Random Thoughts: To Move up or Not to Move up

It’s June so naturally the hottest topic is the entry draft. Calgary is at 4, the highest this organization has ever picked, but there’s talk of both the first (FLA) and second (BUF) overall picks being available for a price. Should the Flames make the move to ensure a shot at either Sam Reinhart or Aaron Ekblad? That obviously depends on a number of factors.

– Before we delve too deep, let’s establish that at least part of the reason two of the worst clubs in the league are willing to move their picks is because there isn’t an obvious generational talent in this year’s draft class. You can bet next year when McDavid is available that there will be no talk of #1 overall being moved.

Which means the Flames probably don’t have a great deal to gain by moving up two or three spots. There’s a nearly 100% chance a comparably high-end player will be available to them at 4, meaning the only reason to contemplate moving up is the asking price isn’t outrageous.

– In an ideal world, the club would find a way to keep #4 while also garnering #1 or #2, but realistically any move up would involve Calgary’s pick. What remains is what other assets it would take to get the job done. Given Florida and Buffalo both need a lot of established NHL talent rather than lottery tickets, you can bet the discussion would start with one of Mark Giordano or TJ Brodie. Aside from them and maybe Mikael Backlund, the Flames don’t have established pieces that would move the needle in this sort of deal. And no, Curtis Glencross and Jiri Hudler aren’t going to do it.

– The Fan morning show was pondering the hypothetical of moving Brodie to get 1st overall to pick Ekblad recently. I wouldn’t do it – we know Brodie is already an excellent NHLer at 23 years old and there’s still a chance he’ll become an exceptional one. The Flames need to add those sorts of players – to build on that number – not rob Peter to pay Paul so to speak. Ekblad seems like a high quality prospect, but I’m not confident in anyone’s ability to project the future of 18-year old defenders with enough accuracy to move a sure-thing in Brodie. You might get a Doughty or Victor Hedman with Aaron Ekblad, but you also might get an Erik Johnson or Zach Bogosian.

– Related: I don’t think a lot of folks grasp just how good TJ Brodie is yet. His underlying results from the last two seasons are outstanding. If he runs in place possession-wise and adds a touch more offense to his game, he’s an elite defender. No player is untradeable, but he’s one of the few guys I’d consider nigh untouchable on this roster.

– On the other hand, picking Ekblad would certainly fill an organizational need given how thin the Flames d-ranks currently are, starting at the 3rd pairing in the NHL (and maybe the 2nd). If he falls to 4 (and Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett are gone), I’d have no issue with the Flames picking him (though I wouldn’t expect him to make it past the Oilers at 3).

– While I hope the Flames land one of the Sam’s, if I had to guess I think they end up with either Draisaitl or Dal Colle, depending on how the draft goes and who the organization prefers.Given his numbers and the scouting reports describing a sky high hockey IQ, Sam Reinhart is currently #1 on my wish list, but I may change my mind when I comb through the numbers this month.

– Moving away from the draft for now, Tyler Dellow shared this spreadsheet of the Flames “open play” corsi numbers on twitter recently.

CGYOpenplay

“Open play” possession numbers is a way to correct for starting position factors. Essentially, it includes all the action 30 seconds after each offensive or defensive zone draw, so things aren’t skewed by the position of the draw. If a player doesn’t show up here, he was sub-.420 on the season (which is abjectly awful).

– There aren’t any big surprises, except for maybe Curtis Glencross. His 42.6% is absolutely ghastly and points to a significant problem with the player. Although one is tempted to blame health problems, Flames fans should recall his first 10 games of the season were terrible by eye and by math. While a functional Curtis Glencross is a boon to this team, the guy who showed up this past year is an anvil tied to the asses of his line mates. He needs to be better or he needs to be gone.

– Dennis Wideman and Chris Butler were basically the same player by this measure last season. That is a terrible indictment of Wideman. Calgary needs to keep him for the purpose of getting to the cap floor (absent something really drastic happening in July), but…yeesh. He needs to rebound hard to merely have a bad contract.

