Random Thoughts – Flames Aren’t Dead Yet



Prior to the 8-2 Shellacking at the hands of the Oil, I’d thought the Flames had reached the nadir of their season at least one or two times already. I was wrong. Gutted and disillusioned, the Flames shuffled into the Dome that night and had their lunches fed to them by the upstarts from up the road. It’s was grotesque and humiliating, but somehow an appropriate punctuation to the events that had proceeded it.

It felt like the team would never win again in the aftermath of that defeat, but the Flames have actually put together a handful of decent games since then, including the loss in Vancouver (entirely goaltender based) and the win last night in Colorado. Calgary was outshot by the Avs, but the bad guys were chasing for most of the game which I think inflated their possession and shot totals. The Flames still outchanced them in aggregate and that is despite icing a rookie heavy line-up.

I’ll reiterate the general sentiment of the positvity post: the Flames aren’t completely hopeless. They bottomed out, as was expected, but the low point isn’t as pitiful nor as desperate as, say, the Oilers a few years ago. There are salvagable pieces here and, despite the near total lack of elite young talent, a base to build on if things are done right and the club gets a break once in a while. If the worst the Flames get is about 20th overall in terms of possession, then the rebuild shouldn’t be as painful nor as long as some expect.

– TJ Brodie. Yeah we’ve lathered him with superlatives this year, but the kid just keeps getting better. Brodie’s minutes and responsibilities have increased in Jay Bouwmeester’s absence and his underying numbers just stay sterling. He has been in the black in terms of chances and corsi the last two or three games at least, a not insignificant achievement for a 22-year old sophomore suddenly thrust into a top pairing role on a rebuilding team.

I don’t know if he’ll ever score a lot of points even with his mobility and vision (still has problems getting shots through on the point), but his ceiling in terms of defensive responsibility keeps climbing. Brodie will be 24 for the 2014-15 season and it will surprise me if he’s not anchoring the club’s top pairing by then.

– If the Flames really want to turn things around and be a playoff contender sooner rather than later (throw out what Feaster said at the press conference about next year), then the 2014-15 season should be circled. At that point, Backlund and Brodie will be peaking, Baertschi should have his legs, whatever wunderkind they pick this summer should be a useful sophomore and the various vets they have kept around – from Giordano to Glencross – should still be functional. If the club has fixed its goaltending and hit on at least one or two more gambles in the Glencross/Bourque sense (be it via free agency or trade) then the team could be challenging for the post-season and be on the upswing at the same time.

– Somewhat related (and worrying): Steve Mason being acquired and signed by the Flyers proves that GM’s as a class just don’t understand goaltending. They can’t seem to project it and they certainly can’t read the market for it. Jonathan Willis and Tyler Dellow wrote on Mason recently – a guy who has been a shining example of how poorly goaltending is understood at even the highest levels in the league since his rookie season. 

To be fair, goaltending is really, really hard to predict or understand given the current state of knowledge. They seem to have different career arcs than shooters, it’s very hard to separate their contributions from that of the team and even the "advanced" stats we have for them seem to point more randomness than skill, especially on the 82-game season scale. In addition, there is no single guy that can have a more profound effect on a club’s goal differential than a goalie, which is why you see GM’s running out and spending more than a perfectly rational actor in a usually saturated market would on occassion.

It’s hard to make really good bets on goalies as a result (ie; a bet that is likely to deliver better than average puck-stopping consistently), but it’s really easy to make bad ones. This is why you’ve seen the Detroit Red Wings settle for cheap, average goaltending for so long.

– Although he failed to act in time to prevent the goaltending implosion this season, Feaster has been active in collecting potential puckstoppers for down the road in Ramo and Berra. The Flames may get a chance to grab a decent starter who shakes loose in the next year or two thanks to their abundance of cap and budget space (like, say, the Senators did with Craig Anderson, who has been a big reason the Senators rebuilding phase seems so mercifully short), which could improve the redundancy in the organization and chance the team has at least a .920 ES SV% by the time they are ready to compete again.

Flames fans just have to hope Feaster bets on an Anderson and not a Steve Mason.

  • T&A4Flames

    Kind of a boring day over at ON, so I figured I’d throw my two cents in over here.

    Good luck with the retool. It will be interesting to see what Feaster does with all that cap room. But by next year your team loses your top forward, defenceman, and goal tender. Even with the cap room, to think you replace all three of those pieces, or better yet upgrade on those to actually make the playoffs seems a bit short sighted.

    Dubnyk is pretty good this year at 6th in the league amongst tenders with a good chunk of games, but he’s not the allstar Kipper once was.

    Hall is a phenomenal young talent and is going to be a great superstar in this league. But even with my rose coloured glasses I’m not convinced he’ll be a multiple 50 goal scorer, or have an 11 year streak of 30 + goals.

    J Schultz leads our team in ice time and is like 6 or 7 points off the rookie scoring lead… as a defenseman. Again, he’s going to be something else. But will he ever be the hard to play against calming back end presence? we’ll say maybe.

