Five things: Transactions, real and possible


1. Signing Wolf

So the Calgary Flames made quick work of further shoring up the team’s contract pool (or, if you prefer, taking away a contract slot from someone else) by signing David Wolf out of Germany. A very Flames-y signing, and an inauspicious way to start the Brad Treliving era.

Wolf is big and seems to be able to contribute a (very) little bit offensively, but he seems to have mainly been acquired for that aforementioned size, and the grit he provides. Having a little more than half a point a game in the German league isn’t great, and having about two-and-a-half penalty minutes per tells you everything. So the question is this: Why sign him? He’s cheap, granted, but he’s not an NHL player and for all we know he might not even be an effective fighter at the NHL level. 

But, what the hell. In general, I am a person who’s in favor of this kind of thing. Sign a Bryce van Brabant, or any other college and junior free agent you like. More NHL teams are also starting to look overseas, and this isn’t like the horrible Roman Cervenka experiment, which was always going to end in disaster. They don’t hurt to have around, and maybe they even help a little bit. Wouldn’t that be something?

I’m not holding my breath on a guy who’s not that great in the German league, though.

2. Trading for Spezza?

So apparently the consensus among people who know this kind of thing is that Jason Spezza will almost certainly be traded out of Ottawa this summer, and there have been some rumblings that the Calgary Flames might be interested in his services.

Bad idea.

I probably think better of Spezza than a lot of people do, but I’m not sure this is a wise decision. I don’t care about the money or the fact that he’ll make the team better when it should be trying at all costs to bottom out. If I’m the Flames, I care about the cost. For a guy like Spezza, who still has a pretty decent amount of tread on the tires but is turning 31 next month, it’s going to be high. Probably a useful roster player, a prospect, and a pick. The Flames cannot afford to give up any of these things given the state of the team. 

Let’s keep in mind, too, that this is also a club which will not sniff the playoffs next year, or probably the year after that. Spezza’s deal is up after this coming season, so he’s going to want to be extended by whichever team trades for him, and that’s something over which he has at least some control (thanks to his 10-team no-trade clause). By the time this team is good enough to even make the playoffs, Spezza will likely be in his mid-30s, and on a new deal that’s going to last for a long time and cost a lot of money.

What would be the point?

3. Trading for Phaneuf?

Likewise, there’s a lot of talk about the Maple Leafs trading Dion Phaneuf, owner of a new seven-year deal worth $49 million, and he too is being talked about as a potential trade target for Calgary.

Also a bad idea. And far less likely to happen.

It has nothing to do, by the way, with Phaneuf having previously played here, or anything like that. Everyone he allegedly clashed with is gone. 

The real problem is that while he’s two years younger than Spezza and still a pretty damn good defenseman (playing for Randy Carlyle is destroying his numbers) there’s also the fact that he’s similarly going to cost a lot. Probably at least a first-round pick and a roster player, and you can bet that roster player will have to be a defenseman. The Leafs would probably want TJ Brodie back. That, obviously, isn’t going to happen.

There are the other considerations that apply to Spezza as well (his age when this team is once again effective, etc.), but while the Flames can almost certainly spare a youngish NHL forward to improve up front — if you put a gun to their head and forced them to, I mean — that just isn’t the case on the back end.

Neither of these trades is likely to happen, but they 100 percent should not.

4. Some thoughts on the West

It seems to me like the Flames’ road into the playoffs, by the way, is only going to get harder. The West used to be a mishmash of great teams and decent ones, and then a bunch of bad ones. But the decent ones are now starting to be good, and a few of the bad ones are moving in the right direction too.

I watch these Western Conference playoffs and I see teams like even Colorado and Dallas doing things to make themselves better that the Flames haven’t necessarily been able to do yet. Maybe they will one day, but that’s a while off, and by the time Calgary gets to the point of being competitive the young stars on those clubs will be in their primes. Hell, Edmonton might even figure things out over the next few years. 

Maybe a few Western powers will have faded by then. Like Chicago if they have to offload one of Toews or Kane, and maybe San Jose, or Anaheim, when Thornton or Marleau or Perry or Getzlaf just aren’t as effective any more. 

