The 2013-14 campaign was the first season of the Calgary Flames first full-fledged, unabashed rebuild. It featured a full training camp for coach Bob Hartley, a brand new captain in Mark Giordano, and more unknown roster players than you could shake a stick at.
It also featured a crackerjack line brawl in Vancouver that seemed to catapult the Flames towards second-half success – albeit way too late to make a difference in the standings.
If 2013-14 was a sitcom, it’d be Growing Pains. It was the first full season for Bob Hartley as head coach, and he was finally able to implement his playing system to his liking. Mark Giordano became Flames captain officially, and seemed to set a good tone for his team on and off the ice. In addition, Giordano became quite frankly Calgary’s best player and played well enough to be considered a contender for the Norris Trophy.
And then he got hurt early in the season and things went off the rails for a bit until January.
The team itself was mostly hampered by a lack of high-end talent in all areas of the ice, aside from perhaps T.J. Brodie and Giordano, and their group from the blueline-in was a bit dodgy. Some combination of Joey MacDonald, Reto Berra, Joni Ortio, and Karri Ramo jostled for goaltending duties all season long, and Hartley seemed content to ride each of them to varying degrees during the season. The Flames enjoyed just a pair of winning streaks – both late in the season – while they experienced five lengthy losing streaks.
The season took an interesting turn on January 18, 2014; Bob Hartley iced a starting line-up featuring Ladislav Smid, Chris Butler, Blair Jones, Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan. Vancouver followed suit, and what resulted was a melee on the ice that produced eight ejections and left the Flames with just four defenders. The Flames ended up getting a point from that debacle and went on a 19-16-0 run from then until the end of the season.
The Flames missed the playoffs by a fair margin but seemed like they finally got their legs under them by the end of the season.
For the first time since 2002-03, the Flames experienced life without Miikka Kiprusoff. What remained was a bit messy and chaotic. We experienced the following pairs:
- Joey MacDonald and Karri Ramo
- Reto Berra and Karri Ramo [Flames brass felt Berra was ready for the NHL after an AHL stint]
- Reto Berra and Joni Ortio [Ramo was injured]
- Joey MacDonald and Joni Ortio [Berra was traded; Ramo remained injured]
- Joey MacDonald and Karri Ramo [Ortio returned to the AHL due to emergency recall rules, Ramo back from injury]
Ramo won 17 of his 37 starts, Berra won 9 of his 27, MacDonald won 5 of his 9 and Ortio won 4 of his 9. Ramo easily had the best even-strength save percentage at .919.
Brian Burke joined the team in September as President of Hockey Operations (or PoHO). He eventually cleared house. The 2013-14 season will forever be known as The Year of Three GMs, beginning with Jay Feaster (who was canned in December), continuing with Burke as interim GM and finishing with Brad Treliving being hired in May.
- July 2, 2013: traded a fourth round pick to San Jose for T.J. Galiardi.
- July 5, 2013: traded a fifth round pick to St. Louis for Kris Russell.
- September 28, 2013: traded a conditional fourth round pick to Toronto for Joe Colborne.
- November 8, 2013: traded Roman Horak and Laurent Brossoit to Edmonton for Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy.
- November 21, 2013: traded Tim Jackman to Anaheim for a sixth round pick.
- November 22, 2013: traded a sixth round pick to Dallas for Lane MacDermid.
- December 30, 2013: traded Greg Nemisz to Carolina for Kevin Westgarth.
- March 5, 2014: traded Lee Stempniak to Pittsburgh for a third round pick.
- March 5, 2014: traded Reto Berra to Colorado for a second round pick.
- June 28, 2014: traded a third round pick to Chicago for Brandon Bollig.
Some of Feaster’s trades were pretty smart – particularly the Russell trade – while a few of them were dumb, including trading a late round pick for a guy that retired almost immediately afterwards rather than play in the minors. Burke managed to con somebody into giving the Flames a second round pick for Reto Berra, so he’s automatically a good GM. On the other hand, they got nothing for pending unrestricted free agent Mike Cammalleri, so it’s probably a wash.
The Flames didn’t make too many signings during free agency outside of signing Josh Jooris out of college; their primary mode was trading for players already under contract.
It’s hard to have hindsight yet, but the 2014 NHL Draft class for the Flames seems pretty decent so far.
RETHINKING THE 2013-14 FLAMES
The 2013-14 Flames are basically what you expect an expansion team or a rebuilding team to look like. They were low on star power. They had a lot of young players and guys that other organizations didn’t want. They had unproven goaltending.
Their were fourth-worst in the NHL in possession with a woeful 46.3% Corsi For rating – only Buffalo, Toronto and Edmonton were worse. Their team-wide shooting percentage was hovering just below league-average at 7.9%. But their goaltending is what sunk them; their four netminders combined for 90.9% save percentage, tied with Florida for worst in the league.
When you don’t have the puck very much and your goalies can’t save anything, you’re pretty much sunk from the get-go.