Five things: Getting closer

1. Further D-velopments

So in the last week, the picture for the Calgary Flames on defense has either changed a lot, or not really very much at all, depending upon how you choose to look at it.

In this space last week I took a look at what Sheldon Brookbank could potentially provide to the team on the basis of his receiving a camp tryout contract with the club as well as what another defenseman (Jamie McBain) might be able to provide instead of, or in addition to, the former Blackhawk. The team has since gone out and added to more defensemen to the mix, one on a two-way deal and the other on another tryout basis.

(What’s interesting about the two tryouts is that Brad Treliving was asked this week whether there were any more such deals in the offing, and his answer was basically, “Not right now.” Which isn’t to say the team is done, but that it’s potentially considering more options. Or, put another way, more players might be considering such an offer from Calgary.)

Needless to say, this has the potential to change things considerably for the team, because that’s as many as three veteran D being added to the club in one capacity or another, at least for the remainder of camp.

2. The Potter contract

Of the three moves to address the blue line, the decision to give Corey Potter a two-way, for-sure deal is maybe the one that makes the least sense.

With all the remaining free agents almost entirely getting tryout offers from clubs these days (I think Steve Eminger signing a two-way with Boston is the only other exception), it’s difficult to imagine why Calgary moved to lock up Potter — whose numbers last year were not good basically across the board — is strange.

He had no goals and five assists in just 19 games played for Edmonton and Boston, and only averaged 13:46 a night. That means he’s a bottom-pairing, no offense defenseman, playing some pretty easy minutes. With Edmonton he faced some of the weakest competition the team could find him, and got the easiest zone starts of anyone on the team.

I’m not sure, therefore, why that’s worthy of an actual contract of any kind, even if it’s a two-way deal. Potter might be valuable on the farm in terms of providing “veteran leadership,” or other whatever hokum you can come up with, but in terms of helping the club as a No. 6 or 7 defenseman, you have to think there are much better options out there. The guy has just 111 games of experience at the NHL level despite being 30 years old, and is hurt kind of a lot (TSN lists him as having missed 24 games last season alone with separate groin, neck, and back injuries). That doesn’t include four other injuries of varying severity over the last four years — and potentially more because TSN can’t track AHL injuries — that caused him to miss time.

Since 2006-07, he’s racked up 327 AHL games, though, and has 140 points in those. There’s AHL value here, plus the cover when in need of a call-up, but not much else.

3. The Diaz invite

This is a different kettle of fish entirely. Last week, in talking about McBain potentially coming aboard, I threw out the idea that they’d actually invite Diaz instead because I figured he wasn’t a fit. He’s generously listed at 5-foot-11, and I’d bet that 200 or so pounds probably isn’t totally accurate either. 

Because of his size, he also doesn’t play what most people would call purely physical hockey, which is what I’d have thought the Flames would want from their bottom-pairing defenseman. I say bottom-pairing not because that’s what I think Diaz necessarily is, but because the Flames’ blue line actually isn’t that bad, and that’s what he’d probably end up being on this club. 

He doesn’t supplant the TJ Brodies, Mark Giordanos, or Dennis Widemans of the world, and Kris Russell’s role as the No. 4 is probably pretty safe as well. You further don’t bring in prospective second-pairing guys on tryout deals; you just sign them. That’s not to say this can’t or shouldn’t happen, because Florida ended up getting a No. 2 D-man when Edmonton let Tom Gilbert walk, and they were probably very happy with that result. That’s not, however, what’s going to happen here.

I’m of the opinion that most teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season could use a Diaz-type player, who moves the puck, excels at entering the zone, and can put up points when used in the proper situations. Like Potter, Diaz didn’t face the toughest competition last season, but unlike Potter, he was actually pretty good at bossing them around. That’s what you want out of a No. 6 guy, is it not?

This is a move that’s basically unassailable.

4. The potential fallout

But what all this means for the team is very strange.

That’s three veterans brought in to compete for the No. 6 and 7 spots — assuming the top four I mentioned earlier aren’t going anywhere, and that the newly signed Deryk Engelland is under no threat of losing his position —along with Ladislav Smid (whose contract is likely too big to be buried in the minors, both because of the cost and the benefit he serves the team’s getting to the cap floor with his huge hit) and Tyler Wotherspoon.

