Five things: Almost there

1. I can’t believe I’m saying this

The Montreal Canadiens yesterday placed Scott Gomez on waivers for the purposes of buying him out, and if the Calgary Flames aren’t the first team to call him, Jay Feaster should be fired. Into the sun.

I know what you’re going to say: "Scott Gomez? Really? I knew Lambert was a hack and an idiot but this is sinking to new lows even for a troll moron like him." Well I don’t know if anyone has looked at the Flames’ depth down the middle lately, but you could stand in it with your pants rolled up only a little bit.

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The first center on the Flames’ depth chart is currently on blood thinners and who knows when he’ll be ready to go. The second is Alex Tanguay, and he’s not a center. The third is Mikael Backlund, who’s perfectly fine. The fourth is Matt Stajan, and he’s Matt Stajan. The fifth is Blair Jones, who has his uses but "doing stuff offensively" surely isn’t one of them.

So the Flames need a center. Clearly. And they probably won’t find one that’s as much a combination of useful and probably-pretty-cheap as a freshly bought-out Scott Gomez. He can be had for nothing but money and, thanks to the big-time payday the Canadiens just gave him, as well as his generally poor stats last season and overall reputation, that asking price probably won’t be too, too much.

Now, there will likely be some competition for him. The Canucks, for instance, need centers as well. Hell, everyone needs centers. Can’t have enough, as the axiom goes. I understand the Flames don’t have much in the way of cap space, but Gomez on a one-year deal sounds like an ideal temporary solution to the center depth problem, doesn’t it?

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2. Emboldened?

Miikka Kiprusoff has apprently been playing well in camp to this point, which gives me a lot of pause, to be honest with you.

On the one hand, you definitely want to hear about how your No. 1 goalie is going into the season looking very, very good. That’s going to be especially important for two reasons: 1) The Flames are generally slow starters, particularly in attack, and having stability at the back could help keep them afloat if that trend continues in the shortened season, and 2) points matter more in a shortened season.

But at the same time, don’t you have to be concerned about what that means for Kiprusoff’s usage this year? We all went in knowing he’d play a lot of games regardless of performance and we all went in knowing that an Irving/Karlsson battle for the backup position would not leave the coaching staff with many options regardless of who won out. Still, though, if Kiprusoff comes out of the gates on fire, as it appears he might, then is it really a good idea to use him as much as I fear they might throughout the season? Sure it’s only 48 games (of which I figure he’ll play 40 or more) but they’re awful close together and he’s no spring chicken at this point.

Regardless of the quality of his performances, I’d like to think they’ll be smart enough to know they can’t run him out there every night. On the other hand, I’m preparing myself for the possibility that they do anyway, because they are the Calgary Flames, and reason doesn’t always enter into personnel decisions.

3. Interesting stuff on Hartley

Eric Duhatschek’s piece on Bob Hartley’s reasons for coming back to the NHL after so much time in exile was pretty interesting, but what caught my attention most is that he seems to have been so attracted to the job because he likes the idea of being the guy to bring the Flames back from the murky depths of their mediocrity.

Isn’t that interesting? That’s what would bring him back, but that this wasn’t contingent on making major changes to the makeup of a team that has been decidedly mediocre and largely static in each of the last three years, during which it missed the playoffs every time? Seems very strange to me, honestly. Sure he’s going to overhaul the system and indeed everything about the way the team on the ice does business, and the players seem engaged in helping him to do that.

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But if I were the kind of guy that Hartley describes himself as being: endlessly ambitious and never content to rest on his laurels in a comfortable situation, then why Calgary of all teams to take over? I don’t know how big of an accomplishment it will be to take this team from ninth to seventh or eighth or even sixth this year or going forward. There are competent pieces in place and if everything works out great for the team over the course of a season (particularly more likely with a 48-game slate) or three then sure, you can easily see Calgary as a playoff team.

However, I keep coming back to the question – "To what end?" The goal should be to have an elite team, right? Gun for the Stanley Cup? It’s not reasonable to expect that now or in the near future, and if Hartley and Feaster are busying themselves with overhauling "the culture" and getting creamed in the playoffs, then why bother?

