FN Weekend Open Thread – What are you Looking forward to in 2013-14?

 

 

The Calgary Flames will enter next season as one of the favorites to finish last in the league. The club lacks offensive fire power, will probably be playing kids at key positions and its goaltending is a complete enigma. If everything breaks right, the Flames might be competitive night-to-night, but it’s much more likely to be a long, painful winter here in Calgary.

Which doesn’t mean there won’t be reasons to watch. Ironically, I’ve found a lot of fans are actually more interested and optimistic about the team than they have been in a long time, if only because this year represents a new dawn which has been too long delayed. The overall record won’t matter as much as the development of certain key pieces.

With that, here’s what I’m looking forward to this year:

– Watching TJ Brodie

The kid went from possible NHLer to possible top-two NHLer in the space of 40-games last year. His development over the last 12 or so months has been incredibly rapid – in fact, one of the steepest curves we’ve seen out of a blueline prospect of his age in a long time.

Brodie has his bridge deal and I’m willing to bet he’s at least top-3 on the back-end in terms of points and ice time this season. In fact, if he somehow manages to take another step forward, he’ll do better than that.

– Mikael Backlund emergence

If he can stay healthy, Backlund is poised to put together a career best season and finally establish himself as a primary contributor. He’s already the best two-way center on the team, so all he needs is to stay out of the infirmary and put a few more points on the board. It will be very interesting to see how Bob Hartley deploys him this year.

– Sven Baertschi development

Sven had an up-and-down first season, but it ended with him putting together a seven game point streak and lookin much more comfortable at the NHL level  than he did on his initial foray in January. While the wings will be somewhat crowded in Calgary to start the year (Glencross, Cammalleri, Hudler, Jones, Galiardi, Stempniak), there’s no question Baertschi is perhaps the most naturally talented offensive player amongst them.

It’s easy to forget that Baertschi hasn’t even turned 21 years old yet (he will in October) and that last year was essentially his 19-20 year old season, year most prospects spent in junior hockey. For him to simply make the team and play a regular shift will mean he’s ahead of most player’s development curve, let alone if he plays a top-six position. Keep in mind Claude Giroux (my personal "hopeful" comparable for Baertschi) played in just 42 games as a 20-21 year old and  scored 27 points (0.64 PPG).

That is my benchmark for Baertschi – if he can match or exceed around 0.60 PPG this year, it will probably be a really good season for the kid (who is still technically a rookie BTW).

– The debut of Corban Knight

I don’t really know what to expect from the college stand-out, so I really just want to see how he handles himself against NHL competition. I am assuming he’ll make the team out of camp and that he’ll play a "two-way" role from the outset, but beyond that, who knows…

– What can Feaster get that the deadline?

The Flames are almost certainly going to be sellers again at the trade deadline. They liquidated all of their "big ticket" items last April, but they still have some guys who might bring in a few useful futures, performance depending. Mike Cammalleri could land another first rounder if he can put together a strong season. With an expiring contract and 25-30 goal pace, Cammalleri should be one of the most sought after rentals on the market.

After him, guys like Lee Stempniak and Matt Stajan may attract some interest. If either guy has another good season the Flames may try to re-sign either or both, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to move on to greener pastures. If so, Feaster should put them on the auction block.

What are you looking forward to this year? Share in the comments.

  • RKD

    My list is pretty much identical, I am looking for Backlund to have a career high this season if and only if he can stay healthy.

    I’m expecting Baertschi to keep progressing and take some larger steps forward, he said in an interview a while back he wants to be the face of the franchise. He’s going to have play really strong and be consistent.

    Brodie should be about the same as last season, I don’t see him going backwards if he can keep progressing that is certainly going to pay big dividends for the Flames and himself down the road.

    Corban Knight was one of Florida’s top guys in the system, if he can be a strong face-off guy then his value to this team will be crucial.

    What about the vets? I’m watching to see if Gio can regain the form he had before his left leg hamstring injury. Is he going to be the Gio of old or the Gio who struggled in a top 2 role and made some of the most brutal giveways last season? It wasn’t just his body, his head wasn’t in the right place at times.

    Can Cammy regain his scoring touch, how will Glencross do in a larger role? Will Hudler be checked out on rebuilding team or will he excel. Without Iggy, Tangs, other guys don’t have to be in shadows, the spotlight will shine brightly on a lot of the vets too.

  • Emir

    Lots to look forward to this year, and all of it has been mentioned.

    what I’m personally looking forward to is actually being able to go to a game. Ticket price isn’t an issue, but availability is. Going to make it a lot easier for the people to go and see a game and that makes me happy.

