FlamesNation Roundtable: 2014-15 First Half Edition

roundtable-fn

The first half of 2014-15 is officially in the books. We laughed, we cried, we marvelled at about 25 of games of incredible shooting percentage assisted results. No, the Flames haven’t become a post-rebuild Chicago Blackhawks type super power (yet) but there are encouraging signs emanating from the newly formed post-Iginla era. Rookies are playing regular minutes, Flames players are in the conversation for major awards and the org actually re-signed a coach (instead of firing him) for a change. 

With all this in mind I gathered together FN regulars Book of Loob, Ryan Pike, Taylor McKee, Byron Bader and Beloch to talk about what was in 2014 and what’s to come in 2015.

1.) Flames slowed down after a hot start but nevertheless exceeded all possible expectations in the first half. Can they continue to do that for the rest of the season?

Book of Loob: I think so, but generally speaking that’s probably going to keep them out of the playoffs. They’re a little better than .500 right now, and if they continue that pace, I expect to see them land somewhere in the range of 92 points. That’s probably going to be just on the outside looking in.

Now, a healthy Backlund should make things better, if the goalies can return to at least league average form, and Hartley doesn’t screw around too much with Gaudreau/Hudler line combinations, they can probably be pretty good, but I’d think Brad Treliving would have to gauge whether or not the team is playoff bound and make the according deals at the deadline. (I would not do this)

Ryan Pike: Possession-wise, the Flames are a bottom-five team. “Hard work” and bounces-wise, they’re a top-ten team. I figure they split the difference and continue to slightly over-perform their expectations. I see them finishing a tiny bit out of the playoff pack.

Byron Bader: I think they’ll continue to exceed our expectations and not finish in the bottom 5 but honestly their playoff hopes might be dead. They’ve fallen out of a spot and they’re now trying to claw their way back in in the West. Also, Colorado, Dallas and Minnesota are ramping up and coming up behind the Flames. I’m hopeful that they can get back in there but I just don’t see it happening.

Beloch: With a high-impact player like Backlund back in the lineup, and red-hot to boot, there’s every reason to expect that the Flames’ underlying numbers should improve a bit. Those numbers suggest the Flames are lucky to have had the record they have had so far, but there’s room to argue that they haven’t been as lucky as one might think. That’s a topic for another day.  Even if you do believe the Flames have been fortunate, many of the Flames’ crucial players are rookies who aren’t the same players that they were at the start of the season. I am therefore more optimistic than the numbers strictly warrant. I think this team will be in the bubble for a playoff spot. 

Taylor McKee: Well, I checked back at my expectations for the Flames this year and I believe I was the most dour of the lot when the season started. Suffice to say that I have some serious egg on my face for how well the Flames have done this season. However, I would think that the Flames will continue to slide down the standings in the upcoming months of the season and towards an uncomfortable position between the playoffs and the lottery.

2.) Which player was the biggest surprise through the first half for you?

Book of Loob: Johnny Hockey to some extent. I knew he was going to be good, but he’s exceeded my expectations. I guess the player that has truly surprised me has been Josh Jooris, because while he is definitely riding the wave of some high percentages right now, no one ever expected him to be even in the conversation for making the team before training camp opened, and now he’s positioned himself as one of Hartley’s more versatile forward options. I really hope it lasts, I’m a fan of this kid.

Ryan Pike: I never expected Sean Monahan to progress from being sheltered and still struggling possession-wise to being a pretty solid NHL center. Granted, a lot of it was him being thrown to the wolves in the first half with all the injuries, but Monahan really dove into the role with gusto and has been a great surprise. 

Byron Bader: I’d say Gaudreau but he’s almost a pleasant confirmation of what the FN crew and readers thought he would be. I’ll say Jooris. He’s slowed down significantly but nobody even saw him playing this year. But he’s got 9 goals and is here to stay for the year.

Beloch: Monahan. I wasn’t expecting Jooris to look as good as he has, but “Hudreau effect” has probably made him look better than he really is. After watching the men’s world cup last season, I was convinced Johnny was the real thing, so he’s been as expected. It’s Monahan stepping up to become a monster two-way player at just 20 that’s surprised me. He does not look like a 20 year old kid on the ice at all. Monahan is going to be a beast. 