In general, I’d err on the side of the “if we’re accepting the team being really bad this year, why not give the kids a run-out?” argument in this case, which is why I’d tell Brookbank to take a hike after camp and keep Potter stashed in the minors until Wideman gets hurt again. But when you consider Diaz is a relatively young guy and can serve as a stopgap until Wotherspoon or perhaps Patrick Sieloff can get to the bigs and actually be ready for it, I don’t see the harm in that. If nothing else, that means Wotherspoon gets more prime minutes in the AHL, playing guys who can actually put the puck in the net; I’m not sure there’s much difference between the average fourth-line NHL guy and the prime AHL scorers, except for the roles they play. So if you can get a bunch of minutes against players that are more or less equivalent, that’s better for development. Stands to reason.

So if we think Wotherspoon is out of the picture for a role with the big club — and I’d say two tryouts and an AHL deal to NHL veterans indicate that’s exactly what he is — then that’s four guys fighting for two spots. The two they end up picking between Smid, Diaz, Brookbank, and Potter is going to tell us what this team really values in its bottom-pairing defensemen, and potentially its organizational philosophy overall.

5. Two quick questions

I got the email this morning so I figured now is as good a time as any to ask here: What do you want to know about the Flames prospects playing in Hockey East this season (Mark Jankowski, Jon Gillies, and John Gilmour at Providence College, and Brandon Hickey at Boston University) from the upcoming media day availability on Sept. 19? If your questions are any good I will try to remember to ask them of both the players and their coaches.

Along the same lines, how much coverage of Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin, who are also going to be playing college hockey in Boston this year (at BU and Boston College, respectively), and are likely to be very high picks in this coming season’s draft? Figured I’d inquire about the interest among readers, just because the Flames are going to be awful this season, and these are two potential draft targets for the club.

  • MonsterPod

    If Jack Eichel is not available, go Hanifin. Eichel seems better suited to the flames then McDavid, and both are generational talents. IF both are gone, Hanifin is a fantastic consolation prize.

  • MonsterPod

    There will likely be lots of coverage of McDavid, Eichel, and Hanifin this year. If Hartley has these guys grinding again, let’s throw a dart and say Calgary picks 5th.

    The organization needs a dman, and I know they say they pick the best player available, but we don’t need another LW. How about some coverage on the second best dman in the draft after Hanifin.

    • piscera.infada

      That second best defenseman (by all indications) is Kylington. He plays in Sweden, so coverage on him will be sparse. I like what I hear about him though. The only issue I have is both top-2 defense prospects shoot left, whereas a few of the top forward prospects are listed centre, but shoot right (Eichel, Barzal [whom, I’m a big, big fan of]).

      • Matty Franchise Jr

        It’s true that Hanifin and Kylington are both lefties (IMO irrelevant, since Brodie has been playing on the right side for about 4/5 years now), but Rasmus Andersson (another excellent Swedish prospect) is a righty.

        • piscera.infada

          Agree that with prospects for their ilk it’s irrelevant, but I’m not sure the popular refrain from Flames fans (and fans league-wide) about the shortage of right shooting d-men is without merit. I was merely stating that if either were right-shot defensemen, they’d make for the perfect draft pick.

          To reiterate what I said last year at this time (re: Ekblad), I’ll be very happy with one of Kylington, Hanifin, or Barzal as I refuse to get my hopes “up” (or “down”, or whatever) about McDavid/Eichel. History has pretty well proven that you have to either be a complete dumpster fire or (literally, in this case) win the lottery to pick in the top-2. I’m not sure the Flames are that bad, or if I even want them to be that bad – I get it, short-term pain for long-term gain, but meh.

          Thanks for the heads up on Andersson, by the way. Time to do some research.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    “If your questions are any good I will try to remember to ask them of both the players and their coaches.”

    Lulz. Do you mean you will ask journalists to ask them on your/our behalf?

    Crowdsourcing job duties. This is all just passive income isn’t it?

    • I don’t mean that. I covered about 75 college games last season, talked to players and coaches after all of em. Roughly one-third of them involved either Boston College or Providence (the teams with all the Flames prospects).

