Seven Things for Flames Fans to Look Forward to in 2012-13



It’s has been pointed out to me on occasion that I tend toward the negative when it comes to my commentary and analysis. While that’s not necessarily true, I’ll admit a certain misanthropic bend to my writing about the team – in part, due to something of an innate cynicism and in part due to the organization’s almost total lack of success over the last plus two decades (with the lone exception of 2004).

By my estiamtion, it’s been another so-so off-season for the club and they’ll again be in tough to make the playoffs. Assuming the season gets played at all, it’s bound to follow a script similar to what we’ve seen the last three years featuring a few more valleys than hills and, ultimately, a mad scramble for the playoffs which inevitably falls short. 

All that said, there are certainly more than a few things worth looking forward to in 2012-13 if you’re a Flames fan. One of the delightful aspects of the endlessly iterative nature of professional sports is no matter how dim a club’s chances may get for overall success, each new season brings fresh interests and hopes. This year is no exception for Calgary.

So here in no particular order is what I’m looking forward to in 2012-13.

Backlund, Baertschi and Brodie

7.) The search for Kipper’s successor

I think for perhaps the first time since he grabbed the incumbent #1 position in 2004, this season will feature a real and earnest search for the Flames next starter. The organization currently has Leland Irving, Henrik Karlsson and Karri Ramo as pro options, with Joni Ortio playing his trade overseas.

Karlsson will probably be demoted or moved back to Europe, while it’s a safe bet Irving will get a very real look at the NHL level. How he fares this year will go a long way to determine whether he sticks with the Flames long-term or not.

Ramo is the ultimate wild card: after a couple of above board seasons in the KHL, the former Lightning prospect has one year left in his Russian contract. Chances are he plays that out and then crosses back over to challenge Kipper in the final year of his contract (assuming the affable Fin is still around. His salary drops to just $1.5M in 2013-14, meaning he may choose to forgo his last year and retire. Also, the team may choose to trade him given his age and the fact his NTC has expired).

There are a lot of balls up in the air when it comes to the Flames goalie situation and very little is obvious or certain. It will be interesting to see how guys like Irving and Ramo fare in their various leagues/roles as the opportunity to grab Kipper’s spot opens up.

6.) The Continued Development of TJ Brodie

Somewhat forgotten in the excitement around Sven Baertschi, John Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski and Max Reinhart is the fact that TJ Brodie established himself at just 21 years old as legitimate NHL option on the back-end last year. He didn’t tear up any scoring records and he played some of the easier minutes on the team, but jumping into the league at that age and holding your own is a step a vast majority of kids never take.

Brodie displays the sort of skills and poise that are highly valued in the modern game: he can skate, he has excellent vision and a good outlet pass. Although smaller in stature, Brodie also shown an ability to hold his own in board battles and dirty areas to a much greater level than he initially showed as younger man.

It often takes blueliners at least until the age of 24 to really figure things out at the NHL level, so I’d say Brodie is a bit ahead of the curve. Even if he never progresses beyond a third pairing, occasional PP guy he’ll have covered his bet as a 4th round draft pick. He’s a good bet to develop well beyond that point, however, given his tool-set and progress thus far. If he can take another firm step forward this coming season, he will be able firm up the Flames somewhat questionable depth at the top of their defensive rotation.

5.) Max Reinhart’s Rookie Season

Even if there is no lock-out, the eldest Reinhart son will probably spend the majority of his season in the AHL with the Abbotsford Heat. He is an intriguing prospect for Flames fans to watch nonetheless because of his very high hockey IQ. Although his offensive numbers in the WHL were never eye-popping, Max developed into the Kootenay Ice’s most invaluable overall player due to his ability to effect play in all circumstances.

Reinhart likely to have a longer apprenticeship than, say, Sevn Baertschi because doesn’t possess any of the qualities that typically get you fast tracked to the show – that being high end offense or being bigger/meaner than average. Hi progress at the AHL level and how he handles the size and rigors of the pro game will be instructive however. If he can survive and thrive, Reinhart is the kind guy who become the capable (but under appreciated) two-way center almost every better than average team in the boasts.

4.) The Arrival of Roman Cervenka

It has the potential to blow-up spectacularly in Jay Feaster’s face, but I still consider the acquisition of KHL scoring star Roman Cervenka a worthwile experiment. Right now, it’s unknown just how well he’ll acclimate to NA hockey or even where he’ll play in the line-up be it as a winger or center. Cervenka may turn out to be an invaluable addition to the Flames severely lackluster depth in the 23-27 age range up front, but he might also turn out to be Jiri Dopita, Fabian Brunnstrom or Ville Leino.

