News and Notes – January 8 2014

The Flames have an off-day today as they recover from perhaps their worst outing of the season, scoreboard-wise, last night in Glendale. With the team off, it seems a good enough time to see what’s happening around the Flames-related world.

KNIFE TO A GUN FIGHT

The Flames are in the midst of a bit of a skid, having won just once in regulation since December 4 and having amassed a wonderous 1-7-2 record in their last ten outings. The big question is "what the heck happened?"

The short answer may be – they’re not surprising anybody anymore.

Heading into the season, the Flames were considered a team with several fundamental holes – no star goalie, no star forwards, and a defense that lacks minute-eaters – and they were projected to finish really low. Ugly ugly games were expected. The good news is that the Flames showed a willingness to out-work their opposition on most nights. That work ethic definitely caught a few teams on their heels and helped the Flames rack up points early-on.

The bad news is that this team still has those same holes it did prior to the season. When you’re a team with flaws, and you play teams without flaws (or with fewer), you need to play a perfect game to win. If you don’t play a perfect game, you’ll probably have a long night, no matter how much you out-work your oppostion. You’re just out-matched.

Think of it as being in a gun fight, but bringing a knife instead of a gun. You need to fight a perfect fight, and hope that the other side doesn’t remember that, whoops, they have a gun and can end things whenever they want.

THE HEAT IS OFF

A few bits and bites about the Flames’ AHL affiliate down in Abbotsford.

On the injury front, I’ve been lead to believe that Steve Begin (signed to an AHL deal) probably won’t play at all this season due to an unspecified injury. Michael Ferland is also out for awhile with a "significant" knee injury. But Patrick Sieloff is well on his way to recovery from an infection and should rejoin the team soon.

The Heat are in the midst of a bit of a skid lately as their roster thins out a bit due to recalls and the aforementioned injuries. The club is now without veterans Greg Nemisz (traded) and Paul Byron (Calgary), and they’ve gone 4-6-0 in their last ten since the big club’s moves began. The Heat were also super-hot, unsustainably so, to kick off the year and this is also probably a weird perfect storm of injuries, recalls and bad percentages correcting for that start.

The good news is that Joni Ortio continues to have strong numbers – including a .921 save percentage – and will hopefully get a look-see late in the season in Calgary. Ortio’s return and strong play in North America is one of several positive stories on the farm this year, but it’s probably my favourite one.

With so many bodies out of commission, the farm club has added former 2001 first round pick Adrian Foster and Alaska Aces forward Jordan Kremyr to fill out their lines. Kremyr was said to be good in Abbotsford’s training camp. David Eddy has been sent back to Alaska, which probably doesn’t bode well for his NHL/AHL aspirations.

JUNIOR JUMBLE

The trade deadlines are here or rapidly approaching in the Canadian Hockey League. The QMJHL’s deadline has come and gone, and it saw a Flames prospect change addresses. Ryan Culkin, previously captain of the Quebec Remparts, was sent to the Drummondville Voyageurs in exchange for a first round pick and Drummondville’s own captain, Francis Lambert-Lemay. Culkin’s an NHL prospect and Lambert-Lemay’s not, so Quebec got a pick, too.

The WHL deadline is approaching and Mathew Dumba is probably headed to Portland. Expect that to lead to some shuffling by other high-end teams. Adam Tambellini has officially left college, and the Hitmen have acquired his WHL rights. More moves are sure to follow. Flames prospect Brett Kulak, scoring at a point-per-game, may be an attractive commodity for a contender.

RED WARRIOR ROUND-UP

We’re 43 games into the 2013-14 season, so I thought it’d be nice to catch up on who’s been impressive thus far, in the form of our end-of-game Red Warrior award. Here’s our leaderboard thus far:

  • Mikael Backlund – 7 (last: December 27)
  • Lee Stempniak – 5 (last: December 10)
  • Mike Cammalleri – 5 (last: December 21)
  • Jiri Hudler – 3 (last: January 6)
  • Sean Monahan – 3 (last: December 31)
  • Karri Ramo – 3 (last: January 4)
  • Paul Byron – 3 (last: December 21)
  • Five players – 2 (Glencross, Berra, Wideman, Giordano, Bouma)
  • Six players – 1 (Stajan, Butler, Colborne, Baertschi, Russell, Galiardi)

The math will not add up, as some games we had multiple winners and there was that one game where we thought the Flames dads were the best on the night.

  • Reidja

    Ortio’s save % dropped about three points last night, which is even more impressive. He was at .924 (I think) going in. Terrible game.

    Still, he’s having a great season. I really think the Flames need to give him a one-or-two game look at some point this season.

