Five things: A deadline day spectacular


1. The Flames’ action, or lack thereof

So after all that, the Flames’ big haul as they attempt to rebuild from years of mismanagement is what will probably end up being a mid-second- and late third-round pick, and the only guys they offloaded were Reto Berra and Lee Stempniak.

Let’s start with the former of those deals, which shipped Berra, a 27-year-old goaltending “prospect” who was in way over his head in the NHL and should have no value whatsoever. Getting anything for him, let alone a pick that’s likely to be in the 50s, is frankly not half bad. It’s more than should have been expected.

The Stempniak trade, meanwhile, was about par for the course given what was being thrown around for far better players than him. He was never going to be worth more than a pick in the 90s, if we were being realistic.

But with that having been said, this is another catastrophe in a long line of trade-deadline catastrophes for the Calgary Flames. That’s even if they end up re-signing Mike Cammalleri. This is a team that needs assets to restock the cupboard, not to re-up mediocre declining veterans. Of course, I don’t know why anyone should be surprised; Brian Burke said just yesterday that his goal was for the Flames to be buyers at the deadline next year, which shows how ridiculous his view of things is, necessarily. Because let’s say Calgary (miraculously) is in a playoff position around this time next season. To what end does the acquisition of rental players help this team in being competitive for the Stanley Cup? It doesn’t. That’s correct.

This is a team that — to borrow Jay Feaster’s phrase — is still not being “intellectually honest” about the way in which it should approach what it has now acknowledged is a rebuild. Even now. Even after everything that’s happened these last four years or more.

2. A big change in Vancouver

How weird is it to see a Western Canadian team realize less than one year into their likely descent into mediocrity that they needed to blow everything up?

Roberto Luongo was shipped, at long last, to Florida this week for a return that was underwhelming but understandable given That Contract. As I write this, before the deadline lands, Ryan Kesler is being shopped around and appears likely to be traded either now or in the summer, and Alex Edler might get a similar treatment. Mike Gillis reportedly might not have the authority to make any such trades (i.e. he is fired as hell the second the season ends) and John Tortorella may likewise be asked to pack his things after just one season in Vancouver.

This is responsible stuff from ownership, period. They saw the problem over these 50-something games and said they wouldn’t stand for it, rather than trying to fruitlessly milk another playoff appearance or three out of a team so far past truly competing as to no longer be able to see it over the horizon. 

(I would listen to an argument, though, that not letting Gillis trade Kesler of his own volition today, if that’s the case, is some level of interference from ownership. That’s a generally loathsome proposition but if Murray Edwards had stepped in and said, “No more,” to Jay Feaster after, say, the Iginla trade, then I think we all would have understood.)

The Flames and Oilers could really take a page out of their book, but maybe the Canucks saw what happened in their own division and just learned the hard lesson.

3. Hemsky finally gone

Speaking of the Oilers, I can’t believe they finally traded Ales Hemsky after all this time. Of course, they traded him for a third- and fifth-round pick because that’s all the market would bear for him, and they picked up half his salary, but still. Hemsky playing somewhere other than Edmonton will be a bizarre thing to see.

This is a great lesson for Brian Burke — or whomever ends up being the next Flames GM — to learn. The Oilers worked so, so hard to systematically devalue a guy who has proven that he can be a useful if often-injured offensive contributor on a garbage team (and boy did the local press ever chip in to help), so to then to get this kind of return for him should come as no surprise.

Another thing that should come as no surprise: If Hemsky starts ripping things up on a line with Kyle Turris in Ottawa; I’m not sure it’s necessarily all that wise a move for Ottawa since they’re not going to make the playoffs and should, instead, be looking to sell, but it’s certainly low-risk given what they gave up to get him. Hemsky’s old these days, yeah, and the likelihood they re-sign him this summer likewise appears quite low, but this too is a valuable lesson to learn.

4. St. Louis in New York

I really can’t believe this was a thing that ended up happening. The Rangers paid through the nose to get him — and dumped a negotiations headache they didn’t want to deal with this summer — but he’s a huuuuuuuuuuge pickup for a team that’s really ready to be a threat in the East, all things considered. 

