Assessing the Flames Future Roster Gaps



Before setting out on a project one first needs to establish an end goal as well as a series of markers that help to measure success.

One way of doing this is to mock up a roster with available players and best-bet prospects in their most reasonable positions, see where the gaps are, and craft strategies to acquire the missing assets.

Below is a rough sketch of what the Flames’ roster might look like this October…

A year or two ago, during a discussion about FlamesNation favourite Mikael Backlund, I had made the argument that his possible ceiling was as a 2nd line center but that the Flames needed to develop enough roster depth so that Backlund could be deployed as a 3rd line center. His offense suggests that this would be an ideal slot for him and my personal opinion is that he could well rate amongst the league’s top end in that range of role player.

What will follow is an estimation of the Flames roster in a few years’ time with the gaps displayed. I’ve decided to focus primarily on the younger players, slotting them in to where I feel they will fit in two to three years from now and then adding the veterans who are most likely to still be on the roster in that time. Kids are in bright red, veterans in a darker red (see what I did there?) with the intention of identifying the best roster depth for prospects and the most likely areas that will need to be addressed.

What Does the Future Look Like?

You’ll notice that I’ve left goaltending off entirely. Simply put, there is no point in trying to guess what that is going to look like two years from now. There are too many intangibles and too many untested candidates.

Those grey gaps that remain can be filled one of three ways: by free-agency, trade, or internal development and promotion by a current prospect or one acquired in the intervening period.

The next step is to slot in some depth positions that stand a chance of being filled by current prospects over the course of the next few years. However, rather than call out specific names, I’ve chosen a slightly different approach.

The Pipeline

I’ve broken down the Flames’ current list of prospects into groups under the premise that, while some roster spots will be filled internally with existing prospects, naming specific players at this stage in their development leaves too much room for debate and opinion. Instead it is a better bet at this stage to suggest that at least one name from a group of three or four may develop enough to eventually claim a specific roster spot and to moderate expectations to a general ceiling from that group.

The above is a list of Flames prospects with a measurable chance of becoming a bona fide NHL player within the next several years. I’ve separated them into groupings based on several criteria: overall chance of success, redundancy within the prospect group, level of talent, and distance from the professional game. The list is more representative than comprehensive, so don’t get too uptight about some exclusions (talking to you, Keegan Kanzig fans).

The reason for approaching the young plyaer/prospect list like this comes down to chance.

It happens on occasion that someone comes out of nowhere to take a spot higher than has been anticipated. It also happens that prospects developed and groomed to become key contributors fail to achieve their expected potential. The latter is obviously more common than the former, so I have adopted this conservative approach to temper expectations and exclude hyperbole. Rather than suggest that I can predict the future of every Flames prospect, I have instead grouped them and suggest that odds are at least one manages to develop to a certain level in the roster.

Disagree with where I’ve slotted someone on the list? Great. If you’re right that means the Flames end up with a higher-than-expected development curve from one of their prospects. So if I’m wrong the Flames win, but better to prepare for a modest development curve than start banking on every draft pick exceeding expectations.

Is This What Tomorrow Looks Like?

So here is the rough sketch, then, of how this roster may yet develop and the holes are apparent: the Flames need to invest in finding some RW talent or moving someone from port to starboard. With luck a high draft pick this year or next can become a bona fide 1st line center, and, of course defense, defense, defense.

Dark red are veterans, bright red represents those recognized today as the new core, and black are those players who represent unknowns.

Obviously not all of the positions will be taken by internally-drafted and developed players. There will be trades and free-agency is a useful way of adding a body or two to the bottom rotation, either at forward or defense so the names on the passenger list today are almost guaranteed not to arrive together. Eventually a replacement will be needed for Giordano and Hudler, and those roster spots, taken along with the ongoing effort to acquire elite-level players, means that the organization may yet have to work even harder at the draft in order to fill in all the roster spots with competitive NHL-level talent. They have a jump on a key defenseman, some center depth and a handful of left-wingers, but the trick is to keep working on the renovations while making sure the existing structure doesn’t begin to fall into disrepair.

