ roster looks worse than it did at the start of last season. We have a better idea what we have in Butler (though some people still seem to think that Babchuk is better–seriously, I’ve seen people on other sites explicitly say that!) and Wideman is orders of magnitude better than Hannan. People look at Jokinen’s size and production and assume he’s a huge loss… he’s a big one, but Backlund should rebound, we have Cammalleri for a full season, and (as you mentioned), signed Cervenka. Moreover, the addition of Hudler is… interesting. A full season with Blair Jones… another year of development for Horak… and let’s not forget Sven.

      All that said, the center depth IS a concern, and a big one. If Backlund or Cammalleri gets hurt, or if Cervenka flops… ouch.

      a few things:

      Silfverberg was a Sens draft pick, not a free agent.

      I don’t believe Ott has ever played center (or ever will). Might have been a typo.

      Ray Whitney is awesome.

      • Every site I’ve seen lists Ott as a center. Pretty sure he plays center.

        I agree about the current roster not being much worse than last years (if at all). I think that people are more upset about the lack of real activity via acquiring new players and putting together a team that can actually win, whether that’s now or in the future. It just gets taken out on players with bloated contracts and players who have yet to even play for the Flames to prove their worth.

        Sure, Feaster and co. are getting creative – signing a “coveted” European player, drafting a high school kid potentially too high, and bringing on an ex-Red Wing who has won a Cup before. That doesn’t necessarily put this team in a winning position, now or in the future. Unless Baerstchi steps in and scores 50g50a his first season, this team likely faces a 9th place finish or a first-round exit.

        As far as Jason Arnott… this will be the one time Feaster reads FN and god help us all.

        Jay – “Oh, Jason Arnott, I didn’t realize he was available and good on the faceoff. I’d better offer him $4M per for 4 years like Olli wanted, with a full NMC, and bump that Backlund kid to Abbottsford. Craig, fetch my rag on a stick!”

    • BurningSensation

      The ‘Total Rebuild’ crowd is almost consumed by the ‘Iginla haters’ group.

      We have; an entirely new 2nd line, added a top 4 Dman, imported an offensive pivot on the cheap, and started the restocking of the farm team – but all we hear is moaning from the ‘Total Rebuild Now’ faction that they want to trade Iggy for picks, and that anything but total devotion to finishing last is failure.

      Being in the position of the Oilers drafting 1st overall three years running isn’t the answer to the problem, it is the definition of the problem.

  • @FireOnIce

    “Every site I’ve seen lists Ott as a center. Pretty sure he plays center.”

    if he was on Dallas’ 2nd line, he wasn’t a center because the center was Ribiero.

    Eriksson – Benn – Ryder

    Morrow – Ribiero – Ott

  • BurningSensation

    @McRib – yeah, the last 6 years really haven’t done much to silence the rebuild talk. This year will be no different.

    Flames, I think, are better this year. But so are the Oilers, the Wild, LA will finish higher, etc.

    I don’t think Jagr and Whitney make Dallas much better at all, btw. And I’ve never been big on Roy.

    That said, seeing as how the Flames will once again finish in the 9-11 range, they should have traded floater Iginla at the trade deadline. At this point, a first round pick would be better than keeping Iginla. We can’t make the playoffs anyways, so go all in. Let’s get on with it already.

    Also, Detroit is a playoff team (see above paragraph).

    Finally, yes, keep drafting well and we’ll eventually get there. By that time, Iginla will be in a wheelchair. Also, hard to do when you’re always drafting 14-17.

  • BurningSensation

    @Burning Sensation – it’s called facing reality. I’ve picked all of Calgary’s last 6 season finishes with 100% accuracy. I’m certainly not alone either. The team needs to be rebuilt properly, not band-aided every year while spending to the cap max, just to fight for 8th.

    What’s the difference between the Oilers and Flames in the standings? If you’re out, you’re out. At least the Oil are building towards something that has a chance of winning a Cup and not just treading water.

