Stars 2, Flames 1 post-game embers: The trade deadline is still a month away



Okay, that was a little misleading

The above corsi chart, via, is only at even strength. The Flames did have five power plays with which to work (well, really four, since the fifth came in the final 10 seconds of the game), and it was their first couple that got them back into the game.

Here’s the corsi chart in all situations:

chart (1)

It… still doesn’t look much better, though. At even strength only, the Flames were out-corsied 62-37; in all situations, they were out-corsied a not-nice 69-55. 

The Flames do have an excuse here, though, and it’s a valid one. Their first period was by far their worst, with a mere seven shot attempts through the opening 20 minutes. But this is the final game on a long road trip, and the second of a back-to-back. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to come out flat. It’s not good that they did – and a better team likely wouldn’t have had such a terrible start – but it’s not exactly surprising the Flames had as terrible a start as they did.

That doesn’t make up for the rest of the game, though; and for that matter, neither does the fact they started performing better on the power play. Because – surprise – they still didn’t score a single goal with the man advantage. 

Getting chances is always great. Getting chances tends to be indicative of a team’s future success. That’s why you see stats like corsi getting touted around: good corsi teams tend to have better seasons.

But corsi isn’t the be-all-end-all. It’s one part of the puzzle. Just as looking better on the power play isn’t the be-all-end-all: particularly when you don’t score on it.


More on the power play

There are a couple of things you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey talk about when calling a game. Dougie Hamilton’s improvement, Kris Russell’s penchant for blocking shots, and how the power play isn’t good, really, but it’s not as dismal as it once was.

Regarding that last topic of conversation, a question: is that really the case, or is that just wishful thinking?

True, the Flames scored two power play goals against the New Jersey Devils just last week, going 2-for-4 with the man advantage that game. They’re also 0-for-10 in their past two games. They’re 2-for-21 in their past six games, but 7-for-36 through January so far. They scored a handful of power play goals in the first half of the month, only to handily fall back into league-worst territory within just a couple more games.

They have a 13.9% power play. So is that early January success the real Flames power play – or is it the 13.9% one we’ve seen throughout the entire season?

You don’t get to pick and choose small segments of the season and declare that the norm. A team’s success or lack thereof is dictated throughout the course of an entire season. And this season’s overall numbers tell us the Flames have been disastrous with the man advantage.

That’s all without going into the ever-continuing mind boggling player usage. Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund were staples on the first unit, but with an ever-rotating third forward (what did Michael Frolik, esteemed linemate, do to deserve this)? No T.J. Brodie to speak of, even though he’s kind of the number one defenceman on this team, not to mention second in defencemen scoring? Okay.

If other teams want Kris Russell, give them Kris Russell

… But, you know, get something in return while you’re at it, too.

So there are rumours going around that other teams have been asking the Flames about Russell, and rumours alongside them that Brad Treliving would prefer to extend Russell. I totally get where he’s coming from: from the Flames’ angle, Russell has been a mainstay of this defensive group for three seasons now, and he’s solidified himself as a top four defender in this team’s eyes. Taking a chance on someone else can be scary, and with Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, and Deryk Engelland behind Russell on the depth chart, it’s not like this team is swimming in defensive depth.

A couple of things to that point: the Flames are in for a cap crunch, largely in part thanks to those aforementioned three defencemen. Russell is not going to re-sign for $2.6 million; if he’s a top four defenceman, he’s going to want top four defenceman money. Probably at least around $4 million, which is going to be difficult for the Flames to fit in.

Here’s the other thing: watch him on Jamie Benn’s goal.

He starts the sequence off by pushing Valeri Nichushkin to the outside. That’s initially good. He ends it by flopping right in front of Jamie Benn in front of the net. That’s bad.

He barely even makes Benn work for it. A simple toe drag and Benn’s around him, Russell is lying uselessly on the ice, and it’s 1-0 for the Stars.

As the broadcast later noted, Benn could probably tell that’s what was going to happen, because that’s what Russell always does. He goes down to the ice more often than not in an attempt to make a defensive play. Occasionally that works – see Brodie defending the empty net later in the game, and early in the previous game against the Hurricanes, Russell had some success defending in that manner – but for the most part, it doesn’t.

And for the most part, you’ll see players like Giordano, Brodie, and Hamilton standing up to the forechecker, rather than taking themselves out of the play by going down to the ice.

Russell was third in ice time with 22:55, as he got ample power play time as well. Dennis Wideman played 19:01, in part thanks to special teams usage. And Hamilton – who should be the #3 defender on this team – was fifth in ice time with 18:32.

