Five things: And now we come to this

1. The Backlund deal

As you all know I have been hyper-critical of the Flames’ contract decisions in this offseason — Wideman, enough said — and while I would love to continue to be outraged over this kind of stuff, frankly, the Backlund deal is very, very good.

We’ve all been expecting a breakout season for the kid and you have to think that at some point, it’s going to come. The reason why: His career shooting percentage is in the toilet. He had a very, very bad season shooting last year. He took 85 shots in just 41 games, not a bad number. Only four of them went in. A shooting percentage of 4.7. Which is bad. And almost as bad as his career shooting percentage of just 5.4.

At some point, logically, the pucks have to start going into the net for this kid. Since the 2000-01 season, just three players have had three seasons with shooting percentages of less than 6 percent, and they’re Jody Shelley, Craig Adams and Sami Pahlsson. Theoretically, at least, Backlund is a better offensive player than them, and he certainly has a tendency to drive possession.

The other issue, obviously, is whether he can stay healthy. He sure hasn’t done it yet in his career, and it would be nice to see him actually succeed at it.

But mainly, the reason I’m glad it’s a one-year deal for real short money is that it gives him something to prove. Guys playing for a contract generally perform pretty well (though the obvious counterargument is, y’know, last year with him), and all indications are that he’s very much viewing this as a "Show Me" type year. That could translate to big things. Or, I guess, it could translate to him being shipped to the first team looking for a young reclamation project.

2. Some development camp stuff

I think something that’s often overlooked about development camp is that while it’s a great chance to teams to get a look at kids they’ve drafted, and assess some free agents that have caught their scouts’ eyes over the years, it’s also important in helping to fill out rosters for AHL squads and assess how close older prospects are to being a legitimate professional hockey player.

This was addressed in a Calgary Herald piece earlier this week, but it featured a quote that I didn’t exactly find inspiring.

"There are some of the younger guys out there, the (John) Gaudreaus, for example, whose spatial awareness on the ice and skill level is ahead of some of the guys that have been in Abbotsford."

The person who said that would know; it was Troy Ward, who coached Abbotsford and all that. I like Johnny Gaudreau as a hockey player. I saw him probably a dozen times this season. He is not close to being pro-ready, even if he does have some above-average-for-his-age understanding of the way all the moving pieces on the ice fit together. It’s not that he’s too small and too easily bumped off the puck by adults, it’s that he isn’t where you’d like him to be in most aspects of his game. And if he’s better than what the team has in Abbotsford in that regard, well, that’s bad.

The good news, I guess, is that the reports here at FlamesNation indicate this is perhaps the best group of prospects the Flames have had at development camp in a long time, and also who cares if the AHL team is any good? Granted, this is damning the team with faint praise, but they’ve really improved their crop of young players over the past two years. 

3. CBA talks and what they mean

I know we’re all supposed to live in fear that there will be another work stoppage but the closer we get to the CBA expiring, the more I doubt that such a thing would happen. Not that this is based on anything or I’ve talked to anyone who would even remotely know what goes on in the negotiations but the facts are pretty simple, in my estimation.

First, the league is making money like it never has before and the salary cap has skyrocketed, meaning everyone has benefited. Maybe not as much as they could have, in either side’s view, but the simple fact is that no one is hurting like they were in 2004.

Second, can you imagine this league going through another work stoppage of any length at all? It just seems really stupid given all the goodwill it’s engendered with fans in the last six years.

Third, you’re starting to hear more and more rumblings of the Players’ Association signing off on extending the current salary cap another year. That seems like a deal that would be palatable to both sides. Say what you want about Gary Bettman, but one thing he definitely is not is an idiot. He wouldn’t let the owners lock out the players again so soon after the last stoppage, even if he technically works for them.

I have tickets to go see Teemu Selanne play his last game ever in Boston in late October, and am fully expecting to be there, crying my stupid eyes out that I’ll never my favorite player again.

