Random Thoughts – January 26 2015

random thoughts

It’s almost February and the Flames are still hanging around the post-season picture. That means, absent a disastrous February, they may not be ardent sellers come the trade deadline in early March. In fact, they may be buyers! Which, of course, goes a bit against the grain of the current overarching focus of the organization. While making the play-offs is always preferable to not, it would nevertheless be foolish to start selling off quality future assets for deadline rentals given where this club is in their rebuild cycle.

That said, maybe there are a few incremental improvements that management could pursue that would aid the future without harming the present? 

– Let’s start with the blueline. It’s one of the most obvious areas of concern for the team, both now and moving forward. The Flames have perhaps the most top heavy blueline corps in the entire league, with the elite pairing of Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie soaking up all all of the tough minutes with aplomb, and everyone else kind of struggling to keep their heads above water at even strength:

Brodano2

The Flames need guys who can either bump Wideman and/or Russell down into the third pairing, or at least a couple of guys who don’t get killed for 10 minutes a night like their current collection of 5-6-7 guys. The Flames will likely give Tyler Wotherspoon a look this season to see if he can usurp one of Diaz, Smid or Engelland from the active roster, but that’s by no means certain and doesn’t really solve the problem anyways. 

Behind Wotherspoon the Flames have Ryan Culkin and a lot of question marks for years. If they are to compete in the next couple of years they’ll need decent NHL blueline depth sooner than their farm system can deliver it.

If Brad Treliving can swap a prospect or a future asset or two for a decent top-4 option in the 23-27 age range, it’s something he should consider. 

– It took him some time, but David Wolf seems to have finally become comfortable on North American ice in the AHL. He’s the hottest forward on the farm team right now and has run his season total to 21 points in 35 games. As I noted on Twitter today, that’s more points than Brandon Bollig managed in over 100 AHL games during his time in the minors (15).

I compare the two because if Wolf is going to press for a roster spot, it will likely be in the designated tough guy role currently inhabited by Bollig. While the Flames seem to be a little less enamoured with size and toughness these days given the demotion of Brian McGrattan, I don’t think they’ll be all together comfortable going without at least one “heavy” on the roster. Wolf, who was a triple digit PIM guy in Germany and has four fights for Adirondack so far this season, is a willing combatant and his numbers also suggest he might actually be able to play. 

Bollig, by the way, has been killed all year on the Flames 4th line. The dreams of him being a functional 3rd liner (never mind a 4th liner) have been crushed by his team-worst results. 

– Joni Ortio played and won in a game on the farm this past weekend. After a rough first month, where he posted a SV% below .900, Ortio has posted an average save rate north of .940 since the start of December, a 13 game run. His turn in the nets here, despite being pulled in the final contest, has likely convinced the team to move on from one of their veteran puck stoppers. 

My money is on Karri Ramo, who has the worst save rate of all three and doesn’t have a contract with the team next season. Ramo has had ups and downs this season, but has proven to be at least an quality NHL puck stopper during his tenure in town. My guess is the club is already actively shopping him with a goal of having Ortio in the NHL full time by the time the deadline rolls around.

– Who the heck will want a back-up goalie at the deadline? Actually it seems like a pretty decent year to be shopping a goaltender, which isn’t always the case. Here’s a few potential trade partners off the top of my head: 

– The Florida Panthers come to mind immediately as a team needing an upgrade behind their starter. Al Montoya has been absolutely terrible this season and the upstart Panthers are long on futures and kids but short on recent success. A mid-level prospect or pick is a no brainer for a bit of insurance behind Luongo. 

– The Tampa Bay Lightning have the shadow of Evgeni Nabokov backing up Ben Bishop this year. In 12 games so far, the 39 year old has an 0.879 SV%, or what most NHLers manage short-handed. The club has impressive youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy waiting in the wings, but at 20 years old he is a bit of gamble should Bishop go down. 

– The Washington Capitals have leaned heavily on Braden Holtby this year because Justin Peters has been lit up in his 8 appearances. The 28 year old journeyman has a .900 save rate in 76 career NHL games, the very definition of “replacement level”. Ramo would no doubt be an upgrade.

