Weekend Open Thread: Moving Forward or Moving Back?

Pages have fallen off the calendar this summer and we’re quietly in mid-July. As such, we’re transitioning at FlamesNation from picking at the corpse of the 2013-14 Flames towards projecting what the 2014-15 Flames will be. Or do.

So, in the interest of stirring the pot: WILL THE FLAMES FINISH BETTER OR WORSE NEXT SEASON?

THEIR MOVES

Calgary finished with 77 points in 2013-14. Are they better or worse on-paper?

In my mind? The Flames more or less treaded water with their moves. However, the goaltending upgrade has the potential to steal games for them, and if Gaudreau turns out to be a real NHL talent, his addition could easily recoup the loss of Cammalleri (even ignoring Raymond’s arrival).

Not a guarantee, though, and Calgary’s defense is still pretty thin outside of the top pairing.

DIVISIONAL MOVES

So Calgary will probably be about as good/bad as last year. Maybe a tad better, but it’s unlikely the bottom will fall out (they still have Backlund, Brodie & Giordano). What about their divisional neighbours?

Anaheim [39 points ahead]: Added Ryan Kesler and some depth. Lost Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. They’re about as good, maybe better if Kesler and Heatley gel with their new mates.

San Jose [34 points ahead]: Added some beef (John Scott, Taylor Fedun, Tye McGinn), lost some big defenders (Brad Stuart and Dan Boyle). They’re a little better and a little worse, and their core is another year older.

Los Angeles [23 points ahead, won Cup]: Basically made no major changes.

Arizona [12 points ahead]: Added Sam Gagner & B.J. Crombeen, lost Radim Vrbata. They’re (at worst) just as good, probably a bit better depending on how Gagner falls into Tippett’s system. (Also lost Ribeiro, who scored a lot despite other stuff going on.)

Vancouver [6 points ahead]: Added a lot of bodies (Ryan Miller, Radim Vrbata, Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and a new coach/GM). Lost Ryan Kesler. I’m not wholly convinced that Miller’s a big upgrade, and I’m not sure that the addition of Vrbata and some good depth guys makes up for losing Kesler. They definitely under-performed last year, so they should be better just because of competent coaching.

Edmonton [10 points behind]: Added Keith Aulie, Benoit Pouliot & Mark Fayne. And lost Sam Gagner. I have no idea how they finished so far behind Calgary with their roster, and I don’t know why I think they’ll be about as good next season. On-paper, they’re probably a little bit worse than last year.

SO?

I think the Flames will probably be a bit further away from the playoff pack next year, as the big guns stayed as good or got bigger. But the Oilers probably aren’t catching ’em. Not sure about the Sabres or Panthers yet, though.

FN FACEOFF ON MONDAY

If you have questions or topics you’d like us to discuss, fire away in the comments!

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I really want Hartley to get this team to value getting shots on goal especially at the beginning of a game.

    I want everyone’s first few shifts to be about getting a SOG.

    I’ve used this before but it’s like a baseball pitcher establishing his fastball. All your other pitches work off, work better when hitters are worried about your fastball.

    You don’t need a 100mph fastball (or a powerful shot either) you just need to plant the seed of doubt…of hesitation.

    Greg Maddux didn’t have a hard fastball but he threw one all the time. Teams respect it, even if it’s only in the 80’s.

    When you gain the zone and don’t shoot you accomplish nothing good. I would watch Comeau circle the zone and end up doing nothing. Iggy did it too. Plays just die – worse yet the opponents rams it the other way off a turnover.

    SHOOT! Create momentum. Create chaos.

    Everytime Stajan enters the zone, you know exactly what he’s going to do. Look for someone else. I don’t care if it bounces 30 times before getting to the goalie. Shoot the puck. It’s bound to go in eventually!

    Guys get feeling good and start looking for the pretty play. They keep waiting and all they end up doing is turning the puck over.

    That is how momentum is taken away. Not getting shots.

    Once you put the doubt in their minds, they don’t close on you as fast and you get to use your other tools. Get to make some nice plays but give us fans some excitement with shots.

