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.