The franchise has acquired a decent number of forward prospects now, enough to begin at last the long process of rebuilding. This collection will eventually begin to be whittled away by injury, attrition and stalled development, but these are factors intrinsic to the business of professional sport. There remains a long way to go before there are enough options to flesh out an NHL roster capable of challenging for the playoffs, let alone winning a championship.

What the above exercise offers is at least a graphic inventory of relative strengths and weaknesses, the key areas that need attention, and the distance remaining in this rebuilding project.

Around the Nation

    • Im not Rex, but if you are referring to this – overall chance of success, redundancy within the prospect group, level of talent, and distance from the professional game.

      Those weren’t the groups, they were the criteria by which the 3 groups were measured and tiered.

      • RexLibris


        Criteria for organizing them into the groups, not definitions of the groupings.

        And Kent is right, he isn’t me. If he was this comment would cause a rift in the spacetime continuum.

  • Actually found this article to be a good visual of where the Flames are currently at. It’s stuff most die hard fans already knew but it does put in visual what has already been said.

    Calgary still desperately needs a #1 Centre.
    – A top Scoring (50+ points) Winger.
    – A bonafide #1 Defensemen
    – a handful of role players and 4-7th depth defense.

    The first two points are likely only going to be acquired through the draft and to achieve this we need to get ourself into the top 3 of the draft lottery at least 1x in the next 3 years otherwise we’re still going to be in the same place we were last year in 3 years from now. I can see us maybe picking up a top defenseman through free agency just given our cap room as long as we don’t spend stupidly.

    And maybe maybe we get lucky and fleece someone for a scoring winger in a trade.

    But ultimately the best thing for the Flames at this stage of their development is going to be for them to tank. Unless you’re the overly optimistic type who figures we can still trade/sign UFA’s to fill these positions (which we have not been able to do in 20 years).

    Let the tears flow for now Flames fans.

    • RexLibris

      I tend to be a very visual thinker, so laying out the roster holes like this is how I’ve always approached things for teams.

      I agree that the team is going to need at least one high (top three?) pick to address at least one position, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of finding a solution later in the 1st round. That the team hasn’t had that kind of draft luck since the last ice age doesn’t mean it won’t happen. What it means is that John Weisbrod and the scouting staff are going to be under a lot of scrutiny and four years from now we should have some answers to how well they will have done (if that made any grammatical sense).

      Suspect the Flames push the draft angle this season. They could move several bodies this deadline for 2nd and 3rd round picks and improve their chances of addressing their roster holes internally over the long run.

      Let’s look at the 2010 draft by the Oilers for example as it was year 1 of their rebuild in which they had focused on the draft by acquiring extra picks and were a franchise whose historical draft record is in the same range as the Flames.

      In the 2nd round they had three selections, 31st, 46th and 48th taking Pitlick, Marincin and Hamilton, in that order. Of those three one appears to be an NHL player while the other two are suspect. Pitlick and Hamilton looked like the best bets on draft day to become NHL players, so that tells you something about the changing fortunes of prospects.

      The Flames would be well served in adding one or two more picks in this year’s draft and loading up on prospects to better their chances of finding enough talent down the road.

  • 24% body fat

    Biggest roster gap will be at LW, when no one can play in the top two spots because sveNNNN will not be able to crack the glass ceiling of 38 points.

    Trashes, more and more trashes.

  • RexLibris

    I appreciate the effort, but feel like we are casting about in the vast unknown when we have a draft pick pencilled in as our 2nd line centre before he has even played a Rookie tournament game.

    A nice summary, but there is just so many question marks, so many assumptions.

    • RexLibris

      That is why I left him in black. I’m working off of all the scouting reports I’ve read about him, draft pedigree, and the likelihood that the franchise just can’t help itself from running him out there.

