The Gamble That is Jiri Hudler

 

 

The Detroit Red Wings bled a lot of talent this summer: Niklas Lidstrom retired, Brad Stuart was traded and Tomas Holmstrom is likely to pull the chute on his long career as well.

Which is why its surpising to see Holland and company let the 28-year old Jiri Hudler walk after a career high 25-goal season. Not only that, Hulder was the Red Wings 5th highest scorer last year with 50-points, well clear of 6th placed Todd Bertuzzi at 38. Notably, money wasn’t really an issue in this instance – the Wings have about $14M in cap space and Hudler’s contract with the Flames was relatively modest by UFA frenzy standards: $4M/year for four years.

So what the hell? On one hand, it’s possible the Wings had other targets in their sites when free agency broke in July and simply neglected Hudler to the degree that he sought out other options. On the other hand, digging through his underlying numbers suggests to me the team may not have trusted Hudler’s output last year – at least not as truly indicative of the player and his value to the club.

I don’t know how far the Wings are into advanced stats, but I’m guessing there are at least two types of league creatures who can instinctively sense when a players numbers are "over his head" without even looking at the numbers: competent general managers and beady-eyed agents. For opposing reasons, naturally. 

Detroit know Hudler well. Despite his dalliance with the KHL back in 2009-10, he was born and bred a Red Wing, so was a known commodity to Holland and Babcock. And it may very well be that familiarity bred contempt.

Gimme Shelter 

 

The first notable red mark against Hudler is the fact he has routinely been on of the most sheltered forwards on the Detroit Red Wings. Last season was actually some of the toughest minutes he’s faced in years with the 7th highest competition amongst forwards and a zone start ratio of 55.8%.

That bears repeating – those are the toughest minutes Hudler has seen in Detroit.

To put that in perspective a bit, the Flames only had two players with a zone start ratio above 50% last season: Mike Cammalleri at 52% (no doubt because he played part of the year in Montreal) and Roman Horak at about a 50/50. Of course, starting in the offensive zone more often tilts, the ice in favor of the player in question, making it more likely he will get shots/goals for and less likely for shots/goals against. It’s easier to run down a hill rather than up it aferall.

Things were easier for Jiri in 2010-11: his offensive zone start ratio was 57.3% (second highest on the team) and he faced just 8th highest quality of competition. The only guys who saw lesser lights on Detroit that year were fourth liners like Mike Modano, Patrick Eaves and Justin Abdelkader.

Circumstances were even softer for Hudler back in 2008-09 before he bolted for Russia: his ZS was an eye-popping 63.6% (by far the highest on the team) and once again his quality of competition rank was 8th. Not surprisingly, Hudler set a career high for shots on goal (155) and points (57) that season. 

If we take one more step back in time, we see that 2008-09 wasn’t Hudler’s high water mark in terms of easy sledding. In 2007-08, the Wings treated him like a forward version of Anton Babchuk: a ZS of 67.9 (!!) and the lowest quality of competition outside of goon Aaron Downey. Hudler was a sophomore in the league that year and the Wings can afford to build glittering cages around their more fragile players because of the quality of the rest of the club, but few players see that sort of coddling at any point in their careers.

Even though things have gotten a bit tougher for the Czech native since then, he never took the big step forward from "soft minutes support guy" to "legit top-six forward". Despite consistently being fed the opposition’s soft underbelly, Hudler never really put up either notable couting numbers nor praise worthy possession rates. On Detroit, Hudler has consistently been lower-middle class when it comes to corsi – even in 2008-09 with a team high zone start of 63.6%, his raw possession rate was good for just 7th on the team.   

This is likely one of the big reasons the Wings didn’t prioritize re-signing Hudler – given his circumstances and results, his contributions at even strength are eminently replaceable. It’s also the reason Flames management and fans should be nervous about the erstwhile Wing – his toughest season to date (ast year) would represent some of the easiest minutes for any Flames skater since about 2008-09. Calgary has no Datsyuks, Zetterbergs, Hossas or Lidstroms. Heck, they don’t even have a Franzen at this point, so everyone this side of Tim Jackman is exposed to much harsher elements.