It’s a hard road in, though. If this were the East, the Flames wouldn’t be in quite so bad a position, I don’t think. But it’s not, so that’s got to be viewed as a real problem going forward. Do you try to buy your way in like Minnesota and hope like hell your drafting works out? Or do you let the drafting do all the talking and supplement that with more affordable free-agent pickups.

That, I think, is Treliving’s biggest challenge: How do you catch up with all those teams that have so much young talent already?

5. And on the East

With that having been said, I don’t think the Canadiens (and by the way this is being written ahead of last night’s Game 7 so I don’t know what will have happened there) are too bad or unrealistic a model to follow. They’re a team that wasn’t great for a while, and had their struggles with outright badness, and are now starting to get good again. 

Admittedly, they’ve gotten lucky in the draft — Carey Price, PK Subban, Alex Galchenyuk, etc. — but just have a generally strong young core that (SURPRISE!) doesn’t rely on size or grit, but rather a lot of skill. Not that Brian Burke will ever let something like that happen, of course, but these are all mid-first and second-round picks are paying off. My god, in 2007 alone they drafted Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty, and PK Subban within the first 43 picks. This is predicated on, “You have to be really lucky,” because if drafting like that were a repeatable skill they’d never lose a Stanley Cup. But still, that’s a team built mostly through the draft; Emelin, Price, D’Agostini, Pacioretty, Subban, Gallagher, Beaulieu, Tinordi, Galchenyuk, Plekanec. All guys drafted by the Habs who are still on the roster and contributing. That’s like a decade of drafting yielding 10 quality NHLers, plus all these guys they traded away or let go (Komisarek, Higgins, the Kostitsyns, Lapierre, Grabovski, Streit, Latendresse, White, Weber). 

Other teams should be so lucky.

    • Colin.S

      They really don’t need any more size, they have done more than fine in beating Tampa and then they also just beat the consensus “big” team in the playoffs in the Bruins. Montreal is also the favorites going in the series with the Rangers as well.

  • jeremywilhelm

    The quickest most effective way the Flames can get to the level of a Chicago, Colorado, Anaheim etc is not to make the ridiculous type trades such as the ones you mention above but rather too land a generational young talent that they could build around the solid young foundation that is currently in place. Without this it will be many many years before they can start to compare themselves with the elite teams.

    Look now..the 2015 draft just happens to have 2 of those so called generational players and I have many times posted my support on FN for the Flames to somehow make this happen! And I am not suggesting they throw the 2014/15 season.

    • Parallex

      From everything I’ve seen and read 2015 doesn’t have two of those players… it has three (McDavid, Eichel, and Hanifin). With McDavid a cut above the other two.

    • Rockmorton65

      I’m genuinely curious. We’ve clashed on this subject before. If the Flames don’t intentionally tank or even stop actively trying to improve (trades, etc), how do they “somehow make this happen” and get McDavid or Eichel? Barring a lottery win, I cant see the Flames being bottom two in the league next year. If Gaudreau is even remotely NHL ready, I can see us catching the likes of the Isles and Hurricanes.

      • Rockmorton65

        This could easily happen, the assumption seems to be that the other cellar dwellers will not do anything to get better; I suspect they all will at least make major attempts at trades or signing the UFA’s. If each of the teams upgrade in two positions and we add no one then the gap narrows. If we have any key injuries(knock on wood that it does not happen) especially on the back end we could find ourselves falling back. Take a good look at our line up, 6 veteran forwards none of whom are A liners, 4 younger emerging forwards only one of whom has a significant offensive upside and then a whole bunch of unproven prospects(whom I’m high on) and two high end defenders and 3 other veteran dmen all of whom are better suited to be 4-7’s with any good team. We don’t even have a back for Ramo signed yet.

          • Rockmorton65

            However my point was that it could happen not what might happen. For me I agree with Primo, stay the course for one year. Let the young guys develop and grow, although I would be tempted to pursue a top 4 defender via the UFA market.

        • Rockmorton65

          I see what you’re saying. There is a strong possibility the likes of Monahan, Backlund, Colbourne, and Baertchi all take steps forward next year (at least I hope so!). Plus, if Gaudreau makes the team out of camp, we’re going to be better. And that doesn’t take into account any of this years draft picks making the team, any free agents that Burke may sign this off-season, or any trades he may make. I don’t think Burke was hired to stand pat. We played in almost 50 one goal games last year. If we win half of those, we’re automatically higher in the standings. I don’t see Buffalo, Edmonton or Florida ALL taking big strides next year. We almost caught the Islanders and Hurricanes too, who both seem to be taking steps backwards. I don’t think we could intentionally suck bad enough to finish bottom 2.