    I say this not to bad mouth the Oilers future but to demonstrate just what the Flames lost and how even with those pieces the flames have been at best a bubble team in a traditionally weak division. With realignment and both the Oilers and Minny getting much better, I’d be terrified as a flames fan for the next few years. Hell, even Colorado could just be a Jones away from being a serious team.

    In short I truly wish the team the best with the rebuild and I hope it doesn’t take as long as the Oilers. However, as someone who just went through it with a team, I would try and temper any expectations.

    • Captain Ron

      The Oilers future looks bright for sure.

      A good deal of the trouble the Flames are having this year is tied to poor goaltending. We won’t truly know where we are until that is corrected. What I am trying to say is that while we are bad, we are not reaaaaaaallllyyy bad.

      There are enough embers still glowing in the fire that the Flames should get to full burn sooner than some other teams of the past that fell on hard times.

      • piscera.infada

        Fair point. But last year Kipper had a career year numbers wise, and the Flames didn’t even make the playoffs.

        As a fan who has had to watch Habby for the last three years, I am no stranger to what even mediocre goal tending can do for a team. But is that guy there right now?

        I mean Dubnyk is no peach but the kid has played a majority of the games as our number one, and has some good numbers to show for it.

        Is there someone in the system that can handle the number one job better than Kipper?

        I see the Flames as a team of role players, without the super stars. Maybe that’s just biased, but looking at point totals from the team I think that’s accurate. It’s not like Tampa bay that has one or two legitimate stars with a crappy team around them.

        • Captain Ron

          I think it is difficult to properly compare last years Flames vs this year because of variables such as: the coaching change, the shortened season without a camp, the significant injuries they had last year at a time when they were in the mix, Hudler, Wideman, Cervenka (somewhat), and the unexpected emergence of Brodie as a legit defenceman who is playing above expectations. So while it appears they can score more than last year, they can’t keep the puck out of their own net this year it seems.

          And while I mentioned sub par goaltending the play in their own zone is also poor at times.

          Last year under Sutter they played a different brand of hockey and struggled to score when they really needed a goal.

          It is hard to believe that Kipper is done but as of right now they are hanging their hat on a couple of somewhat unknowns in Kari Ramo and some guy named Rito Berra. Who knows how that goes.

          Your last point is what give some of us hope that they can turn it around a little quicker. With the decent role players such as Hudler, Glencross, Stempniak, Tanguay, a not too bad Backlund, and an improved Stajan they might not be basement dwellers for all that long if they can either draft or trade for one or two more elite players. Making the playoffs is another matter altogether though so only time will tell.

          By the way I thought that Khabby was decent this year as a backup and Dubnyk has come a long way from when he started. Might not be a bad thing that Dubnyk has kind of grown up with the rest of the young guys.

    • piscera.infada

      Backlund’s underlyings are significantly better pretty much across the board (especially when you consider he spent a LOT of time with Blake Comeau).

      But he’s also 4 years older than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

  • On another note, any flames fan that doesn’t think we have five future superstars is just eating sour grapes. Hall is ninth this year, Nuge would have won the calder if he didn’t get injured. Eberle was drafted 22nd overall and was selected for the all-star team in his sohpmore year. Yak had a better record than Stamkos and already shows flashes of the gifted offensive player he’s going to be. Finally J Schultz is like 7 points off the rookie scoring lead, he leads our team in ice time, and he’s a defenseman.

    To think the flames after trading Iginla have something in their system or on their team that can compare to these kids is insane. Your top scorer now is Tanguy and Camellari, both with 27 points respectively and are at minus 13 and 15, and are seasoned vets.

    • piscera.infada

      Look, I don’t think anyone is arguing against you having some very good players up there.

      In fact, Eberle is one of my favorite players in the league to watch.

      I just wouldn’t go planning any parades or statues or hall of fame inductee speeches quite yet.

      • piscera.infada

        Well no actually several people are arguing that our prospects don’t stack up against some of the Flames prospects, like this Backlund v RNH thread. It’s just nonsense. Then there was the comparing of J schultz. And I distinctly remember the “parade” held for Bartschi this year (sorry for spelling).

        Furthermore, I am not planning parades. I think Oiler fans in general have been too happy for too long with not making the playoffs. My comment was pointed at those thinking the pieces are there for the Flames. Then Comparing those pieces to the Oilers to show how the flames rebuild will take less time because their prospects are somehow better then what the Oilers have.

        • T&A4Flames

          I’ll reiterate what has already been said. I don’t think ANY Flames fan here is saying that what we have is better long term. Obviously you guys have better players going forward; you should after 3 1st overalls in a row. It’s just the battle that’s raged for 4 years now; 2 teams going in different directions. For this season only, our young guys are arguably- I repeat arguably, as good or better.

          • piscera.infada

            Okay, your wording is fair enough to make your point.

            But speaking of points,
            Hall: 41 points, ninth in the league
            Gagner: 35, more than Daniel Sedin (though his plus minus is terrible)
            Eberle: 28
            Nuge: 22
            Yak: 20
            Schultz: 20, with the highest average ice time on the team, 24th in points for a defenseman, as a rookie.

