How to Rebuild the Calgary Flames – A Four Year (and a bit) Plan – Part Four



This is a continuation of a series in which I propose a method of rebuilding the Flames organization. For a frame of reference, you can go to the first in the series here. The Flames have at their disposal four 1st round draft picks resulting from trades of Bouwmeester, Iginla and Kiprusoff, as well as their own. In addition, they have amassed five more picks in the other six rounds, with only the 3rd and 5th rounds excluded. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Draft Day 2013 – The Gathering

My goal on draft day is to acquire a future 1st line center. Two if I can swing it.

The 2013 Draft is deep with players at the forward position, with a number of them listed as centers. It will almost certainly require trading up, perhaps to 6th overall. In order to do that, I would be willing to package two first round picks to move up. The 10th and later 1st round pick ought to be enough, given past draft trades, to move up five spots.

Following that, depending on the trend of the draft, I may choose to retain the two middle 1st round picks or trade those for another pick within the top 10, perhaps 8th or 9th overall. For the sake of this exercise, and to make this a simpler experiment to follow, I am going to assume that those four 1st round picks have been exchanged for modest moves up in the draft order and two selections at 6th and 9th overall.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

My 1st round targets on draft day would be Alex Barkov, Jonathan Drouin, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, and Curtis Lazar, roughly in that order. Jones and MacKinnon have been left off due to the likelihood of their being already picked.

As mentioned, my priority is a center. This player would be acquired with the intention of being an eventual franchise player and with the expectation that depth will provide insurance against any failed development of members of the current prospect group (Jankowski, Ferland, Reinhart and Granlund). Drouin is currently playing left wing, but his skill set is one that, I believe, could translate to the middle. Besides, by some reports he is the single most talented player in the draft and that always has value.

I realize that draft rankings vary wildly between the beginning of a season and draft day, and as such these names are meant to give an impression of the player types that would be targeted: a center with high skill and intelligence for the game.

The 2nd round selection (acquired by trade in the previous article) would target wingers or defensemen, though not so exclusively as to pass on any player who falls outside the first round and is considered to be the most highly skilled player available. Beginning in the 4th round I would instruct my scouts to continue to run their draft board and take the best player available based on skill, without paying heed to size or nationality, but to try and prioritize defensemen and right-wingers who fit this criteria.

This draft would be run under the general principle of identifying skill and prioritizing an awareness of the game, regardless of size.

Depth Chart

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

In this way it would not seem to differ from the Flames’ current drafting philosophy; one might say that there was then no need to remove Tod Button. I return to my original argument in that while the game plan may be sound and bear a striking resemblance to prior habits, there remains room for improvement in the individuals executing that plan.

Returning to my expectation that the players drafted in this year will finish their junior careers before having a period of two or perhaps even three seasons of apprenticeship in the AHL, the goal of this renewed and re-focused attention to the draft is to re-stock the prospect pool of the Flames organization. Ultimately I am attempting to create a system whereby a steady stream of potential NHL-ready talent is available year over year with younger players consistently pushing older players for roster spots.

Heading into the off-season then, the Flames would now have added somewhere between two and four forward prospects, at least two that play center, as well as perhaps a goaltender and a pair of defensive prospects. These would join the current crop of prospects that include Max Reinhart, Mark Jankowski, John Gaudreau, Tyler Wotherspoon, Michael Ferland, Markus Granlund, Joni Ortio, Laurent Brossoit, Ryan Culkin, Patrick Sieloff and others.

The current prospect depth chart of the Flames is deep at center, but lacks any guaranteed first line prospect. Jankowski is still considered a high-risk, high-reward player-type and that is the exact opposite of a guarantee. The most glaring weakness in the Flames developmental system is on the right-wing. This has been, and will continue to be, addressed at the draft over the long-term, but for the short-term will be filled through free-agency.

Free-Agency in the Summer of 2013

I suspect that Baertschi will be ready to graduate to the NHL after one season in the AHL and therefore the left-wing position would be more or less set with Tanguay, Glencross, Baertschi and Jones.

The right-wing position will consist of Cammalleri, Hudler, Stempniak, Jackman and Horak.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The temptation to trade Tanguay exists, however, at his age and with his cap restrictions I doubt that the market is there. And at this stage his veteran presence on the roster is more valuable than the modest draft pick the team is likely to receive in exchange.