It’s unfortunate that the team traded the guy who’s been the face of the franchise for the last decade (sorry Vinny) on the day the guy who’s going to be the face of the franchise for the next decade returns from a horrific broken leg. But that’s life. Especially when you’re dealing with a baby like Martin St. Louis. Alain Vigneault better hope he doesn’t look at good ol’ Marty the wrong way, and Mats Zuccarello might want to start wearing platform shoes so the big ol’ cockalorum doesn’t get upset about no longer being the shortest guy on the team.

This really does make the Rangers pretty terrifying. St. Louis playing run-n-gun with Brad Richards again is going to be fun to watch. Just don’t screw up any passes, Brad!

5. Something doesn’t have anything to do with trades

When last we spoke of hotshot goaltending prospect Jon Gillies, it was to say that he had been hot garbage since the end of World Juniors. Fortunately, though, whatever was ailing him seems to have corrected itself, and the ship has absolutely been righted at this point.

After suffering loss after loss — and giving up large amounts of goals even in wins — Gillies has rounded back into form over the past three weeks while playing some fairly tough opponents. He gave up 24 goals in eight games from Jan. 7 to Feb. 11, and really looked pretty disinterested in doing it, going 2-5-1. But giving up three on 26 and losing to lowly UConn (one of the better teams in perhaps the worst conference in the country) seems to have scared him straight.

Since that loss, he’s played Notre Dame, UMass Amherst, and Maine, and gone 4-1-1 with a .933 save percentage. Those four wins, by the way, were in a row, including a sweep at Maine, where the Black Bears had, previous to last weekend, lost just one game all season.

Very encouraging stuff from a kid many thought had checked out after World Juniors. He’s likely to improve on that performance, too, because he basically got the Friars into third place in Hockey East by himself over the last few weeks. Providence scored just 15 goals in those six games to support him.

  • xploD

    They will still make playoffs no problem, and when they do hopefully they have some backup coming from the NCAA.

    My question is, who the heck is going to replace Hudler? I see no call ups, maybe he just got winded and is still playing or is GlenX ready?

  • MattyFranchise

    For whoever trashed me, how is


    a bad start? Like I said, a 3/4 defenseman. Look at how many one goal games this team has been in this year. If you’re not sure, it’s 36. Turn a third of that into ties and a third of that into wins and this team is in the playoff hunt.

    A good middle pairing defensive team can more than make up for the sub par goaltending the Flames got during the Berra experiment and turn this franchise into a competitor rather than a seller.

    If the team keeps Hartley, makes some shrewd moves in the off season, I see no reason we can’t be buyers next March.

    Anyone have a rebuttal or do you just want to tank it like the Oilers or Islanders?

    • supra steve

      “Anyone have a rebuttal or do you just want to tank it like the Oilers or Islanders?”

      I would rather tank like CHI, PITT, LA, or StL.

      Four extra regulation losses (instead of regulation wins) in the last 62 games would have put the Flames well below the Oil and just above Buff in the standings. FOUR extra losses! Hardly soul shattering.

      If Chicago had drafted just 3 slots lower in their “tank” years (2006 & 2007), their roster may include Derrick Brassard (instead of J Toews) and Thomas Hickey (instead of P Kane). To me, the potential difference in return renders those four extra losses very valuable to an organization.

      • piscera.infada

        Every thing looks so much easier in hindsight. Chicago drafts two spots earlier in 2006 they likely end up with consensus first overall Erik Johnson instead of Toews or another player “ranked higher” in that draft in Jordan Staal. You’re telling me the Blackhawks are as good as they are now with either of those two players and not Toews? I highly doubt it. Neither of them have made anywhere near the impact that Toews has.

        Understandably, it’s a moot point, but you can easily cherry pick situations where draft order makes a huge difference. Pittsburgh doesn’t win the lottery in 2005, maybe they have Bobby Ryan or Jack Johnson (and thusly, maybe they don’t get Letang in the third).