– Also showing up near the bottom of the chart: David Jones and Shane O’Brien. Though his work was definitely a mixed bag in town, I think we can all agree Jay Feaster got worked in that Colorado deal.

– The addition of O’Brien in the trade is an example of how a flawed process can lead you down the wrong player acquisition path. O’Brien was essentially swapped for Cory Sarich, who had been re-signed to a two year contract the summer before (despite spending a lot of time on the third pairing or in the press box). I remember being baffled by the move and talking to some of the local media after Sarich was inked. They explained the decision makers felt the Flames blueline needed more grit/toughness and that Sarich the only attainable player in that mould at the time.

To which I say – stop elevating player category above player quality. The former should always be subordinate to the latter, or else you are privileging style over content. The Flames need some grit on their blueline? Maybe, but it doesn’t help them if the guy you get to do that can’t reliably play hockey at this level.

  • Greg

    The best thing about the combine:

    If someone you like does well, you can say: “I told you he is a stud!”

    If someone does poorly, you can say: “just imagine how good they can be if they get into shape!…..”

    It’s a Win/ Win!!!!!!!!

    WW

  • Greg

    I agree Kent, can’t see any move-up scenario that doesn’t involve at least 1 of Gio, Brodie, Backlund, Monohan, or a first, either this year’s or next. Next year’s first has to be absolutely untouchable. The only asset in that list that wouldn’t seem like 1 step forward and 2 back would be the #4 pick, but even that’s assuming it’s only a marginal extra cost. Something like Glencross I’d be fine with, but even a Sven would make me question it.

    • BurningSensation

      These trade scenarios are laughable. Come-on, guys. If this was during the summer or the season what would you consider trading any of these guys for? I wouldn’t give any of them in a trade-up scenario (our 4th overall for 1st overall), and MIGHT consider Backlund straight up for the unproven Ekbad, plus a lower pick-like a 2nd or 3rd rounder. All those guys are proven, Ekblad isn’t. Ekblad has been a man playing boys which won’t be the case next year.

      If you want to trade up and include any of the mentioned players(except Backlund), Florida’s going to have to add to Ekblad coming our way.

  • Greg

    Well rumors from Abbotsford that when O’Brien was sent down to the farm he was a super positive influence on Wotherspoon. That kind of mentorship is hard to put a price on. Just saying… However he still isn’t a very good hockey player.

  • mattyc

    The oilers are hugely interested in Drasital, they’ve basically said that if they had the first overall they would pick him. I can’t see the sabers passing over ekblad, which means that the flames will get one of the same, most likely (and hopefully) Reinhart.

    side note, if that happens the flames need to trade for Griffin, just saying

    • RedMan

      I can’t see the sabers passing over ekblad

      You can’t? Aside from the fact that you’re apparently forgetting Florida has the #1 pick (and have more need of defensemen, though they really need everything), the Sabres have, bar-none, the best collection of defense prospects around (furthermore they used both first rounders last year on defensemen). Basically every Sabres fan I’ve encountered has said the exact opposite of you–that they can’t see the Sabres taking Ekblad.

  • RedMan

    The upside to that deal was getting rid of tangay, who couldn’t be bothered to play hockey the last half of the year and wore a golf hat to the garbage bag Day-exit interviews.

    • T&A4Flames

      Honestly, who cares what hat he wears on garbage day? Seasons over. These guys are humans as well, I’m sure they wear jeans and hats like the rest of us do on occasion.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I agree, I don’t think it’d be worth the price to move up at all, unless that price was just an additional 2014 pick (and as mentioned, none of the top 3 teams really need more picks; they all need players at this point).

    Also, sample size be damned, I have decided that this Corsi chart is just further evidence that JG is tiny Gretzky.

    • mk

      Is this where someone comes to mention small sample size (1 game) for Gaudreau? 🙂

      I don’t think Gaudreau lights up the league like he did in college this coming year, but I bet he still makes an impression. 30-35 points and several fantastic highlight-reel moves are my prediction.