          • Scary Gary

            To further add to what CP is saying I will use last year as an example. We finished lower in the standings in 2014 than we did in 2013 yet we made greater strides in player development and culture setting. For the 2014/15 season we need to stay the course. Finishing 25th, 23rd, 20th in the standings next year will get you nothing! That means we make further strides in those 2 areas without the standings being a factor. This includes smartly trading away the Hudlers, Widemans, GlenX etc (examples only) in return for further young talent including potentially 2015 draft choices. Of course you need to have a nice balance of veterans to support the young guys and avoid an “Oiler” model of rebuild.

            The key is to sustain the strategy which I believe is progress the rebuild primarily through the draft rather than signing free agents like Spezza, or trading for high priced talent which will take you right back to the “Sutter” rebuild strategy which proved to be ineffective in the past.

            Giving selective development time at the NHL level in 2014/15 for the Rhineharts, Granlunds, Wotherspoons, Seiloffs, Ferlands, Guadreaus, etc will easily assure you a bottom 2 finish as overall we are still a very weak team but it will set you up nicely for the 2015/16 season where the Flames can take an honest shot at the playoffs. Without a generational player like a McDavid Eichel I’m afraid playoffs will not be possible for many years. A McDavid will make the above mentioned players better and set the transition for the future. That’s exactly the Penguins and Blackhawks rebuild strategy involving Crosby, Malkin, Toews, Kane.

            Anyways my 2 cents worth….

          • Rockmorton65

            Wholeheartedly agree.

            One more year of Patient Development. Don’t sell off our picks & prospects. Use the year to wisely develop the kids and sell off a couple grey beards for additional prospects and picks.

            Obtain one more elite or generational player…McDavid, Eichel, Hanifin if possible!

            We’re beautifully positioned for this one year only…the stars have aligned for us…if we’re smart enough to sustain the strategy and stay the temptations to trade away picks & prospects for short-term gain!

          • Scary Gary

            Exactly my thoughts.

            We will never get this opportunity again. Once in a lifetime and as you say we are beautifully positioned for this one year only opportunity!

            Quite frankly I am tired of watching much superior teams like Colorado, Pittsburgh, LA, Chicago, etc have a super elite player(s) and Flames are always on the outside looking in. It’s now our turn so bring on McDavid or Eichel!!


          • piscera.infada

            I understand the sentiment, I really do. What then happens, if you put all this “work” into finishing bottom-two, and you end up picking four?

            I think we learned this season that you almost have to be skilled at being garbage to finish that low – or at least actively try to lose. Factor in the thought that the Buffalo’s of the world will likely be doing everything in their power to acquire McDavid – which they have perfectly set themselves up for, with horrible hockey players – and it just seems a fools errand.

            Don’t get me wrong, I agree McDavid/Eichel would without a doubt help turn the franchise around. I’m just very skeptical of investing too much hope in to it happening.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            The NHL has to do a better job at protecting against strategic tanking. It’s not good for the league or fan bases in these cities to build a team to perpetually lose, in hopes of drafiting high. The NHL’s current plan doesn’t go far enough in my opinion.

            My thought is that no team should be able to participate in the draft lottery (top 5) three seasons in a row, and any draft winner is out of the draft the following season. If this were in place today, Buffalo, Edmonton and Florida would be disqualified for the upcoming lottery.

            My thinking is that if they had no incentive to taking, each team would look to put a winning strategy on the ice, and therefor a better product for everyone.

          • Rockmorton65

            I don’t disagree with you, however, I do question the strategy of it. Like someone here said, what happens if we execute the plan of “tanking without tanking ” to perfection and end up drafting fourth again. Does that mean this franchise is doomed for eternity?

            I’m wary of putting the fate of the franchise in a kid like McDavid. I mean, he’s only what – 17? He’s still dealing with pimples and learning to talk to girls. I would caution anointing him as the only one who can save the franchise.