    SJ does it because DET did it so well.

    2007 playoffs CGY v DET. Flip the script and Bob’s your uncle.

  • T&A4Flames

    Haven’t read comments yet but, the last line for the VAN diagnosis hit the nail on the head. Adding different coaching alone would have made them better, they’re still talented enough to push for playoff contention and no goalie controversy. Kesler may hurt them but I’m not convinced he was adding that much the last couple seasons. Booth is addition by subtraction.

    EDM also added Nikitin. The D core still has work to do but a much more NHL worthy now. Still, I thought they would’ve busted out a bit more last season. I’m not convinced that Eakins is a NHL capable coach yet either. Logic says they’ll be better but they like to find ways to shoot themselves in the foot and give up.

    I don’t see any way in which we improve our position in the standings. Even if Johnny a Hockey gets to Cammi type #’s, our D core is poor beyond the Gio/Brodie pair. I still think Franson becomes a Flame before the season really kicks in. Depending on the cost, it may be an upgrade. I would try Gio with Franson to show him the way and Brodie can do the heavy lifting on the 2nd pair.

  • Discosis

    Two major question marks for me. Cammalleri scored 26 in 63 last year, which is pretty tough to replace. If Johnny G. Can make the team and assume a scoring role, how close can he get to Cammy’s 35 goal pace.

    The bigger question for me though: Does Hartley’s message grow stale? I think there are enough young guys to cycle through that it doesn’t, but if it does were probably looking at significant turmoil, as I’m guessing treliving would love to get his own guy in to coach. I wouldn’t rule out a mid season coaching change, in which case we’re probably worse off this year.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Ryan… are you like Sam Gagner’s biggest fan or something?

    Look at this:

    Sam Gagner in; Radim Vrbata AND Mike Ribiero out. You think that’s a wash AT WORST?? LOL. “Arizona” got worse. Full stop.

    Edmonton’s moves:

    Gagner out; Teddy Purcell, Benoit Pouliot, Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin in. There is no question in my mind the Oilers got better–probably much better. The addition of Fayne alone bears that out. Are they missing a 2nd line center? Sure. But was Gagner ever really that guy?

  • Rockmorton65

    I think this is going to be an exciting, uncertain year. If a few tumblers fall into place, this could be a fun team to watch. I just hope that the “meritocracy” still exists, and the kids have an honest shot at making the team this year. If more than one or two step up, it could be real exciting.

    How cool would it be if Johnny, Sven, Poirier, and Wotherspoon all make the cut?

    You’d have Glencross-Backlund-Hudler to do the heavy lifting up front
    Then Johnny-Money-Rayray on two
    Sven-Knight-Poirier on three
    Bollig-Stajan-Bouma bringing the energy on four

    on defence

    Gio/Brodie
    Russell/Wotherspoon
    Smid/Engelland

    With Hiller/ Ramo between the pipes

    Might not win a whole lot, but would be exciting to see the energy of that middle six.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I don’t give two… about any other team than CGY.

    My prediction is as follows:

    Johnny is on the team after camp. What he can do on the ice is…mesmerizing but people often overlook how much more there is to Johnny’s game.

    Despite his obstacles (or perhaps because of them), he gives consistent effort in all facets. Sure he has to learn some finer details but on whole? His dynamic skating (Johnny uncannily knows that changing speeds both for offense and defense are pattern busters – why he surprises guys on the ice) will make him exceptionally useful.

    So, although I wanted it then railed against I can understand the moves to get tougher. It allows guys to feel/play bigger. It does. And although I may quibble on the acquisition costs at the end of the day what’s most important are the kids.

    My guess is, to offset the loss of Cammy’s offense, JG and another rookie (one of Sven, Granlund or Max)are hoped to make it – they need to perform when it matters – last preseason games –

    I almost look at Sven and Knight as a combo. They are better together. The RH Knight has great chemistry with Sven (I remember last year’s preseason finale – they were fantastic – ten bell, grade A scoring chances created).

