Depth, Creative Destruction and the Calgary Flames

 

 

I had a look at the Flames depth chart the other day.

I thought the situation for this season was going to be grim going into October. In fact, I was pretty sure that Feaster was positioning the team for a top-five pick in this year’s draft deliberately. The quote from the Calgary Flames’ website the other day about his perception of the talent available in the 2013 free-agent crop seemed to be sane, realistic and arguably backed up this belief.

“At our meeting with ownership on May 9, we presented a preliminary list of unrestricted free agents at that time,” Feaster said, according to the team’s website. “One of the things we said to ownership was that we didn’t believe the answers to our problems, our situations, our needs were necessarily going to found in unrestricted free agency.”

Then I looked at their roster situation and depth chart and I had to laugh. The kind of laugh that comes out unbidden, when you see someone quite serenely and soberly walk into a calamity of their own volition, and it would appear to be the most natural thing in the world, except that it has everyone around them looking and thinking "what the-?!"

In the Deep End

The current depth chart for the Flames at center, according to capgeek, begins with Matt Stajan, moves on to Mikael Backlund, and then progresses (regresses?) to Blair Jones. Corban Knight appears set to take over as a 3rd or 4th line center, but he has never played an NHL game and with Sean Monahan coming in this year (a prospect whom I was hopeful the Oilers could select) this could result in the Flames dressing two rookies at center along with a developing 2nd line center in Backlund and perennial whipping boy Matt Stajan.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that that is not a good thing.

The wings offer Calgary’s one hope for fighting chance this season, but this is where the story takes another twist and leads to the heart of the matter.

Of the top-six wingers currently on the team, four arguably have the distinction of being considered bona fide top-six talents: Glencross, Hudler, Cammalleri and Stempniak. Cammalleri is over 30 now and his production is likely to decline (if he isn’t post-apex, he can at least see it from here), and Stempniak is a prototypical depth winger. Scott Cullen has a terrific review of NHL rosters every off-season and includes a rating system for forwards. Stempniak makes the cut for a top-six forward just barely. On top of this, these same two wingers are pending UFAs at the end of this season. This is arguably the good news, as it means that the opportunity exists for the Flames to move both for picks or prospects at the deadline and rid themselves of two players who no longer fit the needs of the team.

However, this leads into the other free-agents-to-be for the Flames. This coming season Chris Butler, Kris Russell and Derek Smith are all set to become unrestricted free agents. None of those are crippling losses for the roster as they are all 3rd pairing blueliners. However, it does bring attention to an oft-overlooked weakness of the Flames organization: a dearth of prospects on the blueline. Here we get into the real crux of this article.

Kent Wilson has summed up the Flames development system in a very concise and accurate fashion before by simply saying "they need everything". This was prior to the 2013 draft, but still it could be considered to generally be true. Yet there are some areas that are more pressing needs than others.

To demonstrate, let’s run a scenario.

If we were to assume that the Flames lost all three of those players listed above to free-agency, something I think is unlikely given Jay Feaster’s penchant for offering contract extension to blueliners early in the season (see Sarich, Cory), it would mean that the team is almost certain to pursue at least two of those three positions through free-agency next summer.

There are very few internal options ready to step in and play at the NHL level right now.

Mark Cundari did have a short spell at the end of last season, and by eye performed well enough to give him another chance this coming year. However, it would be rash to expect him to graduate to a 3rd pairing NHL job next season this early in his development. There is also the towering Chris Breen who has been a top-4 guy in Abootsford for a couple of years. Breen could be a bottom pairing option if his lack of mobility and puck skills aren’t too crippling. Fans have hopes for Tyler Wotherspoon, but at this point we don’t know what kind of pro he might be.

At the same time there is nothing to suggest that there would be significantly better options available through free-agency next summer. The end result is that the Flames may let some free-agents go only to replace them with statistical dopplegangers who do not move the dial. Without internal options to improve, and with the roster built such as it is, it becomes highly unlikely that the best free-agents would choose to sign in Calgary until the team is competitive, it is difficult to project a scenario that seems marked improvement in this area either this season or next.

Now bottom pairing defensemen are generally cheap, so this isn’t meant to suggest that the sky is falling. But it is a symptom of a larger problem within the organization.

Future Flames?

For the most part, I don’t have a great deal of faith in Hockey’s Future prospect rankings. Where I do find them useful is in how they can provide all of the names of prospects broken into forward, defense and goal positions. The Flames are currently listed with seven defensive prospects in their system. If we account for the general rate of attrition amongst prospects, that would mean that one of those bodies is likely to become an NHL player. And that excludes the higher rate of lost prospects amongst defensemen due to injury.

Of all the names on the Flames’ list of blueliners developing, I’d put money on Wotherspoon at this stage. He’s made it this far. Sieloff has come along well, and Cundari has already played some NHL games, but it is a long, long way from prospect to player.

The only other area in which the Flames are more desperate for prospects, warm bodies even, would be at Right Wing. Presumably the organization felt that this position was more or less taken care of for the foreseeable future when #12 was on the roster. Today, they have four names listed as RW prospects: Greg Nemisz, David Eddy, Ben Hanowski, and Tim Harrison, although left shooting Emile Poirier can apparently play both wings. Of those, Hanowski is closest to the NHL and will begin his first full professional season this year, likely in the AHL. Nemisz and Eddy are AHL-level talents and Harrison was a 6th round pick this past draft.

Wing is a difficult position to nail down as some players can switch sides, however for the most part a player has a clear preference or competence for one side or the other. Either way, RW is an area in which the Flames would be well-advised to spend some time acquiring and developing prospects or younger players at least.

The Flames have one area of prospect development that is brimming with bodies: goaltending. However, as has been discussed here at FN, that is also one of the least efficient areas of development in which to invest. The percentage of players who turn into useful NHL guys is notoriously small, and when taken in conjunction with the almost voodoo-like methods of discerning goaltending talent amongst prospects, it is a stock portfolio heavily leveraged in lottery tickets. If it pays off, you’re set. If not…

But What Comes Next?

