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The 2014-15 Calgary Flames season ended last night.

They lost in the second round of the playoffs. In the second year of their rebuild. In a season where many, including the majority of the voices on this website, felt they’d be toying with the draft lottery.

Everyone thought they’d be Edmonton Oilers Bad, but they…weren’t.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to poke at the coprse of the 2014-15 Flames. We’ll try not to use the term “regression” too much, we swear. But as a general framing device, here’s a few things to take away from this year’s Flames.

  • League average goaltending was good enough.
    The 2013-14 Flames were a decent team with pep, gumption, injuries, and just woeful goaltending (including Reto Berra and Joey MacDonald). The resurgence of Karri Ramo and the introduction of Flames fans to Jonas Hiller didn’t make the Flames a world-beater, but it gave them competent goaltending that kept them in games. That’s all they really needed.
  • Don’t expect the same amount of wild comebacks in 2015-16.
    I hate the word “sustainable,” but a team simply cannot spot their opponents so many first goals and late game leads and win all the time. The Flames managed to, improbably, power through this adversity. This probably won’t happen next year, either because the team won’t be down early as often, or because other teams won’t be shocked by their late-game pushes.
  • But also don’t expect the team to be as fundamentally “bad.”
    Sean Monahan is 20. Johnny Gaudreau is 21. Sam Bennett is 19. Josh Jooris is 24. Micheal Ferland is 23. Lance Bouma is 25. They’re all key pieces for the team, and they’re all pretty darn young. Heck, Mikael Backlund is 26. These guys will get better. Right now, the team is getting out-shot most games because they’re super-young, and most players are relatively bad at NHL hockey when they’ve barely played it. Improvement should be expected.
  • The team’s biggest hole is defense.
    The team has two superb defenders in T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano. But beyond that? Kris Russell and a bunch of guys that were playing above their station. Heck, Russell is a #4, fundamentally. The majority of Calgary’s defensemen are 30+, or closing in on 30. For Calgary’s style to work long-term, they need fast, puck-moving defenders to take the weight off the top pairing. Russell’s a start, but he’s also 28. They need young legs.
  • But their number of forwards who can reliably score in the NHL is also not great.
    To shut down the Calgary Flames, more often than not, you just need to shut down the Hudler, Monahan, Gaudreau line. Mikael Backlund has some flash to his game, but likely will end up as a #3 center on a good team. And Sam Bennett’s gonna be good, probably, but he’s just getting his feet wet. But in terms of reliable scoring threats, the team has Monahan, Hudler and Gaudreau. They need, ideally, two more lines of fairly reliable scoring before they can think about contending.
    • Victoria Flames Fan

      Backlund had competent line mates all season, just not offensively-focused ones. And that’s as it should be. Backlund is a very good player, and I really appreciate him, I just don’t believe he’s best suited to that offensive role. Watching the playoffs it was abundantly clear that even though Backlund is a strong possession/Corsi driver he’s not best at driving offence. He’s gret at getting the puck to the offensive zone, but rather weak at figuring out what to do with it once there.

      I believe he’d make a great #3 Centre with the Flames and should be slotted in there. If that fits the Flames plans, great, if he can be traded for a better player (e.g. Strong defenceman) great too. If traded I feel we have a couple replacement options i.e. Granlund or Shore or Arnold or even Jooris that could be just as, if not more effective.

      In any case, great job this year. Now the tough part on transitioning into the next phase of the team’s development.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Top 5 trade bait for the summer:

    Backlund. To the Leafs for Gardiner.

    Hiller. After Ramo is signed. Too many G.

    Grandlund to the Wild for an overpay on D to get the brothers together.

    Wideman. Trade at an all time hi.

    Reinhart…..to Sabres for anything.

    Who did I forget? Colborne: BBs boy. Will not happen….

    WW

    • mattyc

      Normally don’t agree with you but pretty agree with all these. And it’s not that I don’t like almost all these players, but we have an over abundance and got to give to get to address certain areas of the team.

      I would probably keep Colborne, as he progressed a long ways this year ie using his big frame and intensity and think he still has a few steps to go.

      • The GREAT Walter White

        I love it when people start with: “normally I don’t agree with you but….”

        Emile Poirier is an interesting case.
        I’m not at all giving up on him but I wonder if Montreal would be willing to overpay for him.

