Random Thoughts – What have we learned?

random thoughts

Although there’s nearly a quarter of the season left to play, 2015-16 is more or less over for the Calgary Flames. As the club plays out the stretch it’s a good time reflect on what information fans and management can take from the big step back this year. What were the lessons learned and what is still unclear heading into the offseason?

What We Learned

Gaudreau and Brodie are elite

It’s not all bad news this year. The team as a whole regressed relative to their turn as Cinderella last year, but both T.J. Brodie and Johnny Gaudreau actually improved. 

Brodie’s absence at the start of the year was keenly felt. Though the 25-year-old blueliner was previously considered a solid complement to Mark Giordano at best, it’s become clear this season that he is nobody’s sidekick. Not only is Brodie on pace to score a career high 53 points (despite missing 11 games), but he leads the team in average ice time at 25:50 per night (eighth most in the NHL).

Brodie entered the class of elite defenders this year. He is poised to supplant Giordano as the club’s best blueliner (player?) – if he hasn’t done so already.

As for Gaudreau, his incredible upward trend continued unabated this year. He went from a contributor to the club’s most potent forward trio in 2014-15 to by far the most dangerous Flame in 2015-16. The next best offensive forward on the club, Sean Monahan, trails Gaudreau by 17 points. 

Gaudreau is currently sixth in the NHL in scoring – tied with Sidney Crosby and four spots ahead of Alexander Ovechkin. And that’s despite playing on the 29th ranked team with the 29th ranked PP. If the Flames had stronger goaltending or a better supporting cast, Gaudreau may not only be challenging for the scoring title, but for the Hart Trophy as well.

That’s quite the sophomore season. People have gone from asking if Gaudreau is big enough for the NHL to wondering just how good he’ll get.

Bennett is trending ahead of Monahan

More good news – although he likely won’t be in the running for the Calder Trophy this year, Sam Bennett is already looking like he’ll be a better player than Sean Monahan. Here’s a comparison of the two players across scoring, shot suppression and shot generation categories, via Own the Puck:

Dashboard 1-6

As you can see, Monahan is the better goal scorer… and Bennett is the better everything else. This compares Monahan’s three-year career thus far to Bennett’s 19-year-old rookie season, so we aren’t even comparing apples to apples (i.e.; this comparison should technically flatter Monahan). 

Bennett is young enough that we can expect significant growth over the next few seasons, but even if he runs in place he’s already an above average NHLer.

Flames still don’t have a truly elite centre

And now some of the bad news. While the Flames have very good centre depth with the likes of Monahan, Bennett and Mikael Backlund, the team is still searching for a legit first line option. Backlund is a highly capable possession/two-way player, but he doesn’t score enough to warrant top line minutes. Monahan is the opposite: he scores well, but bleeds shots and goals against (as you can tell from the above chart). Bennett might become the Flames’ Toews or Kopitar or Bergeron, but for now he’s “just” a really good second line forward (we don’t even know if he’s a NHL caliber pivot yet because he has spent the bulk of his time on the wing this year).

I bring this up because almost every club that has risen out of the ashes to become a contender in recent memory has had a marquee centerman on the roster. If you’re wondering, here’s what their HERO charts tend to look like:

Dashboard 1-7

So maybe Bennett develops enough to look like this in a year or two. Maybe the org will draft a guy like this in June (*cough Mathews cough*)?

The club’s depth is bad

Okay, so this isn’t much of revelation, but it’s worth recognizing as we move into the offseason. The Flames are currently a very top-heavy club with a handful of legit stars (Giordano, Gaudreau, Brodie), a few other outstanding (and developing) guys (Hamilton, Monahan, Bennett) and then a small cadre of above average support players (Backlund, Frolik).

It falls off a cliff fairly quickly after that. While I have some time for role players like Micheal Ferland and Josh Jooris, the club tends to get badly, badly outplayed when the rest of the roster is on the ice.

Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland, Brandon Bollig, Lance Bouma, Matt Stajan, Mason Raymond plus the departed Kris Russell, David Jones and Markus Granlund: all of these guys were underwater in terms of goals, possession and scoring chances this season.

Flames_depth

All the blue dots on this graph are set to become more expensive within the next season or two (if they aren’t already). Obviously the end of the rotation is never going to be as good as the stars, but Treliving and company need to find a bottom end that is not only cheaper, but more effective as well. 