So the Flames have a shortage of NHL-tested centers for this coming year (nothing new), a paucity which may force or entice the team to push recent draft Sean Monahan into service. The club is also heavy with wingers whose best-before date is quickly approaching or whose ceiling is well-below elite and are set to become free-agents, a shortage of internal options with which those roster spots can be replaced, and a defense corps that is set to lose marginal supporting players to free-agency thus raising the even-more-terrifying specter of re-signing those players to retain some semblance of an NHL roster, with no obvious TJ Brodie-like internal replacements on the horizon.

But what might be the bright side of this situation? There is a concept known as creative destruction, highlighted in the book "Why Nations Fail" by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, which can be defined as the opportunity which arises from the collapse of a system, leading to the creation of an innovative and adaptive new system in its wake. For the Flames, the collapse of their previous roster paradigm – centered around Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester and Miikka Kiprusoff – has already occurred and a new one is waiting to be established.

It should be noted that the collapse of an institution or system does not inherently demand the creation of a new one to take its place. A vacuum can exist following such a collapse, with no new paradigm or structure emerging to take its place. In NHL terms, this would be those teams who wander the proverbial desert.

For the sake of argument let us assume that the roster holes that exist today will be filled with upgrades, even minor ones, via trade and free-agency, the alternative is the status quo and as much as that has been the norm over the past few years for the Flames, it almost certainly will not be so any longer.

If the Flames address their pending roster holes (on the wings and the 4,5,6,7 slots on the blueline) through free-agency they must run uphill to attract quality, impact players who will improve the team by their mere addition. A difficult sell when the team had a fighting chance, now that they are rebuilding this is a virtual impossibiity. An alternative is that they will have to settle for the second-tier UFAs who can, at the very least, sustain the team and help support those players already there as they continue to develop.

The latter is the option that I believe is most feasible and will be the most desirable in the long-term as it will allow the team to come to rest in its most natural setting and draft accordingly. Thus creating an opportunity for value-added restructuring through improved draft position.

Crafting A Solid Foundation

The Flames have begun to assemble a collection of prospects around which the team intends to build. Statistically speaking, of the past three drafts, it would be reasonable to expect that the Flames will graduate approximately two impact to elite-level NHL players and three to four NHL players at or slightly above replacement level over the next five years.That is in total, not on a per/year basis, for the draft years extending from 2011 to 2013, and obviously this is based solely on those prospects currently enlisted.

Based on that rough projection, and factoring in a rate of attrition with an older roster and impending free-agents coming due over the next three seasons (nine in 2013-14, four in 2014-15, and three in 2015-16) that would require the Flames to graduate an astonishing number of rookies into their NHL roster over the next few years. Upwards of four or five next season, though declining after that. Simply put, their current development system and talent pool does not support this level of elevation.

Obviously this won’t happen and they will try to augment this roster need by re-signing some free-agents and acquiring new ones. I’m leaving out trade possibilities because it is impossible to predict.

The rebuilding of the Calgary Flames is currently focused on their drafting and development. However, management has shown a willingness, eagerness even, to pursue trades as a means of adding prospects further along in their development than those currently available.

Regardless of the team’s record in either of these departments, the former is the most enticing and ultimately promising area of franchise expenditure. Draft picks are a renewable asset with an historical rate of return – depending on position – and, when handled properly, offer a cheap influx of talent on an almost annual basis.

The rebuilding effort underway in the Flames organization today begins, correctly, with the drafting and developing of a core of players. However, there are several areas of development and multiple factors at play simultaneously. Free-agency, recognizing and re-signing important depth pieces of the roster, leveraging current assets to support the larger long-term goal, and establishing a balance within a poorly maintained talent pool are all requirements. The task ahead would be like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube by moving all sides at once.

Around the Nation

  • Lordmork

    In other words, it is going to take time for the Flames to have a shot at being competitive again, and they’re going to need to improve the team in a variety of ways for that to happen. Although this may be disappointing, I don’t think it is unexpected at this stage in the game. This rebuild was left until our assets were declining and unable to provide enough return, and it was compounded by bad trades and a “win-now” mentality.

    That said, I think this may be an opportunity to build the foundations of a team that will be continually competitive for a long time. I hope the team will seize that opportunity. I think I’m more optimistic about the team’s future than I’ve been for a while.

    • “I think I’m more optimistic about the team’s future than I’ve been for a while.”

      EXACTLY!

      I agree with the general idea that we are just starting to enter a dark time. Its going to take a lot longer than most fans are thinking, but I’m encouraged by Feasters recent action (and non-action) that he might for once get it….

      I truly have more hope and optimism now than I have in 5+ years. At this moment in time, we probably are the worst we’ve been in 25 years. We have potential, but expecting anything out of kids with zero NHL games is crazy. Yet I still feel so energized with hope for the future. For the first time in a long long time….

      I’d much rather be terrible for a year or two (more) and rebuild this thing properly with the hope of becoming the next powerhouse in the west instead of the pray for the final playoff spot BS we’ve been enduring for 10 years.

      Can you imagine in February just knowing you are in the playoffs, because you team is a favorite and already basically locked up a spot. Going into the trade deadline looking to add pieces and go on a run, not debating if we are buyers or sellers. For the first time in a while I can dream like this!

      I’m glad Feaster appears to be accepting a lotto draft pick in 2014! Maybe my kids will be able to grow up cheering for a good team.

  • If goaltending is better this year, than it was last year, I dont think we will be as bad as everyone thinks.

    We will be like Pheonix and Nashville. No star players, just a group of middling players who compete hard and arent easy to play against.

    Its also reassuring having a couple blue-chip prospects in the cupboards. I dont think Sven is far off from breaking out in this league so we can only go up from here.

    Its nice to know ppl can stop talking about how our team is on the decline with diminishing assets as the central pieces of the team..

    We will be a future Cup contender, its just a matter of when..?

  • RexLibris

    You know, I’ve sat down four times to write something like this and every single time I’ve come at it from a different angle.

    The funny thing is, I’ve never really come at it from a Chicken Little perspective. Why would I write an article telling Flames fans that the sky is falling? They already know.

    What I’ve said, over and over again in all my drafts yet in different ways, is that this is the first step in a new beginning.