4. Here’s a video you’re going to want to check out

As you probably saw Pike’s update the other day, Johnny Gaudreau returned to action for the Boston College Eagles after winning a gold medal for Team USA in Ufa at the World Juniors. Seem to remember him lighting up Canada like Times Square in the semifinal too.

ANYWAY, you likely saw that Gaudreau had a nice little return engagement, going 1-2-3 in a 5-2 win over highly-ranked UNH, and having fellow Flames pick Billy Arnold figure into the scoring on BC’s other two goals, as he went 1-1-2.

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But what you may not have seen was this highlight video here:

Those passes on the two goals are just mouth-watering. They’re ridiculous. They’re not fair. Especially the backhand one on BC’s second goal. Nope, I can’t consider that reasonable in any way. And speaking of the backhand, oh y’know, that goal of his to make it 3-1, wow. Speaking as someone who watches a lot of NCAA hockey, you never see anyone that good with the puck on his backhand, and Gaudreau makes it all look so effortless. I swear I almost cried at that pass. I swear I did.

And yeah, I guess both of Billy Arnold’s points were pretty good too. But man, Johnny Gaudreau. What a college player.

5. On the prospects of an offer sheet

Saw Kent’s article the other day about signing Ryan O’Reilly to an offer sheet, and I’m all for it, obviously. Same for Jamie Benn. Same for PK Subban. These are all excellent young players who would help the franchise as it attempts to rebuild on the fly, for the cost of a first-round pick (which will be middling) and probably a third as well. Small price to pay for players of that quality.

Of course, I’m also resigning myself to the idea that this will never happen — for any team, not just Calgary — for a number of reasons.

The first is that obviously the Flames have no cap space to give O’Reilly or Benn or Subban the kind of money they apparently want. The second is that no one ever signs anyone to offer sheets unless they’re the Flyers, and even then it apparently has to be for a guy like Shea Weber, who is widely considered to be a top-3 defenseman in the league; none of these guys fit that mold. The third is that unless you blow one of these guys’ doors off with an offer, their team is likely to match anyway, and we all know that no one in the NHL wants to get into that kind of salary-escalating shoving match.

But with regard to that last point, I would note that the Flames are likely uniquely positioned to avoid that kind of issue. There is one positive to take from the team’s years of bad drafting: there is no one other teams would be able to justify signing to big-money RFA offer sheets. With the exception of Sven Baertschi, who’s a ways off from getting another contract, can you see Colorado or Montreal or Dallas throwing out a revenge offer sheet the Flames wouldn’t just take the picks and laugh about later?

I say go for it, but in saying that I also acknowledge it will definitely not happen.

  • “Those passes on the two goals are just mouth-watering. They’re ridiculous. They’re not fair. Especially the backhand one on BC’s second goal. Nope, I can’t consider that reasonable in any way. And speaking of the backhand, oh y’know, that goal of his to make it 3-1, wow.”

    Would this be considered a backhanded compliment?

  • 1) I get what you’re saying, I really do, but I can’t help but think it would blow up in our faces really badly.

    I think if Gomez doesn anyhting of use again it will be in a ‘non-hockey’ market.

    2) Playing Kipper 45 games is the ONLY chance Calgary has of making the playoffs.

    3) We’ll see. All coaches come in with the same hype and players ready to ‘buy in.’

    But I do like Hartley.

    4) An amazing talent, it will be interesting to see if it eventually translates to the NHL or not.

    5) Teams will macth for sure. Agree on every point made.

  • RexLibris

    Brian Burke thought the draft picks he gave Boston for Kessle would be ‘middling’ as well. Some bad luck, bad goaltending, injuries and suddenly Tyler Seguin is a Bruin. That trade also created a lot of pressure, tension and bad blood in the organization because as things fell apart they couldn’t even take solace in a high draft pick, instead making further bad decisions with prospects and personnel to try and avoid finishing in the lottery (in vain)

    If an offer sheet is done, the flames will have no choice moving forward but to go for it. What if kipper gets hurt and trade deadline we are basically out of it. We wouldn’t be able to unload players and go for a lotto pick. We’d be forced to keep pressing so we don’t gift Colorado Jonathan Druin or Seth jones.

    Sorry the offer sheet talk is crazy. A lazy attempt to shortcut the only real way to get elite talent. Draft them.