        2014 Montreal draft picks Scherbak and Lernout look interesting on paper…

        With BT putting his stamp on the Flames and all…

        WW

    • Burnward

      I thought Colborne was playing very well…..sure he has made a couple mistakes. This kid can barely grow facial hair…total late bloomer and is going to be really good in seasons to come.

      • Burnward

        Joe “Kid” is already 25 more than old enough to grow facial hair! He should be reaching his peak now…

        Having said that, I am willing to give him another year and see if he develops further…As with you, I am hoping he does just that!

    • Baceda

      I know that the first trade on his list is intended to ruffle the feathers of a few on this site, but I agree with all of these trades. Though I pause on the Backlund trade to swap out Gardiner for a more appropriate defenceman in return. I know the value of Backlund to the Flames, but if you could get back a guy who is as good a 3rd/4th defenceman as Backlund is a 2nd/3rd line centre wouldn’t you do it? We’re not short on centre depth but we sure are short on D depth

      • Parallex

        “if you could get back a guy who is as good a 3rd/4th defenceman as Backlund is a 2nd/3rd line centre wouldn’t you do it?”

        I think you’re likely over-estimating the Flames center depth. The Flames right now have three legit NHL Centres… after that we just have a bunch of wish-casting on guys who may have to change positions and guys who aren’t yet full NHL players. Additionally Backlund is the only one of the three in his age bracket.

        Frankly I also think you’d be hard pressed to find a team willing to offer a 25-26y.o. legit top 4 defender.

  • Victoria Flames Fan

    As a start on the post season analysis and a general framing document, this is a great start. I agree with pretty much everything you said.

    I think you can add a couple more thoughts. Firstly they need to repeat this year’s feat of adding at least another 3-4 rookies to the team, getting them younger, faster, bigger and more skilled in the process. I believe they have the players to do that, including ones currently in transition like Bennett, Ferland, Granlund and Shore, and others waiting in the wings like Wotherspoon, Morrison(?), Poirier, Ortio and Wolf.

    Secondly, and related they need to decide which vets are indispensable and move out the rest. They did that this year in the end but I think they may need to be a little more proactive in that department this year. This is going to require some trades of popular players and not just waiving guys down to the AHL, so it won’t be easy.

    Finally, they need to keep the farm team strong and developing solid depth and talent there. Strong, year over year development is going to have the biggest long term impact on the Flames and that needs to continue to be a very important focus.

  • mattyc

    I mercifully ask for two small things in the upcoming autopsy.

    1. The correct usage of regression. Regression means return to their personal averages going forward , not a streak of bad luck to offset the good luck they have had.

    2. Please please please stop with the “well this was a group we never expected to go far…” stuff. Sure, it’s true, but its already a tired, sentimental storyline, not to mention the fact that its a little patronizing, and belittles the teams accomplishments this year.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Regards,

    mattyc

    • The GREAT Walter White

      That may be true, but the team relied on a great core of veterans to help the development of the young ‘uns and push them to succeed. where would Mony and Johnny be without Huds…where would the Flames be without Wideman potting a bunch of goals?

      As someone previously stated, keep this team together for another year and watch the development of Johnny, Mony, Bouma, Ferland, Bennett (and maybe Poirier) excel next season.

      Jetsom and Flotsom: Bollig, Raymond, Potter…not much value there…

      Re-sign Ramo ASAP…..Hiller has some trade value now and hopefully Ortio can be a 1A goalie with Ramo as 1 unless Ortio exceeds expectations. and becomes 1.

      • Burnward

        Ha! I think that could have been me in both instances.

        I have no great desire to see this team dismantled. I just wouldn’t move any of those five I stated. If the same team took to the ice next season, I wouldn’t be upset. It would shock me, but I could definitely live with it.

  • beloch

    mattyc wrote:

    2. Please please please stop with the “well this was a group we never expected to go far…” stuff. Sure, it’s true, but its already a tired, sentimental storyline, not to mention the fact that its a little patronizing, and belittles the teams accomplishments this year.

    I think it’s incredibly important to remember that the Flames are still in a very early stage of the rebuild. Some of the young rookies are way ahead of schedule in their development, but the bulk of the prospects that were drafted, starting under Feaster, are still a couple seasons from being NHL difference makers. The Flames are still paying off the talent debt incurred by Darryl Sutter. If the expectation for next season becomes going past the second round at any cost, some of this bright future may be sacrificed. The Flames may well take a step back next season, but that’s okay so long as they remain committed to maximizing their long-term potential.