Taylor McKee: His recent struggle to score goals notwithstanding, I would have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by the development of Sean Monahan given the situations he has been used in. As was mentioned in the broadcast against Vancouver, a lot of the talk around Gaudreau has made some forget just how young Monahan is how difficult it is for someone his age at his position. If he can become a dependable tough-minutes centre for the Flames, then they are in a much, much better position moving forward in this rebuild. I have also not hated David Jones this season in a limited role. So I suppose that is a surprise of sorts.

3.) Who was the biggest disappointment?

Book of Loob: There has been a lot. Engelland, Bollig, Smid, Setoguchi (that was a low risk gamble at least), even Mason Raymond, though I suspect he’s better than he’s been. For me it might be Rafa Diaz. He was never going to be a saviour on the blueline, but I thought when they signed him he had the potential to add some stability to the third pairing that they looked like they were desperately going to need (and have proven they do). I actually thought he might have been good enough to be on the second pairing.

I am an idiot. I still think he’s better than Engelland and Smid, who are both truly terrible, but at this point they’re essentially all interchangeable and mostly useless. Thank Lanny for Brodano.

Ryan Pike: Mason Raymond. Between his injury early-on and his wildly unspectacular play since, he hasn’t been what everyone had hoped he’d be. And it’s frustrating, because on paper, he’s almost ideally suited to the style of play the Flames seem to want to play. It just hasn’t materialized.

Byron Bader: Mason Raymond. Shows flashes of being a good support piece but disappears for massive stretches

Beloch: I’d be surprised if anyone picks someone other than the hooch. He came into the season as a 28 year old pro NHL player with 249 points in 459 NHL games. He played 12 games without putting up a single point and has been bumped to the AHL. Epic fail. Dishonorable mention goes to Diaz.

Taylor McKee: My eyes want to say Glencross, though it has been mentioned that his underlying numbers indicate that he is still an effective player. I would say that Backlund has been my biggest disappointment only because he hasn’t had a chance to play due to an unfortunate injury. Since his return, it should be clear to management that he is deserving of an extension. Like now please.

4.) Bob Hartley was re-signed as the Flames coach int he first half. Yay or nay?

Book of Loob: I suppose it’s good to prevent your coach from being a lame duck, but otherwise, eh, I don’t have a real solid opinion on this one way or the other. He’s been the right guy to lead this team, and has seemed to learn to shy away from playing players he shouldn’t (Bollig notwithstanding), but I’m not sure there aren’t others who couldn’t do the same job or better. The nice thing is it’s not a constant concern. Coach X could be the next Flames coach is a pretty annoying distraction, and it’s nice the Flames don’t have to worry about it, at least not yet. 

Ryan Pike: Yay. I’m a big fan of Bob Hartley, at least in terms of his press conferences, but he’s also seemed to do a pretty strong job of figuring out which players are best suited to specific roles and, for the most part, using them in those roles.

Byron Bader: I don’t mind the re-signing. He does some strange things from time to time but overall I think he’s a pretty good coach and has the right attitude instilled in the team.

Beloch: Hell yay. Under Hartley the Flames have not had a winning record, but he’s gotten far more out of these players than anyone thought possible. The rookies are developing ahead of expectations and are picking up a work ethic that will serve them well throughout their careers. Hartley has been giving rookies important roles, but only ones they were ready for, while veterans have been forced to earn their place in the lineup. My only notable concern is how Baertschi has been handled, and that’s more Burke’s fault than anyone else’s. 

Taylor McKee: Well, I don’t think it really matters that much. It has become pretty clear that NHL franchises have no qualms over canning coaches, extensions or not. Though I will have to say that Hartley’s recent comments about enforcers are heartening, even if they are about nine years late. 

5.) The trade deadline is about a month and a half away. What would you do if you were Brad Treliving? 

Book of Loob: Sell, not buy. If the Flames are in the hunt for a playoff spot, that’s great, but this year is still supposed to be a rebuild year, and the worst thing they could do is trade assets for a playoff rental. There are guys who are being made expendable for any number of reasons (Glencross, Stajan, Wideman) and you’re better off trying to build on that than sell it away. This year is a free pass. Everyone needs to remember that.

Ryan Pike: Strategic selling. Treliving has stated that the team is still in “asset accumulation” mode, which means that nothing should be off the table if he can get a good enough offer. I figure we’ll see a goalie, a defenseman and Curtis Glencross moved for picks or prospects.