    Sven needs to play a give and go game to be most effective. He’s got to learn to appreciate a shift with many short touches compared to hanging on to the puck too long (because although he’s a good skater – he isn’t NHL dynamic – can’t separate) trying to make splash plays.Ooooh ahhhh plays. Junior plays. Instead play simple (not simple – effective) hockey. Shoot the puck Sven!!! It makes guys back off (or freeze trying to block) and gives you time and space.

    Will they be better or worse? So many potential scenarios make it near impossible to guess.

    It’s about recreating last year’s environment but also taking a step. The rooks need to learn the right way to go about things.

    That means that in the NHL it is cutthroat competition. While mistakes can happen and players shouldn’t be punished harshly they should still not be tolerated. If you punish harshly it makes guys play afraid to make mistakes: BAD. Instead of playing to make plays: OPPOSITE OF BAD. Always teach positively but be demanding. Players crave that structure – cause they want to get better!

    They aren’t going to catch teams off guard so seeing improvement in extending leads will be huge.

    Lance Bouma can’t be content with being a shot blocker and make his hay by playing in his own end. I want to see him be a monster on the cycle, make some plays.

    When you add skill, driven skill it makes guys better. Not just with JG or Sven setting guys up and they get results but sitting watching on the bench or practice makes you want to try moves like that. Guys get confidence to try more. Why can’t Lance become a Lagenbrunner? It’s all confidence. When you have good players they help others get good either directly or indirectly. Just get to work.

    No whining, no complaining, be like Gio.

    I think that is a reasonable expectation.

  • RexLibris

    I think the Avalanche are going to be a very interesting to watch this year.

    Certainly, history suggests that they are due for a reversion to the norm based on their shot differentials. Iginla is their 1st line RW and they are woefully thin behind him. Down the middle they have tremendous depth (depending on how things shake out with O’Reilly) and the LW is decent.

    The D needs improving and I believe that this could be their Achilles’ heel.

    Meanwhile, is it reasonable to believe that Varlamov can continue last season’s numbers over the entire course of this coming year?

    Imagine for a moment that they trade O’Reilly for a puck moving D and then Duchene suffers some sort of season-altering knee injury? They could fall to the bottom of the western conference in a hurry.

    Just thank your lucky stars the Flames won’t have to play Dallas (see what I did there?) too often this season. That is one terrific lineup.

  • DragonFlame

    Let’s face it, this year is right off the rebuild menu & is going to have a similar flavour to last year. The first 4 weeks are going to have some good surprises & we are going to be right in the thick of things. Then the injuries will start. The NHL has become a marathon of parity & depth. Flames just don’t have much depth except maybe in the forward ranks. So like what Rex said, we lose the wrong players, we’ll be counting the days to the trade deadline sell off & draft by December. I don’t think this is such a horrible thing & I hope it wont mean Hartley doesn’t get extended, because I think he is the right coach for this rebuild.

    The teams I think we’ll be fighting for those lottery picks with us are going to be Carolina, New Jersey, Ottawa & Buffalo.

    The next level of bubbles but could fall to the lottery group will be Jets, Panthers, Islanders, Oilers, Arizona, Leafs.

    • RexLibris

      I was just thinking about the Leafs.

      Losing Gunnarsson will likely hurt. And doubling-down on Carlyle is a bad idea.

      Wouldn’t surprise me if they end up drafting in the 6th to 10th overall range (barring winning the draft lottery in which case the Eastern Canadian media would explode in a massive orgiastic display of navel-gazing hyperbole).

      • Nick24

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see them draft 6-10 for the next four or five years.

        Besides Morgan Reilly and Nylander does this team have any real high end prospects coming down the pipes?

        • Nick24

          Matt Finn is regarded pretty highly, Connor Brown had a really good year with Erie. I think he was a 20-year old though. Andreas Johnson is regarded highly in Sweden, Fredrick Gauthier is still a decent prospect, Jake Gardiner is obviously a guy who has a high ceiling but I’m not sure if you’d still call him a prospect though, and Josh Lievo rounds out their more exciting prospects.

