Random Thoughts – Let’s Talk Positive



With the Flames reeling through an historic dry spell and plunging down the league standings faster than the Toronto Maple Leafs, it seems an odd time to talk about positivity. There’s no question it’s tough to be a Flames fan right now – the team can’t score, they have won the fewest games in regulation in the NHL since the start of December and there’s no obvious end to the misery in sight. In fact, there’s a non-trivial chance the Flames will pick inside the top-2 come June.

So it’s hard to blame the Dome crowds for being eerily silent these days.

Still, there are seeds of hope…

– Here’s a silver lining to the recent scoring struggles: if the Flames were going to suffer from a once-in-a-franchise scoring rough patch, this was the year for it – Calgary’s in year one of the rebuild and weren’t going to win anyways. As painful as each new shut-out or one goal performance is, they get the club one step closer to drafting a potentially elite player, which is really the only goal of this season (aside from, perhaps, develop a few of the assets at the NHL level).

– Guys like Mikael Backlund and TJ Brodie are putting up noteworthy underlying numbers despite extremely tough sledding this year. They’re not quite elite talents (not enough offense), so aren’t enough to form a new contending "core" on their own, but they are the sort of guys could will help get the team back over the hump after they bottom out.

If the management team can get the ship pointed in the right direction in the next few years, Backlund and Brodie will still be within shouting distance of their prime and should be able to take on the tough assignments while the youngsters find their legs.

– For the first time in perhaps a decade+, there’s some real talent in the hopper. John Gaudreau has 19 goals and 40 points in just 21 games this year. His 1.90 point-per-game pace is on an Island in the Hockey East division this year – the only two guys close to him are frequent BC linemates Kevin Hayes (1.67) and Flames prospect Bill Arnold (1.38). If Kevin Hayes sounds familiar, it’s because the Hawks picked him in the first round in 2010. He is one year older, 7 inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than Gaudreau…and has five less points.

Ross Mauermann is the closest none-BC linemate to Gaudreau with 29 points (1.32 PPG). There are only 12 players scoring at a point-per-game pace or better in the entire division currently. Johnny Hockey is more or less scoring at 2 points-per-game. Oh and here’s what’s most impressive about that: only five of his 40 points have come on the PP

– There’s also Emile Poirier, who has 29 goals and 59 points in just 40 games so far. Poirier is 6th in league scoring in the QMJHL and is doing it without much help – the next highest scorer on the Olympiques has 43 points.

The QMJHL is nowhere near as tough as college and is probably the easiest league in the CHL to score points in, but Poirier’s results are nevertheless impressive. He was one of the older players chosen in the draft this season (December, 1994) and will have the option to turn pro with Abbotsford next year. It will be interesting to see if that happens. 

– Of course, the big picks will come this year and next year as the Flames bottom-out. In the upcoming draft, Calgary will likely have a choice of at least one of Aaron Ekblad or Sam Reinhart when they approach the podium in June. Ekblad might be a generational talent (the only defender to ever be granted exceptional status to play on the OHL at 16) and Reinhart is close to a can’t-miss talent up front.

Even if somehow the Flames finish outside the top-2 and those guys are gone, there are some pretty good consolation prizes this year in Sam Bennett, Michael Dal Colle, William Nylander and Leon Draisaitl.

– The other thing that gives me hope this season is the club’s ample cap space going forward and the rate at which useful players are so frequently discarded (and therefore easily available) by shortsighted NHL GM’s. Consider, if the Flames had been active in collecting a few cast-offs over the last season or two, they could have Mikhail Grabovski (32 points in 43 games), Clarke MacArthur (33 points in 45 games), Tom Gilbert (21 minutes of ice/night) and Jussi Jokinen (32 points in 47 games) in their line-up today rather easily.

What’s more, none of the players noted here are major surprise turn-arounds this year. All of them were good bets to rebound given what we knew about them based on their careers and underlying numbers. If the Flames are at least a little savvy and willing to take a chance on a gamble here or there, they will be able to shore up their lackuster depth over the next few years without going big whale hunting or doling out ridiculously large contracts to the David Clarkson’s of the UFA market.

– The endless panicked scrambling of the Edmonton Oilers is another, albeit unrelated, reason to be happy these days. MacT’s recent moves (selling low on Dubnyk, acquiring a 4th line player being paid 3 times too much and acquiring a career back-up) are all belly laugh material. I don’t what’s in the water in Rexall Place, but they should find a way to weaponize such a pontent form of dumb serum.