The coaching might be a problem 

Last year the Flames grossly outperformed their underlying numbers to become one of the most unlikely underdog stories in the post-lockout NHL. The unexpected success gave Bob Hartley the Jack Adams Trophy and suggested the team had somehow found a way to succeed despite poor possession numbers. 

Or maybe not. Everything that propped up the 2014-15 Flames imploded this year. While the club managed to improve their possession from second worst to sixth worst in the league, it wasn’t enough to avoid the inevitable fall back down to earth.

Hartley’s block and collapse heavy defensive scheme crumbled in front of the league’s worst goaltending. Though much of that can be hung on the goaltenders themselves, it also makes a lie of the idea that the Flames were somehow denying high quality shots at a high rate. 

The Flames also have horrendous special teams, despite a roster that boasts excellent-to-elite players at various positions. Even though we’re more than 75% through the year, the team still doesn’t seem to have a an effective zone entry strategy for the man advantage, while in contrast the opposition tends to cut through the Flames’ PK defensive structure with ease.

When I looked at the league’s “big gainers” in the summer, I found some striking similarities. For almost all of the teams that managed to go from basement dwellers to cup contenders, the improvement was often precipitated by a number of factors, not the least of which was a change in coaching.

Hartley will probably stick around this summer, but the clock will be ticking. If he can’t get the club to take a real step forward next year, it will be time to move on.

What We Didn’t Learn

No clarity in goal

The Flames started the year with three goalies and no idea who would be the team’s starter. And they are going to end the season with three goaltenders and no idea who will be the team’s starter.

Calgary boasted the worst puck stopping in the NHL this year. Jonas Hiller, previously dependable, fell off a cliff and is likely playing out the end of his career. Promising Joni Ortio faltered in the face of the club’s three-goalie rotation to start the year and then failed to stand out in the AHL when he was sent down. He’ll get a chance to rehabilitate his perceived value down the stretch, but there’s a real chance he won’t be retained in the offseason.

Karri Ramo was the only Flames goalie who provided a stretch of solid netminding this year (though he was also terrible for long stretches as well). His .909 SV%, while best on the Flames, is relatively poor though right in line with his career average of .906. Ramo is, at best, a steady NHL backup but no solution for the Flames moving forward.

The waters were further muddied by prospect Jon Gillies having his entire season wiped out by hip surgery. The organization was kinda, sorta waiting to see if Gillies could take the reins sooner rather than later, but his development has been unavoidably stalled by the setback this year. For now, he’s in a holding pattern. 

Aside from re-signing Gaudreau and Monahan, Treliving’s main priority this summer will be finding the club some (at least) league average goaltending.

We don’t know what Monahan is away from Gaudreau

I remarked earlier this season that Monahan does really well with Gaudreau on his wing and not so well when the two are apart. So far this season, Monahan has spent 86% (or 780 minutes) of his even strength ice time with Johnny, meaning we still don’t have much of an idea what the pair look like apart. 

This is important because the org is going to re-sign both players this summer. Getting an idea if (or how much) Monahan depends on Gaudreau would help determine each guy’s next contract. Luckily, the team still has some time to split the two up and see what happens. 

Budget uncertainty

Aside from the club falling out of the playoff picture, the other disappointing outcome from this season was the Flames’ inability to dump a contract or two. The salary cap may actually fall next season, which represents a major obstacle for a team with so many big deals cluttering the bottom end of the roster. 

Dennis Wideman (5.25M), Mason Raymond (3.15M), Ladislav Smid (3.5M), Deryk Engelland (2.917M) and Brandon Bollig (1.25M) represent almost $17M in cap space, even though they could all be easily replaced. Matt Stajan (3.125M) and Lance Bouma (2.2M) are also entering “overpaid for their impact” territory. 

Gaudreau, Monahan and Giordano will (conservatively) increase in price by a combined $11M or so. The team also has to trade or sign two goalies and find someone to replace Hudler’s contributions on the wing. 

So it’s a terrible mess. Treliving will likely get some breathing room by buying out Wideman, but he’ll need to do more. The good news is, a bunch of the bad deals go away after next season. 