          David Broll is another player, he doesn’t have a real high ceiling, but Leaf fans really like him.

    • Colin.S

      I think the trade deadline isn’t going to be good for us this year at all. If you look at true rental players on the Flames (guys with deals expiring this year), there is GlennX, Byron, McGratton and Backlund as the forwards. Brodie is the lone true rental on the backend and Ramo’s deal ends this year as well.

      Problem with GlennX is he has a full NMC so that limits a lot of options. McGratton and Byron won’t be bringing back the kind of picks we need, unless Byron has a monster year, but if that’s the case it’s better we resign him. Backlund isn’t the kind of guy you give away at the deadline, he’s young, a center and one of the teams best options. Unless this team want’s to be even worse for longer it makes no sense moving him. Same goes for Brodie. Ramo you could move if you got a Berra like return why not.

      So for Rentals we have GlennX, McGratton, Byron and Ramo. If we are lucky GlennX gets us at least a 2nd if not first depending on his year and willingness to move his NMC. The rest if you get a 3rd round pick that’s a good day.

      • MattyFranchise

        I’m starting to question the value of trade deadline deals in general and the whole assumption that teams will overpay for that rental player. Many here complain that we did not get enough for Iggy(had we moved him two years earlier) and Jaybo(yet we slam Jaybo regularly). Last year we got a third fro Stemps and could not get any reasonable offer on Cammi. So I wonder after watching Pittsburg load up with rentals 2 years ago and failing if teams are questioning the whole idea. Look how little NYI got for Vanek. I wonder if a team would not be better served to move players earlier and if teams might be looking to add character guys sooner as well.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Colorado is no playoff team. Their meteoric fall to the bottom of the western conference is gonna be an excellent bonus to this long and dreary season for Flames fans.

    • Nick24

      I waited for that to happen all last season and it never did.

      Roy seems like an interesting coach, they have a lot of great young players. guys like Barrie and Landeskog are a year older. I don’t know about that… Colorado could be pretty awesome.

      • jeremywilhelm

        It did start to, as the season ended. They literally need Varlamov to have a Vezina season with that defence in front of him.

        Don’t count on them going anywhere. Their D didnt get any better.

  • SmellOfVictory

    The Flames, on paper, should be guaranteed last spot in the division. The Oilers finally added some useful supporting players in free agency and they’ve got a full season of Scrivens in net.

  • Greg

    The flames record was significantly better when Gio was in the lineup last year. If he’s healthy all year, we might get a non-trivial boost in the standings from that alone and not finish as close to McEichel territory as we’d like.

  • RexLibris

    The majority of the Oilers’ record from last year was borne out of their disastrous start to the season.

    Beginning the season with improved goaltending and a more solid defense due to the addition of Fayne and Nikitin should help.

    Also, the wings this year are deeper and more balanced with a roster that could run (L-C-R) Hall – RNH – Eberle, Pouliot – Arcobello – Perron, Yakupov – Draisaitl (or FA signing) – Purcell, Joensuu – Gordon – Hendricks, Gazdic – Lander – Pitlick. (LD – RD) Marincin – Petry, Nikitin – Fayne, Ference – Schultz, Aulie – Klefbom.

    Gagner was a defensive liability all season long and while Arcobello is unlikely to provide the same level of career offense, his underlying numbers are strong on a bad team.

    Also, the addition of Craig Ramsay (and one more coach to be announced, according to Eakins) ought to have an effect on the D-corps.

    The team will live and die with the 2C slot and the whether the PP improves.

    They might have enough to move past Phoenix this season, but we are only in July.

    For the Flames, I think they are as good as last year, perhaps better. Cammalleri was a bit of a non-factor last season due to injury and a poor season. Stempniak may be missed more than most, but the addition of Hiller was a very good move and as much as the Engelland signing appears like a farce, I think he could be a very calming 3rd pairing defenseman.

    The big issues for the Flames this season will be injuries (they simply don’t have the depth to absorb any significant losses), Monahan’s sh% reverting to a more sustainable level, and whether the incoming rookies will be sheltered in their development thus allowing them some room to find success.