Byron Bader: I like what he’s done so far. The Drew Shore move was a good one. He’s staying the course and not making too many hasty decisions. I’d like to see them move out Glencross. Better yet, I wouldn’t be opposed to them moving out Glencross and a mid-draft pick (3rd maybe) for a good 3/4 d-man. Yandle is a guy I would love if he was available. I’m looking for sort of a hybrid between making them better for the push this year but also making them better in the long-term.

Beloch: In interviews Treliving has given the impression that he still views the Flames as a rebuilding team, even if they are in the playoff bubble at the moment. This is absolutely correct and I hope he bloody well remembers it!  The Flames need to make moves that prioritize the long-term.  

The Flames’ farm system is packed with quality forward prospects, so trading for veteran forwards is not a good idea right now. A youngish #3 defender, on the other hand, would make the team better today and for several seasons to come. The Flames could move a non-essential veteran such as Stajan (who is being wasted on the fourth line) and should definitely think about moving Glencross if his contract expectations aren’t in line with those of Treliving. Aside from that #3D, Treliving should try to acquire high-end defensive prospects and picks.

Taylor McKee: Well, I suppose it depends on the standings, but I would absolutely look at moving Glencross. I believe that Burke made a serious error last season in not moving Cammalleri. Even a third rounder, though we did trade one of those for Bollig, is better than nothing. I hope that if the Flames are in a selling position Treliving does not make the same mistake. 

6.) Finally, where do you see the Flames finishing in the standings and picking in the entry draft in June?

Book of Loob: I am afraid to answer this question. Let’s say 12th (in the West you mean? -ed.). That’s a nice number.

Ryan Pike: Just outside of the playoffs, drafting around 12th overall.

Byron Bader: I see them finishing pretty much exactly where they are (9th or 10th in the west … I hope to god I’m wrong). Right now it looks like they’d pick 11th or 12th which is right where I would peg them to finish.

Beloch: The Flames are going to be in the bubble and that bubble is likely going to be big and wild this season. The Flames best hope for an early draft pick is likely the new and improved “Oiler rules” lottery system. Kipper got worse teams than this into the playoffs, so I also wouldn’t be too surprised if some combination of Hiller, Ramo and Ortio does the same

Taylor McKee: I will say finishing 21st overall, picking at the end of the top ten.

  • CutterMcAwesome

    If the Flames sell off a few pieces at the deadline it certainly won’t make them worse (as to drop further in the standings).

    Their only way into a top 5 pick is via trade.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Flames draft at 7 to 12 this year. Things are going to get very tight in the west soon. A lot of teams will putting on a big push.

  • beloch

    Fan960’s Pat Steinberg has tweeted that Ortio will get the start tomorrow (not a big surprise) and Drew Shore is on his way up from Adirondack as well. Shore might sit in the box for a game or two but, if he plays, he’s on the team for good. He can’t pass waivers if he plays another game.

    My guess is that Shore will be slotted in at right wing. The Flames don’t have a lot of right-hand shooters right now. This might also be a prelude to moving Stajan, since Shore could easily slot into Matty Franchise’s spot on the fourth line.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      It’s obvious now that McGrattan’s demotion to the A, was waiting on the Drew Shore trade.

      Recalling Shore now looks like a set up for another trade. The Flames didn’t need to add depth at centre before this happened, especially in light of fact that they just sent Markus Granlund back to Adirondack, until Jooris got hurt. Given that Shore will quickly be waiver eligible, and that the Flames are prepared to slot him in as a regular (I think this is true since they have alotted him a low #22). Something has to give, especially since Jooris will be back soon. Maybe your right and it’s Stajan, but I also wonder if it isn’t David Jones.

    • Craig

      I am definitely surprised that Ortio is starting! Amazing news though.

      According to the lines that were on the flames website it looks like drew shore will slot in on the third line as a centre with colbourne on his right wing and Bouma on his left.

      Should be a fun game to watch!

    • The Last Big Bear

      “Drew Shore is on his way up from Adirondack as well.”
      i really doubt that Shore set foot in Glen Falls…merely paper transactions. He has spent time with Joe Colborne, an old hockey buddy from college, with Joe filling in Shore on Hartley-run practises…

  • beloch

    Shore time.. Excites for this maybe too much so but we get a bit more size now which makes Burke happy and bodes better for the road trip and by all accounts on panthers boards a lot of their fans weren’t too happy he’d been dealt. Many citing his energy and hard work, unfortunately/fortunately? Buried there by flashier pprospects. .
    I think he can really stabilize the 3rd line. And yeah McT would have given his last old gray haired nut for a center with size and some experience. Snooze ya lose!
    Here’s hoping for a good road trip and I think this kid is going to come out flying with being buried in Florida, being in the AHL all year and now a fresh start

  • SydScout

    Reading both prospect updates and this, I’m assuming Max Reinhart is near if not on the trade block. But if he’s smart, positionally sound and most importantly responsible is it beyond the realms of possibility that he could be converted to an offensive defenseman? He is small, that’s a problem but otherwise? Oh and I reckon he’d quarterback a PP unit beautifully.