  • Parallex

    “Having a little more than half a point a game in the German league isn’t great”

    … his PPG rate last year was 0.833, 0.735 the year before, and 0.761 the year before.

    That’s a fair bit better the just a little more than half a point a game. I get that his career totals in the DEL is just 0.516 but IMO you can’t give older data equal weight as newer data. Nate Silver has made quite a name for himself with regression anaylsis and he always weights newer data higher then older data.

  • FeyWest

    The potion can apparently have different ingredients but end up with the same success in the post-season.

    Question is what is the proper mix of ingredients and how much of each in tomorrow’s NHL? (Important current trends be analyzed to forecast what is needed in 5-10 years to win).

    Montreal is relying on a higher speed and pace combination along with skill but not as much focus on size.

    Most current Cup contenders are so-called “heavy” teams featuring taller, heavier players possessing good skating and skill.

    So what model or framework should the Flames pursue? Do we pursue the “heavy” model currently in vogue? Do we start emphasizing speed more, and therefore sacrifice some size? Do we focus most highly on skill and possession regardless of size (and possibly speed)?

    Outside of Burke’s “truculence” pablum it would be great to hear more from both Burke and Treliving as to what their team-building philosophies are.

  • Michael

    Basically agree with the whole article.

    Flames need to build through the draft and they definitely need to stay patient next season to better evaluate what they aleady have in the system and to add another elite prospect.

    I’m more open to them making some moves in the 2016 season to avoid becoming the Oilers. One more year of patience and development is needed though.

    The whole size thing with Montreal is overblown IMO.

    I’m hoping that Burke’s vision is along the lines that you can’t have a team full of Gaudreaus and Baertschis.

    Most of the teams on that list are close to identical and Montreal is only 7 lbs lighter than Boston. Did Montreal win because of more skilled skaters or Carey Price? Kind of a shallow piece, especially when you consider that Boston and LA are recent winners too. Chicago is the same size as Montreal, but look what Toews and Bickell are doing and they have a lot of size. Then again, look at Kane. But we’re not talking about a team of 5’10” 180lb-ers either.

    There’s so many factors that go into winning. Calgary does need to add size in the sense that they need to add some skilled guys into the system with size. As in you can’t just keep adding skill with tiny guys. I hope that’s as far as it goes in Burke’s head though.

  • Michael

    Ultimately, the addition of a player like ‘Spezza or Phaneuf’ depends on the direction that ‘Burke and Treliving’ have been given from above.
    Murray Edwards was very clear that he wanted this team to be playoff competitive this last season, which didn’t happen, likely prompting the hiring of Burke to ‘speed’ up the process. The question becomes, are the Flames still in a rebuild mold?, or are we now positioning the club for a run at a playoff spot next season?.
    In a rebuild mold, neither Spezza or Phaneuf make much sense, but for a playoff competitive team a number one center like Spezza might be an attractive target.
    I hope we continue the rebuild, but I suspect that the rebuild is essentially over, that our fourth overall pick may be packaged for an established but older ‘elite’ level NHL talent, and that the team will look to add mid level NHL talent through free agency or via trades.

  • FeyWest

    Everything is pure speculation, I don’t really mind trading as long as it makes sense and we pick a direction and stick with it.

    Also I really dont want us trading away picks like they are bulk candy a la the Sutter era. That’s what ultimately got us here in the first place, no picks in the 2nd round for so many years and very few 1st round picks let alone successful ones.

    We’re in no position here to be mortgaging our future, stay the course and we’re likely to be out of the basement sooner rather than later.

  • FeyWest

    Unfortunately the Wolf signing won’t be much more than a 4th-line/AHL signing, but hey, you need those guys too.

    If we were a couple years further down the road in this rebuild I would be all for re acquiring Phaneuf, but right now neither player makes sense for us. Plus Spezza’s back scares me.

    Our fourth pick definitely isn’t being shopped, I believe Burke already states that he wasn’t getting rid of the #4. I think the main goal for this draft should be to try and get Bennett. The kid looks great, gotta love that explosiveness.

  • loudogYYC

    I have to say, I’m getting pretty tired of all this size vs. skill chatter. The fact is, 5on5 play and goals win and that’s always been the case.

