Five things: Actual moves?

1. The new guy

That thing we’ve been saying all summer about the Flames’ right wing depth being up to one’s ankles in a best-case scenario was made a little bit more comfortable over the past week with the addition of Devin Setoguchi to the lineup.

On the one hand, it’s a fairly solid move from a team that needed depth down the right side and the kind of move that a smart team makes. Here’s a guy who’s a former No. 8 overall pick — for whatever that’s worth, which is, perhaps, nothing — and whose numbers last year in yet another lost season for Winnipeg were, to be kind, underwhelming. He had just 11 goals and 16 assists in 75 games, matching his point total from 48 in the lockout-shortened season. Getting him at one year and $750,000 is the definition of buying low.

That’s especially true because the underlying numbers scream that he was extremely unlucky. His on-ice even-strength shooting percentage last season was just 5.4. Expecting a rebound there should make him a far more valuable player, especially because he is, for better or worse, the Flames’ No. 2 right wing option. That shooting percentage was the worst among the eight Jets forwards to get 500-plus ES minutes last season, and his PDO of 97.8 was as well. 

But if you shoot that poorly and your PDO is only 97.8, that means the goalies were really good behind you, which is saying something if you’re the frickin’ Jets. His on-ice save percentage of .924 was tops among those forwards, and normally I’d say you can’t expect that to be repeated, but it’s right in line with his career on-ice number (.925) and this is a guy with 459 career games played, so I’m inclined to believe it’s not a fluke.

He’s not going to score 30 goals, but his possession case is curious. Several of the players he played with most often (Olli Jokinen, Dustin Byfuglien, and Evander Kane out of his top five) posted better numbers with him than without him, but Setoguchi apart from them always suffered more. These are really bizarre WOWYs.

So I guess the question is what you can expect from him. Given the role (i.e. better linemates, more ice time) he’s likely to get thanks to all the kids on the team, plus some regression to the mean, I think he’s a potential 20-goal guy if he can stay healthy, and will probably be able to crack 40 points as well.

Of course, as this signing is a move which makes the Flames better in a season with Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid up for grabs, I cannot endorse it in this instance.

2. Bouma re-signed

As I was writing this, it was announced Lance Bouma got a one-year deal with the Flames that should have prompted many to ask, “What was the hold-up?” As of this writing, therefore, I do not have the money details in front of me, but I think I’m safe in assuming it falls well into the “$1 million or less” range. And because this is a team that’s likely to spend the season dead last in cap obligations barring some shock mid-season trade to bring on a crap contract in exchange for picks, prospects or both, it really doesn’t matter.

Bouma is a player about whom I’m largely ambivalent, because I don’t think he’s bad or anything, but when his main selling point in the team press release leans heavily on the terms “shot-blocking” and “hits leader,” I’m not exactly going to be enthused about his game. He also kills penalties, which is of value. You need guys like that, I guess, and maybe the Flames don’t have enough of them to be “tough to play against” or whatever, but like, this is just the kind of housekeeping contract we all expected.

No one, I shouldn’t think, wanted Bouma long-term or anything like that. If you can get a Setoguchi in August for $750,000, then players of Bouma’s type — third-line “gritty” wings at best — are pretty much as dime-a-dozen as you’re going to get in this league.

3. That has to be it

While you’d have to say that the Setoguchi signing came a little bit out of left field, and the Bouma move was to be expected, this has to officially be the 2014-15 Calgary Flames in all their, ahem, glory.

I really don’t know what I think about this team, other than the obvious statement: It’s not good. I saw over the weekend that Pike asked if people were optimistic about the team’s chances this season, and the overwhelming response was that fans thought this team could improve. I think next week I’m going to really dig into the numbers and things to find out if I feel the same way, but as it stands right now, I think I believe they’ve treaded water overall.

But as I said, I’m not sure we can rule out the team taking on someone’s bad contract — Sergei Gonchar, maybe, or Mike Green if the rumors out of Washington are to be believed — if the pot is sufficiently sweetened, and that would certainly be something to consider, because a bad contract is almost always given to a veteran of some name recognition. I’m not sure I’d trust this team to not-play that guy in a prominent role given the whole “Do we want to pay a fifth defenseman $5 million?” thing, since they’re already essentially doing that with Ladislav Smid and there’s no name recognition there at all.

4. Or is anyone left?

There’s also the possibility that they might add just one more veteran to the mix, even if it’s on the kind of camp tryout deal Simon Gagne recently got in Boston.

