FN Mailbag – January 4, 2016

flamesnation

Happy new year and welcome to the first FN Mailbag of 2016!

After a brief two-game slide, the Flames beat up the Avs in Colorado recently to get themselves right back into the playoff conversation. However you want to characterize the first three months of the season, most Flames fans would have accepted a fair chance at the dance come January if given the option in September I think. 

The recent losses to the Ducks and Kings show that the Flames still have some ground to gain if they’re to become contenders. In this mailbag, we look at some of the things the org can do to continue to improve the roster including potential trade targets, trade assets and what’s to be done about Joe Colborne.

I sense a theme.

The injury to Frolik and struggles of Jiri Hudler has revealed the club’s glaring lack of scoring depth on the wings. Consider that one Calgary’s top-nine LWers right now is Sam Bennett, who the club (supposedly) plans to develop at centre over the long term. 

The good news is the recent play of Micheal Ferland suggests the team might have at least one internal option who can move up the depth chart. The bad news is the Flames are set to lose both Hudler and David Jones to either trade or free agency this year, which will leave the roster tragically thin at RW. In addition, should Bennett move back to C, the Flames’ winger depth could look like this heading into the offseason:

LW – Gaudreau, Ferland, Bouma, Raymond, Bollig, (Granlund?)

RW – Frolik, Jooris, Colborne, (Granlund?) 

Yeesh. 

Determining trade targets to fill some of the gaps is tough. Teams don’t tend to make young, established scoring wingers available very often. There are some very high level targets based on rumours currently (Stamkos, Drouin and Johansen), though two of them are C’s and the cost to acquire any of them could likely be prohibitive. 

Calgary may have to target UFA’s this summer instead. The two main guys to consider are Loui Eriksson (30) and Kyle Okposo (27). Both are above average scoring top-six wingers on the right side. For the left, guys like Andrew Ladd (30), David Perron (28) and Mikkel Boedker (26) might be up for grabs. 

The one guy who might be available for relatively cheap is former first round pick and Johnny Gaudreau line mate Kevin Hayes. Alain Vigneault recently scratched the 23-year-old RW and had some not so nice things to say about him. After scoring 17 goals and 45 points as a rookie, Hayes is on pace for a modest step back. His underlying numbers this season are also not as good as they were in his debut, despite easier circumstances (though they are still decent).

Hayes is something of a gamble since he’s a relatively untested commodity. It’s possible he’d become just another bottom-six option for a team already drowning in them. On the other hand, he has a decent enough pedigree to suggest there’s upside as well. 

It’s going to be almost impossible at this stage to move Dennis Wideman for anything, at least without retaining a big chunk of his salary. As expected, Wideman has come crashing back down to earth after his career season last year, which makes moving his $5.25M ticket that much more difficult. Wideman is currently playing on the Flames third pairing most nights and only has 17 points on the season despite ample PP time. It would take a miracle to convince someone to take his deal. 

Russell seems to have a good reputation around the league, but he’s on an expiring contract which marks him as a rental player should the Flames decide to trade him. That means only contenders are going to want to acquire him and they don’t tend to give up useful roster players while preparing for a playoff run. So finding a fit would be difficult if your goal is to firm up the team’s winger depth. 

I can only speculate about the NHL’s trade market, but I would consider a top-60 draft pick or equivalent level prospect a win in a Russell trade.

(This was just a sample of the Joe Colborne questions.)

Aside from having “projectable” assets (good hands! Big body!) I’ve long since stopped trying to figure out what the coaching staff’s fascination is with Joe Colbrorne. 

He’s a guy who shows rare flashes of above average skill sprinkled amongst long stretches of absolutely nothing. His underlying numbers at even strength are universally poor and he’s the only player on the team who gets regular PP time without managing a single point on the man advantage this year.

The injury to Frolik, loss of Byron and continued struggles of Hudler have certainly helped to elevate Colborne’s ice time so far. It’s also clear at least one of the Flames decision makers wants to give Colborne every chance to succeed – whether that’s because they like him personally, like his package of skills or feel he can fill a need if he develops (young power forward!) – but at some point the experiment has to be abandoned. 

To my eye, Colborne is what he is – a bottom-six forward who is good at the shootout, decent at face-offs and able to occasionally chip in a point or two. That’s not nothing, of course, but it’s also not a solid shut down player or a top-six scorer, which are both roles that have been imposed on his to varying degrees this season.

ARE YOU A SPORTS GAMER? GIVE OUR NEW MAILBAG SPONSOR SOME LOVE!

1.       Open a Sports Interaction account.

2.       Deposit $20 or more and get an instant 100% Cash Bonus up to $200

3.       Place a moneyline bet on any NHL game and if you don’t win, Sports Interaction will refund your bet up to $20

  • BurningSensation

    Adding a two-way vet like Louis Ericcson would be gold!

    Likely cheaper than an Okposo, and he has underrated defensive skills that can help out any line even if his skills/speed start to degrade with age.

    Ladd would also be a good fit, but I can’t see Wpg letting him go.

    • Ladd wants an incredible volume of money (because he’s Patrice Bergeron-lite). Okposo is looking to cash in big, as this may be his final chance at a big contract too.

      Eriksson is 30, 31 this summer and a UFA. If he is available, again there is a chance of overpayment there too. So even if you get Eriksson on the cheap, he’ll be entering his expected years of some varying degrees of regression.

