I’m finally back from my Eastern sojourn and with me returns the FN Weekend open thread.
With Leland Irving finally back in the fold, it looks like the Flames are done for the summer of 2012. They may yet try to trade a Babchuk or Stajan contract (good luck with that), but otherwise the training camp rosters are in place.
Feaster was fairly busy this offseason, although probably not enough for some. The aging and expensive guys remain – Iginla, Kiprusoff and Bouwmeester – so the overall character of the team is more or less intact. The club lost a few support players, albeit relatively important ones (Moss, Jokinen), signed some guys to replace them (Hudler and Cervenka) and paid a pretty penny to add some offense to the blueline.
At the draft, Calgary added a second rounder and reached for Mark Jankowski, a move that will either be considered a coup or a flop down the road. The club mostly focused on defenders with their other picks, so Jankowski is Calgary’s only shot in 2012 to add high end offense to the cupboard.
KW’s Summer Report Card
Here’s how I would grade the Flames efforts this summer:
– Dennis Wideman deal: C –
Giving term, dollars and a full NMC clause to a moderately capable top-4 defender, with a bulk of the money coming in his 30+ years, strikes me as an overly risky move. Wideman has certainly put up some points with good teams in the Eastern Conference over the last few years, but has consistently been mediocre at the other end of the ice. He’s an upgrade over Hannan, no doubt, but with five years and more than $5M per year as the bet on the table, there’s a lot more ways the Flames can lose this one rather than win.
– Jiri Hudler deal: C
The erstwhile Red Wing adds some much needed depth on the right side and he put up decent numbers in Detroit last year. At $4M/year for four years he’s also only a moderate risk relative to, say, Wideman. On the bad side of things, Hudler has been one of the most sheltered guys on Detroit over the last few years and even in those circumstances he’s never cracked 60-points in the NHL.
The Flames are a sizeable step down from Detroit at this point, so even if he sees more ice time as a Flame, there’s a chance his output will dip owing to the fresh difficulty of those minutes (not to mention the lack of Datsyuk or Zetterberg). Hudler hasn’t been able to drive possession at any point in his NHL career either, which has become the Flames biggest weakness at even strength.
– Blake Comeau deal: A
Nothing not to like about how Calgary handled Blake Comeau – by eschewing his qualifying offer and then re-upping for pennies on the dollar, Calgary gets a capable support winger who should be in line for a bounce back season.
– Mikael Backlund deal: A
There were rumors the Flames were shopping Backlund heading into the draft, but luckily the club instead chose to re-sign him to a $725k contract for one year. It’s contract the Flames can’t lose on: even if Mikael never develops the sort of offense expected of him, his contributions as a guy who can play anyone and move the puck forward should pay for his sub-$1M deal. On the other hand, if the pucks start going in for him at even a middling rate, Calgary has a steal on their hands.
– Roman Cervenka deal: B
Snagging the high scoring KHL center/winger added some more skill to a generally uncreative line-up and another body in the peak 23-27 year old range. Of course, as of now it’s totally unknown whether Cervenka will be able to translate his game on North American ice so there’s a certain amount of risk and opportunity cost associated with grabbing Roman and penciling him in to the team’s top-6. Adding him still strikes me as a worthwhile gamble, however.
– Draft: NA
It’s a fools errand to grade this portion of the summer at this point. The Big Jankowski can really go either way while the rest of the draft contained a few moderately good gambles (Seiloff, Kulak, Gordon) who may or may not turn out to be worthwhile depth guys in 4 or 5 years. My initial take still stands – that Jankowski was a long reach in the first round when some other names were still on the board – but I’m more than willing to give this one the ol’ wait and see.
Overall Grade: C+
Calgary got some nice deals on their pending RFA’s and the Cervenka contract shows they are looking a little beyond the well worn paths for new talent. Their draft maneuvers were ballsy, but the "big additions" to the parent roster indicate the club is still committed to furiously spinning its wheels amongst the West’s middle class for at least another season.
Calgary enters next year with more offensive firepower than last year, but they also face seem to be banking on a lot of question marks: post-35 Iginla and Kipper, an untested Roman Cervenka, Jiri Hudler matching his Detroit output, etc. They also didn’t address the team’s lackluster puck possession abilities – in fact, the Flames lost one of their top players by this metric in David Moss.
As such, in my estimation the Flames didn’t have a bad summer, but Feaster et al didn’t meaningfully take a step forward either. As things stand, Calgary will once again be battling for a playoff spot next season (whenever that may be) and will need a number of things to fall in their favor in order to make it to the dance.
That’s how I see things currently. Please add your own report cards in the comments. Feel free to comment on other aspects of the off-season I may have neglected here as well.