        So is it better to play the games and let the chips fall where they may, with an eye to always improving every aspect of the club (ie. “the Boston model”)? Or, should you spend your time counting wins as contra the “rebuild”, assuming you’re going to strike it rich at the draft?

        I know, I know, every spot you move up in order increases your chances of getting an elite player. It just doesn’t hold true year to year for a defined amount of time (ie: every year for four years of tanking).

        • piscera.infada

          I guess if you’re looking to rebuild through the draft, perhaps the “best” way to go about it probably isn’t tanking, but rather acquiring as many picks as possible in the top-10 to top-15 of a draft. That is where you’re going to find the majority of your great to elite players. As such, more darts (as we discussed at the draft last year).

          That is much harder than is sounds though. Teams aren’t just giving those picks away. Typically, if your rebuilding, you aren’t going to have anything that’s worthy of that kind of draft pick. Unless you’re trading with Garth Snow, of course.

        • seve927

          I don’t think you’re ever going to convince people of this common sense. They see, this team did this and they won, so we have to do the “same thing”. They don’t see the 10 other teams that did the “same thing” and sucked. It’s so much more to do with overall drafting and development rather that just getting top picks.

          • T&A4Flames

            Give me 1 example of a rebuild that didn’t involve multiple top 3 picks.

            You are correct that many rebuilds fail. But I’d love to see an example where a team rebuilt without elite talent drafted in the top 3 several years running.

            Just 1 example. Go back 30 years if you want.

          • piscera.infada

            St. Louis, Los Angeles, and I would argue Chicago (their third was Cam Barker who was hardly an impact player, and as you correctly stated Chicago won the lottery for Kane). This is assuming that we’re talking about their current iteration and not top-3 picks in the history of their franchise.

            St. Louis

            Los Angeles


            The point he’s making is that it belies the point entirely. You still have to make the correct picks (for example Toews over Erik Johnson – I mean, imagine if the Blues did that). Not to mention the “top-3” argument just sounds arbitrary to me – why not “top-1” or “top-5”?

          • T&A4Flames

            LA is a good example actually. I stand corrected. There is 1 example of a team not picking top end of the draft and rebuilding successfully. The others examples you gave picked 1st overall at least once. Whatever the case, as you said its splitting hairs and where is the cutoff, and good drafting is WAY more important.

            The consistent point with 100% of the rebuilds is that they took 7+ years.

            This whole argument really started with a debate on the value of the last 20 games for this season. I stand by my opinion that the next 20 games are irrelevant and ideal would be to lose. The team chemistry/winning culture thing is bunk because this team will like 90% by the time we come out of the other side.

            LA drafted Dustin Brown in 2003. Won cup in 2012 (9 years)
            Pittsburgh started their draft windfall in 2001. Won in 2009 (8 years – with 2 generational talents)
            Chicago started their top end drafts in 2003. Won in 2010 (7 years)
            St. Louis bottomed out 2006-2008. #1 Contender in 2014 (9 years)

            Then going back further… The Avs dynasty of the 90s was built in 10 years starting with Joe Sakic being drafted and missing the playoffs for the first 7 years of his career.

            My point is. The next 20 games don’t matter. So therefore, all other things equal, we are better off to lose and get a higher draft pick even if it means we get a 1% better chance at drafting an elite player.

          • piscera.infada

            I’ve been agreeing with that ‘time argument’ the whole time, and I don’t think anyone disagrees about that – even Burke (being impatient isn’t the same as forcing it). It’s just the “need first (second, third) overall picks” at the behest of winning that gets me. I agree, the last 20 games of this season doesn’t really matter at all – but I’ll go as far as to say it doesn’t matter either way. Honestly, would them falling a couple draft spots earlier be nice? Yes. But, I’m also a proud Flames fan, and winning games really doesn’t bug or depress me in anyway whatsoever.

            Good article on HTML links. Look under the “HTML Link Syntax” header for the basic code.

