Hopes and Expectations

By now you have all read some of the Reasonable Expectation
series that my fellow writers here at Flames Nation have been posting. My
contribution is going to be somewhat different.

I’m going to examine the entire Flames roster and use a
number of advanced stats categories alongside past performances and possible
deployments by the coaching staff to try and draw a line in the sand of what
the coming season most likely holds in store for the Flames.

So to begin, I’ll introduce the methodology.

The categories I’m reviewing are as follows:

5v5 and 5v4 pp/60 (the average number of points scored by
the player over 60 minutes played at 5v5 and 5v4 – this determines point
producers and where they score).

5v5 and 5v4 QualComp – the quality of competition, graded by
a number, against whom the player was deployed – when contrasted against pp/60
it tells you who scores against the best versus who scores against the rest,
and if a player can’t produce offense, or at least chances, against weaker
opposition that is a serious tell. The more positive the number the greater the
competition.

CorsiRel 5v5 – the number of shots directed at the
opposition net relative to their teammates – this is a good tool to determine
which players possess the puck most often and help to drive the play against
the opposition – direct offense doesn’t always follow, but possession is a
strong indicator of success over a long period of time.

ZS% 5v5 and ZF% 5v5 and differential – this tells you where
a player started his shift and where he left it – by percentage it tells how
often a player starts in the offensive zone, by default then implying how often
they begin in the defensive or neutral zone. If you think of it in football
terms, imagine the number is a yard line from 0 to 100, and the differential is
how much “yardage” they gave up during their shift. Good players move the play
forward for the next shift, decent players hold their ground or gain some, bad
players give up territory on a regular basis. Good coaches give their star
players the easy zone starts to improve their chances of scoring. A player who
gets buried in the defensive zone routinely but can fight his way to the
neutral zone or beyond is a very valuable asset, although not always
appreciated.  

Sh% 5v5 – the player’s shooting percentage in 5v5 play,
pretty straightforward, but for the sake of the exercise remember that the
average forward shooting percentage fluctuates somewhere between 10 and 12%
over the course of their career. Some have a higher percentage, some lower, but
if a player suddenly starts scoring on 25% of their shots when their four-year
career average is 11%, expect a reversion.

TOI/60 5v5 and 5v4 – this simply tells you how a player was
used, who got the PP time which is useful when examining a player’s strengths
in other categories like pp/60 and sh% and helps to adjust expectations for
incoming players or rookies to help determine how they were deployed in
previous situations. I find it helps temper expectations.

For goalies I’ll be looking at the number of games played,
shots against per season and per game, and save %. The idea being to determine
a goalie’s workload, possible ability to adapt to an altered expectation during
this coming season, and an approximation of the defense behind which they have
previously played relative to the one they are expected to be playing behind
this coming season.

As well I’m establishing an estimate of games played and
points per game using each player’s history to draw an approximate line in the
sand with regards to offensive production. Obviously individual performances
will vary depending on injuries and other unforeseeable factors.

Now that we’ve covered all of that, we’re going to start with the defence and goaltending. The
following are the statistical categories mentioned with the players ranked
accordingly. In the cases of new players, the number to the far right is where
they ranked on their team last season while their current ranking has been interfiled
within the Flames’ statistical hierarchy. I’ve retained former players like
Shane O’Brien for context.

DEFENSEMEN

5v5 pp/60  rank 5v4 pp/60  rank
Giordano 1.13 1 Engelland 7.38 1 1st
Wideman 1.11 2 Giordano 5.71 1
Engelland 0.91 3 3rd Russell 3.46 2
Brodie 0.76 3 Brodie 2.52 3
Russell 0.67 4 Wideman 1.7 4
Butler 0.61 5 Smid 0 5
O’Brien 0.36 6 Butler 0 6
Smid 0.32 7 O’Brien 0 7