4. Coyotes and a dispersal draft?

This was a really great thing I read last week: The league might just fold the Coyotes instead of letting them be moved who-knows-where, and would then pass around its players in a dispersal draft. Oh man would that ever be great. Not that Calgary would be picking even in the top-10 (sound familiar?!) but it would be a really great and exciting way to liven up late August.

So, just for fun, let’s run think about what your theoretical draft board would look like based solely on Best Player Available, and discounting guys the Coyotes don’t have under contract. Obviously guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle go 1-2, but who do you think would be around at 14? Seems to me the Coyotes prospect pool is pretty deep when you get to defensemen, no?

5. Where does Calgary stand?

So I think we can all agree that maybe every team in the Northwest has improved itself so far this summer, apart from Vancouver (which I consider to have largely stayed the same, or maybe improved slightly). But let’s just spitball something: Where do the Flames finish?

Obviously Vancouver is the team to beat, given the chasm between it and second-place Calgary. But I have to think the Flames haven’t improved enough to hold off Colorado for the second-place spot, and the Wild should now be right there as well. Edmonton still has a long way to go, but it won’t quite be a pushover any more either.

Apart from Vancouver as the consensus No.1, how do you see the division shaping up?

(For reference, I have it Vancouver, Colorado, Minnesota, Calgary, Edmonton).

  • Derzie

    Wacky comments on here today. All over the place. My 2 cents:

    Backlund – Take the expectations away and let him be what he is. A middling NHLer

    Development camp – loving the new blood. It’s a start.

    CBA – Greedy SOBs one and all

    Coyotes – I’d love a contraction of 4 teams. Better talent pool. Also while their at it, lower the Cap floor (reasonable parity rather than 2 pts separating 3rd and 12th.

    Calgary – The salaries are of no concern to me. I like Wideman and Hudler as players. I’m not their accountant so I can’t comment on the value, but they are better. We have a big gap at center that needs filling and we need a plan for goaltending.

    Vancouver, Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota, Calgary

  • Tommynotsohuge

    I am going a little off path here, but does anyone know if Ramo will be out here for the real camp? I’ve heard he will be in the KHL next season, but do you guys think he could get out of that contract if the backup spot was given to him?

    • Tommynotsohuge

      no. Nor should he. He signed a contract for multiple years with no out-clause. There’s one year left. Let him finish the contract. If he just leaves, is he any better than Radulov?

      besides, with Karlsson signed for another year and Irving getting impatient, there’s no need to exacerbate the situation further by adding a KHL star to the mix before time. Next year, however..

      • Ramo has one major difference from Radulov: he’s Finnish, not Russian. They tend to stick around. Maybe he’d bolt, but it’d be to another team in the NHL if anything.

        Looking at a player like Teemu Selanne, I question why people say that Jarome is getting old and done for. Selanne has scored 25+ goals the last few seasons and is now 40. If Jarome can pot 25 per season for 5 more seasons on a contract like Selanne, that’d be great. Take the pressure off him, like they did for Selanne in Anaheim, and let him flourish.

        Iginla’s O-zone starts should be at LEAST 60% in the coming season(s). Hopefully Hartley will figure it out that Iginla’s line should be on the ice when the other team ices the puck and can’t change. Get someone who can win a faceoff, and give it to Iginla.

        • Tommynotsohuge

          “Ramo has one major difference from Radulov: he’s Finnish, not Russian. They tend to stick around. Maybe he’d bolt, but it’d be to another team in the NHL if anything.”

          … this statement makes no sense. I was saying that if Ramo skips out on his commitment in Russia doesn’t that make him as bad as Radulov–as in, he made a commitment to play for Omsk; he has a year left on the contract with no out-clause; he shouldn’t walk away from that commitment to come to the Flames(THE FLAMES) early.

          Somehow, you took that to mean I thought he’d leave the Flames to go to Russia? What?