Cervenka is an unknown commodity currently, but has the possibility to step in a make an immediate impact on the roster. 

3.) The Return of Bob Hartley

I was somewhat underwhelmed by the hiring of Bob Hartley, if only because of the "boys on the bus"/nepotistic feel to the whole ting. That said, he has a pretty good resume and there’s no question the team needed a new perspective after three years of Brent Sutter banging his head against the wall.

The Flames roster is going to present the new bench boss with particular challenges, including which forward unit(s) to match against other team’s best players. How he constructs his forwards lines will also be of interest: does Matt Stajan get another chance now that he’s beyond Sutter’s baleful glance? Does a kid like Sven Baertschi get thrust into a scoring role immediately? Where do Curtis Glencross and Mikael Backlund land on the depth chart? etc.

Hartley has promised a more "offensive/exciting" brand of hockey this coming season, but I suspect coaches tend to eventually match their systems and strategies to the rosters they have to work with. How he determines what the optimal strategy is and what players he favors will be fascinating to watch.

2.) Mikael Backlund’s Inevitable Rebound

It’s possible Backlund will continue to shoot blanks, that he’ll find himself relegated to the bottom end of the roster and will finally be pronounced a bust after all and be shipped out for pennies on the dollar.

That’s not my expectation, however. Even though I think his offensive ceiling might be in the 40-point territory and he’s probably never going to score much more than 15 goals at this level, I think Backlund’s various percentages will rebound enough this season that his output (which was so disappointing last year) won’t blind fans to the various other qualities the young center possesses.

Backlund took the rare step of driving possession and scoring chance ratios last year in difficult circumstances. The Flames haven’t had a young forward do that in recent memory – that was the bar Dustin Boyd could never clear, for instance. If Backlund can sustain at least average SH% and scoring rates, he becomes the sort of player who can help make life easier for everyone else on the roster. Think of guys like Dave Bolland and Frans Nielsen, for instance – not superstars or anything, but centers who make it possible for the Toews and Tavares of the world to have a bit more rope to work with.

1.) Sven Baertschi


This is the obvious one.

Baertschi has been crushing things since the Flames took him 13th overall in 2011. No player in his draft class scored at a higher point-per-game rate. His developmental step forward in junior from rookie to sophomore was gigantic. To top it all off, he scored three goals in five games as a teen during his cup of coffee last year, including the highlight reel marker above.

Baertschi is not only the best prospect in the Flames stable by a country mile…he’s the best forward skater to be picked by the organization in recent memory. He represents a lone, bright star in what has been an endlessly dark night for Flames fans when it comes to prospect acquisition and development. And given how rapidly the Flames top-end is aging, he is also the organization’s best (only?) hope for developing an heir apparent up front to whom failing hands can pass the torch.

While expectations for his rookie season should be tempered and there’s always the possibility a prospect (however talent) won’t work out, it’s impossible not to be amped about Baertschi’s potential.

  • Good article. And more positive than usual. Im not sure what u mean by cervenka’s signing possibly blowing up in jays face. He’s low risk and entry level and the only way he gets the big dough other than the 100 grand signing bonus is if he puts up good numbers. I was under the impression various teams have watched him for a while. It’s worth a shot. No losses either way in my opinion. I’d rather take a chance on him than stajan any day! I think backlund is just as much of a gamble. Not really xpecting much from him anymore. We will wait and see if he turns into the guy Darryl raved about. Hes shown flashes speed and creativity but it seems like it has to b the perfect storm for thIngs to come together for him. Wish we had ramo now. Couldn’t we have been more aggressive with a working on a KHL buy-out? Thanks for the good read kent!

    • I should have clarified the Cervenka thing –

      I think the signing in isolation is low risk. The opportunity cost of signing Cervenka and inserting him more or less into the Flames top-6 when the team is ostensibly competing for a play off spot is something else though.

      If he works out and is a capable top-6 NHLer, cool. If not, things could get pretty ugly given Calgary’s less than great top-6 forward depth already.

      • beloch

        Re: Cervenka

        My reading of the situation is that Feaster was very smart in signing Cervenka. Great contract. Practically zero risk for the Flames. The risk comes from how he’s made room for Cervenka. i.e. By letting Jokinen walk. The Flames do have some depth and flexibility at center, but if Cervenka doesn’t crack the top-6 even as a winger then this undeniably makes the Flames worse.