Toughest Toughest
QualComp 5v5  rank QualComp 5v4  rank
Giordano 0.091 1 Russell 1.791 1
Brodie 0.078 2 Smid 1.434 2
Russell -0.004 3 Butler 0.893 3
Butler -0.015 4 Engelland 0.784 4 4th
Engelland -0.015 5 8th Wideman 0.719 5
Smid -0.039 6 O’Brien 0.407 6
Wideman -0.075 7 Giordano -0.241 7
O’Brien -0.142 8 Brodie -0.938 8
Easiest Easiest
CorsiRel 5v5  rank Sh% 5v5  rank
Giordano 22.8 1 Giordano 8.73 1
Brodie 17.1 2 Russell 8.71 2
Wideman -3.3 3 O’Brien 8.6 3
O’Brien -6.6 4 Brodie 8.56 4
Russell -6.8 5 Wideman 8.44 5
Engelland -11.7 6 8th Engelland 7.38 6 8th
Butler -13.5 7 Smid 6.94 7
Smid -15.2 8 Butler 6.5 8
Easiest Easiest
ZS% 5v5  rank ZF% 5v5  rank ZS diff rank
Wideman 62.2 1 Russell 51 1 Brodie 7.8 1
O’Brien 54.2 2 Wideman 49.8 2 Butler 4.2 2
Russell 52.3 3 Brodie 49.7 3 Giordano 3.2 3
Engelland 46 4 7th O’Brien 48.3 4 Engelland 2.2 4
Smid 45.1 5 Engelland 48.2 5 9th Smid -1.1 5
Giordano 44.1 6 Giordano 47.3 6 Russell -1.3 6
Butler 42 7 Butler 46.2 7 O’Brien -2.9 7
Brodie 41.9 8 Smid 46.2 8 Wideman -12.3 8
Toughest Toughest Lost
TOI/60 5v5  rank TOI/60 5v4  rank
Brodie 19.39 1 Giordano 3.28 1
Russell 18.51 2 Wideman 3.06 2
Giordano 18.32 3 Russell 2.8 3
Wideman 17.55 4 Brodie 1.77 4
Butler 16.71 5 Butler 0.34 5
Smid 15.61 6 Engelland 0.15 6 6th 
Engelland 11.81 7 9th Smid 0.06 7
O’Brien 10.97 8 O’Brien 0.03 8

Giordano and Brodie are top-pairing defenders on virtually
any NHL team. Period.

After that, though, well…it is kind of a disaster. The
Flames have a number of good to decent offensive defensemen in Wideman and
Russell, but lack the necessary depth to more smoothly transition from their 1st
pairing to the 2nd and still feature one of those two without giving
up scoring chances in exchange.

What Wideman and Russell offer on the powe-rplay is useful,
but that ought to be a secondary consideration to keeping the team on an
even-keel 5v5.

Defensively speaking, Deryk Engelland was one of the worst
blueline options on the Penguins. His numbers put him squarely in the middle of
the pack with the Flames, but an improvement on Smid. In some respects he
appears to be a lateral move from Chris Butler with some increased offense.

In terms of the quality of competition, Russell appears like
a decent player in a 2nd pairing role. Engelland, interestingly, has
identical numbers to Chris Butler in this area but which placed him 8th
on the Penguins’ defensive QualComp depth chart last season under Dan Bylsma.
It will be interesting to see how Hartley uses Engelland early this season and
whether there is an expectation that he is more than these numbers suggest.

The Zone Differential I found particularly interesting as it
relates to possible defensive pairings. Given the talent deficit that the
Flames are likely to be facing every night this season, Giordano and Brodie
would seem a logical pairing, which leaves Smid, Engelland, Wideman and Russell
as the mix-and-match group from Hartley can construct his final four. A pairing
of shutdown/puck-mover seems to make the most sense at first glance, so perhaps
Russell-Engelland and Smid-Wideman, where the two paired players could possibly
complement one another in their respective strengths and deficiencies.