    My guess is that the Flames finish around 28th to 26th in the league. But as mentioned above, there is still plenty of time before the season starts. Keep the waiver wire and the Flames #4 position there (as well as cap space) in mind as that could play a role in adding depth when the season starts.

    Some cap-strapped teams are going to have to waive good (if overpriced) players and provided they get by Buffalo, Florida and Edmonton, the Flames could find a gem or two there.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Arizona also got Moss back, one of their better tough minutes forwards. But they lost Ribiero who was a 50+ point player even in the Tippett system.

    I think they will be worse this year.

    • Colin.S

      Moss went to some Swiss team, unless Arizona signed him after that signing(which was allowed by his contract, he had a 48 hour window to still sign with an NHL team I think).

      As for the Flames, I’m almost certain they won’t have as many points as last year. Edmonton got better, Vancouver will probably be a little better strictly for the fact that moron Torts is gone. Arizona/Nashville are probably still better than us and Dallas got a ton better. Minny got a little better and the cup champs are the cup champs. San Jose and Colorado may not be as good as last year but those are easily still playoff teams. And the other three (STL, CHI, ANA) are all still locks to make the playoffs (baring horrific injuries of course).

      The Flames and Jets will be battling it out for who gets the basement suite of the Western Conference.

      Out of the newcomers you mentioned the only one who will probably make the lineup is Gaudreau and even though he’s gonna be good, he’s still a rookie. No guarantee he can replace Camms production. The Flames as a team will still have trouble scoring, may not even get to last years mark of 209 goals (won’t be 157 goals buffalo bad though).

      They should be drafting right around 3-5 again. Don’t think the team is that bad they will be the worst team in the league. But because the Flames play in the west(stronger/better conference) they may have a harder time getting points in the standings.

  • prendrefeu

    To begin I disagree with your evaluations: until proven otherwise Engelland is a downgrade from Butler and Bollig is an upgrade from Westgarth. I also see Sven as in the list of potential newcomers and would consider Raymond as an upgrade from TJG not a replacement for Cammi. So in my my mind we lost two significant pieces that have not been replaced by proven NHL vets those being Cammi and Stemp. However we are in a rebuild so the fact is that those two positions should be filled by prospects and they should be allowed to be developed and assessed as such.

    I agree with your assumption that we will not catch the playoff teams as none of them are in a tail spin although the Sharks may struggle to match last years totals. Arizona is Pheonix and they will be kicking tires to be in. The Canucks will be better because of coaching and locker room not because of any talent upgrades; I think they will challenge one last time with this core before they really get the message. Now our neighbors to the north are an interesting group; many thought they were going to make a move last year but failed to do so and while I am not a fan I actually think they will take a step forward this year and may actually catch the Flames; they have solidified their goaltending, added some depth to their defense and have some fire power upfront but the big change is in adding another veteran voice behind the bench and if he is allowed to play bad cop to Eakins good cop we love you they could make progress.

    Now what about our team; there is good chance we could regress because we give our kids a chance to play. Yes we have upgraded our goaltending, but our proven depth throughout the organization on the backend is down we have no NHL replacement defenders in the organization but believe that eventually some of the kids will develop into this. Upfront there is a chance that Monahan may regress as many second year pros do, however Granlund looks ready to enter the NHL as does Johnny and I suspect Sven as well.(Rhino and Knight too) With the addition of Arnold, Agostino, van B, Wolf, Poirier and the return to health of Ferland there is depth to push the organization forwards.

  • RedMan

    I am not an oil fan, far from it. You said it…how did they finish so far behind us last year with that roster?

    I don’t agree that their roster is worse on paper. If you consider counting stats only then maybe because of the loss of Gagner but, other than that, I think they are actually a fair bit better. The addition of Fayne should be huge for them and although most of the rest of the division with the Flames and Canucks excepted got better,I think the Oilers should be better this season too.

    I really don’t know if they will be 10 points behind us again this year…in fact, I doubt it. And yeah, I just threw up in my mouth a little tying that.