FN Weekend Open Thread – How Long Will the Rebuild Take?



This came up in the Fan Ask from yesterday and it’s a tough one. The Flames are currently at the onset of the rebuild and from where they’re standing the desert seems to stretch out infinitely in all directions. "Forever" is the reflexive response of some, I think.

But things can turn around relatively quickly with some luck, some managerial competence and with the sort of budget the organization wields. Calgary is a potential cap team, meaning they can pick, groom and keep their stars when/if they manage to find them.

Personally, I think the team should be on the ascent in three seasons, with the next two being the most painful. Which isn’t to say I think Calgary should be cup contenders by year three, only that they should back to challenging for a playoff spot rather than languishing in the basement.

In three years, Backlund and Brodie will be in the prime of their careers, while Baertschi should have his NHL legs fully under him. Monhahan will at least be a sophomore and, god willing, Gaudreau may be on the team terrorizing opposition defenders by then as well.Those are decent building blocks and depending on what veterans they are able to retain or attract and what other prospects emerge down the road, it is at least a basis for a strong squad.

In five years, my expectation is the Flames will be better than average, if not Western Conference contenders. The raison d’etre for a rebuild (aside from it being unavoidable due to past misakes) is to fabricate an elite squad, not to simply rise back up to mediocrity. Being top-5 in the West by 2017-18 should be the goal of the current front office.

It’s impossible to precisely predict what will happen over the next 3 to 5 years. Maybe Karri Ramo arrives and is excellent, which would speed things up significantly. On the other hand, maybe he’s terrible, setting the team back indefinitely. Maybe none of the current crop of prospects turns out to be better than average at the NHL level…or maybe the Flames have finally hit a few homeruns after a decade of strike outs and singles.

I guess we’ll see. Share your expected timeline for the rebuild in the comments.


    I think 5+ years before they are constant contenders. That timeline gets shortened if they draft someone like McDavid and he lives up to expectations. Either way, get comfortable Flames fans this is a long road.

  • Michael

    Two maybe three years with a team that works hard, but lacks the balance and talent to compete night in night out. Flames finish in the bottom five, with lousy stats, but high end elite draft picks.
    Followed by another two to three seasons where the Flames climb back to middle of the pack as the elite talent develops. Year five / six the Flames begin to add quality free agents to round out the team. Year 7/8 the Flames are top 5 contenders, with maybe two seasons of being good enough to have a shot at a cup, Rebuild begins again in year 9/10

  • RexLibris

    Playoffs year 4 cup contenders year 6, not worried bout Ramo the flames can easily pick up a quality goalie year 4,5,6 if Gillies doesn’t work out through trade or free .

  • Jeff Lebowski

    How long will the rebuild take? Hopefully forever, after trying to chase the cup from 2006-2009 and trading away draft picks and solid role players for UFA’s hopefully the organization has learned it lesson. From 09 till this year we fooled our selves and our now finally on track to rebuild an organization. However there is help on the way and this goes back to the 2010 draft; Reinhart, Arnold and Ramage will all be role players in this organization, 2011 has tonnes of potential with some higher end forwards and some depth for the D; Sven and Johny Hockey are legit top six forwards, Granlund may also be a top six forward. Wotherspoon will likely be a 4-6 defenseman and Brossoit might be an adequate back up goaltender.2012 does not look quite as strong with Sieloff another 4-6 defender, but Gilles may be a starting goalie, the big question mark is Janko and whether he turns into anything.( that debate will go on forever. Then we look at 2013 and we see another group of forwards with Monahan looking like another top six forward and both Poirier and Klimchuck looking like top nine forwards at least. Add into this mix TJ Brodie, Backlund and Gio and you will have a competitive team. Draft well this year and next and you have an excellent core. Then add a few key free agents and avoid trading draft picks and prospect for rentals and the organization will be moving into a competitive ongoing renewal. In three to four years from now this team can once again be a factor in the west. The next two to three will require a lot patience as these kids listed above will need time to develop.

  • Michael

    Who knows? What we do know is that next year is going to suck. The year after I think will be the start of a little higher expectations. We should have enough of the decent prospects to step up & start to fill their roles. No playoffs but not a top 5 pick either. The year after that, our next wave of decent prospects from our high picks will be getting integrated into the lineup with homer optimism we can challenge for playoffs. By then, we should have a few established elite players on the team. So based on this time line, 3 years for us to be optimistically excited & out of rebuild mindsets.

  • Parallex

    That sounds about right… finish 5-6 this year sell off a few more leftover pieces, bottom out next year with a very inexperienced young squad, rise back up to current levels with McDavid/Barzal the year after, then back up to bubble team status the year after that, then finally legit SC contenders.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I say at about year 3 we can either see the corner being turned or another 3 year wait. It’s mostly if our prospects work out, will Monohan be a first line center? Can Backlund be a first line center? With either of Jankowski or Gaudreau ever make the flames? And if they do, will either of make significant contributions as a top 6 forward?