        One more for your list:

        It’s far from unreasonable to hope for a rebound season from Cammalleri. Another 80 point career season might be too much to ask for, but I can certainly see him breaking 60. At 30 years old he might not fit with some people’s idea of a rebuild, but if he can prove he’s still got it then he might be a valuable trade piece next off-season or, if worse comes to worse, at the trade deadline.

    • Kind of a mute point of spending big $$$$ to that KHL team to release Ramo if we have a lockout & we are lucky to see games by January. I think you are being too hard on Backlund. His rookie year was being bounced back & forth from Abby & a GM (Dutter) who prefered to keep him in Abby. Last year just started with an injury & never got on track. Happens to lots of players, high profile players. Big year coming up for him, hope he starts out of the gate well, if there is a gate.

      • Yeah, makes sence regarding ramo. I’m afraid the KHL is backs next stop if he can’t pull it together (bad luck or not).You know it’s not all that dissimilar to Moss ( minus the 1st round pick).Moss has never had a chronic injury but misses loads every yr. do u question his training then? How is it that iggy has played the way he does but rarely is injured and backlund is always injured? Just sayin…. How much longer do we wait? Let’s remember he got a substantial pay Cut so his chances are runnin out!

      • supra steve

        Speaking from my own perspective (introverted pessimist/realist): you are rarely disappointed when you go into a situation fully aware that things often don’t go completely to plan and people often fail to live up to expectations. Gloomy view perhaps, but entirely realistic (like Bruins pointed out).

        Then there are the occasional times when someone will just blow you away by beating all reasonable expectations (like Sven did last season). Hope he can keep it up, but with my world view I won’t be shocked if he falls back down to earth somewhat.

  • Reidja

    I’ll add another general peice of excitement about wacthing the Flames prospect stable in general. NBC Sports compared Johnny G to Brian Gionta yesterday and I’m looking forward to seeing how Jankowski fares in the NCAA. So that will be fun, but not something that I will be able to see from my seat at the ‘Dome…

    Backlund… yes. I cannot wait for him to come in and have a better season. I just hope that he plays within himself and doesn’t go all intense (start fights etc.) like he did last year. That’s not his style. He has to keep his composure and use his noodle, which is one of his biggest assets.


    Cervenka… OMG no. I am convinced that this was a terrible signing. How will it blow up in our faces you ask? For some inexplicable reason, Feaster thinks that he filled a hole down the middle. Low risk? If you consider not finding an option that we know will help the hockey team next season low-risk.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I am also excited about these seven things. I also agree with previous commenter. Number 8 is being able to see how Jankowski does at the college level.

  • Great article… I appreciate and enjoy a little optimism every once in a while. I really do find the whole flavour of FN to often be quite negative and generally pessimistic so it’s nice to hear some positives. I understand there has been reason for the negativity over the last two, three, twenty years… but still. A glass half full outlook is sometimes refreshing.

    I agree with the above posts… the thing I’m looking most forward to aside from Baertschi is the development of Gaudreau, Jankowski, Seiloff, Ferland and company. I’m also very excited for the 2013 draft which, depending on how you look at it, may be considered part of next season. Sad that almost everything I’m looking forward to doesn’t directly involve the Flames 2012 team.

    With regards to the lockout I’d love to see an article on how this would effect us. Whether its a partial season or no season at all. The cons I suppose are obvious but are there any pros for the Flames?

    • Might be worth a full article, but the only pros I can see would be a for someone like Baertschi who can still play in the AHL against slightly elevated (but still not NHL) competition to get his feet wet before jumping in head first at the top level.

  • RexLibris

    Perhaps rather than going to the trouble of posting an article outlining the positive things, Kent, you could just take a page out of Ryan Lambert’s articles and whip up a quick Smiling Iginla MS Paint image to cheer up the readers.

    I’m in agreement that the financial cost of signing Cervenka is minimal, but the cost of the roster spot and the investment of the team’s overall fortunes in playing an NHL-untested player at such an important position is very risky.

    On the plus side, if it really does tank, this would be a great year to draft a future first-line center without having to be in the lottery to do so.

  • RexLibris


    I’m thinking more along the lines of Kipper playing maybe 40 of a strike shortened 60 game schedule… or Stajan burning a year off his contract without us having to watch him if there’s no season at all…etc

    What happens to Cervenka if there’s no 2012 season – do we sign him to the same contract again for 2013?