    Is it going to suck? Heck yes! If it doesn’t, then you are doing it wrong (remember the lamentations last spring when the Flames were winning in spite of themselves and lowering their draft position?)

    Are there going to be some times where fans are going to have to grimace and try just to get through the game? Oh yeah. Trust me, that is coming.

    Can you expect a few wrong turns and false starts with prospects? Better believe it. Cam Barker, Ryan Whitney, Thomas Hickey, even the successful teams make mistakes.

    Will there be occasions where everything seems to click and you’ll say to yourself “wow, I haven’t seen that in years and it almost makes all of this other stuff worthwhile”. I expect so.

    Essentially, the organization is starting from scratch, or as close to it as they dare come. There is a very, very long road ahead and the dark times are likely only beginning. The whole thing could go off into the ditch and end up a smoldering husk of a thing in a few years’ time, but what truly great efforts in life don’t come with risk.

    All in all, with the journey upon which Flames fans are about to embark, I almost envy you folks.

    Except for that whole “flaming snot” logo. That thing was truly horrendous.

  • Scary Gary

    I appreciate the article, it’s a bit negative but that’s the situation we’re in. Our D is a little thin prospect-wise but first things first, drafting centermen. Years of neglect aren’t going to be wiped away that easily. That being said it may be funny when the flames are neck and neck with the oilers next year; bahahaha.

    Perhaps Leon Draisaitl as a target for next year? A buddy of mine in SK is high on him. He was basically a point a game player at 16 and is a centerman; 6’1, 200 lbs at 17 is pretty solid.

  • Southern_Point

    Great article! There is no perfect formula for a rebuild and I think a management group with the right sense of timing is integral to building lasting success. I don’t mean to take a dig at the Oilers but I find their rebuilding through the draft experiment, interesting and- only slightly- cautionary. You can’t make moves for the sake of doing something interesting but when there is a real opportunity to add a long term impact talent at the expense of an organizational strength, or prospects at little less far along in the development process then I’m never opposed. To clarify if the flames were into Tyler Seguin for the 6th overall pick, and Johnny Gaudreau than it was a deal they should have done. However if the flames were looking at trading the same package for someone late 20s or older with very little appreciable room for growth putting 65+ points per year I would be opposed to it seeing where we are in our rebuild.

    The Oilers I believe have a decent prospect base, and a core of young hockey players that will only continue to get better. Therefore their goal at the moment should be to fill out their roster with players currently in their prime, or still useful veterans available at a discounted rate. This is where I think the fork in the road separates wandering in the desert and competing for championships. The Blackhawks drafted cornerstone players in Toews, Keith, Seabrook, and Kane. They further added integral pieces in Hossa, Oduya, Stalberg, Leddy, and Sharp through trade or free agency, which is something that the Oilers have been unable to do yet.

    This is a little all over the place but the summary of the post is that in the initial phases of a rebuild- the part that the flames are currently in- the goal is restock the the prospect base, with an eye on consistently producing young cheap NHL level talent that will come to training camp and compete for jobs year after year. While at this point drafting and developing franchise cornerstones is also a priority, and with emphasis on finding a number 1 centre. It is almost impossible to find a franchise anything through free agency or trades, let alone centres which is why I and I think others placed so much value on the not yet elite franchise building block that is Tyler Seguin. However at certain point in the rebuild- the part I believe the Oilers are in right now- the team needs to begin acquiring players who can impact the team now and complement the emerging elite talents they already have, using assets that maybe don’t fit the plans of the organization, are talented but pushed down the depth chart because of an existing organizational strength, and in in essence the loss is overshadowed by the gain.

  • I’m enjoying the fact that there is no pressure to make the playoffs this year.. no under achieving superstars, just watching developing players. Will we suck? Yes!!! Come Hell or High water! Go Flames Go!!

  • McRib

    “Statistically speaking, of the past three drafts, it would be reasonable to expect that the Flames will graduate approximately two impact to elite-level NHL players….”

    Of Sven Baertschi, John Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk, I see at least four elite forwards with up to five. Not to mention Corbin Knight, who was as good as any NHL Prospect this season in the NCAA. Watching both him and Nick Bjugstad on the BTN, I don’t understand how Nick gets so much more hype (first roudner?).

    I think in a year’s time most people around the NHL will have changed there opinion on this forward prospect crop, as to me and reputable scouting firms, it has Homerun potential.

    Emile Poirier in particular is going to make people scratch their heads as to what they were doing biasing there opinions on this kid solely off of ISS, NHLCSS and Corey Pronman. This is one of those picks that some private firms just didn’t see (Not Red Line Report/McKeens) and any NHL team that saw him loved him, just because Bob MacKenzie “talks to scouts” means nothing, good scouts stay miles away. Two teams called us to make a trade for the 22nd pick, but they both wanted him… Anyone who thinks he was a reach wasn’t at the draft, all anyone could talk about was “How this kid added another step to an already powerful stride this season” . You want a reach take a look at Marko Dano or Michael McCarron, outside of TSN and ISS every other publication had these two down at the 50-70 range. You know ISS is biased out of Florida, Lol.

    As for Morgan Klimchuk all everyone wants to do is compare this kid to Jordan Eberle (number of points his draft year on weak club, elite release/hands, willingness to improve on weaknesses, international performance at U18s, training partners with Jordan) definitely suggest a valid comparison for me. If we only get two elite forwards out if this crop, I would be shocked.

    • It depends on your definition of elite. I agree with Rex, hoping for 1 or 2 elite. Personally I wouldn’t consider Eberle elite. I’d say only Taylor Hall has proven himself elite, and the Oilers had 3 1st overalls.

      5-6 elite would give us a romp to the cup and a dynasty. If you mean 5-6 good players, then yes that is possible (unlikely still).

      None of our players have prove anything… People are annointing Johnny G. Those people look up the NCAA career, awards, MVPS, stats and general hype of recent Sabres compliance buyout Nathan Gerbe. Look it up, it’ll be sobering. That guy IS Johnny G, in fact he had better stats.