    • A lazy attempt to shortcut the only real way to get elite talent. Draft them.

      Drafting elite prospects is also risky in that nothing at all is guaranteed. See: the Flames own drafting record for the last two decades.

      I personally don’t see anything “lazy” about offer sheets. They are obviously risky and they come with the added stigma of pissing off other GM’s. But its also a way to get a young, proven performer who is almost a lock to provide value for his deal (and likely improve at that).

      Acquiring quality talent at good prices is the name of the game as a GM. If you can do that with offer sheets, they should at least be considered.

      Now, if the Flames fall on their face this year and finish 14th, then, yeah, that sucks. Of course, that would also give them the incentive to finally blow things up at the deadline: liquidate JayBo, Iginla, Kipper, Cammllaeri. So at least they could potentially recoup some picks if everything goes south.

      • I agree it could work it just seems too risky with this team right now…

        You say that if they do get some bad luck and tank they could still sell off and recoup picks. But I don’t see it happening. In Toronto the Boston picks became an obsession, it was all the media talked about. I believe the organization as a whole made further bad decisions to try and justify the kessle trade and it generally poisoned the team down the stretch. If feaster doesn’t have the balls (or authority) to sell off Iggy for futures now I highly doubt he will do it if a lottery pick and never ending questions about his offer sheet are on the line. I’d say its more likely he makes more desperate acquisitions to attempt to sneak into the playoffs. I’d say that’s getting a bit old…

        I just think that this year isn’t the year to do it. It will hamstring all decisions the team makes this year. I’d much prefer we see how the year goes and keep the option to sell players down the stretch without a potential lost lottery pick haunting the team.

  • I watch Gomez a lot, and he has this funny way of entering the offensive zone with the puck that a lot of Flames fans would find very strange, in the sense that it’s something HE ACTUALLY DOES.

    Gomez gets a bad rap, partly deserved, but he’s a very capable playmaker, he just can’t score for whatever reason.

    And he can play LW too, if you wanted him to. I’m with you on this one Lambert, I’d be all over this. Of it only cost 700K for one year, it’s low risk.

  • Ryan O’Reilly is as much the kind of player you can build around as almost anyone coming out of that draft as well. He’ll never be a 50 goal scorer, but he is a strong player in so many different avenues.

  • I think it’s silly that offer sheets aren’t used more (particularily intra-divisionally where trades are less likely an option)… even if in all probability the other team will match you’re still forcing the other team to commit finite resources that they otherwise would have available for other useage thus making yourself relatively better off. I mean I don’t think you ought to offer more then fair market value (after factoring in the value of compensation) but up until that point I see little downside in making the offers.

    • CanadianManiac3

      whether it’s logical or not, the stigma surrounding offer sheets does exist. Remember the Oilers’ offer sheet to Vanek? The Sabres matched, then got the Oilers back later by trading them Kotalik.


      I believe the new rules are you can’t hide the entire salary in the AHL. If the Flames were to bury Stajan, he’d still count against the cap something like 2.5mil, I believe.

  • CanadianManiac3

    Nvm Gomez, I just heard the Leafs are planning on waving Tim Connolly. The Flames should pick this guy up if they want depth at centre. He’s bigger and taller than Gomez and came off a way better season.

    • AF

      I agree, I think he would be a better fit. It gives us some interesting options. Almost three second lines if he has a rebound year.Theoretically we could have three second lines. What a strange roster.


    • McRib

      Totally agree, when healthy Tim Connolly is a much more complete player than Gomez, let’s take a shot at him!!! To the authors defense he may have written this before any discussion of Toronto waiving him.

      The most bazaar thing about this offseason is how some Eastern media outlets have Toronto to finish in the playoffs…. Could the Toronto Sports Network be more biased…

      Honestly if Toronto finishes any higher than 13, I’ll be very surprised. Unlike Montreal last season they didn’t have injuries derail the season, they were just awful down the stretch. And did very little in the offseason

      This Tim Connolly buyout is kind of bazaar as well, $4+ million for a guy who put up 36 points on such a terrible team… That’s not the worst contract in the world.