  • beloch

    Hartley better not be winning meaningless games near the end of the season like last year when we moved from drafting 4th to 6th. Burke will have to fire him and take over as coach adding a goon to every line so we lose. In fact we s/b playing a goon on the third and fourth line right now because the Oilers will never catch up if we win anymore games.

  • mk

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this upcoming draft and what the flames should do. This draft is a weird one for me as it doesn’t really have any marquee upside outside of really Ekblad and (maybe) Reinhart.

    Just for discussion’s sake I’m wondering what flames fans think about the hypothetical trade posed by Ryan Pinder on the fan960 morning show this morning. Would you trade Calgary’s 1st pick for a guy like Nazim Kadri? My first thought was initially NO WAY. But the more I think about it the more I think there is definitely some merit to the idea.

    Unless we can be sure we’d be getting Ekblad at the draft (which is in no way a guarantee given how bad Edmonton and Buffalo are) I don’t see the upside of any of the other guys in the top 5 of this draft eclipsing that of Kadri. On top of that, Kadri is a known commodity in the NHL whereas the rest of the draft is not. You’d be trading a hypothetical player AT LEAST 2-3 years away from full time duty for a known commodity entering his prime.

    Couple all this with the fact that Calgary will still be drafting next year in the top 5 of the draft and I’d say its a no brainer…

    What do you guys think?

    • Parallex

      Hell to the NO.

      Kadri is a good player (but he is not a great player)… and I would bet the proverbial farm on the top 5 this year being at least a good player. I’d take Kadri at the right price… but that is most certainly NOT the right price.

      • supra steve

        This is a weak top 5 in terms of forwards. I’d say the ceiling for most of these guys (Reinhart included) is really no higher than Kadri and Kadri can play right now.

        • mattyc

          I’m not sure it makes sense for either team. Toronto wants something for the present, and we want futures. Kadri would be a good piece to have, but I think Toronto would be more interested in more established players (like a Cammalleri or Backlund).

          I’d do something like Cammalleri + 2nd rounder for Kadri, but I’m still not sure that’s what Toronto would be looking for.

          I’d imagine the 1st rounder is off-limits unless we’re talking about a Seguin or ROR type return.

    • Byron Bader

      The idea’s not bad but I’d probably still keep the 1st and pick Reinhart or Ekblad or one of the others mentioned. If Kadri had kept up the point a game pace from last year I might be more inclined but he’s on pace for 50 points this year. Not enough there so far to trade away a top 5 for.

      • prendrefeu

        Are they really much more talented than him?

        In most reports I’ve read on Reinhart and Bennett the consensus seems to be that their ceilings would be around 2nd line center… MAYBE top line IF everything falls into place for them. This is basically a description of who Kadri is right now and he’s still going to get better.

        • Parallex

          What are these “most reports”? I don’t think I’ve seen any that state that their ceilings would be 2nd line centers.

          Besides even if that’s all true (and I don’t think it is) why would I elect to take a guy with significantly less team control, significantly less cost control, and less projectability? Seems like bad business all around to me.

        • BurningSensation

          “Are they (Reinhart+Bennett) really much more talented than him?”

          Yes. Yes, they are.

          Both Bennett and Reinhart currently project as about average #1 centers (PPG offense guys). Kadri is (like Sam Gagner) definitely not a #1, and rapidly proving he hasn’t the size or skills to be a #2.

          There is some talent in Kadri, and he isn’t a bust, but I wouldn’t trade a top 20 pick for him.

        • FlamesRule

          well… take a look at this.

          Kadri’s draft-1 and draft seasons:

          2007-08 Kitchener Rangers OHL 68 25 40 65

          2008-09 London Knights OHL 56 25 53 78

          Bear in mind that Kadri had guys like John Tavares & Michael Del Zotto (for part of the season) and John Carlson on his team in his draft year. He led the team in scoring by precisely 2 points.

          Now the same for Reinhart:

          2012-13 Kootenay Ice WHL 72 35 50 85

          2013-14 Kootenay Ice WHL 34 18 35 53

          And, for frame of reference, his draft-2 season:

          2011-12 Kootenay Ice WHL 67 28 34 62

          Considering they’re both late birthdays, it appears that Reinhart is about one year ahead of where Kadri was at the same age. That is significant.

