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.
— Lance Street (@lancestreet12) January 2, 2016
— Geoff Grebliunas (@flamesfanatic04) January 2, 2016
@Kent_Wilson With our need of young, top 6 wingers becoming glaringly obvious, who would you target via trade league wide and for what?
— Robb (@robbhope) January 3, 2016
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?)
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.
— Thomas Kellner (@altokells29) January 2, 2016
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.
— Christian (@CC12rake) January 2, 2016
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.
— Spencer (@Sathome97) January 2, 2016
@Kent_Wilson Are the Flames really keeping Colborne all year and maybe longer??
— Mark Kingsmith (@kingsmithm) January 2, 2016
— Ed (@Ed_Ward42) January 2, 2016
(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.
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