  • icedawg_42

    I guess it depends on your take of risk v. reward, and how bad you think the Flames really are. Personally I believe it’s a stretch to see them in the top 5 at the draft. A large stretch. They’ll challenge for a playoff spot again this year, much like the last few – and likely fall just short. Personally I’d do the offer sheet in a red second. I’d also take a run at Gomez (for the right price) and waive Stajan, let him play in Abby (unless the cap rules have changed and you can’t bury his salary in the AHL?)

    • AF

      Yes I guess it depends in how bad you think we are. I don’t think we are for sure that bad, but the potential exists to fail big in a short season with mostly aging assets. In terms of your prediction of fighting for playoffs again. To what end?? We will never escape the cycle of mediocrity that way.

      I’m not advocating an Oiler style 5 year suck. But why not use this short season as a golden opportunity. Forget offer sheets and giving away picks. Instead sell any combination of Iggy, Jbo, Cammi, Tangs and maybe even Kipper. Imagine if we had 3-5 draft picks in the first round. Our own which would be guaranteed lotto if we sold off. Even the Flames would have a hard time messing up a top 3 pick!

      It would be 48 games of pain. Next year would be ugly as well of course, but we’d have something to be excited about. Sven, Johnny g, backlund, McKinnon or Seth Jones and 2-3 other first rounders. A solid youth group to go forward. If anything the fan base would be more excited about this than the perpetual mediocrity of the same old, same old. A mini rebuild with a half year of pure tank (instead of 5 years like oilers). The lockout lets us only endure half a year of pain AND I predict a lot of buyers at the trade deadline since so many teams will be in the playoff race an emboldened by the LA kings 8th place cup. It’s a perfect chance to fast track a rebuild.

      I realize we would be bad for a few more years as these new kids develop. But it would be so much more exciting than hoping to grind into 8th place and make another miracle run before Iggy breaks a hip.

      • McRib

        With you bro, I dont think OReilly is worth the risk. Jamie Benn, yeah, but after what Lou gave Zajac, I think Nieuy must be cringing. & we dont have the cap space for a Benn. I feel we have to be patient & let Hartley see what he has, who fits, who he wants to go forward & build/compliment his system with. We have to enter into this year with every good intention to be a top 8 team in our conference. There should be no other mindset from Flames management. By the end of Feb, we’ll know if our destiny is in the bottom 3rd of the league & then I think we go after multiple 1st round picks for the 2013 draft. Yes, there will be buyers at the deadline where overpayments are historically made.

        I like the idea of Connolly over Gomez all day long. He only has this year left at 4.75 mill, can we not pluck him off waiversat 1/2 price & Toronto eat the other 1/2? Just wondering.

        • icedawg_42

          That’s the meat and potatoes of it. What you think O’Reilly’s worth. I see a skilled young guy who’s not yet into his peak years. So for me the answer to the “to what end” question is all about the future. To me he at least ‘looks’ like a guy who’s demonstrated he’s better than what you’d expect a mid first rounder to be (keyword demonstrated). If I was reasonably sure Calgary’s pick would be top 5 i’d probably say no.

        • beloch

          I know, we miss months to a lockout, the shortened season hasn’t even started, the ink on the new CBA is still drying and Lou has already managed to f**#$&k it up for everyone!

        • RexLibris

          The half/pay option is if you take him on re-entry waivers. Right now it would be full contract value.

          Connolly looks better than Gomez on paper, but the Flames already have a lame-duck center sitting in the press box most nights in Stajan. Adding Connolly for a dozen games until he gets injured would only be making a promise of improvement that could never be met. Kind of like if a team that desperately needed to rebuild and was losing a veteran in net, thought they could forestall it by going out and signing an aging Russian goaltender to a 4-year deal worth $4 million a year. Not that I’m talking in specifics, mind you. 😉

  • beloch

    Are people actually considering Connolly as an option? I say no for the same reason I said no back when he left the Sabres: injuries. People have complained about how fragile this roster is, and yet they think Connolly would be an upgrade at center? He might be if he plays, but at least Stajan is reasonably durable. Connolly, on the other hand, is like a China doll. He looks great on the shelf (ie. on paper) but as soon as you take him down, he breaks and you have to get a new one.

    I’m not a huge supporter of the Gomez idea (mainly because of Stajan) but I’d much rather have Gomez at 1 than Connolly at 4.