Wideman was the beneficiary of extremely easy zone starts
which means that Hartley recognizes his potential in the offensive zone,
however this places a tougher zone start burden on another player such as
Brodie, Butler or Giordano. Given that we could essentially swap out Butler for
Engelland, and taking Engelland’s ZS% from last season into account, it remains
to be seen whether Hartley will have the same opportunity this season.
Engelland doesn’t appear to be as efficient at moving the puck out of his zone
as Butler was last season, but we will have to see how his partner impacts this
part of his game. The only defenseman
whose zone differential is concerning is Dennis Wideman, but given how tilted
his zone starts are losing some territory is expected. Still, this and his
QualComp numbers lend credence to the argument that Wideman is an offensive
player on the blueline whose defensive game is lacking.

I’d like to note that Engelland’s exceptional 5v4 pp/60
should be taken in context with his TOI5v4 of 0.15 – meaning he spent on
average 0.15 minutes on the powerplay per 60 minutes of the man-advantage. I
don’t expect he will become a fixture for the Flames on the powerplay with
Wideman, Giordano and Russell available, and highly doubt he was a stronger
powerplay performer in Pittsburgh than Niskanen, Letang, Maatta and Despres. I’ll
address possible power play and penalty killing units later in the series.

Summary

One glance at the QualComp or Corsi chart tells you
everything you need to know about the Flames’ defense. Remove either Brodie or
Giordano from the roster and the Flames could have been selecting Aaron Ekblad
1st overall this past June.

Corsi is still an incomplete tool for evaluating defensemen
as they are at the mercy of the forwards, but it provides some illustration as
to a defenseman’s play. The best defensemen, in my opinion, are the ones who
restrict the opposing forward’s access and time with the puck, be it through
retrieval and re-distribution or personal puck possession.

Merging 5v5 TOI with QualComp can tell you a great deal
about how a defenseman is perceived by his coach and the extent of his
abilities as a player. Coaches are typically risk-averse, especially when it
comes to their jobs, and nothing kills a coach faster than a lot of goals
against. So they tend to try and limit chances against which means defensemen
are sent out to play the best competition they can reasonably manage.

Using this method we could argue for occasional pairings
(home-ice situations, for instance) of putting Giordano with Russell and Brodie
with Wideman then pairing Smid with Engelland to face the easiest competition.
Either way, the defensive pairings are open and Hartley has some options to
tailor to his opposition.

I would suggest that the pairings for the coming season,
according to the estimated amount of time on ice for each, are likely to trend
towards Giordano and Brodie, followed by Russell and Wideman, and then Smid and
Engelland with Wotherspoon either in the press-box or on the bench as the 7th
defenseman.

The Flames need to improve their D. Badly. Giordano is
entering the latter stages of his career and aside from Brodie there is very
little on the horizon. The worst crime that this rebuild could commit right now
wouldn’t be trading Backlund for peanuts or screwing up the development of
Johnny Gaudreau, but wasting the career of a brilliant young blueliner like TJ
Brodie by failing to support him with a strong forward and defensive corps.
It’d be Iginla without a 1st line center all over again.

Points Projections

Here are my rough estimates on the defense.

gp sh% est. ppg hist. ppg est. pts.
Giordano 82 7.1 0.53 0.44 43
Brodie 82 4.1 0.32 0.46 26
Wideman 75 6 0.47 0.47 32
Engelland 75 5.7 0.14 0.19 11
Russell 70 5.2 0.35 0.29 25
Smid 76 3.6 0.11 0.13 8
Wotherspoon 30 0.5 0.15 0.19 (AHL) 5
Call ups 22 0.5 0.05 NA 1
512 4.09 151
45 goals

I’ve estimated 512 man games for the Flames defense with 22
games for injury call-ups and 30 where Wotherspoon draws in, due to injury or as
a seventh defenseman. The numbers are going to be highly fluid during the
season because, with all due respect to death and taxes, injuries on the
blueline are the only guarantees in hockey.

As the season progresses it will be important to hold on to
the PPG number. If Giordano only plays five games, but stays within the PPG
number during that time, then we can call it a successful prediction. If he
plays all 82 but only manages half or, cross your fingers, twice that and then
we’ll know we’re off.

