Five things: A compendium

1. Building a new rink

Saw where the Flames basically went to the Calgary City Council hat in hand and crying poor about their lack of a new rink, probably because that kind of nonsense has worked so well in Edmonton (and other cities around North America, as well, obviously, but you have to think the provincial aspect of this was the main driver that led them to think they’d have success).

The city council has so far wisely declined to give the Flames any taxpayer money to build their new rink, but this kind of thing often shifts when rink plans — which Calgary has yet to formally announce — tend to include the idea of “rejuvenating” or “developing” a specific area of the city around a brand new arena. It has long been shown that the economic benefit of such projects, which is so often promised by the suits representing local sports teams, is little more than a fallacy at worst and pie-in-the-sky daydreaming at best (here’s a great book on the subject, available cheap, and I would urge residents of any city considering such a deal to educate themselves. And here, too, is a great visual representation of it from Deadspin.).

With the acknowledgement that as a resident of Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America, I have no financial skin in the game with regards to a deeply expensive rink being built in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I would say that in general, you should really try to oppose such a thing with all your might. The Red Sox have been forced to go into their own pockets to improve Fenway Park over the last decade-plus and they’re still doing great financially. The Patriots built their own stadium (way out in the suburbs) on nothing but private money. The Bruins and Celtics play in TD Garden, which opened in 1995 and likewise received no taxpayer funds. The New England Revolution, a Major League Soccer team that currently plays in the Patriots’ stadium in Foxboro, has long explored a more metropolitan soccer-specific stadium, but has basically been told at every turn the team — which is owned by mega-wealthy Pats owner Bob Kraft — would receive no public funds for that enterprise either.

Obviously there’s a long way to go before anything is finalized, and the city is continuing to weigh the efficacy of even giving the team free land on which to build the stadium. But as a general rule, when it comes to “giving billionaires public money or assistance,” I’d say you probably don’t want to do that. 

And please remember that the Flames are in no danger of moving. Don’t let that be held over your heads either.

2. Waiving Setoguchi

This is a who-cares type move, and that’s it, but it’s also the only transaction the Flames are probably going to make for a while apart from the odd call-up and activation from the IR, etc.

And, well, you had to know that was coming. This is a player who has nothing left to offer at the NHL level, which is kind of amazing if you think about it. When you can’t even hack it in the Flames’ shallow forward corps, that is a major problem.

You’ve seen all the stats on him already but here they are again just for fun: Just 12 shots in as many games, no points, soft minutes, etc. Impossible to defend him, really (except to say that his on-ice shooting is 2.82, and his on-ice save percentage is .857, and those two things are going to make a player look worse than he is).

The good news for the Flames, if you want to call it that, is this move theoretically opens up a roster spot for a kid to play in. And if you remain concerned about a “veteran presence” or whatever, the good news is Devin Setoguchi-type players are basically available on the waiver wire almost every day (Winnipeg just waived TJ Galiardi, who is at least comparable as far as I’m concerned). You can get ’em for nothing. It doesn’t matter at all.

3. Considering comebacks

Speaking to suddenly underperforming goaltending and a poor roster, by the way, is the fact that the Flames still demonstrate some ability to make games interesting in the third period when they trail. This is an uncommon skill, especially among teams that are as bad as the Flames (still 29th in possession numbers, baby!).

And yet here they are, with 10 points on the season when trailing after two periods, which they’ve done 12 times out of 23. It didn’t work out Tuesday, because they spotted Anaheim three goals in the first 40 minutes, and boy is that trend going to continue the rest of the season, no matter how much the goaltending normalizes to being a little lower than league average.

What’s interesting to me is that, not counting whatever happened in last night’s game, the Flames have actually outscored opponents 34-15 in the third period and overtime this season, which is just a crazy-high number. 

In fact, 34 goals is almost exactly half of the team’s total of 70 through 23 games, and that’s a number that can’t hold up no matter how hard the team works. Especially because the other 36 are spread disproportionately in the second period (23, meaning Calgary has just 13 goals in first periods this year). And even scoring 23 in the second puts the Flames minus-4 in terms of second-period goal differential. They’re minus-8 in the first.

After that Anaheim game, Jonas Hiller said that they basically can’t keep counting on being able to mount furious comebacks forever, and he’s right. Just another hallmark of how screwed this team is (and should have been all along) when it stops getting bounces.

4. Worrying about defense

Does it strike anyone else as a point of concern that the Flames, who started out the season so well in terms of keeping the puck out of their own net, are now very much not doing that?

