5 things: A bad week

1. The worst thing possible

So Mark Giordano’s done for the year, and that’s a real shame for him because he was having the season of his life for the second year in a row.

Last season he played 64 games and dominated the toughest competition in the league. He played more than 25 minutes a night, racked up 47 points, and scored 14 times. The Flames were bad around him but it didn’t matter; when he was on the ice, they played like the Chicago Blackhawks.

This season he played 61 games and dominated the toughest competition
in the league. He played more than 25 minutes a night, racked up 48
points, and scored 11 times. The Flames were bad around him but it
didn’t matter; when he was on the ice, they played like the Chicago
Blackhawks.

That’s two Norris-caliber seasons down the toilet, because if he only finished 10th despite clearly being the best defenseman in the league then, he’s probably not going to do a lot better than that now under similar circumstances. Below is a chart of every defenseman to play more than 1,000 minutes in the last two seasons (Giordano played a little more than 1,100 in both). You can’t see him in there too well, but he’s not far from Brodie, whom you can see near the top left. A nice hint is there’s the darker purplish circles. Most guys in that area are red by virtue of how good their opponents are, and how many times they start in their defensive zone, but not Giordano and Brodie.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 2.40.47 PM

What a waste, really. Last year he was passed over because he did it largely anonymously. This year he was getting a lot of buzz — mainly because a few people really screamed about how he shouldn’t have been so anonymous given what he was doing — and now Shea Weber’s going to win a Norris he doesn’t really deserve instead. That’s usually how it goes in the NHL, but this year it’s another egregious oversight because he couldn’t stay healthy. Not fair to him, really, but I guess that’s hockey.

The good news is that, like Wild fans a few years ago, Flames fans can comfort themselves by saying this is the reason the team dropped off a cliff in final quarter of the season, and not regression. Always look on the bright side.

2. A chance to shine

On the other hand, this does at least give TJ Brodie the opportunity to prove he’s not just a product of Giordano being really good. Again, if you look at the above chart, you’ll see Brodie’s drawing slightly tougher assignments than Giordano. One assumes that at least part of this is due to the fact that Giordano missed a quarter of the season last year, and the Flames, having nowhere else to turn, basically started sending Brodie over the boards more often when they were in their defensive zone or the other team put out its best line.

To wit, Brodie is on 25 minutes a night this season as well, and in his first two games sans Giordano, Bob Hartley has expanded that to 29 and 27 minutes. To the surprise of literally no people who have watched this Flames team even in passing this season, Brodie posted better numbers than anyone should have reasonably expected — though Hartley didn’t deploy him in the most difficult positions, bizarrely leaving that to Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell because I assume he wants to lose these games as badly as possible? — and he’s still more than holding his own.

One also has to consider that Brodie isn’t being used in these tougher minutes because Hartley has tied a boat anchor around his neck and thrown him overboard. The fact that Deryk Engelland even gets to be on the same team as Brodie doesn’t seem equitable, but putting them on the same pairing is excruciating to watch. Russell and Wideman have been partners for a while now so you don’t break them up, sure, but Engelland is just so bad.

How bad? Despite the overlap in time on ice at evens, which has been significant, the Flames have been victimized for 61 attempts against in two games (83.3 per 60 minutes) compared with just 53 when Brodie’s on (71.2 per 60). For context: Brodie’s career CA/60 is 52.2.

Let’s assume that Hartley wises up at some point and throws, say, David Schlemko with Brodie for the rest of the year. (And by the way, grabbing Schlemko off waivers was a good move.) That’s a pairing that might be pretty good. It won’t be Giordano-Brodie, but nothing was ever going to.

3. Selling Glencross

Well we knew it was coming, and in the end Washington ended up paying more than I thought anyone would for Glencross. If I’m the average Flames fan, I’m not sorry to see him go.

I’ve said it many times in this space, but Glencross was horribly overrated in Calgary, and was always going to prove an expensive piece — too expensive, really — if he re-signs. Can’t begrudge him the money, of course. If you can get it you have to take it. But no one should have reasonably wanted the Flames to be the team that gave it to him.