      • piscera.infada

        Agree with the first comment regarding the likes of Granlund, Reinhart, Ferland. Although, I’m still not sure the CHL was helping Monahan any more than struggling in the NHL is – or hurting him at all. Sure, we can make the confidence claim, I’m just not 100% sold on it. If Monahan can finish this season (with all his struggles) with 20-ish goals, is that really that horrible for his confidence? I mean, that’s more than a lot of full-timers score. He’ll also know what he needs to work on from strength/conditioning/defence/faceoffs for next year. What then happens to his confidence if he goes to the WJHC and Sutter falls out of love with him and staples him to the bench for the majority of the games? Just me though – it’s the stupid non-AHL thing for me, but meh, that’s been beaten to death. I just don’t think Monahan’s struggles are the ‘silver bullet’ to him having needed to stay in the CHL.

        With Ortio; what happens if Gilles decides he wants to make the jump at the end of this year? Not likely, but do you really want a Gilles/Ortio tandem in Abby? It doesn’t sound horrible, but is that really best for both of their development?

        • Reidja

          Yeah, I suppose it’s a topic that’s been beaten to death and I get what you’re saying. I don’t think any long term damage will be done to the player, it’s just that a season of domination in junior and at the WJC would’ve been nice to see.

          Of course, as you point out, that’s all hypothetical and anything could’ve happened. This is all stemming from how poorly Canada did at the WJC combined with Monahan’s current struggles. My idealist version of revisionist history, I suppose.

          As for the goalies, if that did happen, would it hurt Gillies to be the 2nd stringer for 1 year? Maybe not the best thing for his development…..

          A lot depends on what happens with Ramo and Berra.

        • Parallex

          I would be fine with a Gillies/Ortio Tandem in Abby… although I’d rather see Ortio get a shot with the big club and see them move one of Berra/Ramo (By preference I’d rather the team keep Ramo).

  • Reidja

    Byron has compeltely surprised me this season with his play at the NHL level. I’d like to see Street make it full-time next season in Calgary and Knight as well.

    I want Reinhart, Granlund and Ferland to spend another year down in the AHL developing their game and offensive skills even more and then make the jump in 2015-16.

    Patience is required here. Bringing in too many of these guys next season and all at once will result in a plethora of 3rd liners. But giving them another full season in the minors after this season might just produce some unexpected top 6 talent. I have high hopes for all 3 of those guys.

    Learn from Moanahn Calgary, learn from Monahan. Oh, how I wish he had stayed in junior and went to the WJC this year…..

  • McRib

    “Ryan Culkin, previously captain of the Quebec Remparts, was sent to the Drummondville Voyageurs in exchange for a first round pick and Drummondville’s own captain, Francis Lambert-Lemay. Culkin’s an NHL prospect and Lambert-Lemay’s not, so Quebec got a pick, too.”

    I also believe at the end of the season Quebec also get another players as well for Culkin. Judging by the return that was recieved sounds like he is having a solid season.

    The QMJHL trades are always fascinating basically teams just stack themselves for runs and then agree to give the team back a bevy of players in the next offseason in turn when they can stack for a run the following year. Entire lines of teams are shifted around in the offseason. The QMJHL fairs well in the Memorial Cup, but have always wanted to see the worst team in the WHL play the worst team in the QMJHL. Having watched the QMJHL I think the WHL team would crush them, it’s a much deeper league bottom QMJHL teams are basically good AJHL teams. Anyway nice to see Culkin in such high demand.

    • Reidja

      Well I guess the kid gets a 2.2mill pay raise & plays 29 minutes a night on the top pairing, I guess expectations are a tiny bit high. What you know, he’s made mistakes. Maybe we should trade him. JK

    • mk

      Probably because he’s been solid, but not flashy all season. Lots of quiet, good games – not many awful ones or amazing ones. Consistent rather than lots of highs and lows.

      Think about it this way: when he’s at his best, no one notices (or few people) because the plays against us just don’t happen. He does need some love for his play thus far.

  • Reidja

    I think every team should be allowed to have one U20 CHL prospect in the AHL. It would keep the Monahans of the league from having to play in the NHL all season.

    You’d still have players playing in the NHL too soon, most likely, but at least it would give teams another development option.

    • piscera.infada

      You would think that most teams would opt for that with their first round pick though. It would be a large exodus of talent from the CHL every year. Not saying it’s a horrible idea, as it would be best for NHL teams and their prospects, but not so much for the CHL.

    • seve927

      I’ve been in favor of an idea like this for a long time. Every NHL team should get to exempt 1 player per season to go the AHL route. Even if that player had to be 19 and not 18. May not help in every player’s case, but it would still be great. This 20 years old or 4 years of junior thing is silly.