          • T&A4Flames

            So now you’re contradicting yourself. Your saying we need to lose, or it’s better for us to lose, so we get the highest pick possible. And now you’re saying that “and good drafting is WAY more important.” Which is it?

            Also, your idea that the chemistry/culture thing is bunk, is, IMO,….bunk. You’re corect in that likely 90% of the current players will be gone. But it’s not like a switch where you throw it and then all of a sudden all those players that didn’t care are gone. It’s a slow transition of old to new and I would argue that that is what plagues the Oilers right now.

            They tried to dump the attitudes right away but it was already sunk in. They put Souray in the minors to try and protect Hall and Eberle from the poor attitude but there were 20 other guys that were emersed in that whole culture. Losing is acceptable, or “i make my millions regardless” or whatever. THe Oilers are still trying, and will be for more years, to rid themselves of that problem. CGY’s management and coaching is trying very hard to not let that creep in. It can happen quickly and once its there, you’re stuck with it.

          • seve927

            Also – thanks for this discussion, I enjoyed it and you actually changed my view on a few things. That LA example made me think… Although it did take them 9 years! That puts us at Stanley Cup final 2022. Yikes.

          • BurningSensation

            Boston also fits. Seguin was a top 5 pick, but he was at most a minor contributer to the teams sucess. The Bs were built around Chara (via FA signing), Rask (via trade), and later draftees like Kreicji and Bergeron.

          • piscera.infada

            The thing about Boston was that they were never that bad. I posted earlier that it comes down to properly managing all areas of the organization. If a franchise is able to do that, they likely wouldn’t be in the mess we (and a lot of other teams) are currently in. Also, has anyone noticed that Pittsburgh has essentially destroyed the majority of their prospect base, and they’re continually haemorrhaging draft picks? It appears they didn’t learn their lesson.

            One last time – as a brief aside – look at the teams that have had the most top-5 picks in the last two decades. They are not model franchises at all – NY Isles, Florida, Edmonton.

          • BurningSensation

            Yeah, a lot of this disagreement is going to revolve around what ‘rebuild’ means. Take for example a team like Detroit. Initially they were built around Yzerman, etc, then they transitioned to Fedorov, then they retooled yet again around Datsyuk and Zetterberg (all of which was possible because they had 20 years of Lidstrom).

            I’d argue they rebuilt their core at least twice, but never ‘tore it all down’ or bottomed out, which masks the changes that took place, and serves as another example of how teams don’t need multiple top end picks to build around.

            As for Boston, no they haven’t been really bad for a long time. In part because they were built around Ray Bourque (who like Lidstrom made them competitive for 20 years), and now Chara.

            As for Pittsburgh, I don’t think they are in terrible shape by any stretch. Malkin, Crosby, Neal, Letang and Fleury are all well under 30 and have many years of high-end play left in them. They also have a very enviable prospect base of defenders; Maata (in his rookie year), Despres, Pouliot, and another stay at home guy from Canada’s WJC whose name escapes me. All of whom are equal or better than our best guy Wotherspoon. They do lack an incoming wave of young scorers, but with the age of the core still in its prime they can afford to load up with mercs and vets each year to take a shot.

            I totally agree with your final statement. It is not drafting in the top 3 that makes a great team, it’s drafting well no matter where you are picking. As such, I’ve been a fan of how Feaster and now Burke have made an effort to aquire extra bullets at the top end of the drafts. They may still miss as much as everyone else, but the chances of getting a hit are improved drastically.

            As for the timeline of the rebuild, it will depend on how long the new core takes to gel. Assuming some of the following players are in the new ‘core’; Baertschi, Gaudreau, Monahan, Poirier, Brodie, Klimchuk, Wotherspoon, Granlund Knight and whoever we get with our 1st rnd pick this year (say Draisatl – a size/skill pivot), the best answer would be ‘4 years from now’.

            Why 4? Players enter their prime years at 21 and 22, and peak out at 24-25. 4 years would put all of that group into the 21-25 age range. If we aren’t good by then with that group entering its prime, then the rebuild failed.

      • seve927

        ^^ this.