  • CanadianManiac3

    I still think the flames should go for Connolly over Gomez but I also think they should inquire about free agent centre Arnott. I know he’s an older centre at 38 y.o but he’s still a big productive centremen with less injury problems than Connolly.

  • CanadianManiac3

    The common problem with allof these solutions is that at the end of the day we’re just adding more of what we have.

    Yeah, we could use more depth at centre, but it’s really just adding one or another middling 2nd/3rd liner to a team already loaded with middling 2nd/3rd liners.

    At least with the O’Reilly offer sheet it’s a stab at a 1st line center.

  • Purple Hazze

    A lot of talk on here about the O’Reilly offer sheet option. Most likely Colorado would match. If the basis behind the offer sheet option is that Colorado doesn’t want to pay him the salary he’s demanding, wouldn’t a better option to be try and swing a trade with them?

    Since they’re budget conscious I’m guessing they’d probably be looking at prospects, how about a combo of Granlund and Arnold and maybe a draft pick (not a first). Or if Colorado is looking for a roster player back as well how about Granlund and Stepniak.

    I think trying to swing a trade would be easier and better for Calgary as we don’t have to give up any of our 1st round picks.

    What kind of package do you guys think it would take to pry O’Reilly out of there?

    • That’s a good point. Sometimes the threat of an offer sheet can be the impetus for a deal, but ideally I agree…move some stuff for O’Reilly rather than the offer sheet.

      You’d need to include a first rounder at least and I’m guessing they’d ask for a cheaper roster player and a prospect of some quality.

      • T&A4Flames

        “You’d need to include a first rounder at least and I’m guessing they’d ask for a cheaper roster player and a prospect of some quality.”

        In my books, “cheaper roster player + prospect of some quality” > 3rd round pick. If you have to give up a first in any event, why not just offer sheet him?

        I think a better play would be to move something you have in excess (2nd line wingers? I’m looking at you Hudler, Cervenka, Glencross, Stempniak) to a contender for their (presumably) late round first (if you can get it for Paul Gaustad) then you can trade the acquired first (not available on an offer sheet) and a 3rd rounder or a prospect for RFA.

        We’d probably need to clear the roster spot/contract/cap space in any event.

        • T&A4Flames

          Moving the excessive 2nd line winger for the 1st would probably clear enough cap space. Even if it doesn’t, trading for O’Reilly as opposed to offer sheeting him would allow us time to clear more cap space as, technically, we would have only aquired O’Reilly’s rights and the right to negotiate a new contract.

          I like it.

  • MC Hockey

    “Moving the excessive 2nd line winger for the 1st would probably clear enough cap space. Even if it doesn’t, trading for O’Reilly as opposed to offer sheeting him would allow us time to clear more cap space as, technically, we would have only aquired O’Reilly’s rights and the right to negotiate a new contract…
    I like it.” –

    I like it too…but I don’t believe a good team would move their potentially-late round first pick for a 2nd-line winger. They probably have those already…that’s what makes them good!

  • MC Hockey

    I like Connolly in general over Gomez, but injury issues would cause me to pause and say “Nah, let’s what for Cervenka – who could play C – and see how Tangs turns out at Centre”

    • MC Hockey

      Another issue is that Connolly was just cut by TORONTO. They’re not exactly swimming in center depth, especially since they just traded Lombardi to Phoenix.

  • RexLibris

    Kind of off on a tangent here, but given the current discussion of centers and how woefully poor the depth is for the Flames right now (so much so that the discussion has actually come around to taking castoffs from another team considered to be dreadfully weak down the middle): Do fans here feel that the Flames ought to have made an offer to Scott Howson for Jeff Carter similar to that made by Dean Lombardi – a 2012 1st round pick and perhaps Mark Giordano?

    The Flames would be without Mark Jankowski, Patrick Sieloff, and Mark Giordano. However, they would have a 28 year old 1st line center signed for nine years at a cap hit of $5.2 million. Does that not sound more like the move a GM would make if he wants to be both competitive today and tomorrow?

    • RexLibris

      Nope. Overpayment to add a final piece of the puzzle to win the Cup (evenif they hadn’t won, they were legit contenders and trying to set themselves up for that is one thing. In Calgary’s case, it’s just overpayment.