Some Thoughts Heading into Camp and another FN Photoshop contest

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 – 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.

  • T&A4Flames

    Just heard that LAK have put Thomas Hickey on waivers. That could be a good pick up, at least for the Heat as TJ will be on the Flames this year and Ward will need to fill that puck moving D man role.

  • xis10ce

    Speaking of P3L/PL3, that wonderful waste of at 5th rounder was just put on waivers by Ana, just goes to prove your point that players like that (or in this case HIM) can be had for free essentially.

    Also, not so unlike wi last time, I think I’ll have to learn to photo shop for this contest…

  • ChinookArchYYC

    11 Defensemen are invited to Flames camp. I’ve said it before, but I expect Babchuk will get the N. Hagman waiver treatment of 2011, so I see him out. His contract is in the way of better options (i.e. Smith, Brodie or Carson), for less money and cap space.

    Someone please explain to me why in the world was Cory Sarich resigned (let alone for 2 years $2M and with a NTC!)? Last season he sat and watched, and only got in after the injury bug depleted the Flames defensive options. While, I think he was better in the 2nd half of the season last year, there are simply better and younger D’men waiting for a roster spot.

    • The Sarich signing remains a mystery. Usually things like that are done because the org wants either his character in the room or some other basic dimension in thinks it lacks (in this case, likely a “hard hitter”).

  • Michael

    The Flames seem to have swung from large gritty forwards under Sutter, to small skilled guys under Feaster. Literally from one extreme to the other, what appears to be missing is balance. To many large gritty forwards didn’t work, and I’m pretty sure to many small skilled forwards will not work either.

    It’s a 48 game play off race, likely with hard physical ‘play off’ style hockey.. if I was playing the Flames, I would leave Iggy alone (don’t wake him up physically) and relentlessly finish my checks on everyone else.
    I’m just not convinced that Cammy, Tanquay, Cervenka, Hudler, Backlund, Stempniak, Comeau et al can hold up under a punishing 48 game schedule.

    I don’t think a single tough guy / gritty frwd is going to make any difference to this squad.
    We lack size and grit throughout the entire lineup… we are terribly small and weak at center,to many smaller wingers, and the d corp
    is suspect.

    • Scary Gary

      I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. Comeau is 6’/195lbs and plays bigger than he is, Cervenka is 5’11/200lbs and from what I’ve read can handle a hit, Stepniak, Tanguay and Backlund aren’t huge but they’re all in the 5’11-6’/200lb range. Besides we have Jones, Glencross, Jackman, Gio, Sarich, Iggy etc for grit. The skill Cammi and Hudler bring are what we’ve been lacking on the pp.

      Now if you’d said we have a team full of 28-35 yr olds that are past their prime and are making big money based on their names, then I’d tend to agree.

  • RexLibris


    Some GMs do trade for a guy that is speedy and offer limited other assets. Andrew Cogliano comes to mind. A generation ago some doofus traded Roman Hamrlik for “Steve Kelly and guest”. I don’t think that GM is working anymore. And that is pretty much exactly what Feaster did last year with whathisname.

    As a side note, do you have a link to the CBA online? I keep waiting for Macramalla to post his link, but alas…

    • True, Rex, but do you think ANA trades for Cogliano if he had not scored a few goals as a rookie and sophomore in EDM? Do you think he sticks in the league with your typical grinder/fighters stats line? I doubt it.

  • MC Hockey

    Great article again Kent. I heartily agree that NHL GMs can reationalize picking up “gritty” players who don’t do much else but I think both Begin (if healed up after major injury) or Winchester are decent 4th line options IF you need them and IF you can sign them to 2-way contracts so when not needed, they can go down to mentor young guys in the minors if needed. And for sure, if you can get a David Clarkson (not likely), then go for it…that guy is awesome!

    I am in for a Gaudreaby shirt but I think I said so before. Can you get them in an “Ed Hardy” style so I can be cool like all the kids? LOL