FN Weekend Open Thread – Grade the Flames Offseason

 

I’m finally back from my Eastern sojourn and with me returns the FN Weekend open thread.

With Leland Irving finally back in the fold, it looks like the Flames are done for the summer of 2012. They may yet try to trade a Babchuk or Stajan contract (good luck with that), but otherwise the training camp rosters are in place.

Feaster was fairly busy this offseason, although probably not enough for some. The aging and expensive guys remain – Iginla, Kiprusoff and Bouwmeester – so the overall character of the team is more or less intact. The club lost a few support players, albeit relatively important ones (Moss, Jokinen), signed some guys to replace them (Hudler and Cervenka) and paid a pretty penny to add some offense to the blueline. 

At the draft, Calgary added a second rounder and reached for Mark Jankowski, a move that will either be considered a coup or a flop down the road. The club mostly focused on defenders with their other picks, so Jankowski is Calgary’s only shot in 2012 to add high end offense to the cupboard.

KW’s Summer Report Card
 

Here’s how I would grade the Flames efforts this summer:

– Dennis Wideman deal: C –

Giving term, dollars and a full NMC clause to a moderately capable top-4 defender, with a bulk of the money coming in his 30+ years, strikes me as an overly risky move. Wideman has certainly put up some points with good teams in the Eastern Conference over the last few years, but has consistently been mediocre at the other end of the ice. He’s an upgrade over Hannan, no doubt, but with five years and more than $5M per year as the bet on the table, there’s a lot more ways the Flames can lose this one rather than win.

– Jiri Hudler deal: C

The erstwhile Red Wing adds some much needed depth on the right side and he put up decent numbers in Detroit last year. At $4M/year for four years he’s also only a moderate risk relative to, say, Wideman. On the bad side of things, Hudler has been one of the most sheltered guys on Detroit over the last few years and even in those circumstances he’s never cracked 60-points in the NHL.

The Flames are a sizeable step down from Detroit at this point, so even if he sees more ice time as a Flame, there’s a chance his output will dip owing to the fresh difficulty of those minutes (not to mention the lack of Datsyuk or Zetterberg). Hudler hasn’t been able to drive possession at any point in his NHL career either, which has become the Flames biggest weakness at even strength.

– Blake Comeau deal: A

Nothing not to like about how Calgary handled Blake Comeau – by eschewing his qualifying offer and then re-upping for pennies on the dollar, Calgary gets a capable support winger who should be in line for a bounce back season.

– Mikael Backlund deal: A

There were rumors the Flames were shopping Backlund heading into the draft, but luckily the club instead chose to re-sign him to a $725k contract for one year. It’s contract the Flames can’t lose on: even if Mikael never develops the sort of offense expected of him, his contributions as a guy who can play anyone and move the puck forward should pay for his sub-$1M deal. On the other hand, if the pucks start going in for him at even a middling rate, Calgary has a steal on their hands.

– Roman Cervenka deal: B

Snagging the high scoring KHL center/winger added some more skill to a generally uncreative line-up and another body in the peak 23-27 year old range. Of course, as of now it’s totally unknown whether Cervenka will be able to translate his game on North American ice so there’s a certain amount of risk and opportunity cost associated with grabbing Roman and penciling him in to the team’s top-6. Adding him still strikes me as a worthwhile gamble, however.

– Draft: NA

It’s a fools errand to grade this portion of the summer at this point. The Big Jankowski can really go either way while the rest of the draft contained a few moderately good gambles (Seiloff, Kulak, Gordon) who may or may not turn out to be worthwhile depth guys in 4 or 5 years. My initial take still stands – that Jankowski was a long reach in the first round when some other names were still on the board – but I’m more than willing to give this one the ol’ wait and see.

Overall Grade: C+

Calgary got some nice deals on their pending RFA’s and the Cervenka contract shows they are looking a little beyond the well worn paths for new talent. Their draft maneuvers were ballsy, but the "big additions" to the parent roster indicate the club is still committed to furiously spinning its wheels amongst the West’s middle class for at least another season. 

Calgary enters next year with more offensive firepower than last year, but they also face seem to be banking on a lot of question marks: post-35 Iginla and Kipper, an untested Roman Cervenka, Jiri Hudler matching his Detroit output, etc. They also didn’t address the team’s lackluster puck possession abilities – in fact, the Flames lost one of their top players by this metric in David Moss.

As such, in my estimation the Flames didn’t have a bad summer, but Feaster et al didn’t meaningfully take a step forward either. As things stand, Calgary will once again be battling for a playoff spot next season (whenever that may be) and will need a number of things to fall in their favor in order to make it to the dance.

