Flames Fan Ask & Weekend Open Thread


Sunset at Saddledome


Another instalment of the mailbag and more topics of conversation on this holiday weekend after the jump.

Q: What guy do you see taking a big step forward this season?

Well, I’m not going to say Brodie because I’m not sure how much of a step you can take when you’re already a 2/3 defenseman; I’m not going to say Baertschi because I think he suffers a little with tough minute play; and I’m not going to say Backlund because he’s a 2C and I’m not sure how much more scoring we can expect out of him without PP time (although that is likely to increase).

I think Roman Horak will end up taking the biggest step: I see him as a 25 to 30-point guy this year, and he’ll stand out in camp. The underlying numbers – even though the sample is only 81 games – look pretty good to me and he scored at a .5PPG pace last year on that terrible Abbotsford squad (NHLE of ~23). He and Corbin Knight should go well together.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Chad Billins plays NHL games this year. His scoring rates in the NCAA were pretty healthy for a defenseman. 

Q: What’s the most important attribute when evaluating a prospect?

I’m assuming this is pre-draft, so I’ll say (with obvious caveats) the player’s skating. With the way the game is, skating is no longer something that can be taken for granted in a prospect (Nemisz, Howse, Chucko, Hanowski, Cameron, Aliu…).

In my opinion, poor mechanical skating techniques that exist when a player is 19 or 20 are likely going to exist forever. Part of this is muscle memory, part of it is psychological and part of it is the difficulty of still playing effectively when trying to improve.

Now, for me, “skating” does not mean “speed”. Skating means efficiency, which begets speed. A player who is efficient in his stride will take less energy to speed up to max pace and thus has a tactical advantage the second he steps on the ice. This is what makes a guy like Jay Bouwmeester or Alex Pietrangelo different and gives them the ability to play 27 minutes every damn night.


Bouwmeester takes two strides to get up to full speed and it only takes him about 10 or 12 strides to make it all the way down the ice. Unreal. This is what’s important, kids.

Now, I do want to differentiate between problems with a skater’s technique and strength. It may be that player X’s technique is dynamic and fluid, but he has a hard time getting where he wants to go because he lacks power in his stride. Strength is something that can be fixed ant pretty much any point.

So, to recap: skating is important because the game is based in efficiency. Better technical skaters are more efficient. Generally, that means it takes less time to get to full speed. Poor technical skaters should be avoided.

Q: Who is one player the Flames should go after to help this team during the rebuild and beyond?

A: Well, Sidney Crosby. Since that’s unrealistic – the easiest way to get high-end young talent is through an offer sheet or poaching soon-to-be RFAs on cap-strapped teams with UFAs to be.

Philly may or may not be in cap trouble next year, but if they are Brayden Schenn should be available for a 2nd round offersheet. Toronto will definitely be in trouble and Phil Kessel might actually be a good bet on a big money, low year contract – he’s an elite 1W who can drive a line, and that’s unique. Jake Gardiner is another Toronto player who will expect a raise the Leafs might not be able to give – a 2nd round offersheet should be enough here, too. Gardiner is a top-4 defenseman right now with offensive upside.

Paul Stastny and Niklas Hjalmarsson are two UFAs who are top-6 and top-4 respectively and both will probably be available on July 1st. Stastny seems to be the odd man out in Colorado at this point in time but if Patrick Roy likes O’Reiliy on the wing maybe that changes.

Q: Does Kipper not having retired yet concern you?

Not at all, actually. I see things shaking out one of three ways: 

  • Shows up to camp – he’ll likely be just as bad as he was last year and the team gets a high draft pick. Nothing is wasted in terms of performance as he likely won’t make the team substantially better or worse. The situation will be a little embarrassing, but it won’t matter in the big picture. At the end of the year, everyone walks away.
  • Doesn’t file papers, but doesn’t show up to camp – Kind of what Philadelphia has done with Chris Pronger, as he hasn’t retired even though he’s “retired”: because it makes more sense to let the Flyers stash his salary away on LTIR instead of having dead weight from the 35+ clause. Same general idea here of the Flames using Kiprusoff’s contract to their advantage. At this point, only $1.5 million is owed to Kiprusoff and the team has a significant amount of cap space with a full roster so the $5.83 million against the cap really doesn’t matter. This way, the team can “suspend” him, so that his cap hit is still on the cap but they don’t pay him anything. Why would Kiprusoff do this? Since the day it was signed, it’s been known that Kiprusoff wasn’t going to play the last year or two. (Side note: this was really the first “cheat” contract signed as well as the first to end.) Thus, Kiprusoff’s contract can expire normally without any threat of cap circumvention punishment. So, one team gets cap space and the other gets to keep their picks.
  • Files papers – I don’t believe this is likely because of Kiprusoff’s contract. This year is a “cheat” year. Cheat years are cap circumvention. If Kiprusoff retires before his contract expires, the NHL can investigate and punish the Flames as well as Kiprusoff for circumvention and that’s just messy.

