The season over, so it’s about time for another FN roundtable. Ryan Pike, Vintage Flame, Ryan Lambert, BoL and Justin Azevedo took the time respond to some of my questions laying out and assessing Calgary’s disappointing (half) season.
Feel free to post your own responses in the comments.
1.) So the good ship Flames finally ran into the iceberg. Shocked? Surprised? Or expected?
Justin Azevedo: A little surprised. The goaltending was so far beyond my worst nightmare. I thought the team, with replacement level goaltending, was an 8th place team. It was pretty bloody close: with replacement level goaltending, the Flames would’ve had about 52 points. It’s conceivable to think that a team with Bouwmeester and Iginla post-deadline could’ve found 3 extra points. Oh well.
Ryan Lambert: This is a joke, right? They were running into icy waters three years ago with Murray screaming full steam ahead and Feaster shoveling enough coal for three men. That it took this long for them to notice they’d been taking on millions of gallons requires a special kind of idiocy. We all get what we deserve.
Ryan Pike: Not entirely surprised, although the degree to which the wheels fell off the bus was rather impressive.
Book of Loob: Yeah, we all saw this coming. Not that I hated the moves, but when your biggest improvements to your team were Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman, even Going For It doesn’t seem like it would be enough. I think the Flames would have been better off with a full lockout this season (though, I prefer the Flames playing mediocre hockey to playing no hockey at all).
Vintage Flame: I’m not sure there is anyone out there that can honestly admit they are shocked or surprised. At the same time, I’m not prepared to say that this season was what I "expected". There were so many factors in this season that really left the whole notion of success or failure up in the air. How was Kipper going to play? Was Iggy going to be able to carry this team of misfits on his back one more time? If so, how long would it take him to get fired up? There was the wild card that was Roman Cervenka. Was he really the best player outside of the NHL?
In the end, all of our off-season questions were answered, but those answers were what most of us thought for a long time. The fact that they all got answered at once in this shortened season, probably made it all that more painful.
2.) How do you feel about the Iginla trade?
JA: Terrible. Two non-factor prospects and a draft pick that will be used to pick a player with a 15% chance of playing 200 games in the NHL. We’ve all seen Hanowski and he has exactly 0 redeeming parts to his game. Yet another example of Weisbrod thinking he’s smarter than everyone else.
RL: Fine. They were extremely limited in what they could do so to get the pick and two quarter-decent prospects is about as good as they could have hoped for in 2013.
RP: It was probably two years too late and the situation surrounding the trade (with Iginla having his finger on the trigger) wasn’t ideal, but the return was probably as good as they were going to get. I’ll never forget being in the building that day.
BoL: I’m still heartbroken. I get it, I get that it was time to move on (and maybe by "it’s time", we meant two years ago, but shut up about that), but man, I miss that dude. I hate every so called Flames fan who lined up to by Penguins jerseys, and while they are quite certainly my favourite buddy cop pairing, I could not be less excited to see Hanowski and Agostino fade out into obscurity over the next few seasons.
Bottom line, if Iggy and the Pens are lifting grail come playoffs end, I doubt I’ll be feeling the pride and happiness that everyone’s telling me I should be. Because it should have been us.
VF: As a huge fan of Iginla, I was really disappointed. I wanted them to get more than the return they got. I wanted to see the Flames do what Cliff Fletcher used to do to the St. Louis Blues when they were trading partners; the Doug Gilmours or Joey Mullens. In the end the realist in me sees the deal for what it probably really was. Do I like seeing them get two NCAA players that no one had heard of, not really. But it is going to be that same ol’ story, that we just have to wait and see what they turn into. Pray Flames fans… Pray.
3.) How about the Bouwmeester deal?
JA: I’m even more negative about the Bouwmeester deal. JBo is still an elite player at his position and he’s signed through next year. Berra will not perform in any significant minutes, likely ever, and Cundari’s upside is likely that of a 2nd pairing defenceman. For the best defender in the Northwest division, that’s a pitiful return. The draft pick, once again, has a 15% chance of playing 200 games in the NHL. For the two biggest assets the Flames have (or rather, had), 2 late 1st round picks and one NHL player is embarrassing.
RL: Less fine but also fine, for the same reasons listed above. Why not sell everybody? It’s only two years too late.
RP: The Flames finally sold high on a player, getting a couple decent prospects and a first (and some cap space) for a guy they got for basically nothing. The deal itself was a bit surprising, but I was impressed by how well the team came together afterwards.
BoL: Less emotional. Still angry about the trade, because they’re going to do everything they can to make Reto Berra an NHL goalie, and I think that’s going to blow up in their faces. Cundari looks okay, I guess, the 1st rounder helps. But whatever, they should have got more.
VF: Bouwmeester was a different story. He was the best defenseman on the team and I think the Flames could have gotten more if they had putten the screws to any prospective suitors just a little more. Remember when I referenced what Cliff Fletcher used to do to the Blues? Well the Blues did exactly that. There are a lot of fans out there that are going to be relieved that the Flames even got what they did for Bow. I’m not one of them. I’ve always like him and now we just have to hope that the first round pick we got in the deal, somehow hits pay-dirt.
4.) Is there anything else you wish the Flames did at the deadline?
JA: I would’ve tried to sell Tanguay, Cammalleri, Hudler, Cervenka, Babchuk, Smith and Sarich as well. The last three I would’ve been happy for anything in return.
RL: Traded literally every other veteran with any value. If you’re gonna tank, tank hard. But no, they’re resolved to half-ass even this, which I guess is to be expected.
RP: Outside of maybe exploring potential moves for Cammalleri and Tanguay, not really.
