With a few injury exceptions, the Flames players and hopefuls had their first skate yesterday. They’ll be on the ice everyday this week and we will likely have at least one writer in attendance to report some observations. For now, here’s a few things that are bouncing around my head.
Flames Hockey Stuff – Tough Guys, Rankings and Babchuk
– Feaster has been vocal recently about adding to the club’s grit and toughness. I’ve been clear before that I think adding toughness for toughness sake in the NHL is kind of silly. Not that it’s a detriment on the ice or anything. All things being equal tougher is usually better given the nature of the game.
However, coaches and GM’s sometimes forget that "all things being equal" part when they start talking about adding some rough and tumble to the roster. It might be only the single dimension of a player’s abilities list that hockey decision makers will make a move for at the exclusion of all else. For instance, no GM ever signs or trades for a player who is fast, but can’t accomplish anything else on the ice. "We felt we needed to get faster. John Doe can’t score, routinely gets outplayed by the opposition and takes a ton of penalties. But he’s also really quick so we think that improves the club."
Nope. Only grinders and pugilists get that sort of pass.
As such, I’m hoping some combination of Tim Jackman and one of the camp invites (Steve Begin or Brad Winchester) scratches Feaster’s itch. Preferably Winchester who has actually played in the league recently and wasn’t altogether terrible in the ruffian role for the Sharks last year. He’s not a guy who will slide up the depth chart in case of injuries, but he also won’t get completely outclassed by just about anyone else like, say, Ivanans or Godard.
The alternative is the Flames go out and acquire a guy through trade. The last time they did that, Feaster moved a 5th round pick for Pierre-Luc Letour… etc. Now, a 5th round pick isn’t worth a lot, but it isn’t worth nothing. A below replacement player like P3L who could be signed from any AHL (or ECHL team) is worth, at best, nothing so that’s a losing proposition.
As such, my fear is the organization pulls a Carolina this week and trades a bunch of stuff (Anthony Stewart and 2 mid-round picks) for a dude like Kevin Westgarth. I know Westgarth is educated and well-liked amongst the players thanks to his work during the CBA negotiations, but as an actual NHL hockey player, he’s in the bottom percentile in the league. You don’t need to move any assets for guys like that. Full stop.
So my position on this is: either get a tough guy who can actually play hockey (see: David Clarkson) or settle for any of the guys who will be freely available to fill the 4th line meany role. Do not needlessly expend assets – even middling assets – on a replacement level (or worse) player.
– Apparently Anton Babchuk is out for the next three weeks, which is okay with me. Although he could probably be a passable third pairing/PP guy on team that sheltered him effectively, I’d prefer to see the Flames other options utilized (Sarich, Brodie, Smith).
That said, it will be interesting to see how Hartley perceives the big guy. Sutter took an instant dislike to Babs immediately after he was signed for some reason, but it’s entirely possible the new bench boss decides he can live with Babchuk’s weaknesses as long as he can provide some offense form the point.
The other issue with the player is his contract can’t be hidden in the new CBA environment. If he is sent down to the farm or "loaned" to Europe, the latest rules dictate a non-trivial portion of his deal will remain on the Flames cap*.
*aside – I would point you to the relevant section of the CBA here, but it’s language is so confounding it would be waste of time for everyone who isn’t a lawyer to look at it. Suffice to say, most of his contract would still count.
So Babs is here to stay, at least in cap hit if not in person. This is the last year on his contract and the Flames have no pressing cap issues, so it’s really not a big deal either way.
– Power rankings are already beginning to pop up here and there. Pre-season lists like this are even more useless than the typical stuff because they are based on a near total lack of information since none of the teams have even played a game.
That said, they’re at least a good barometer of how team’s are being perceived. They also likely gain power when you combine disparate lists to form an average/consensus.
The first two rankings I’ve seen come from SI and TSN. The former has the Flames 24th in the league, behind clubs like Edmonton (3rd !!) and Minnesota (10th). Adrian Dater, the lists author, also has the Sharks 23rd so, uh, you know, take it all with a grain of salt.
TSN has the Flames 21st overall. Scott Cullen’s list looks a lot more sensible on a first pass (although the Rangers as the second best team in the league makes me raise an eye-brow. I know they got Rick Nash and everything and Lundqvist is good, but that’s a questionable call at best from my angle).
The NHLNumbers crew will be publishing our own power rankings sometime this week. It’s more of consensus activity with a number of stats guys submitting and aggregating their league-wide rankings. Keep an eye out for that in the next few days (although don’t hold out hope that the Flames will fare any better. That’s what happens when you miss the post-season three years running).
Site Stuff – Contests and Gaudreau shirts!
– Over the extended off-season I ordered a retro-style Sven Baertschi custom Flames jersey:
I’d like to give this puppy away to an FN reader. So I think it’s a perfect time to reincarnate the Young Guns photoshop contest which was derailed by the lockout, with the first and only prize being the jersey you see pictured above.
The subject is the Flames best young prospects – SVEN!, TJ Brodie, Johnny Gaudreau, Markus Granlund, etc. One of the above, all of the above, etc. Id’ say for this one, let’s avoid shops poking fun at perceived "failed picks" and instead focus on the who seem to have a bright future in the organization.
We’ll give this one till the end of the month. Entries will appear here and the best ones will also be posted on FN’s facebook page.
Send your entries to me – firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who sent entries for this one previously, you can choose to keep that as your entry or re-submit something else.
– Finally, there has been some interest in another round of Gaudreau shirts. We need at least 10 to make an order and I’m only accepting orders from Calgary addresses (or at least from people who can liaise with someone in Calgary) for the sake of simplicity this time around. If you have interest in Gaudreauby Baker shirt, leave a comment here and/or send me an email and I will see about getting another batch in.