The pickings at this point in the summer are now officially quite slim, as you might imagine. There are a few names I’d say qualify as being someone an NHL team might realize is useful, such as Dustin Penner (who’s actually useful) or Scott Gomez (less so) or George Parros (not at all). 

The thing is, though, I don’t see too many people the Flames actually have room for on that list. The right wings drop off a cliff after Daniel Alfredsson (who’s signing in Detroit). As for defensemen, Jamie McBain might be the best one available, which tells you everything.

I wouldn’t put it past the Flames to sign Douglas Murray, though. That’s a very Flames thing to do.

5. Sorry kids 🙁

The practical upshot of the Setoguchi signing, and any subsequent additions made to the team over the coming months, though, is that the youth movement is slowed down slightly, and all that stuff I just wrote over the last month about “[Insert prospect name] could get shifted from the left to the right to fill out a spot” is now moved down one slot in the rotation. Which is all well and good, and ultimately doesn’t matter much, in all probability.

Tough break for the prospects, though. This is a team that really should be worried about developing talent at the NHL level, and while I’d say that getting prime minutes in the AHL is better than fourth-lining it in the bigs, they gotta feel a little hard done by vis a vis the difference in salary and lifestyle. Several hundred grand per year and flying private is, I’d think, better than an upper-middle management salary and eight hour bus rides to Portland. But that’s the life you choose, and hockey is always going to defer to guys quote-unquote paying their dues.

(And again, Setoguchi in the lineup instead of, say, Ben Hanowski, makes this team better. This year especially, the team being better is bad.)

  • PrairieStew

    1. Setoguchi’s career numbers nearly identical to Curtis GLencross’ – and he is 4 years younger. Would not be surprised to see Seto outscore Curtis. You know that dollars to points ratio will be cheaper.

    2. One full season under his belt – after one lost to a knee injury. I think there is more there than just a 5 goal PK specialist. Call me a Bouma booster.

    3.Even money says they add a defenseman in some way. One injury away from both Smid and Engelland being on the second pair (shudder)

    4. Raphael Diaz ? Carlo Colaiacovo?

    5. Adirondack might be a pretty impressive group, at forward and in goal at least.

      • PrairieStew

        Sieloff hasn’t proven he can play in the AHL yet – let alone the NHL. At least Cundari and Acolatse have proven to be AHL regulars and you would likely see them before Sieloff. Spoon may make the team by default, but he got owned pretty badly in his short time with the big club. Defence is the team’s biggest weakness today and in the immediate future.

        • I may have spoken too soon when mentioning Wotherspoon and Sieloff, I forgot about the other two. The callup list for defenceman is definitely Wotherspoon at #1, followed by Cundari at #2 (I thought he went to the KHL). Depending on Sieloff’s injury status (unfair to say that he hasn’t proven he can play when he was injured), I think that he is #3 followed by Acolatse. The organization is very optimistic about Sieloff, so that’s why I figure that he will see a rise up the org chart.

          • PrairieStew

            It is not unfair to say Sieloff hasn’t proven himself – that’s a completely fair statement. He was injured, hasn’t played so no one knows whether he can play or not. It might be unfair to say get rid of him because he hasn’t proven himself, because the injury has prevented him so far from doing so. It is also unrealistic to project on him high status within the organization just because of his draft position, size and apparent skill set. My expectations for this player pretty low – if he can take a regular turn in the AHL this year and do so without injury – then that’s good.

            It was Billins that went to the KHL – the other small veteran AHLer !

  • PrairieStew

    I was thinking Cory Sarich.. but I guess he had a bad accident recently. If they were looking at a trade, I think Cody Franson would look good in a Flames jersey.

  • If Devin got 20 goals and 40 points I would be pretty happy. What would make more happy is to see an upward progression from Baertschi, Gaudreau and Monahan. A 9 game audition from Sam Bennett to see his Doug Gilmour compete level. At some point I would like to see Wotherspoon in the lineup too. I’m all for getting McDavid and Eichel but would rather it happen from a hard competing team than just tanking. Tanking due to lack of skill level and compete is different than tanking from not trying at all. BT was on the radio about Bouma, the holdup appeared to be term they were working on one year deals then deal scenarios more than one year.