      My point is, lets take it slow and not start proclaiming the rebuild over and that we are on route to be the next Pittsburgh Penguins (who don’t even have 5-6 elite players)

      • McRib

        Our definiation of elite players is different Top. 3 All-Stars like Eberle are elite in my eyes. Crosbys/Makins are Superstars.

        Lets put it this way Sven Baertschi, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk and at least one of John Gaudreau/Mark Jankowski/Corbin Knight all look like very good Top. 6 forwards to me.

        At least for me I don’t look at this years draft as getting a 6, 22, 28 overall picks. Its more of getting three first rounders (that I liked) in the second deepest draft in a decade. Very very solid start to the rebuild, now that we are fairly set at forward for the forseeable future lets get a defender, everyone is talking about Aaron Ekblad or Roland McKeown, but a Brycen Martin or Haydn Fleury will do as well.

      • Southern_Point

        To me any definition elite comes down to an ability to control the game at both ends of the ice, and win games singly handedly and they must be able to do this consistently. You have maybe only handful of elite players in the NHL at any given time, we are talking Toews, Crosby, Karlsson, Lundqvist, Stamkos, Getzlaf and Perry. There are few I am missing as well but the point is you don’t often just pluck them out of the draft like candy, and you don’t really know if you have one until they start doing it consistently at the NHL level.

        There are ton of real quality NHLers first liners and difference makers even that I wouldn’t even throw into that category. So, Nobody is slightly our prospects by saying they aren’t elite level, simply because that is an exponentially high water mark to measure their success by.

      • Parallex

        No he isn’t/didn’t…

        They played in different leagues pre-college but if you consider the NAHL and USHL to be roughly equivalent Guadreau managed a better PPG pace.

        Gerbe: Draft +1: NCAA – 0.47PPG Gaudreau: Draft +1: NCAA – 1.00PPG

        Gerbe: Draft +2: NCAA – 1.15PPG Gaudreau: Draft +2: NCAA – 1.46PPG

        Guadreau has had better stats at every same point comparison interval. Really beyond them both going to Boston College I really don’t see why you would compare them… because they’re both smaller? If that’s the case then I have to point out that Gaudreau is 4 inches taller then Gerbe.

        http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=9216 http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=88391

        That’s not to say that Gaudreau is some surefire guy, sometimes guys just can’t translate to the next level but it’s erronous to say that John Gaudreau IS Nathan Gerbe.

        But on another tack I second the desire to restrict the term “elite”. Realistically Sven Baertschi, John Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk are not all going to be elite and it’s highly unlikely that most of them (four out of seven) will acheive that lofty designation. 1 or 2 of them might end up elite (If we’re lucky), I think that is a strong group with the majority likely to become at least complementary players but to me when I think of the word “elite” I think of the level of guys that make up Canada’s Olympic team.

    • Of Sven Baertschi, John Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk, I see at least four elite forwards with up to five. Not to mention Corbin Knight, who was as good as any NHL Prospect this season in the NCAA.

      I don’t know how others here define elite, but to me I’d say the Flames will be lucky if one of those guys turns out to be that kind of high quality of NHLer, to say nothing of 4.

      Baertschi, Gaudreau might get there in terms of offensive production if everything falls right. Monahan might get there as a two-way threat in the Kesler/Bergeron/Backes mold, though there’s still a lot of uncertainty there.

      The other guys aren’t great bets to be regular NHLers period, to say nothing of stars.

      I don’t say this to slag their abilities, only because elite NHLers are extremely rare. The Flames haven’t picked a single elite forward in the draft since…uh…I don’t know. Corey Stillman was the last Flames pick who was well above average for a significant portion of his career, tho I don’t thing anyone would call him elite.

      We’ll know this coming year if Poirier, Klimchuk or Janko are anywhere near high level prospects. Those guys almost always start to poke their head above the crowd in their 18-19 year old season. Right now, all we know is that each guy has a decent package of skills that is projectable.

      • ^^ THIS!

        Not being negative, I just saw my Coiler buddies go through this in 08 or 09’ish. They had Gagner (top 10 pick), Cogliano, Mark Pouliot (2003 star who played with Crosby), Robert Nilson (top 10 pick), Alex Plante (mid 1st rounder), Gilbert Brule (top 10 pick) and were sticking it in my face about all the elite prospects they had.

        5 years later… Cogliano is a decent 3rd liner (for another team). Ganger is good player, but not remotely elite. I don’t think the rest are even in the NHL. I believe the Oilers just cut Alex Plante, and the rest are in the AHL or Europe.

        Point is, hopefully we do better than the Coilers, but lets not look as dumb as my buddies did starting to brag about prospects that likely aren’t going to reach the potential we all hope.

      • McRib

        I do understand that I sound like the biggest homer Flames fan in the world, Hahah. But having been to the draft in NJ, after watching NHL scouts talk about Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk afterward. It’s interesting once we selected them and scouts can show their cards most for the first time openly talking about these two prospects you get a great feeling.

        They seem like they have only scratched the surface and most teams were kind of hoping these two had fallen to them. People always ask why “redrafts” of prospects are done only a year or two after the draft, but all it takes is for the whole scouting community to get together for the first time and make an opinion.

        It’s what Bob Mackenzie attempts to do for his draft rankings every year, the problem is scouts don’t say crap about a hidden gem like an Emile Poirier to him, until after the draft is completed. Remeber when Jay Feaster looked directly at Bob Mackenzie during his draft preview show about what he thought of Craig Button’s picks… and said “everyone wants to tell us who we should take” and smiled. Clearly he saw that MacKenzie was oblivious to Poirier.

        Anyway this is the first time ever that I will be looking forward to your NHLE, Hahah. As I think Monhan, Poirier and Klimchuk have a lot more offensive potential in store.

        • DoubleDIon

          I like Klimchuk, haven’t seen Poirier other than clips on the internet. Klimchuk reminds me most of Ty Rattie. I think both will be serviceable 2nd line wingers, but nothing spectacular. Shinkaruk was the guy I thought had a chance to be really good. Not sure what the hole in his game was, he’s not great defensively, but lots of kids aren’t at that age. IMO, he had more offensive game than all of the number 5-10 picks do with the possible exception of Nicushkin.

