Age Gaps and Calgary’s Transformation

The signing by the Calgary Flames of college free agent Kenney Morrison the other day got me thinking about the players the Flames have under contract for next season, and the age groups represented in that grouping.

So with a bunch of moves probably coming in the off-season, let’s see where things stand.

2015-16 DEALS, BY BIRTH YEAR

  • 1982: G Jonas Hiller, D Deryk Engelland
  • 1983: F Matt Stajan, D Dennis Wideman, D Mark Giordano
  • 1984: F Jiri Hudler, F David Jones
  • 1985: F Mason Raymond
  • 1986: D Ladislav Smid
  • 1987: F Brandon Bollig, D Kris Russell
  • 1988: none
  • 1989: none
  • 1990: F Joe Colborne, D T.J. Brodie
  • 1991: G Joni Ortio, F Bryce van Brabant
  • 1992: D Kenney Morrison
  • 1993: F Johnny Gaudreau, F Markus Granlund, D Tyler Wotherspoon, D Ryan Culkin
  • 1994: F Sean Monahan, F Emile Poirier, D Brett Kulak, D Patrick Sieloff
  • 1995: D Keegan Kanzig, F Morgan Klimchuk
  • 1996: F Sam Bennett

Let’s ignore the cap implications right now. The Flames have 27 players under contract, along with another 15 restricted free agents, some of which won’t be retained.

The thing that jumps out to me, particularly in comparison to how things have been in the past, is the balance in terms of the team’s skilled players, and the presence of a lot more of the team’s important situational performers in the younger age group.

SAME LIST, RFAs ADDED

Pending RFAs in parentheses.

  • 1982: G Jonas Hiller, D Deryk Engelland
  • 1983: F Matt Stajan, D Dennis Wideman, D Mark Giordano
  • 1984: F Jiri Hudler, F David Jones
  • 1985: F Mason Raymond
  • 1986: D Ladislav Smid
  • 1987: F Brandon Bollig, D Kris Russell
  • 1988: none
  • 1989: (F Mikael Backlund), (F Paul Byron), (F David Wolf)
  • 1990: F Joe Colborne, D T.J. Brodie, (F Lance Bouma), (F Josh Jooris), (F Ben Hanowski), (D Mark Cundari), (D Sena Acolatse)
  • 1991: G Joni Ortio, F Bryce van Brabant, (F Drew Shore), (D John Ramage)
  • 1992: D Kenney Morrison, (F Michael Ferland), (F Kenny Agostino), (F Bill Arnold), (F Turner Elson), (F Max Reinhart)
  • 1993: F Johnny Gaudreau, F Markus Granlund, D Tyler Wotherspoon, D Ryan Culkin, 
  • 1994: F Sean Monahan, F Emile Poirier, D Brett Kulak, D Patrick Sieloff
  • 1995: D Keegan Kanzig, F Morgan Klimchuk
  • 1996: F Sam Bennett

If they sign Eric Roy, Austin Carroll and/or Jon Gillies, they’d be an addition to the 1994 group.

I’m not 100% certain that the Flames retain all the RFAs, in part because that would mean the team has 42 players locked up and I doubt they tie their hands that severely with established players. Kent’s gonna have a lot more about RFAs in detail in the near-future (check out his piece on the NHL RFAs from the other day), but you can see that they have a lot more talent in the younger age group than they’ve had in a long, long time. I think the interesting thing to watch – and probably the challenge for Brad Treliving now – is the transitioning away from players born in the early ’80s towards players born in the late ’80s. Heck, the team has very few useful players born between 1985 and 1988.

This is where the team’s iffy drafting comes back to haunt them, as their horrid drafting prior to 2008 has left them forced to trade or go to the free agent market for those players (who are in or entering the prime productive years of their careers), both of which are more expensive routes than drafting and developing them yourselves.

Alas, the situation is what it is, but the main take-away from this should be to keep an eye on the ages and specific placement of those ages in the organization of players the team is acquiring. I think that outside of specific strategic aged assets, the general trend will continue to be a move away from players on the wrong side of 30.

Both Drew Shore and Kenney Morrison are prime examples of this trend; they fit into age groups that were relatively thin for the team in terms of established NHL assets, so these acquisitions provided a bit more depth and options in younger age groupings.

    • Derzie

      We need some D-men to fill that ‘Stanley Cup’ gap of 88/89. Overall it gets muddy for me as some of the guys will be AHlers (not going to make the NHL). We need those as well but hopefully with less NHL contract burden.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Just need to draft well from here on out and eventually the gaps all fill in!

      On NHL.com Adam Kimmelman’s mock draft has the Flames selecting Olivier Kylington in the 1st round. Yes please!

    • Parallex

      Can pretty much hang all of that on Darryl Sutter. Between 2004 and his departure the flames had a grand total of one 2nd round pick (Mitch Wahl) while simultaniously downgrading the value of the 1st round picks (either via directly trading down or via roundabout trading down (Cammy for 1st, Tanguay for lower 1st).

      No one move in isolation was a big hit but the steady drip of depreciated pick value combined with a bunch of misses on those picks eventually caught up with us. The NHL equivalency of death by a thousand cuts.

      • Greg

        It predates Sutter even. Basically no birth years before ’88 (ie drafts from 1990s to 2005) were flames draft picks, and Gio was the only one we even developed.

        Surprisingly It actually starts improving in Sutter’s time with Backlund, Bouma, Brodie, Ortio… I guess he did ok with the picks he retained. Just didn’t hold on to enough of them.

        Hard to say if Feaster and Weisbrod did something to dramatically improve the scouting, or whethet it’s just a numbers game since that’s when we started trading for picks instead of losing them.

    • The Last Big Bear

      It wasn’t “death by 1000 cuts”.

      It was “a rational GM going all-in while his core players were at their peak ages”.

      It didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad plan, or that Sutter was a bad GM. The Flames drafted poorly during that time, but no worse than most NHL teams, given the number of picks they had, and their draft position.

      • BurningSensation

        Yes, actually, it does mean he was a bad GM. Not one, but two first round picks for an Ollie Jokinen in steep decline? Dealing away 2nd rounders like candy for marginal returns?

        He brought in less than useful players for useful picks, and starved the development system of talent.

        That sir, is a bad GM.

        • piscera.infada

          I think the issue with Sutter’s dealing away draft picks was exacerbated in large part due to the 2004 lockout where the landscape of the league changed. Prior to that, teams could overpay players with little to no consequence other than real dollars. With the lockout, came the cap. Successful team-building began with drafting, developing, and retaining your own assets, often at a cheaper price.

          Personally, I don’t think Sutter adapted fast enough, or really realized that the landscape had changed until he got stuck in constantly chasing his tail. I remember when the first Jokinen trade first happened. It was widely heralded as a good move–a team on the cusp, adding a good piece. It never worked out, but the “drafting issue” was part of a larger problem than just trading picks. It was a Flames organization that failed to adapt to the new NHL–it was trading picks, but moreso a lack of opportunity for prospects, poor development, and drafting players for traits other than skill.