Rolling Sevens

 

Moving from under the Wings warm, protective membrane isn’t the only concern for Hudler. Last year, his relatively decent output was built on the dual unsustainable pillars of a high personal shooting percentage and a high on-ice SH%. 

Hudler has never been a high volume shooter in the league. As mentioned, his career best is just 155, or 1.89 shots per game. Last year he dipped to 127 (or 1.57 shots per game), but nevertheless managed 25 goals thanks to a sky high 19.7 SH%. That’s well clear of an established career average of about 13%, so there’s no doubt he’s in line for regression sooner rather than later.

In addition, the pucks went in while Hudler was on the ice at a ridiculously good rate last season. Part of that was probably his own shooting luck, but either way an 11.17 on-ice SH% is similarly unsustainable (14th highest in NHL amongst regular forwards), particularly for a player of Hudler’s caliber. There are some elite guys who can raise the on-ice shooting of everyone around them by a percentage or two, but for everyone else it’s just the wild swings of variance. 

We can safely put Hudler in the "everyone else" category, seeing as his on-ice SH% was around 7% just one year prior. The good bet is the frequency of his own shots going in and the amount the puck goes in general while he’s skating both take a dive back down to earth going forward.

Conclusion

Here’s what we can reasonably assume about Hudler given the above: he’s going to face tougher competition in Calgary and he’s going to start less often in offensive zone at even strength. He’s therefore less likely to generate as many shots on net while the team is less likely to gets shots for while hes on the ice (and to get more shots against). In addition, it’s a good bet the puck is going to go in less frequently for him and the team in general.

The change in circumstances and pending regression to the mean are bound to get Hudler coming and going. Both the volume of shots and frequency of goals are likely to be shaved back, which combined would constitute a big dip in production. For example, with a career norm SH% of 13% last year, Hudler’s goal total goes from 25 to 16-17 and that’s assuming a stable shot rate. We’ll take a deeper look at his expected output in a reasonable expectations posts later this summer.

While production isn’t always the full measure of a player, the problem is Hudler doesn’t really bring much else to the table: he doesn’t drive possession, he’s not going to suppress the other team’s big guns and he doesn’t kill penalties.

Flames management made noises about Hudler getting more opportunity and ice time in Calgary when he was signed, which may be what they’re betting on to at least sustain his numbers. He averaged about 15:40 in total ice time last year, with about 2:14 of that coming on the PP. Overall, that was good for 5th amongst regular Detroit forwards, so I’m not sure how much room there is for an increase as a Flame. If he sticks in the top-6, then a modest bump to 16:00-17:00 minutes or so at ES isn’t out of the question. He’ll have to usurp one of Iginla or Tanguay from the top PP unit to get a meaningful increase at 5on4 though, which is unlikely –  Hudler’s production rate with the man advantage has pretty much always been just okay. 

Overall, there are a lot of arrows pointing in the wrong direction for Hudler and the Calgary Flames. The club didn’t exactly break the bank to sign him and they desperately needed an NHLer to fill the void on the right side below Jarome Iginla. Still, there’s a non-trivial chance Hudler becomes another Stajan-like disappointment.

 



  • Austin L

    That last sentence scares the crap out of me….. I’m sort of expecting him to hit at least 40 points, I’d rather take 50, but that likely won’t happen…

    • Stajan is definitely a worse case scenario – his output dipped in part because he disappointed, but also in part because Sutter couldn’t stand him and decided to bury him at the bottom end of the roster.

      If Hudler’s ice time stays the same or increases, he’s unlikely to completely fall off the map in the same matter.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I don’t think we need to be too worried. I mean what has past experience shown us? It’s not like other players coming to Calgary from other markets have seen their production dip 🙂

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    A bandaid when you really require surgery. Surgery hurts more and takes longer to recover from, but it adresses the root issue. If you wait to long to have surgery, you will continue to have issues and risk further problems. The doctor’s advice is clear, and everyone knows it, however the patient chooses to ingore it.

    Mr. Hudler will join the Amonte, McCarty, Bertizzi, Kotalik, Hagman and Stajan club. Good numbers elsewhere then Flameout here. With all due respect to Jiri, history will repeat with any “bandaid of this type.

