ESPN: Flames 56th-Best Major Franchise

Last season, Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley joked that due to the team’s lack of previous success, the hockey world threw rocks at them, and as they enjoyed more success, they began to throw flowers. The annual ranking of North American pro franchises by ESPN (“the Ultimate Standings”) represents another bouquet of flowers.

A year after being ranked 89th out of 122 franchises, the Flames have made a leap to the 56th spot on the rankings.

For giggles, let’s compare the Flames to the other Canadian teams in their categories.

(Calgary’s listed first; everybody else on rank order. NHL Rank is out of 30, every other rank is from 1 to 122).

Calgary Montreal Ottawa Winnipeg Edmonton Vancouver Toronto
Overall Rank 56 54 58 69 112 113 122
NHL Rank 17 15 18 20 28 29 30
Title Track 54 12 88 T91 T55 115 120
Ownership 30 20 77 28 94 90 115
Coaching 14 86 T71 30 79 92 38
Players 17 61 78 55 117 102 122
Fan Relations 46 45 63 55 101 94 122
Affordability 87 108 53 91 107 120 122
Stadium Experience 105 42 96 49 114 106 116
Bang For Your Buck 87 51 24 102 119 110 122
Change From Last Year +33 +1 +34 +28 +3 -1 0

What’s hurting Calgary’s ranking? The Saddledome, according to ESPN’s fan polling:

The Flames’ worst ranking — and the only category in which they landed in the triple digits — was in stadium experience, a reflection of dissatisfaction with the team’s aging Saddledome. Last year the Flames were third worst in hockey in the category (114th overall). Their nine-slot climb this year is explained perhaps by some 2013 renovations — or maybe it’s just overeager supporters dreaming of an oft-promised new home. Earlier this year, Flames owners released a plan for a multipurpose sports/entertainment complex, though whether it gets built depends on a significant public funds element to the proposed $890 million plan.

Before you go out grabbing a shovel, though: Vancouver and Toronto got ranked lower than the Saddledome for Stadium Experience and neither of those buildings (Rogers Arena and the Air Canada Centre, respectively) are being replaced imminently. (Edmonton’s replacing Rexall Centre, which is why I didn’t mention their bad score in that category.)

The rankings were done via a fan vote, asking fans to judge their franchises on various questions, and then scaled to combine leagues. Calgary’s big jump in the rankings was largely attributed to their on-ice success.

Are the Flames ranked where they should be among the Canadian teams? And are you satisfied with where they slotted in the various categories versus other teams? Let us know where ESPN’s polling got it right (or wrong) in the comments!

  • prendrefeu

    Yes, ClayBort, because you and others here are clearly superior in coaching a NHL team to the playoffs despite on-paper talent deficits and injuries to your best players.

    • ClayBort

      The funny part was less I think we have bad coaching, more that there are probably 13 coaches in the NHL I’d choose over Hartley.

      This doesn’t mean he’s the worst coach in the NHL per se, but when you compare the other major sporting leagues, I struggle to see how only 13 coaches were deemed better in their field.

      [edit] the same can probably be said for our players. I love some of our guys, but us being ranked 17th would make you think we are one of the 4-5 best teams in the league.

      • beloch

        First, these rankings cover the NBA, NFL, and MLB as well as the NHL, and Hartley is rated #3 in the NHL according to ESPN. The #14 rating is because there are coaches in other sports ahead of him.

        If you’re going to claim that a coach who just won the Jack Adams award is merely NHL average, you should probably back it up with a concrete argument.

        There are things I don’t like or get about Hartley, such as his fondness for Bollig. However, there’s no denying he’s gotten more out of his roster than anyone thought was possible before last season. He’s getting a lot of things right.

        • clib542

          There are lots of arguments against Hartley, the only argument for him is that he got the most out of the players he had.

          Please provide examples where something Hartley has done got the most out of a certain player.

          • ClayBort

            The Hartley debate has two sides, backs firmly against two gym walls opposite of each other.

            So is Hartley’s track record.

            The Flames are in a rebuild because a team led by Hartley fell off the face of the earth. The beginning of his tenure saw the Flames spend most of the season in the basement, and led to Iginla being shipped out of town, and Kiprusoff given early retirement.

            Then, as the media would like you to believe, Hartley went West Side Story on the Canucks the next year and the team’s fortunes changed. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Kiprusoff had a string of his worst performances ever, and the team fell to the bottom of the standings. This was a team that was overly unlucky. Then last year, the team went on a major shooting percentage streak, and made the playoffs.

            Average these out, you have a coach that probably doesn’t have a more appreciable impact on team performance than any other coach. Like the average of the above, he is middling. If there were a “worst coach award” aka Hack Adams, Hartley probably wins it in 2012-13 if you look at the Flames drop in the standings, cancelling out his Jack Adams.

            History is fun.

            Drops mic

          • beloch

            He badly out-coached Torts the season before last, and Desjardins in the playoffs last season. He took merciless advantage of match-ups and the tools he had, such as Ferland.

            The Flames’ system, whether you like it or not, is a product of Hartley. The long-stretch passes, active defense, etc.. These tactics served the Flames well when their forward corps appeared weak and scoring had to come from the blueline. How Hartley adapts his system this season, especially once Brodie is back, remains to be seen.

