The Future of Roman Cervenka

Roman CERVENKA (Czech Republic) - 8330

pic via Frances Larrede

The year is winding down and so too is the Roman Cervenka experiment. The Flames elder rookie was a guy I frequently included in pre-deadline articles as a body the team should shop, mostly because I can’t see the experiment continuing beyond this season.

The biggest reason is Bob Hartley doesn’t have much use for Cervenka. Even as the club is auditioning guys like Max Reinhart, Sven Baertschi and Ben Hanowski down the stretch, Cervenka has mostly stayed at the bottom of the rotation, often skating with Steve Begin and Tim Jackman. His highest highest amount of ice time in the last five games was 13:16 versus Vancouver while he dipped to 8:10 and 6:42 against Phoenix and Edmonton respectively. Cervenka is 10th amongst Flames forwards in terms of average ice time this season (13:25) with his usage generally trending down over the course of the season.

Cervenka has 14 points in 35 games this year, which is roughly a 33 point pace over an 82-game season. That’s not half bad considering his ice time, but it’s hardly the 50-some point, top six forward that was expected (or at least hoped for). Cervenka has shown NHL level offensive skills at times, but his problem isn’t in the slot or north of the blueline. Because of his lackluster skating and phsyical game, the former KHL sniper tends to be a liability overall, sporting the 4th worst relative possession rate on the team, ahead of only Blair Jones, Brian McGrattan and Alex Tanguay (youch). Tanguay obviously plays against much tougher opposition, while the other two guys are replacement level 4th liners.

Which is to say, the coaches don’t trust Roman and he hasn’t given them much reason to. The couple of games where his ice time fell through the floor recently is when the team was protecting a lead for most of the night. It’s clear they don’t think he can play against anyone of note (quality of competition wise) and don’t want him on the ice when the club is winning.

To be fair, it’s been a pretty rough ride for Cervenka. He battled a blood clot issue during the lock-out and then came to the Flames limited training camp out of shape as a result. His conditioning and inexperience in the league held him back somewhat and the team itself isn’t really built to provide enough shelter for a guy like him to find his legs in the top 9. On top of all of that, the shortened season has meant a truncated audition and acclimation scenario, meaning a denser schedule, but less games overall to get accustomed to the North American game. 

Will He Stay or Will he Go?

Those difficult circumstances are probably why the team might be willing to keep Cervenka around on a short, cheap contract; it’s possible he has more to give and could improve with a summer of conditioning and 40-odd NHL games under his belt. On the other hand, unless Cervenka has a burning desire to try to make it in the NHL, he’ll likely have much better options overseas (from a financial/ice time perspective). He’s a known commodity in the KHL and there are teams in Russia who aren’t shy about throwing around a few dollars to attract or keep notable names.

So maybe both parties are willing to give this relationship another tr. If I had to put money down, though, my bet would be on Cervenka fleeing back to the welcoming arms of European hockey this summer.

Around the Nation

  • SmellOfVictory

    Another example of bad scouting. “Best player not in nhl” heard that too often, rarely does that work. There’s usually a reason they’re not in the nhl and roman has showed us why, while eating a huge chunck of cap space.

    • everton fc

      Spot-on. We continue to experience bouts of bad scouting. Though one could place the blame on the coaching staff. Or could they?

      While the draft may prove positive, with all the picks we’ve poached, and Hanowski’s exciting debut, I still doubt our scouting and those carving the pathways to the future. Simply dson’t trust the current regime.

      Hoping I’m proven very wrong, very soon.

    • Avalain

      So you don’t think he was the best player not in the NHL? I mean, it was a perfectly reasonable gamble to take, wasn’t it? We have plenty of cap space, the actual dollar amount is very low, we ended up close to our 50 contract limit but that didn’t reach the point where it crippled the team or anything.

      To be completely fair a normal season with a Cervenka that didn’t have blood clot issues, while getting a training camp, preseason, and full 82 game non-compressed schedule and we could have seen a very different result. Maybe not, but he really did have a lot of strikes against him before he’d even started.