    But, I read these comments every year. “This season will be different. Bunch of haters! How can ‘fans’ say these things? Just watch! We have a brand new whatever!” And then the season ends and people still refuse to rebuild, just repeat the same old mantra. Summer 2013, after yet another playoff miss, will yield the same comments.

    • BurningSensation

      “facing reality”?? Knowing your team sucks so much, and your a failure as an organization, that your main objective now is not to games in order to win the CUp, but LOSE games in order to procure a higher draft position. I don’t understand how the Oilers are doing it “properly”. The management has driven the team into the ground of their own accord, and their backup plan is to just lose every game they play in? How is that shrewd management? If every team that can’t make the playoffs did that, whats the difference between their GMs and the fans sitting in the seats?

      The Flames don’t need to blow it up. Not every rebuild is successful (see Chicago’s Kyle Calder/Tyler Arnason days, NYI, CLB). If they’re scouting and development continue to improve, there won’t be any need to rebuild. The Boston Bruins, the Cup Champs from 2011, didn’t have to do a rebuild to win the Cup. Vancouver didn’t have to in order to become an elite team.

      The Flames are in a re-tool sort of mode. They continue to push for the playoffs, but are giving their younger kids a chance to play. If they rebuild and trade guys like GlenX, Hudler, and Iginla, who are the kids going to play with here in 2-3 years? The Flames are transitioning their team to a younger roster by putting their future players (Brodie, Bouma, Horak, this year SVEN) behind capable NHLers. If they jump into a rebuild and trade every marginal asset they have, kids are going to get dominated against top-flight competition when they play them.

  • BurningSensation

    @ Burning Sensation & Mcrib: I dont know guys, 3 years straight of no playoffs & the last 2 we were entrenched in lottery positions in December. If it werent for some overachieving Jan/Feb months, we wouldnt even by in the March playoff race. By April we consistently lose big games and watch our magic number go down exponentially. At some point you need to make some major changes, whether you call it rebuild or retool or whatever, its all semantics. I still stand by the fact that trading the likes of older core/star players like Kipper & Iggy is not a blow up. It is a franchise being prudent and maxing out the value of its assets to ensure longterm continuity & success. I love Iggy & Kipper just like Nieuy & Chopper & Mikey Vernon are some of my favorite Flames of all time. But I want to win & trust me, Iggy & Kipper are not financially hurting. In fact, the City of Calgary has been the best things that have ever happened to these guys, for them & their families for generations to come.

  • BurningSensation

    just looked at the faceoff stats for the Stars… Ott took A LOT of draws (second on the team to Fiddler). and he was good too, ~55%. I must be remembering wrong.

    for whatever reason, Ott has always been a pain-in-the-ass winger in my head.

  • BurningSensation

    @Old Chester

    The Flames indeed painted themselves into this corner through poor drafting and development. Which is why they need a rebuild. Too little, too late now. You can stay at the top if you keep drafting well, but you need a base. Calgary is a team of band-aids and have run their organization that way for 20 years now. Results? One miracle run on the back of a hot goalie under a rule system that allowed full-on tackling.

    No, not every rebuild is successful. Just about half of them, which is better odds than what Calgary has of winning anything.

    The Oilers aren’t perfect by any stretch, but if they fill a few holes they’re loaded with young talent. A solid goalie alone would drastically improve that team.

    If Edmonton hadn’t rebuilt, would they be any better off? How so? Out of the playoffs is out of the playoffs.

    Better than grasping for straws every year.

    Btw, how old is Iginla? 35 this year. By the time Calgary’s prospects (assuming they pan out) hit their stride Iginla, Cammi and Tanguay will be out to pasture anyways. The age gap is too great. Cverenka (yet to play one game) and Hulder aren’t enough and will also be 30+ by the time these prospects pan out.