I took approximately one third of the defensive points as
goals on the basis of each goal averages two assists. Different players have
differing ratios, but over the long term these tend to average out. Last season
the Flames managed 32 goals from the blueline, however, amongst the blueline
corps only Brodie managed to play anything near an entire season (81 games) and
a (nearly) full season from Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman and Mark Giordano
should help in this regard. The decline in Brodie’s PPG rate I’ve estimated is
mainly due to the fact that I have him playing tougher minutes this season as
Hartley tries to push Wideman into more favourable matchups and the loss of
Stempniak and Cammalleri as point converters who can play against strong
opposition alongside Brodie may impact his production.

The Flames defense can expect to be decent this season, with
Brodie and Giordano as the high points and some serviceable backups in Wideman,
Russell, Smid and Engelland. The future, however, is very bleak. Outside of
Wotherspoon and Sieloff the Flames are very thin on defensive prospects, and
given the high rate of attrition in this area during the developmental process,
the franchise is going to have to begin to pay strict attention to bolstering
their depth here in the 18 to 24 year-old category.

GOALIES

On to goaltending. Or as I like to call it in
analytical terms – hockey voodoo.

2010-2011 2011-2012 2013
gp sh/a spg sv% gp sh/a spg sv% gp sh/a spg sv%
Hiller 49 1493 30.4 92.4 73 2021 27.68 91 26 675 25.9 91.3

2013-2014 Averages
gp sh/a spg sv% avg gp avg sh/a avg spg avg sv%
Hiller 50 1349 26.9 91.1 50 1384 27.7 91.45
Ramo 40 1100 27.5 91.1 * * * *

Est.
Flames 2014-2015
est. gp est. sh/a est. shpg est. sv% est ga/game Last year
68 1944 28.5 91.2 2.5 2.9
14 401 28.6 90.5 2.7
90.85 2.6

Hiller helps the Flames. Probably a lot.

I’ve not listed averages for Ramo because he has only the
one recent NHL season upon which to draw. Hiller’s averages in shots faced,
save percentages relative to that shot rate, and games played mesh relatively
well with the situation I expect him to find with the Flames. For interest’s
sake I decided to look back at his defensive corps in a few of his years with
the Ducks and on some occasions they were no screaming hell, perhaps even
inferior to the Flames’ current group on some nights.

With the strong possession players the Flames have in
Backlund, Brodie and Giordano, two defenseman and a center, the player
positions most often responsible for sound defensive play, it is certainly
possible that Hiller replicates his 2010-2011 92.4 sv%. Ramo performed reasonably well last season,
all things considered, and in a backup role I think he could do just as well,
all the same I have reduced his sv% slightly just to err on the side of
caution.

I’ve estimated the average shots per game for this coming
season based on last season’s numbers, and with minimal changes to the defense
I think this is reasonable. You’ll notice that the goals against has come down
from 2.9 to an average of 2.6, but arguably closer to 2.5 if Hiller plays more
often in net.

That may seem insignificant, but recall how many one-goal
games the Flames played, and won, last season. Their possession numbers as a
team weren’t terrific, so they were getting very lucky on some nights. If the
GA comes down to two-and-a-half a game, that keeps the forwards in the game
longer, something a team with so many young players needs as the pace of the
game ebbs and flows.

Why the Sultans of Swing, you ask?

It’s a sad song with a great uptempo. The boys in the band are down, have trouble making ends meet, and spend more time picking up the pieces than laying them down. Some are phenomenal talents that will never be recognized while others are the lunch-bucket guys living a weekend dream. Nobody pays too much attention because “they don’t give a damn about a trumpet-playing band”. But when the lights go on and things start to click, those few moments when the music rolls through them and the band comes together, then it all seems worthwhile.

Giordano and Brodie are a helluva pair and the band won’t be together forever, so enjoy it while it lasts.

And it is Mark freaking’ Knopfler. If you can’t appreciate this man on the guitar then there’s just no saving you.

