1. Goaltending looking clearer
As I noted last week, just based on the number of guys currently holding onto contracts, and even with Miikka Kiprusoff all but set to retire, there had to be one guy left out in the cold. It seems, as any rational person might have guessed, that Leland Irving, the former first round pick, is the one who’s not long for the Flames organization.
Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing for either party.
Things just weren’t working with his development, or his position with either Calgary or Abbotsford, and thus the now-out-of-contract netminder seems unlikely to wedge his way back into the pile. Ritch Winter, who represents Irving, is obviously going to tell everyone who’ll listen — including the Herald this week — that this is a guy who like Tomas Vokoun and Dominic Hasek before him (not that I recall Hasek ever having been beaten out by a Danny Taylor type), has all the tools but needs the time to figure it out.
He’ll be doing it elsewhere. Winter says there’ll be plenty of interest. That’s fine. It’s not Calgary’s lookout any more, but it is another in a long line of torched first-round picks that never really went anywhere. Speaking of which…
2. Drafting remains problematic
Calgary is picking sixth this year, which, if I’m not mistaken, is tied for the highest they’ve ever taken anyone in an entry draft ever, and that’s without taking into account Jay Feaster’s vague proclamations about the team having some amount of intent to move up in the draft.
As much as I’ve seen and heard that people think the quality of this year’s first 40 or 50 picks could end up rivaling those taken in 2003 — high praise indeed — I’ve thought for a while that sixth is the absolute worst spot the Flames could possibly pick given the team’s penchant for being dumb as hell when its name gets called in the first round. For every Sven Baertschi or Mikael Backlund since Todd Button started running things, there’s been at least two Greg Nemiszes and Rico Fatas and Brent Krahns and … good lord there have been a lot of garbage first-round picks.
The Mark Jankowski pick last year was certainly emblematic of the problem, and the thing that puzzles and intrigues and terrifies me about this year’s No. 6 pick is that it’s just outside that area of prospects that will be for-sure-good players in the NHL.
Well, let me rephrase. I think the guy they get at six will probably be good. But the likelihood that he will not is increased somewhat significantly by the fact that they’re not likely to have access to, say, the Barkovs or Nichushkins of the world, and choosing who will be best of the Nurses and Lindholms and Monahans will probably leave them most likely to make the worst selection possible (just based on Occam’s Razor) and select that Shinkaruk kid who nobody seems to like despite his appearance in the top 10 of every mock draft.
You just have to assume they won’t take the right guy. That’s what they do.
3. Before you ask
I know people will want to give the Flames credit for snagging Johnny Gaudreau or TJ Brodie in the fourth round, for instance. But I’m not really one to go around slinging a lot of credit to anyone for drafting in the late rounds.
At that point you’re just throwing darts at a constantly-moving dartboard and anything you can get out of any player you pick from the second round on is, I think, more or less a crapshoot. Not that guys aren’t completely scouted and not that guys aren’t targeted to some extent, but it’s so rare that you get an impact player that far away from the first round that you really can’t go around crowing about drafting acumen if you just happen to snag Pavel Datsyuk in the sixth round; if you were so sure he’d be even a half-decent player, you’d sure have taken him before Tomek Valtonen in the second round, right?
4. So here’s what I’m hoping
Call me a pessimist (noooooooo!) but the way I view the Flames having three first-round picks this season is their having the ability to make three missteps. I really, really, really hope they package the sixth and one of the other two with a veteran in an effort to move up into the top-5 and take at least some of the guesswork out of their selection.
The simpler it is for them to make a decision like that, the better it will be for all involved. Again, you really have to trust this amateur scouting staff about as far as you can throw it collectively, rather than individually, and the best thing they could possibly do is move up to No. 1 and hope like hell Feaster doesn’t go up there and accidentally say "Jonathan Drouin," which is something he might accidentally do given the opportunity.
If you’re a Flames fan, how does this scenario not fill you with dread, existential and otherwise?
5. Not much else going on this week in Flamesland