That’s another reason to trade Russell. He’s not as good a defender, he’s going to be difficult to re-sign (and very likely will be overpaid if that’s what happens), and he’s the most movable piece to shake up this defensive group that really, really needs it.

With no Russell, does Hamilton finally get the ice time he should be getting? And, perhaps more importantly – does somebody like Jakub Nakladal, somebody who could very well be a diamond in the rough in the Flames system, actually get a chance to show it?

Joe Colborne is scoring again

He had a goal and an assist against the Hurricanes, and he got the Flames’ lone goal against the Stars last night. That’s three points in two games following a six-game pointless streak.

It’s still difficult to determine just where, exactly, he fits in. He performs fine in fourth line circumstances, but do the Flames want to use him that way?

Or does another team think they can do more with him? If another team wants him, then this recent scoring streak is great, because it bolsters his trade value. He’s now up to 18 points in 40 games, nearly half a point per game. The raw numbers don’t look bad at all.

It’ll be interesting to see if he can get up to half a point per game, because that’ll be a new career high for him. But it’ll also be interesting to see just where he ends up. There are only a handful of players that should be considered untouchable when you’re in the state the Flames are in, and Colborne isn’t one of them. I figure he stays in Calgary, but if another team can present a good offer, it probably makes more sense to pull the trigger.

  • Parallex

    1. Don’t tank, intentionally, ever. Bad Karma, bad precedent, smacks of the tire fire to the North. If the team is bad, it’s bad.

    2. The team is not great, but it isn’t as completely terrible. I have faith in the possession metric progression even if the results aren’t completely there.

    3. Of course Treliving is saying he wants to extend Russell. That’s what you do when you want to get more for an asset. You don’t say..”really? He’s a pos defender that can block but well…that’s it”. Note, for emphasis I went the other way with that – I don’t think Russell is a pos – I reserve that for the Sean Avery types and the Flames current power play. The point is, Treliving has to say he wants to extend him to get willing buyers to sweeten the pot.

    4. Joe Colborne is a perfectly serviceable third/fourth line guy and as long as he is paid what he is paid and deployed in that role, I have no issue with him. The issue arises when the coach or a GM go all “man-crush” and spout “toolsy” and forget that his game has holes his tools don’t fill.

    • Parallex

      “Treliving has to say he wants to extend him to get willing buyers to sweeten the pot.”

      As much as I’d like to believe that it would stand to reason that if that were the case he’d be attempting the same thing with Jiri Hudler.

    • piscera.infada

      Your first two points are bang on (minus the subtle jab at the Oilers–I actually tend to agree with Rex on that point, they didn’t intentionally tank, they were just horribly managed and still are to some extent). You never, ever actively seek to lose games if you’re a professional sports franchise. As you said, it sets a horrible precedent. As fans, we can all get excited about a top pick, when that situation arises. Chanting “Matthews” (or “Puljaijarvi”, or whomever) after every loss not only gets goddamn annoying, it’s also the least likely course of events–the fans expecting this (even a little bit) are sure to have their hopes dashed in epic fashion. If it happens, it happens and that’s great for the fans. If it doesn’t though, then what? Especially if the organization has gone “all-in” to lose. What does that say to all the players you hope make up your future core?

      That last question is important here. I’ve heard a number of times about how Gaudreau will likely want to go out East at some point. I’m not sure I buy that narrative really, but let’s assume for a moment it’s the reality of the situation. How, then, do you sell him on Calgary, if you’re actively not competing? I’ve always thought there’s a practical divide between “getting better” and “tanking to get better”. While a better pick can help you reach the former, I’m not sure where the “switch” you flick is to ensure (being the operative word, here) that.

      Russell resigning actually scares me. Not so much because I don’t agree with your logic on Treliving, but moreso because of the way this organization has treated like players in the past. I do think Treliving wants to trade Russell to the highest bidder at the trade-deadline. However, I get worried when we start to hear the “embodies what the Flames are all about” narrative. That hasn’t worked out well in the past.

      I agree re: Colborne as well. He’s fine when he’s in a roll where he’s not asked to do too much. That said, if you get a proposal for him that makes any sense at all, I’d rather allot his ice-time to just about anyone else (sans Bollig).

      • piscera.infada

        Agreed, except that you have to tank to some degree, in some fashion, or you’ll never be a contender. Now, that’s not to say you want to be the Oilers, but you also don’t want to be the Iginla-era Flames where you can’t even draft a franchise center in 15 years. Yes, a lot of that is bad drafting, but had the Flames committed to sucking for a few seasons around the time they traded for Iggy, it could have been a very different story.