Scoring on the wing

Gaudreau is a human highlight reel and Michael Frolik has managed to live up to his reputation as a solid two-way forward, but there’s very little offense on the Flames wings after those two players. With Hudler gone, Calgary’s current depth chart includes: Joe Colborne, Micheal Ferland, Lance Bouma, Josh Jooris and Brandon Bollig. The high water mark amongst all of those guys is Colborne’s 28-point season from last year.

Bennett was a very good LWer with Backlund and Frolik to start, but the team has moved him back into the middle. On the farm, there’s no clear help on the horizon, although newly acquired Hunter Shinkaruk has promise. Nevertheless, it’s a pipe dream to assume he will step in and be a scoring option next year. 

There might be some strong top six wing options on the UFA market this season, including Andrew Ladd, Kyle Okposo, Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic, but the Flames’ complicated budget situation may mean they can’t afford any of them. 

Luckily the top of the 2016 draft is littered with strong RWers, so the Flames might be able to solve their problem that way, albeit with a player who probably won’t be an instant fix (more of a long term solution).  

  • OKG

    “The high water mark amongst all of those guys is Colborne’s 28-point season from last year.”

    It’s actually Lance Bouma’s 34 point season from last year.

  • FeyWest

    Like to just say it’s easier to improve from a poor season than it is to improve on a good season, this points out some of our holes and woes and highlights areas for improvement. Im not as sour on this season as some probably are as I didn’t expect a lights out season. Lack of confidence to start the year really soured the team and its just been a year of gripping the stick too hard and almost “expecting” things to happen like last year, crumbling from the increase of expectations and such. I wholly expect next year to be a better year as we rebound.

  • brodiegio4life

    i think Bennett is definitely that elite #1 centre. He just hasn’t really been given a chance to show it yet. He has either one: played wing or two: played centre with average wingers (colborne, ferland, bouma) The slim amount of time he played centre wth gaudreau was when he played the best. He HAS to be played at centre come the start of next season and hopefully the flames can draft an elite winger to play with him, or keep him with gaudreau for more than one game…

  • Primo

    Busy summer ahead. BT needs to clean out the Wideman, Stajan, Raymond & Bolig contracts either by trade or buyout. Also acquire a veteran goalie. If Hawerchuk is available then let’s move on with the coaching change which is inevitable.

    The key to the rebuild continues to be the draft…over to you BT!

    • Kevin R

      Easier said than done. I think BT needs to be strategic with these deals. Personally, I don’t see us being a contender next year but I do see us being a lot better than this year. I think we sign Ortio as a true back up next year cheap. He should get 20 games & we should be able to give him a 1 or no more than 2 year deal at around $750K per. I then would target goalie a team would like to dump (has 1 or 2 years max on contract) . Dallas comes to mind. Niemi & Lehtonen are both signed for 2 more years & are spending way too much on that position. They have some UFA dmen that could walk away from & possibly we can swap Raymond & Wideman for Lehtonen. Lehtonen & Ortio could easily man the net next year & we kill 2 birds with one stone, fill the net with an experienced goalie & dump Wideman & Raymonds contracts for next year. Could be a win win for both teams. Howard could be a candidate, Stajan & Wideman for Howard (I don’t like it he has 3 years left , why I would dump Stajans contract in this) & maybe Detroit could flick us a 3rd round pick. Detroit will be using Mzarek as their #1, Howard is an expensive backup & not many teams will eat that remaining 3 years for Howard. Point is, BT needs to dump the contracts you mentioned but no one is taking them off our hands without getting a nice asset back (which we can’t afford) but strategically dumping contracts can work just as well.

      • Baalzamon

        Why bother with Howard? He’s been equivalent to Ramo for the last three years.

        If the Flames are going to spend assets to bring in a new goalie, that goalie should actually be an upgrade over what they already have. Stop with this Jimmy Howard and Cam Ward talk. They’re just older more expensive versions of Ramo.