    • DoubleDIon

      Anyone who compares Klimchuk and Eberle hasn’t watched them play very much. Klimchuk is a way better skater than Eberle ever was. He doesn’t have Eberle’s elite hockey sense though. He has a chance to be as good, but he’ll do it in a very different way if he is.

      He compares much more to a Stempniak on the low end or Parentau on the high end than he does to an Eberle.

    • RexLibris

      I’ve got this series running over at Numbers right now: http://nhlnumbers.com/2013/7/3/reviewing-the-nhl-entry-draft-1979-to-1989

      Essentially what I’ve done is break down every draft year by team and given a check mark for a team that drafts a player that logs 200+ NHL games. That is the bare minimum of what constitutes an NHL player.

      The results are pretty sobering. In any given year a team can expect an average of about 1.5 to 2 players to emerge from an average draft cohort of between 7 and 10 players. And keep in mind that is the bare minimum of 200+ games.

      Finding elite-level talent is extremely rare. Expecting a team to find an entire core of players in a single draft is virtually unheard of. Not pick at old wounds, but if we look at the core of the 1980s Oilers they spent three drafts collecting the young core players and won the crown jewel in a game of backgammon.

      It takes a great deal of time for all the pieces to come together and the Flames have a whole heck of a lot of work to do yet.

      With Monahan, Klimchuk, Poirier, Jankowski, Baertschi and Gaudreau, an optimist would look at the numbers and say that the Flames would be lucky to find two core players there.

      I would also strongly recommend to all Flames fans that they ignore NHL comparisons. Oscar Klefbom was compared to Douglas Murray on his draft day and later Duncan Keith this past season. Neither is particularly helpful to players or fans. Kilmchuk will be Kilmchuk and we’ll have to just wait and see exactly what that is.

      In spite of all that, this is the really fun part. The car is gassed up, the road is dry and straight, and there’s nothing but miles and miles ahead with no pressure to arrive anywhere this year. Just sit back and enjoy it.

      • McRib

        This is in all likelihood going to end up as being the third best draft in history (1979/2003)…. Not to mention the cohort is sure to have improve from 1999-2009. One thing is already for certain this is the best QMJHL Crop in history.

        An Oscar Klefbom this year would have been lucky to go where Robert Hägg did at 41st, no way he cracks the Top. 30. Shea Theodore put up 50 POINTS and most didn’t have him as a first rounder…. Plus he led Seattle into playoffs for first time in 7 years?!?!?! Ryan Pulock went 16th this year, but had more points LAST year than four of five WHL defenders that all went Top. 8 (Murray, Reinhart, Rielly, Dumba, Pouliot).

        Look at Emile Porier (drafted 22nd) and compare him to a Colton Gillies (drafted 16th overall in 2007). Both had similar blazing fast speed and a great turnover inducing up-tempo forecheck. Only thing different is Gillies (GP65 G13 A17 P30 -20) was drafted with the hope of finding an offensive touch (Mr. Stone Hands), Poirier is looking to improve on decent numbers already (GP65 G32 A38 P70 +0).

        This year a Colton Gillies with a major flaw in his game would be lucky to go in the top of the third round and Emile Poirier any other year is a surefire Top. 10. Don’t worry though the fact that a Jackson Houck went to the Oilers at 94 was criminal, he is a Top. 40 any other year.

        • RexLibris

          With regards to the 2013 draft year being one of the top three of all time, I’m sorry, but all the recent history suggests that this simply is not the case.

          Perhaps, if all the stars align, it could develop into a rival of 2003. However, that year was both an outlier in terms of high-end talent and many of those prospects were aided in their development by the lockout and subsequent adjustment of league rules and priorities.

          It was a spectacular draft class, but in terms of the overall number of NHL players it produced, it was on par quantitatively, with 2001. Qualitatively, it was slightly ahead of many of the better 2000s.

          I cannot stress enough that fans need to let at least five years go by before assessing the strength of a draft. Even that can leave some surprises for the future.

          • McRib

            “With regards to the 2013 draft year being one of the top three of all time, I’m sorry, but all the recent history suggests that this simply is not the case.”

            What Recent History?? Hahahah. I just gave you three examples off the top of my head that completely support the drafts depth. I could make a case for almost any other Top. 60 pick this year (Not Michael McCarron or Marko Dano) being drafted 10-30 slots higher.

            Kerby Rychel had 87 points this season. Other years a pure scorer like him goes in the Top. 10, as scouts would look past average skating. This year they can afford to be picky, hence why in deep years first rounders pan out so often, teams are twice as selective with the scouting process, major question marks are not overlooked.Hunter Shinkaruk would not fall outside of the Top. 10 any other year because he had a bad “interview or two”. But once again teams could be selective this year because of the talent pool. Anthony Mantha scores 50 GOALS and Detroit knows they can trade down and still get him at 20…

            The greatest comparison of all, look at Klefbom’s (19th) J20 SuperElit 2011-2012 Stats the year after he was drafted and Hägg’s (41st) totals this year. Oscar Klefbom (GP 15 G 1 A 3 P 4 -4) Robert Hägg (GP 28 G 11 A 13 P 24 +8)Hagg put up far better offensive numbers with a better +/-. Basically Klefbom would have been very lucky to go in the second round this year.

            Do you want to know where Andrew Cogliano (25th) goes this year (best Tier Two Player)?? Look no further than Adam Tambellini who went 65th. Actually watched both of them draft year Tambellini has a much better release is four inches taller and his skating isn’t far off. Look at Nic Petan (43rd) compare him to Jaden Schwartz who went 14th his draft year… You cannot tell me Petan is not a Top. 20 player any other year. This years first two rounds were twice as deep as normal, as someone who follows the draft extremely close if this is not one of the top three all time it definitely is the best without a doubt since 2003. Most teams will come away with at least 1-2 Top. 6 players the Flames came away with at least 3.

          • RexLibris

            You’re comparing individual players within a draft size of hundreds. I’m looking at draft years as a whole.

