Relive the 2011-12 Calgary Flames Season

The careers of hockey executives and the lives of hockey teams are often boiled down to sound-bites and quotes that define them. For the 2011-12 Calgary Flames, the season boils down to a pair of statements, and I’m paraphrasing here.

  • “This team deserves a chance to win.” – Jay Feaster, on why he didn’t blow up the team at the 2012 trade deadline.
  • “Mark Jankowski will be the best player in the draft in 10 years.” – both John Weisbrod and Jay Feaster on their decision to go off the board at 21st overall (after trading down from 14th overall) at the 2012 Draft.

This was that season, where the Flames just barely missed the playoffs, Brent Sutter rode off into the sunset, and Jay Feaster re-signed Tim Jackman at the trade deadline rather than trade him for anything.

SEASON RESULTS

Northwest Division GP W L OTL Pts GD Sh% Sv% PDO Conf.
Rank
p-Vancouver 82 51 22 9 111 +51 8.2% 93.1% 101.3 1st
Calgary 82 37 29 16 90 -24 7.6% 92.6% 100.2 9th
Colorado 82 41 35 6 88 -12 6.6% 92.5% 99.1 11th
Minnesota 82 35 35 11 81 -49 6.2% 92.6% 98.8 12th
Edmonton 82 32 40 10 74 -27 8.0% 92.1% 100.1 14th


SEASON RECAP

The 2011-12 season was a frustrating one. Nobody could score, but Miikka Kiprusoff regularly stood on his head and kept the Flames in games. On the surface, the Flames seemed like a team that maybe, possibly could eke into the playoffs. But they didn’t, missing the dance by five points and prompting the organization to part ways with head coach Brent Sutter and the balance of the coaching staff in the off-season.

This was the season where the old powerhouse Flames devolved into the Calgary Flames of today – spunky, spirited, but frequently out-shot and playing in their own zone. One of the reasons was that the core of the team was beginning to fall on the wrong side of 30, and the results of Darryl Sutter sending high draft picks out the door with virtually every big trade were finally being felt. The team was able to put complementary assets into the NHL on the third and fourth lines, but there was no way for them to bring in assets at the trade deadline that could make a difference.

And the Flames needed guys that could make a difference. The team had more long losing streaks (six 3+ losing skids, including two 5-game streaks) than winning streaks (four). They also had the NHL’s second-worst overtime record, going 5-16 in extra time. Had the Flames a back-up goalie that could win another game or two, or a player that could be a difference-maker in overtime, or during one of their ugly streaks, maybe they could’ve made the playoffs.

But acquiring those players would’ve changed the team, and they no longer would’ve been that same group that Feaster felt deserved a chance to win. Thus, they were doomed.

SCORING LEADERS

Player GP G A Pts +/-
Jarome Iginla 82 32 35 67 -10
Olli Jokinen 82 23 38 61 -12
Alex Tanguay 64 13 36 49 +7
Curtis Glencross 67 26 22 48 -13
Jay Bouwmeester 82 5 24 29 -21
Lee Stempniak 61 14 14 28 -2
Mark Giordano 61 9 18 27 E
Mike Cammalleri 28 11 8 19 -4
Matt Stajan 61 8 10 18 -3
Rene Bourque 38 13 3 16 -3

Miikka Kiprusoff started “only” 68 games, winning 35 of his starts and posting a .928 even-strength save percentage, a nice rebound from the prior year where he seemed just completely exhausted all the time. Leland Irving and Henrik Karlsson, who both struggled to fill the back-up role adequately, combined for two wins in 14 starts. Yikes.

NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS

Jay Feaster was busy in 2011-12, making a bunch of minor moves – a fairly big one in January – which many predicted would be a precursor to big moves at the trade deadline. Then he didn’t do anything at the trade deadline.

  • July 9, 2011: traded Keith Seabrook to Florida for Jordan Henry.
  • July 14, 2011: traded a fifth round pick to New Jersey for Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.
  • August 29, 2011: traded Daymond Langkow to Phoenix for Lee Stempniak.
  • January 6, 2012: traded Brendan Mikkelson to Tampa Bay for Blair Jones.
  • January 12, 2012: traded Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland and a second round pick to Montreal for Mike Cammalleri, Karri Ramo and a fifth round pick.
  • January 27, 2012: traded Brendan Morrison to Chicago for Brian Connelly.
  • January 30, 2012: traded John Negrin to Winnipeg for Akim Aliu.
  • June 22, 2012: traded down in the first round (from 14 to 21) with Buffalo, gaining a second round pick.
  • June 27, 2012: traded Jordan Henry and a fifth round pick to Washington for Dennis Wideman’s rights.

Reportedly Feaster received offers for Tim Jackman. He flat-out told the media post-deadline that he received offers for Tim Jackman. All he had to announce post-deadline…was the signing of Tim Jackman to a contract extension.

This was also the Spring of Sven, as 2011 first round pick Sven Baertschi was brought up on an emergency basis from the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks in an attempt to save the Flames season. He scored three goals in five games, forever setting the bar for the remainder of his Flames tenure abnormally high. But more on that later.

In the summer of 2011, the team added complementary assets in Derek Smith and Scott Hannan, along with minor-leaguers Guillaume Desbiens, Ben Walter and Clay Wilson.

The 2012 Draft was borderline. On one hand: Jankowski and Sieloff aren’t anything yet. On the other, Gillies was a great college player and Kulak and Culkin have become at least decent minor leaguers.

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The less said about Olli Maatta, the better. Even three years later, it’s still a head-scratcher.

RETHINKING THE 2011-12 FLAMES

The 2011-12 Calgary Flames were, from an analytics standpoint, the beginning of an era of Flames hockey were the team was underwater in terms of possession hockey. Granted, a big chunk of their key players were north of 30, so that makes some sense.