    Also, it depends on where we draft, if we always draft from the 4-6 position, it might take us longer, having a 1st or 2nd overall might jump start us, but if we keep drafting outside the top the top 3 we may never get that big significant peice that picks us out of the basement. Hell the Oilers keep picking at #1 as well and hasn’t helped them a whole lot so far either.

    I want to be optomistic that it’s gonna maybe be three bad years, but I can see it being as long as 5 before we are even playoff compeitive, never mind cup competitive.

  • MWflames

    The only safe bets are probably that this year and the next are going to bad, and tough to watch. Likely two bottom 5 finishes. After that its tough to predict. Which prospects translate and thrive in the pro’s, how much do backlund and brodie continue to develop, and the of course the goalie mystery are things we’ll have to wait to find out. I thinks it’s feasible that in year 3, the Flames push for a playoff spot. On the other hand year 3 might only be the halfway point in the re build!

    What I think we have going for us is a lot of prospects turning pro immediately. Over the next couple of years the flames will have a glut of youth moving through Abbotsford and hopefully the Flames. As of right now, I can count 11 forwards, 5 defence, and 2 goalies as safe bets to start their pro career this year or next. That doesn’t include next years draft or any of the 2013 class other than the first round picks. That’s a TON of young and respectable talent. All that talent creates a lot of pressure from bottom right up to the flames first line keeping everyone honest and working hard. Ultimately all that competition will produce better players.

    I think the Flames will emerge in a few years as a team with great depth at all positions. What will determine the success and speed of the rebuild will be if we can find proper first line forwards and defence…

  • BurningSensation

    I’m going to guess 4 years before the Flames are truly competitive for the Cup.

    Monahan, Poirier and Klimchuk will be 22

    Jankowski, Seiloff 22-23

    Baertschi, Gaudreau, Brossoit, Wotherspoon, Knight, 25


    That puts the new core of the team into their peak prime years. If we aren’t seriously competitive for big things at that point you’d need to look at rebuilding a new core.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Bad news sportsfans. Out of the 10 prospects you mention optimistically 2 pan out. After next years draft your list of top prospects will look very different and the draft after that will probably result in yet another top prospect list. This is the reality of a rebuild. The only variable that could drastically change the timetable is a generational talent like McDavid might turn into. For the sake of the battle of Alberta I wish you luck in acquiring him.

  • BurningSensation

    Worth noting that the Detroit Redwings ‘rebuilt’ around Yzerman, but that it took more than a decade before they won the cup with him.

    Even if we land a top tier talent (or develop one of the existing guys to be one) it takes more than just getting lucky once to make the team into a winner. The Red Wings needed to add both Fedorov and Lidstrom (and then Zetterberg and Datsyuk) before they could make the leap.

  • RKD

    First the Flames are working on identifying a new core, once that new core of young players is established then its Feaster’s responsibility to surround these players with the right mix of players to complement them.

    This organization failed Iginla mightily, he was always and I mean always surrounded by players who were lesser than him. One player cannot and should not have to carry the burden of an entire franchise.

    Even if you have a Baertschi, Monahan, Gaudreau, etc. None of these guys are of Iginla’s ilk nor do I think they would ever come close to scoring 500 goals. Which means it is even more important to surround them with the best possible talent.

    We’ve missed the playoffs four straight years and if we miss the next two or three we are right back in the 90’s by missing the playoffs seven years straight. This rebuild really has to be done carefully. They have to go back to making the goal of being division champions, having strong regular seasons and success in the playoffs. I would love them to get to the level of a Chicago, LA, Pittsburgh or Boston. It’s tough but it can be done and should be done here. Every team does things differently but smart hockey management and high hockey IQ is what got the strong teams to where they are today.

  • Greg

    I think it’s impossible to predict how the rebuild will unfold 3-5+ years from now, but I do think we can reasonably forecast some likely scenarios for the foreseeable future.

    2013-14 Season
    The Flames don’t have the assets to acquire any surprise roster upgrades, so barring an incredible explosion from at least 2 of Ramo, Brodie, Backlund, or Baertschi (think Vezina, Norris, Selke, or Calder nominations), a bottom 4 finish is a pretty safe bet, and bottom 6 is a lock. That virtually guarantees a couple more veterans get moved before the deadline. The good news is that means we add another really-good-to-great prospect to the stable.

    The bad news is, none of the prospects except for Baertschi (and maybe, maybe Monohan or Gaudreau) would be poised to fill the void of the departing veterans. And all of the veterans we do retain, including any of giordano, glencross, stempniak, wideman, etc, will all be post apex and more likely to start dropping off than driving improvement. There should be enough, ahem, “young guns” starting to ripen to offset that, but the sum total is we are very likely to be heading into next July with a roster that looks even worse on paper.

    Season 2014-15
    If the likes of Kessel, Vanek, Statsny and others are still availble next summer, I could see Feaster taking a few swings to try to fast track things. And if both Ramo and Yogi Berra falter, we could suddenly find ourselves with 1 of luongo, fluery, or an aging miller on the roster.

