It’s the middle of April and the Flames are still playing hockey. Sure, they haven’t looked great through two games, but they’re playing meaningful hockey mid-Spring for the first time in recent memory. Like pizza, even bad playoff hockey is still pretty good.
This week we look at the persistence of Joe Colborne, what to do with Sam Bennett and, of course, the blueline.
@Kent_Wilson Why does the Flames fan base love Colborne so much when he does so little?
— Colin (@DragonsDeck) April 17, 2015
@Kent_Wilson is Colborne as awful as I think he is? Eye test says yes, stats say yes. What’s his deal?
— Craig Taylor (@CraigTaylor97) April 17, 2015
Folks know I’m not fond of Joe Colborne, so I get these kinds of questions a lot.
As mentioned previously, Colborne is a player who looks like he’s a worthwhile skater. He’s big, he has okay hands and is a decent passer. Every so often, he has a shift like he did in game 1 that led to the Russell goal – where he drives the puck down low, fends off checkers and sustains the forecheck.
The problem is those shifts just aren’t common enough. And when he’s not doing that, Colborne is next to useless – he doesn’t shoot the puck, doesn’t generate shots for the team and just generally gets outplayed at even strength.
However his popularity seems to endure because Colborne is a guy who is quietly ineffective, by which I mean he doesn’t make big, obvious errors that tend to stick in your head. Instead, it’s mostly just a series of small things that accumulate: the bobbled puck at the blueline, the forecheck that ends prematurely, the lost check at the point, etc.
Ideally, Colborne would be playing much lower in the rotation, but with Paul Byron and Lance Bouma out, Hartley doesn’t seem to have much choice (though I’d prefer Jooris in the spot currently myself. He has better results than Colborne across the board).
All that said, he has at least looked functional with Backlund and Bennett through the first 3 games of the series.
@Kent_Wilson I think you have covered it before but bridge or long term on Monahan and gaudreau?
— Emir Kazic (@Emir_Kazic) April 17, 2015
Generally there’s only a couple of reasons to go with a bridge deal. The primary one is you’re just not sure about how good a kid really is, so you don’t want to commit too much for too long. A vast majority of young players fall into this category.
The only other reason to go bridge is cap related – a team may choose to use its leverage in RFA situations to get some short-term cap relief owing to budget concerns. Usually this is done with an understanding that they will have to pay on the other side of the bridge. See: PK Subban for reference.
We can safely say reason one doesn’t apply to Sean Monahan and Johhny Gaudreau, so the real issue is going to be the Flames cap situation after next year. If they don’t have any reason to press for short term savings, I think they’ll be inking both guys to long-term extensions. Chances are, Monahan and Gaudreau only get more expensive over time.
@Kent_Wilson Why are they dressing Potter and only playing him 4 min a night?
— Christobelle (@DemetricSystem) April 17, 2015
That’s the ongoing unanswered question isn’t it? It’s somewhat surprising the team wouldn’t go with another option given how little faith Hartley has in Potter, but it must be a case of there not being enough difference in perceived ability between him and Wotherspoon and the coach just defaulting to the veteran be default.
@Kent_Wilson should the Flames pursue Justin Williams as a UFA signing?
— Ron (@ronipedia) April 17, 2015
Absolutely. Though he has settled into 40-point player territory the last couple of seasons, Williams has been one of the best play driving wingers in the league, even before he joint the Kings.
, here’s his situational chart going back to 2004:
As you can see, Williams has driven possession forever, no matter his circumstances. The Flames enduring weakness is driving play at even strength, meaning this is definitely a player they should look at.
Obviously the team would have to be careful with money and term given the fact that Williams is 33 and it looks like his offense is starting to slip. However, something in the 3-year territory wouldn’t be overly risky.
@Kent_Wilson Does it make sense for the Flames to potentially burn a year of Bennett’s contract if the Flames make the second round?
— Cara (@HappyCaraT) April 17, 2015
This is a tough one. As most people know, I’m not a fan of wasting the first year of an entry level deal, because it is by the far the best opportunity to get a huge value-to-cost ratio out of players. This is especially true of a guy like Bennett, who looks like he’ll be stepping directly into the Flames top-6 rotation next year.
As such, it probably doesn’t make long term sense to burn a season of Bennett’s ELC on the playoffs, even if we grant he’s a better option right now than the alternatives (Mason Raymond, Drew Shore). Calgary will get a lot more relative value out of his 20-21 season under an ELC than a handful of games in the playoffs at 18.
Of course, sometimes that sort of cold, long-term calculation don’t hold a lot of weight when there is an opportunity at success right now. We’ll see how the Flames handle it.