FN Mailbag – December 14, 2015

flamesnation

Do you believe in miracles?

Because the Flames have suddenly won five in a row and are just two points back of the Vancouver Canucks for a playoff position in the Pacific Division (with two games in hand). Nothing is guaranteed, of course, and this a club that is still suffering from some glaring deficiencies, but it seems that this season might be a bit more interesting than October and November suggested.

Even with the improved results, trade talk is a big topic this week’s mailbag. We look at Joe Colborne, David Jones, the trade deadline and how much the organization should prepare to pay Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan this summer.

Everything is quiet on the Hamonic front. It sounds like the Islanders are going to be patient in shopping him since they don’t actually want to get rid of the player. I suspect we’ll have to wait until someone gets desperate and really makes it worth their while or the player ups his demands to be moved out of town.

As for the deadline, I don’t think the organization should base its decision making on the Flames’ playoff position. Instead, they should evaluate who they want to keep and for how much. If they can’t keep a player at the right price (or don’t want him at all) he should be shopped at the deadline, regardless. Long term improvement still trumps short term aspirations for this team.

I don’t think there’d be enough demand for Jones to move him right away. He’s a fine middle-tier forward, but there aren’t any clubs that will be blowing up Treliving’s phone trying to acquire David Jones. Maybe at the deadline when clubs are loading up for the playoffs and cap hits are largely moot, but nothing right now.

It’s a good question and one we kicked around this week. Markus Granlund is only the guy who can be sent to the minors without facing waivers, but he’s been too good to demote. The other option is one of Josh Jooris, who is a frequent healthy scratch, or Brandon Bollig taking the trip.

Personally I’d demote Bollig. Whereas Jooris might get Paul Byron’d by someone, no one is picking up an enforcer who makes north of $1 million. Fighters are all but extinct in the NHL at this point, so Bollig’s relevance is pretty much gone.

The only other option is Mason Raymond, but even he has been useful during his time with Backlund and Frolik. Raymond is much maligned because he hasn’t really lived up to the contract he signed, but I think he’s still a decent NHLer in certain circumstances. Bollig, not so much.

Nothing really, besides better execution from the player. It was extremely unlikely that Hamilton would continue to struggle indefinitely given what we know about the player, so this is him rounding into form.

I’ll get more specific and say the Flames are better than their terrible goal differential (league worst -25) if only because the goaltending has been so dreadful. The club’s proclivity at winning in extra time has helped to keep their record afloat above that terrible number, luckily.

The Flames’ luck has definitely improved recently, with a lot of pucks going in at 5on5 and the goaltending improving marginally enough to get them some wins. Their possession play is better relative to the start of the season as well, which has helped get them closer to the black. That said, the team needs to continue to improve on that front, find a decent goalie and figure out their special teams before they are really out of the woods. They aren’t going to score on more than 10% of their shots forever.

Sometimes pucks just start going in for whatever reason. I think the Flames’ overall play has improved, however, with the transition game starting to come around. The team doesn’t seem overly reliant on the stretch pass anymore and the improved play of Giordano and Hamilton (in parallel with Brodie’s return) has the Flames spending a bit more time in the offensive zone than earlier in the year.

Gaudreau currently has the highest point-per-game rate amongst his draft cohort (0.87 PPG). In the space of 12 months, he has gone from a fresh-faced rookie to the Flames’ most dangerous forward and a top-10 scorer in the NHL. He’s currently on pace to score over 80 points this season, which will give him 140+ in his first two years in the NHL. The list of guys who have done that in modern times is very short: Patrick Kane (142), Sidney Crosby (202), Evgeni Malkin (191), Alex Ovechkin (198), Steven Stamkos (141) and Paul Stastny (149). If Gaudreau indeed manages to keep up this pace, he’s in elite company.

An Art Ross is an audacious goal, but given Gaudreau’s skill level and rapid progression, it’s not an impossible one.

Skittles of course.

To some degree, yes. It’s tough to assign wins and losses to any single skater and Russell is no different. His absence certainly isn’t the reason the Flames started scoring a lot, for instance.

We’ll see how Calgary’s possession game looks with the player back in the fold. If Hartley continues to play him too much, it could negatively impact the club’s outshooting results, which have been improving markedly.

Bridge deals are a great idea for a majority of kids because their results are usually equivocal and they don’t have too much leverage to ask for much. They don’t make as much sense with guys like Gaudreau and Monahan though, because they often just result in paying the player a lot more just one or two seasons down the road (see: PK Subban).

Gaudreau in particular is a guy the Flames should look to lock up long term a la Vladimir Tarasenko in St. Louis. As we’ve already covered, he’s a rare, sublime offensive talent whom teams will eagerly give a dump truck full of money to attain if he ever goes near free agency. He’s the team’s best forward by a wide margin currently and figures to be a cornerstone player moving forward.

I previously mused that Gaudreau and Monahan will opt for something in the $6.3M range each in the summer, but now I imagine Johnny will be getting more money and term than Sean. Monahan is a great trigger man, Gaudreau drives the bus. 

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  • cberg

    Interesting about the jump in shooting stats. Personally I believe its because they are skating much better which allows them to get better, higher % shots off versus previously. No specific data to back that up except an eye test.