– The Dallas Stars have suffered through terrible goaltending this year, in part because back-up Anders Lindback has been Nabokov bad in his 9 appearances. They are a rival for the final playoff spot in the West which may negate any chance of trade between the two clubs, but if that changes Dallas would also be a good landing spot for Ramo.

  • Scary Gary

    The club has impressive youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy waiting in the wings, but at 20 years old he is a bit of gamble should Bishop go down.

    Don’t forget about Kristers “Good Goalie” Gudlevskis.

    in part because back-up Anders Lindback has been Nabokov bad in his 9 appearances.

    What a turnaround. I remember when Lindback was supposed to be the next big thing in goaltending.

    • The Last Big Bear

      @Kent

      it would nevertheless be foolish to start selling off quality future assets for deadline rentals given where this club is in their rebuild cycle

      True, but late round picks and career AHLers are not ‘quality future assets’. They are scratch cards, and while if you collect enough of them for long enough you’ll probably find something, adding or subtracting one or two here and there doesn’t matter much.

      And I have no problem moving an asset of that calibre to bring in a rental defenceman to do something about that bottom pairing.

      I’d like to see the Flames be cautious buyers at the deadline. Give up a probably meaningless asset in order to give the young kids the experience of playing meaningful hockey as late in the calendar as possible.

      As opposed to being sellers at the deadline. And acquiring probably meaningless assets in order to give the young kids the experience of playing for an organization that has pulled the plug on the season and is now just playing out the string.

      I know which option *I* think is more likely to benefit the team long-term.

      • Serious Gord

        I agree. People should keep in mind that one in the hand is worth two in the bush. If we’re seeking a reliable 3-4 defenseman we should go and get one. Not hope that it comes about in the draft and then wait 5 years. We can get both. We can have our cake and eat it too.

        Also just because a player is 25-29 doesn’t mean they’re any less an asset, they just have a downward sloping curve rather than upward sloping. I’m a believer in staggering talent age wise, so that as one player starts slowing down another is reaching their potential.

        Take a look at the successful rebuilds, chicago had Havlat and campbell. Pittsburgh had Gonchar, and Sykora.

        People tend to favour not knowing a players upside than knowing it. Which feels somewhat backwards.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Ramo and Glencross seem to be the obvious players to get moved even if the Flames are buyers.. probably for a couple mid round picks.

    I wonder if they Flames would consider moving Baertschi for Yandle? I think it would make sense for both teams:

    Arizona wants an NHL ready prospect with some offense, and Yandle can skate 25 minutes a night to help out Wideman. That would move Russell down to help out the third pairing.

        • Rockmorton65

          Someone is going to give Arizona more than that for Yandle. If you are going to go after it, then go after it. Me personally, I would give them Sven, Reinhart (who seems to have fallen down a few notches, especially with Shore & Arnold looking good) & a conditional pick if we make the playoffs or not. A 2nd rounder if we do & a 4th or 5th rounder if we don’t.
          Remember, if we can’t get Yandle resigned to decent contract next year, his return as a rental will net us quite a bit back at the TDL next year. Personally, I’d like to lock him up & know we have a pretty darn good top 4 for the next 3-4 years & we have instantly upgraded the 5-6 pairing. Not sure what to do with the excess baggage, I’m sure Diaz will clear waivers, Smid has some value & Engellend & Wotherspoon fighting over that #6 spot.

          Another note, is it true Mike Richards was put on waivers today? Holy smokes, another freebe for the Oilers.

          • BurningSensation

            “Another note, is it true Mike Richards was put on waivers today? Holy smokes, another freebe for the Oilers”

            I think the Oilers are too capped out to be able to absorb Richard’s contract.

            Calgary however….

