On Sunday and Monday, the Calgary Flames held court for the media in the final two formal days of media availability of the 2013 hockey season. Most notably, head coach Bob Hartley spoke last on Sunday, while general manager Jay Feaster held an availability earlier today.
Here’s the gist of what those guys spoke about:
As per usual, Hartley was fairly candid and honest regarding how he felt the team did – particularly during the last few weeks of the season.
– Feels that the club needs to add size and speed, but he’s aware it won’t be easy.
– Won’t need to change coaching philosophy with the departures of some veterans, but noted the need for patience as the younger players grow.
– No timeline for naming a new captain exists.
– Purposefully mixed in rookies and veterans over past two weeks to see how the youngsters learned and how well the veterans helped them learn.
– Excited that T.J. Brodie will get a chance to play at the World Championships and praised his development.
– Also cited Mikael Backlund’s progression this year as a good sign.
– Cited lack of consistency as a problem, as every part of the team’s game weren’t working at the same time.
– Noted he feels the team has a good group of young players pushing for full-time jobs.
– “The draft is almost like buying a lottery ticket. We always think that you always get a winner, but at the same time, it takes time.”
Feaster also was honest about the club, not mincing words regarding where he felt the team fell short. However, he wasn’t all doom and gloom, either.
– Disappointed with the season. It’s unacceptable to miss playoffs for four straight seasons.
– Bright spots: Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund, T.J. Brodie, Jay Bouwmeester (which led to a good return when he was traded), Joey MacDonald
– Negatives: defensive zone play and goals against, quality of scoring chances against, “frustrating and maddening level of inconsistency from a veteran-laden group" (one of the juicer quotes of the afternoon).
– Thought team’s compete level was good most of the season, even when they got down in games.
– Hasn’t spoken with Kiprusoff, will give him time to think about things and then will have a sit-down with him. They’ve been preparing for a post-Kipper world by adding MacDonald, Reto Berra and Karri Ramo over the past few seasons.
– Mikael Backlund has been invited to join Team Sweden for the Worlds, may be able to do that pending a meeting with Flames doctors (editor update – fractured foot. No go). Reto Berra (Switzerland) will be playing at the Worlds. Confirmed earlier reports that Jiri Hudler (Czech Republic), T.J. Brodie (Canada) and Chris Butler (USA) will also be there.
– Calgary and Abbotsford’s coaches, as well as the hockey ops department, will meet over the next few days to evaluate every player in the organization. After those meetings, Feaster and John Weisbrod will present a plan to team ownership. They won’t be discussing the plan in public.
– Amateur scouts will be meeting in two weeks to refine their list for the draft. Feaster reiterated that the draft is deep in their minds, but that there’s four elite players (and some very good players) at the top. They’re keeping their options open regarding moving picks at the draft, but noted that if they move their own first (the sixth overall pick, pre-lottery), it’d be in an attempt to move up.
– Development camp is July 10-16 at Winsport; Penticton rookie tournament is September 5-9.
– Team’s Needs: size and grit, centers, physical presence on blueline, accelerating “physical development of younger players.”
– Big reason behind bringing in young players down the stretch was to help their physical development over the summer.
– Team will have discussions about amnesty buy-outs to help with a direction change, can’t rule out using it.
– Noted it’s hard to add size and grit in free agency, but cited that the team has resources (first round picks and cap space) that may help.
– Praised the preparedness level of the call-ups and the Abbotsford coaching staff. He noted that the organization isn’t physically big, so that’s a concern. Praised Roman Horak, Max Reinhart, Sven Baertschi, among others, for how they played down the stretch. Noted the team had hoped to get a longer look at Paul Byron, but he got hurt.
– Have had internal conversations about a goaltending plan. Noted he feels Joni Ortio is ready to be a to number-one goalie in the AHL.
– Praised the teaching ability and preparation level of the new coaching staff, but noted that there was very little practice time and the challenges of a shortened training camp and a truncated season.
– Noted that losses may be the result of dressing more young players, but that the expectation has to be that everybody’s trying to win every game. (In other words, the Flames aren’t being told that they should make the playoffs, but that the expectation is that they’re always trying to win each game and trying to make the playoffs.)
– Shared that Stajan attributed his turn-around to the coaching staff having confidence in him, so he had confidence in himself. Noted that Stajan came into camp in great shape, despite having a busy work stoppage due to his role in the NHLPA.
– Also praised Backlund for putting in the work with the coaching staff throughout this season.
– Doesn’t think re-signing Brodie will be an issue. Team believes there are special things ahead for Brodie and that this was his break-out season.
That’s the good folks. Discuss.