            Tangay: 27
            Camellari: 25
            Giardano: 11
            Backlund: 11
            Bertchi: 1

            I understand this doesn’t tell the entire story as Backlund has played like 12 less games than the Nuge. But do you really think he could double his point totals in 12 games? He’s also minus 6 and the Nuge is plus 2. I hate to be the guy cherry picking stats, but I think these numbers are pretty convincing.

            Having said that, the Flames goalie pool does look very deep.

    • seve927

      I didn’t know ‘Yak’ or Stamkos made a record. I’m sure it was very good, but he still sucks at playing hockey. Good to know he has a music career to fall back on.

  • piscera.infada

    There was some great, intelligent hockey discussion going on not too long ago.

    Enter a few rogue Oiler’s fans.

    Now we’re comparing un-comparable players under (largely) un-comparable circumstances.


    • T&A4Flames

      It was actually Smell of Victory that started the ridiculous RNH v. Backlund thread.

      I just threw out a sarcastic comment to the fellow who was saying he would take Brodie over JSchultz.

      and then it was on…..

      • SmellOfVictory

        It was, because you were going for an basically a reducto ad absurdum that wasn’t really absurd. People who care more about the team actually winning rather than a dude who looks fancy would at least understand that Backlund and RNH are comparable in their usefulness to their teams at this point (albeit RNH is 4 years younger).

        Similarly, Brodie and Schultz are comparable. Baertschi and Eberle are not comparable at the moment, but it’s not unreasonable to think that Baertschi may become Eberle-like.

    • RexLibris

      From an Oilers fan: I would take Backlund for the Oilers 2nd line center position right now.

      I like Backlund’s game, his underlying numbers are good, his physical and puck possession game are both strong.

      The Flames need to find a way to move him down the depth chart to 2nd line centre. If they have the depth to do that, they are building something worthwhile.

      • piscera.infada

        Oh, I agree with you wholeheartedly.
        It was fairly obvious when we drafted him his role was intended to be a 2nd line Centre.

        And to go with that logic, that is precisely why you do whatever you can to ensure you get a “stud” centre this draft.

        Centre is a premium position. You Can’t have too many.

  • piscera.infada

    So… less about the Oilers then…

    Let’s hope Giguere calling out his team last night is actually effective and the Avs go on a tear. Somehow. I don’t think I’d mind that at all at this point in the year…

    • piscera.infada

      If you had read the earlier posts, instead of this Oilers-Flames prospect mumbo-jumbo, then you would know the answer is largely a mixed bag.

      I would prefer a centre, as in my opinion it’s easier to create a defensive core of players that aren’t “elite” but are very good (see, The Rangers).

      It truly is difficult – and as a Flames fan I know this far too well – to have consistent offensive production (and thus, wins) without at least a few “elite” forwards, typically starting up the middle.

    • Tommynotsohuge

      Definitely the center. How could we not? We have been begging for a bona fide #1 center for over a decade now. I’m hoping MacKinnon. Jankowski can come in a few years and be #2.

  • T&A4Flames

    Sorry about the Oilers talk,

    Like I said, kind of boring over there today. I did initially start talking about the Flames and relating to the above article.

    If I’m the Flames, how can you not take Jones. Sure you still don’t have that forward presence left by Iginla, but teams with solid tending, and a deep D core are really tough teams under the right coach. Plus there always seems to be that high profile free agent winger that is looking for an overpayment the Flames could afford with all their cap room.

    • RexLibris

      No point in comparing players at this point, 2 different teams. If we get really lucky & win the lottery, wow,, that would probably be the worse thing that can happen. Then we have to take Jones. Then with Brodie & Jones we have our top 2 dmen future set. But we’ll still be wanting for that elusive top centre. I think we are picking 4th anyway & in our world that makes our pick a no brainer, whoever falls to us of Mckinnon, Drury or Barkov is a win win. As much as I would love to do this rebuild at this draft, we have at least one more yucky year of pain & hopefully a lotto top 5 pick next year as well. Edmonton & Calgary seem to run a weird jet stream, we did a miracle run in 2004 & you guys had to do one in 2006. We both seem to come to grinding forced rebuilds, hopefully we follow suit with a few #1 over alls too. How freaky would that be.

  • T&A4Flames

    If we wanted to start a relavent debate between the Oilers and Flames fans, we should debate the state the 2 teams were in when the rebuild started. I would suspect that Oilers would say the rebuild started the season that led up to drafting Hall. What assets remained and what youth was already in the system? You had already drafted Gagner and Eberle I believe. I guess we would counter with Backlund, Sven and TJ.

  • khlhfs

    As an Oilers fan I particularly agreed with this quote.

    “They bottomed out, as was expected, but the low point isn’t as pitiful nor as desperate as, say, the Oilers a few years ago.”

    Flames fans are lucky that their team did eventually make the right decision and sold off the few assets they had in order to expedite this “re-tool”. Hopefully, they hit their stride around the same time as the Oilers and the two teams can renew a rivalry that, let’s face it, has been dead for over a decade.