BoL: Trade Sarich and Babchuk, also learn how to clone 25 year old Al MacInnis. Maybe lower the price of beer at the Dome so those of us who still wanted to go to games could survive.
VF: I’m not happy with how the Flames handled the Kiprusoff impromptu NTC. I don’t like the fact the fact that if they had a potential deal with the Leafs, or whoever, that they first felt it necessary to clear it with Miikka. I know what Miikka has meant to this team over the years, but I also saw the writing on the wall a long time ago.
The Flames missed out on a chance to get redemption against the Leafs for the fiasco that was the Phaneuf deal, and they dropped the ball. There is a reason why management is management and the players are players. Mixing those roles never works out and once again the team paid the price to appease one player.
5.) The rebuild is upon us. Is this management team capable of guiding the team out of the woods?
JA: Ha. No. The two above examples and the myriad of history attached to Feaster and Weisbrod leaves me increasingly pessimistic as to the Flames’ long term chances. I can’t think of one positive move that wasn’t immediately canceled out with a negative one. Sutter’s equilibrium was likely about 55-60%, where Feaster’s has been about 35-40%. They’re hubristic liars, and bad ones at that.
RL: No, but largely because of ownership being ridiculous. People may not like what Darcy Regier had to say about fans suffering but if you’re gonna commit to a rebuild you gotta commit hard. I don’t totally trust Feaster to execute this properly in the best of circumstances but that’s just how it’s gonna be. Gotta live with it.
RP: I’ve got a wait and see attitude about this. There seems to be a lot of trust being put in John Weisbrod and the amateur scouts. If players keep developing well, I would imagine management stays more or less intact.
BoL: A resounding NO is heard from the peanut gallery.
VF: Well we’re going to find out right? I still like the trio that make up the coaching staff, but then again we all know who this question is directed, if not targeted, at. All the excuses and free passes Feaster was given when he took over the gig are done and spent. This is his team now, and what ever happens going forward, is on him… Not Darryl. Is he capable of taking this on? Man, I just don’t know, but I will for sure have a much stronger sense of what side of the fence I’m on after the draft.
6.) What were the main positives to come out of finally bottoming out you think?
JA: Well, they finally realized that the team was going in the wrong direction, so that’s good, I guess. But they didn’t do much to get the team going in the right direction. Maybe now they realize the importance of keeping costs low and not handing out clauses like candy, but I doubt it.
RL: They’re going to be picking high which means they’ll get good – or even great – quality players without paying through the nose for them. If the money shelled out for Wideman and Hudler is what it takes to attract players to Calgary these days, doing so isn’t worth it.
RP: More time for the kids to actually play rather than the team relying on veterans come hell or high water.
BoL: TJ Brodie getting extended looks as a feature defender, obviously, and the play of Sven Baertschi at the end of the year. Seems like he regained some of that confidence he so famously lost when he was sent down to Abby. The Matt Stajan resurgence was pretty nice, as at least now he has trade value, and it seems pretty clear now that locking up Backlund is a MUST for the Flames. From a fan perspective, hopefully it knocks a few fairweather fans out of the ticket queue and real fans can start going to hockey games again. I think I’m looking forward to that day the most.
VF: The biggest thing has to be that this organization could no longer turn a blind eye, and had to look in a new direction. They needed to face the fact that this teawas never going to change significantly enough with Iginla still at the helm. The man was too set in his ways, and by God he earned the right to be that way. But it was coming at a major price and pick whatever cliche you want, but it was time to pass the gauntlet.
7.) Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the end of the Iginla era and change of direction?
JA: It depends on how long this management team in is in place. The longer they’re here, the worse my attitude will get.
RL: Optimistic, because what’s the alternative? Getting older and still losing. Who cares?
RP: Cautiously optimistic.
BoL: Neither, really. This team is at a crossroads, and I have no clear gauge as to which way they’re going about this. I’ll know better come draft day.
VF: There are two things that has me optimistic: the bounce back year for Backlund and the stunning emergence of TJ Brodie. These are both kids that this team can build around in both ends of the ice. No one is asking them to take over for Iggy or JBo and carry this teamm on their shoulders, but you have to walk before you can run, and they have given this team a few steps in the right direction.
8.) Finally, what should the team prioritize this summer?
JA: Tough-minutes forwards and the buyouts or other movements of players like Tanguay, Cammalleri, Hudler and so on. Not spending any significant money on the free-agent market. Continue developing players who are AHL-skill level in the AHL, don’t rush them to the NHL. Stop talking to the media. Trade up in the draft to get two top-10 players. Get a top-4 defenseman.
RL: Selling everybody who’s not nailed down.
RP: Centres. A lot of the defensive zone fire-drills that we saw thoughout the year were partially due to the Flames dressing anybody with two hands and a pulse up the middle, making it difficult for defensive zone coverage to have any real structure.
BoL: Grit, size, intangibles, feet moving, simplicity.
VF: The draft is going to be pivotal; that and what they do with the varrious signings that need attention. Let the UFA’s walk and the biggest RFA priorities are Backs and Brodie. They need to make sure to get those right and then really evaluate what they might be able to accomplish with all that Cap Space. They aren’t going to be able to go out and buy up every UFA that is available, but I think if they are strategic enough, they may be able to attract a few.
They may allso want to test the waters with the two first rounders they got in the deals. If they can perhaps package the St. Lou pick with a contract, they might be able to get another slot in the top 10. If they can do that, they should jump at it. As long as it doesn’t include Baertschi, Backlund or Brodie; everyone else is free game. Last but not least, they gotta find a way to fill all the slots on the grit-chart!
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