Hurricanes 5, Flames 2 post-game embers: When’s the trade deadline again?

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Photo credit: James Guillroy/USA TODAY Sports

If you think about it, that game was a perfect microcosm for the entire Flames season.

The Flames didn’t even show up at first. A goaltending miscue and incredibly questionable defence sunk them early on. But just when you thought all was hopeless, they began to rally back. They put themselves in conversation to win the game–

And promptly blew it all a few minutes later in rather emphatic fashion. Also, the special teams were real bad.

It was the entire season compressed into one 60-minute game. Can we go to the trade deadline now?

The Flames are a one line team

As in: they have one line that’s actually doing its job and creating opportunities. Just one single line. And it’s been like that the past couple of games now, and pretty much ever since they were reunited.

Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik had yet another exceptionally good game. They were the top corsi getters for the Flames at even strength, and the only other players who also had 20+ CF events were the top four defencemen.

No, they didn’t score; those honours went to Jiri Hudler and Joe Colborne, albeit off of opportunities created by Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, respectively. But if anyone was making the best cases to score, it was that line, and Bennett in particular.

Don’t get me wrong; there were a couple of other standouts in the forward group. Lance Bouma is doing his best since returning from injury to make an impact. The same can be said for Josh Jooris since his return from the pressbox. Hudler would appear to be rather malcontent with how his season has gone thus far.

But only one line appeared to be a consistent threat throughout the entire game, and that’s not good enough. Not in normal circumstances, but certainly not when you fall behind early, either (turns out taking a nap through an entire first period is ill-advised).

Need more top line talent

This draft is going to be very crucial for the Flames, because right at the top of it is exactly the kind of player they need: big, offensively talented forwards.

I’m not entirely sure whether Johnny Gaudreau is a little lost out there right now, or whether he just doesn’t have the linemates to keep up with him. He lost the puck numerous times last night, and that’s on him; at the same time, who is he supposed to make a play to? The kid is a point-per-game player – 46 in 46, top 10 in the entire league – with 16 more points than the next closest guy on his team, who just so happens to be a defenceman (Giordano).

The supposed top line – a title that has probably been usurped by Bennett’s at this point, and definitely was last night if you go by ice time – ranged from invisible to defensively detrimental. The low ice times they received are of little concern, because we finally did see “always earned, never given” in practice. (Also, back-to-back games can result in that, particularly when you’re out of it so early on.)

The Flames are working shorthanded. We’re well past the days of trying out David Jones on the first line, but let’s not forget the current ideal solution is Micheal Ferland: a player with a great load of potential who is far from any other team’s first choice. That’s fine because this is a rebuilding team, and that’s what you do when you’re rebuilding. You take chances on kids who have earned that right.

But the current incarnation of Ferland is not a top line player on a playoff-bound team, and Jones is not much of a substitute. And when that’s your first line, you’re not going anywhere.

Dennis Wideman is both bad and expensive

Watch Wideman. Watch him teeter on the verge of continued top four status by merit of ice time, particularly on the power play. Watch him fumble with the puck; watch him give it away, watch it lead to a penalty shot goal against.

Consider that he has the second highest cap hit on the Flames, and prior to the acquisition and signing of Dougie Hamilton, has had the highest cap hit since Jarome Iginla was traded away.

It’s not a pretty thing to think about, for a number of reasons. Chief among them, though: he’s still signed for another season after this one on a contract that is, in all likelihood, completely immovable. He had a career season the year before and was not moved; who is going to want to pick up this player now?

There are a lot of faults to Kris Russell’s game, but being a victim to his occasional partner’s play is not even close to being one of them.

Dougie Hamilton is expensive, but not bad

While we’re talking about costly contracts: this season, Hamilton leads the Flames in cap hits. That won’t last long, as Giordano’s extension kicks in next season (and that’s to say nothing of Gaudreau), but that won’t change that Hamilton will be one of the most expensive players on the Flames for years to come.

The good news: he’s not a hindrance to his team.

The bad news: he’s kind of being played like he is? What possible excuse could anybody have to playing Wideman more than Hamilton? It was only an additional 40 seconds, but it was an additional 2:14 on the power play for Wideman that helped lead to that. Twenty-five of Hamilton’s 83 points with the Bruins came on the power play. He can clearly score with the man advantage, and he’s young enough to actually still be trending upwards. 