    Montreal isn’t a small team, it’s a team that has very small players, among others. The reason they win is because they’re not a one trick pony, they have crashers and bangers (White, Weise, Prust and Moen), skill players with size (Pacioretty, Vanek, Eller & Bourque (kinda)), smaller skill players (Plekanec, Desharnais and Briere) and finally, heart and soul players that actually contribute on the ice (Gallagher and Gionta).

    I wouldn’t follow their steps to a T, but the model of having a team that can beat you in different ways will always work. So if the Flames keep players like Hudler, Baertschi, Gaudreau, Cammalleri and Byron around, I would expect players like Winnik, Clifford and now Wolf to be brought in.

  • Purple Hazze

    In regards to all the players that clashed with Phaneuf now being gone from Calgary … What about Conroy? At the time of the trade weren’t the rumors that Phaneuf’s falling out of favor with the Flames was because of Conroy?

  • Purple Hazze

    “and this isn’t like the horrible Roman Cervenka experiment, which was always going to end in disaster”

    If signing a free agent at no cost except $ and a roster spot then finding out he isn’t an NHLer is a disaster I’m not sure how we will ever find success.

    I can just forsee a series of disasters and minor catastrophies with some tiny victories sprinkled in over the next few years if this is our definition of a disaster…

    • supra steve

      The Cervenka experiment was doomed from the start because of the way Feaster and co. tried to sell it. If they had billed Cervenka as a guy they thought could play for them, or you know, anything other than that “1st line center!” jazz, he might still be with the team. 17 points in 39 games isn’t all that bad.

      That’s why it’s hard to really disagree with the Wolf thing. Nobody’s billing him as the “next” anything. They’re not setting out expectations. They just signed a large German winger to an ELC (and one who has been on the radar for a little while, since he attended a training camp with Burke’s leafs a few years ago). We’ll see what happens.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The Flames should model themselves after teams who have been consistently successful. Size isn’t the only the criteria, but if you want to compete against the giant stacked teams in California you will have to have it. The Habs did beat the Bruins with speed and skill but the Habs haven’t has as much post-season success as consistently as Chicago, LA, Boston, etc. I disagree Lambert, the Flames can do everything to try and bottom out but I can’t see them being Buffalo or Florida bad. It would take a lot for that to happen. Even this last season, after trading a lot of veteran players this team wasn’t as ‘bad’ as a lot of people wanted them to be.

    Spezza wouldn’t be a long term guy, just someone who might be a fill in until the other kids are ready to take over other role. Unless Treliving could land a Courtier or O’Reilly, he would be a better fit than Phaneuf. Though he is a turnover machine but not wearing the C might be better for Jason. There’s been some suggestions the Flames would target Vrbata or Moulson if Cammy walks.

    • supra steve

      “I disagree Lambert, the Flames can do everything to try and bottom out but I can’t see them being Buffalo or Florida bad.”

      I don’t see finishing below Florida as quite that impossible. FLA isn’t going to lose any high end players as UFAs, Barkov and Huberdeau are a year older, Luongo may help. If Calgary more resembles the early 2013-14 Flames than the late season version, they could easily fall below FLA and EDM in the standings. As for Buffalo, time will tell, that’s why they play the season.

  • Scary Gary

    So I see the NHL combine is coming up which gets me to thinking about the draft,It is probably likely we take the left over at number 4(whoever it is will be a good player) But what about our two second rounders. Does anyone know more than the basics on the following RW: ranked 14 int Juho Lamikko or NA 32 N Magnar 6’2 195 or Hunter Smith NA 39 6’5″ 210. Would that be stretch at 34? Has it been determined where we pick with Berra pick? Are there any stud defencemen between 28-40?

    • Scary Gary

      At #4 I’m guessing Reinhart and Ekblad will for sure be gone. That leaves us with Bennett, Draisaitl, Dal Colle, And Nylander in my opinion. Out of those guys, I prefer Bennett or Nylander, and I’m not really a Dal Colle fan. And out of that list of names, Edmonton would likely take Bennett or Draisaitl. Either way I’m stoked for the draft. I don’t believe we’ll see the same out of our pick this year as we did with Monahan, but either way, next year is the year we will really he exciting.

      • Scary Gary

        Im hearing the Oilers will trade there pick for an experienced d man. Whoever picks in there spot I’m certain will take Bennett.