      After all, what would the CHL really be missing? Think about it – 30 players split between 3 leagues, most of whom wouldn’t be playing junior anyways because they’d be in the NHL. This way they’re just in the AHL instead of the NHL.

  • MonsterPod

    I’m not sure where to stand on the rookie debate. I think Monahan is best right where he is. Other guys need training in the A blah blah.

    When Tampa came to town, I believe the color guy noted that they were playing eight rookies and Calgary was playing one — Monahan. And Tampa is nipping at Boston’s heels in the standings. Now maybe some of those rookies have done their time in the A and they’re ready, I don’t know, but for a rebuilding team to have one rookie is a bit odd, no?

    I’m looking forward to March when the trading is done to see some of the young guys. -Cammy Stajan Stempniak Butler Smith- is our past. I’d like a glimpse into the future, assuming it doesn’t stunt anyone’s development.

    C’mon, the kids can’t be much worse.

    • beloch

      We’re comparing the Flames to a team that appears to be finally coming out of a protracted rebuild. They sucked *hard*, worse than the Flames ever have until this season, for several seasons. During that time they picked up some extra first-round picks and restocked their cupboards. They’re in a similar position to Edmonton, except they haven’t gotten quite as many 1st overall picks and, if this season’s results are any evidence, aren’t run by clowns. Here’s a quick list of their recent 1st round picks:

      2008: 1st overall (Stephen Stamkos)
      2009: 2nd and 29th (Victor Hedman, Carter Ashton)
      2010: 6th (Brett Connolly)
      2011: 27th (Vladislav Namestnikov)
      2012: 10th and 19th (Slater Koekkoek, Andrei Vasilevski)
      2013: 3rd (Jonathan Drouin)

      Connolly and Ashton are currently splitting their time between the NHL and AHL, although Ashton was traded to the Leafs. Of the above picks, Victor Hedman and Stamkos are the only two legitimate NHL’ers currently playing with Tampa. The younger kids are still toiling in the AHL or other junior leagues.

      The interesting thing about the Lightning is that most of the rookies the Flames played against last week aren’t their 1st round picks. Their recent 1st’s are all still developing in other leagues. They might have quality rookies debuting in the NHL season after season for *years* if they’ve drafted well. Is this what a burn-it-to-the-ground rebuild looks like when done well? Time will tell.

      Calgary, on the other hand, got their first top-10 pick just last season. There’s mounting evidence that the Flames have had a couple of solid drafts, but those kids are still too young to have a big NHL impact. Really, we’re still paying for the sins of the Sutters. They emptied out the stables so thoroughly that we would have no rookies at all were it not for rushing Monahan and Baertschi into the NHL.

      I’m not a coach, so I can only speculate on what is best for player development. It makes sense that some players benefit from developing in the AHL rather than being thrust into the NHL before their time. Monahan may be an exception. Baertschi may not have been one. It might simply be too soon for the Flames to rely on its farm system to replace every veteran worth selling this season. This isn’t because of the results they’d produce this season, but for seasons to come if their development is impeded.

    • beloch

      I’m good with your suggestion of the Flames playing/developing more young guys as long as we have a strong support base of credible veterans to provide support.

      If you doubt what I’m saying have a look at the Oiler rebuild model that has basically destroyed all the young guys confidence and the team remains a loser franchise after 8 years of drafting high and rebuilding!

      • RexLibris

        I agree that the Flames need to make sure they keep some veterans.

        I’d even argue that they’d be best not to bring up a single one of their AHL prospects after the trade deadline. Just let them keep on getting ice time and development opportunities in the AHL.

        n.b. – The Oilers have been rebuilding for four years, drafting high (ie: top five pick) for three of those. From 2007 to present their draft rank has been 6th, 12th (to Anaheim), 10th, 1st, 1st, 2nd (won lottery), and 7th.

        That being said, they did ruin the development of some of their prospects by elevating them too soon in order to fill in roster spots or placate a fan base eager for something positive. Taylor Chorney, Anton Lander and Matt Greene are three that come to mind.

        • RexLibris

          Others that come to mind that I think are not NHL ready and badly need AHL time…RNH, Yak. I appreciate it would be difficult to send them down being 1st overalls but there development is not progressing well.

          Eberle’s exposure to a losing environment I believe has impeded his development and Taylor Hall appears to be the best of the lot…I suspect the losing environment also impacts his play. So much for the loser update I would rather focus on the Flamers.