Using Wideman over Hamilton is inexplicable and inexcusable in just about every circumstance, and that’s without going into the fact only one of these players should actually have a future on this team.

And while I’m here, a side note: is anybody else beyond tired of the “wow Hamilton has been so much better as of late!” commentary? Hamilton was disastrous in his first 10 games with the Flames. We are approaching the 50-game mark. He has not been disastrous in nearly 40 games now. That’s half a season. Let the narrative die already. Or are we still going to be talking like this five years from now? Is he still going to be fighting for proper top four ice time then, too?

Two shots on net through five power plays

And eight for the Hurricanes on the same number of power plays (plus, you know, an actual goal).

As noted up above: “Also, the special teams were real bad.”

The Flames aren’t going to recover from a league-worst special teams because of their bad start with them. They aren’t going to recover from their league-worst special teams because their special teams are legitimately, deservedly, the worst in the league.

It’s probably going to call for some heads to roll when the season expires.

  • cberg

    Good article, Ari..

    Let’s see, Granlund lets his guy walk unmolested 50ft right into the hash marks for a point blank shot…. Russell stands behind his guy at the side of the net and pound away at a loose? puck… And on it goes.

    I kind of disagree about Monahan, JH and Hudler who all had their moments, but yes, the top “line” is missing an important part.

    Besides that, three points I agree with completely: We NEED more talent. We have some terrible contracts that are dragging the team down. Better to dump them for anything or send the guys to the AHL and get several prospects some NHL time. And finally, WHEN is the TDL? We need to be sellers in a BIG way.

  • Parallex

    Y’know… I wouldn’t be surprised if almost our entire coaching staff is in Montreal next season.

    Besides the fact that they’re mostly French Canadians (which I gather is a big deal for them) I can imagine Hartley’s system working better on a team that has Carey Price.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Serious question here. I am hoping for educated and reasoned responses.

    Is Sean Monahan the Flames new Dion Phaneuf?

    A physically ready man/child who comes into the league and plays well right from the start, but never really improves?

    Is this actually true of Phaneuf, or does his 7 x $7M/yr contract color what he is? Is Phaneuf a #1, 2 or 3? Would he be a good player if his pay was $2M/yr less?

    Now what about Monahan? Has he hit a wall in his development, what will he become? Will he be our #2C moving forward or used as a chip? Who still thinks he will get that big money max term contract like Gaudreau? Will Sean get a bridge deal now?

    I think BT won’t make the mistake of giving Sean the big money now, Sean looks like he will be getting 2 years x $4M, then we will know what he is playing behind Bennett without JohnnyH.

    Your thoughts?

    • cberg

      OK.

      Phaneuf is a good player that would probably be best in a #3/#4 role for around $5mm per year. He’s strong, physical, D varies but Ok and can provide offence. Also, he is not the best leader/role model so along with the TML hype and overpayment is a focus of dissension in Toronto, and rightfully so.

      Monahan came into the league at 18 and has tremendously improved his first two years in scoring, D play and face-offs. This year he has played pretty much all season without a strong/good RW and other teams are shutting down JH by putting their top defenders against them. He is still scoring OK, and getting lots of chances but it is tough to succeed in those circumstances with a disabled line.

      If they can get a good RW there and develop some chemistry I think the line can develop further. Right now the best option is Ferland. In the AHL perhaps Poirier?

      Personally I think the best potential 1st line RW the team has is Monahan himself. He’s a pure sniper, not terribly dynamic skating but knows how to get open and shoot. Problem with that is putting Bennett in the TopC position leaves them with only 1 good scoring line. I’d prefer if the Bennett line continues to develop into the Top #1 line and Gaudreau/Monahan/Ferland? drop to the #2 position kind of like Chicago does with Kane and Toews.

      As for contracts and trades I would not trade Monahan, he is a very good Top3/Top6 player who would be difficult to replace, even considering his strengths and weaknesses. He has a great attitude and I think he’s a leadership type guy who I’d expect isn’t going to sit back once a LT contract is signed. I would have no trouble signing him LT, but it would likely be in the $5-6mm range, with Gaudreau in the $6-8mm range.

      • RedMan

        Where is the “The NHL has figured out Gaudreau and is shutting him down” narrative coming from? Gaudreau’s numbers have IMPROVED over last season. Significantly.