      The reality is that even if we lose him next season we haven’t really given anything up, so at the very worst we’ve broken even in terms of adding value to the team.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Cap space isnt our issue but if he did stay I cant see him get more than the 1 year deal Backlund got. I think this decision more hinges around him & whether he wants to play for Hartley & the lower amount of $$$.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Kent do you think Brodie has played his may to a much more lucrative contract than we had originally thought? I initially was thinking a 3-4 year deal at 3.0mill per but if he has any kind of agent, he has a very good argument of getting Gio money & if that were the case, I would go 6 years @ 23mill & try to get some cheaper future years. Or is it too soon to go long long term for him yet?

    • SmellOfVictory

      He doesn’t have an argument for Gio money, really; contracts are heavily influenced by points and RFA vs UFA status. Brodie’s an RFA (works against him in terms of contract) and is at roughly 0.25 points/game. Giordano was a UFA who averaged closer to 0.45 points/game.

      If Brodie continues playing at the level he currently is, he deserves Gio money at some point (probably more), but at least for this next contract he should be closer to what guys like Kulikov and Del Zotto got.

    • SmellOfVictory

      That seems like a lot of risk for me. Brodie may be great, and he’s certainly looked awesome for half of this season, but let’s not get get carried away – it’s 20 odd games he’s killed it. I’d start by looking for a ‘bridge’ contract 2-3 years at 2ish million.

      • I guess that’s where we roll the dice a bit. He’s been playing top 2 minutes but yeah OK, he just evolved to that. Problem is, if you only give him a 2 year 5.0mill deal, that could really blow up on you. Subban is going to get way more now than if Montreal had tried to give him a longer term. I know its easy to look back. Its just when you got young guys like Backlund & Brodie coming up & you know they are probably going to be key pieces long term moving forward, slightly overpay today & get them wrapped up in 5-6 year deals that by year 3-4 will be steals. These kids are what 22-23? 6 years takes them till they’re 28-29. I’m totally ok with that. I think backlund signs a 6 year deal for 18 mill & Brodie quickly signs 6 at 3.5 per. Yeah I know it would be overpay of 1.0mill for the next year or 2 but those are pretty cap friendly hits for 2 future cores. At least they arent 6.0mill per like Hall & Eberle. Ok thats just my opinion, I’ll shutup now :).

        • everton fc

          I would be ok with a long term deal (especially for Backlund). You think Brodie’s contract will be bigger than Backlund’s? I think 6x3mil sounds about right for Backlund, but I can’t see Brodie getting more than 3 per on the next deal – which is why I’d assume they’ll settle on less term. I agree it could be a smart move though to sign him longterm now though. I wonder if Brodie even wants that though… maybe he wants a 2-3yr deal to prove he’s worth big money when he’s 25.

          • SmellOfVictory

            If they’re signed to long-term contracts, there’s the draw of being considered the new core for the team. I think that could be a good motivator beyond money.

    • T&A4Flames

      PK Subban is only making $2.875mil per on a 2 year contract. PK is a better Dman than Brodie at this point so I can’t see him getting more than what PK gets. Maybe if he goes to a longer contract and CGY buys a couple of his UFA years, he may get more.

    • I don’t think so. Agents don’t really refer to advanced stats yet and that’s where Brodie shines. He’s an RFA without a huge heap of leverage (despite his big leap forward this year).

      If the Flames are smart, they’ll try to lock him up long-term (5+ years) on a favorable deal though.

      • SmellOfVictory

        If I said eight year contracts for both Brodie and Backlund, would you think that was a bad idea? I think they’re both at the perfect stage of productivity where they can be gotten at very good value (even if Backlund ends up injured 25% of the time, which seems unlikely).

  • I want to see the Czech line play together all season next year.

    Resign him for cheap on a short-term deal.

    I dont think Cervenka would turn down NHL suitors in his early 20’s cause he knew he wasnt ready, only to finally come over and only play 40 games before cashing out and heading home..

    He has had success in the offensive area of the game, you can’t discredit that.

    He should be treated like one of the youngsters. Give him the offseason to work on his short comings and see what he brings next year..