  • A high ZS doesn’t necessarily mean “coddling”. I call it putting the player in the position to succeed given his talents.

    Was Hudler brought here to play D as a forward? No. Was he brought here to score? Yes. Was he brought here to score on the PP? Absolutely Yes. We can only call it coddling if he continues to be put in positions to succeed at what he’s good at when he’s not succeeding.

    Lots of guys around here (including KW, IIRC) lamented Brent Sutter’s refusal to give certain guys the Sedin ZS treatment last year. Management is, by bringing in guys like Hudler, making a move in the Vigneault direction. (See Hartley, Bob, as well.) It makes no sense to want the team to be coached like the Canucks then criticize bringing in the players to do it.

    Is Hudler a Sedin? Hell no. Is Hudler a player that can and should be deployed in a Sedin-like manner? Absolutely.

    • True, but Hudlers results suggest he’s only useful in those situations, which means he needs to have the high ground to succeed. It was the same warnings analysts gave to any one who signed Ville Leino last summer. The Flames already had players who need better circumstances to succeed. That list starts with Jarome Iginla at this point in his career. So if they acquired Hudler to give him the soft underbelly, that just means another season of Jarome getting beat up in a PvP type role.

      The Sedins crush the opposition with their minutes. And they are deployed like that because the team has players like Kesler/Malhotra elsewhere in the lineup. I thought Sutter could have tried to work harder to give some of his scorers the high ground at the time, but ultimately he was constrained by the composition of the roster.

      So, in short, if you put Hudler in a position to succeed, it just means you’re going to have to feed someone else to the wolves on this club. What the Flames really need is someone who can survive or excel in that particular role.

  • I find it odd that Zetterberg’s name only came up once, in passing, in this article. The soft minutes and frequently starting in the O-zone are certainly one way to pad your stats, but so is playing with the Datsyuks and the Zetterbergs. Hank Zetterberg is a way underrated player (yeah, I said it) and an assist machine, and I would stress that he is a large reason that Hudler got those points.

    I would hate for Hudler to come here and fall off the face of the Earth, but if the Red Wings were unwilling to give him more money to play alongside Zetterberg again then… well… Flames may get burned.

    Unless Hudler/Cervenka completely destroy the competition. Make your top lines Tanguay-Cammy-Iginla and GlenX-Cervenka-Hudler, give them all 50%+ O-zone starts, and then bury the other two lines.

    • Not sure Hudler played a lot with those guys over most of his career at ES – since they were typically taking on the best of the best for DET.

      You’re right though, last year Hudler did see a lot of time with Zetterberg. As you say, Hank is one of the best in the biz.

      As for giving both top two lines lots of o-zone starts – it won’t be possible unless they are capable of driving play this year. There are only so many o-zone starts to go around and the more time the puck spends in the offensive zone, the more o-zone faceoffs there are. Poor possession teams take a lot more d-zone draws as a result, making it hard to give more than one or two guys a ZS boost. That’s why the Flames only had two guys north of 50% last year, while virtually the entire DET team were above 52%.

      Tach brought this up in the comments last year, but when a club is shot poor/possession poor, the coach can only tilt the ice so much via certain tactics. At some point, you need the horses or else your options and hopes for success are limited.

  • McRib

    Will someone please answer me this…. Dennis Wideman signed for $5.25 Million and is being hailed by all as the worst off season signing of the summer. Yet Matt Carle signs for $5.50 Million and everyone is praising Tampa Bay…

    Honestly I think Wideman is worth twice as much as Carle. Wideman can run an offense, yet Carle is more of a complitment to a quarterback. He picks up second assists like its his job and only managed to score 4 GOALS last year, seven less than Wideman. Wideman has also proven when he has played on defensive minded teams that he is capable of being a plus player (+16 in 2 1/2 years in Boston), where as Carle has played on top teams his entire career and think if anything he is going to have a regression. Also his last stint with Tampa Bay went horribly (the only time he hasn’t played on a contender) he had two points in twelve games and they shipped him off to Philly.