That’s how I see things currently. Please add your own report cards in the comments. Feel free to comment on other aspects of the off-season I may have neglected here as well.

  • RexLibris

    @Last Big Bear

    I pretty much agree with your assessment, and certainly with your point on the moves the organization took in response to their roster attrition.

    My grade for the team would optimistically be a C+ and I think that there is a very good chance that the season itself may turn into a solid D. We shall have to see how Cervenka and Baertschi adjust to the NHL as well as how Hartley handles a “difficult to coach” dressing room.

    They don’t look like a playoff team to me. Instead they look like a team that, despite some significant roster changes, will at best end up almost exactly in the same spot as the previous two years. In my opinion status quo would be the worst-case scenario as it would open the door for management to argue that they stay the course.

    That being said, I think that much of the advantage of this forum is that Kent’s take, while preliminary, allows all of us to contribute and create a more comprehensive perpsective by adding various views and details that can’t all be added in one article.

  • Parallex

    Overall Grade: B

    With the exception of Olli every guy they acquired this offseason is better then the guy he most logically replaces. Now none of the guys they acquired are big time impact guys (and given how much those guys ended up costing we never could have gotten them) so I think they did the best could with what they could… and that’s all you can really ask for.

  • RexLibris

    You know I’m a huge fan of the flaming c and at the same time I feel like I can call it as i seeit.The last 3 yrs have been very depressing to follow and I blame Darryl sutter! Jay feaster, on the other hand has done an admorable job considering g the mess (financial bind) Darryl put him in. I’m dissapointed that you, kent give him such low scores on acquisitions!!! If hudler or wideman had gone anywhere else they would have gotten similar contracts and we allll know it. These r solid signings and both younger! I am so thrilled olli wasn’t signed and than moss hannan and kostopoulos weren’t either. Sorry kent but that’s the market! Jay has done nothing but move this team forward despite wearing handcuffs presented to him by Darryl and this is exciting for me as a fan who has been angry for at least four years with gm ineptitude. I am more dissapointed with the comeau and backlund signings even though they are cheap. I would like to see them ( especially backs) packaged for a tougher utility player. If not backlunds dunzo by the deadline. He’s had waaaay too many chances. U add in Sven and Brodie and possibly reinhart and great leaders in gio jarome and cammi, this is the most excited I’ve been to be a fan in a long time. My only regret is that ramo isn’t available!!!!!

    • RexLibris

      “If not backlunds dunzo by the deadline. He’s had waaaay too many chances.”

      in what way? And how? He’s played 2 full seasons.

      anyone who thinks Backlund’s a bust needs to take a good hard look at the early part of Ryan Kesler’s career. I think they’ll be astonished how similar Backlund’s is so far. So far, he’s played fewer games and scored more points to the same age.

      • RKD

        Point well taken with kesler but I feel the flames could use backlunds “potential” that many believe in to use as trade bait instead. I guess I’m not a believer in the backlund project. He wasn’t a high first rounder and I’ve never valued him like others have. Now, that being said I do know he’s been unlucky with the injuries. I’m willing to see what he can do his yr. id like to see him with stempniak and Glenn x I’d like to see some fire from baclund. I hope he proves me wrong. I just think his yr has to b his big yr. the contract is fair and he knows what he expectations r. I feel like my grading for the team is a b-. Let’s hope that tough player we need to mix things up is there by October. I think we have a lot more positives in one yr with feaster than we had in sutters last 4. Time will tell!

  • RKD

    Oh and as for the offseason grade. Its a C+. Essentially the way we brought it talent was by over paying for it. For some reason we needed to resign garbage and Sarich has a contract that has a NTC simply due to its value. Seriously who wants to spend 2 mil per year on him? We signed a few other small contracts but for the most part they are not the game breakers.

    Now I will say that there is nothing wrong with this grade. We had to get talent, and you have to over pay in free agency. So be it. I think the flames were at best going to get a C+. I don’t see how we could have realistically made it an A grade off season. Trading Iggy and Kipper for picks and prospects doesn’t get you a grade either. It gets you a a question mark like the draft. And since we would have lost talent by doing that I would have to decrease the grade for that.

    I’m reluctantly beginning to trust the Feast & Weisbrod more and more because of this fact. So fact they really haven’t screwed up and have done the best with what they could.

  • RKD

    They really could not have done any better, good luck trying to trade one of or both Stajan and/or Babchuk.

    Feaster is not allowed to make any substantial trades without the green light from Murray Edwards and Ken King.