  • T&A4Flames

    I disagree with the premise that Cervenka is one and done.

    He was still an NHL rookie. He still has a lot to learn, but he has shown flashes. I would give him the opportunity of a full 82 game season to see if he has really adapted his game. And, yeah, I see a contract in the range of what Backlund got for this year.

  • Im not sure I’d use Cervenka to pile on the scouting department. He was clearly a very good player in the KHL and there’s no question he has NHL level skills in some areas – in fact, on a team who could start a third or second line a bunch in the o-zone and give him steady PP time, he’s probably not a bad player in this league.

    The Situation was wrong all around for him in Calgary this year.

    • RexLibris

      I agree wholeheartedly here.

      One thing that I think needs to be revisited is the narrative that sprung up when Cervenka was signed, that he was low risk/high reward. This was essentially true in that the cap hit relative to potential was quite favourable.

      I disagreed with the risk/reward statement not because of his cap hit or his talent potential but because I felt it did not frame the question appropriately relative to the Flames situation.

      The circumstances of the team at the beginning of the season were that they had two true centers in Backlund and Stajan. Others like Tanguay and Cammalleri were pressed into the role against their natural position and history. That the Flames, more specifically Feaster, slotted Cervenka as one of those centers is a significant factor in the outcome of the season, in my opinion. They were relying on him becoming a 2nd line center in the best league in the world without much in the way of sheltering or support, and no previous NHL experience.

      Those who, rightly, critique the Oilers for playing Justin Schultz as a top pairing defenseman could use a similar framework in an argument to say the Flames made the same sort of error.

      Under those terms of reference, the Cervenka signing was, for the Calgary Flames in 2013, a very high risk/moderate reward signing. This isn’t to say that the collapse of the Flames season is his fault alone. But instead it seems to me that he is one of a number of bad bets made by management prior to the season, many of which have failed.

      Ideally, Cervenka needed to play as a 3rd line center on a line with strong two-way wingers that could capitalize on his playmaking while sheltering him from the tougher opposition.

      Unfortunately for him, that was not going to be the case with the Flames.

      • RexLibris

        I think more over, it exposed the mirrors Feaster & King were using when piping “new coaching staff” & “best player not in the NHL” & “centre” to make us think we we had a legit shot at the playoffs. This intellectual dishonesty is the reason why many dont feel confident with the regime in place to take on the task at hand.

        I’m just hoping Berra & Ramos are really goal tenders that are the “best goaltenders” not in the NHL.

        • RexLibris

          This raises the debate as to whether Feaster and Weisbrod were being deliberately dishonest, vaguely misleading, or are incompetent to varying degrees.

          I have some opinions, but they are just that and I think that this is a debate that is best left to another time. Even the best managers make mistakes and all it takes is for a manager to have a cluster of mistakes come up in succession to undermine their credibility. Feaster has a poor track record as a GM (2004 notwithstanding). He has only a season and a half as Flames GM and this summer will go a long way to define the next phase of his management.

          It will be up to fans and objective media members like Kent to separate the spin from the substance and make up their minds about management’s competence.

      • Purple Hazze

        One of the many bad bets from the summer?

        Hudler and Wideman seem to be working out just fine.

        And what other true center was available that we should have went after last summer instead? I saw none available, so why not sign one of the best players in the KHL and see what happens, seems to be a pretty good gamble to me. Your argument is framed as if the Flames chose Roman over mystery player X who could have stepped in and been able to play as 1st or 2nd line centre, when in reality it was take a chance on him or do nothing so it really was low risk high reward.

        • Avalain

          I think the point Rex was making was not whether there was a centre we chose Cerevenka over, but the fact Cerevenka should not have been pumped as a top 6 centre that Feaster had spun about his high coo signing. Who knows what centres were available but Stajan was coming off a horrible season & Backlund had such injury issues, he would only give 1 year low $$$ deal last summer. Feaster virtually had no other Centre options other than converting wingers like Tanguay & Cammi. I dont think anyone thinks the Cerevenka signing was a bad it one, he just didnt address the needs of the team in net or at centre. Were there really no options?