The Capitals are a good team, so the value of the second- and third-rounders the Flames got for Glencross isn’t likely to be high, but hey, it’s better than what they got for Mike Cammalleri last season (to recap: nothing, because Brian Burke made an awful mistake). The thing is that not-having Glencross probably doesn’t help the club, but it’s a team whose legitimate playoff chances died the second Giordano took that warmup to test out his shoulder — which by the way is indefensible on the part of the Flames; how do you let your best player risk further injury like that? — and decided he couldn’t go.

So whatever. This is a rebuild anyway. Stock up on draft picks and hope you hit another Brodie-or Gaudreau-level home run in the late rounds.

4. Trading Baertschi

Now this one I absolutely do not get. Okay, Baertschi asked for a trade after a season and a half of being jerked around at every turn by this organization. At that point you have to give him what he wants, because he has no interest in continuing to play for the team.

But let’s recap the reasons this is not a good decision:

a) They just traded a veteran left wing who was, among other players, holding Baertschi back from becoming a regular NHLer. I’d rather have Baertschi, who won’t be 23 until October, than a creaky Glencross, who they should have traded months ago. At least if you trade Glencross and give the kid a run-out, you see what you have. Now all we know is the Flames don’t-have either one of them.

b) He’s 22 and not so far removed from his huge junior numbers that anyone should have given up on him. But Brian Burke shivved him in the local media for reasons that baffle — maybe it was intended to motivate him??? — and then the team never wanted to use him. So they had to ship him off.

c) To a division rival, by the way. Odds Baertschi becomes a solid second-line contributor for the Canucks two years down the line? Given how things have gone the last few years, I’d have to assume they’re pretty good.

d) And when the return is only a second-round pick, that’s not great either. I guess it’s better than a third or something, but a mid-to-late second-rounder is a player that you hope will one day be a marginally effective NHLer. Which is what Baertschi is now.

Great job from the Flames front office on this one. Totally predictable screw-up that you had to see coming a mile away.

5. Well at least they beat the Flyers

And the charity point doesn’t come back to haunt them, huh? There’s that. And that’s about it.

  • mattyc

    1. Giordano’s the flames best player – no question (and he’s elite), but I still don’t think it’s going to be *the* reason the Flames make or don’t make the playoffs. For instance, a spell of bad goaltending would be worse for the team. Incidentally: “falling off a cliff” and going on a huge losing streak is not regression.

    2. TJ Brodie is also excellent to elite. He deserved all 3 stars in Philly the other night for the herculean effort of dragging Engelland around all night. Put him with Schlemko!

    3. Glencross was a pretty good middle 6 option, and was closing in on his last NHL contract. He owes it to himself, his family, his agent, etc. to go get that one last big pay-day. Good for him, he’ll get it, he deserves it, but I’m glad it won’t be the Flames paying it. They will need to replace his minutes next year though (and I don’t think you can reasonably expect Bennett or Raymond to do it).

    4. The real mistake imo was not realizing the situation with Baertschi in September, and then using him to maybe get in on another valuable piece (like Leddy for instance). Treliving did the best he could in March, but they should have been more proactive with it IMO.

    5. They were awful after the 1st period in the Flyers game, and were very lucky to get 2 points. Having said that, still lots of positives around the Flames.

    • Southern_Point

      on point 4. That’s the biggest issue I have with the Baertschi trade. I’m glad we at least got an asset out of him, but boy everyone could see this coming from a mile away. There were rumours he wanted out ages ago, and we all knew Hartley wasn’t a fan of the guy. At the very least he should been traded to start the season, probably should have been shopped as part of a package last year.

    • Colin.S

      To your point 1, falling off a cliff wouldn’t be regression but it would probably be because of regression: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/regression “the act of going back to a previous place or state”, Ramo isn’t going to be posting these stupid numbers for ever and is going to return to a state of being a league average goalie at some point which might correspond with the flames falling off a cliff, because when you play Engelland 20+ minutes a night eventually the goals are going in.

      All the rest of your points are bang on. I do agree with number 4. I still think the Baertschi trade was incredibly stupid, mostly because they knew they were going to trade him a long time ago. So to wait until seconds before the trade deadline came to a close to trade him for a second seems underwhelming when you had all year to put him in a package to upgrade something, anything.