          More significantly, Reinhart led his team in scoring in his draft-1 season (Kadri didn’t come close). The gap wasn’t large, but it existed.

          Reinhart was leading the Ice in scoring this season until he left for the WJC. He still has a significant lead in the ppg department, though (1.56 to 1.27)

          Granted, this does not mean that Reinhart ABSOLUTELY WILL become a better player than Kadri. But, considering that Kadri’s development wasn’t exactly rapid, it seems kind of foolish to compare their ceilings.

          Interestingly, Reinhart was better in his draft-1 than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was (significantly, and with less help), but hasn’t seemed to take the same quantum leap RNH did in his draft year. He’s still on pace for 100+ points in a full season though (~94 in 60 games, which is the most he can play as of now).

          The picture is a little less clear with Sam Bennett, but his current season is still better than Kadri’s draft year.

          If numbers don’t change your mind (and I suppose they shouldn’t), you could always just watch Reinhart play. It becomes pretty clear pretty quickly IMO.

          • FlamesRule

            I appreciate this addition to the debate as opposed to just anonymous down votes. Oi!

            I can appreciate the numbers you’re throwing out here but my belief is still that trading the pick would be a worthwhile move. I don’t see the guys in this draft as having all that much higher ceilings than Kadri and again Kadri is already an NHLer while the other guys are purely hypothetical.

            The numbers that stand out for me is his play (Kadri) last year as a 22yo. The guy was in the top 10 in scoring (albeit over 48 games) and posted a .90 pt/game pace. That puts him in some seriously elite company. I think the leafs have badly mismanaged him frankly but thats not exactly shocking. If he was going in this draft we’d be talking about him going in the top 3. I agree fully with the commenter who referenced the fact that their is a bias surrounding leafs players that exists in no other markets and that’s what takes away from the player Kadri is.

            Agree to disagree I suppose

    • Sam Bennett is absolutely 100% worth the 1rst round pick. And he’s a more responsible player than Kadri in all three zones with probably the same level of upside as Kadri. The kid’s skating is smooth he’s around 6 feet and 180+ lbs. Again he’s an average height for the NHL but bigger than those below 6 ft and with a deceptively awesome shot.

      Well worth the pick in my opinion.

    • T&A4Flames

      Personally, I wouldn’t trade the pick for Kadri. But beyond a shot at Ekblad and maaaayyybe Reinhart, I would consider trading down to pick up another 1st and 2nd. It feels like more of a ‘more darts at the board’ kinda’ draft.

  • Lordmork

    I’m actually thrilled with where the Flames are at. Losing is painful, but I don’t see a path to competing for the cup that doesn’t involve a couple of high draft picks, and to get those the team need to be bad for a while. I think watching our upcoming pieces develop will be exciting.

    My only concern continues to be that Brian “I am not a patient man” Burke loads the Flames up on UFA’s and trades draft picks for big but not necessarily skilled players. In fairness to him, however, that is so far more of a lingering fear rather than a reality.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    @ Kent

    Those are my exact thoughts on the Edmonton trades. I posted as much in the Top Prospects thread the other day. A lot of shuffling deck chairs.

  • Michael

    It wouldn’t surprise me to see move Burke move the Flames first rounder, especially if he can pick up a late first rounder for a guy like Cammi. Selling high at the draft could land a high end prospect that is further along the development curve (lower risk). For the right price, its definately worth a look. I wouldn’t be giving up our first rounder straight up for Kadri. Kadri plus Toronto’s mid of the pack first rounder for Calgary’s first might be more tempting.

  • Parallex

    Wilson you dweeb. Still concerned what the Oilers are doing ?
    Worry about that Pile of crap you call a hockey team brother.
    WHAT in all honestly have the Flames done in the last several years ?

    Come on Kent tell me ? lost for words ? Here is one. Nothing.

    So zip your lip. You have nothing to be beaking off about trust me.

    if moves are so easy to make why the he– have the flames not
    made any ? because Kent i will tell you. You have nothing anyone wants.

    Seriously now – you make me laugh.

    • T&A4Flames

      Dude we get it, you have a lot of angst and rage because your team is still below us in the standings and your “build” should be done. But you STILL need a few top draft picks apparently. Can you please stop coming on here, dropping your little bitch rant and then running away. Thanks.

      Rock the basement, Oil!

    • BurningSensation

      ” WHAT in all honestly have the Flames done in the last several years ?”