  • BT yesterday said the Flames may be looking to add some depth on defence with NHL experience. Unless Spoon can be the 5th/6th defenceman he is better of being in the AHL. Sieloff played 2 games last year and will need some time to find his game. For me either Cundari or Acolatse wins the 7th position unless a vet is brought in, This would leave a rather young defence group in the AHL say: Cundai is number 7 leaving Acolatse, Wspoon,Sieloff, Ramage, Culkan and Kulak and as far as I know no one else. I believe they invited 1 defender from development camp as well as Kanzig and Roy they do not have a lot of options. I suspect they will either invite an older NHL vet on a PTO or a couple of AHL vets to add to their depth. Who they may be I have no idea.

  • KH44

    Hopefully this is it, hopefully the Flames tread water. I would love to see decent seasons from Glencross, Setoguchi, anyone we can jettison for a draft pick return, a la stempniak, berra. A great way to continue to stock the system even as the team improves is to have as many draft picks as possible, even third and fourth rounders, just to improve the odds. With any luck, the Flames can still tank (the defence, after Gio and Brodie, is still atrocious) develop some talent and pick up one of the top two (though the defenders going 3rd and 4th wouldn’t be the worse thing to happen to the Flames). Picking up a salary dump, for the right return, sounds awesome, provided they aren’t good enough to turn anything around. Gonchar and Green sound good, Lecavalier is signed for too many years, but if the return is high enough, he could play for a couple and then be stuffed in the minors for the last couple, if the Flames are willing to eat that money. The Cam Ward deal that was rumored could even be revisited, though that would need a solid sweetener and create a goaltending issue. Maybe trade Ramo, and keep Ortio in the AHL next year too? I don’t know. As long as the Flames continue to collect assets, shed old/unimportant contracts and develop players, the rebuild will go well this season.

  • KH44

    “Sorry kids..Tough break for the kids”…cannot agree with you on this.

    Having young kids develop in the NHL is risky especially if they are not ready! They lose confidence and then you have a huge problem. Error on the side of AHL development! Bring them up strategically based on performance and development.

    • FlamesRule

      I agree with you that “if they are not ready” but what if they are ready? The only way to determine this is by testing them and giving them opportunity; that does not mean throwing them to the wolves or having the mine set that they will play 82 games at the NHL but at some point they need to have an extended stay in the NHL to help their development and allow the club to properly assess them. For me Johnny, Sven and Granlund are very close to that point but only if they earn it. Also who is to say the Guchi, Byron,Bouma, Colborne or even McG will have better camps than the prospects and should they have a job just because they were NHLer’s last year.The argument that more time the AHLhas validity but if you keep fruit to long on the tree because you want it to ripen just right you lose a lot of good fruit.

      • piscera.infada

        You miss the point though, holes on the roster to start the season beget even more holes during the season through injuries, trade, poor play, personal issues, etc. This is the argument I can’t stand. It’s perfectly fine to leave one roster spot open for a prospect to win. Anything more though, and you’re taking on unnecessary risk.

        Let’s say you have two forward spots open for a prospect, so you start with the two best performing prospects on your depth chart (let’s say ‘A’ and ‘B’). ‘A’ plays well enough to cement a spot, but ‘B’ falters and proves he’s not ready for a prolonged stretch in the NHL, so now you have to call up ‘C’ and hope that even though he’s proven less in the AHL/NHL than ‘B’ he’ll out perform him. At the same time, you have an injury to a veteran (say, Glencross). Now you’re likely calling up ‘B’ again or you move down your depth chart again to ‘D’ (who again, has proven less than both ‘B’ and now ‘C’). Then Wideman/Hudler/Stajan/Jones/Raymond goes down…

        Roster building is just as much about mitigating risk. No one’s saying these prospects aren’t ready to compete. Likewise, no one’s saying they shouldn’t/won’t get an opportunity. The Flames only real depth (in case of injuries, trades, roster moves, etc.) are the prospects – it’s not like there’s a 4 or 5 veteran “buffer” between them and the NHL roster. As such, do you really want to push your already inexperienced depth even further up the depth chart? Maybe you do, it just seems unsustainable to me.

        That also says nothing of the merits of creating a winning AHL program.

        • Avalain

          Honestly, I think you’re missing the point. From the point of view of the player, this is a disappointing acquisition. Creating a winning AHL program or mitigating risk are very real issues that you have to deal with as a GM, but a prospect just wants to play. The pay increase and prestige of making it into the NHL is huge. They’ve been working their whole life to make it, and to have one more bump in the road to making it to the NHL is disappointing. Is it the best for the team? Sure. Is it the best for the player in the long term? Possibly yes. But none of that takes away from the disappointment of seeing your goal get pushed just that little bit further away.