      I agree that Monahan is an unknown, and I’ve argued many times not to count ones chickens before they hatch, so this is a departure for me to go this far.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Between Backlund, Monahan, Knight, Reinhart, and Arnold, the Flames are all but guaranteed those two middle-six centre slots filled to an acceptable degree, so I don’t think that aspect of the chart is too much to worry about.

  • RexLibris

    BTW, the roster for the first Oilers Young Stars game is here

    I’ll copy and paste for ease of reading:

    Andrew Miller
    Mitch Moroz
    Marc-Olivier Roy
    Travis Ewanyk
    Gregory Chase
    Jujhar Khaira
    Jackson Houck
    Kyle Platzer
    Cameron Abney
    Kale Kessy
    Ty Bilcke
    Austin Fyten
    Brandon Baddock
    Reid Petryk
    Chase Schaber


    Oscar Klefbom
    Darnell Nurse
    Martin Marincin
    Brandon Davidson
    Martin Gernat
    David Musil
    Joey Leach
    Ben Betker


    Tyler Bunz
    Ty Rimmer
    Philipe Cadorette
    Franky Palazzese

  • Brownblazer

    I too am a visual thinker – I really appreciated your article. I think you nailed it.

    I’ve been reading the FN stuff for the past 4 months and I love it. But, I’ve noticed the lack of ‘love’ for Cundari here. I really liked what I saw in his stint last spring – and I think he as potential to be in the top 4, this season. Looks like I’m alone in that thinking, but I’m not sure why.

  • beloch

    Giordano, Wideman and Hudler are all 29+. They might need easier minutes in a few years when the rookies are ready. Hudler especially may need to come down a line or two.

    • RexLibris

      Including luck?

      I’m not sure if Howse is that significant a loss in the long term, but Klimchuk missing a few games to start the CHL season isn’t good news. Hopefully there isn’t talk of a hernia or surgery.

  • BurningSensation

    That gaping chest wound at Right Wing is sufficient reason for the Flames to seriously consider both Brunner and Mueller as offseason signings.

    Both would give the org time to develop internal replacements.

    • RexLibris

      Funny how the team couldn’t find another RW prospect over the course of nearly two decades while routinely dressing one of the league’s dominant RWs for most of that time.

      That is going to be a challenge for them. If they are really lucky they’ll be able to find a true #1 center who can develop extraordinary chemistry with Baertschi and the RW won’t then have to be on the same level, just keep up.

      It’s a tall order ahead, but the good news is they have nothing but time now and a few chips left to cash.

  • schevvy

    My one quibble here would be that I think Glencross is more likely to be a part of the future than Hudler. But other than that, Rex is pretty spot on.

    I will now go wash myself from head to toe because I feel dirty for agreeing with an Oiler fan.

    • RexLibris

      I thought I smelled something…


      I think Glencross might be a part of the group in the next few years, but his contract expires soon and I don’t want to open up the debate on possibilities, etc. I wanted to just stick with those contracts that run the course and are unlikely to be moved.

  • RexLibris

    I want to get this right, group 1 are players you believe will be significant NHL players, group 2 probable NHL players and group 3 prospects?

    I look at this list and what I see is that the Flames do not have any elite players as prospects(I think there are only a handful of elite forwards at anyone time anyways), few if any star forwards but many solid NHL type contributors. You can build a competitive team this way but not likely a championship team, therefore the Flames will need to try and draft a couple of elite forwards or acquire some more depth and talent via free agency. I don’t foresee the likelyhood of ever trading for an elite player in his prime.

    The future of this team looks brighter than it has for a long time but will only be realized through time and development.

    • RexLibris

      Group III is made up of people whose window is closing, was never open much to begin with, or is still a ways away to be declared at this stage, thus the collection of players, including most of this year’s draft cohort.

      However, it does reinforce what has been said many times here, and elsewhere…until the Flames can draft some truly elite talent they are going to be fighting an uphill battle.