Dating back to the start of November, and not including last night in San Jose, Flames goalies have allowed 37 goals in 11 games, or 3.36 per night. That’s up significantly from October’s 27 in 12 (2.25 per game).

And what’s amazing about this to me is that the Flames aren’t allowing significantly more shots against or anything like that. They are, in fact, allowing fewer: They conceded 29.45 per night in October in all situations, and that’s dropped to 26.86 per this month. So what this tells us, I think, is not so much that the team’s defense has gone to hell, but rather that the kind of ludicrous goaltending it received early on has now, predictably, evaporated.

Calgary’s save percentage through those first 12 games was .928, with Jonas Hiller’s .941 in seven appearances really pacing things. And now that Hiller entered last night’s game at .884 in November, it should come as little surprise that the team’s .876 overall is dead last in the league.

So yes, it really is all down to goaltending, which has regressed to a level I think most should have expected. While Hiller wasn’t anywhere near as good as his October showed, he’s also not as bad as November’s numbers. Right in the middle, you say? That’d peg him at .914 for the year, which is only a slight step above his average for the last three seasons. Who could have guessed that?

5. Checking on Hickey

Over the past few days, I’ve had the chance to see 2014 third-round pick Brandon Hickey play twice (first on Friday, and again on Tuesday). And I have to say he has looked very impressive for Boston University.

He’s a first-year player for top-ranked BU — one of four on their blue line, in fact — but he’s already logging heavy minutes and being counted on in key situations. Tuesday night I thought he was absolutely fantastic, and his coach agreed.

Said BU bench boss David Quinn following Hickey’s latest and best effort at the NCAA level: 

“I thought he played very well tonight. I thought he defended well. He moves so quickly, skates so well. He’s got a cannon for a shot and he was active offensively. He’s really coming on. He’s a very good player now, and he’s got a great future for us.”

In that game alone, he put seven of BU’s 42 shots on net all by himself, and got an assist in the 3-2 overtime loss. And while NCAA doesn’t track individual corsi ratings or time on ice or anything like that, he was a major reason BU out-attempted Harvard 87-45 in all situations over the 65 minutes despite having just two power plays apiece.

And overall this season, in BU’s 11 games, Hickey has been on the ice for 14 goals for (of the Terriers’ 39 overall), and just five against (out of 21). At 5-on-5, the numbers are even better: 11-3 (out of their 30 for and 13 against).

It’s still early yet, but if he can build on this, which you’d assume he can, it looks like Calgary might have a good one here.

  • McRib

    Everyone freaked out that we didn’t draft a defender in the second round at last summers draft… Brandon Hickey (0.45 PPG), Jack Glover (0.40 PPG), Roland McKeown (0.33 PPG), Jack Dougherty (0.17 PPG). It’s funny I remember reading Red Line Reports Draft Guide where they compared Brandon Hickey to TJ Brodie and being very happy with that pick…. Meanwhile everyone was going nuts about the two picks before that (Mason McDonald, Hunter Smith). Roland McKeown in particular is having an awful season without our boy Sammy Bennett, clearly we would have drafted McKeown if Bennett gave the okay. Wose case if Hickey turnsout to be a TOp. 4 Defender and we get Bennett I am ecstatic with last years draft. Anything else would just be a plus.

      • McRib

        Its become fairly obvious this season that Roland McKeown was benefiting from playing with Sam Bennett (Good players make players around them better)…. McKeown had 0.69 PPG last year playing with Bennett and has 0.33 PPG without him this season…. He doesn’t even have a goal…. You don’t think that after flying Sam Bennett out before the draft and during extensive interviews with the Flames they never asked Sam about his teammate McKeown…. Especially when he fell out of the first round last year… Roland McKeown was projected to go in the 20-25 range and fell to 50th… You don’t think that teams knew something? I just think if Sam Bennett said he absolutely loved playing with McKeown the Flames would have drafted him at 34. By the looks of it this season early Brandon Hickey has produced as well as any defender taking in that range last year, so the Flames made a solid pick by the looks of it.