          • supra steve

            No, unless a 1st rounder is coming back I would let LA eat that cap hit in the AHL. Too long to carry that much of a dump & could really disrupt the ledgers in 4 years. We may have oodles of cap space now but next year Brodie & Backlunds new deals kick in, Year after that we will have Russell Monahan, Gaudreau & Ortio & another goalie, & after that we will some of the other young fixtures like Bennett & Porrier & we still need another top 4 D. The max amount of years you could take a salary dump would be 2. Either that or what is packaged up with the dump is enough for Edwards to write a cheque to buyout down the road. Oilers should seriously look at snagging him & dumping Petry to us(just kidding, to someone anyway) for a 2nd.

          • everton fc

            I would make the condition of the pick based on whether he signs an extension with the Flames.

            But Baertschi, Reinhart and a conditional 2nd would be fair… although I don’t know how appealing Reinhart would be.

  • TheRealPoc

    Tre’s deadline priority has to be looking for that Top 4 blueliner on the right side of 30. The roster desperately needs a legit second pairing moving forward anyway; considering tank nation is now out of scope, might as well look to acquire someone who could help us bink that second wild card spot, because I fail to see how it would compromise the long-term vision (assuming the target met the criteria listed in the article).

    As long as Tre’s honest about where this club still needs to improve…I actually think we’re in pretty good shape. Kinda nice feeling.

  • TheRealPoc

    Treliving has been consistent in his message; even though the Flames are in a playoff spot, they are in “asset acquisition” mode. So, I expect him to maybe trade some veterans (Ramo, Smid, Glencross) to make room for some of the players on the farm (Ortio, Wotherspoon, Baertschi)

  • Rockmorton65

    Off topic – looking at the photos of Johnny & Gio at the ASG. If Gio is 6’0, there’s no way Johnny is 5’7 as some claim. He’s still small, but not 5’7 small.

    • Parallex

      Yeah, unless Gio isn’t 6’0. Saw a few pictures of the two of them standing side-by-side… he’s not 5 inches shorter then Gio. I’d say the 5’9 number is way more likely the truth.

      • everton fc

        Is any player as big, or as tall as their dossier states? Gio may be 5″10 1/2, for all we know. And Gaurdreau, 5’6″… Someone measure them both!

        Gio could use a fashion consultant; brown belt, black shoes… Looks a little frumpy. On the other side, Gaudreau already dressing like an all-star. He looks slick. The skull-cap doesn’t go with the outfit traditionally-speaking, but it’s 21st century cool. Helps sell more jerseys!!

        • prendrefeu

          Gio could use a fashion consultant; brown belt, black shoes… Looks a little frumpy. On the other side, Gaudreau already dressing like an all-star. He looks slick. The skull-cap doesn’t go with the outfit traditionally-speaking, but it’s 21st century cool.

          They both need work. Gio needs a stylist, Gaudreau needs a proper tailor and a stylist. Gaudreau’s look is dated by a few years, as well (beanie or not).

          Most athletes in North America need help when it comes to looking fashionable.

  • everton fc

    Sticking to the potential trade partners Kent has identified above:

    Tampa Bay: Ramo and a prospect… Would that get us Gudas or 6’8: Sustr?? Or would Ramo straight-up get us Barberio, who had some offencive upside in junior? If you look at the Bolts roster, farm team included, they are chockfull of decent, young defencemen. I personally think the Bolts will let the kid Vasilevskiy play if Bishop goes down. Then they may want a backup.

    Florida: I see this as a possible partner, as well, given Montoya as a #1 if Luongo goes down provides a frightening scenario for Panthers fans and “brass” alike. Not to forget Luongo is 35; if Ramo can indeed become a regular starter in this league, this might be a ripe opportunity for him to make that happen. Good for all parties, perhaps. But their backend is sketchy, as well. Shane O’Brien having just played here in Calgary. So are they in a position to move d-man? I wonder… and doubt it. I could see them trying to move Bolland and a prospect over a d-man, to get what they need.

    Washington: This may be the better partner. Clearly, their riding one goalie with a backup worse than Montoya. They are out conference. Ramo could actually start here. I’m not certain if there’s a salary-dump opportunity here regarding Green or Niskanen. Both are post 27 years of age. Alzner’s not coming this way. They do have some young guys on the farm. Perhaps a package deal here nets a 3/4 d-man.