        I honestly think the timelines are the main point of all disagreement here. There are those that acknowledge this will take 5+ years AT LEAST and those who don’t. Whichever camp you are in determines how you view things like hanging on to vets, creating a ‘winning culture’ and squeezing extra wins out of pointless games this season.

        PS Chicago got lucky and won the lottery – drafting Kane first overall from the 5 hole. So sort of a bad example…

        I don’t think anyone is advocating losing on purpose. But think about it realistically… What players on this team would be in the top 6 of our contending team in 4-5 years? Monahan. Thats it.

        In 5 years we will likely have new coaches, 4-5 new top 6 fwds, 2 new goalies and most likely at least 5 new D men. This team is literally a throw away.

    • supra steve

      Your plan has zero chance of making us a perennial Stanley cup contender. Ya it’s possible to hurry back to mediocrity. Remember people last year using Ottawa as a prime example of a quick retool…. No thanks.

      I want to be in the group with Pittsburgh, LA and Boston. Not another decade of Nashville/Phoenix middling bubble teams. Forget it. Been there, done that.

  • Greg

    So… I was on airplanes deadline day and unable to follow the trades. Having just caught up on everything now, I gotta tip my hat to Burke. The return on rental players this year was abysmal… A conditional 2nd and middling prospect for Vanek? Burke essentially got that for Reto freaking Berra! And almost as much for Stempniak and the Oilers got for Hemsky.

    That was a terrible market for sellers, aside from a couple of overpays (looking at you LA) and I gotta say Burke made out like a bandit on the trades he was able to make. I’d say the only teams that had better deadlines were TB (that’s a pretty incredible haul for a 38 year disgruntled player no matter how good he is), Columbus, Montreal, and maybe Minnesota.

    Also, here’s hoping that was only due to the cap crunch this year and things will open up again next year.

  • Michael

    Burke got great value for Berra, market value for Stemp, didn’t add any bad contracts, didn’t overpay to add players, but on the downside didn’t move Cammy.
    If Burke was only being offered a third rounder for Cammy, he doesn’t risk that much by keeping the player and trying to sign him.
    The prices for rental players plummeted this year, so it was a tough year for clubs like Calgary looking to sell.
    Overall, I think Burke earns a decent B/B-, largely on the return for Berra.

  • beloch

    What’s more important than picking a slot or two higher this year? Always being “sellers”.

    Look at the abundance of talent the Flames have ready to make the big team late this season or early next season. Some of it might even step forward into elite territory. Imagine what the Flames could be in a decade if this influx of talent happened every year!

    This is actually a realistic scenario. If the Flames avoid being “buyers” they will reach the point where their prospect system generates enough surplus talent to both support itself and provide elite talent to the team. There are plenty of teams out there willing to let others draft and develop talent that they will then overpay for. The Flames were one of those teams under Sutter.

    I’m not saying the Flames should never buy. If the need is high and the price is right, that’s what you have to do. I’m saying they should avoid being habitual buyers who, as soon as they get a whiff of the playoffs, empty out the farm and trade all their picks to make it. This only ensures that success will be temporary.

  • Rockmorton65

    I have to admit, I do like Burke’s notion of speeding up the rebuild. I think there’s a way to do it without going out and signing or trading for a bunch of 30+ year old vets. This is my thinking:

    For arguments sake, let’s say the flames win the draft lottery, and Florida picks fifth. The flames could just draft Ekblad and be done with it, but that might not be the smartest move. Smarter move may be to offer up with the first overall pick to Florida for the fifth overall pick and, say, Gudbranson.

    With that one move alone, you have already taken some time off the rebuild. Not only do you get another asset but, Gudbranson is about 2-3 years ahead of development than Ekblad. That’s the essence of what this move would be about.

    I’m not advocating the flames should do this specific move for the specific player but you can see how a move like this can “speed up a rebuild”.

  • BurningSensation

    “Smarter move may be to offer up with the first overall pick to Florida for the fifth overall pick and, say, Gudbranson.”

    You suggest yourself that the example you chose may not be the right one, but that the principle makes sense.