          • RexLibris

            Exactly.

            In a somewhat related situation, one night both Horcoff and Lander (might have been Belanger, though, I can’t really recall) are injured in the same game.

            What does Tamebellini do? He recalls Chris Vande Velde and when that doesn’t work he recalls Mark Arcobello.

            At a time when he probably could have traded Alex Plante for Jussi Jokinen and, you know, actually addressed the problem with some semblance of responsibility, he did nothing.

            Feaster bringing in Cervenka is fine, if he has a roster that can support that player. Instead, he expected the player to support the roster. He was making bad bets.

            As I said before, Cervenka’s inability to become a latter-day Adam Oates (as an undrafted center) isn’t what singlehandedly sunk the Flames, but it is one in a number of risky moves that unfortunately all came back to haunt the team this season.

            For instance, if Kiprusoff were able to post even an average season, by his standards, the Flames would likely be closer to Dallas today than Colorado.

          • RexLibris

            A number of risky moves? I count one (no backup for kipper). Hudler and Wideman were both fine. They were both as good as–or better than–anyone expected them to be.

            I’m just curious about what other risky ventures you’re referring to that “all” turned against the Flames. I count three (Backlund being the third) that didn’t turn against them.

  • 90% of the game is between the ears and in your heart. The start of the season Cervenka showed a lot of skill but was not used to the limited space, or the lack of time that he had to hold the puck and make plays and take the shots. I think that he has the skills and the smarts to play in the league. I think that his biggest downfall so far this year has become a lack of confidence in himself, and from the Flames coaches. They did no believe in him, and he started to lose that belief in himself, and when that happened his lack of physical play really magnified and he lost any desire to get involved.

    I dont think that he is a fit with the Flames and would say that he is most likely going back to the KHL next year. The only thing that might prevent it is if Jagr can convince the team that he signs with to take a gamble and have Cervenka join him.

  • Michael

    Feaster didn’t do Cervenka any favors when he sold him as a center, and with what has become typical ‘Feaster bluster’ called him the ‘”Best player not in NHL”. It turns out that Cervenka wasn’t a center, and didn’t even like playing the position due to the defensive responsibilities. Cervenka’s contract contained a lot of bonuses, so it wasn’t a huge gamble for Feaster, but Feasters failure to replace Jokinen with a top six center was, and one that blew up in Feasters face. To date, Feaster has overstocked the wings with smaller forwards with barely an ounce of aggression or grit between them, and almost completely neglected the center ice position. Starting the season with Backlund and Stajan as your top centers shows an appalling lack of hockey IQ on Feasters part. Let’s not forget that going into this season Backlund was unproven, and Stajan was considered little more than a boat anchor. This season has been an utter disaster for Feaster and the Flames, but maybe Feaster will learn from his mistakes.
    Given the number of smaller forwards, Cervenka is completely expendable in the hunt to add some more size, grit and aggression.

    • Avalain

      “Best player not in NHL” is awfully close to “Best of the group of players who aren’t quite good enough for the NHL”. This really doesn’t come across to me as THAT glowing of a compliment.

      I agree with the issue of him being called a center when he wasn’t…which just doesn’t make any sense to me. The issue of the Flames simply not having enough centers is also a problem, though I really don’t know where they could have found that 1st line center last year.

    • RKD

      “..the hunt to add some more size, grit and aggression.”

      That terrifies me.

      You realize that’s what the Oilers are doing, right? How much has it helped them? Try “not at all” and you’d be very close. They have all of Brown, Darcy Hordichuk, and Ben Eager. None of those players has made any impact on the outcome of any game, and two of them are currently in the AHL.

      • jeremywilhelm

        It’s about having the right type of size grit and agression.

        A Hartnell versus a Hordichuk. Or a Prust over a Mike Brown.

        It is definitely an aspect of the team to have, but many teams do it wrong. ie: Oilers, Leafs

    • everton fc

      The comment above is spot-on.

      Feaster’s “intellectual honesty” gets old. I’m not drinking Feaster’s Kool Aid. He says too much of this garbage. His credibility is nil, in my opinion.