I would pursue Boyd Gordon, or a comparable depth player, for the fourth-line center spot, offering a two-year deal for no more than $2 million a year, no clauses or restrictions. This means the Flames centers going into the 2013-2014 season are Gomez, Cervenka (more in a minute), Backlund, and Gordon (or equivalent).

On defense I would pursue Rob Scuderi as a free agent. Contract terms would be three years at no more than $4 million a season. No clauses or restrictions. Failing that, Mark Fistric, if available, for as much as $3.5 million a season over three years. For him I would offer a limited NTC that would be in effect for the first two years of the contract and expire in November of the final year. I feel that he may be a more hotly-contested defensive asset on the open market, hence the contractual incentive.

I realize these numbers may seem low, and I am open to the possibility that they may very well need to be higher. However, coming out of the last lockout, despite a significant rollback, salaries immediately came down for many free-agents before skyrocketing back up. I am anticipating something similar occurring this time and thus need to capitalize on the depressed prices. For the purposes of this exercise let us assume that it is Scuderi who signs.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned Roman Cervenka in the re-signings. I am still unsure as to whether he will be a fit for the NHL and it is simply too difficult to predict anything about him at this time. If he performs well (50+ point pace) in the 2012-2013 season, then a new contract will be forthcoming. I would limit it to a maximum of two years in the range of $3 million, depending on performance, and with no clauses or restrictions.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

If Cervenka struggles and his point totals do not exceed my benchmark, then depending on the nature of those struggles, he could be re-signed (assuming he is interested) to another one-year contract, and play behind Backlund as a 3rd line center. If he is unfit to return for another season then Backlund will, by this time, have likely earned a chance to play on the 2nd line. In that event, a 3rd line center can be found via free-agency. An Eric Belanger range player who can, historically, contribute modest offense and play the penalty kill is all that is required at this time.

There is a great deal of uncertainty about how this season will affect Cervenka and what the repercussions may be for any potential NHL career. However, for the sake of this exercise, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt that he can become, at least for two more years, a serviceable center on a relatively weak team.

I would also try to sign Chris Mason, or an equivalent player, as a backup to Antti Niemi. A two-year deal for around $2 million would be on offer.

In June, I would buy-out the remainder of Cory Sarich’s contract, at a cost of $666,667 for two years.

The New Roster

So the roster looks thus:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

  Left Wing Center Right Wing
1st Tanguay Gomez Cammalleri
2nd Baertschi Backlund Hudler
3rd Glencross Cervenka Stempniak
4th Jones Gordon Jackman
Extra     Horak
1st Giordano Wideman  
2nd Campoli Scuderi  
3rd Brodie Butler  
Extra Smith    
Starter Niemi    
Backup Taylor/Chris Mason    

This ends year one of my exercise.

The prospect pool is now stocked with forwards as well as a few goaltending and defense prospects, though many are still at least two years from the NHL. The right wing and defense are in need of elite talent potential and will require a great deal of shoring up, depending on the depth of the 2013 draft and efficiency of the scouting department. The Flames salary would fall around $57 million, against a ceiling expected to descend to approximately $60 million, for the following season. In addition, many of the most difficult contracts will have been moved out along with the most notable holdovers of the previous management regimes.

I want to be clear here, though. This isn’t change for its own sake. I very sincerely believe that the organization is currently heading in the wrong direction, and this season may be the last wherein it has assets of enough value to help facilitate a smoother transition into a rebuilding phase. If this window is missed then the process will likely only be longer and more painful. As I mentioned in the opening article of this series, I have moderated my own view on the best route taken so as to find a middle path between the scorched-earth path that I sincerely feel is best, and the oft-suggested controlled dismantling that many fans appear to favour. In either case, 2012-2013 is the last time this window opens.

In the following segments I will outline years two through four and conclude with my estimation of the overall situation of the franchise at that point. The most difficult and in-depth part is over and what remains becomes increasingly vague as we move further into the future, hence an increasing brevity of description. I will try to avoid deliberate obfuscation and be clear where I can. My hope is that at the end of the fourth year the Flames will appear to be a more stable, successful, and well-balanced organization than they are today.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

What say you?