    As for what happens when Bouma comes back that indeed is a mystery. Based on player usage lately it would likely be Jooris, though I agree Bollig would make more sense. I like Bollig against the big, physical teams but with Ferland and Bouma, and now Stajan, Jones and Colborne all picking it up in that department I think we can do OK without him. As well we have a few guys in the AHL that can probably fit that need as we go forward. Jooris brings something different, more speed, energy and a scoring touch, though I’m not sure why he isn’t playing. I don’t buy into the Hartley plays favourites narrative, but it isn’t clear what has happened.

    • Cfan in Vic

      Whatever the narrative between Jooris and the decision makers, I think that Josh will get picked up if put on waivers.

      The guy may not be able to live up to the points he put up last season, but he’s shown he can skate fast, be a decent possession player, add the occasional goal, and he’s cheap. If they choose to keep Bollig around instead, I’ll be none too pleased, especially with Ferland and Bouma healthy.

  • cunning_linguist

    I might be one of the only people with this opinion, but I kind of hope that our goaltending stays league bottom. Think about it, this is not the year we win the cup, but continuing to lose (with underlying possession progression being made) is the best case scenario. We need at least one more elite talent from the draft (especially at forward), and I was hopeful that a temporary slump for Monahan would let us lock him up cheaper (can’t say the same for Gaudreau, cause it’s honestly just plain awesome watching him tear it up). An ideal scenario is losing every game 6-5. High offence, pump up the stats of the Hudlers, Widemans, Russells etc… Let Ramo/Hiller be the scapegoats, get bigger returns at the deadline, draft high, add one more booster shot year to the rebuild. If Gaudreau ever gets hurt, who is there in our system that can do anything even remotely close (maybe Bennett, but nobody else’s is even close). You want a championship? Hedge your bets. You want another Gaudreau? Gotta draft him..

    • ville de champignons

      Completely agree. Given the holes on this team, what’s on the shelf, and unfortunate contracts what they need is a top 4 pick much more than another miracle playoff run. I am willing to postpone short-term “success” in favor of building a serious cup contender and actually winning the mug a couple of times down the road. But I gotta admit, winning right now is a hell of a lot of fun.

      • piscera.infada

        @cunning_linguist

        [B]ut continuing to lose (with underlying possession progression being made) is the best case scenario. We need at least one more elite talent from the draft (especially at forward)[…]

        Let Ramo/Hiller be the scapegoats, get bigger returns at the deadline, draft high, add one more booster shot year to the rebuild.

        You want a championship? Hedge your bets. You want another Gaudreau? Gotta draft him..

        You both make it sound so easy. Finish poorly, draft high, all will be good. No more holes, perfectly linear development from all young players, de facto elite player in the top-end of a draft, only finishing poor because “goaltending (and nothing else)”.

        I’m sorry, but it’s the least pragmatic way to view things.

        • CofRed4Life

          I agree. It sounds very Oiler-esque, which doesn’t settle well with me. We can’t think that getting a high draft pick will transfer to long-term success. Contrast the Red Wings and the Oilers. Who’s had more high draft picks in the last 10 years? And who’s had the better team those last 10 years?

          High draft picks don’t always pan out the way we project. Keep the pipeline stocked with prospects, and keep developing them, and some (like Brodie and Gaudreau) will blow you away.

          • piscera.infada

            Thing is, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with them. This team likely does need more high-end offensive talent (I mean, who doesn’t, right?). I just think it’s way too easy to say “plummet down the standings for one year, draft high, done”.

            First, I don’t subscribe to this “rebuild” philosophy that there’s some sort of formulaic way to approach the rebuild. For instance; ‘x’ number of offensive players, trade some of those to acquire ‘y’ number of defensive players, end with a mix of players of “z’ age, and then you’re ready. I look at this organization as a whole, and I see them being on a very good path. Granted, that path will take time, but I do still see some upside in the system, and some still untapped upside on the big club. It’s not a surprise to me that “this team isn’t ready to compete for a cup this year”.

            Second, it’s not very likely you can just “plummet down the standings”. Generally, teams that are that bad are by default, very bad teams (that means stale development and poor players all over the roster), or that there has been some kind of acceptance of losing within the organization. Neither of those things are inherently conducive to future success, nor do I see the Flames as either.

            Again, I think the most important thing to remember throughout this season, is summed up nicely by Kent:

            As for the deadline, I don’t think the organization should base its decision making on the Flames’ playoff position.

            Freidman was on 960 this morning, and he kind of went out of his way to talk about how he hears Treliving is “all about the long-term”. That is comforting to hear. While some people would say “acquire goaltending at all costs”, or “plummet down the standings”, I think I’d be much more in the wait and see, play the long-game camp. The most important thing here is, as you said, keep them developing. Keep the organization developing from top (management) right through the bottom (prospects).