      • mattyc

        Regression is a return to the mean. So if you think the flames are a .400 team (I think they’re maybe a bit better even without Gio than that but doesn’t matter), “regression” would expect them to play 0.400 here on out, not lose 10 in a row because they won some they shouldn’t have earlier. Put another way, there’s no such thing as “being due” for some bad bounces, although it seemed like this was passively implied in the article.

        Incidentally, I don’t think Giordano is the difference between the Flames and the Sabres for instance. Sure they’re better with him in the lineup, but it’s not nearly as important as if we had to play Reto Berra in goal for the rest of the year or something like that.

        • DoubleDIon

          Exactly and very well put. We might regress, but we regress on the remainder, not the season as a whole. A bit of hot goaltending and some bounces and we could regress right into a playoff spot.

          The craziest thing is we could draw an incredibly easy opponent in round 1 with the new playoff format we’d be facing the Canucks. In my opinion the easiest opponent we could face in the conference.

        • Colin.S

          Can you read? I’m not talking about team regression, I’m talking about individual player regression, specifically Ramo. Ramo is playing WELL above his career average and especially considering his age and the simple fact that there’s pretty well no goalie that has ever sustained what Ramo is currently doing over a lengthy period, his GAA and SV% over the last few games just isn’t going to last.

          No the whole team isn’t going to suddenly regress to being a terrible team, but a Ramo regression might coincide with the team losing more than a couple games which is what you were talking about, the team falling off a cliff. (Unless it’s Hillers time to post obscene numbers as well). They won’t fall off a cliff because some people are saying they due to, they may fall off a cliff because a couple of key players go back to the mean, specifically Ramo.

          If you don’t believe in individual player regression let me point you to Exhibit A: http://www.nhl.com/ice/player.htm?id=8469770&view=splits Dennis Wideman has a career shooting percentage of 6.3%. At the beginning of the year his percentage was well over 10%, since then it has slowly regressed to 9.3%, by the end of the year he’ll probably be a little closer to his career average.

          • piscera.infada

            I made that argument about Dubnyk a few weeks ago, the response I got was “he could keep it up until the end of this season, for sure”. The same could be said for Ramo. I have my doubts, but I still think you resign him if you can, and trade Hiller at or after the draft.

          • Colin.S

            Could Ramo? Sure he could, but Ramo and Dubnyk are also in completely different situations.

            Without Gio in the defense anymore, Engelland is playing top 2 minutes, does anyone seriously believe that Ramo is going to keep this up for the rest of the season with Engelland as the number 2 defenceman infront of him? Ramo is currently posting the best SV% of his NHL career(short as it’s been), Ramo regressing may be the best bet you can make at this point.

            Dubnyk has posted three decent seasons previously with the Edmonton “Who needs Defence” Oilers. Two of those seasons were better than Ramo’s career high. So now with a much better defence and better team overall he’s a better bet to keep posting better numbers, his numbers to will likely come down but not to the extant Ramo’s is.

          • piscera.infada

            Not saying I believe he’ll “keep it up”. Not saying he’s “more (or equally) likely than Dubnyk, to keep it up”. Simply saying it’s possible. As @mattyc said, “[r]andom noise/variance is a streaky mistress.”

          • Colin.S

            Anyone else find it ironic that people are saying that good luck might run for Ramo for the rest of the season, but crap all over Lambert for saying that the Flames most likely will run into some bad puck luck?

          • piscera.infada

            Again, I’ve never “crapped on Lambert” for saying good luck will run-out (or bad-luck will occur). Stop putting words in my mouth.

            I have said that I didn’t expect this team to be amazing at possession considering the roster. I, along with others, have “crapped on him” because I don’t agree that any moderate success this season (no matter how unsustainable) is either a failure of management, and/or going to set the team back for years–as he commonly contends.

            “Can you read?”

          • Colin.S

            Can you read? That entire comment wasn’t directed at you, only quoted you for context. I’m making an observation that it’s funny/ironic that in a Lambert article people(this group may include you) are actively saying that Ramo’s luck(and for the most part it is luck, he didn’t turn into Hasek 2.0 at the start of February) may run the rest of the season. While in most Lambert articles that mention the Flames PDO, or sky high shooting percentages or uncharacteristic save percentages that they are going to run out of that luck and may end up losing a bunch of games he gets crapped on by lots of people (that group of people may not include you).