          • McRib

            No, I just think if Sam Bennett felt McKeown was an absolute star in the making he may have influenced the Flames to draft him at 34…. Calgary was one of 20+ NHL Teams to pass on McKeown after interviews and meetings with Kingston’s coaches and agents around the league, obviously something caused him to fall….. The fact that McKeown’s offensive stats have dropped off without Bennett is compelling to all of that. I don’t think Sam Bennett would ever say anything bad about a junior teammate, but the fact that he didn’t say anything great could be influence enough….. Conversely Oshawa played Kingston 10+ times last year maybe he said I hate playing that Hunter Smith…. The Hockey Community is a small world agents, coaches, scouts talk. Would you think any less of Bennett (or his agent) if he said ya McKeown had 43 points, but he could have had 55+ points playing on that awesome Power Play we had… A 4th Overall Pick is a big investment I wouldn’t find it crazy if the Flames asked around of what Bennett (Through Agents, Coaches) thought of his Junior Teammate and some of the guys he played against regularly…. It has happened in the past Vincent Lecavalier was a big reason why Tampa Bay also drafted teammate and friend Brad Richards in 1998.

          • Subversive

            I am thinking the hockey community doesn’t need Sam Bennett’s opinion. There are enough capable people out there. It might have actually done Bennett more harm than good if he’d been asked about McKeown and answered in a disparaging manner.

            Of course, with all the psychology out there and video replays, you have a case: Bennett may have spoken about McKeown glowingly, and a team of psychologists the Flames may (or may not) have hired would say, “See how Sam looks to the left when he answers the question and his right eye flinches? He’s uncomfortable.”

            It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

            You might be right, but I hope you’re not. Kids shouldn’t have to undergo this kind of scrutiny.

          • McRib

            “I am thinking the hockey community doesn’t need Sam Bennett’s opinion. There are enough capable people out there. It might have actually done Bennett more harm than good if he’d been asked about McKeown and answered in a disparaging manner.”

            Sam Bennett is a fourth overall pick with this organization, I don’t see why saying “we could get a better prospect at that 34th slot than my soon to be former teammate”. But to clarify I don’t think he would ever bad mouth him, but he also might have to play the rest of his career with that person….

            When I was 19-20 I was a Bar Manager at a local chain restaurant and my GM would come to me once in awhile with potential new hires who knew me mostly from high school and ask what I thought of them… For some of them I gave them a glowing recommendation and got them a job, but for a few others we just took a pass and they got a job at another restaurant. I never bad mouthed them, but it also looks bad on me if I recommended someone who I knew was lazy and would never show up on time. Or in this case not be able to perform at the highest level.

            There is a lot of scrutiny that goes into drafting players, I think there is to much to be honest especially considering how young some of these players are (immaturity is often mistaken for bad character), but like you said it’s a billion dollar extremely competitive industry. It comes with the territory at the end of the day though the only thing that is going to make you a good NHLer is yourself.

          • McRib

            Not really essentially its one conclusion, great junior players make good junior players look better than they are…. Corey Perry made Rob Schremp look like a first rounder his draft year… Patrick Kane made Sam Gagner look like a 6th overall draft pick his draft year… Jonathan Toews helped Ryan Duncan win a Hobey Baker with UND. Watching Roland McKeown at the Top Prospects game I was baffled he had as many points as he did last year for Kingston, it became clear to me (obviously a lot of NHL Teams as well) that Bennet was helping him offensively, thats just what “great” players do.

            All I was saying to begin with is of all the Defenders taken in the 2nd/3rd round we appear to have gotten one of the best in Brandon Hickey. I remember Brad Treliving being criticized after last summers draft that they didn’t take one of those more “Hyped” defenders early (Roland McKeown, Jack Dougherty, Jack Glover, etc) and he said they didn’t like any of them. Good drafting teams (Detroit, San Jose, etc) take the best player they feel is available rather than the most hyped and thats what Calgary appeared to do with this pick and they got it right with Hickey. Thats all I was trying to say.

  • McRib

    I realize it’s a different era and all, but how long did Maple Leafs Gardens stand, or the old Montreal Forum? How does spending more than half a billion on a new rink make the team more profitable? It’s not like the Saddledome is the Corral. The Saddledome is STILL a nice place to watch a game. It’s not out in Balzac!

    If the multi-billionaires who own the Flames can explain to us how a new barn will benefit everyone, let’s hear their reasoning.

    The “Edmonton got one, so we should, too” argument just isn’t doing it for me.

    • MWflames

      I could watch games from the saddledome stands forever and never think twice about it. I’d bet that modern construction and design would allow for better sightlines throughout the stands, but currently I don’t have a problem with what we’ve got.