            The trends suggests that 2013 is likely to be a better draft year than 2012, but you’re suggestion that 2003 and 1979 are directly comparable and that 2013 slots into the same category based on the junior/overseas numbers of a number prospects isn’t really a fair analysis.

            2003 and 1979 were entirely different drafts that had very different circumstances leading into and immediately following them.

            To properly assess 2013 and place it relative to 2003 and 1979 we would have to wait until every player selected from this past season has retired.

            The book still isn’t shut on the 2003 draft class.

            I’m excited about the prospects from this past year, and probably more so than I was for some of those taken the year before.

            I believe that 2012 will turn out to be a relatively weak draft year in terms of high-end talent although it may surprise with some more complementary players once they all develop. At the same time this past June’s draft class looks like it had solid prospects deep into the later rounds. However I’m not going to declare anything in terms of quality against those players who have or are imminent to make the NHL from previous years.

  • I’m not so down on our Defence as some people. I think before Brodie went to Abby you’d be hard pressed to find someone who thought he was the top of our propsepct list.

    In the 2011 list from Hockey Prospectus(http://www.hockeyprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1012) Brodie wasn’t even mentioned.

    I have far less worries that we can get an effective defender out of our prospects than we can an elite or even top 6 worthy forward. In the last 10 years or so of Drafting there is two guys who right now look to be full time NHLers(Backlund/Baertschi) of any significant role(Not discounting our recently drafted propsects but they haven’t done anything at the NHL level yet). We did draft Kobasew/Nystrom/Van Der Gulik as well, but again, I’m not worried about depth positions, thats a lot easier to draft/develop for. We have guys like Reinhart and Bouma to fill in those positions and maybe Arnold.

    The biggest issue going forward for the Flames is drafting, retaining and developing top end forward talent. And I think it’s going to be a long road ahead till we can find some of that.

    • McRib

      “In the 2011 list from Hockey Prospectus(http://www.hockeyprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1012) Brodie wasn’t even mentioned.”

      That’s not an accurate statement. If you click the “Calgary” link, it brings you to the team’s top 10 page. Brodie is listed at #2, and Pronman says he could be an above average 2nd pair guy.

      People like to pretend Brodie came out of nowhere, but he was on the radar from the year before he turned pro (when the only thing keeping him off the WJC squad was the fact that Canada had generational blueline depth that year) at the very least.

  • BurningSensation

    I think the biggest issue is the use of the word ‘elite’.

    If by ‘elite’ we mean ‘perpetual All-star’, then yes, we will be lucky to have 1-2 of the prospects turn out to be ‘elite’.

    But if you mean ‘1st line forward/top line D/above average starting goaltender’, then I think the conversation changes.

    Looking at the Oilers, you can fairly say that they have only one ‘elite’ talent in Taylor Hall (perpetual All-star), but you could also fairly say that they have a core of 6 guys (Hall, Eberle, Nuge, Yakupov, Schultz and Klefbom) that all project to be 1st line/top pair guys.

    Justin Azevedo and I were having a tete a tete yesterday that essentially revolved around just this sort of distinction. We know the Flames have some very nice prospects (in his mind around 20 NHL caliber guys), but of those, he thinks only 3 or so (Sven, Johnny G, Monahan) have a real shot to be ‘elite’.

    The good news is that our current mgt is clearly focussed on brining in more young talent to perhaps find more ‘elite’ guys that we clearly need.

    Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun ride!

    • RexLibris

      I would classify “elite” somewhere between your first and second definition. Partially because I don’t put a lot of stock in All-Star appearances. Unless you are Alex Ovechkin.

      Ales Hemsky was a star, and flirted with being an elite player. He was always an elite-level talent, but injuries and a poor roster likely prevented him from reaching what we could agree on as elite-level status.

      I would agree with your list of the Oilers’ players who likely will or are close to qualifying as “elite” level players.

      I would also agree with your list of Flames potential elite level players. I’m not yet sold that Baertschi becomes that, but I think he likely falls somewhere between elite and Hemsky territory. Time will tell. Gaudreau has a long way to go. The talent is there, but it has to go through one or two more chrysalis stages before we’ll know if he can become an elite-level NHL player.

      The Oilers have also had the luxury of adding elite level players with 1st overall picks. That makes scouting a tad easier. If the Flames can find three amongst their current group then Weisbrod and Button, not to mention their development staff, will have done their job.

      • everton fc

        I would add that truly elite players have the ability to make others around them better and make their teams much better. They also have the ability to rise to the occasion at the most crucial times. Daytsuk, Zetterberg, Bergeron, Chara, Crosby, Keith, Quick, etc are elite. There are no current players on Calgary or Edmonton who are elite. Some may eventually get to that level.

          • BurningSensation

            So is Crosby, but I think we can agree he is ‘elite’, whichever definition we use.

            Personally, I am a little PO’d that the league hasn’t recognized Lindros and Kariya for the HOF.

            Both those guys were as elite as they come for many years only to have the Gary Suters/Scott Stevens of the world take them away from us much too early.

            Nice to see Geraldine Heaney finally get in. I recall watching her score that incredible goal live. Good hockey, is good hockey, whatever the equipment the players have.

          • loudogYYC

            That’s a myth. Hall has never had a concussion (at least, he hasn’t since he turned pro). The injury you’re thinking of occurred when a teammate stepped on his face during a warmup. A broken cheekbone, I believe.

            Last season, Hall didn’t face any freak accidents. And, lo and behold, he played a full season. Funny how that works out.

          • RexLibris

            He did.

            Hall’s injury history is largely a combination of nagging junior issues (shoulder) and freak incidents as when Potter stepped on his forehead and he sprained his ankle in a fight with Jared Boll (iirc).

            The Sarich hit was one bona fide injury that fits the bill of many of his critics, keeping his head down. Gabriel Landeskog had a more significant injury two years ago with Andy Sutton that was the result of the same thing. These things happen with young forwards and Hall has impressed in his ability to alter and adapt his game thus far into his career.

          • Scary Gary

            No doubt, Hall is good; I wasn’t a believe until I watched him quite a bit last season. People that doubt him haven’t been watching him or aren’t objective.