    Carle is also only a year younger than Wideman just don’t see it.

  • Michael

    The contract isn’t outrageous if he can produce top 6 minutes and 40 – 50 points.
    He’s penciled in to replace Jokinens points, so those points are really needed….

  • RexLibris

    So, a few assumptions: A.) the Flames rely on Chris Snow for analytical data B.) that they had access to as much of the information that Kent found here C.) Hudler was signed to a contract that will see him in Calgary until he is 32 at a reasonable rate of $4 million a season and as a depth scoring option and D.) that Feaster (and perhaps also Weisbrod) were aware of the data collected when making the above decision.

    Based on all of that, what is one to make of the signing, but more to the point, what is one to make of the overall decision to pursue and reward this player with such a long-term contract? While there are no trade restrictions on the deal if Hudler underperforms to the extent that Stajan has (as a worst-case scenario), then it might not be the easiest asset to move.

  • McRib

    “Hudler actually led the league in scoring amongst players playing less than 16 minutes a night. Steve Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the only one among players who played less than 16 minutes a game who came close to Hudler’s 50 points, with 48”

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1155573-jiri-hudler-true-grit-one-of-the-few-red-wings-doing-the-dirty-work

    Plan and simple think by playing 4-5 minutes a night and another 1-2 minutes of power play time he will easily hit 60 points. Not only replacing Olli Jokenin’s numbers but Hudler has proven to play better towards the playoff stretch. Jokinen on the other hand completly falls off.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I think one thing to take from the article is you can’t look strictly at minutes played.

      Sure he scored lots with less minutes, but what led to that? High offensive zone starts and an unsustainable shooting percentage.

      Playing more minutes in Calgary will only partially offset the loss of production if his shooting percentage were to fall to an average range and his zone starts were to drop between 3 & 4%.

    • beloch

      Jokinen hasn’t put in a sub-50 point season since 2001, and he’s put up significantly higher totals while playing top competition. Hudler, as sheltered as he has been, has only just barely broken 50 points twice in the NHL. The season before last he put up only 37 points in 73 games (his SH% was just half what it was last season)!

      So, on the one hand you have an Babchuck-style offensive creampuff who needs both shelter and luck to break 50 points. On the other hand you have a player who might not be the best two-way center out there, but can reliably produce more than 50 points while not being sheltered.

      I said it before and I see no reason to change my tune so far. Feaster should have passed on Hudler and kept Joker.

  • Michael

    Actually Kent, I think it’s very likely Hudler lines up on the 1st unit. Tanguay plays on the point, remember?

    Iginla – Cammalleri – Hudler (in some order..)

    Wideman – Tanguay

    @McRib

    you must not have been paying close enough attention, because Zetterberg was Hudler’s 2nd most common linemate after Val Filppula.

    http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/showplayer.php?pid=90&withagainst=true&season=2011-12&sit=5v5&type=goals

  • jeremywilhelm

    Feed a line of Glencross-Backlund-Stempniak to the wolves and the top 6 run rampant at a 55+% zone start.

    Problem solved, well, problem solved for everyone who isn’t on the GBS line.

  • McRib

    Kent,

    No qualms with the analysis here, but as in all things related to NHL roster management it seems to me the question is not so much whether this move was a good move, but whether Feaster likely had other better moves he could have made. If we operate from the assumption that the Flames needed a 2nd line RW and were not going to trade other assets to get one, do you see a clear cut better alternative?

    I look around the 2012 free agent signings and see lots of guys with all kinds of question marks like too old (Jagr, Sullivan, Whitney), too uncertain as to floor/ceiling (Wolski, Mueller), probably weren’t going to come here no matter what (Penner, Selanne) or been there done that (Moss). I cannot come up with a clear cut better option for filling this roster spot.

    Well, I can think of one better move, but I don’t want to mention for fear of being deemed enigmatic.

    • Retaining Moss comes to mind, for less years and less money, given the Flames poor possession last year. Semin, as you mention, who could have been had on a one or two year ticket.