    One very good thing about this post-season is that we’ve seen Ferland and Bennett emerge as capable NHL’ers. Ferland, aside from hitting anything that moved and being a first class pest to the Ducks and ‘nucks, had 5 points in 9 games. Bennett had just 4 points in 11 games, but he honestly looked more dangerous than that to me. He easily could have had more. Adding these players to the roster next season will make a substantial difference.

    While the Flames need a couple of seasons for their forwards to mature, the blueline just wasn’t that well built this season. Giordano and Brodie were a great first pair, but Wideman and Russel were a major part of the Flames’ possession woes this season. They have great offensive upside, but simply do not drive possession that well. Either one of these guys would be a good #4D if paired with a possession driving #3D, which should be at the top of Treliving’s list of things to acquire this summer. Treliving should also try to acquire some bluechip defensive prospects to address the general lack of them in the Flames’ farm system.

    I think the Flames will be a better possession team next season, but going past the first round of the playoffs again will likely require them to over-achieve… again. I hope it happens, but it’s important to realize that it may not, and it would be counterproductive to try to force it with short-term focused trades.

    • Burnward

      Agreed. Even keeping the band together wouldn’t be the end of the world.

      It’s a process to become a legit team and it is never easy or quick.

      They accelerated it beyond expectations this season but it’s going to be three-four years before they are scary, probably. They’ll get there though!

  • Burnward

    After the Ducks series, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Brian Burke to put his “size and truculence” stamp on the Flames by trading away some of their smaller players and prospects for size and grit. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as they don’t go too far with it.

  • Love the direction we’re headed! Year 2 of the rebuild and a lot of positive development amongst prospects. Hopefully we don’t get rid of any younger guys (aside from Colborne, that guy takes the worst penalties and is soft).

    With a bunch of picks early in the draft we’re prepared to continue to stock the cupboards. This will be BT’s first draft that he has been able to prepare for. Hope it goes well.

    Obviously we need to fix the glaring hole on defense, I think that might be able to be done through free agency. We have the money to sign a guy like Franson who would be a huge upgrade to our second pairing.

    The problem with trying to trade guys with bad contracts (Bollig, Engelland, Smid) is that we’ll almost certainly have to give up something good in return…..(remember the Regher/Kotalik Trade?) we basically gave up Regher and a 2nd for Byron.

    I’m fine with BT staying the course and letting our young guys battle it out against the veterans for spots. A guy like Raymond or Jones could be dispensable if a good value trade opportunity comes up, but color me pessimistic on that one.

    I think Ortio/Gillies will be a solid AHL tandem w/ potential callups next year. Resign Ramo to a reasonable contract and set up our AHL squad for success. No sense rushing guys up. I think Ramo has proven to be a reliable goaltender and they aren’t just gonna let him walk. Hiller provides veteran experience.

  • Flames obviously need to get bigger and heavier if they are to compete in the West with the big boys….

    1) Move Hudler and Jooris for bigger forward(s) or D prospect(s). 2) Move Grandlund for an equivalent D prospect. 3) Diaz, Potter bye bye. 4) Sign top UFA goalie (plan B Ramo) and plan Ortio as the second goalie. Hiller and Ramo much too inconsistent for my liking…move Hiller for D asset.

    Balance the AHL roster with stronger D prospects…

  • Victoria Flames Fan

    Stay the course. I don’t think we need to make too many changes. We obviously need to win more face-offs. I really really wanted to get O’Reilly. Wideman and Russell sure don’t get much love here. I love our top 4 D. We could use some D depth for sure. I think Engelland, and Schlemko played above their ability but never quite matched the Commodore / Montador level. Hopefully T-Spoon’s development accelerates. Goaltending is going to be an embarrassment of riches with Gillies and Ortio moving into the fold.

  • It was fun this year.

    I really don’t see that we need to do much with this team. The only glaring need is in the defense which made it even more of an issue with Gio out.

    Jones in the second half seemed to flip a switch and was the power forward we desperately need. I would like to see more of that. Same with a full season of Ferland. Finding a replacement for Colbourne would be my main priority in the forward ranks. Although he was a bit better than last year, it wasn’t good enough and could be better. I think he could fetch a late second rounder or maybe a D prospect. GMs drool over players of his size even though he doesn’t use it well.