      Here’s the problem for me though: the concourse is embarrassing and pathetic. if you want two beers, a snack and a trip or two to the washroom, you cannot expect to watch the whole game because lines are waaay too long. Standing in the washroom line until the 15 minute mark in the period is unacceptable and a waste of my money. The lines are all anybody can talk about in when walking around in the concourse at the dome. From what I understand, modern arenas barely have concession and washroom lines. This is something I expect as well, especially at the price it costs to get through the doors.

      • Burnward

        That is an issue that could be easily resolved without spending hundreds of millions, no? Some more walls, some more plumbing, etc. The Saddledome is a godsend to people who need to use the washroom compared to the frantic patrons at McMahon Stadium.

  • Burnward

    A venue is not a huge boost to any location or a local economy.

    The dollars spent at the new venue are simply dollars that would have been spent at other places had the venue not been built.

      • Okay, Burnward, if it’s short-term thinking (and I am not arguing as I really wouldn’t mind a new arena providing it’s not located on the outskirts of the city), what are the benefits, really? Some union construction workers would like it, for sure. But how does a new arena benefit the city, in general? Does it bring visitors in? Does it generate revenue we might otherwise not have had?

        This reminds me of an argument I had with a former employer years ago, when I complained to him about a piece of machinery that was constantly breaking down and asked him why we wouldn’t replace it.

        His answer was that equipment breaks down all the time, so he might as well fix what he has because upkeep costs remain the same.

        Maybe a poor analogy, but I hope you get the point.

        • Burnward

          I do understand. It’s a tough topic to get into on the net.

          Net benefits of Edmonton’s downtown move will be solid for more than the team, is my opinion, based on tax assessments, businesses impacted etc. I could be wrong, but I do believe this to be true.

          I’m no municipal planner though.

          • Burnward

            I am no municipal planner either, but if the new arena has shopping and other calling cards, does it not mean that places outside the new arena’s circle would suffer somewhat?

            People have only so much money to spend. I don’t see that a centrally located “super mall” lends to an increase in spending, economically speaking.

            I don’t want the Wallmart of arenas.

            The city is made up of communities, and straying from that is not a win-win.

          • Burnward

            Well if that’s the argument, are you against internet shopping too?

            Everything evolves. But no city has ever gotten weaker by strengthening their downtown core. Doing it with hockey in Canada is a no-brainer.

          • I am not against anything if people tell the truth.

            Economically, a new arena does nothing for Calgary.

            People have only so much money to spend.

            Read that again:

            People have only so much money to spend.

            You cannot equate economic prosperity to a new arena. It benefits the wealthy, and hinders the poor. I want to shop downtown, but I can’t because the businesses have either shut down or moved to the new “super mall” the Flames created (on tax payer’s money, no less).

            If the Flames billionaire owners want to create this scenario by risking their own money, I say go for it. And when it fails, don’t come crying to me for a bail out. The problem is, they want our tax paying dollars, and will still come crying to us for a bail out if it fails.

            Do you not see that?

            I am all for supporting things with tax payer dollars. But I am not in support of increased taxes when the people behind it are not showing me that what they are doing is actually creating revenue that will decrease my load of taxation.

          • Burnward

            Fair enough.

            And there are a bunch of millionaire hockey players in this city who love people like you.

            I like to think I pay my “taxes” on GAMECENTRE.

            I have no problem with hockey players making millions of dollars a year.

            I have a problem when the teams they play for tell me they can’t afford them and come to me with hat in hand.

            If the billionaire owners of the Flames can’t make it work, maybe they should ask their millionaire employees if they’d like to invest.

  • FeyWest

    Hickey is my next favorite prospect for the Flames, bit of a personal bias as he’s close to home! After we first saw what he could do I knew better that he is a great late round pick. Keep it up bud! The future is bright all GFG!!

  • Scary Gary

    I think at this point the flames need a new arena more than the city does. Not a nickel of public money should be spent on a new arena…even though I’d love one.

    • Subversive

      That’s a good point.

      If you or I need money for a business venture, we go to the bank.

      Sport teams go to the tax payer.

      If it’s viable, go to the bank.

      If it’s not, go to the tax payer.

      The Flames are worth a lot of money, according to Forbes. The Flames’ ownership group is worth a lot more.

      Billionaires asking “thousandaires” for money.

      How typical.