    Brodie, Backlund, Bouma, Butler all burning off the last year of their deals before becoming RFA’s…


      • If Baertschi plays in pro hockey (ie: the AHl as well) that will burn a year off his ELC. The only guys that exemption applies to is teens who go back and play in junior.

        As for the lock-out premise, it’s an interesting one. Will have to think about the positives and negatives for awhile.

        • SmellOfVictory

          How does he burn his ELC if the NHL is effectively defunct while he’s playing?

          If he is burning a year of it: to the people who want him in the WHL to avoid using up a year of his ELC, I say stuff and nonsense. The Flames aren’t going to be a team concerned with the cap when Baertschi’s contract expires (short some serious mismanagement), so the detriment to him stagnating in a league he’s way too good for outweighs the minor financial/cap benefits of an extra season of him in the NHL at bargain value.

          • Because ELC’s don’t just apply to NHL playing time…they are for pro hockey, which is why Baertschi’s ELC (along with every other rookie) is a two-way deal – one pay rate for NHL playing time, one pay rate for the AHL.

            So if the NHL doesn’t go this year, but Barts plays for Abby, that’s year 1 gone of his ELC.

          • RexLibris

            I would argue that Baertschi play in the AHL. He has dominated the WHL, and while playing in the AHL would “burn” a year of his ELC, this does eventually have to happen.

            My argument has always been that he would be best served by spending a season (or at least a part of) in the AHL to help acclimatize to the professional ranks. If he tears it up there, so much the better. The goal for the Flames is to develop a good player, the cost of that player has to be determined at a later date. I don’t think it can be micromanaged now, tempting though it may be.

          • PrairieStew

            Kent: Not to belabour this point, but the following is cut and pasted from the CBA section 9.1 d

            In the event that a Player signs his first SPC at age 18 and has had his SPC extended pursuant to Subsection (i), and such Player does not play at least ten (10) NHL Games in the second season under that SPC, then the term of his SPC and his number of years in the
            Entry Level System shall be extended for one (1) additional year.

            Clearly says NHL games. Am I missing something?

  • RexLibris

    the possibility of a strike shortened season or a complate wash may help the flames incredibly. it would mean we are that much closer to not having the trainwrecks sarich and badchuk patrolling the backend. as for cerveza while the contract risk is low the void may be too immense. ollie come back ollie.

  • RexLibris

    Do appreciate this listing of things on the big roster to watch this year. The list you put together would pretty much parallel what I had mind.

    A question, though. I have been somewhat disappointed in the coverage that we here in Calgary might get on some of the Flames assets who are playing elsewhere. As a result, my question is whether you might recommend sources for updates, commentary, statistical and otherwise, on the seasons say Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau at Boston College, Mark Jankowski and Jon Gillies at Providence College, and even closer to home, how the Flames prospects at Abbotsford are doing. I find that the websites for the colleges don’t provide broad coverage on individual players and that the local news outlets provide very little on the Heat with sporadic coverage on the Flames site.


    • Resolute

      Because he has nothing to prove in junior. Yeah, you’d burn a year of his deal, but I think that is the lesser evil to letting his development stagnate. He needs a bigger challenge than the WHL can provide him.

      • Resolute

        As per my previous post. I don’t think they burn a year of ELC. His deal was signed when he was 18, he didn’t play 10 NHL games his first year, it slides, he doesn’t play 10 NHL games his second year, it slides. Just like Slava Voynov.

        • ELC’s begin when juniors turn pro, regardless of whether it’s the AHL or NHL. The ELC only “slides” if a player is returned to junior.

          Which is why Leland Irving is on his third contract with the Calgary Flames. He played out his entire ELC in the AHL. It was the same for Pelech, Chucko, etc.

          The only way the Flames don’t get the clock ticking on Baertschi’s ELC this year is if he spends all of it (but nine games) in Portland. If he turns pro and plays in the AHL, that’s year one gone.

          • Resolute

            Sorry, Kent. I really don’t claim to know much about this, but this is what I just can’t understand. Can you explain Slava Voynov’s contract history (from, 2008-2009 67 games with Monarch of AHL – Entry level slide, same for 2009-2010 79 AHL games, entry-level slide), and the wording of the CBA? The wording of the CBA is “In the event that a Player signs his first SPC at age 18 and has had his SPC extended pursuant to Subsection (i), and such Player does not play at least ten (10) NHL Games in the second season under
            that SPC, then the term of his SPC and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for one (1) additional year.”