  • piscera.infada

    Of the list above (and aside from Knight, because I don’t want to beat that dead horse again) I’m most excited to see what Backlund can do with real opportunity. He should get some nice pp time for a change and some awesome offensive opportunities outside of that.

    Like most Flames fans, I know this is going to be a long season that will likely be hard to watch, but I’m still extremely excited.

    Above and beyond the list Kent created, I’m really excited to see if we sign the two college guys – Gaudreau and Agostino – after their season is over, and if they play a few games at the tail end of the year. I don’t think I need to state how excited I am for Gaudreau, but I’m equally excited for Agostino. I really (and I mean really) like the guy as a player. He fits the bill for exactly what I think this team will need in a second line winger in a couple of years. Mark my words, this kid will be similar to Ryan Callahan! Although, obviously not a centre (but you know what I mean).

  • Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

    “Ironically, I’ve found a lot of fans are actually more interested and optimistic about the team than they have been in a long time”

    I think fans are excited by the unknown and the hope that comes with that. In the last number of years it has been only the fear that comes withing already knowing the same old same old.

    Hopefully their one of the goalies will work out. If not, we should easily get a top 3 pick. See, that’s not all bad either.

  • Willi P

    I think the most interesting thing for me will be our UFAs.

    With guys like Stajan and Camm set to be UFAs the way the season rolls around could determine what happens to them. If either of them have a crappy year, cut them loose at the deadline and tank even harder. If either of them have a good year, talk about an extension before the trade deadline, if one can’t get done, trade em. Nobody is going to trade for the rights to either player and just because they had a good year doesn’t mean the team will and they may not want to stick around for that rebuild, get what you can and look to the future.

    On resigning either of them however, if their contract demands are greater than 3 or 4 years, dump them and be quick about it. There is no senese in signing either of them to lengthy contracts, but neither of them is a terrible player to have around to fill holes in line ups and having one or both of them on shorter contracts is perferable to what Feaster might do in UFA land.

    • T&A4Flames

      I fully expect Cammi and Stajan to be gone by the time next season rolls around. They should both be moved by or before the deadline. I like both guys, I just don’t see the need for them with more youth about to be introduced to the big league. And, we still carry enough veteran presence in Gio, Wideman, GlenX and Hudler.

      • Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

        You still have to ice an NHL lineup, and there is no garuantee that any of our prospects can make a meaningful impact at a top 6 position at this point in their development curves. Having one or both of these guys on another shorter contract is not a bad thing for the Flames. I don’t see any value in starting a youth lineup strictly for the fact that we should be younger, I don’t mind losing if you can see the goal in the long run as long as we are still competitive, but at the same time, if these kids can’t handle top 6 minutes meaningfuly, I don’t want to see the team go 10-72 or something simply for the reasoning of being youner.

        Again, its the devil you know vs what Feaster might acquire in free agency, if the choice is Matt Stajan for another 2-3 years or for example Legwand for 6-7 years?

        Theres a couple of good centers available in the offseason, but not much good after that. Stajan and Camm are young enough that neither of them should fall off a cliff and on a short contract is not the biggest deal if they did. We have tons of cap space and won’t be competing for a cup for 2-3 years anyways. I don’t mind keep some NHL guys around if it means proper development of our younger talent through the AHL, rather then thrusting them immediately into the NHL.

  • T&A4Flames

    The kids, it’s all about the kids. Baertschi, Brodie and Backlund I’m very excited to watch with the big club. But who else gets on the big club. Another ‘B’ in Bouma? Knight? Horak?

    I’m also so interested to see what we have in our goalies. Is Ramo the real deal? Will Berra surprise and surpass Joey Mac and Ramo. What about Ortio and Brossoitt? Gillies further development and hopefully a magnificent showing at the WJC’s (except losing gold, barely, to Canada).

    . Speaking of which, i am excited and hopeful that Monahan, Poirier, and yes even Janko and Sieloff in the WJC’s. mot to mention hopefully others like Klimchuk. Janko’s development is something I’m very very, nervously excited for. I do expect a good year for him. Sieloff, Wotherspoon, Gaudreau…..so much to pay attention to and get excited for.

    There is still stuff to be sorted out league wide, will CGY and their cap space come into play? The trade deadline, the draft. So much anticipation.

  • supra steve

    I know the conventional wisdom says that Monahan needs to go back to his junior team, and if it is obvious from his play, then that is what should happen. However, every so often a non first overall makes the leap and blossoms (eg. Skinner). Hey, it could happen?

    Looking foreward to:

    -the trade deadline

    -Sven progressing

    -TJ progressing

    -seeing Monahan against NHL comp.

    -following prospects to monitor their progression (Janko, Poirier, Klimchuk, Gaudreau, Kanzig, TSpoon, etc.)