They posted a Corsi For percentage of 47.4, fifth-worst in the NHL. They were also bottom-third in the league in shooting percentage, but the team was propped up by their goaltending – primarily Miikka Kiprusoff – rebounding from the prior season and being in the top-third in the league in save percentage. They had playoff goaltending, but they spent a lot of time in their own end and couldn’t bury the few chances they were able to generate.

They were thus, simultaneously, lucky and unlucky to have been just five points out of the playoffs.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    It seems like during those playoff drought years the team could never put it all together in one year and get in. One year their Corsi and shooting % would be good, but goaltending would suck, the next year… complete opposite.

  • supra steve

    If I was inclined to look back and lament the wasted draft picks that this organization has made over the last 20 to 30 years, Janko and Maatta’s names would not even be on a top ten list (at least not yet). I fail to understand what makes people think that Maatta was the player the Flames would have taken if Mark Jankowski had never been born. I am also still waiting to see what each of these players develop into, and hoping that Maatta (and Sieloff) bounces back from his recent bad luck.

    Trevor Kidd instead of Marty Brodeur? OOPS.

    Daniel Tkaczuk instead of Marian Hossa? Really??

    Greg Nemisz vs. Tyler Ennis? Oh brother.

    Rico Fata instead of….well anyone really. How about Tanguay or Regehr? Did that really happen?

    I’m knocking these out of the park, hindsight’s great.

    • SickFloBro

      Here is a list of players the Flames passed on for Janko

      14 Girgensons
      15 Ceci
      16 Wilson
      17 Hertl
      18 Teravainen
      19 Vasilevskiy
      20 Laughton
      22 Maatta
      23 Matheson
      24 Subban
      25 Schmaltz
      etc etc.

      There might be 1 or 2 busts in there it looks like, but most will play 200 games, and many are already pretty good, some are very good.

      2012’s first round is beginning to like a strong year, and one where we didn’t need to get cute.

      • supra steve

        Also, 2012 is a year where we really don’t know what we did get. Did we get the best player, as Feaster claimed? Almost certainly not, but we have 2 kids that may end up playing in the NHL, or may not…it’s a little early to tell.

        If I look back at the 1998 draft, I KNOW who would have been clearly better than Tkaczuk as a 6th overall pick. I don’t yet feel that clarity about the 2012 draft. If you do, then good for you.

      • OKG

        None of those (skaters) you listed make me have any regret about Jankowski. His upside is higher than all of them except maybe Maatta, but we wouldn’t be able to afford Maatta anyways under the cap, and he’d be behind Gio/Brodie/Dougie on our depth chart right now. Picking defensemen in the mid-to-late first round is a crapshoot anyways, sure sometimes it works out, and sometimes you end up with Tim Erixon or Matt Pelech.

        I’d rather draft D later in the draft and go for the volume development approach, that’s how teams end up with studs like Lidstrom, Rafalski, Giordano, Voynov, Muzzin, Sekera, Faulk, Subban, Keith, Brodie, Chara, Weber, Josi, Edler, Stralman

        Draft forwards in the 20-30 range because forwards’ development curve is more predictable, and Janko was and still is the best forward out of that group in terms of absolute upside.

        Even Teravainen, who had a hot playoffs, isn’t really someone we’d be going nuts over if he were our prospect… the last thing we’d have use for is another 5’10 winger.

        How about you give the 4-5 year project… 4 to 5 years?

        • clib542

          Jankowski has little upside at this point. Nothing he has done to this point says NHLer.

          The only player Clay mention who hasn’t played in the NHL yet is Matheson, who also went the college route. Matheson has been even with Jankowski for points over their college career (1 point difference). Shots however Matheson had 41 more shots, more than 1 per game than Jankowski. Oh ya, Matheson plays defence and signed a contract this spring, so yet another player who will play in the NHL before Jankowski.

          • clib542

            Nah, you’re way off base and perhaps haven’t been paying attention lately?

            And oh yeah, the discussion was on who has the highest potential, not on who plays in the NHL FIRST…..

          • clib542

            The fact that Jankowski hasn’t done anything to show he will make the NHL is enough to say he doesn’t have potential of other guys who will/are playing in the league already. Unless I am missing something, which if I am, please tell me, so I can be informed. And don’t say that the team was happy with his performance at development camp, because that’s not a sign he will make the NHL.

          • clib542

            At midnight, exactly 10 years after the draft, a handsome prince will show up at his door with a pair of golden skates. They will skate happily ever after. (Plot twist the prince is Greg Nemisz).

    • Im not sure anyone was ranking the potential Janko missteps amongst Flames draft blunders when bringing it up. This is definitely an org that could talk about bad picks for days.

      The reasons it keeps coming up (beyond being a controversial sticking point between believers and unbelievers) are:

      – It was an obviously high risk/poor bet at the time. No hindsight required. There was a lot of really good prospects on the board at 14 where the Flames were originally slated to pick. Heck, there were good ones there at 21 too.

      – The terrible hyperbole Feaster heaped on the kid immediately after he picked him as justification for the reach. It sounded like a desperate man telling the big lie to assuage fears and it set the bar ludicrously (and needlessly) high.

      – Finally, this choice affects the team we’re all cheering for today. All those other missteps, aside from maybe Nemisz, are ancient history.

  • MonsterPod

    The thing that irked me about drafting Janko had nothing to do with Janko himself or his future potential.

    Feaster called him a “project.” And considering the middling team described above and the abundance of “post-apex,” over 30 players, this Flames team was in no position to be drafting a “project.” They needed a player who was going to be in the league in a few years, like perhaps Hertl, the 6’2″, 210lb Czech center who I watched score 4 goals in one game not long ago.

    But yes, we will wait till 2022 to see who is the better center.