They’re not quite there yet, but the Calgary Flames are heading toward a pivotal point in this confounding season.
During a well-publicized rebuilding phase that officially started with
the unloading of former captain Jarome Iginla less than two years ago,
the Flames are actually in contention for a playoff spot.
They woke up Sunday
morning in a wild-card spot — a position no sane person expected them
to be in this season — in a tie with defending champion Los Angeles Kings but owning more wins in regulation. It appears to put the Flames
in a precarious spot with their strategic direction. Do they hold onto
their biggest trade chip and risk another Michael Cammalleri situation
with Curtis Glencross? Do they deal him away and fill his slot with one
of the many up-and-comers on the farm but face potential scrutiny for
appearing to throw in the towel on the postseason?
Additionally, do they look to dump David Jones and/or Jiri Hudler, who each have one more season on their $4-million deals?
Any of those hypothetical moves could be interpreted as an indication of
indifference when it comes to this year’s playoffs. But the Flames
management team cares nothing of public perception. President of hockey
operations Brian Burke made that perfectly clear with the Cammalleri
sit-in last season.
Luckily, the team is probably in a win-win situation with what I believe
is a fairly obvious answer to the questions posed above.
Get what you can for Glencross. The a pending unrestricted free agent is
probably nowhere near as valuable as Cammalleri was a year ago based on
his injury history (including his current absence) and declining
Bid goodbye to Jones and Dennis Wideman and, really, almost any of the
veteran players not named Mark Giordano who might fetch a return that
gives your scouting staff the opportunity to find another Johnny
Gaudreau or T.J. Brodie in the later rounds of a future draft.
The Flames need to move out players who are not part of the long-term
plans regardless of what the effects may result this season. The funny
thing is that a stronger finish to the season is possible with ‘the
replacements’ than with the status quo.
Youth drives this engine now. There are enough veterans in town to
influence the kids without worrying about losing the likes of Glencross,
Hudler or Jones. There may be the desire to bring Hudler back given his
skill level and production, even if it’s for just that one final year.
Glencross may be asking for too much money and term for a team that
wants to afford itself the luxury of flexibility, and Jones has upped
his trade stock with a recent hot streak but over the course of his time
in Calgary has done little to show he is deserving of being a part of
this team’s long-term future.
Michael Ferland looked ready for the NHL during his time with the Flames
earlier this season and could step right into Glencross’s spot. Centre
Markus Granlund could also move to a wing if needed. Emile Poirier is
performing extremely well in the American Hockey League and folks are
excited to see what he can do at the NHL level sooner than later.
It’s not giving up on the season, it’s giving the long-term players a
chance to take advantage of an unexpected situation and continue to
build the culture of a hockey team that does not consider losing
acceptable or automatic.
It’s looking forward to seeing what these kids could become if given chances to grow in the most difficult competition possible.
It’s an easy call.
The hardest part might be convincing other teams that there’s decent
value in a player a team in a playoff position doesn’t want to keep.