            Regardless, the oil are going to be hard pressed to crack 10th.

          • RexLibris

            Yeah, realignment is going to make this new western conference a tough nut to crack.

            That is one of the things that came to mind with Feaster’s initial “make the playoffs” quote (since qualified and toned down). I thought to myself “self, does he know about the new schedule and standings and how incredibly tight this race is likely to become?”

            The Oilers can make strides this season, and there is always the chance that a team slides up or down, but more than in previous years, they aren’t going to win a playoff spot so much as have to wrest it from another team’s grasp.

            Out of the seven current Western Division teams, I’d probably put them finishing fifth, fourth if things go really well. Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver are still the major hurdles, while Pheonix and Calgary are the other teams one has to factor in. If San Jose drops off, or Anaheim has another setback year, or Vancouver falls apart at the seams, then maybe.

            The issue for Calgary in the future is that the teams in this division are fairly strong and can expect to be for the immediate future, and that with the exception of Vancouver, are generally well-run organizations.

            There won’t be any weak sisters for the Flames to prey upon as Washington did in the Southeast division for years.

          • RexLibris

            Perhaps, but I suspect Nail Yakupov will eventually become the player that most Flames fans will want to run down with a snowplough.

            He has many of Hall’s same attributes but his enthusiasm will probably offend more.

          • Jeff Lebowski

            I wouldn’t say so. He had no production in the crunch last year and was played sparingly overseas due to his trouble with the coaching staff. He is one who may develop into that category.

          • RexLibris

            So you don’t think Hall qualifies as an elite player (he would have been second line all star had the hockey writers not voted OV to left and right wing…). But we think Sven, Johnny G and 3-4 others are elite prospects…

            I mean I’m a homer fan too but yikes. If Hall isn’t elite, I can confidently declare we have zero elite prospects. I get hating on the Coilers but common…

  • Jeff Lebowski

    The definitions of which individual players are elite is kind of immaterial. The question is really about the collective team.

    Take the 2010 Blackhawks. How many players on that team were ‘elite’? Was Patrick SHARP? Andrew Ladd? Put them on different teams, where their roles change and perhaps their stature changes.

    The success of any team is going to be, more or less, determined by how well the top minute guys fare 5 on 5. First line guys, top pairing guys are going to play 17-20ish minutes a game (not counting special teams). The majority of games are played EV (of course you can have a team score 3 PP goals to win 3-2 but that reliance is not sustainable).

    Calgary needs to find the top minute guys who when compared to other teams top minute guys come out on top. Obviously.

    What the current roster is faced with are non sexy top minute guys. However, the season’s relative gruesomeness is going to come down to just how bad/good Stajan, Backlund, Giordano, Wideman + goalie do against the new division. I think it will be bad. Are they going to push other teams back on their heels? Are they going to cycle it down low? Jones and Galiardi will help but I think more often than not Calgary’s top 6 will get punished.

    The coilers, for all their off the rush talent, finished poorly because of that, I think. Their top guys were so good but too young. Their vets sucked (and got hurt) and they relied on their first overall draft picks. I don’t know the stats but I’d guess their top 6 were positive corsi guys but they still finished minus players. I think they drove the play, scored a lot of points but still gave up more than they got. Their bottom 6 didn’t give them anything. I think they’ve gotten better at realizing that. I think they will really show smarter decision making and conversion of chances or quick transition offence (pounce on mistakes).

    With Calgary, I really don’t want to see the kids getting killed by playing top 6 (not even Sven). Unless they prove they can and not just hang on but flourish. My expectations are to see good effort but really want to see a dynamic 3rd line. Best young guys who can play well there (Hopefully Monahan with Sven). Maybe even a 4th line that can bring some skill (doubt it with McGrattan and Bouma’s presence on the roster).

    At this point in time I hope Calgary’s bottom 6 (comprised of the youth) win more often than not and bring excitement. At the end of the day, I see last in division and bottom three team. I love the Flames and don’t want them to be bad but sometimes you just gotta take your medicine.

    • RexLibris

      The line of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle were a corsi machine last season against top competition.

      The second line was a curious disaster that sharper minds than I have spent the off-season examining.

      The third and fourth lines were basically place holders until the first line could come out again.

      Ground gained by line 1 was usually lost during the ice-time of lines 3 and 4.

      Hall finished the season +5, Nugent-Hopkins +3, and Eberle -3. The two Schultz’s were buried at the bottom of the spectrum and for the most part, you are correct in that the supporting cast was woefully insufficient to assist the young core players. That is being addressed this off-season.

      If Calgary can develop depth players at the same time that they try to find one or two elite players they should be able to put together a decent roster. However, as I pointed out, their defense prospect pool is nearly non-existent and given that those players take longer to develop the Flames timeline for internal promotion is a long ways off. They will have to find ways around that roster obstacle should they manage to develop the forward talent and depth.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        I think EDM will be significantly better this upcoming season. I think MacT has done a very good job. The ‘boldness’ to me was a line fans could be heartened with and if rumour is true he tried hard.

        I do think that when CAR took Lindholm and we took Monahan it screwed him over. I think he wanted a centre that could bump Gagner to third line.

        The question I have about his draft choice: Who will be better (long term) at their position, Nurse or Horvat (who I think they should’ve taken)?

        I agree with you about defence prospects and ‘gestation’ time (haha).

        However I think you can piecemeal a d corp (like the Hawks, Bruins) once you have 1 true stud. For the oil, Schultz or Klembom or Nurse (one of which I think should get flipped for a power centre). For Calgary…(I love Brodie but is he great? Hopefully.)

        I don’t think the cost of acquiring good but not great d men is too high, compared to good but not great centres (and wingers to a lesser degree).

        EDM just has more good young pieces. They should since they’ve been at the rebuild longer.

        I think there is generational talent (I don’t think Hall, RNH or Yak are generational – but really good) coming with the next 2-3 drafts and it would be sweet if Calgary gets it. Will Calgary’s drafted players push through before (will they push through at all?) and take them out of the running? As Weisbrod pointed out, look at Kadri: #7 in 2009. Broke through 4 years later.