    Yet, the team spends to the max every year just to fight for 8th. And you’re behind that? Ok. Each to their own, I suppose. As long as fans support the team, why should the owners make drastic changes?

    I just find it amusing that the same people that blasted Toronto for doing the same thing (no true rebuild from the ground up) not moving Sundin, etc. have no problem putting on the rose-colored glasses when it comes to their own team.

    Lets not forget who beat who during the last 2 matchups last season while the Flames were in ‘desperation’ mode.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Edmonton had no choice to rebuild because their management staff is a freakin joke. Signing Horcoff to his monster deal, signing Penner to his offer sheet, trading Pronger for a return that never panned out, except for Smid. Signing an aging Khabibulin to a 4 year deal.

      At the time the Oilers attempted their initial rebuild, with guys like Gagner, Cogliano, and Nilsonn, the team was already horrible. They were sitting in the bottom of the conferenece as usual. They had no assets that they could build around except maybe Gagner, Smid, and Hemsky. The management was forced to the take the only option available to them; a full scale rebuild.

      The Flames are not yet in the Oilers position. Sure, their roster is aging, but they still have nice pieces. Mikeal Backlund will rebound this season and should be a good 2nd line centreman, right in the prime of his career when the prospects are ready. Guys like Blair Jones and Mike Cammaleri still have a couple years left, and will allow the Flames to grow into a transition phase. And let’s not forget the guys who will step into the Flames roster this year full time, in Bouma and Baertschi. It’s not like the Flames are going to one season just throw every prospect they have onto the NHL Roster at the same time. They’ll sprinkle guys every year. If they don’t want to trade Iggy, keep him around to take pressure off SVEN.

      The Flames don’t have to suck at the bottom of the conference to rebuild. Drafting and development is all thats needed, and the Flames are headed in the right direction in those 2 categories the last couple of years with their younger prospects.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Can people stop saying this? Edmonton did not choose to rebuild! They kept trying to win and failed spectacularly. They never traded any big names (except maybe Ryan Smyth), they just left. Please enough already with the Edmonton model. The Flames are following the Edmonton path right now according to most of you anyway. You cannot plan for 3 1st overall picks in a row. I still don’t see any signs of their being a contender.

      What the F*** is a ‘true rebuild’, anyway? Rebuilding to me is not trading away good prospects and draft picks for players now. As long as you’re drafting well, you’re rebuilding. The only thing that I really disagree with with Flames management is that they absolutely refuse to consider trading Iginla. If you can get a good young player and a draft pick for him still, I think the team is better right now. I don’t think the Flames are as bad as their record, I think they lack (regardless of player polls) a true leader. I’m worried that management will turn Iginla into a hated man in this city before the end of his career. But, we’ll see if Hartley makes any difference for him. He can still score, if he can just find the old passion consistently, he can still be good.

      Just enough of the “Do it like Edmonton” crap. Please. Outside of picking Jordan Eberle, maybe Justin Schultz (wait and see), they haven’t ‘done’ anything except suck.

      • The Last Big Bear

        @Steve – you need to reread what I wrote or perhaps I’m just not very clear, in which case I apologize.

        I state that Edmonton tried to hang onto vets. I later state that I can see Calgary being forced into what they’re doing now.

        What I am saying is that I wish we would choose to get rid of our vets (on agradual basis) rather than trying desperately to go for 8th with guys in their 30’s while also trying to rebuild. Again, I think the age gap is too great and in a year or two when Cammi and Iggy go right over the cliff the team will be in trouble.

        I’ve been all for just moving Iginla to kickstart things by desgin while moving some of the older guys a piece at a time in order to ease the transition so that we don’t go as low as Edmonton.

        When I defend the Oil now it’s in response to “they suck and their way is no better.” One look at the amount of young talent they have dispels that. They will turn the corner. Flames need more emphasis on rebuild while going about it in a manner different from their current approach or Edmonton’s approach.