        For the Flames it will be Drasitl I believe. Unless there is a surprise!

  • piscera.infada

    @ChinookArch @Rockmorton65

    Exactly, at no time am I saying a player of that calibre wouldn’t help our situation. Nor am I ‘rebuild over, start acquiring the Spezzas or Phaneufs of the world’. I’m simply saying, drafting one of those two (or three) guys next year can’t be the plan in and of itself. It should only be the contingency if everything goes horribly wrong (and you get a little lucky at the end).

    • Kevin R

      No team looks at tanking at the start. Circumstances, injuries, player performance all dictate the decisions teams make at the trade deadline & last 10-15 gamse of the season.

      Based on that, if in the completely unlikely scenario, a cheap bastard like Melnyk doesn’t want to spend & likes the idea of acquiring a package of GlenX, Byron, a decent prospect like Hanowski & maybe a 2nd rounder, I’d do it. Spezza gets us to the cap without spending Edwards $$$, he gives us an instant 1st line centre to slot the likes of Hudler & maybe Gaudreau & allow kids that made great strides last year like Backlund, Monahan, Colbourne,Knight, Reinhart,Granlund, Arnold all time to acclimatize on the 2nd & 3rd lines. I would not sign Cammi if this move was made. Then depending how the year went, injuries, where we were in the standings, there would be a very good possibility that Spezza could be flipped at the TDL for 1st straight up.

      This wouldn’t be a strategy to tank, nor one to expect to make the playoffs. Who knows what could happen, we stay healthy, Gaudreau becomes a Calder favorite playing with Spezza & Hudler, Backlund rocks, Monahan pops 25 goals, Ramo has a .925 save %, this team is fighting for a playoff spot next March & Spezza wants to resign. Or it could & probably will be a rookie & sophomore laden lineup that flounders as injuries mount & some of the young guys struggle. We are active at the TDL & we are in the lotto for one of those top 3 picks.

      How do you even tank in this league, it’s circumstances & mainly injuries versus depth. Tampa & Colorado went from lottery to playoffs in 1 short year. Too much over thinking on this.

    • Kevin R

      Nobody wants a last place team as an end goal. After the upcoming draft the Flames will have two Top 6 picks, about 15 good prospects with 0-200 NHL games experience, ~4-6 replacement-level veterans with >200 NHL games, and ~4 well-performing veterans (Hudler, GlenX, Gio, Brodie).

      Looking objectively at the Flames, the top ceiling for the team (about a 25% probability) would be to finish 24th (by making trades in return for prospects and picks), potentially beating BUF, EDM, NYI, FLA, CAR, VCR or TOR. To beat these teams would be an achievement, and result in picking 7th in 2015.

      Also looking objectively, there is about a >50% chance of finishing 28th, 29th, or 30th.

      Our prospects need time to develop properly. Focus on patiently developing them this year without selling the farm to achieve a 24th place finish.

      From my perspective let nature take its course, position the Flames to maximize their draft position for one more year while continuing to develop a positive team culture, and put all your resources in to planning for a rebound back to playoff contention in 2015-16.

  • piscera.infada

    “From my perspective let nature take its course, position the Flames to maximize their draft position for one more year while continuing to develop a positive team culture, and put all your resources in to planning for a rebound back to playoff contention in 2015-16.

    Totally, I wont argue that. Simply put though, no matter how much you “position” your team, chances are, one or two teams will be worse – and really, that’s all it takes. I’m just saying that if you’re in the Flames’ front office the goal of this season should not be next year’s draft.

    • piscera.infada

      Yes I think you, coachedpotato, Primo, FeyWest, the-wolf and a few others are also in general agreement with staying patient for the coming year.

      I also like Chinook Arch’s post about the NHL reducing the strategic value of tanking even further e.g. no more than 3 Top 5 consecutive picks. On a longer term basis it would be good to make further changes.

  • DragonFlame

    The Flames may have some needs on “D,” but I wonder how many Flames’ fans realize Calgary’s defense finished 10th over-all in defenseman scoring this past season:

    I hate the thought of Phaneuf re-joining the Flames, even though I realize he would help get the team one step closer to the cap floor; however, that’s not a good enough reason to bring him back, in my opinion.