      I don’t even know if the Flames had to throw money on the table this summer for this purpose. Stempniak, Comeau, Baertschi, Cammalleri/Cervenka, Glencross, Iginla and Tanguay were the existing/possible top-9 wingers.

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          It could be highly likey that Feaster would’ve wanted Semin here, but Semin perhaps was not as excited about playing in Calgary.

          Who knows what goes on behind the scenes. I would’ve liked Semin also.

          Canes have as good a top 6 now as 80% of the league methinks.

  • beloch

    @mcculb – good analogy, it never ceases to amaze me how many fans just refuse to admit that the Flames’ issues run deeper than a guy who can score from the 3rd line can fix.

    The deal would make more sense if it had been only 2 years, but I get it, that’s the market.

    Hudler, IMO, is, as McRib fairly points out, the best there is at what he does. But what does he do? As Kent answered in depth, he scores decently from the 3rd line against weak competition playing on a team that is far superior to Calgary.

    It’s not a knock on Hudler, but this rosy vision that he’s going to score 70 points due to an increase in ice time seems to me to be quite a stretch.

    Hudler strikes me as a guy who could be an important cog on a top team in order to add scoring depth or step up for short stints due to injury, etc. I think he’d have fit well with the Pens, for example. I don’t, however, see him as a difference-maker.

    Bottom line: a 3rd line hot-dogger and a guy from the KHL who has never played a single NHL game are not going to come in and light the league on fire (pun intended).

  • McRib

    @Baalzamon

    Haha. Val Filppula got to play with Zetterberg & Datsyuk during a regular shift and then Babcock was nice enough to double shift Zetterberg once and awhile onto Hudler’s line. Thats’ what that means to me.

    Honestly having watched coach after coach try and double shift Iggy on the Third/Fourth line, it just doesn’t work. No chemistry and the double shifted forward i.e. Zetterberg or Iginla comes off early in 30 seconds, usually giving someone like Hudler very little time to actually get anything going.

    @Bean-counting cowboy

    So even though he may have had a lot of “offensive zone starts”, his point total will increase because he will be playing a more regular shift with more regular line mates, not to mention more PP time which will further offset his OZS. Plus his OZS will only decrease about 5%, which if he averages 16-17 shifts a game then he only goes down 0.8 offensive zone starts per game. Considering he will be receiving 3-4 more shifts a game he will actually still be increasing his OZS by at least two a game.

    Also considering that a player with his speed scores a lot more goals in transition OZS aren’t as important. Glencross had to have scored 75% of his goals off the rush last season. Someone Hudler most likely will be playing with next season. Honestly OZS are great for a Power Forward like Iginla who works 90% of his goals off the offensive zone cycle for a quick forward like Hudler you actually want to use their speed in transition to put defenders on their heels.

  • McRib

    @beloch

    Jokinen had something like three points in his last fifteen games down the stretch. Honestly he was the defference between making the playoffs and not.

    He also was a major reason the dressing room was so mundane and failed to show up most nights with any sort of energy. It was like a country club last year in the dressing room with his lack of leadership.

    Jokinen is 33 and on the the decline, Hudler is five years younger and still on the upswing, looking to prove he is better than a third liner.

    Worse case scenerio Hudler replaces his points and brings more energy to a club that greatly needed it last year.

    • loudogYYC

      I’m not sure Jokinen was the president of the Flames Country Club, that title belongs to the captain. Love the guy, but he’s no firestarter.

      And lets be honest guys, most UFA signings are risky because you rarely sign a UFA to a decent cap hit, specially when he’s signed early into free agency.
      Hudler’s play and point total will depend a lot on what the 1st and 3rd lines do next season. IMO he’ll do fine if Iggy, Cammy, Tanguay, Glencross and Backlund have good seasons.

      @Kent Wilson

      I agree that Brent did Stajan and the Flames no favors by ignoring his existence and dumping him on the 4th line, but where do you think Hartley could use him?

      • beloch

        After looking at Stajan’s numbers over the past 5 seasons, his case doesn’t look nearly as hopeless as I thought it would. A combination of bad puck luck and *huge* slashes in his TOI are what’s put his counting stats in the basement.

