Playoffs! Guys, the Flames are in the playoffs! Of course, I asked for these questions before the Flames clinched so keep that mind.
This week we talk about Tyler Wotherspoon, Brandon Bollig and what the Flames future looks like.
@Kent_Wilson With the outrage lately at Wotherspoon not playing, is there any data to show that he’d be an upgrade over Potter presently?
— Jacob Wilson (@jacobwils0n) April 9, 2015
@Kent_Wilson What is a good NHL comp for a mature and realized Wotherspoon? Seabrook? Regehr?
— Cameron Hilton (@cameron_hilton) April 9, 2015
The Flames reluctance to give Tyler Wotherspoon a look at the NHL level has been puzzling this season, especially given the club’s lack of obviously superior options at the bottom end of the roster.
Perhaps part of the problem is hinted at here – it’s difficult to nail down just what Wotherspoon is. He’s got size, but not considered a particularly punishing physical presence. He has okay offensive ability, but isn’t going to control a power play from the blueline and isn’t a particularly adept skater or puck mover like, say, TJ Brodie (though he’s not bad either).
Wotherspoon is a sort of hybrid style defender – an everyman who seems decent at everything, but not great at anything. That’s why that neither of the suggested comparables of Regehr or Seabrook above quite seem to fit – Regehr was bigger, slower and had less offensive acumen, but is way more punishing a defender. Seabrook, on the other hand, was actually a better scorer than Wotherspoon in junior, even though he hasn’t quite ported that over into the NHL.
Of course, that’s kind of the reason for the Flames to give the kid a look in the show – to get a better sense of what they have.
@Kent_Wilson why do the flames use Bollig??????
— Dave Camwell (@davecamwell) April 9, 2015
@Kent_Wilson what’s a bolig and why is it in the lineup tonight
— perp (@rocktown_9) April 9, 2015
This has been a popular question recently as well, due in no small part to the apparent availability of superior options like Drew Shore, Michael Ferland and now Sam Bennett.
Judging from the Flames comments when they acquired Bollig, the club thought they were getting a fighter and a hard minutes type checker. Unfortunately they only got the former. Bollig’s lone advantage over the kids is his experience and role as a veteran. In short, he’s a known professional commodity, which coaches tend to default to in a pinch.
That said, Bollig has spent more and more time as a healthy scratch as Hartley has grown more comfortable with his other options. That seems to suggest the team is realizing Bollig is expendable.
— Josh Hudson (@TheLongshot) April 9, 2015
This summer, the Flames have to make decisions on David Schlemko, Raphael Diaz and Corey Potter. The year after is far more critical, with Mark Giordano and Kris Russell slated to become free agents.
None of this off-season’s guys are vital to the organization. I have time for both Schelmko and Diaz as bottom pairing options given their performance in Flames colours this year, so I hope the org retains at least one of them for depth, but they can probably be replaced if not.
The challenge is potentially re-signing Mark Giordano and Kris Russell. Gio should probably be inked to an extension as soon as possible, but I would caution against jumping on the Kris Russell bandwagon right away. Russell has been fine as a Flame and garnered a lot of acclaim this season after establishing a new NHL record for blocked shots, but he’s the kind of guy you don’t want to romanticize too much and sign to a big, expensive contract as a result.
@Kent_Wilson what does a successful season next year look like for the Flames
— Winter of 89 (@Lannys_Stache) April 9, 2015
Geez, quit the softball questions will you guys.
Seriously, while there is a temptation to declare the rebuild over and dub the Flames perennial contenders, the truth is the club has real needs all over the roster still and will want to improve their fundamental even strength play moving forward. Many of the issues we identified going into this year remain, including:
– Improve defensive depth. Giordano and Brodie are great, but the Flames need at least one more quality top-4 defender to take a true step forward. If not 2.
– Improve depth on the wings. Ironically after years of struggling to find pivots, the Flames C-depth is probably in hand with Backlund, Monahan, Bennett, Shore, Stajan, Granlund and Arnold in the fold.
Things fall off on either wing, however, even if we grant that Lance Bouma and Josh Jooris are better than expected. The team needs to add a few more play pushers to skate with Backlund in a shut down role so they can control possession a bit better and they need a couple more offensive weapons to spell off Hudler and Gaudreau now and then (imagine if either of those guys got injured, for instance). Not to mention the fact that Hudler will be a free agent in the summer of 2016.
Shorter version: a successful season for Calgary would be finding a legit top-4 defender, one or two legit top-6 scoring wingers and at least 1 more possession driving forward for the top-9.
As a result, I’d like to see their possession results improve to at least league median levels. The Flames won’t be able to depend on half a dozen career seasons and one of the best extra time records in the league forever, after all, which means learning how to control play is critical as the rebuild develops.