        I know this seems contradictory. In short I’m advocating a rebuild that is by design, that is by choice, where we can acquire more picks, more prospects, higher picks, but in a controlled manner. Because I do see the Flames eventually crashing and burning, following the “Edmonton-path,” as you out it.

        What I’m railing against is the band-aid solutions and spending to the max just to try for 8th.

        Hope that clarifies.

        • The Last Big Bear

          Yeah, I think I read you correctly. It does sound contradictory.

          I’m saying – the Oilers have never had an approach. Where they are just happened. You’re saying Calgary is in danger of following the same path. The path that you say has led Edmonton to such a bright future. It would not be bright if it weren’t for the 3 consecutive number ones, it would be very, very dark. So I still don’t get what you’re actually saying there.

          Then you say you don’t think the Flames should try to tank, just gradually get rid of some older players. Which is what I think the Flames are doing – gone are Jokinen, Langkow, Morrison, Regehr in are Hudler, Cervenka, Wideman, Baertschi, Comeau. Not all young guys ready to hit their prime, but you can’t just pick up guys like that without giving up your future. So, we’re gradually getting younger, and will continue to. I do agree that the core (Jarome, Tangs) is a little older, and I would definitely agree with a Jarome trade if it fetched the right return, which I still think is a win-now approach, not rebuild. And I think Feaster would trade any of the other older guys if it got a good return.

          So Edmonton’s got a bright future, we should be like them, but we shouldn’t be like them, we should just gradually get younger, which is what they’re doing except for Iginla, whom I said they should probably trade in my original response. We just shouldn’t try to fix holes and that will give us a bright future like Edmonton, whom we shouldn’t try to be like.

          I think you always try to win. Otherwise you’re just a Chinese badminton team.

  • The Last Big Bear

    As a first time commentor I hope I don’t offend too many people with this post. Here we go… While following the Olympics I read an article on CTV’s website that goes along with the game plan of failing for favorable circumstances.. Here is a piece of the article:

    Those two pairs, along with two other teams, were disqualified on Wednesday for “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport,” the Badminton World Federation said in a statement.

    This is why I am a fan of the Flames game plan. They want to win and keep hockey exciting. Feaster has me interested in seeing how we are going to do this year. We may not be a cup contender, but we are not abusing the system or becoming a detriment to the sport. Maybe the system is flawed, but I will gladly take three years of 9th place finishes while trying to win over being the last place team in the league for two years and the second last for one more year while getting three prospects.

  • The Last Big Bear

    As for Arnott, bringing in another depth centre on a 1-way contract is the absolute last thing the team needs to do. Regardless of his style of play or offensive zone starts.

  • The Last Big Bear

    @Old Chester – Agree, the drafting and development seems to have improved. It actually started to improve even while Darryl was here after he finally relented on changing their draft strategies.

    I just feel that hanging onto the old guys isn’t really helping. Edmonton tried that too. IMO, we will end up being forced into a rebuild in a year or so. We may not be as bad as the Oilers have bee the last few years, but I have a hard time seeing the team trending upwards before our prospects make any real impact. I do, however, like our prospect group.

    I’d just have rather seen Calgary capitalize on moving some of their vets and finishing a little lower (at a somewhat controlled pace) rather than fight for 8th and miss the playoffs anyways.

    Some people prefer it and find that it’s entertaining. My only wish is to build a true Cup contender.

    In the end, I think the current strategy will take longer and yield less fruit, if that makes any sense.

  • The Last Big Bear

    @Steve – I always try to win:)

    Was Edmonton was forced to do what they did? Yes. (btw, those 3 #1 picks are because they suck. It goes hand-in-hand. Pens have won Cups that way twice, but I digress).

    But do they have a bright future? Yes.

    Do I want Calgary to hang on to Iginla, Tanguay, Cammi, etc until the bitter end in a vain effort to make the playoffs? No.

    Will doing that, IMO, put them on Edmonton’s path? Yes.