      Thank you, however, for your concern on this issue.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        not concerned about your issues. just how you state that if our questions are any good …

        you think you’re smarter than people and when someone points this out you get defensive about your privilege to sound like a jerk. classic. i bet you love the nfl team in washington too.

        my guess is, you write these columns about 15 min before deadline and this is how you get to watch 75 college games. by mailing it in.

        Thank you, we know you’ll come again.

          • Jeff Lebowski

            based on previous articles its hard to tell what you think is funny.

            one could easily look up your previous articles on how wrong people are about everything…especially how it pretains to the future ie sean monahan.

            at some point, even you must agree, that people don’t take kindly to having their intelligence questioned.

            it’s proper for you to criticize the flames etc but as soon as someone does the exact same thing to you (using identical criteria ie opinion) it is somehow my problem and not (correctly) yours.

            zut alors!

          • Avalain

            I didn’t really get any joking “feel” from that either. I think you may deadpan just a bit too well.

            That being said, I don’t see why you should bother asking inane questions just because someone posted it. But hey, how about you ask the coach “What did you eat for breakfast this morning?”

        • Avalain

          Ok, I understand that not everyone agrees with Lambert all the time, but where is this anger coming from? You can argue that you don’t agree with him, but his articles generally have more content than most of the posts on here. I find that every post he makes has been thought out even if I do disagree with them.

          From what I can tell, you have a problem with him saying that he’ll only ask the questions if they are any good. So why not say that? What does that have anything to do with mailing it in, NFL teams, or crowdsourcing content?

          • Why is it so easy to get you going? I know you’ve read enough of Lambert’s stuff to know that he has a sarcastic, antagonistic approach to his writing.

            Why get up in arms about a joke which is part of a post that by all measures is one of Lambert’s more ‘politically correct’ 5 Things.

          • Jeff Lebowski

            “I know you’ve read enough of Lambert’s stuff to know that he has a sarcastic, antagonistic approach to his writing.”

            Very true. But I think one could easily surmise the above quote with: he’s intentionally being an a-hole.

            Is the proper response to accept the antagonism with a “That’s so Lambert”?

            So to answer your question, a holes get me going so easily. they’re everywhere.

            I get it. Certain styles get cliques err clicks. I dealt with it in my own special way.

            -have you ever seen written in this column “I might be wrong”?

            Especially with events that are to occur in the future. Its absurd to think you know the future and idiotic to write that anyone who doesn’t agree with his swami like prognostication is stupid.

            He can write what he wants but I can reply to it too, even if like minded people to him don’t like it.

            He pontificates, I pontificate. What’s the problem?

          • Very true. But I think one could easily surmise the above quote with: he’s intentionally being an a-hole.

            Is the proper response to accept the antagonism with a “That’s so Lambert”?

            Ya, that is almost exactly the response that I have, perhaps with a chuckle along with it…

          • Jeff Lebowski

            This is the best you can come up with? No wit, no logic just childish taunts.

            Can’t you do better? Do you need to read up first?

            Take your time. I’ll wait.

          • Jeff Lebowski

            yep, can tell by the responses to my post from people i wasn’t replying to. i can see the logic:

            i was replying to one person (lambert), then other people (not named lambert) started interjecting by replying to me. i answered their posts. and now more people, who purportedly don’t care, continue to reply to my post even though i didn’t know they existed until they interjected themselves.

            understand perfectly. no ONE cares.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The Diaz tryout is interesting. Since 2011 he’s seen a 47% Zone start, about 14 minutes of ice time per game and still managed a Corsi of 48 – 49%. That’s not terrible and he might be a decent bottom pair guy.

    I favour a guy like this on a short contract (1 – 2 years), as I’d rather see Wotherspoon and Sieloff get more TOI with the baby Flames.

    • MonsterPod

      The problem with Corsi and dmen, in my opinion, is it always seems the small dmen have a good Corsi. Of course they do. A guy like Russell must have some mad skills or a guy his size would not be playing in the NHL.

      If we’re talking 5-6 guys, I see other teams rotating big plugs because they’re big. LA had some injuries in the playoffs. Regher went down replaced by Green. Green went down replaced by 6’7″ Jeff Schultz. They didn’t pull up a Diaz-like player because they already had Martinez in that pairing.