        There’s no denying that Stajan had horrible puck luck for most of last season. After his 39th game of the season his Sh% was just 5%! It shot up to 17% over his remaining 22 games and he finished the season at 10.4% overall. This change in luck may not have been due to a change in underlying performance. e.g. His sh/60m was flat over most of the season.

        Stajan’s sh/60m has been flat over the last 5 years actually, hovering around 5. His Sh% was around 13% over his last few years in Toronto, but nose-dived to 7.4% in his first full season in Calgary. His minutes were also slashed from 1551 to 1080 that season and the combination put his counting stats in the basement. Despite his improved luck last season, his TOI was further slashed by another 20% to just 793 minutes. (Note: Both his minutes/game and number of games played have declined sharply.) He had roughly half the TOI last season that he did, on average per year, over his last two full seasons in Toronto and the season he was traded to Calgary.

        So, as bizarrely as it sounds, Stajan might not have turned into a total piece of garbage. If he were given the same TOI he used to get in a season and his luck were to remain similar to how it’s been for most of his career we could see him putting up 40-50 points again. The fans obviously hate his guts now and Butter did too, but if Hartley doesn’t jump on the hate-train and actually plays him a bit we could see the old Stajan return.

        As an added bonus, Stajan is a decent faceoff man who generally wins more than he loses.

        Of course, the real question is whether or not the Flames will have better options than Stajan at center. His contract really is too heavy for a #4C, and if Butter hadn’t destroyed his reputation by playing him so little and even demoting him the Flames might have been able to trade him by now.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    @ McRib

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Somehow the “he should easily hit 60 points” prediction seems short-sighted to me.

    Detroit has capable to 6 players, Calgary does not. Playing with Cervenka (NHL unknown) and Glencross (equally outrageous shooting %)or possibly Baertschi (rookie) is not going to get it done for him IMO. Expect more like 40 to 50 points – just my prediction.

    That being said, I do think Tach makes a good point regarding the move apart from all this other analysis – What better 2nd line RW option did Feaster have at his disposal? Plus no assets given up to get him – therefore I can’t dis Feaster on the move, just think we need to lower expectations.

  • McRib

    @McRib – how many points down the stretch did Iginla get? Who weras the ‘C?’ Lets hang that hat where it belongs. Joker was never brought in here to be a dressing room leader.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I think Kent (and most other commentators) are mistaken in their underlying assumption that Hudler was brought in to fill a specific hole in the roster, that he is supposed to play a role of some kind.

    I don’t think this is the case at all.

    In the draft, some teams pick players to fill holes in their roster. Other teams, particularly rebuilding teams, simply pick the Best Player Available.

    In the same fashion, I think Hudler was signed because among free agents he was the Best Contract Available.

    He isn’t a clear fit on the roster. But what he is, is a good NHL player on a very tradeable contract, well-priced and medium-term, with no NTC, and he cost nothing up-front to acquire.

    I think it was a very astute signing by Feaster et al. Not for what it does for the Flames on the ice, but it was top-notch asset management.

  • RexLibris

    Here’s a couple of points:

    If Hudler is an offensive creampuff, was he brought in to replace Jokinen’s offensive Big Mac?

    I agree with loudogYYC that leadership should start with the captain and a veteran core. Questions in that area need to start there, but should not be limited to Iginla alone. Jokinen might bear some responsibility, but as I recall he finished the season with a pretty serious injury didn’t he? Fans aren’t privy to what he did or didn’t say in the dressing room, only his on-ice performance.

    Using Hudler along with Iginla to create offensive chances off the rush hinges on one question: does Hudler have the ability, speed aside, to actually drive possession and the direction of play? I don’t know, that is why I am asking.

    As for whether or not Hudler was being brought in to play a role, if I recall correctly Feaster was (again) quite effusive in the impact he expected of Hudler. In fact, he had this to say when he signed him “Jiri Hudler is a highly skilled and dynamic offensive player…He is one of the very best goal scorers in the NHL at even strength and he puts a very high percentage of his shots on net, generating scoring chances for himself and rebound opportunities for his teammates. He fits our need to upgrade and improve our skill…”.

