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.)