    Minnesota: I don’t see this as a realistic trade partner. Yet.

    The Flyers also came to mind, but they don’t seem so deep on the defencive side of the puck.

  • Kybb79

    I really hope BT doesn’t want Mike Richards. That would be like picking up Clarkson’s contract for free. If the Flames were to acquire that contract, there would be almost no chance of getting rid of it, short of a buyout.

      • BurningSensation

        I probably wouldn’t, only because according to someone (it was either Friedman, Dreger, or Mckenzie, can’t remember) Clarkson’s contract is complicated and somewhat buyout proof. If you’re taking him on, you’re taking him for the next 5 years at tough rate.

      • everton fc

        Clarkson has more value than Richards, in my opinion. But I’d want neither. Richards is a cancer. Not the kind of guy you want around young players. I’ll leave it at that. Clarkson’s a good leader and sticks up for his teammates. But we’re talking about a huge contract, though his style of play, “sans” injury and/or concussions will keep him in the league past his contract.

        Good to see Sven and Wolf up here. Raymond and Bollig should be concerned. Perhaps we can move them both for Clarkson’s contract! 🙂

      • T&A4Flames

        Yes, I would. Clarkson is a RW and despite his contract paying him as a scoring top 6 winger, he is still a useful 3rd liner. And that contract likely wouldn’t impact us at any point over the remaining 5 years (?) of it. And that 1st could positively impact our line up for a decade.

      • supra steve

        And why would TO do that? Worst comes to worst, they waive him and he goes to the AHL. All it costs the Leafs is a lot of $$$. And they have a lot of $$$.

      • supra steve

        I would in a heartbeat for a couple reasons. 1. Clarkson shoots right, the Flames could put him on the RW. 2. He is a great dressing room/community guy. 3. He’s only 30, plenty of players have had off season only to be good again. 3. The cap hit is harsh, but the Flames don’t have too raises to worry about in the next five years (Johnny and Monny will both be RFAs the entire time and bridge contracts are amazing things) 5. In that same time period, contracts with Engelland and Bollig will be running out (Tre would have to be high to resign them).

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Upon arrival to Calgary for his very first call up, Baertschi was the savior. After Burke demoted him last year, he was a bust. What happens if Baertschi sticks and contributes going forward. Who is he then?

    • FeyWest

      I think he’s just another talented prospect who needed to ripen and gain some balance. He’s basically been circle-jerked around by hype and then trying to mitigate expectations when he started to not produce. All I care about is if he’s become a strong two-way offensively gifted player, JMO though.

  • prendrefeu

    Defense wins championships.
    Trade for a strong defense – both in the short-term and long-term.

    There are always more forward prospects to be had, it’s almost a given (sadly, by the nature of most youths not wanting to play defense as they get into the sport).

    Defenders and Goalies are rare commodities. Even rarer if they are top-tier, but that’s another subject.

  • FeyWest

    Decision time is looming for Treliving and Flames.

    Specifically on Baertschi; they need to place him on a top line with either Backlund/Monahan. No more Bob Hartley dog house treatment. If he’s producing, we keep him up and for good.

    If he’s struggling, however, or bringing the line down, we should use him in package trade for Yandle, or a serviceable D-man.

    They should also be finding partners to trade Ramo and Glencross. Both can get us a prospect, or mid-level draft pick(s).

    AND please stay away from Richards/Clarkson. No sense of picking up Richards and helping LA get some cap space. Let them struggle.

  • RKD

    I would love to see the Flames make the playoffs but I disagree that they could be buyers. They should be sellers, if you can’t resign Glencross and Ramo who both don’t have contracts past this year then you should move them. They won’t have luck trading them at the draft and if they don’t move them now then we lose them for nothing. If the Flames made the playoffs, Ramo wouldn’t even be the starter unless Hiller really slid or got injured. This team is still a long ways off, they need to improve in other facets of their game(possession, face-offs, powerplay). If they start buying then improve the d if you can. Other than that, sell sell sell!