    I think Feaster signed Hudler believing that he had acquired, through free agency, an impact 2nd line winger who could take some of the heat (pardon the pun) off of Iginla. He was also likely thinking that he was getting a player from a winning organization and that this might influence the Flames, in the way that many GMs treat that sort of voodoo thinking.

    Also, mcculb’s analogy has some resonance in this situation. Kent has been pretty clear in his assertion that the Flames lack elite-level talent and that acquiring such players has to be the priority for the club. Hudler isn’t that player, in my opinion.

    He would be a terrific complementary player on a deep team that could shelter him and place him in a situation to succeed. Like Detroit. Or Pittsburgh, Boston, Vancouver, L.A. and so on. In Calgary I believe that he is going to struggle at times and likely will not reach similar totals to his time in Detroit.

    Though given the free agent options available, Feaster really didn’t have a lot to work with.

    Normally I would say that fans should temper their expectations of Hudler and not allow themselves to see him through Red Wings-coloured glasses. Unfortunately, I think that Feaster already has.

  • MC Hockey

    Gotta take a middle ground here with these points:

    1. Free agency signings are all about supply and demand. While other options existed, notably Semin and ex-Flame Moss, the risk may have seemed higher with them. And once they decided on Hudler as BPA for upgrading skill, perhaps they needed to go that long and that high in price to get him (hard to know, but seems likely).

    2. A key thing Feaster said about Hudler was him getting a lot of his shots on net which to me implies rebounds, if not goals will come about…so that makes sense to me in terms up getting more goals and thus wins!

    3. Perhaps Feaster and Weisbrod spoke to Hartley about doing more “Vigneault-like” usage of his lines by giving the top 2 lines shelter via really good Zone Start % around 55-65%. Makes me worry about the Flames checking lines (I mean lines 3 and 4) and defense however having to be excellent in their prevention of goals.

  • @Kent – your last few posts sum up the Flames overall predicament in a very concise manner. Not enough top end talent in it’s prime. You could string those comments together and make a great article on the state of the Flames.

    I’ve always said Brent was not the reason the team struggled. Not a perfect coach by any means and he wasn’t my choice, but at the end of the day it comes down to talent and as you’ve mentioned several times on here, coaches rarely have huge impacts on teams, at least over the duration of their tenure.

    Leads me to believe that Feaster’s tenure in Calgary will end at the same time as Hartley’s tenure. When Jarome, Tangs and Cammi have all been put out to pasture, the blood has come gushing through all of the band-aids and an Edmonton-style rebuild is all we’re left with.

  • RKD

    Absorbing a lot of the very valid arguments here I think Feaster went with the best option that was out there that didnt require losing an asset to acquire. The contract is a very moveable one but I think one other thing that may have been part of the decision to sign Hudler was that he will be an excellent ambassador for Cerevenka. Cerevenka is such a huge unknown, I think Feaster decided he has to gamble big time because he only has a 1year window to acclimatize Cerevenka & establishing himself as a 1/2 centreman. Hudler probably has additional duties over and above just getting 50points. Ramo & Cerevenka are two players with potential high end raw ability the Flames lack in that age group. These guys could literally make Feaster look like a genius if they have great years & show elite talent potential at the NHL level. I for one can understand why Feaster signed Hudler.

  • RKD

    Maybe Hudler wanted to play in a Canadian market and possibly hoped to step out of the shadow of guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk.

    He could still get sheltered minutes on the Flames or maybe not. He could still put up 50 points under Hartley’s “uptempo style.” I don’t see him fizzling out like Stajan.

    There are a few players who fizzled out: Stajan, Gomez, Cheechoo, etc. However, I don’t put Hudler in that category and hopefully he proves us wrong.