    So far, Holmgren and Holland seemed content with their D. Maybe the appetite for Jay-Bo is not there.

    Wideman and Hudler should improve the pp, but I’m more concerned with how this team can survive at ES.

    Down the middle you have Cammalleri, Cervenka, Baertschi and Stajan. Cervenka and Baertschi have a grand total combined experience of 5 games. And that was just Sven alone!

    Probably have to give a C.

    • RKD

      Baertschi is not a center. Cammalleri was only a center last year out of necessity, but might well stay there due to lack of a 1st line option. If Cervenka shows he can play, I think Cammalleri moves back to the wing. Add to that list Backlund, Jones, Horak. The position definitely is not a strength, but it’s not terrible. Can pretty much say that for every position on this team.

      • MC Hockey

        you’re underestimating how many wingers the team has. If Baertschi makes the team, Cammalleri CAN’T move to the wing. Not unless you want both Comeau and Glencross on the 4th line.

        as I write this, though, that seems to give the Flames an interesting shut-down option on line 4.. Which means Backlund wouldn’t have to be the shut-down center!!

        Tanguay – Cammalleri – Iginla

        Cervenka – Backlund – Hudler

        Baertschi – Horak – Stempniak

        Glencross – Jones – Comeau

  • MC Hockey

    My ratings as follows and hey I finally joined the 21st Century and joined Twitter so check out @Real_MC_Hockey please and if you want unique Jets analysis, see me at Jetsnation.ca too.

    1. Wideman – hard to find consitent, hard-shooting offensive D- men ( see Jaybo) and relative to the market is not a huge overpay, especially if he can play more solid defense which is questionable given past performance. Give it a B

    2. Coaches – Hartley does have a winning past and cohesion among staff with the obvious Cloutier addition and adding another Francophone in Gelinas while keeping goalie coach Malarchuk makes sense to me. But can the hard-ass motivating techniques fly once the relationship with players is solid work and are the X’s and O’s oing to work? Give it a C+

    3. Cervenka – low risk, high reward potential contract and if he did hit all his bonuses the team would be thrilled. I expect 0.65 to .0.75 PPG. Give it an A

    4. Backlund – again low risk on good possession forward who could break out finally or at worst be decent trade bait. Give it an A

    5. Comeau – low value contract given his speed, scoring potential, and ability to check and hit. Give it a B

    6. Hudler – perhaps an overpay and term is long given his advanced stats numbers and his counting numbers being exaggerated in playing with top Red Wings in past. Give it a C

    Overall – B

  • MC Hockey

    @ Baalzamon: I am pretty sure Cerevenka has been brought in as a Centre. We definitely have too many forwards, which has to make you wonder what return Feaster is actually looking for from JBO & he would have to package up some of these forwards if he did get some back. I see the line up as follows:

    Tanguay Cammi Iggy (they will try this out of the gate)

    GlenX Cerevenka Hudler (should be interesting, I would rather see Baerstche but)

    Stempniak Backlund Baerstche

    Comeau Jones Jackman

    No idea what to do with Stajan, sure would love to see Bouma in the lineup & I would love to get Aliu in at some point as well. Injuries happen so I’m sure things will change.

    • MC Hockey

      Too many everything. Depth chart with one-ways and other guys I’d like to see get some time this year (just in order that they come to mind, not making line suggestions):

      Tanguay Cervenka Iginla
      Glencross Backlund Hudler
      Comeau Horak Cammalleri
      Baertschi Stajan Stempniak
      Bouma Jones Jackman
      Ferland Reihhart Aliu
      Nemisz

      Bouwmeester Wideman
      Giordano Sarich
      Butler Brodie
      Smith Carson
      Babchuk

      Kipper
      Irving
      Karlsson

      That’s 15 forwards that really should be playing in the NHL, and several more who at least deserve a shot at a few games this year. D actually was helped by Wilson leaving, although he was a good depth guy.

      We’ve got good depth, but not much top end.

  • everton fc

    I agree with the C- grade from a technical standpoint. However, from a philosophical standpoint, I give the Flames an F for basically, as Kent put it, “furiously spinning its wheels.”

    Flames, meet edge of cliff.

    Of course, it’s all Darryl’s fault and Jay is a savior. Just like Darryl was the savior when it was all Button’s fault and Button was the savior when it was Coates’ fault and Coates was the savior when it was all Risebrough’s fault.

    And it takes time to clear up the last guys’ mess and blah, blah, blah……

    The truth is this: the Flames haven’t been built properly since Cliff was here.