        Where would LA and Chicago be without being awful for a stretch?

        I guess what I’m saying is that it’s a fine line. You can’t tank per se, but you also have to know when to sell and perhaps sell a lot and the difference between tanking and selling can be many shades of grey.

        We all know the Flames need a big, skilled, top flight winger. Without giving up one of the current young stars, how else do you get one? When there’s three or four of them sitting in the top five or so of the draft, how do you not sell like crazy? Wouldn’t it be irresponsible to not sell/tank right now? Where is that line, exactly?

        • piscera.infada

          We all know the Flames need a big, skilled, top flight winger. Without giving up one of the current young stars, how else do you get one? When there’s three or four of them sitting in the top five or so of the draft, how do you not sell like crazy? Wouldn’t it be irresponsible to not sell/tank right now? Where is that line, exactly?

          I’m not saying “don’t sell”. In fact, I’ve been on the sell-train since before the season started. I’m just unsure if: 1) selling really makes this team appreciably worse (if it does, then yes, that’s fine), or 2) if actually “selling like crazy” is even possible (sure, Hudler and Russell will no doubt have value, and you sell them as a result, but does anyone else really?). I mean, it sounds great to say “sell Hudler, Russell, Wideman, Engelland, Smid, Colborne, Stajan, Bollig, Raymond”, but you know as well as I do (and every other fan does), that maybe two of those are possible, and that in and of itself, is not a failure on the part of Treliving. It’s simply the reality of the NHL.

          I also don’t inherently disagree that being horrible is often a requisite part of building a contender–especially based on where the Flames started this “rebuild”. That said, it’s not like there’s a magic “be bad for ‘x’ amount of time”. Yes, it’s clear the Flames need more skill up front, and yes, a pragmatic move would be to grab one of those big-name wingers at the top of this year’s draft. However, if the team simply isn’t that bad, how do you reconcile that? As you said, “fine line”. I agree. But you never make losing anything more (or less, depending on how you view it) than what it is: losing.

          • piscera.infada

            You’re not wrong that selling may not make the club any worse. After all, the team is where it is without having sold yet.

            Or that selling may not even be possible, Stajan probably being the best example of that given he has two more seasons after this one.

            In fact, an infusion of youthful energy may even improve the club. So the idea could backfire, sure. Nor do I seriously think the Flames become buyers. Not a chance, actually.

            It’s really more of a philosophical argument as well as the desire to simply clear out space for more youth. Which, again, may help or hinder next season, the same as it might the remainder of this season.

            All that said, retaining by choice any of the vets you listed doesn’t make sense either.

          • piscera.infada

            Yeah, we’re looking at this from exactly the same point of view.

            The only extension you could make a case for is Jones, but at this point, it might be better to trade him for whatever you can get. If you don’t have a better option by the offseason, you can always see if he wants to come back on a cheap contract.

        • cberg

          Excellent commentary and an interesting discussion.

          At the beginning of the season BT stated that it was only fair to give these guys (last year’s team) a chance to re-prove themselves and get back to the playoffs to see what they could do this year. In other words sticking with last year’s team with minimum additions was the plan, at least to start.

          Now, certainly we have had injuries, to key guys at key times that have derailed the results to a significant extent, though to be honest, that’s reality for every team to varying degrees and we can’t use that as an excuse to keep plowing ahead with no changes.

          What the team has proven so far this year is they have indeed improved in some metrics (i.e. Corsi) but overall the bottom line results seem to indicate that the team just isn’t good enough. Whether its Shooting %, “Puck Luck”, goaltending or whatever it doesn’t matter. Bottom line there is not enough skill/depth/grit on the team to be in the upper levels of teams in the league on a consistent basis.

          With that being increasing clear the conclusion is we need to make changes, and really make our focus on continuing to build the core and develop talent both in our prospects and through the draft. That time is here, and the road to success is through both development (giving AHL guys NHL time) and the draft (getting more, and better picks). Selling is how we accomplish both.

          C’mon BT, time to shine.

      • piscera.infada

        The only concrete evidence off of the top of my head for the Oilers intentionally taking is when they sold a (seemingly then-serviceable) capable NHL D-man in Smid for a prospect that was many years off in Brossoit and a forward they didn’t plan on really using in Horak, when they were already really struggling and thin on defense.

        Otherwise their awfulness defies logic. It’s so bad that you would have to think it’s a mix of bad management and a persistent idea that to “be patient” means to avoid accumulating quality players (other than via the draft) and staff, with the plan to win always being 2 years away, season after season. That may not be intentional taking, but it’s close.