    Trash away if you think this is just stupid. Better yet explain why or why not to a relative novice.

  • The Last Big Bear

    1) The Flames will continue to exceed pre-season expectations, but they will likely fall short of the “They’re a playoff team now” expectations that some seem to have developed.

    I’m happy with that outcome.

    2) The biggest surprise has been Gaudreau. Jooris has been a pretty bright flash in the pan, but I don’t think too many serious observers think the he’s a legit career top-6 player. But Gaudreau went from “Maybe he won’t get killed” to “Maybe he’ll win the Calder and lead a playoff team in scoring”.

    3) The biggest disappointment has been the Smid-Engelland pairing, who have been significantly worse as a pairing than they look on paper. Smid has been playing far below his ability level, and Engelland has been anti-chemistry for every pairing he’s played on.

    4) Hard-driving coaches can lose the room pretty fast and pretty dramatically (see: Bob Hartley in Atlanta, after taking the Thrashers to the playoffs). And I’m surprised that Hartley has lasted this long. But I’m fully in favor of keeping him as long as the team is buying in, and signing him to an extension lets the team know that the path of least resistance is to buy in to Hartley’s message.

    He has done incredible things with this team, and I want to give him the chance to keep doing that for as long as possible.

    5) If I was Brad Treliving, I would both buy and sell. I would be very open to selling several roster players, and would be trying to buy a 2nd pairing defenceman with term, or a depth defenceman as a rental. Glencross took a deep pay cut (literally gave up MILLIONS of dollars) for a NTC, so I would leave that decision 100% in his hands. He can play where he likes, and I would scrupulously honour that. Raymond would be on the block, as would Smid and Engelland. They can be moved without significantly negatively affecting the team. Wideman would be available, but the price would be a 1st AND a solid prospect, because that would effectively end the Flames’ playoff drive on the spot, unless they could land another 2nd pairing guy.

    And I’d be shopping for a 2nd pairing defenceman from a crappy team. Someone like Petry from Edmonton, but not Petry specifically because Edmonton sucks and I hate trading with them unless we’re ripping them off.

    But my ideal trade deadline would be a mix of both buying and selling.

    • SydScout

      I would go after Petry and/or Cody Franson July 1 if available. Then buy out Engeland and Smid if the owners have some cash lying around – which they do because they are low on cap hit.

    • SydScout

      I agree with much of your post but not the Glencross opinion. I’m all about loyalty, but Glencross’s contention that he left millions on the table was just bad business at the time. If the Flames sign him, it’s for his present and future value and not for what he’s done in the past. At the end of the day. it’s business.

      • Dayzz

        I fully agree with you here. In Glencross’ case, at the end of the day its just business. I get that he took a pretty hefty pay cut for an aging veteran laden team that was proverbially stuck in a “going for it” mindset, and maybe he SHOULD be given a slightly generous contract (and who knows, maybe feaster would have obliged; he handled the Iggy and J-Bo trades with a lot of respect and courtesy, remember?). However I really don’t think this is likely to happen since there is a whole new regime running the show now, and any pay cuts and bargain signings probably won’t hold much water with a new GM. IF Treliving gives him a new contract, it will be for his current and future worth to the team, and not based on previous deals he made with another GM.

        • piscera.infada

          I agree with this sentiment. Glencross left behind money, but it was for other things that he valued like being close to home and a NTC. That’s what bargaining is about. You give to get.

  • RexLibris

    On Dubnyk being traded, Maloney has more assets to move yet in Vermette and perhaps Yandle as well.

    The Coyotes could get…wait for it…ugly. (deal with it, I’m tired, so this is what you get for jokes tonight)

    Tim Murray probably looks at the standings and curses the Oilers and Coyotes for playing in the West.

    Oilers have a ten-point gap to the 25th place Blue Jackets and are going to trade away their best defenseman rather than sign him.