      “Best player not in the NHL.” Ridiculous thing to say.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Dear lord you guys. He was one of the best players in the KHL. Which is one of the best leagues outside of the NHL. So he was in fact, one the of best players outside of the NHL.

    get over it.

  • RKD

    If the Flames do resign Cerevenka, I think it might be a one year deal or two max. He has shown some offensive skills but turns the puck over with fancy passes and definitely avoids physical play. The numbers he was putting up was playing with Jagr in the KHL. He played on a non-playoff team now in a rebuild without Jagr. It is not he who made Jagr better, it is Jagr who made Cervenka better.

  • RexLibris

    I suspect the blood clot issue really hampered him. I’m actually rather surprised he played at all. They usually put you on blood thinners for six months at least. At his age, getting blood clots like that in the first place is an indicator of susceptibility to stroke. Being on the meds means that he’s much more likely to get internal bleeding from getting hit. Ah well.

  • RexLibris

    The situation was all wrong for Cervanka this year! Could’nt agree more.New team/new coach new system/language barrier/injured/short season/and to top it all off the coach buries him at the bottom.

    Even when it was clear the team was going nowhere Hartley still was’nt interested to see what his potential might be.

  • beloch

    Here are some stats to help figure out what Cervenka’s counting stats look like compared to other Flames forwards if you adjust for TOI. All stats below are per 60 minutes of ice time.

    G/60 A/60 P/60 Sh/60
    Backlund 1.031 1.178 2.209 10.897
    Stempniak 0.636 1.591 2.227 8.035
    Glencross 1.317 0.966 2.283 7.904
    Cammalleri 1.019 1.358 2.377 7.810
    Cervenka 0.766 1.022 1.788 5.619
    Hudler 0.843 1.498 2.341 4.963
    Stajan 0.456 1.642 2.098 3.649
    Tanguay 0.880 1.279 2.159 3.518

    In terms of shots on net, Cervenka is right in the middle of the pack, and this pack is all accomplished Flames forwards who deserve to be on the team. Note that Backlund is shooting like a crazy mofu out there! Tanguay being at the bottom isn’t a huge surprise since he definitely prefers to pass the puck. What is surprising is that his A/60 is only middle of the road! In terms of goals and assists per 60, Cervenka is near the bottom of the pack, but not at the very bottom. He has more goals/60 than Stajan or Stempniak and more assists/60 than Glencross. Stajan is dead last in G/60 and second last in P/60, although he is first in A/60. Stajan still can’t find the back of the net, but he’s become the team’s best passing forward.

    Obviously, there’s a lot more than counting stats to evaluate players by. However, Cervenka’s counting stats would not be a problem if he were getting more minutes. He certainly wouldn’t be leading the team, but he’d be doing all-right. Stajan is clearly not getting results on the scoreboard, but he might be getting a lot of ice-time for his defensive play. The big surprise for me in doing this is Tanguay. I used to think of him as a soft-minutes play-maker who set up a lot of goals, but he’s just not doing that. If he’s not playing well defensively there’s no reason to give him much ice-time.

    P.S. Sorry for the crappy table. HTML tables don’t work here. Is there a way to embed html or even images for us lowly commenters?

    • jeremywilhelm

      This makes the assumption though that Cervenka’s performance over 20 minutes a night would be comparable to his performance at 10 – which I would argue is a false assumption. More minutes means less time protected, and less O zone starts. There are so many minutes a night where you don’t have to beat Keith or Pietrangelo to score.

      • beloch

        That’s hard to predict. e.g. Stajan’s performance seems to be pretty consistent with increased play-time. His /60 numbers look remarkably similar to when he was in Butter’s dog-house and getting half the ice time that he is now while playing fourth-line competition.

        The salary Cervenka earned this season was about right, but his cap-hit (due to bonuses that he didn’t qualify for) was too high. If Feaster can resign him for another season at around $1M I say go for it.

  • Scary Gary

    Feaster is famous more for the contracts he didn’t secure than the ones he did. That Richards contract would be unmovable now as a flame, not to mention the O’Reilly fiasco.