Next we’ll look at the forwards in much the same
manner.

  • beloch

    I had previously hoped the Flames would pick up a high quality 2nd pairing defender, but it looks like the opening day roster is now set. On the bright side, Wideman and Smid may both be better than their stats from last season indicate. Wideman was clearly not the same after his injury and Smid fell off a cliff compared to where he was the previous season, which is unusual for a player his age. Wideman in particular could be a solid second pairing defender if he returns to his previous form.

    • RexLibris

      Wideman may be a good 2nd pairing…I’m just not entirely certain about the “defender” part.

      😉

      Smid’s metrics suggest the Oilers dumped him at almost the exact right time – for a really low price, mind you. I’m not sure what to expect from him. His numbers were decent for awhile a few years back and he looked like he’d become a good shut-down guy, but then things just started to spiral downwards and he hasn’t recovered.

      For the Flames the ideal would be to have some sort of 2006 Jason Smith, Steve Staios combo, with a good puck-moving defenseman paired with a solid shut-down guy who could make a ten-foot pass to his partner and then hold the fort while the offensive sortie ran its course.

      Wideman is better than Staios was, but I’m not sold that either Smid or Engelland are the ideal “hold the fort” candidates for that to work.

  • SmellOfVictory

    My hope is that the Flames are all awesome and they end up just outside the playoffs, then win the draft lottery.

    My expectation is that they finish around 4th-7th overall. There always seems to be a small handful of teams who are worse, no matter how bad the Flames are.

  • Brownblazer

    I see both Russel and wideman as being the same kind of player. Good on the pp and breakout, suitable for the 2nd pairing – but they need to be paired with a strong “stay at home” (which both Smid and Engelland are not).

    We’ve got 2 # 4 dmen and 2 # 6dmen. Which I dont see working well together. I too had hoped for another dman with higher caliber than Engelland.

    • RexLibris

      Agreed.

      That is where the simultaneous “simplicity/conundrum” thing comes in for Hartley.

      Brodie and Giordano are a safety blanket for the team.

      After that though, it just doesn’t add up. I don’t know that the Flames have many options, either.

      I mean, ideally Wotherspoon emerges as a good shut-down 3rd pairing guy who can play with Russell or Wideman, but he’s unproven thus far and expecting that of him is unfair.

      Had a glance around the league and no quick-fix trades pop out either. Maybe something shakes loose on the waiver wire and the Flames can pick up a defenseman who balances things out a touch and they send Wotherspoon down until they can unload Smid.

  • RexLibris

    Dennis Wideman’s contract = facepalm. The goaltending is better, With Ramo and Hiller you have a 1A and 1B scenario or some may consider it a 2A and a 2B type of deal. The Flames were in 47 one goal games last year, but you probably not likely to see Ramo or Hiller get lit up for 4-5 goals as often as a guy like McBackup. BT has already said repeatedly he wants to address the needs on the blue line. However, it appears unclear whether the Flames brass is waiting for some contracts to expire, move some bodies out at the blueline or see first what they have in Wotherspoon. In any event, they are missing another shutdown top 4 pairing guy.

    • beloch

      Last season, the league average sv% was 0.914. Ramo and Hiller both had save percentages of 0.911.

      Hiller is very experienced in the league and has only turned in a worse season (0.910) once before. At his age he may be slowing down, and playing in front of the Flames may be more difficult than playing in front of the Ducks. At worst, he’s a better than average backup.

      Ramo had a rough introduction to the league and dug himself a hole early last season. However, even if you throw out his first 10 games he’d still have been below league average. Still, Ramo is younger than Hiller and there’s hope he might take a step forward next season. That would make him a legitimate NHL starter.

      Given that the Flames overall sv% was 0.899 (3rd worst in the league), the Hiller/Ramo tandem should be a huge upgrade.