Rex’s Flames Rebuilding Plan:

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    No to Lazar. I don’t understand why a plug who even his most ardent supporters say would be a stretch to be a 2nd line forward is consistently ranked in the top 10 of the draft. This happens every year to big Canadian forwards (and in slightly rarer cases to americans). Last year it was Brendan Gaunce, the year before it was Mark McNeill. This year it’s Lazar. Honestly, I’d rather the Flames Mark Jankowski the draft again and overdraft Nic Petan.

    Jones is a Center/Right Wing. I don’t believe he’s ever played LW. That is, if the Jones you’re referring to is Blair Jones.

    As to the perceived lack of RW’s, I fully expect 2 of Baertschi, Arnold, Horak, and Gaudreau to be permanently converted to the right side.

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    Some good stuff but, no to Gomez, we can get more for Iggy and can probably package him with Tanguay. Plus, with these trades we will be drafting in the top 5 and will not need to trade up.

  • 24% body fat

    Why does the site not have an NHL13 flames rebuild contest. Go to GM mode, all settings are set to the hardest. GM firing is set to on. No games are played, all are simmed.

    At the end of 5 or 7 years the following is valued to determine a winner.

    -Franchise (87ov+) players on the team under the age of 27
    -number of winning seasons
    -average age of team
    -number of cups won (weighted heavily obviously)
    -regular season records
    -overall ratings added together of top ten prospects under the age 22 playing in jr, europe or ahl. Minimum one goalie and three defense.

    Yes there are unreal trades. Like in 2010 I traded Staois for Seabrook. But with all the hypothetical stuff is there a better way to prove who is right.

  • JumpJet

    Hey Rex. I was thinking about it & I think the problem with this piece is that there are too many assumptions having to be made to really properly have the fun of speculation as an armchair GM. I think your piece could have more focused on the 2013-14 season & look at what players you want for that & which you would like to move as part of the draft stratedgy. If we are doing a rebuild & scored 4 1st rounders in an excellent deep draft I am not so sure I would be so fast packaging 2 1st’s for 1 unless we are getting a top 5 pick back. The other thing is, if we trade JBO, Iggy & Kipper in a shortened season, we are going to suck & I would be shocked if we were drafting any later than 8th spot.

    Now if I were looking at a supercharged push for some prime players via draft, I would possibly see if we could trade a player & a later 1st rounder to get those earlier picks. Some of the ones that come to mind would be Cammi with 1 year left & one of our later 1st’s may possibly net a 9th or 10th pick over all. Problem is, without seeing who is picking where its hard to be specifac & try to think up trade scenarios. The other thing is that drafts throw big suprises & players fall that a team may really covet that we may not be so high on. However they may be willing to part with a more developed prospect that we would covet & trade our pick for that player & their later 1st. Nothing wrong with that & having 4 1st’s gives you that luxury. Opportunity & being ready to make bold moves should be the flavour of the Flames approach to this draft.

    • RexLibris

      And that is why I spent over two months working on this series.

      I have to work off of enough assumptions to give a logical basis to the reader for many of my moves. That being said, there are some things that cannot be plotted in this exercise, exceptional performances, draft day surprises, the actions of other teams, all weave in and out like threads on a tapestry and the best I can do is try to outline where I want to go and how I might get there, all things being equal.

      Moving up at the draft is intended to provide quality over quantity, and my reluctance to say outright that I would trade into the top five, is my choosing to err on the side of caution. I can’t take anything for granted.

      As for trading Cammalleri, it was suggested to me, and he is a prime candidate for shipping out. In fact, if the Flames do rebuild, he should be in the first cohort of bodies heading out, alongside Iginla, Bouwmeester and Kiprusoff.

      My not doing so is based on trying to steer away from the all-in rebuild and in order to do that I needed to retain Cammalleri to replace Iginla as a top line winger.

      I have noticed a greater desire amongst Flames fans for a more dramatic “tear-it-all-down” rebuild in the comments of this series than at any time over the previous two years. Yourself and a few others being the exception as having called for a total rebuild for awhile now.

      Thanks for the insightful reading and commentary. It is very much appreciated.

    • RexLibris

      Yeah, that Oilers’ right wing is pretty thin behind Eberle, Hemsky and Yakupov. 😉

      I’d love to see the reaction from Flames fans if that ever happened.