        Last year he had 64 points. He’s on pace for 82 this year.

        Yeah. Sure sounds like the league has figured him out to me.

        Side note: Can we please not call him Johnny Hockey anymore? Like at all? It’s a terrible nickname. We didn’t even come up with it, and he doesn’t play for the Eagles anymore.

    • Denscafon

      I’m honestly not sure what Monahan is right now. His rookie season was decent, but not spectacular. His 2nd season was amazing but was most definitely inflated with playing with Gaudreau. This year he’s still playing with Gaudreau but has reverted back to his “meh” self. For me, the best players in the league are ones that make their line mates better, not the other way around.

      Monahan is still very young (21) so he has the potential to get back to the “elite status”/1C conversation but his mediocre play recently might be a blessing in disguise. If he was having a career year again he would easily be able to command a max deal for 6.5 mill+ but a bridge contract is a real possibility now. I still think he gets something around 4.5-5.5 minimum just for his accolades the previous season, but maybe only for 2-3 years compared to johnny’s most likely 8 year deal that is coming. If Monahan explodes, then pay the man what he’s due, but hopefully by then we haven’t signed anymore head scratcher deals and all our dead weight contracts (wideman/raymond/englland/smid/bouma(overpaid)) will be off the books by then so we have space to resign him to a bigger contract if he earns it.

    • cberg

      Sean has really hit a wall in the last month. I did not get a chance to watch all of the Carolina game, but Johnny was uncharacteristically sloppy. He was unable to gain the offensive zone with any speed. As good of a game he had in New Jersey, this game was equally bad. He is entitled to a poor game every once in a while. Not having a reliable and consistent RW on this line is definately taking its toll on the entire line. As good as Kane is in Chicago, he rarely is the only one creating offense on his line. Johnny needs some help which includes taking Sean off the top line.

  • Greg

    I’m looking forward to seeing the following top 6 lineup;

    Bennet-Backlund-Frolik (take on the heavy lifting)
    Gaudreau-Matthews-Monahan (get the soft underbelly)

    Add another possession driver or two in the bottom 6, shore up the goaltending and bottom pair, and this could be a really good team next year!

    * contingent on winning the draft lottery

      • Greg

        Well, not if the Flames draft Matthews. Then I’d be fine with Bennett on the wing.

        The situation with Hamilton’s ice time has become ludicrous. It makes no sense any way, shape or form and the MSM should be all over Bob regarding it.

        • piscera.infada

          Don’t disagree, I guess. But Drafting Matthews also wouldn’t necessarily seal Bennett’s fate as a winger–you’d have a call to make about Monahan vis-a-vis Bennett though.

          That said, one should never assume Matthews–it would be ridiculous to.

          • piscera.infada

            It’s entirely hypothetical, of course.

            For whatever reason, I have trouble envisioning Monahan on the wing, but your point is valid.

            I think all Monahan really needs is some better coaching in relation to his defensive responsibilities and some slightly easier circumstances on match-ups. And maybe a small kick in the @$$ too.

          • RedMan

            The only reason you don’t have difficulty envisioning Bennett as a winger is that Hartley keeps throwing him out there as a LW. If the Flames had actually done the correct thing and kept him at center (as I always say, there was never a reason to play him on the wing in the first place) you’d have difficulty imagining him playing any other position.

  • Parallex

    A good loss tonight should pretty much seal it. Can’t see them winning tonight. ..it’s alright though. I’m fine with it

    How’s that Backlund perimeter player article coming or will we never see that?

    Feel free to write it yourself on your own blog. Then you can stop mentioning it in out of context comments here.

  • Greg

    I don’t know how buying out players works exactly but if the penalty for doing so isn’t much or anything, we should buy out Wideman’s last year cause he is, like Glencross, retirement bound.

    and what can I say about Hartley. Continues to miss manage players ice time. Would be different if we where losing with our top guys playing the most but we have our worst d man playing top 4 minutes and scratching player working hard for Bollig.

    Hopefully after we sell come trade deadline we put Bennett at center and call up some rookies to play d-fence, if where lucky to replace Wideman and Russell.

    • wot96

      See article 50.5 of the CBA for an illustration of how it is worked.

      I believe that the cost of buying Wideman’s last year would be $3.5m (2/3 of remaining salary) with a cap hit spread out over two years so it would cost Calgary $1.75m in cap space each of the next two years to not play him that one year.