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Backlund and Pahlsson seem like a very good comparison. I think that’s what Backlund may end up being. I hope not but at this level he doesn’t bury chances nor does he really shoot hard. He loves his little backhand move but when has he shown he can snipe a rocket to the top shelf?

  • Captain Ron

    1. St Louis 2. Los Angeles 3. Vancouver 4. Chicago 5. Calgary 6. San Jose 7. Minnesota 8. Colorado

    I say this assuming our run of bad luck with injuries is over, Kipper is at least as good as last year, our backup goalie goes at least .500, and Backlund, Comeau have decent seasons. I am probably a little bit optimistic however a good number of experienced coaches have successful first seasons with their new teams.
    I also think we will see a better JBO under Hartley. Overall the offense should be better especially IF Cervenka shows he can play, and Baertschi has a good rookie season. One more quality center who can win some faceoffs would also be cause for celebration.
    I think this is the year that Detroit finally misses the playoffs and finishes 9th or 10th.

    Lots of ifs and buts I know

  • Captain Ron

    Man do some people have rose coloured glasses…. People have the Flames finishing 6th? Really. And still bashing the Oilers. Wow. I mean the Oilers will probably suck for parts of the year but we really should stop making fun of them cause really soon they are going to leap about 10 spots ahead of us for good.

    Anyways, I digress. In terms of Flames. How can people possibly say 6th? We lost Joki, got Hudler. Maybe a wash? Different player, hard to judge. But no major improvement. Next we got Wideman, a complete trainwreck of a dman in his own end with some decent offence. Great, thats probably a wash considering we couldn’t score enough goals last year. Otherwise its the same team except OLDER. Iggy is going on 40 or something, and I’d pick this year as the first for him to miss 30goals. Its inevitable, he can’t cheat father time.

    I think some people have crazy ideas about Baerstchi being the next Stamkos or Tavares or Eberle. He likely will get 35 points (a great rookie year).

    So how do we get 6th? Sure we had injuries, but so did everyone else. I guess we just pray the stars align and the gods rain down on us. Cause there is no way you can logically think this team is going to improve that much.

    I predict we get 13th. We’ll be in 11th at the deadline, trade Iggy for a few draft picks and finally start to attempt to draft some stars and replace the dying core of this team.

  • Captain Ron

    @Kurt

    Yes I am one of those who is completly guilty of wearing rose colored glasses with my predictions. As a multiple season ticket holder I have to put them on when making my monthly payment. Helps me to keep my sanity.

    I agree with you on the Oilers to a point but they have a little ways to go yet.

    Also think Detroit falls off a little bit this year, and Nashville, Phoenix slips a little too.

  • Parallex

    @Kurt

    “Otherwise its the same team”

    Except that it isn’t…

    Guys who played the season opener last year that aren’t projected to do the same this year:

    Hagman
    Kostopolis
    Jokinen
    Hannan
    Babchuk
    Bourque
    Moss
    Horak
    Stajan

    Replacing them…

    Baerschi
    Comeau
    Cervenka
    Wideman
    Brodie
    Cammellari
    Hudler
    Backlund
    Jones
    + New Coaching Staff.

    That’s 42% difference… and honestly I don’t know how anyone could look at that turnover and not see an improved team considering the only guys on the first list that were worth a damn were Jokinen and Moss. Add in that I find it highly unlikely that the Flames will have anywhere near as many mangames lost as last year and several western Conference teams look likely to take a step back in terms of talent (Nashville, Phoenix, Detroit) I see plenty of reasons for optimism… to be fair I think 6th is the high end of what the team is capable of but the potential is there.

  • Captain Ron

    @Parallex

    I agree with your assessment as well. We also still have a world class goalie. I know that me putting the Flames on my list at 5th is a bit of blind optimism on my part but the difference between 5th and 8th could only be 4 points or something like that. It may very well come down to shootout wins.

    If our guys start dropping like flies again then well……..