      • Truculence

        No, there were years that the Oilers tanked intentionally after the Christmas break. It was disgustingly obvious and that’s why no one mentions the Oilers and “professional sports franchise” in the same breath.

        They and the Sabres are the number one and two reasons that the draft lottery was changed.

    • Rockmorton65

      I hope you’re right about Russell. If BT signs him, the Flames will have 7 defencemen on one ways next season. I can’t imagine Nakladal re signing if that’s the case. Not to mention that when the next Dekeyser/Schultz/ hotshot young free agent comes along (and he will), Calgary will have little to offer. If we could find a way to move Smid & Wideman, then I could see signing a Russell.

  • Denscafon

    There’s tanking and there’s being sellers. Similar but not the same. I would like us to start being sellers and maximizing our assets. That includes getting the best return for Russell who I hope other teams like due to his shot blocking prowess, which here at FN is actually frowned upon cuz that means we’re getting shot at a lot to need to block so many shots. Selling off players that will be UFA or not part of the “core” also gives spots for other players to have a legit chance in the big leagues where as of now, we have too many 1 way contracts to not give any of the less known name kids a chance at all even if they deserve it from what they’ve done in the minors.

    • piscera.infada

      There’s tanking and there’s being sellers.

      That’s very true, and I think it’s a very important distinction to make. That said, I still don’t think being a “seller” in this case will have the dramatic effects that some (the “tankers”, if you will) would like to see–it might even make the team better in some respects. As someone said above, if you’re team’s that bad, that’s fine, draft high. The only way to truly “tank” outside of being a horrible hockey team, is to artificially be horrible. That’s never a good thing.

      More to your point, if you bring up players from the farm, and they can’t hack it, and that makes your team worse, then fine. At least you’re able to evaluate those players–maybe some can be cleared out, some need more time, whatever. It will give you a better idea of what you need. So yes, sell as much as you can from your non-core players, but never make losing an alright proposition.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I wouldn’t go any higher than 3 mill a year for Russell and even then I would cringe a little, he might be top 4 on this team but a contender will have him playing in their bottom pairing, wouldn’t doubt he would become the 7th d-man on a good team, isn’t that what happened to Franzen last year. Just fake a shot and Russell will be down to block it and then you can just walk around him, Benn showed how it was done yesterday. Might be a good tactic though saying we want to sign him, maybe someone will give BT an offer he can’t refuse.

    Look forward to when we start calling up some rookies to see how they handle the NHL. Just need to shovel out the crap to make room.

    • Greg

      We should “just say no” to another $3M bottom pairing defender. A team only ever has room for 2, should never really have more than 1, and we already have 3. No need to corner the market anymore on that commodity.

  • piscera.infada

    Russell has been picked apart by throwing himself on the ice tons this season, but that Benn goal was the perfect example.

    Calgary doing anything but being sellers would be senseless and foolish and that includes moving Russell. Treliving must realize that this is not a playoff contending team.

    Regarding tanking though…….simply replacing Russell with Nakladal and playing Hamilton more would make this team better, so maybe they are intentionally losing. Or Hartley just needs to be replaced. Here’s hoping there’s a strong coach available this summer.

    • piscera.infada

      I’d also like to point out that seeing what Nakladal has at the NHL level should be one of Treliving’s biggest priorities. He’s scheduled to be a UFA after this year. It would be worth it not only to reward him for coming over and playing well in the AHL (by all accounts), but also to see if he fits into this organization for at least the next year, or so.

      • piscera.infada

        He’s been the number one D on that team for almost the entire season. He has years of pro experience and he’s not some 20, 21, 22 year old kid. This is a stellar pro with a proven track record who is mature and as you say, by all accounts playing very, very well. If they lose him because they won’t promote him I’ll be furious. He didn’t come to NA, after all, to be a career player in the A. He’s also had more than enough adjustment time to the NA game by now. Hopefully Russell is moved at the deadline and then Nakladal can come up.

      • CofRed4Life

        Agreed. I think part of the reason he’s stayed in the AHL so long was to get him acclimated to North American hockey (or at least I hope, because it’s ridiculous that he hasn’t had a shot in the NHL yet), but I think he’s there. He seems to be flourishing in the AHL. We brought him over to see what he has at the NHL level, so why aren’t we seeing it? Hopefully we can sell at least one of our defenders and bring Nakladal up.

  • everton fc

    Russell gets too many minutes. If he gets 5/6 pairing ice time, he’s probably not as much a liability.