      If I’m right, and I may not be, you would think that the Flames could play Kulak or Nakladal to fill the hole left by Wideman, and have some cap room left over.

      I.e., Take away the $5.25m from his salary, add in the $1.75m for each of the next two years and you have actually created $3.5m of room next year, for Johnny, or whomever.

      So, again, if I’m right, why would the Flames not do that to both Wideman and Smid? Again, those roster spots could be filled with young D that are probably better at defending with some money left over to re-sign #13 (or Mony or Stamkos…). Assuming Mony gets a two year bridge deal, the extra year of those cap hits come off about the same time you want to sign Mony long term.

  • Nick24

    Everyone needs to relax on Monahan! He’s 21 years old for crying out loud, and for all intents and purposes, he’s been our first line center for the last two seasons! I think the issue is that everyone thought he was surely going to be comparable to Jonathan Towes, and who knows, maybe in three seasons he is. However, it is more likely that he settles into the #2C role on the team. He doesn’t really have the dynamic ability that you see in other elite players, but he’s still a very good player. He has a great shot and seems to know where to be, and how to score goals ( which is clearly a valuable attribute).

    Thankfully, early results on Sam Bennett are very positive, and he’ll probably be a guy who’s more than capable of anchoring that top line in the very near future.

    So, moral of the story: it’s okay if Monahan isn’t Jonathan Towes. It’s okay if Monahan is a second line center. And it’s okay for a 21 year old player to be going through a rough patch/season ( Provided you call a player on pase for 50 – some – points, struggling).

    • T&A4Flames

      Just to add to your comment:

      Monahan 46GP 14g 15A .63PPG

      Toews. 52GP 19g 16A .67PPG

      People need to calm down. Hes 21. Besides, Toews is known for so much more than his pnt totals. Mony might just get to the same level.

    • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

      This is what I am saying. People have been talking about Monahan getting the same sort of contract as Johnny, but it looks like Sean is trending to be a 2C and will likely get a bridge deal.

      I like him as a 2C, maybe even love it.

    • cberg

      I am still a Monny fan. He is definately not a dynamic player but he does not need to be. The biggest issue I find with Monny is his skating and strength. I think he has to work on his explosiveness becasue it does not come natural. Players like Monny, work on this intently during the offseason preparing for the regular season.

      Monny came into camp with another 10lbs of muscle and very fit and it showed. As the season goes on, players like this that have to work hard to maintain their skating and strength require the offseason as a platform. During the regular season they appear to lose some of their speed and strength and get worn down. Monny will have to battle through this and take this into account when he trains in the summer, perhaps he came into camp too lean and needs to find that balance.

      I remember when Iggy came into camp the lightest he had ever been only to find that while his speed picked up he was easily knocked off the puck and his overall game took a step back. There is a true science to offseason training and some players understand the demands and its impacts better than others.

    • cberg

      I am still a Monny fan. He is definately not a dynamic player but he does not need to be. The biggest issue I find with Monny is his skating and strength. I think he has to work on his explosiveness becasue it does not come natural. Players like Monny, work on this intently during the offseason preparing for the regular season.

      Monny came into camp with another 10lbs of muscle and very fit and it showed. As the season goes on, players like this that have to work hard to maintain their skating and strength require the offseason as a platform. During the regular season they appear to lose some of their speed and strength and get worn down. Monny will have to battle through this and take this into account when he trains in the summer, perhaps he came into camp too lean and needs to find that balance.

      I remember when Iggy came into camp the lightest he had ever been only to find that while his speed picked up he was easily knocked off the puck and his overall game took a step back. There is a true science to offseason training and some players understand the demands and its impacts better than others.

  • piscera.infada

    While I might be inviting a heap of wrath on myself for requesting this, I’d be interested to see Lambert write a piece on where he thinks the team would be/how it would look had it followed his vision of a complete tank job. Without it being an “I told you so” kinda thing.

    I say this simply because it’s pretty much universally agreed on in these parts that the teams’s quest for talent still has a ways to go and picking 12-15 isn’t going to solve it.

  • everton fc

    We’re 7 points out of a playoff spot. Even Nashville and Anaheim are two team we have to leap frog, and we are not close to their level of talent. That’s reality.