    Carolina is going to improve now that they are healthy and Arizona is going to alternate between Mike Smith and a Shooter-Tutor for the remainder of the season.

    Buffalo could be one of the worst teams by any metric, advanced or traditional, in a very, very long time and still not beat out the Oilers and Coyotes for 30th place.

    Regarding the Flames, I think I had pegged them to draft anywhere from 6th to 10th overall. We’ll see how the trade deadline goes and the final few months of the season, but they are within the upper end of that range and could slide closer.

    February is going to be an interesting month for them. A long homestand (or two) and some beatable competition means they might, maybe, even sneak closer to the playoff picture.

    For fans in Calgary, I have to say that would be one heck of a treat to see this group in the post-season.

    • mk

      Hey: SEXY-REXY

      (Have you trademarked SEXY-REXY yet? someone might make money of T-shirt sales you know…)

      Do you know if Edmonton has trademarked “city of Champions”?

      If not; i’m thinking Calgary starts using it; with the Stamps and soon to be Flames Champions!!!…..

      BTW; i’m in Edmonton for business right now….Let’s do lunch….

      WW

  • RexLibris

    Gaudreau claiming ignorance after the trademark fiasco isn’t a good look. I bet he doesn’t sign in calgary if they don’t accelerate his ufa status.

    • mk

      What are you on about? Accelerate his ufa status? Contractually (by the CBA), that can’t happen until he’s 27 at least. So unless he ditches for another league, he won’t be a UFA anywhere for a while.

    • BurningSensation

      I honestly don’t get why his trademark thing is even a thing. He humiliated Glenn Healy on live television (arguably my favourite Flames moment of the year) to became ‘Johnny Hockey’ in the most public way possible. All the trademark thing is is his agent sewing up the black market on Johnny Hockey T-shirts.

      Also, you can’t ‘accelerate’ your UFA status. So you can stop worrying about that.

      • piscera.infada

        All the trademark thing is is his agent sewing up the black market on Johnny Hockey T-shirts.

        Without a doubt. I was at the game against Florida, and the number of shirts you see reading “Johnny F***in’ Hockey”, make this inevitable. You don’t want any brand associated with you as a professional athlete, formally or informally, to become something that could paint you in an unfavourable light down the road.

        In truth, I doubt this was a move to monetize the name/brand, but moreso to protect his brand, lest it blow up in his face later. I get it, it’s kind of a strange thing for an NHL rookie to do from a purely optics standpoint. That fact that this is the most press Gaudreau is getting this year (outside of Calgary), just goes to show you what a vapid cesspool sports media has become.

    • Byron Bader

      Just a really smart move on his agent’s part. By applying for the trademark rights for a couple grand, he’s covering his bases and ensuring he is able to garner as many endorsements as his heart desires without any issues with his name being associated with an unfamily friendly brand like “Johnny F**** Hockey”. Nothing wrong with that. Stupid move if he doesn’t do it to be honest.

      Your bet is most certainly incorrect. Just like the “will he go back to college and not sign with the Flames” thoughts that went on for many last year. The guy has never shown any signs of being greedy, he loves it here and is the darling of the city. He’ll be here for a decade or more, I would bet.

    • piscera.infada

      You’re right, it’s once he suits up for game #2. Of course it’s all trivial at this point, but if they really needed that roster spot after tonight…

  • RedMan

    wrap up a bit o work here, then its game day fun in phoenix! i’ll be the one in the flames jersey, lovely wife at his side, drinking timmies center ice 8 rows up. have a great day everyone!

  • everton fc

    My answers to the questions proposed to the “Round Table”:

    1. The Flames will have one more streak of wins and make the playoffs. But they’ll move a player or two prior to get a d-man, or two. Perhaps even two.

    2. Most surprising player: Jooris.

    3. Most disappointing: Setoguchi. Reinhart. Baertschi.

    4. Hartley’s the right coach.

    5. Team needs d-men. We have forwards, particularly centres. Raymond, Byron, perhaps Glencross (I’d still keep him) perhaps Stajan (he’s one more centre) fit the bill along w/a prospect (Reinhart?) Yandle would be a good fit. Mike Weber out of Buffalo might fit, as well, and Reinhart has a brother there… Anyone think Weber would be a good fit here? Or Cowen in Ottawa? Or Proult in Columbus to replace and perform the role Engelland’s suppose to perform here.

    6. I see the Flames in the 6-8 slot.