Random Thoughts – May 13, 2013, On Why the Flames Should Consider Moving Up

 


 

As you can see from the weekend open thread, the possibility of the Flames trading down into the top-5 is a bit contentious. It’s hard to say how high the price might be to make the move, but my assumption is it won’t be cheap – the top tier in this draft class seems to be clearly demarcated in most scouting circles, so it’s going to take an extraordinary package or sacrifice to make the move from 6 to 4 or higher.

I agree with the general sentiment that it probably won’t be worth the move, with the caveat that it will also depend on how the draft goes – If MacKinnon, Jones, Barkov, Drouin and Lindholm all go in the top-5, the only apparently remarkable talent who will be left on the board is Valery Nichushkin, who is a gamble for several reasons (KHL contract for one).

I doubt the Flames, who haven’t picked a Russian since Andrei Taratukhin, will spend their first top-10 pick since Dion Phaneuf on a potential KHL flight risk. Meaning, if the big-5 are gone by 6, the Flames likely drop down to the obvious second tier of talent populated by guys like Sean Monahan, Hunter Shinkaruk, Darnell Nurse, etc.

So if the org brass considers that scenario likely, I’d like to see them seriously investigate moving up. The Monahan’s of the world aren’t bad consolation prizes, but guys like Barkov and Drouin hold the possibility of being team changing talents.

Other Stuff

– Don’t tell Minnesota Wild fans, but their GM thinks that puck possession and shot differential matter:

“Last year in an 82 game season, we outshot our opponent [24] 24 times. This year in a 48-game season, we outshot our opponent 26. Our shot differential last year was minus-4.9. We gave up 34.1 shots per game, 26th in the league. Basically, the games we won was because of our goaltending.

“We gave up a lot of shots, we were in our zone an awful lot. This year cut that down to 27.1, 6th-best in the league. To me that’s huge. This year we had the puck more than our opponent. Our shots on goal went up close to 2, a 6.6-shot swing. That’s the biggest improvement of any team in the league since 07-08.

“This year, while we think we have to shoot better and execute better, we had the puck more, we were in our zone less, we defended better, our structure was better."

For those unaware, a big feud erupted between "stats guys" and a segment of the Minnesota Wild fan base last year when the former predicted the Wild’s strong start to the season was mostly an illusion based on their league-worst possession stats and exaggerated percentages. Minny predictably collapsed in the second half of the season, but there’s still a large portion of Wild fans who sneer at possession-based analysis.

As such I expect a torch and pitchfork mob to oust Chuck Fletcher this off-season, largely for his heretical reference to shot differential witchcraft.

– How did the Wild improve? Mostly thanks to the pricey acquisitions of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, although it’s hard to overlook Jonas Brodin who should have been a calder finalist this year. The rookie defender jumped right onto Minnesota’s top pairing with Suter and more than held his own. He could very well develop into a high impact blueliner.

– No major surprises in the playoffs this year, aside from the San Jose sweep of the Canucks. The Islanders probably deserved a better fate in the Penguins series given how much of the game was played in the Pittsburgh end, but they got the bounces in the last couple of contests which happens sometimes.

New York is poised to become a going concern in the East for the first time in recent memory. If their management doesn’t screw it up, of course.

– The Leafs hanging with the Bruins is a bit of a shocker I guess. The Bruins are still mostly controlling play at ES, although not to the degree I expected. In part, I think, because Carlyle has kind of been forced to play a good line-up. Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson and Mikhail Grabovski are playing much more than they did in the regular season and that seems to have firmed up the Leafs possession to a non-trivial degree. Clarke MacArthur not being scratched has helped the last couple of games as well.

They’re still the second best team in the series, but the difference between the clubs isn’t as stark. Boston is the favorite on home ice tonight, but it’s not a slam dunk.

– The GM of the year nominees are Bob Murray (Ducks), Marc Bergevin (Canadiens) and Ray Shero (Penguins). Perhaps this should be re-dubbed the "GM of the team who most overachieved relative to expectations and maybe stole some guys at the trade deadline" because there doesn’t seem to be much else behind these nominations.

On my ballot would be the Sharks Doug Wilson. His team began the year with a big gaping hole at the end of the roster – to the degree that the bottom-6 was dragging down his impressive collection of stars elsewhere. By the trade deadline, he had cleared out the dead wood (Handzus, Clowe, Murray), improved the bottom-6 with a few low cost acquisitions (Scott Gomez, Raffi Torres) and converted his trash to a nice collection to future assets to boot.

Around the Nation

  • This is the first time since Joe Nieuwendyk left that we have a chance at a top tier talent at Centre, I say go for it. These chances dont come often for the Flames and we all know that if Iggy had at top tier guy at Centre things might be a little bit different today.

  • Our only shot at top 5 is Barkov at 4 and only because it sounds like Nashville might like Lindholm. The top 3 (Jones, McKinnon, Droiun) are untouchable or it would cost the Flames too much to move up. A 6th+20th + a lil’ somethingsomething would get Barkov. Or maybe a 6th and Gio? The real question is, is the talent gap between Barkov and Lindholm/Monohan worth giving up other assets for? Depending on the price I def think it is worth a shot.

    I keep telling myself that after this draft we will have a TRUE FIRST LINE CENTER OMG(olly)!!

    • It’s not just the talent gap between Barkov and Lindholm if you’re giving up a great asset and potential captain in Gio.

      It’s Barkov :: Lindholm AND Gio…….. I don’t think he’s THAT good.

      • BurningSensation

        Go to YouTube and find Barkov’s reverse Pavel Datsyuk shootout move.

        It’s the Black Plague of sick.