      • RexLibris

        …playing in front of the Flames may be more difficult than playing in front of the Ducks…

        That’s what I thought going in as well. So out of curiosity I took a look at the Ducks defensive lineup during a couple of Hiller’s seasons there and to be honest, it was about as good as the Flames, although without a pair as dominant as Giordano and Brodie.

        The fly in the ointment is that while the game can be analyzed from a mathematical perspective, it doesn’t consistently behave according to mathematical formulae – which is to say, Brodie and Giordano will probably be great for Hiller’s save %.

        Unfortunately they can’t play 38 minutes a night and at some point Engelland and Smid are going to hit the ice, at which point at half-decent opposition could establish a cycle and unless Backlund can gain and retain possession to make up the difference, it will likely result in several chances against, perhaps a goal, and quite often a penalty (holding, hooking, slashing, etc) as Smid and Engelland both boast a horrendous Corsi numbers with disappointing Qualcomps to back it up.

        It will be those shifts, and the occasional Wideman gaffe, where Hiller will earn his money.

        Like I say in the article. Hiller helps the Flames.

        A lot.

  • RexLibris

    So a question I would ask is as good as Gio and Brodie are together is there any chance you break them up and have them play with say Wides and Russell giving you 2 sound pairings. I’m not sure I would do it but it might be something to ponder.

    Can Brodie help Wides underlying numbers without hurting his own? And the same for Gio and Russell?

    • RexLibris

      The question then becomes who takes on the heavies? Who gets the defensive starts?

      And also, that puts Smid and Engelland on the same pair which… no.

      I think Giordano and Brodie help the team (specifically the rest of the defense) more by staying together and taking essentially all of the hard shifts.

    • piscera.infada

      I wouldn’t do it, no (for the reasons Baalzamon stated above – you beat me to it). But, looking back to the lockout shortened season, Wideman played his best hockey as a Flame when playing alongside Brodie. I actually believe Wideman helped Brodie grow as a defender that year – we saw him (Brodie) start carrying the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, as opposed to just dumping it in. This was something Wideman brought to the team in that first season, he was also the most proficient at it at that time.

      So, I know, while we all like to make Wideman a goat for last season. I totally, 100%, believe he helped Brodie become more confident with the puck, and thus a better player.

      • seve927

        That’s why I thought Fayne would have been a perfect addition here. He could have played on the top pairing, and been carried by Gio. Brodie could have carried Wideman on the second pairing. Then you actually have depth guys on the third pairing like you should.

        And I agree about Wideman bringing Brodie along.

        On a separate note, some kind soul has provided this prospect calendar: “Flames prospect schedule”.

      • piscera.infada

        If wides helped Brodie two years ago might it now be time to see if Brodie could help Spoon?(probably a year or two to early) You could still play Gio and Brodie together in tough situations.

        I would have no problem if for a few games in exhibition to see spoon with Brodie, Gio with Russell, and Wides with Smid/Eng’s. I doubt I would go into the season that way but the exhibition season would work.

        By the way whoever put together the prosepcts calendar thank you, it’s awesome, any way it could be added to the website for easy access?

    • RexLibris

      Perhaps, but looking over the remaining UFAs and then glancing at some rosters, I’m not seeing many options available other than a trade.

      I had a discussion the other day about what could happen if Kevin Hayes signed with Boston and who might be able to take on some cap space from them, so perhaps Boychuk for Wotherspoon and a 4th round pick? He’d be a much better option than Engelland or Smid for a shutdown role and you could then pair Giordano with Boychuk, Brodie with Wideman and Russell with Engelland and have Smid as your 7th.

      That’s a longshot deal scenario, but maybe something like that becomes a possibility as training camps roll on.

      • RexLibris

        Boychuk would be a very short-term solution though. He’s less than a year younger than Wideman, and only a handful of months younger than Giordano. It would make them better now, sure, but to what end? TJ Brodie is still all by himself in like five years.

        And now the Flames don’t have Woz.

        • RexLibris

          TJ Brodie is still all by himself in like five years.

          It looks that way right now.

          I was honestly expecting Burke to arrange a trade for Jake Gardiner this summer, until he re-signed in Toronto.