    In the specific case of Florida, I highly doubt they would part with a 5th and Gudbranson (a player they have been grooming carefully) just to get Ekblad.

    In general though, it’s a good idea if it is a deep draft to trade down for multiple picks – but not in a weak draft, where you could be losing considerable value by dealing down. Given this current draft is considered to be poor (especially in comparison to last years, which was unexpectedly deep), you wouldn’t want to trade down and collect another first unless the drop wasn’t very significant.

    That leaves trading down for someone else’s first and a prospect, and the value of that trade would greatly depend on the value of the prospect coming back. For arguments sake (and using Gudbranson as an example), you’d want a player under 23 who is ready to take the next step. If you could find a team that has one of these guys – especially one with ‘warts’ that might be correctable, and for arguments sake they need to be drafting in the top 10.

    Buffalo, Florida, and Edmonton are all just going to laugh and say ‘no thanks’. Buffalo and Florida because both are likely to be taking forwards (though I doubt Florida would turn down Ekblad, they almost certainly wouldn’t pay through the nose just to move up and get him), and while Edmonton might prefer to swap picks I can’t see them parting with any of their best prospects/players under 23 to make it happen. Factor in the Burke-Lowe hate-a-thon, and a deal with them of any kind is simply remote.

    The Islanders are a possibility, if only because the braintrust on Long Island is insane. Could you convince Garth Snow to take 1st Overall off our hands for Griffin Reinhart and their 1st? Assuming they have #5 overall, you are guaranteed a chance at one of; Ekblad, Reinhart, Bennett, Draisatil, and Dal Colle. So, say it ends up as dealing them Ekblad for G.Reinhart and Dal Colle – I’d do that, and its possible the Islanders would to.

    Nashville on the other hand is probably not in play. They have Weber in hand, Jones flashing elite ability, and a solid core behind them. Why trade up to get Ekblad when what they really need is Sam Reinhart?

    Carolina is interesting to consider in that they have a guy I would love to get from them in Lindholm (a center who is logjammed behind the Staals), and they need a #1 Dman to groom in the worst way. I’d move #1 overall for Lindholm and Carolina’s pick (#7 overall), and if Jake Virtanen is still around he’s who I would take. Would Carolina do this? I think it is definitely possible.

    That leaves the three Canadian teams, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

    Ottawa has an absolute raft of interesting prospects and young players they might put into a deal. You’d be dropping down to #8, but if you could get Zibenejad and their 8th, would you do it? I’m no longer certain I’d be as comfortable, but if Ottawa piled on things (another pick, another prospect like Shane Prince, what have you), I could probably find my way to making it happen.

    Would Shinkaruk and their 1st (9th overall) be enough? Mmmmmm……No. And I can’t see them wanting to offer more.

    Winnipeg. If Winnipeg offered Evander Kane and #10 for the 1st overall – would you do it? I might, and I think Burke would.

    • Rockmorton65

      The reason I used Fkorida is that they have a few D prospects that have good potential. Suppose they really wanted Reinhart or Bennett? I doubt either of them are available at 5. My point is, that in a draft that doesn’t have a “generational” talent, it would be more beneficial to get a proven prospect AND a very good draft pick instead of just a very good pick.

      If the Flames do win the lottery, I think Burke should decide on who he wants (let’s say Ekblad). Put him in his back pocket – that’s his worst case scenario. Then call all 29 other teams and find out what they would offer for 1st overall.

      Some people on hockey boards seem to think that if you are bad long enough and draft high enough, eventually you’ll get better. They talk in terms of 5-8 year rebuilds. I guess what I’m saying is that there are smart ways you can speed up the rebuild. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to see the Flames make the playoffs in a year or two and challenging for the cup a year or so after.

      If we can get a couple proven prospects with some of our draft choices, add them to the ones ready to make the show (Granlund, Ortio, Gaudreau, Baertchi, etc) plus go hard after a few key FAs (Stastny, Nikitin/Niskanen), we could easily shed a couple years off of the rebuild.