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    Nice work as usual Rex.

    This Flames team is a mess. full stop. The question as to whether or not the flames should rebuild is moot. The question at this point is how. On that note here is how I agree/disagree with your analysis:

    -Management-agree. I suppose if Rex Libris is the new GM of the flames he should have the right to fill positions as he sees fit. In other words, no meddling from KK or ME.

    -Fire Todd Button-agree. It’s not the philosophy of the draft/prospect evaluation, it has been the execution. The results of his tenure speak, quite clearly, for themselves.

    -Coach-….This, as always in the NHL, will play itself out. Unless Hartley is a miracle worker he has three years tops with this team as it is today. Even if there is a full scale tear it down to the ground rebuild he’ll be tossed from the ship when the time is right.

    -Kipprusoff trade-agree. This one should have already happened. I would add Chicago to a list of potential trade partners. But I agree with your strategy of acquiring a goalie and pick in return (not sure if Crawford and a pick may make sense from both sides also).

    -Iginla trade-undecided. I’m just not convicinced A) Iggy wants to leave and B) the flames want Iggy to leave. Fans often forget, or at least neglect, players are people and they have wants and desires. Iggy’s lived in Calgary for 15-20 (?) years. This is where his kids were born. His family lives, relatively, nearby in Edmonton. His wife’s family lives, relatively, nearby in Edmonton. They offseason, relativley, nearby in Kelowna (or is it Kamloops?). As a hockey player that’s a pretty good deal. I agree with the popular belief that this is, ultimately, Jaromes decision to make. Either way wouldn’t surprise me, but I do have to say that the line ups you have listed in Parts 2&3 are wretched hockey teams with no identifiable player to be the ‘face’ of the franchise. Even in a sophisticated hockey market that is a tough sell. I wouldn’t want to watch those teams. If the Flames do end up moving Iginla, they had better have a bullet proof plan in regards to who takes the mantle. That would be an aweful lot of pressure for any young hockey player(Barteschi or whomever is the net return). If Jarome stays he has to be on board with the rebuild realizing he may not get another chance of playing on a contending flames squad till he’s, likely, 39 or 40.

    -Wideman buyout-disagree. may be an ugly contract sooner than later, but he’s here. for now.

    -Babchuck waive-agree. Is there a good reason, other than money, why you wouldn’t?

    -Campoli-meh agree.

    -Stajan Gomez trade-disagree. I’m resonably confident that Gary Roberts through quinoa, beats, free range chicken, and crossfit can turn Stajan into a 22 year old version of Eric Lindros.

    -Bouwmeester trade-agree. someone will loose out on the Shea Webber sweepstakes by the draft (or at it). Bouwmeester should be moved by the start of 2014.

    -Bartschi 2013 AHL-agree. I think you point out Sam Gagner as a good example why a year can serve a young hockey player well. An example I’ll point out, for differnt reasons, is Claude Giroux. although I suppose G only spent half a season with the phantoms and that is currently where Sven sits. Regardless, a decision to bring him up for a shortened 2013 has to be made for the right reasons.

    Some things I would add:

    -Trade Cammelleri. the Flames should be able to, I think, get a decent package (late first or poetentially a young player) for a proven scoring LW come deadline.

    -Evaluate the market for Giordano. The Flames may be able to cash in on a solid top 4 D-man in his prime on a good contract.

    -Evaluate the market for Tanguay. May not be able to get much in return (2nd and midling prospect) for a player with his term and at his age. That said if this sort of rebuild is in store it may not be hard to convince some of these player with NMC/NTC to agree to go.

    -On a final note, I see the bottom of this team falling out sooner rather than later. Even if they continue on this band-aid approach the Flames will find themselves with lottery picks. I would say they are a key long term injury or two away form that right now. Remember, the Oilers didn’t plan their rebuild, they got there through a string of poor decisions. And we have been seeing that with the Flames for at least two years now.At some point the chickens will come home to roost.

    EDIT: on a final final note. the Flames may end up trading Kipper, Iggy and Bouwmeester, but I don’t see it happening all at once. maybe 2 out of 3 will go before the 2013 draft, but I’m pretty sure flames ownership is not interested in being the Miami Marlins of the NHL. They are just not that bold.