          Recall the constant refrain from critics about the Oilers’ drafting going back to 2011 when they took Nugent-Hopkins. People were saying that they ought to have taken Adam Larsson because the team needed defenders so badly, etc.

          While those critics were completely wrong about whom the Oilers should select (Nugent-Hopkins was the right call), they were correct in that defensive prospects take longer to mature than forwards.

          The Flames have Sieloff and Wotherspoon as defensive prospects of note – I’m not personally too impressed with Kanzig or Rafikov – and that simply isn’t enough.

          A lot of other pieces are falling into place by way of Gillies and Ortio, the LW side and center, but the RW side is going to take some experimenting and the defense is a black hole in four years outside of one astounding player, contract negotiations notwithstanding.

          If this is going to be fixed it’ll have to be by trade or free agency, drafting isn’t going to solve anything fast enough.

          How about Justin Schultz for Mikael Backlund?

          Just kidding.

          Kind of.

          • Parallex

            It’s a concern to be sure. The way I see it the Flames have a fair number of guys who could be bottom-pairing defenders (that’s Wotherspoon, Kulak, Sieloff, Hickey types)… So that takes care of the bottom pairing (and bottom pairing guys aren’t that expensive) and Brodie takes a top 4 spot… uhg, we’ll need 3 top 4 defenders.

          • piscera.infada

            To be fair, we aren’t sure exactly what a player like Hickey will be. He could just as easily turn into a top-4 guy with his skating (he looked pretty good at dev. camp), or he could turn into a nothing prospect. Unfortunately he’s at least three years out from even signing a contract, but I would say we can’t make any definitive statements on where he may be on a depth chart until he’s played two-ish full NCAA season. That is the inherent issue with that pick – he’s not close enough. I still think that if he works out, he’ll be more than a bottom-2.

          • RexLibris

            As for Wotherspoon, I don’t think it’s common for a defenseman to play games in the NHL as a 20-year-old if his ceiling is as a third pair guy. Even Brodie only played 3 games in his first pro season.

            That isn’t to say that I think Wotherspoon WILL be a 2nd pair guy, just that I think there’s more there than a bottom two player.

            Kulak as well should be considered a potential 2nd pair guy. But I’m not surprised he isn’t because basically no one ever notices how good a prospect he is anyway.

          • piscera.infada

            Completely agree. There’s definitely some players there, but there’s also definitely the need for some more good to great quality defensive prospects/young players.

  • seve927

    Here is my hope for the Flames this upcoming season and most hockey fans will not agree other than the very astute strategic fans that look at the big picture…..

    Give ample opportunity to the college players (22-24 yr old) initially to confirm NHL potential. As they are older decisions will need to be made quickly and move on as appropriate.

    Selectively develop your top young prospects by providing plenty of ice at both the AHL and NHL levels including support from the veterans. Get these kids prepared for the future but also build there confidence in regards with who they play with and the amount of ice time given.

    The focus during the 2014/15 season is on development of players and aligning the organization with the goals of 2015 and beyond.

    Here is the clincher…if the above development focus is done properly and the Flames finish 30th overall with the addition of either McDavid or Eichel the necessary pieces will be in place to ensure success including the playoffs for the next 10+ years!

  • Captain Ron

    Love that tune from Dire Straits. The guitar solo from Knopfler at the end of the song is one of my all time fave’s.

    This certainly puts our defense in perspective. Big problems if Brodie and Geo are both lost to injury at any point in the season.

  • Captain Ron

    My house was broken into this past Sunday and my Calgary Flames hockey card collection (and associated memorabilia) was stolen. There were over 1000 Flames cards in two black binders, with almost 300 individual players in Flames uniforms (with about 40 signed cards). If anyone comes across this material, assuming they have not been broken up, please report!

  • seve927

    I’m sure most people were expecting Brodie to be a bottom pairing guy too. I’m eager to see Wotherspoon and Kulak get some minutes before we decide what their ceiling will be.