      Intimidation plays a role in this game so we shouldn’t groan and toss guys like Smid just because his Corsi may stink. Obviously Wideman is skilled, but a Wideman/Russell pairing is scaring nobody.

      To wit: Brookbank, Potter, Engelland, Diaz. Corsi may not determine which of these guys plays.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Very interested to get more coverage on Eichel and Hannifin. Particularly any information that goes beyond what we will get from most of the scouting reports. Ie. what kind of leaders and teammates are they? How do they perform in high-pressure situations? How open would they be to play in Western Canada? Do they want to stay in college for a number of years?

  • Jeff Lebowski

    The impression I’m getting is Potter and Wotherspoon will be in the AHL. Wotherspoon needs big minutes and Potter provides some much needed veteran prescence that was lost with the departures of Billins, Smith etc.

    Smid will be on the team so we have 6 NHL dman set. Diaz and Brookbank will compete for the 7 spot. There’s is a chance both are signed and we run with 8 dman also but its probably less likely.

    Glencross-Backlund-Hudler

    Colborne-Monahan-Setoguchi

    Raymond-Stajan-Jones

    Bollig-Bouma-McGrattan

    Byron, ??

    Gio-Brodie

    Russell-Wideman

    Smid-Engelland

    Diaz or Brookbank

    Hiller
    Ramo

    There seems to only be one spot available for a young guy if they don’t keep 8 dmen on the big club.

    Just my thoughts, what does everyone else think?

    • Nick24

      The extra forward will be Johnny Hockey. No need to keep 8 D-men with the big club. If he makes it, Byron could go down or be traded. We also have Baertschi who the Fklames mgt say he is still in their plans….maybe in the AHL until Glencross gets traded.

    • Parallex

      I think there are zero spots available for a young guy (other then Monahan)… at least out of camp. They’re not going to have a young guy simply for the sake of having a young guy and they’re not going to have one sit in the press box getting 14th forward icetime (and frankly I don’t think they’ll carry 14 forwards or 8 defensemen).

      To me the message is clear… if you want to play in the NHL this year you’re going to have to play great in the AHL this year. Which is fine, at present I’m perfectly ok with insisting that they prove themselves on the farm before they see the big league.

        • Parallex

          … You’re asking if I’m including a 21 year old with a grand total of 1 professional game under his belt as a young guy?

          Of course. He’s both young and a guy (and I didn’t make a exception for him like I did Monahan).

          Right now there is zero reason to have Gaudreau start with the Flames. What’s the rush? He’s not going to propel the Flames into a playoff spot so why not have him play a bit closer to home, in an environment where he can test himself against other young professionals, while adjusting to the life and schedule of a pro. If he’s all that we hope he is he’ll maul there like he did the NCAA and the Flames will either make a mid-season trade or encounter a mid-season injury and he’ll come up then.

    • Skuehler

      Last year saw tons of injuries so there may still be some room on the big club. Plus maybe they are creating internal competition to squeeze value from what we’ve got. Or trades pending?

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Are they willing to give 110%, 110% of the time, while still taking it 1 day at a time? You know, the tough questions.

    I generally don’t pay any attention to what players or coaches say in interviews because they generally don’t have anything new or interesting to say. Without throwing someone under the bus, as it were, what can they say that is new and interesting?

    For example, as per Azim’s suggestions, we all know exactly what all of the answers are. they are great teammates and leaders and they perform well under pressure. MAYBE a coach will suggest that they need to improve their leadership, but it’s coming along great. Players would all say that they would love to play anywhere in the NHL, even EDM and WPG, and they don’t know yet if they will finish their degree or not.

    Riveting stuff.

    I have no idea what questions could be asked of them that might solicit a genuine and interesting response, so I’m not really helping, unless this inspires someone come up with a new question.

    • mattyc

      I completely agree with your assessment of player interviews and how little we get from them. In terms of my questions and coverage on Eichel and Hannafin I meant more along the lines of talking to coaches, assistant coachs, trainers, GM’s, other scouts, etc to dig up those ‘beyond the surface’ answers. Qasi-investigative reporting, if you will.