I doubt he plays a game this year, but I also doubt he officially retires before April.

Q: I want to write stuff on the internet about sports. Will you fire Floob and let me take his place?

Floob is the one running this asylum, we can’t fire him. He’s actually reading this over my shoulder RIGHT NOW.

Enjoy your Labour Day long weekend.

  • Parallex

    “Files papers – I don’t believe this is likely because of Kiprusoff’s contract. This year is a “cheat” year. Cheat years are cap circumvention. If Kiprusoff retires before his contract expires, the NHL can investigate and punish the Flames as well as Kiprusoff for circumvention and that’s just messy.”

    That was taken care of in the last CBA. And Kipper’s contract didn’t even qualify under their solution .


      • ChinookArchYYC

        – “the easiest way to get high-end young talent is through an offer sheet or poaching soon-to-be RFAs on cap-strapped teams with UFAs to be.”

        JA, I’ve been waiting all summer for Feaster to pull off a poach-trade, and ya Philly is on the top of the list of candiates. I still hope he can trade for an RFA and more players in the 24-26 age group. Maybe one more deal could get done before training camp. The window closes after the 2015 year starts for the likelyhood of more poaching, by that time most team’s should be in ok shape from a cap standpoint.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        I thought these contracts became violations after the kovi deal. Kippers deal was the first of it’s kind and was not a violation. Then the kovi deal happened and the league responded. It was my belief that the over age contract clause did not apply to Kippers deal.

  • beloch

    I actually had to google Kessel to see how young he is. 25! Jeez… You could stick him in a lineup with a bunch of 40+ year-old problem-drinkers and nobody would be able to pick him out as the 25-year old!

    Still, poaching him from Toronto would take a cherry-topped miracle whistling seductively from on top of an oil-tanker full of cash! If it somehow happens, the Flames’ finances will be royally pooched in the process.

  • Re: getting investigated for cap circumvention. During the whole Alfredsson/Sens thing just a couple weeks ago, the NHL came out and said there would be no further penalties for the contracts that had already been given out. If Kipper’s was the first, I’d think this implies that he is in the clear.

    After all, Murray Edwards and Gary Bettman ARE good buddies…

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I look at the players you mention as possible players the flames should consider and I like the fact that they are relatively young but are proven NHL players. I would not be looking for anyone older than 27 at this point in the rebuild. This year really needs to be about seeing what we have in the system. The truth of the matter I would not likely enter the free agent market until the end of the 2014/15 season except if there was an exceptional talent available. By then we will have had a fair chance to evaluate this group (Sven, Brodie, Grandlund, Monahan, Witherspoon, Sieloff, Rhinehart, Horak, Johnny Hockey etc) as well as having two relatively high draft picks to really see what we need to return as team of significance. If we try and sign UFA’s or RFA’s we risk creating a band aid solution to our much greater problem. In two years we will have a greater understanding of who we have and what we need.Then the need for a mindset change must begin to occur anything before that is a bit to soon.

  • RedMan

    I was wondering to myself when do the kids get together for the tournie, how many days of practice will they get? Is anyone in Flames nation going? Have the Euro goalies arrived in Canada? Are the players having informal skates? I was thinking what would I do with the lines at this tournie? I might just throw the 3 first round draft picks from this year together just to see if they have any chemistry.Sven, Grandlund, and Rhino?

  • RedMan

    so, kipper just simply fails to show up. Flames, acting perplexed, say their only option is to suspend him while carryinh on how they respect him and what a tough spot he is in, theres lots of winking and nudging… and we all get on with life.

    makes sense. none of this was ever prearranged either. no way.

  • The Last Big Bear

    With regards to skating:

    I ran a skills combine for my league in Europe a few years ago. Used coaches, Hockey Canada’s player evaluation tests, NHL Central Scouting’s prospect template, etc.

    It turns out that the rule of thumb for NHL-level skating is that guys should be able to hit pretty much top speed in 3 strides. Remember that next time you’re out with your beer league buddies. 3 strides.