            The definition of age 18 is as of Sept 15 of the year he signed the contract – which would make him 18.

            Sorry, I just can’t see why you’re saying it only applies if a player is returned to junior.

            Please show me the error of my ways!

  • RKD

    I don’t know Kent, saying you are negative could be the easy way out for a lot of us. You remind me of George Johnson of the Calgary Herald.

    Personally, I found Johnson to be overtly negative compared to some other writers. It seemed the Flames could do no right by him. The Flames moves or lack thereof were highly questioned and often criticized. Some writers have stronger viewpoints and opinions than others and it came come across negative.

    I am looking forward this season to see what guys like Baertschi and Cervenka can do.

    I am intrigued by Wideman and Hudler and am hopeful Backlund can rebound. I think Irving definitely needs more starts to ply his trade.

    Bob Hartley is a wildcard, almost everyone laughed at Dean Lombardi for hiring Darryl Sutter as head coach for the Kings. I think Hartley will use Iginla in a much more offensive zone starts. Hartley is also key on puck possession, I think Brent preferred the dump and chase.

  • Reidja

    Never apologize for telling it like you see it Kent. I bet more people appriciate that than some of the sugar coating that the rights holders and others do. The honesty keeps me coming back.

  • RedMan

    I’m looking forward to watching a different style of play; watching our dump & chase style under the Sutter’s always left me feeling like I was listening to tunes with an 8-track player while the other guys are into fourth gen ipods.

    This season it looks like the FLAMES are planning to dump the dump/chase/8-track for more of a puck possession, offensively creative, attack off the rush style of play.

    I think this idea of ‘style of play’ change matches what seems to be a bit of a pattern emerging with the types of players they have been compiling… less crash and bang puck chasers, and instead more crafty, faster skating, slicker puck handling players.

    This gives me some hope, and especially for someone like Tanguay – who is much better suited for the puck possession, creative play style. I expect in fact to see Tangs have a huge year.

    How many times did we see Tanguay cross the line and drop a backwards no look pass to a player that was rushing for the boards to chase the puck, unaware and unable to pick up the pass? About the same amount of time we saw J-bo hold the puck behind the net for a good half a minute, ostensibly to give our guys time to set up, only to succumb to pressure at the less second and finally make a lousy, rushed pass up the boards, creating a giveaway. So this year, we have more puck skill, skating forwards and only leaves me wondering who can make that first pass out – anyone but J-bo.

  • PrairieStew

    7. I still think that Brian Burke might want to acquire Kiprusoff. If you can get Reimer or Scrivens coming back in that deal, plus picks or prospects I think you have to look at it.

    6. Agreed – Brodie’s development is key to the Flames going forward. With top picks in the last 2 years being spent on forwards, and Erixon being dealt, if TJ doesn’t make it, thats a serious hole in the organization.

    5. Reinhart is the prototype of the draft you want to make; a guy who improves significantly after you draft him. Here’s hoping he challenges to be the best rookie in the AHL this year and is solid 2 way guy.

    4. The risk in signing Cervanka is told in the turning of the page from Olli Jokinen. Olli was pretty effective, but clearly Flames management weren’t prepared to go over $4 m. If Cervanka bombs and Olli puts up 60+ points in Winnipeg…

    3. Looking forward to a team with an offensive focus, the question is whether there is enough team speed to play with other run and gun squads.

    2. It is possible that Backlund will continue to shoot blanks. I maintain that he still takes alot of low percentage shots and that artificially inflates his possesion numbers. Perhaps Hartley will see the ying and yang of Mikki and Tanguay and will team them up.

    1. Very much look forward to seeing him and challenge for rookie of the year. He’ll need soft minutes, just like our captain. To do that it means Stempniak and Glencross are in for a long year taking on the heavy lifting.

    • I maintain that he still takes alot of low percentage shots and that artificially inflates his possesion numbers.

      I think Backlund will be a low % shooter as well, although most forwards who aren’t goons at least settle in at 8%. That said, his personal shot count can’t really have inflated his possession numbers or his chance ratio – he only took 72 ES shots himself last year and scoring chances rule out low percentage shots on net.

  • Resolute

    Not to mention that it is unlikely this is a full-season lockout, imo. At most it is a half-season dispute, which would be somewhat ideal. Start him off in Abby, then move him up when the NHL resumes. You send him to junior and he is down for the season.