          • mattyc

            I made that argument about Dubnyk a few weeks ago, the response I got was “he could keep it up until the end of this season, for sure”.

            I bet if you calculated the probability of sustaining a high SV% for any average/above-average goalie for 2-3 more weeks, it wouldn’t be nearly as improbable as most of us would think. Random noise/variance is a streaky mistress.

          • piscera.infada

            I’m not disputing that. Ramo could easily keep up some pretty lofty numbers through the end of the season, he could also just as easily get completely shellacked tonight. For the all the discussion of goal tending being “voodoo” in the meta analysis, it’s just as voodoo game to game, period to period, series to series.

            I tend to agree with signing Ramo, trading Hiller simply because of age. I don’t think their body of work has been much different. Ramo definitely had some brutal games this year, as has Hiller. Both are probably going to hover around league average, and that’s what you want in a place-holder until something better emerges.

        • Toofun

          I think you could make a pretty sound argument that the drop off from having Giordano playing 1st pair minutes to Engelland is about as big a drop off as a team can have at any position.

  • FeyWest

    BT said that the injury to Gio could not have been aggravated any further then it already was. As such you let him take the skate but they had to already know he want going to actually play.

  • Greg

    I’m surprised people still talk about Burke’s “mistake” not trading Cammy last season. Let’s say the best he got offered was a 3rd rounder from a playoff bound team. We should keep an eye on the list of 3rd round picks (last half) to see if any even make the show.

    I don’t buy Burke’s argument either, but perhaps holding out last year did factor into why we got a better than expected deal on Glencross this year. Can’t say. I doubt it, the market was just crazy good for sellers this year, but you never know.

    Just saying, I highly doubt that late 3rd rounder we missed out on will factor into the rebuild success any more than Cammy’s last 20 games with the flames did. We should stop worrying about it and keep our what-ifs focused on Savard, St. Louis, and Gelinas’ cup winner. #itwasin

    • Colin.S

      It was a mistake. How does playing hardball with yourself help the Flames. And since he’s supposedly not involved with day to day hockey ops things anymore how does him not trading Camm for peanuts help BT make trades at this deadline? ANYTHING that BB could have gotten for Camm is better than the NOTHING that the Flames have to show for him now. Brodie was a 4th round pick, Bouma was a 3rd and Ferland, doesn’t matter what he got, fact is what he didn’t get can’t help the flames.

      He couldn’t get a first or something else bigger and didn’t want to look bad not getting that after Feaster got roasted for what he got back for Bouwmeester and Iginla. It was stupid then not trading him and still stupid now. At least BT got it right and traded Glenncross even in the middle of a playoff chase.

    • playastation

      It’s just terrible asset management. A 3rd round pick is an asset and you want as many of those as you can get. You can use them in a trade, to move up in the draft or to get multiple picks. It’s just smart asset management.

    • mattyc

      It’s small peanuts, and there had to have been more to the story than what came out, but the number of 3rd round picks that make the NHL will be more than the number of Mike Cammalleri’s that help the flames over the next couple seasons.

  • Toofun

    I pulled this from Wikopedia:

    Eeyore (Listeni/ˈiːɔr/ EE-or) is a character in the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne. He is generally characterized as a pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, anhedonic, old grey stuffed donkey

    Remind you of any FN writers?

    • Southern_Point

      These pithy comments at the top of every Lambert article drive me nuts. The articles are well labeled, no one is forcing you or anyone else to click on them and read them.

      I just imagine people like you clicking on 5 things week after week and expecting Lambert to talk about awesome the bottom pairing is, and how great a coach Bob Hartley is and then having your day ruined to such a degree you fly off into a frothy mouthed rage so intense you needed to look up Eeyore on ‘Wikopedia.’

      • Toofun

        Haha, no frothy rage here.

        Look it’s easy to be neagtive all the time. The Flames have had a great season and they work hard every game out there to overachieve.

        The players and the organization deserve more than the weekly write-up of the 5 things the Flames should have done better this week, that’s all.