Game 1 of round 2 was a bit of a rude awakening for the Flames and their fans. The Ducks are a clear step up from the Vancouver Canucks, so it’s going to take some new strategy from the Flames coaches and new heroics from their increasingly beat up line up to get this thing back on track.
The questions this week focused more on the future than the present though. Topics include the Flames draft, if there are any buy-out candidates on the roster and where we can expect to see them finish next year.
— Braedon (@NiddNation) April 30, 2015
The Flames aren’t really in a situation where buy-outs are necessary. Mikael Backlund, Lance Bouma and TJ Brodie will see their salaries increase next year, but that’s not enough to worry about. The team will be on the hunt for some depth on wing and on defense in free agency, but unless they go whale hunting the Flames aren’t anywhere close to a cap crisis.
Mason Raymond and Brandon Bollig might both figure to be superfluous next year, but my guess is the team will look for other ways to get them off the active roster (demotion, trade or extra forward) rather spend a bunch of money.
— Jeff (@nhlflamesfan) April 30, 2015
It’s possible, I suppose, though it depends no what you mean by “move up”. It’s easier to move up from a mid-20’s pick to lower-20’s or high teens pick. It’s much more difficult to move up from 15, which is where they will land if they lose to the Ducks.
Every team in the mid-to-late range of the first round dreams of moving up, especially in a draft like this one. We’ll see if the Flames have the will and the assets for it though.
@Kent_Wilson thoughts on raymond /flames mailbag tweet
— Dome Beers (@DomeBeers) April 30, 2015
Back to Raymond, who has become a topic of interest because of his lacklustre season. The former Leaf and Canucks has definitely been disappointing this year – his skating isn’t anywhere near the asset it seemed to be previously and he tends to spend a lot of time sending shots at the net from the perimeter of play.
Part of Raymond’s problem as well is that he skates on the left wing, which currently features a mix of Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Lance Bouma, Michael Ferland and Brandon Bollig. Of those, Raymond is only a clear upgrade on Bollig, but because he can’t play a tough guy or checking role, he seems superfluous to the coaching staff.
Raymond could probably bump Joe Colborne from the line-up if he played the right side. There isn’t much to choose from when it comes to their possession rates, but Raymond does at least shoot more, score more and draw more penalties than Colborne at even strength (Colborne had the worst penalty differential at even strength during the regular season).
Unfortunately for Raymond, he took a step back this year and a bunch of the kids on his side of the ice took a step forward. He’s definitely a “trade for pennies on the dollar” candidate in the off-season.
— Travelin’ Atheist (@The_Beeker73) April 30, 2015
It is, of course, way too early to guess this. Brad Treliving has an entire summer to transform the roster for better or worse, so we don’t even know what the lineup will look like come October.
That said, obviously the Flames have a lot to do in order to become true contenders and an annual threat to make the post-season. I mentioned in my Herald column a few weeks ago that the Flames are just one of four teams with a regular season possession rate around 45% to make the playoffs in the modern era: the 2013-14 Maple Leafs (44.7%, lock-out season), the 2010-11 Anaheim Ducks (44.6%) and 2009-10 Colorado Avalanche (45.4%).
It’s instructive that none of those clubs made the playoffs the next year. The Leafs unexpected success sparked a league wide debate about advanced stats and shot quality and whether the team had found a way to “beat corsi”. They have since imploded spectacularly.
The 2009-10 Avalanche were an even bigger surprise than the 2013-14 version who also came of out nowhere to make the dance (and who also didn’t make the playoffs the next year, by the way). The Avs squeaked in with 95 points in 2011 and then finished second last in the league in 2012-13 with 68, ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers. Finally, the Ducks went from fourth in the West in ’10-11 to 13th in ’11-12.
None of the clubs in question improved their possession game to a noteworthy degree (the Leafs got worse, actually). If we project Toronto’s lock-out year to a full season of about 97 points we can say, on average, that each club dropped by about 20 standings points in the season after their Cinderella run.
So let’s assume the Flames don’t improve and their possession game is more or less stagnant. I would say an expectation of 85-75 points next year would be reasonable.
— Braedon (@NiddNation) April 30, 2015
We’ll end on a present tense question.
The truth is we may not see a Kesler/Backlund match-up because Hartley has preferred Stajan and Monahan to take on the top-6 guys most so far. I don’t consider that a knock on Backlund, rather a reflection of his line mates: Bennett is impressive, but he’s just 18 years old. Colborne is Colborne and not really built to take on the heavy hitters. Which means Bruce Boudreau would happily take that match-up, I think (I don’t really see a match-up Boudreau would shy away from at this point to be frank).
With the first line again struggling to keep their heads above water away from home, we may see Bob Hartley mix things up. If so, we might see Backlund get some more veteran partners (David Jones and Lance Bouma, come on down!) and get put back into a more shut down role. Whether he faces Kesler or Perry/Getzlaf is another question.