    But like an ugly nerd asking for a prom date, there’ll be nothing but rejections unless there’s a lot of cash and some questionable legalities involved. More likely they strike out or simply end up with the ugly girl (ie. a Luongo or Richard’s contract). An off-season buzz will get created. Some extra tickets will get sold. But short of pawning an upcoming 1st round pick (please spaghetti-monster, no!) there’ll be no appreciable difference in the 2014-15 results. Some additional shedding of deadline-driftwood, and the addition of another good (-to-generational) prospect.

    Season 2015-16
    At this point, the future starts looking less grim. We know what we’ve got in Baerstchi, Brodie, Backlund, Ramo et all. And what we don’t have. We’ve started getting a very good sense in what we’ve got in Monohan, gaudreau, the 2014 top pick, and possibly even the fabled Jankowsky. Some of its good news. Some of its not. We’ll likely still suck, but with 3 top-end picks in our chambers, the smell of hope will be back in the air.

    Any disillusioned vets have been jettisoned by now, and the next training camp promises to sound more like a youth summer camp – full of children laughing and playing, just happy to be there regardless of outcomes. UFAs aren’t clambering to come yet, but aren’t snickering when we ask anymore either. They can see the potential is there.

    3+ years out:
    I don’t think what unfolds from there is possible to say beyond really, really broad strokes. Too many things can change drastically, but if things do go roughly like the above, we’ll be in a more concretely hopeful place.

    In the meantime, we’ve gotta find things to cheer for during the next 2-3 years. For me, that’s:

    – a Stanley cup for Jarome
    – a retirement contract for Jarome (even if I do anticipate he’ll be useless and sporting a cane by the time he comes home)
    – a new arena (fiscally controversial, but still, I like shiny new things. They’re neat.)
    – McDavid (cause we will by necessity suck long enough to have a shot at him)
    – Gilles (I don’t really care what happens with Kari Ramo, Yogi Berra, et al. In the mind of this pleasure-deprived flames fan, they are all just keeping the net warm for him. Granted it was just one NCAA season, plus 1 WJC exhibition game I guess, but he’s probably the single prospect I’m most excited to watch develop in the upcoming seasons)

  • CDB

    This is a tough projection given all the variables but I agree with Kent’s tentative timeline. I may be just a delusional fan but I feel as though the flames are at a decent point at this juncture in the rebuild and would even venture to say they are further along than many teams are when they start rebuilding. They have a decent prospect base, especially in the forwards and in net. How they pan out is anyone’s guess but monahan, baertschi, gadreau, broissot and Gilles are a strong starting point. Aside from wotherspoon and seiloff, defence are a lil weak, and generally take little longer to develop

    For NHL players they possess some decent building blocks and assets they could move. A point I feel gets overlooked that while lacking high end talent, which can be acquired with upcoming high picks, the flames have decent depth. They effectively possess a lot of second and third line NHLers which can be moved for picks and prospects, or retained during the rebuild. Hudler, glenncross, stempniak, stajan, etc fall into this. On the back end wideman and gio. A lot of teams when rebuilding don’t have these types of established players. Add in Brodie, backlund, and the flames are in decent shape. Goalies and bottom 6 forwards as well as bottom pairing D can be acquired, as can goalies depending the Rammo experiment.

    I can’t understate the importance of 1st overall pick in 2015. Mcdavid could revolutionize. I say 3 yrs before playoff spot contention is realistic.

  • Franko J

    Everyone is talking about the roster. What about management and the coaching staff?

    Players aside, I’m curious to see how Hartley will coach the team this year.
    The last time the Flames became contenders was when they had the fortunate mixture of great goaltending and a coach who was able to have the players buy into an identity and a willingness to over achieve.

    Will Hartley and Feaster be here 4+ years from now?

  • @ Reg Dunlop

    “Out of the 10 prospects you mention optimistically 2 pan out. After next years draft your list of top prospects will look very different and the draft after that will probably result in yet another top prospect list.”

    This. People assume that Poirier, Monahan, Baertschi, et al. will still be around in a couple years. There’s bound to be upheaval in which other players are brought in via trade (with the Flames losing a player like Gaudreau, but gaining a different good player) or players bolting for other teams for one of many reasons (coach sours on the player, role decreased, player doesn’t pan out, etc.).

    Klimchuk. Poirier. Monahan. Baertschi. Jankowski. Sieloff. Kulak. Kanzig. The list goes on. I do not expect them all to be here even in 2 or 3 years.

    My guess at a timeline is in line with other people. 2-3 years of painful, agonizing rebuilding. Years 4-6 of making the playoffs and contending, years 7-9 are the twilight years.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Last year I predicted 6 years, so only 5 away. With the upcoming drafts, Calgary should secure more top talent which could accelerate things.

    A good team (IMO) should have:
    -2 top centres
    -2 top defencemen
    -1 quality goalie

    I think the Flames have 3 pieces in the system now. Pretty good. The other prospects are gravy.

    I am extremely optimistic about the team’s future (why not be?). Of course it’s impossible to predict future but I really like the kids.

    Penticton is going to be a great barometer to date (albeit partial because no college guys).