      • mattyc

        he looks good, but I don’t think anyone’s really expecting Crosby levels of possession next year. 😛

        I’d agree with you – probably plays top 9 and gets some PP time. If he hits 15 goals i’ll be pretty happy

  • TheRealPoc

    The Dennis Wideman contract might be the one single unique instance in the post-lockout era where literally everyone across the spectrum of the hockey world – from MSM mouthbreathers to fancystats zealots alike – universally denounced the move as incomprehensible, indefensible and beyond idiotic.

    Everyone, that is, except for Weisy & Jay. And now they’re both unemployed.

    #NeverForget

      • TheRealPoc

        Larry Brooks had a particularly scathing initial assessment that sticks out in my mind. There were a few others, IIRC.

        I think guys who have more skin invested in the contacts/leaks game need to stay fairly neutral at all times – you’ll obviously never see a guy like MacKenzie really tell you what he thinks. But I certainly don’t remember anything resembling endorsements, either.

  • PrairieStew

    Great article Kent. I would question one point you made however – the lack of generational talent in this draft doesn’t mean the Flames shouldn’t try and address greatest organizational need within the top 4 in the draft. Given the dearth of high end defensive prospects in the organization and in the draft, I think a trade up combining our #4 with a top prospect (likely Sven) with someone like Glencross (if he waives his no trade) to grab Ekblad would be worth considering.

  • seve927

    Reinhart is my #1. He or Bennett would make me ecstatic. Draisaitl would be fine, Ekblad would really worry me.

    Just curious Kent, did you feel O’B was a terrible acquisition at the time? As I’ve read the numbers, he looked like an excellent third pairing option based on his play in Colorado. Then, last year happened. I certainly didn’t see it coming.

        • mattyc

          I live in Van, and remember watching him lots when he played for the Canucks. He was laughably bad then. Combination of sheltered minutes, poor possession, and the thing that stuck out for me the most – just incredibly bad penalties he always took.

          When we acquired him last year I groaned because we traded Sarich for Sarich-lite.

          • seve927

            I loved it when he was a Canuck, as you said because of the idiotic penalties. But his possession numbers the last couple years looked very good. Especially compared to this year. I hated the deal when it was madd, but after looking at it objectively, thought it was actually reasonable.

    • piscera.infada

      “Reinhart is my #1. He or Bennett would make me ecstatic. Framework would be fine, Ekblad would really worry me.”

      Couldn’t agree more. That’s exactly how I see it. Although, every time I hear a scout or someone in the know talk about Bennett, I get really excited. Kyle Woodlief mentioned on The Fan today that Reinhart’s skating is considered average. I hadn’t heard this before. Anyone know more?

      Ekblad has always given me pause. If there at 4 (which I don’t see as entirely unlikely), I’m fine with it. However, I would never pay to move up and take him. I think it’s too steep a price for too much unnecessary risk.

      • SmellOfVictory

        Yup. I’ve followed Sam Reinhart to some degree since he first played with Max on the Ice, and his skating has always been considered a minor knock. only a minor one, though; it’s not *bad*, it’s just very average (and therefore it’s a less than desirable trait in relative terms for a high-end prospect).

  • seve927

    I would not trade up. Any of the top 4 guys are highly skilled and will be an excellent draft for the Flames without giving up any of our young stars like Brodie!

    Interesting interview on the Fan 960 this morning with Redline report…they seem to think that Sam Reinhart will be available at 4 for the Flames. He indicated Ekblad first overall and the Sabres strong desire to draft Bennett and Draistl to the Oilers at 3. That leaves Reinhart for the Flames assuming they don’t surprise and take a Dal Colle, Richie or Virtanen.

    • Byron Bader

      I heard that as well. I have no idea who the Flames will get. It’s bouncing all over the place. Nearly confident it’ll be whoever’s left of the 4. Burke said himself that they see 4 guys (and seems to like them all) and then a drop off but then he talked about Ritchie and how teams are going to draft for need rather than BPA this year. I hope they just take who ever’s left of the 4. A Sam – thrilled. Ekblad – great. Draisaitl – great. Dal Colle or Virtanen – a little worried but I’m ok with it. Ritchie – little terrified.