The Calgary Flames kicked off their 2013-14 season with, oddly, an off-day for players on Monday (aside from Joe Colborne and Mike Cammalleri working out on-ice). However, the city’s sports media were tucked snugly in the Ed Whalen Media Lounge for a chance to visit with newly-appointed President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke and GM Jay Feaster, the latter of whom announced the team’s roster moves to bring them down to 23 men to open the year.
Here are some notes from the press conference.
– Burke made himself available only because there were several requests for an availablity.
– He’s bought a house and a truck and is settling into Calgary. He’s got a handful of commitments left to fulfill, including a trip to visit the Canadian Forces in the Middle East in the near future.
– Like Feaster, Burke identified the prior incarnation of the Flames as a cap team with star players that didn’t get the job done. He praised Feaster for clearing the decks, so to speak. The team has 45 contracts (including Joe Colborne) and $13 million in cap space. They’ve been authorized to spend to the cap, but will be adding for value, not just to add guys or spend money.
– Reiterated that the new incarnation of the club is focusing on hard work, smart positional hockey and grit. Praised the hard work from everyone in camp. Called it “the hardest working group” he’s seen in his years in the business.
– ”This is a transition that had to take place and is well underway.”
– Noted of Joe Colborne: he’s not a black-and-blue player, but he’s a big body with potential. (“Six-five is not something you can teach or coach.”) Explained that with a bit of work, he could be a good bottom-six forward given his skating ability, size and hockey IQ. Compared Colborne’s career trajectory to David Steckel’s.
– Burke was very impressed with Sean Monahan. Mentioned several times that he had nothing to do with picking him, but was very impressed with the pick and that Monahan will make it difficult to send him back to the OHL.
– Isn’t sure what the Flames have in Sven Baertschi. Feels Baertschi has flashes of brilliance, but needs to compete for the entire game and in all three zones. Identified “big holes and a lack of commitment.”
– Can’t commit to a time-frame for how long the rebuild will take. He thinks fans can be patient with the rebuild if they see that a plan is in place and it’s being rigidly adhered to.
– “We’re not prepared to concede that we’re going to struggle yet. We’ll see. These guys have worked their tails off.”
– Shared that the Flames have one person in player development (Ron Sutter) that he thinks is superb, but is that enough when they have players playing from Russia to the west coast of North America? That’s part of the organizational review he’s conducting. (He noted that his test for evaluation of staff is “If I fired everybody, how many guys would get hired the next day?”)
– Felt the Flames had three strong picks in the first round of this year’s draft.
– Shared the team is high on Berra, but felt that he needed more time to get used to North American ice. Didn’t think that Joey MacDonald would clear waivers, so that factored into Berra getting sent town. Big difference-maker beween Ramo and Berra was Ramo’s NHL experience. Noted that at some point this season, Ramo could play enough games that he’d be waiver-eligible.
– Thinks Patrick Sieloff could’ve been the #7 defender, but would rather he get top-four minutes in Abbotsford and thinks he’ll be up in Calgary at some point this year.
– Like Burke, noted that Baertschi has some work to do, but said the team would work with him during the season. If he had a mulligan, he wouldn’t have brought Sven up for the emergency recall, as it led to very high expectations for him. Noted that Bob Hartley created a tight day-to-day working plan for Baertschi at the end of the season and it resulted in some very consistent play (and the scoring streak for Baertschi). The upside is that he’s still young. “We still love him, but there’s a lot of work to be done for him and for us.”
– The coaching staff will determine when Joe Colborne is ready to play. Colborne’s getting a “crash course” on Flames systems.
-Sean Monahan is up and will get a chance to play. The team has a nine-game window for his audition, but they can spread those games out as much as they want.
– Praised the energy and effort at camp, characterizing it as one of the best he’s seen in 20 years in hockey.
– Reiterated that the team will be known by its work ethic and tenacity, stressing that the team concept – on and off the ice – is critically important. Praised the team for coming together so well on and off the ice during training camp.
– Discussed the addition of “bridge players,” but noted that these guys could be added if they fit the team concept and if they fit a suitable need and fit their critieria.
– Thinks that the Abbotsford Heat will be competitive this year, but also very young. Noted that the team has veterans in role positions, but they’ve got a ton of young guys there. Wants the young guys to take ownership of the team and develop their team concept there.
– Shared that it’s tough to get bigger in the NHL and add grit, but thought that the moves they made over the summer made some progress.
– The team will try to keep contract spots open for college kids. They expect they could have as many as three players, two graduating players and one other, that would be prepared to sign NHL deals when their college seasons are over in the spring. As a result, the Flames will probably not use more than 47 contracts during the season.
– Praised Mark Giordano and the Flames leadership group, but noted that Hartley and his staff has assembled a “leadership committee,” including some of the younger players. The idea is to build younger guys into the leadership group and groom future leaders in the room.
– Feels the Flames prospect group is a lot deeper than it was, but noted that there’s work to do, notably from a skill perspective. But while previously the team only really had draft picks in terms of assets they could utilize in trades, now they have prospects that teams call about.
– The team has signed Dominic Pittis to work with the team as a skills coach.
– Noted the Flames will have to make decisions by Christmas time what they’re doing with their pending UFAs.
Lines are estimates.
Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
Galiardi – Backlund – Hudler
Baertschi – Monahan – Jones
Bouma – Colborne – Jackman
Street / McGrattan
Giordano – Brodie
Wideman – Russell
O’Brien – Butler
IR: Cammalleri and Breen (non-roster)
– Cammalleri is on IR retroactive to September 14, when he was injured. He’s able to come off as soon as he’s cleared.
– Smith and Street have cleared waivers and can be sent down to the AHL anytime in the next 30 days (or until they play 10 NHL games). Of the guys remaining up, Ramo and Baertschi don’t require waivers. Time will tell what will happen when Cammalleri comes off the IR.