    Sure, we could go on a little run – and may very well be able to do this… But the odds are slim. Or so it seems…

    Winnipeg is also looking poor. None of the Canadian teams in West are in the playoffs at the moment. Nor in the East. Sad…

    What to do? Well, we’re still in a rebuild, correct? We all know Burke doesn’t necessarily like rebuilds. Can we blame everything on Hartley, when guys like Wideman and Russell, who played well last season, fall fof the face of the earth, and when Hudler seems to have done the same?? Is it Hartley’s fault our goaltending has looked worse than the 74-75 Caps at times early in the season? The team dug itself a huge hole in October, one they look incapable of escaping…

    Again, what to do? Write off this season as a bad start we couldn’t conquer, and move towards the future? I think this is what needs to be done. Guys like Hudler, Wideman, Russell, Jones, Stajan, Hiller or Ramo, Colborne, Bollig, Granlund, Raymond all need to be either moved or, in Granlund’s case, moved back to the AHL. None are part of our future. I think the org likes Russell, and will try to re-sign him, but imagine having Hamonic in our defence-corp? Okposo on RW?? And so on. Monahan is young, and maybe just having a year like many on this team. Sub-par. But he’s a kid, probably a 2nd line centre in the long run, and worth holding. At what price, will be the final determination.

    Guys like Bouma, Ferland and Jooris I think we keep. Backlund, to me, is part of the core. He’s had a fine season. We need to get Poirier up here, and guys like Hamilton-2 and Agostino (send Granlund and maybe Raymond down – Raymond’s done less than Bollig up here) and see what these guys can do. Make some bold moves at the deadline w/o killing our future. Though I still question our scouting, our picks, when it comes to forwards….

    • Denscafon

      I agree that having all that done would be great and all, but pretty much unrealistic. If you want hamonic, the asking price is gonna probably start with monahan/bennett/hamilton and that’s a no go. RNH has been rumored to be the guy that Edmonton is offering to get hamonic (doubt it’ll be a 1 for 1 though). Okposo is a UFA after this year so unless there’s like a stipulation that includes him signing after this season, I say that’s a no go since he’ll just be a rental. I rather not chase him in the off season either if he goes UFA as he’s gonna get overpaid as well and our cap situation is most likely gonna be horrendous next year. Wait till the year after when cap space opens up to chase UFAs, just not this year.

      It’s painful to see the flames lose but we need to be sellers asap. We’re getting farther away from a playoff spot in a weak division and have almost no chance to make it farther than the 2nd round of the playoffs even if we do squeek in. It’s time to sell everything that we deem not part of the core for anything. Hudler/Russell are probably the only pieces that another team may want. Reports were other teams were inquiring about Russell’s availability so i’m hoping we don’t resign him and get at least something for him and have some of the kids come in (kulak/wotherspoon/anderson/kylington).

      Everyone else I can’t see us able to trade unless we take a bad contract back so next year will probably be just as painful to watch but hopefully will be a development year for all the young kids while waiting for all the dead contracts to finish.

      As for hartley/coaching staff, i would think something needs to change. PP/PK is just an embarrassment, ice time is completely bonkers some games, and picking on certain players (backlund/jooris) while favoring others (colborne/bollig). I doubt anything is going to change though since we just extended him.

  • slapshot444

    “Using Wideman over Hamilton is inexplicable and inexcusable in just about every circumstance, and that’s without going into the fact only one of these players should actually have a future on this team”

    Ari,, I think most readers here would agree with you. Can this question not be asked of the coach by someone here with press credentials, albeit in slightly different words?

    • cberg

      I’m sure I am missing a lot of things as far as what happens on the ice, but one thing seems pretty obvious. And that is that the 1D/2D and 3D/4D pairs get more than their share of shifts, as well as the fact that those pairs draw more than their share of penalties, relative to the 5D/6D pair (which includes Wideman).

      Because of this when a penalty happens it is almost a certainty that Wideman is going to be the freshest D guy of the options for the PP and therefore gets out on the PP more than otherwise warranted. Now, to me that is pretty clear cut and it is also excellent coaching to put out the best options (at that particular moment) on the PP.

      Of course, the other thing is Wideman has been an excellent PP guy (especially last year) so he knows what to do and has done it well. There is no amount of armchair 20/20 postgame blogger whining that changes those pretty apparent realities….