          • piscera.infada

            When attempting to create a winning organization, and one that wins consistently, the feelings of a prospect should have very little bearing on the direction of the franchise. Their performance matters of course, but that can be fleshed out through roster moves.

            Sam Bennett wants to make the team this year. He’s a fourth overall pick. Should we create a hole in the professional line-up so he’s not disappointed? Obviously not – he’s not ready. That goes for any other prospect (even Gaudreau, Baertschi, Knight, and Granlund) – they’ve all proven themselves to a limited extent. They all have the opportunity prove themselves in training camp, pre-season, and the AHL, it’s not like Setoguchi is on an un-press-box-able contract, ditto for Raymond, Bouma, Byron, McGratton.

            I understand that young players want to make the team, I very much do. I also want young players to make the team. I do however, understand that rolling into an 82-game season in the best hockey league in the world with holes in your roster plugged up by rookies and prospects, is asking for trouble – regardless of whether you’re rebuilding or not. If these prospects belong in the NHL (as believe both Baertschi and Gaudreau do this season) they’ll end up there for the betterment of the franchise.

          • PrairieStew

            Good post. I am in the deep down disappointment with the Seto signing but your post before said it in a nutshell. Injuries ravage the majority of NHL teams & depth is huge. Injuries seem to go through streaks like a goal scorer, you can get a run of 4-5 games where guys are going down in every game. It’s not like the Flames brought in a couple of high priced long term contract forwards that are going to slam the door shut on opportunity or performance merit & these kids are not that stupid to know the difference. I think our veteran depth is as thin as you get in the NHL, but then we have a glut of 20-21-22 year olds that are lined up waiting for their chance, so it makes sense to go into this year this way.

          • PrairieStew

            Completely bang on – spots must be earned.

            Add to that is the question of are you really trying to be better this year. Granted Gaudreau might score more often than Setoguchi, but will he be defensively as sound ? What is the net of that equation ? Even if it is better – by how much ? Does it get us in to the playoffs this year ?

            To me you proceed on the assumption that as long as you are in the bottom third of the league – you play the veterans until the young guys prove they can provide a significant net upgrade to those veterans. Gaudreau just turned 21 2 weeks ago – it is not going to hamper his development to play in the AHL – a far better league than NCAA – for a good portion of the season. If he proves he can stand the increased physicality and speed and he scores at a point per game clip then by all means bring him up. I doubt he has ever had to worry about defending much – since he always has had the puck – he will need to learn that side as well – why not do it at the AHL level first ?

        • piscera.infada

          It’s not that I am missing your point it’s that I don’t agree with your conclusions. If you had only 1 or 2 two prospects that were close then your argument holds water but we have 3 that are very close and another 3 not that much further behind. Roster building in a rebuild should not be about mitigating risk but developing and assessing talent. A player who ready to play in the NHL cannnot be assessed in a 2 -5 game window becasue of injuries but needs more like 10-15 window to prove themselves. These top prospects with the exception of Bennett are all 21 or older and need to be seen at the next level. I’m not saying that I expect any of them except maybe Johnny because he is a different bird to play 60-70 NHL games but if we can see guys like Granlund for several extended periods we will have a much better understanding of where they are and what this team still needs to do.

  • FlamesRule

    Loubardias – sucks
    Hrudey – sucks
    Ball – a former Canucks announcer? !
    What is it with this bunch, didn’t loubardias call oilers games before he came to rape our eardrums? Let’s get these guys in that cheered against us to call our games. Yeah really fun.
    Not happy with this garbage and Half the time hrudey sounds like he had a vendetta against calgary.
    Almost like every time he had to play us he spent 30 minutes digging the puck out..hmmm

  • FlamesRule

    I disagree with the kids not having an opportunity to play. There will be injuries throughout the year, and plenty of call-ups. I also have to believe that any of the rookies can play themselves on this team. What the flames don’t want to do is throw all these rookies to the wolves (which is what I feel Edmonton did). If they can be brought in and sheltered properly, they can develop both skill and confidence at this level. Also, if Raymond can continue what he did last year, and Setoguchi can find his game again, there are two potential pieces to move at the deadline, and get something for nothing.