      Oooh, Oooh, I know this one! What is….’finish ahead of the Oilers’?

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Don’t give up man. I’m sure the Oil will come around. Think about it; the Nuge, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, Schultz, Nurse, this years 1st or 2nd overall pick. In 5 years those guys are all in their prime and there’s no way things can stay bad that long with all that talent.

      I mean the Flames suck too, so that’s got to make you feel good right?

      Just whatever you do, step away from the edge of the bridge, put down the gun, it’s not worth it. I’ll give you my email address if you want to just… you know… have someone to talk to.

      Chin up bud. I know how you feel. I’m here if you need to vent some time or just talk about the glory days, whatever you need, ok?

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    i just wish we would see the sven from the end of last season. I wonder if he is injured or just has his confidence destroyed by burke and hartley

  • T&A4Flames

    Here is a random though, I wonder if Greg Carey is worth a look as an undrafted player we could pick up?

    2011-12 St. Lawrence University GP 36 G 15 A 22 P37

    GP 38 G 28 A 23 P 51

    GP 20 G 14 A 23 P 37

  • T&A4Flames

    I don’t know if the Flames rebuild will work out better then the oilers , but I hope both teams can improve in the future for a better rivalry like the old days.

    It is not my intention to make fun of the oilers but I just don’t want the same to happen in to flames. Perhaps BB will be the game breaker for the Flames? We now will see. Maybe the Oilers will show how to rebuild a rebuild.??

  • MonsterPod

    I was just scrolling through the flames roster and thinking ‘Man, this team stinks.’ Stempniak, Stajan, Jones, the other Jones, Gagliardi… just go away.

    BUT this is an article about positivity, so I will try. Gio has become pretty awesome. And Wideman cranked it up earlier in the year too — I was digging the hip checks.

    If we’re going to allow ourselves one midget dman, Russell has put his back into it and possibly earned a contract. Great. Now pitch Billins and Cundari. No room, boys. Sorry. We’re waiting on Wotherspoon and Seiloff.

    More positives… Backlund has been playing much better while Stajan has become rather invisible. This is awesome because there was talk of wanting to re-sign Stajan and that was terrifying me. But Feaster is gone, so that should answer that.

    Another positive — Ramo and Berra are just kinda okay, which should help us plunge to the bottom again next year. In the meantime, grow Gilles, grow…

    Huh. Nice. That was more difficult than straight bitchin’ but I think I’m better off for it.

  • mk

    “…but they should find a way to weaponize such a potent form of dumb serum.”

    Kent – that was gold. I’m glad that, as a Flames fan in the midst of their worst season ever (not an exaggeration), I can still get a solid laugh at the expense of our northern brethren.

    I’m not talking a loser-point laugh either: a real regulation 2 points laugh.

  • mk

    Kent excellent article. Although Flames are not following the Oiler 8 year “ineptness” model I do agree this year is an excellent year to be able to draft high and add to the limited but credible amount of young talent in our system. I also view next year equally as important in continuing to draft high. Ekblad has been on the top of my list but the performance young Reinhart provided last night did indeed confirm he is as you say a can’t miss talent. I am assuming the organization will strategically position itself to ensure we are in a position to draft either one of these outstanding players.

  • FlamesRule

    I think a lot of the crap Kadri gets is just a byproduct of him being a Leafs draft pick. Kadri and Reily are 2 top 10 draft picks of the Leafs and we all know how the Toronto media loves to add pressure. If the guy was on Florida or Columbus I think a lot more people would take positive notice of the kid. Playing for the Leafs, where every mistake he makes is magnetized tenfold, certainly doesn’t help his value in the eyes of fans.

    But no, Kadri’s not worth the Flames’ first rounder. Perhaps the Flames could deal Cammaleri for a late first rounder at the deadline, and then use it to acquire Kadri and a prospect/draft pick at the NHL Draft come June?

  • FlamesRule

    So your laughing at the oilers trading dubnyk and calling it belly laugh stupid? That’s rich coming from a flames fan, it really is. Have the oilers ever had a fiasco as potentially damaging as fat feaster and the ryan o rielly fiasco? No. They traded an unreliable goalie drafted 9 yrs ago who hadn’t developed into squat for a team need. Hendricks by no means as an answer to oilers prayers but calling it that dumb is just plain stupid. enjoy the long road down flamers.