FN Mailbag – October 3, 2015


Preseason is almost over for the Flames but there are still a lot of lingering roster questions. There is a traffic jam at the bottom end of Calgary’s roster at every position you can name and the exhibition round didn’t bring much clarity to the situation. 

Let’s look at some of the hard decisions facing the club with some questions on goalies, waivers, grit and line combinations. 

Definitely. Although the Flames have an enviable top 3 defense corps, the rest of the guys are objectively poor at denying shoots at even strength. Wideman and Russell can drive shots but not suppress them. Engelland and Smid can do neither.

Although I think the team improved drastically over the summer, it’s still the club that gave up the second most shot attempts against in the league last year, ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres. As such, I don’t think this is a team that can afford to have below average goaltending and still have a hope of making the post-season.

“Hate” may be too strong a word, but if we’re to believe the numerous rumours about his availability this summer, it suggests something has soured between the team and the player. There are any number of theories out there, from a loss of confidence by the coaching staff in the playoffs, to Hiller casting aspirations on his coaches and teammates at the end of the year.

It’s pointless to speculate from this vantage point, but assuming this is some kind of personal beef and given that Hiller is still the best goalie in Flames colours right now, I kinda wish everyone involved had handled it better.

The Engelland contract is most likely immovable. Unless the Flames swap him for similarly bad money or eat a big chunk of his salary, Engelland is on the books for the duration.

It will depend on how long it “works” for and Hartley’s alternatives. Wideman and Russell got buried in terms of possession last season (because neither them are great south of the redline), but they rode an incredibly streak of scoring + playing with the Gaudreau line to end the season. Hartley is rationally going back to the well, but chances are they will be exposed without a on-ice shooting percentage above 10%.

Brodie’s absence is certainly going to extend the life of the Wideman + Russell duo as well. Hartley will have much tougher decisions to make when Brodie returns. As such, I think Wideman and Russell will be together at least into Novemeber and probably well into December.

It should be Hudler. I really like Ferland’s play in the pre-season, but jumping right into the deep end of the pool when the real thing starts is another matter. Ferland only has a handful of games under his belt at the NHL level. We need more information before we can say he’s a legit top-6 option.

As suggested above, it will take both guys’ deals expiring because you probably aren’t trading those contracts.

More generally though, the decision makers will have to be certain the Flames have enough size and grit infused into the functional parts of the lineup to move away from the designated tough guys. Players like Ferland and Lance Bouma landing regular jobs helps, but it may take more than that to convince Calgary they no longer need tough guys.

The Flames are moderately interested in advanced stats and have definitely taken more steps towards understanding them since Brad Treliving was hired. You can tell from his interviews that he is at least conversant in things corsi and possession. They have been doing their own stats investigations and data analysis for a few years as well with Chris Snow at the helm of that initiative.

I don’t think they are leaders or pioneers when it comes to integrating data analysis into their decision making, but they aren’t allergic to numbers either.

  • RedMan

    Wow no comments… Really?

    While I like ne articles sometimes the frequent short stuff pushes some interesting material to page two rather quickly… Does Lambert still write for the nation?

  • RedMan

    I kind of figured we might have to wait out the expiration of all the non functional grit… But I wished maybe we would grow a pair like Edmonton and waive one or both of those guys.

    I am guessing BT thinks somehow there is value in them, who knows if he gets even a 7th out of either that is a win (yeah right…. but still)