      • jeremywilhelm

        It’s a very tough topic. Nobody wants to see taxpayer dollars go to hockey arenas, but nobody wants to see their team leave. Nobody wants to be blackmailed into tax dollars (Katz) but at what point do you contribute tax breaks and incentives? Major cities need iconic buildings – it’s why we’re spending mega dollars on a library downtown. As far as bringing in money, a new arena attracts many more events including major concerts and yes, concerts bring in huge dollars from the surrounding area (Lethbridge, etc) that normally wouldn’t come to Calgary. Best case scenario, private money builds the arena and government offers incentives as part of their contribution, but it’s a poker game. Flames owners are businessmen. At the end of the day, we have one of the oldest arenas in the league and it will eventually need to be replaced so some day this conversation needs to happen.

  • MWflames

    This will probably get trashed by many: for me, saying a new, beautiful, centrally located stadium does nothing for the city is kinda like saying all the efforts put into public art and better architecture don’t do anything for the city. I believe there is value in both of those things that aren’t necessarily measurable. Worst case scenario, no one can dig up 1 dollar of increased value directly related from a new stadium built in the proposed location. If that’s the case (which I personally believe isnt possible), then it simply falls into the same category of art and architecture like I said before. Make no mistake, these things are very important to nenshi. However, even more so, nenshi’s MO at the moment is to develop Calgary as a more urban, high density, transit accessible city. Accomplishing just that starts with developing the city centre. You can bet that a redevelopment project of the west end that’s right on a train line likely resonates with nenshi. The extent though will be determined by what the flames management actually present to the city of course. However, they’ve been working on this for some time now, and they’ve been able to watch the fiasco take place up in Edmonton, so I bet their first offer will already be closer than many expect.

  • McRib

    I would rather have a competitve team and a servicable arena than a lousy team and a grande arena!

    “When you can’t even hack it in the Flames’ shallow forward corps, that is a major problem.”

    Lambert, with 3 starting centres on IR, the rookies came in and are doing an admirable job.

    Convenient of you to disregard the last game against San Jose, a shutout.

    I agree that goaltending has regressed, but is largely Hiller who seems to have lost his concentration at times in games resulting in some bad goals against. Ramo is playing better than Hiller now.

    • McRib

      Good point…at least Lambert has some sense other than Flame bashing!

      The D-core will look great in 2-3 years and will catch up to the talent level on the forward lines.

  • WRT point 1: Is it really a lack taxpayer money holding them back? You would think with backing from the likes of: ScotiaBank, the Treleving family, all Flames shareholders (whether they are involved in the organization or not), not to mention how easy it is to get mortgages… it would seem to me the “we can rejuvenate and redevelop a new area of the city” argument is more geared towards simply getting permission from the city to undertake such a big project on such a big parcel of land, rather than trying to secure additional financing that they really shouldn’t need.

    Taxpayer Saddledome does sound so much better than ScotiaBank Saddledome, though…

    Edit: Guess I have to renag most if not all of that. The Staples Center would cost $1.1B to build today, ScotiaBank made $8M in profit last year, with total asset value of around $700M.

    • piscera.infada

      The monies associated with a sponsorship from the likes of ScotiaBank generally goes to upkeep and operation, as the sponsorship generally has a finite lifespan. ScotiaBank (in this case) would be putting no new money towards a new building, nor would the Trelivings (I’m actually unclear as to why you bring them up at all – they have no association to ownership). It’s Murray Edwards and any majority shareholders.

      In short, I tend to agree with the majority opinion here. The argument from ownership that it would bring increased revenue to the down-town core is likely false. However, an arena project could bring additional revenues and development into an area of the city that is currently under-developed. That said, the majority of revenues generated will go directly to the pockets of private business, and as such the is little net-benefit monetarily to taxpayers.

      It creates an interesting catch-22 though, insofar as a new arena becomes a focal point of cultural capital in a city. This becomes doubly true in a case where a team is so central to the identity of the city (as in Calgary). Therefore, if you identify with that particular conception of being a “Calgarian”, it could be justified in a fairly wide-scope.

      Generally, the question of tax-payer monies to build arenas (or really any other large development), cannot be looked at in either the most narrow monetary gain calculation, or an over-broad (philosophically) utilitarian calculation. Personally, I was a fan of the joint-lottery fundraising idea the province came up with during the Edmonton debacle.

  • I think Hartley should go back to the goalie rotation. Maybe the key to the early success allowing a little rest between games and the goalies to watch from the bench and analyze and get to know the player and coach tendencies?

  • McRib

    Brandon Hickey with another assist last night and one early today, he is now up to 0.54 PPG as a True Freshman which is impressive. His coach also says he has a great shot, so he should start to score often as well. Hickey has four shots on goal today which is a very good sign.