    -watching draft eligible high end players, knowing that the Flames will get a chance to call one of their names next summer

    Yes, I am more excited about the coming season, because I know we now have hope of improving over the longer term. With last years squad I was just hoping for losses to improve draft position. This year the losses will come, but watching the kids learn and improve, that takes all the sting out of the losing.

  • Michael

    What am I looking forward to, a top three draft pick! Day in day out this team isn’t likely to be very competitive, so its pretty much snooze though most of the regular season.

  • Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

    From a flames perspective I am looking for that surprise story like Horak, Hanoski or someone else surprising everybody.

    From an NHL perspective I am looking forward to seeing how the dynamics of the reallignment and new divisions plays out. I think that it might take some teams down to the Flames level that we may not anticipate?

    • Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

      Great points. This is the best year in ages for the potential for upside surprises. Funny how we’re all getting so stoked for what could be their poorest season points-wise ever.

      We may also have a long tough road to the playoffs given the new alignment.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    “Keep in mind Claude Giroux (my personal “hopeful” comparable for Baertschi) played in just 42 games as a 20-21 year old and  scored 27 points (0.64 PPG).”

    That is high praise of Baertschi, I hope your right. I”ve liked the comparisons to Eberle myself, but I see why you like Giroux as a template.

    I’m looking forward (okay wishing and hoping) that Camelleri and Stempniak tear it up this year, so Feaster can garner a real nice return for each. And then that’s where the hope fades, since Feaster just hasn’t been great at getting good returns IMO.

    I’m really hopeful one of the goalies emerges as a true #1.

    • please cancel acct

      I agree. Giroux would be nice, but I think thats a bit lofty. I like the Eberle comparison. Either way, those would be nice homeruns. Finally, a homegrown/Flame drafted star… Hopefully the first of many more.

      It’ll be interesting to see. The Oilers let Eberle stew in the WHL for 2 full years along with consecutive cups of tea in the AHL. Probably one of the only things development wise I’d admire about the Oiler rebuild. I’d suggest the way we handled Sven was a little less ideal.

      But to follow the Eberle or even Giroux’s first year curve, he needs to have a substantial breakout this year. I just looked it up, and Eberle got 43 pts in 69 games (no idea why he missed 13 games?) Thats 0.62ppg which is almost the same as Giroux’s 0.64 and Kent’s target of 0.6 – which equates to 50pts. I honestly don’t know if he can do on this team, but if he does we’ll know we got something special.

  • Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

    I’m also looking forward to the Canucks continuing to deteriorate as their window slams shut. They are in the early phases of denial that plagued us in the Sutter era. I told my Canuck friends out here three years ago that the Flames would win the cup again before the Canucks did and I stand by that. Of course they laughed at me – the poor fools.

  • NHL93

    Personally,I am looking forward to an exciting season with Intellectual Honesty throughout the nation. Lets hope the fans, ownership and organization as well as the players are realistic in their veiws. This is going to be a year of ups and downs, of growing pains, therefore exceptance on all levels is paramount. Lets hope and pray there is not any ridiculous statements of dilusion or grandeur permeating from the ivory tower.

  • This is SOOOOO true.

    “Ironically, I’ve found a lot of fans are actually more interested and optimistic about the team than they have been in a long time, if only because this year represents a new dawn which has been too long delayed. The overall record won’t matter as much as the development of certain key pieces.”

    I hope we get exactly the amount of wins it takes to get 30th place. 1 less point than 29th, whatever that is. But I’m excited and not completely frustrated for the first time in 4 years.

    I’m cheering for the Cammy types this year more than the Sven’s. I want the kids to develop, but I’m good with slow and steady progress without any crazy expectations. But the vets with value, I want to pump and dump, so I hope Cammy gets a boatload of goals by the trade deadline. That would be ideal.

  • schevvy

    I am looking forward to having Red Hot as the team’s official goal song. (how awesome would that be)

    In all seriousness, I’m looking forward to watching Sven hopefully get as many opportunities as possible to succeed. I have a feeling he’s going to be a bright spot this year. Also want to see Brodie continue to develop, and am curious to see how big of a loss J-Bo is to the D core (spoiler alert: huge loss)

    I’m also curious to see how bad the line of McGrattan, Jackman and Begin (you just know he’ll be re-signed) will be. GRIT

  • Prairie Chicken by-the-Sea

    I’m looking forward to seeing how our very interesting goaltending situation plays out. Will we see a real starter arise from the crowd? I am also looking forward to seeing Monahan back in junior – this is the best situation long term for both the team and the player.

    BTW, has anyone else noticed that the quality of examples in the ads for older women seem to be deteriorating? We’ve gone from a cougar cheerleader theme to ‘hey, check out Madge the truck diner waitress.’