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.
@Kent_Wilson if the flames are “out” of the PO’s by trade deadline, what / who should they look to move in / out? Ps any news on Hamonic?
— Luc Withell (@FutureSVC) December 11, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson is David Jones the ultimate trade bait, especially now that the flames are need open roster spots with Bouma coming back?
— Jess (@mcbellis) December 11, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson so what are the Flames going to do with the lineup once they start getting some of the injured bodies back
— hunter (@HunterMurphy101) December 11, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson what has changed with Dougie Hamilton leading to his success lately?
— RobtimusPrime (@CutterMcAwesome) December 11, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson Are the flames better then their record, and has their fortune turn around? (Advance stats based question)
— David Perron (@Dperr28) December 11, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson What are the Flames doing to shoot over 10% in 5 of their last 7 games? Is it confidence, or swagger?
— Matt Chernos (@mchernos) December 11, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson What do you think Gaudreau’s ceiling is? Does he ever win art Ross?
— Earnest P Willygonk (@buckgnarly) December 11, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson what material should we use to build our statue of gaudreau
— Jordan Fleming (@Ashasx) December 11, 2015
@Kent_Wilson The Flames are good and Russell has been out of the lineup. Coincidence?
— Craig Taylor (@CraigTaylor97) December 11, 2015
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.
@Kent_Wilson do you think the Flames should sign guadreau and Monahan to bridge deals, mid range deal or max term? And what type of $?
— Geoff Grebliunas (@flamesfanatic04) December 12, 2015
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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