    At the combine I found that despite never having power skating classes as a kid, my top end speed was fantastic. Not quite pro level, but close. However, that same lack of power skating meant that it was taking me 6-7 strides to get to that top end speed, so I rarely had an opportunity use it in a game situation.

    With lots of YouTube tutorials, and lots of dead lifts and VMO exercises, I managed to get that down to 5 strides, and it made all the difference in the world to my game.

    I’m 30-ish, and my skating still sucks, so there’s obviously going to be a limit to how much I can improve. But I intent to find that limit. Because I take my beer league hockey way too seriously.

  • supra steve

    It’s because of guys like Big Bear that half of my beer league team is not coming back to play this fall. Our idea is to go out and get some exercise and enjoy playing the game we grew up playing, and to not get hurt while doing it. On my team we range in age from about 30 to 50 but some of our competition comes in with an average age in the late 20’s. Now, not all the young guys are “Johnny Tryhards” but of all the JT’s, about 95% of them are in the younger range.

    Nothing irks me more, as a D-man and as an older player, than to have some 21 year old skating at full steam for the puck behind our net with the clock ticking down the last 5 seconds of the period. Fighting off his charge as he furiously chops at the puck and my feet. Now, he’s the only guy on their team even in our zone, the rest of his linemates have the sense to know the period is over, and they are already ahead by 6 goals. So as the buzzer sounds (and no, he didn’t win the puck) and I admonish him for his actions, he responds, “I go hard until the buzzer”. Admirable in the NHL, but in beer league, at least in my beer league, you’re just being a DICK.

    If you play in a more competitive “beer league”, then that’s what you’ve all signed up for. I can respect that, have fun.

    • The Last Big Bear

      I agree 100% about respecting the level and style of play of the league you’re in.

      Hockey has more unwritten rules than written rules. Which means you have to respect the house rules of whatever league you’re in.

      And for the record, the team I was playing for at the time had been playing exhibition and “friendly” games against pro clubs and their farm teams. So me working on my skating at the gym was just good sense for playing contact hockey at that level.

      I have no real excuse for continuing to be needlessly hardcore about rec hockey, but I’m ok with that.

      • supra steve

        Then it seems that you are not one of the DICKs that I made reference to. Sorry I implied that you might be. But as you know, they are out there.

        Enjoy your hockey while you can, and as the years go on, may you be blessed with a daughter or a son (or a nephew or niece) that keeps you in the game and returning to the rink with regularity. At that point there’s a whole other political storm to deal with, but it still makes the winter tolerable.

        • RedMan

          I know what you mean though… there always seems to be “that-guy”!

          most of the guys there are just trying to have a little fun while keeping in shape… but that GUY will leave someone crumpled in the corner after a bone crushing hit in a game that is supposed to have minimal, ‘friendly’ contact. To add insult to injury, he then blames the other guy for not getting out of his way, or leaving himself vulnerable… (for ‘that guy’ in our circle, his exact words… I’m six-one 220 and he’s five-five… he should have enough brains to get out of my way when i’m coming for the puck). The guy he hit has not played hockey since then, and still has problem with back issues a couple years later…

          he is also the guy that is in someone’s face trying to drop the gloves. I mean, really??? nobody wants to come here and get in a face punching match for any reason… we just want to work up a sweat, have a few good laughs, an go home in a condition that allows us to go to work the next day…

          now, back to the regularly scheduled message…

  • RexLibris

    Back to Q&A, have there been any recent rumblings about a new arena in Calgary? I haven’t heard anything in the media, but maybe something by word of mouth or civic rumour? No large land parcels bought by EdwardsCorp recently or whispers of Ken King shopping for commerical-grade upholstery and flooring?

    • supra steve

      of the three point five possible locations for the new arena, edwardscorp can’t own the land in 1.5 and already does in the other two.

      there likely will be no new news on the arena front for the foreseeable future due to the floods.

      • beloch

        I would imagine that a couple of seasons spent significantly under the salary cap will help with the mortgage down-payment though. I only hope they get the job done without any of the idiotic drama that’s been going on between Edmonton city hall and Katz! Also, I sincerely hope King ponies up more of the cash himself. It’s hard to pretend you’re poor like Katz when you’re busy expanding into other sports!

      • RexLibris

        Is it still considered likely to be on the outer areas of Calgary? I’d wondered about whether there might be some interest in the Cross Iron Mills direction based on land scarcity and the inability to tear down the Saddledome and replace it in three months’ time.