          • CofRed4Life

            Well put. There’s no “one way” that works for a rebuild. You must look at the whole organization, from your coaching staff, aging veterans, core players, youngsters, fillers, and prospects, and find what ways you can improve. In that sense, it’s very much like a business (and it’s easy for us fans to forget that there’s a huge business side to the NHL, because we just see the games), where you’re constantly trying to improve the organization as a whole, and your employees (players) as individuals. But that’s why we have BT, BB, et al, to worry about that side of things. I have full confidence in BT, because his moves this summer make me think he really is worried about the long-term like he says. I say we’re in good hands, and let’s enjoy watching some good hockey.

        • ville de champignons

          Don’t think I have ever suggested that a top 4 draft pick would “solve all our problems”. Normally I like most of your posts, but to try to extend my argument in favor of a high pick to an unjustified extreme and then point out why its wrong is just lazy. Or perhaps you mis-read / misunderstood. I happen to think a high pick would benefit the team more than making the playoffs this year. So we disagree and thats ok.

  • everton fc

    Jones is an interesting player. He’s not young, would be valuable to a team making a playoff run… But we appear to be making a playoff run, as we continue to rebuild. What to do?? I’d hold onto him if he’d sign on the cheap, as no one on the farm is blowing the doors off, especially on the right-side.

    Gaudreau is clearly an elite player, and will be for the balance of his career. Lock him up for what he’s worth. Simpler than it sounds, though, which may mean guys like Jones, Hudler… Stajan… All get moved. Mocing Hiller’s contract (or Ramo’s, but he’s the only goalie we have who can actually win an NHL game) would also be nice, but with the devastating injury to Gillies and Ortio’s absolute inconsistencies…

    Bollig should be waived. Not Jooris. Nor Raymond, who may prove a capable LW on the Backlund/Frolik line until Bouma returns. Colborne’s not moving, and it seems Hartley loves Russell’s “compete level”, so I wonder if they re-sign him cheap, if he wants to stay in his home province that badly??

    We shall see….

  • Cfan in Vic

    Gaudreau is one of the most gifted players I’ve ever seen. His vision and hockey IQ is off the charts, he can literally turn on a dime and his puck control is effortless. Players like him don’t come along very often, the Flames need to lock him up for a long time. He will be our offense for the next 10+ years.

    • cberg

      C’mon, are you serious? We have at least 2-3 D ready to step in to a 6/7 role at the least. Having too many bodies and spots is and has been one of our primary problems all season. The last thing we need to be doing is even considering a UFA D. Perhaps a UFA goalie or winger, MAYBE…

  • BitGeek

    Has there been any word on whether or not Bennett suffered any short or long term injuries as a result of the hit he took in Saturdays game?

    He went off the ice barely able to hold his weight on one leg, and then came back out later for a shift or two. He’s a tough kid so it wouldn’t surprise me he did those shifts under a bunch of pain.

  • Kevin R

    Kevy’s Things:

    1/Monahan is pretty well what I thought & will probably cost north of 6.0 mill on at least a 6 year deal BT loves to give to his core players. Gaudreau is a different animal. I didn’t expect him to be this dominant, It’s a good thing but I will be ecstatic to lock this kid up on a 8 year $60mill deal. This kid is going to be our candle in the window.

    2/Because of #1, even if the cap goes up to $74mill, we got problems this summer & BT should be proactive about maximizing the assets on these unsignable assets, even if we are in the playoff mix. To be sellers & still make a run at the playoffs to the end would be nothing short of amazing.

    3/It may be cruel, but the smart decision of the guy to go on waivers is Raymond. He already cleared once & he will probably clear again. If he doesn’t, it would be a win win as we badly need that 3.1 mill cap space next summer. Jooris will get picked off, he actually has trade value. I have seen posts on Leaf sites as him as a target for Bernier. Not that I’m advocating that deal but if you have value, why give it away.

    4/Since Russell was injured, Smid & Engellend have done an excellent job based on expectations. If Russell doesn’t resign for way below market value, we won’t be able to afford him unless Smid or Engellend or Wideman is moved. Hard cold cap reality.

    5/ Doesn’t it suck how hard it is to trade in the NHL now? NHL really needs to look at this. There is more fan entertainment value in this than widening the darn nets.

  • everton fc

    Khudobin or Bernier?? Sad that we added Poulin. He might have worked out, if not injured.

    We have an albatross in Hiller, and his contract. Regardless of flu, he’s not played well, and the tandem-concept seems to disagree with him more than Ramo.

  • Burnward

    Christmas has come early for David Jones. He has gone from playing a role on the 4th line to being on the top line with 2 of the most skilled players in the organization. Jones likely had the best point total on the team per minute played, as is being rewarded for his output.

    I always beleived that last years line of Johnny, Monny, and Hudler lacked the sustainability needed. Despite the fact that Jones has not got a lot of points playing with his new linemates, he is clearly making an impact. He is not as skilled as Hudler, and not as rugged as Ferland….but seems to be the best fit. He seems to open up more ice for both his linemates, he is more rugged and gritty in the corners and it seems that this line is improving its possession with him on it.

    The true test will be determined when they go back on the road. Johnny will clearly be a point per game player but the Flames need to find more space for him on the road when they don’t get the last line change. IMO Calgary can only make the playoffs if Johnny starts to find some scoring on the road and they get better than average goaltending.