    Kickstart the rebuild, because you need elite level talent (only available through the draft) to win, but do it a controlled manner.

    Had Iginla been traded 3 years ago we could’ve kept other veteran support pieces. We’re rapidly closing in on being Edmonton and I don’t want that. Yes, I want a rebuild, but on our terms, not because we’ve run out of options. But what we’re doing now is working either. Same ‘win now’ philosophy as usual. In the end, I believe that would be the faster way to go.

    Somewhere in the middle of the two, you know?

    • The Last Big Bear

      Yeah, so my original beef was, stop comparing a rebuild to Edmonton. It’s irrelevant! They aren’t rebuilding, they’re just sucking and getting 1st overall picks. They weren’t forced to ‘do what they did’, it just happened. You’re still saying that’s the way to do it but it’s not the way to do it. They didn’t ‘do’ it. No more comparisons to Edmonton. Objection, your honour, relevance? SUSTAINED! btw I don’t think the Oilers have anyone close to a Mario Lemieux or a Sidney Crosby, or even a Malkin or Jagr for that matter. Really, do you think any one of their fab four is anywhere close to as good as any one of the Penguins listed? Still don’t know just how bright their future is. And are you saying try to suck “(btw, those 3 #1 picks are because they suck. It goes hand-in-hand. Pens have won Cups that way twice, but I digress)” then or not? That’s where you keep confusing me.

      3 years ago, I don’t think anyone who traded Iginla would’ve gotten out of the city alive, so I don’t see the relevance of that either.

      Trade Iginla, Tanguay and Cammalleri for draft picks and you are trying to suck IMO. I don’t agree with trying to suck.

      What we’re doing now is cleaning up from Darryl (no disrespect to Darryl, by the way, loved the guy, just didn’t work well as a GM). I think it is working. We are in better shape in each of the two years since he left.

      So I think you’re saying you want a rebuild on ‘your’ terms, because the team is trying to rebuild on ‘our’ terms, I believe using the exact approach you propose.

  • Reg Dunlop


    You underestimate the hockey saavy that runs the oil. Remember, 5 cups as opposed to 1 cup in calgary? Any team that intentionally plays the worst goalie in the league is tanking for draft position. The leadership group in Edmonton realized that building through free agency(Souray and Heatley) or trades(Pronger and Visnovsky) doesn’t work when your city is not a prime NHL destination. You are left with building through the draft. First overall draft picks are infinitely more valuable than 15th picks. There are ZERO players on the flames that could return the likes of RNH in a trade.

    Calgary is no more desirable than Edmonton as a free agent destination. The return for Iginla and Kipper in a trade at their age would be FAR less than flame fans think. For the sake of the battle of Alberta I hope the flames begin building through the draft this year(lots of good prospects) or else the next decade will feature the flames having their faces rubbed in the dirt just like it was 1984 all over again.


  • Reg Dunlop


    1) “yours” vs “ours” – didn’t realize you spoke for the board, especially the half that want to see the team nuked. Congrats on the promotion.

    2) “Rebuild” is the common vernacular that everyone else on the planet is using. Get over it. The Oilers stink they’re now bring in new players with no effort to hang onto most of the old.

    3) You always have a choice. The Oilers are now choosing to go young and not move picks or prospects to speed up the process (see TO for the difference).

    4) I wanted Calgary to suck at a more controlled level (by moving vets 1 at a time instead of wholesale), yes. They would finish lower in the standings, bring in more futures, but not all at once.

    5) That window is now so rapidly closing (IMO) almost to the point they might as well nuke it.

    6) Regardless of semantics or how they got there or your cosmic version of them “just being,” the Oilers future is far brighter than the Flames.

    It’s hard to be objective when talking about your own team I know, but you come off as a fan boy wearing gold & red colored glasses.

    Once past the first in 2 decades, but lets just keeping doing the same thing again and again and yes that includes the YG era – “something for now, something for the future.”