  • RKD

    The easiest way to sum up the Flames problems is that they lack a topline center, or even effective centermen as a group. We are debating over the winger options in the top 9; Hudler was the best option for the Flames because we couldn’t land an upgrade at center via trade so Feaster decided to gamble on Cammy, Cervenka and Backlund being able to hopefully fill the void until a better option becomes available. The problem with the Flames is that their team is strong in almost every area except at center, the team is led by a winger and is strong on the wings (particullarly lefthand shooters), which isnt a bad thing if you have decent centermen for them to play with. All the best teams have strength down the middle. Hudler is a player who is an upgrade, skillwise, over Moss and thats what Feaster wanted. Look at our problems: bad posession, horid faceoffs, topline can’t regularily faceoff against other toplines. These issues are because our NHL-ready center depth is extremely weak, has always been weak, and even when given the opportunity via a big trade-chip (Phaneuf) Sutter never addressed it, and our team has been reeling ever since the downward spiral of Conroy and Langkows carrers. Hudler is a player brought in who may or may not succeed, but one thing is certain the Flames, and its players, will never really succeed until the center ice position gets notably stronger. The good thing is gambles like Cervenka and Jankowski are signs Feaster knows he needs to address this. Even better is the fact that since we havent landed one via trade is a good indication Feaster wont part with future key pieces of the organization to do it. Even if Hudler sucks I think Feaster is fixing this team.

    • Captain Ron

      I couldn’t have said this any better than you just did. The center ice position has been this teams most glaring weakness for a while now. Darryl Sutter in his mind was likely thinking that he did address this with the addition of Stajan and Jokinen. I was vacationing in Jamaica when I heard that he dealt Dion to Toronto and my immediate reaction was surely Dion could have been part of a deal with someone to get that legit first line center in return. Instead we end up with two cast offs that were never going to fill that role. Our defence, goaltending, and wingers are good enough for the Flames to be a playoff team. The big mystery is will the performance of Stajan, Backlund, and Cervenka be good enough to get the Flames there? Hard to feel confident in their chances with that many question marks at such a key position. If indeed we have to go to war with the centers we have now it is going to be interesting to see how Hartley handles them, and if they perform better under him or not.

      • SmellOfVictory

        A few years ago I heard that a legitimate rumor had Kaberle going to Philly in exchange for Carter, you can assume other pieces would be involved but I believe that trade could have happened considering how well Kaberle played a few seasons ago. If that were the case then there is no doubt Phaneuf could have landed a top center. GMs even said annonymously that they would have offered Calgary more for Phaneuf than Toronto. I almost [email protected] myself when I heard that trade, it was an epic fail if there ever was one, not only trade Phaneuf but also trade Aulie, Aulie was an assest that landed Toronto Carter Ashton, if I remember correctly, which is a solid prospect that would have been alot better than what we are left with now. Anyway, I think as long as the Flames improve FO% and SO and OT wins they should be a better team than last year. Im still excited for this year, it was smart of Feaster to change to a more offensive system when Beartchi and Cervenka are making the jump, and Iggy and Tanguay have been waiting for years for a more offensive system. We will see if it works out or not, but the positive thing is I dont think Feaster will let history repeat 3 times, if we struggle out of the gate for a 3rd straight year, trades will be all but guaranteed, all in all it should be a fun season. Its gonna be enjoyable just knowing Erixon isnt gonna be playing for the Rangers but instead, arguably the worst team to play for, Pheonix might be its only competition.

  • Parallex

    Meh, I dunno…

    I mean I think the more important question should be “who does Hudler more or less directly replace?” The following is the list of forwards we started the year with us last year…

    M. Stajan
    J. Iginla
    O. Jokinen
    T. Jackman
    T. Kostopoulos
    R. Bourque
    N. Hagman
    L. Stempniak
    D. Moss R
    A. Tanguay
    R. Horak
    C. Glencross

    … let’s eliminate those that are still here and likely to start the year with the team:

    O. Jokinen
    T. Jackman
    T. Kostopoulos
    R. Bourque
    N. Hagman
    D. Moss
    R. Horak

    Let’s further eliminate the fouthies (since he obviously wasn’t brought in to replace those guys) and let’s drop Jokinen since Hudler isn’t a center…

    R. Bourque
    N. Hagman
    D. Moss

    Looking at the three above who exactly is it that Hudler is replacing? based on TOI I would say that he’s replacing Rene Bourque… feel free to disagree but give me a choice between Rene Bourque and Jiri Hudler and I’m taking Hudler.