  • Nick24

    I’d be curious to know what kind of role Jankowski will be playing in Providence this year. Is he going to be their go to guy in both ends? Or is he going to be employed in a similar way to last season? What kind of growth could we expect from his game?

    I’d be interested in hearing from Hanifin, as I think that its pretty unlikely that the Flames get a shot at drafting either Eichel or McDavid.
    Also, what kind of defenseman is Hanifin? I don’t know a lot about him so I’d like to know what he considers his best assets, as a player.

  • Derzie

    Tanking and Farming. The assembly and quantity of d-listers says tank mode for the big club and ice time on the farm for the prospects. All of them. Some may try 10 games, Johnny may stick but it will be rare to have a youngun stay up. I’m fine with that but would be even more fine if they televised the AHL games. Then we could alternate between rooting for hard work and losses (NHL), and growth and wins (AHL). ps. if you read a blog and take personal offence to humour that may target you or your peers, get a grip.

  • mattyc

    Interesting how little certainty there is with the roster. The only players I’d be confident saying they’ll be here next summer is pretty small: Giordano, Brodie, Russell, Stajan, Monahan, Raymond, Hiller. I’d like to think Backlund is in the long-term plans too, be he needs a new contract. Other than that, I think next summer is when we see the biggest roster upheaval.

    With all the D we have now, I think Diaz is the best bet to stick (if he signs). He’s also probably on par or better than everyone except the top 4. I’m also OK with Wotherspoon/Seiloff/Cundari playing in the minors this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wideman or Smid is gone mid-season though.

  • mattyc

    Close attention to Janko’s season would be appreciated, please and thank you.

    Interview on the Fan with Treliving – he asserts that the kids have to take the vets jobs (paraphrasing), but if they earn it, they’ll get it. Not to sound cynical, but it’s something I’m going to have to see to believe; like how many trades or demotions of vets are actually made in the early part of the season, let alone In training camp. It’s just too easy to justify keeping a vet, regardless of actual performance, that I remain skeptical, but here’s hoping Johnny Hockey is a force of nature in camp and pre-season and the promise holds true. Ditto for Sven.

    We will soon find out if the ‘meritocracy’ still exists.

  • mattyc

    Player interviews are the worst thing there is. I much prefer to listen to even me does analysis vs politically correct repetition. Here’s to some advanced stats analysis replacing the tired old player an coach interviews!

    Also, McDavid is still the best player in the 2015 draft and would look utterly freaking fantastic in Flames’ silks.

  • scoopz

    l’m guessing Johnny didn’t leave BC a year early to play in the “A” and BB didn’t take a private jet down to the frozen four to sign him early because he planned on stuffing him in the minors; He’s making this team unless he shoots himself in the foot.

    If he doesn’t make this team, what does that say to our other college prospects down the line? Can’t and don’t see it happening. Someone will be hitting the waiver wire to make room for Johnny “be good” Gaudreau.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      Agreed. Johnny plays at least 90% of the games this season, with the rest in the press box for educational/recuperational reasons.

      What is the point of getting used to professional hockey in the AHL instead of the NHL? He’s 21. He’s a man, albeit a small one. His skill level is NHL ready. He’s NHL ready.

  • scoopz

    No one seems to include Markus Granlund as a Flame this year – could be on the Flames squad before Sam Bennett. Had one of the better seasons for the Flames in the AHL in recent years.

  • SavardianSpinorama

    If I’m not mistaken, I believe Lambert admitted (and it must kill him to say as much) that the Flames management team actually made the correct decision bringing Diaz aboard.

  • T&A4Flames

    I’d ask Eichel how many years of college/university he plans on completing? Given his likely draft position and game readiness, I’m sure whatever team drafts him will want him playing for them right away. That said, would he consider completing 4years to become a free agent should a Canadian team draft him. I guess you could say the same for Hanifin since both are Americans.

  • T&A4Flames

    Regarding all the ad, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is already some fairly serious offer on the table and if 1or 2 of these invites work out, someone may get moved. There are still a few teams that need to shed salary and move players. NYI for example have too many forwards I believe. BOS and OTT have too many D. Still lots that could happen between now and the start of the season.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      I think the appropriate response to your ‘barb’ would be the Price’s Right Loser horn to this sad attempt at … humour(?)

      You people are incredibly dim.