        The timing is looking good for Calgary.

        • loudogYYC

          “Who will be better (long term) at their position, Nurse or Horvat (who I think they should’ve taken)?”

          Nurse. And it isn’t even close.

          ALL of the hype surrounding Horvat comes from a) the fact that he plays the game “the right way” (and he’s Canadian) and b) from a decent playoff (23 points in 20 games). In the regular season, he had only 61 points in 67 games. That’s worse than noted plug Brendan Gaunce did in his draft year. And Horvat was on a MUCH better team.

          Honestly, I don’t get it.

        • BurningSensation

          “I think EDM will be significantly better this upcoming season.”

          I disagree. I think they could be better (they were pretty bad, so improvement should be in the cards), but I doubt they make the playoffs. The defense is still bad bordering on atrocious, and Dubnyk scares exactly nobody as a #1 goaltender.

          The biggest hole on the roster is at #2C where Gagner has been a corsi disaster. On a team starving for a #2 pivot Gagner is being converted to the wing.

          “The question I have about his draft choice: Who will be better (long term) at their position, Nurse or Horvat (who I think they should’ve taken)?”

          Nurse. Horvat brings a wide variety of skills to the dance, and should be an excellent complimentary player, but Nurse flashes true #1 potential, and has freakish athletic abilities in terms of size and skating. The tough call for me isn’t on Nurse over Horvat, it is Nurse over Nichushkin.

          “However I think you can piecemeal a d corp (like the Hawks, Bruins) once you have 1 true stud”

          Agreed, though I think the Hawks have two; Keith and Seabrook.

          “For the oil, Schultz or Klembom or Nurse (one of which I think should get flipped for a power centre).”

          I don’t think you can flip either of Klefbom or Nurse for a power center, they are too rare a breed (which is why have some sympathy for the idea the Oilers should have taken Horvat).

          “I think there is generational talent (I don’t think Hall, RNH or Yak are generational – but really good) coming with the next 2-3 drafts and it would be sweet if Calgary gets it.”

          It would be sweet. That said, I think Hall is one of the elite right now, and is arguably the 2nd best LW in the game after Ovechkin, or the best if OV is a RW.

          “The timing is looking good for Calgary.”

          I tend to agree. I’d put the inner boundary for a return to the playoffs at two years, and the outer at six.

        • RexLibris

          Even had they selected Monahan they would have likely kept him in junior for a year. A 7th overall forward is a far different creature than a 1st overall.

          Nurse has a higher overall upside than Horvat right now, but this is why we wait at least five years before declaring a draft. Too soon to say and the positional differences right now cloud the picture too much.

          I have always held the Canucks’ defensive strategy in high regard. They create a platoon of capable blueliners that can absorb an injury to one without it becoming catastrophic. Investing too heavily in one top-flight d-man has been shown to lead to success, provided he can remain relatively healthy. I’d like an upgrade for their first pairing, but I don’t think the Oilers need to aim for the Shea Weber type necessarily.

          I also agree that the Oilers might not have any generational talents in their roster. Yakupov might be the closest if only because he still has a lot of unknowns and has shown very well thus far. That being said, not having a potential $9 or $10 million dollar player can be an advantage similar to the defense one noted above.

          My concern with Calgary’s timing is that they have more forwards in the system than defensemen and, somewhat like Edmonton, they may need to find stopgaps when the forwards graduate to the NHL.

  • everton fc

    these prospects are at this point prospects. not one has proven anything of substance in the big show. realistically if half have somewhat sucessful nhl careers the flames are in good shape, however the fact still remains that the holes in the organization are still gaping. feaster needs to build a nhl level supporting cast through ufa,rfa and trades. my prediction is with the current lineup the flames win 30 games, and the goaltending is terrible. the flames have a surplus of mid level nhl forwards and a porous defense.

  • Franko J

    I believe this team is finally heading in the right direction and re-tooling in the correct manner.

    Maybe I see things different, but I thought after the trade deadline and the team finally started to realize the commitment and dedication to building a new identity and inserted some youth into the lineup I started enjoy watching the Flames play again.

    While it would be naive to suggest that with the current roster this team is cup contender, I do believe that this upcoming season will be most interesting to watch the Flame’s “B” boys play. There are certainly no guarantees when it comes to this crazy game of hockey, but I feel that this current roster will have more accountability to each other and play with more pride and drive.
    Talent wise this team may be lacking that “elite” level, however, I feel that the easily satisfied, lack of passion has been replaced in the locker room.

    I like the current roster and the depth this team is slowly building. As I said a few seasons ago this team was in dire need of an overhaul not only on the ice, but in the dressing room. Progress will take time, just ask Taveres and Islanders, or the Avalanche, well Calgary has to start from somewhere and I like the core that the management is building. Most importantly I like the fact there will be more hunger and “eye of the tiger” for the future of this franchise.
    Keep drafting well and emphasize development and this team will be a contender once again.

  • loudogYYC

    Taylor Hall will always be dangerous, but once RNH adds a few pounds, he and Eberle will be big point producers. They still need another centre though. The most important position in hockey.

    I really hope Feaster and company at least try to sign Grabovski. We’ll need a veteran point producer once Cammaleri is gone.

  • loudogYYC

    The only negative I can see about where the Oilers are at now, is that Colorado are developing at the same rate if not better. Aves have Landeskog, Duchene and now Mackinnon.. should be some good battles in the future!

    • RexLibris

      With the new alignment this shouldn’t be as significant a rivalry as it has been in the old Northwest division.

      But I do suspect that the two teams’ paths will cross in the next few seasons.

      • piscera.infada

        They have a worse situation on defence then the Oil do. I remember when everyone was hyping them up last year, picking them to win the North West. I just don’t see it. Good in the future? Likely. I have a hard time believe they’ll suddenly get over their major issues just because of Patrick Roy. Could be wrong though.

  • Tenbrucelees

    What a confusing article. First para says you laughed because feasted reckons that there is not much to currently help in free agency.
    Then you list a million reasons where the team sucks.
    Then you recap by saying a lot more words and suggest that they need more prospects/trades/free agents.
    Er yeah I guess so ….