    Nakladal could be a quality call-up, to see if he can provide some more offence from the back-end. Engelland did a lot of good w/Kulak, as an on ice-mentor. But what to do with Wideman? I say move him the whomever wants him. Cut your losses. His value is not what it could have been, off season.

    Colborne is a flexible forward who can play both wings and centre. Jooris has similar flexibility, but to me is a better skater, better puck mover, better player. But it’s close. Both don’t hurt us, if left I roles they can do well in.

    At this stage… The timing may be right for a shakeup behind the bench, but I really don’t think we are a good team “on paper”. That’s the problem. We are using guys like Russell and Wideman in way too sensitive situations than other clubs would use them. Our first two lines are okay, our 1-3 defencemen are okay (though Gio grows one year older each year of the rebuild – never forget this) Also, why not try Frolik on the 1st line, and Jones, Jooris or Hudler w/Bennett and Backlund – what do we have to lose at this stage?

  • class1div1

    @ Parallex – I think the view was that re-signing Hudler was out of the question because of his perceived value before the season started. Now, the question is do the Flames even want him as he doesn’t seem to be the same player. There is more to this than I put out there, obviously, but the biggest thing, for me, is that Russell should be a 5/6 defenceman and I would be okay with him there but his price point is too high for that role. Much too high.

    @ PI – I don’t buy the Russell is the embodiment of the spirit of the team argument. If anyone, Jooris is a more likely candidate right now but, really, shouldn’t the team be urging Bennett in that role?

    Like you, re-signing Russell scares me. Too much money for what he is. Save the money, pay Kulak, or Culkin, or whomever, 30% of what Russell is making now, teach said kid to suppress shots and how to block (if they don’t know), and use the money you save for someone else.

    Sure, some shots will get through that wouldn’t if Russell was there, but goalies usually prefer to see the shot clearly. All of the possible candidates to replace Russell are bigger than he is and that should allow the Flames to box out players much better because right now there are only a few defenceman that are really good at that.

    • piscera.infada

      I don’t buy the Russell is the embodiment of the spirit of the team argument. If anyone, Jooris is a more likely candidate right now but, really, shouldn’t the team be urging Bennett in that role?

      I don’t buy that argument for Russell either. Just stating that the narrative is out there, and the Flames have a realtively bad track record with “those kinds of players”–regardless of if that reputation is correct or not.

      The rest of your argument re: Russell is entirely correct. Someone younger could play that role at least as well (if we’re talking glorified shoot-er tutor), and probably substantially better over time (if we’re talking shot-suppressing defenseman), for a far cheaper price.

  • everton fc

    I don’t think you should ever tank you can say historically some teams have done it successfully and that may be true but the changes to the lottery have made it not worth it now. The fact that the first 3 picks are all done by lottery and by being the worst team you only guarantee 4 th over all should ensure that nobody tanks.

  • FlamesFan1489

    No mention of Backlund’s beauty pass up the middle to Klingberg on the GWG? If he passed like that on the other end of the rink he may surpass his career 0.5 PPG.

  • Parallex

    This is the way I see the Flames blueline issue…

    1: We have three legit top 4 defensemen. Unsaid in that statement is that we need a 4th.

    2: We don’t have the cap space to sign another one next season.

    3: We’re spending a lot of bad money on the bottom pairing.

    We can’t give Russell a raise.
    We shouldn’t give Russell a raise.
    We shouldn’t have Smid/Engelland/Wideman playing in the top 4.

    So basically we need to have a cost controlled talent that can step up into the second pairing alongside Dougie. Nakladal is a UFA so we can’t be sure he’ll even be here. We need to get young guys under team control up here to get some NHL reps in.

  • MattyFranchise

    Ideally Russell and Wideman are gone at the deadline and Kulak is brought up to play with Engelland while Nakladal plays with Hamilton. Smid’s the extra guy.

    I’d also like to resign Jones at 2mil per or under but I doubt that’s likely to happen.

  • If we didn’t have Bouma, Raymond, Stajan, Bollig, Wideman, Smid & Engelland Locked in next year…..maybe I’d feel differently about Joe Colborne.

    He is an average bottom 6 forward. But he’s going to want a raise….

    Trade him. He is replaceable.

    Same thing with Russell. If we didn’t have all those other grossly overpaid/underperforming defenseman, maybe you look at re-signing Russell as a depth guy (he wants a raise as well lol).

    Both players are coming off the books at the end of the year so we likely wouldn’t need $ coming back.

    I’d be happy with a couple picks for this draft. Treliving did a great job making Glencross useful by turning him into a 2nd and a 3rd….I’m hoping he’ll do it again this year with Colborne and Russell.