            Next, consider how Monahan and Gaudreau were handled. Monahan probably stayed in the NHL when he wasn’t truly ready, but Hartley found him the shelter he needed to have a productive rookie season. Last season, under Hartley, Monahan took one of the biggest steps forward we’ve ever seen from a Flames rookie. Monahan’s a great player, but you don’t see improvement like that without good coaching. Gaudreau also adapted amazingly quickly to the NHL. Again, he’s a great player, but good coaching undoubtedly played a role in his smooth transition from the NCAA. Baertschi was arguably mishandled, but that started from the very top of the organization (i.e. Burke). It remains to be seen what kind of player Baertschi will become with the Canucks.

            Finally, consider the buy-in Hartley got from his players. The Flames were a team that played hard when behind and managed to make a lot of come-backs. That’s not all luck. Compare last year’s team to last year’s Oilers, who gave up more often than not when down a couple of goals. Did you ever see Monahan throwing water-bottles around the bench and pouting? Motivating players is a huge part of a coach’s job, and Hartley has been impeccable in this respect.

            There are other NHL coaches with more impressive track records than Hartley’s, such as Mike Babcock. Hartley was a great coach last season, but the task for him is to prove he can continue to keep his players motivated and adapt his tactics to make the best use of his roster. Some coaches lose the room after a couple of seasons (e.g. Mike Keenan) and some coaches simply don’t adapt well to changing circumstances. It’s going to be very interesting to see what changes in the Flames’ tactics one Brodie is back.

          • ClayBort

            I don’t know if I’d call goading the NHL’s most volatile coach into a line brawl ‘outcoaching’.

            Desjardins is playing Sutter on the top line, so that probably addresses that one as well.

        • ClayBort

          The Jack Adams is voted on by the same group that named Alex Ovechkin to the same allstar team twice in two separate positions.

          I don’t place a ton of value in anything voted on by the hockey writers.

  • prendrefeu

    So, again, ClayBort, why aren’t you coaching at the NHL level?

    Do tell. You seem to be an expert at knowing players, coaching a team, choosing lines and making game-impacting decisions in regards to your players performance.

    You’ve also won the Stanley Cup, the Calder Cup, and the Swiss Championship, right?

    Pick up the microphone, you’re just a pundit on the internet with an opinion, kiddo.

    • ClayBort

      Every coach has won everywhere. You don’t get to the NHL going 6-76 in the WHL. They all have impressive resumes to get this far. There is also a ton of other leagues around the world with a new championship winning coach every year.

      The “would you be a better coach” argument isn’t one I or anyone else should ever have to address. It’s a straw man argument. I’m not lobbying for his job, I’m lobbying for a more competent person in that job. When people say they don’t like something their Prime Minister/President has done, they don’t usually run for office, they vote for the other person.

    • ClayBort

      There is always talent available. When the Flames hired Hartley, he was the only person interviewed if I remember correctly (happy if someone corrects me on this).

      One contract up this year is Joel Quenneville’s. I doubt he’d want to leave Chicago, but maybe he wants to test the waters after seeing what Babcock was able to rake in.

      Then there is the route of not retreading an existing coach. The value of this is you get a new progressive thinker, not someone rooted in the past (eg. the crossroads St. Louis is at with Hitch). Think of the Flames hiring Treliving after time as Maloney’s protege. One example of this is Lane Lambert. He developed a lot of NHLers on Nashville’s AHL affiliate, won a ton in the AHL, and was pulled into the NHL as Trotz’ right hand man and followed him to Washington.

      Now sometimes you don’t want the sexy name (see Dallas Eakins in Edm). The Flames faced this with Treliving. Benning was seen as the NHL’s next GM. Flames interviewed him, and many many other candidates. What they found was Treliving had the vision they wanted, and we saw it in action last offseason (while Benning destroys the Canucks).

      I never want to see the Flames hire a coach the way they hired their last two, which is getting married to a name long before they interviewed him, and subsequently interview him and him alone. Burke got it right with Treliving. He casted a wide net, and the results were very positive.

  • prendrefeu

    And what if the Flames had a vision of the coach they wanted, even though it isn’t what you wanted, interviewed that person – and did not need to interview another because they had a match in what they wanted and the person they interviewed?

    Have you ever employed someone before, as a business owner and employer?
    Or are you perpetually an employee?

    • ClayBort

      I’m not saying you can’t have a preferred candidate, I’m saying if you have one, do your due diligence on everyone else too. It’s a free option.

      Feaster hiring his best friend and Darryl hiring his brother wasn’t vision.

      And yes I’ve been involved in many hiring processes, but that isn’t relevant to this discussion.

      • prendrefeu

        Why are you bringing up Feaster and Darryl? We’re talking about Burke, Hartley, his coaching staff, and Treliving here.

        So you don’t know if they did their due diligence or not in hiring Hartley? You’re just making an ASSumption about their hiring process because you, a fan with let’s hope a regular day job, don’t agree with their choice?


        Pick up the mic, pundit. That’s all you and everyone else on here has: an opinion without first-hand experience or knowledge.

        So you laugh at the judgement of people who are a lot closer to the org and operations than you are? Amazing.

        • ClayBort

          Feaster hired Hartley…. Darryl hired Brent. I bring them up because of the circumstances which they were hired.

          If I remember correctly, Feaster had Conroy interview Hartley (Conroy very new to a front office role) just to ensure everyone was ok with him hiring his friend.

          Also, I don’t see how you trying to insult my employment status is pertinent to anything here.

          Have a good night