        If the Flames can move #6 and Gio to get #4, they should do it.

        Gio is a nice top 4 defenseman, and Lindholm has his own share of jaw dropping abilities (and once Barkov is gone I am hoping like hell we get Lindholm), but Barkov outranks everyone in this draft in pure hockey sense, and could easily be the must productive player chosen.

        The big knock on him is below average NHL caliber skating. Fixable (the same was said about Tavares), but a concern.

        We can always sign another GIo in free agency. Guys like Barkov are as rare as unobtanium.

  • ИАТНАN

    I would love for the Flames to move up and grab Barkov at 4, but I doubt any of the teams in the top 4 picks would budge unless you offered them an unbelievable package (one that probably wouldn’t be worth it).

    I still think Lindholm falls to the Flames at 6 because I can see Carolina taking a bit more of a gamble on Nichuskin because they underachieved big time this year and they have already convinced one “enigmatic” Russian that Carolina is a good place to be. I can also see Carolina going “off the board” to take a defensemen like Nurse or Pulock because their backend needs some serious upgrades.

  • Parallex

    “if the big-5 are gone by 6”

    I wish there was a cut-off date for declaring “The Big”. I mean why is it “The Big 5”? People were commonly refering to “the big 4” just a few minutes/hours/days/weeks ago and to the best of my knowledge no one has put in performances in the meantime to either raise or lower their stock. When, why, and how did 4 become 5?

    FWIW: I think there is no “Big 5” I think there is a “Big 3” Jones, Mackinnon and Drouin have shuffled around in mocks, talent evals lists, and hype but it’s always been those three in the 1-3 positions. I would suggest that the cutoff point for “The Big” is after Three not Five. Barkov usually clocks in at #4 but he’s never been higher then that and (albeit rarely) has been lower.

    • Because in terms of NHLE, there is an obvious upper tier of talent starting at Drouin (50) and ending at Lindholm (about 40). Steep drop from there.

      As for Barkov, he’s been on the radar for years as a phenom and his season in Finland was one of the best we’ve seen from a teen overseas since Forsberg. He’s a remarkable talent, especially given his age.

      Corey Pronman more or less has it that way as well, although he include Nichushkin based completely on talent. I assume he won’t be on the Flames board though.

      Things may settle out differently in times, of course. Sometimes kids don’t work out and other guys take huge steps forward. However, from every angle it really looks like there are about 5 legitimate high-end talents in this draft and then varying degrees of quality/gambles after that.

      • Parallex

        If your using NHLE as your primary determiner it would be the Big 6 unless you want to jettison Seth Jones (which would be crazy). Because there are 5 guys + Jones before you get to the drop off (which is 6.5 points… which is a drop but I’m not sure if you could call it steep).

        Regardless, even if that’s all true I think it would be crazy to part with the packages you prognosticated for such a small difference when all you need is for 1 of the 5 teams drafting in front of us to have Nichushkin on their board or to have a Defenseman not named Jones on their board, or to simply not rate one of the five as highly in order to get them and give up nothing in the process.

        • SmellOfVictory

          I don’t think he’s using strictly NHLE. Petan isn’t counted, as he’s not ranked in the top half of the draft by anyone (hell, he’s not even in the first round on some scouting lists).

          • Parallex

            Obviously,

            That’s why I said that if NHLE is going to be the main thing that you use to seperate “elite” from “non-elite” and then use the point drop-off that occurs at Monahan/Domi as the cutoff point then by rights it’s a “Big 6”.

            Now… as I think I’ve made clear I don’t think much of NHLE (and lord knows I wouldn’t take Petan in the top 10 to say nothing of top 5). YMMV but I think it’s strange to use it (NHLE) as the basis to declare Lindholm an “elite” talent (and Monahan apparently not an elite talent) and then ignore it with regards to Petan’s placement. In my mind either it’s important enough that you can’t justify Petan’s exclusion or it’s not important enough to warrent Lindholm’s inclusion on it’s own and if it’s not important enough to warrent Lindholm’s inclusion on it’s own I’d be interested in hearing why he’s gotten the “elite” tap all of a sudden when he’s done nothing recently to improve or depress his stock.

            Is there a rational, plausible reason/s why there are now all of a sudden five elite talents (when until now it had mostly been spoken of as a 3 or 4 elite talent batch) beyond “Pronman says so”? ‘Cause like I said I respect his opinion but it’s just one of many.

          • SmellOfVictory

            The rationale, from my point of view, would be predraft lists combined with NHLE. The predraft lists give a good idea of what scouts think (distinct top 3, possibly top 4-5 depending who you ask, with the rest of the top 10 being fairly strong as well). Within those rankings, NHLE gives us another way to look at these guys and compare between them outside of the various, somewhat arbitrary (but generally expert), lists.

          • We don’t really know anything, to tell you the truth. Draft pre-ranks make people look foolish 5 years down the road almost 100% of the time. Plus we don’t know what the Flames have on their draft board. After all, we learned last year that they may have a different view of the talent available rendering all of this moot.

            We can only deal with the facts we have now. The elite talents in this draft class have more or less been obvious for a couple of seasons: MacKinnon, Drouin, Jones, Barkov. Given all the info we have, they are indisputably the best bets to become high-end players in the NHL.

            Lindholm is included in that group to some degree because his league corrected results are comparable to them and because a lot of scouts here and in Europe are calling him the second best non-NA skater not named Barkov.

            He may or may not be as good as Monahan right now or down the road. I will obviously endeavour to investigate both players with what tools are available prior to the draft, which is still more than a month away. If something comes up in those inquiries then we can adjust expectations accordingly.