      • Reidja

        They ruined them by playing them too much in the NHL not because they played in the NHL, if in their first year they would have played 8-12 games over 2 or 3 call ups they would have developed way better, the next year 15-25 games over a couple of call ups they would have been really ready to be NHL players in their third year. That is the type of development that I would like to see with our young guys. We have seen the growth in Byron because of his experiences in the AHL and his experience in the NHL call ups. When Granlund was called up in December his development probably would have been greater than practicing with the Heat for those 3 days. (the Heat were not playing so he would not have lost his 15 minutes a game AHL) He would have learned more about being an NHLer and the next time he is called up he will even be more prepared and if this happens a few times and he progresses he will be more ready when a longer stretch occurs than if he had not. In two years we would know if he could be a top 6/9 forward at this level.

  • everton fc

    Strange there’s not been more clarification/detail on Ferland’s knee injury. Can anyone with an insiders view of the Heat perhaps tell me if Ferland’s done for the year, or could it be worse than that (i.e. career-threatening)?

  • everton fc

    Ryan, as usual great update. I am excited with Ortio as well. I attended the Penticton tournament and he along with Ferland really stood out as outstanding players with high potential. I would also like to see Ortio see another year in the AHL but at the age of 22 he may be ready to back up either one of Ramo or Berra. My preference would be for Burke to trade for an established high talent veteran to build around with Ortio backing him up. Let’s buy out Ramo (if unable to trade) and not resign Berra as he is a UFA. Let’s not waste our time with these 2 guys beyond this year. They are 26/27 years old respectfully and will never get better than there average performances this year!

  • Parallex

    If there’s a positive to pull out of the recent record (apart from the draft pick), it’s that there should be no delusion of a quick rebuild from Burke, King or Edwards

  • Parallex

    Which teams out there are shopping for what we are able to offer?

    Lets try and look at the players that we are most likely to move:

    Cammi: secondary scoring on most teams so a second line scorer.PP

    Stemp: secondary scoring when he is on, sound two way player otherwise. Third line for most teams.PK.

    Stajan: Solid two way center iceman, good team guy. Depth center, third line,PK.

    Butler: Depth defenceman. 6-8 for some teams.

    BJones: Depth forward, physical presence.

    Other teams may be kicking tires in
    Hudler: secondary scoring, second line forward, PP

    Glen+: secondary scoring when he is on, sound two way player, energy guy, PK.(early rumor was Philie was interested)

    Who is interested? I’m going to exclude the other teams racing for the basement and the following teams whom I think will be looking for bigger fish or will be prepared to let the cup come to them: Boston, Tampa, Pittsburg, Chicago, St L, Anahiem, SJ.

    Which teams would be the best match for each guy, I’m not sure but I think Montreal would not be interested in anyone but Glen+ and while LA might be looking for some additional scoring I’m not sure any of the Flames would be high on there list. So who do people think will come knocking at the Flames door?

    Also heard that Carlie does not like Reimer, would there be any kind of package with Reimer for Berra in Burkes future? (I’m not saying I want Reimer just think out loud)

    Interested in what people think about realistic trade partners.

    • RexLibris

      Interesting audit of the Flames moveable assets.

      The playoff picture still has to be clarified, but I suspect you’ll see the usual suspects in line for Cammalleri as a depth scoring presence.

      Interestingly, Burke traded Stempniak when he was with the Leafs (2010) for Matt Jones, a 4th and a 7th round pick.

      I always say that one needs to reset the meter on trade deadlines because drafts are valued differently every year.

      That being said, one could try and translate that value forward to today’s market.

      As for Cammalleri, I wonder if Carolina, Minnesota or the Rangers would be interested. All three are teams in the playoff race having trouble scoring.

  • Parallex

    WW; I did not forget them. I was mostly focused on the UFA’s and the more highly sought after vets. Is there a chance that Burke moves Sven and Backs absolutely.but that was not the focus of my thoughts. But thanks for the input. Maybe a deal with TO that involves your two names and the goalies I mentioned?

  • RexLibris

    Glen+ = Glencross

    Cammy to LA Kings (forget about conference rivals – the Flames aren’t in the same solar system as LA)

    Glencross to Philadelphia – hard nosed winger; some scoring touch

    Wideman – I know people think he’s untradeable due to his contract but a power play right hand shot will be an asset for someone

    Butler – to anyone.

    Stemp – Pittsburgh; compliments the big boys and provide decent PK

    The problem is that contending teams know the Flames want to dump the vets and aren’t going to pay a decent price. And an additional problem is keeping the salary floor.

  • Reidja

    Say what you will about Burke’s hockey philosophy, I am interested to see what he pulls off at the deadline. I’m optimistic about it.

    Too bad he wasn’t the man pulling the trigger on the Iginla and Bouwmeester sell-offs last year.