      Cam Atkinson jumps out still, despite his size (cue the narratives) because is there some discernible optimism he can contribute. More so that the Blue Jackets are hot trash. Plus he’s on an affordable contract ($3.5M for another three years).

  • CofRed4Life

    Colborne’s like that big, tall basketball player you expect to see crashing the boards and posting up, but stays on the perimeter and shoots 3s all day (and occasionally makes a few). It’s just frustrating to see a guy with a big body not use it properly.

    As for free agency, I would go after Okposo. I think he would be a good fit in Calgary, and would be about as big of a pickup as Frolik (and probably cost about the same).

    I like the idea of picking up Hayes. Maybe Johnny can reignite him, and he can be a top-six winger playing with Gaudreau. One can dream, eh?

    • MontanaMan

      Not defending Colborne but providing perspective. I have known Joe since he was 10 years old and he has always been a tall, somewhat gangly, yet highly skilled player. He never was and never will be a physical hockey player. He may be 6’3″ and 213lb but he may as well be 5’9′ and 150lb for his physical play. His size gives him reach and positional advantage but that’s where it ends. Don’t expect anything more.

      • Parallex

        It’s not the physicality so much as his refusal to use his size effectively. He should be parking his arse in front of the net screening the keeper, deflecting pucks and jamming in rebounds… instead he floats around in between the hashmarks and blueline like he’s some kind of sniper… and he’s not.

  • Skele

    Kind of unrelated but flames are one of 3 teams reportedly in on Rychel. I dont think the cost would be ridiculously high (Drouin) considering he hasn’t proved much in the show but the thought of a gritty LW with some soft hands behind gaudreau is exciting to say the least

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    I’m also interested in hearing what people’s thoughts are in Rychel. Seems like he checks a lot of boxes for us. Big, young, gritty winger with scoring ability who also asked for a trade prior to the season. If he were on the Stockton heat right now he would be second in scoring – 2 points behind Derek Grant (in the same amount of games) and 1 point ahead of Hamilton (in 8 less games).

    Also, something worth noting is that Rychel is good friends with Monahan, although if we were to acquire him I think a line of Rychel-Bennett-Ferland could give opposition nightmares.

    • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

      Rychel makes the most sense for us out of any rumors I have heard all year…. I REALLY want this guy. More than Drouin… he checks every box we have. A gamble for sure but good pedigree and if Ferland turns into a legit top six forward, having both of these guys would be incredible.

  • Parallex

    Yeah, I’ve given up trying to figure out what they’re doing with Colborne. Someone or someones in the org have blinders with regards to him…

    He makes everyone he plays with worse = put him with the best players!

    He does nothing on the PP = more power play time!

    He’s not playing well = MOAR ICE TIME!

    … maddening.

    ___________________________________________

    On a seperate note. I wonder why Granlund doesn’t get shifted to wing. Is there a compelling argument to having Bennett on the wing rather then Granlund? Legit question (not rhetorical).

    • piscera.infada

      On a seperate note. I wonder why Granlund doesn’t get shifted to wing. Is there a compelling argument to having Bennett on the wing rather then Granlund? Legit question (not rhetorical).

      It feels like I’ve been asking this for weeks.

    • Joe Flames

      It is something endemic to all hockey coaches. Even when you watch your kid’s team play, there are always a couple of players who get way more ice time than they should. The coaches just don’t seem to see what they are doing wrong and overvalue their combination of skills. It seems like every coach does it.

    • MontanaMan

      Just to play Devils advocate here.

      Colborne is what he is. He’s a big guy, he’s streaky and he’s on pace for 35 points. He has poor possession metrics but a bit of scoring touch. He’s not a terrible 3rd line winger.

      The problem is that our forward depth is really poor. Especially when it comes to play along the boards. So what obvious choices do you have past Colborne? Hudler is struggling, plus not physical enough. Ferland could use more ice time but the guy only has like 10 career points. Granlund is not up to par on the board play, raymond is weak, jooris doesn’t have the skillset, none of the farm is ready to come up.

      I will concede that Bennett (rookie) and Frolik (injured) deserve some of Joes PP time but he’s not as terrible as some frame him.

      So you keep playing Joe and hope he hits a hot streak until we get more help and especially more size. Watch the final 2 minutes of game 1 in last years Vancouver series to see what a hot Colborne can do. Also he may not have any points on the PP but he’s had a couple nice screens for sure.

      Re: Bennett
      Hartley said he needs Sam on the wing because it’s his only option to dig in the corners and play that physical way. Granlund just couldn’t do it.

      Long story short: in order for Bennett to get to C and Colborne to play 3rd line minutes we need size upgrades on Granlund, Hudler, backlund, Raymond and all other wingers not named Gaudreau or Frolik. (Maybe not even necessarily size but tenacity like Byron had)

  • everton fc

    Okposo would be a nice fit, but we have to shop for bargains, meaning we’ll need to find RWs who are young, or experienced like Jones/Frolik, but affordable.

    If Frolik’s healthy, and we sign Jones on the cheap, we are not as bad looking on the right-side. And I think at least Hathaway can play at the NHL level, in terms of the style of play he brings.

    As for Rychel, another LW. Do you go w/Monahan/Bennett/Backlund/Stajan down th middle, which pushes Granlund out (or towards Columbus)?

    What about Wideman moving over there? Or Smid?? Or one of the defencive prospects??? Columbus desperately needs defence…