        • Kevin R

          Missing my point. We have to spend assets to acquire a goalie. I am suggesting spending assets that are our dumps instead of valuable cap space. Never mentioned Cam Ward. & Howard would be my last choice. Lehtonen would be the best target. 2 years left at 5.9 mill. We dump Widemans 5.3 & Raymonds 3.1 mill & we gain an extra 3.0 mill in cap space this summer without having to buy anyone out & without having to use Hiller’s or Ramo’s freed up cap space. & we just addressed a need this summer. Ramo & Hiller cost 8.4 mill & that is freed up. But if we go & sign a goalie, even if we resign Ramo, that 8.4 mill is where that money would come from. But if we get our place holder goalie for the next 2 years with Wideman/Raymond money, I would say that is totally worth it. I am not saying Lehtonen is an improvement on Ramo. But I am saying, no one is going to take Raymond, Smid, Wideman or Stajan’s contract off of us & we need rid of those contracts. This is a way to do it.

          • freethe flames

            The only problem is unless you unload the two most expensive contracts you don’t save anything and the two goalies you are talking about have longer term contracts. So that is not a win. Better to bite the bullet for one more year than add to long term problem.

  • FireScorpion

    Not retain Ortio? Holy hell why not? Giving up on a 25 year goalie who suffered under mgmts 3 headed monster goalie idea to bounce back now with 4 excellent starts in his last 5?

    Allowing only 2 goals in 4 of them? With a 914 sv% over those 5. The team likes playing in front of him , they’ve said as much and he’s a very confidant young man. He has finally been given a fair shot this year and he’s taking advantage of it.

    You don’t just throw him on the scrap pile now that he’s showing what he can do after how many years of development.

    He’s part of the tandem next year in my books

    • T&A4Flames

      I’ve been pushing the possibility of taking on Lehtonen’s or Howard’s contract for weeks now, as a way to get a bigger return at the TD. I’m ok with either but with TD over, they would HAVE to take on at least 2 of Wideman, Raymond, Smid or Engelland. The bonus for them would be either of those contracts would be over a year before Lehtonen’s (or 2 years in Howard’s case) contract. And with that, I would hope for another asset coming back. If we’re going to spend the money, we may as well have a bad contract in an area of great need. Lehtonen could be a good be a good mentor to Ortio as well as I believe he is Finnish also. I see a potential deal here. DAL can’t continue spending almost $10.5 million a season on goalie salaries. And what will DET be paying in goalie salaries when they resign Mrazek?

      • Kevin R

        We are reading on the same page. I think we will need to have a place holder in net for 2 years. Lehtonen is the perfect choice, Howard I believe has 3 more years after this, so Im not as thrilled to target him. But neither of those guys were a TDL option. Calgary is the perfect trading partner with either of them & they are the ticket of dumping Wideman + someone else (probably Raymond but ideally Stajan) & hopefully Smid retires.

  • beloch

    Flames still don’t have a truly elite centre

    And now some of the bad news. While the Flames have very good centre depth with the likes of Monahan, Bennett and Mikael Backlund, the team is still searching for a legit first line option

    To be fair, the Hero charts you pulled up for Bergeron and Kopitar are three year averages over the last three seasons for guys who are 28 and 30 respectively. That’s 25-28 for Kopitar and 27-30 for Bergeron. Both of these guys made it to the NHL at a young age and were immediately productive, but were they immediately “elite”?

    Bennett is 19 and Monahan is 21. They have a full six years to develop before playing the first season that would be counted in a directly comparable hero chart to the one you just posted. It is far too early to say that they’re clearly not “elite”.

    Also, how would the Flames go about obtaining a truly “elite” center if they were to believe that there’s no hope for Bennett or Monahan? Well, they’d almost certainly need to draft one. Kopitar and Bergeron are both playing for the clubs that drafted them. When you find “elite” talent you don’t trade it away for peanuts!

    So what have we really learned? The Flames may not have an “elite” center for several years, but Bennett and/or Monahan could eventually be that guy, or it could be a guy the Flames draft very soon. Kopitar was a #11 pick and Bergeron was a second rounder. If a guy like this is in the 2016 draft, he will be in reach for the Flames. The only difficulty is knowing who that guy is. All the Flames can really do is pick the best guys they can and hope they get lucky.

    So, what we’ve really learned is that the Flames are further away from being contenders than some may think, because it takes time to develop key players. Also, we’ve learned that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to draft more centers. Top six picks may not be sure things, but every quality guy you can draft gives you another shot at developing somebody “elite”.

    The club’s depth is bad

    Okay, so this isn’t much of revelation, but it’s worth recognizing as we move into the offseason. The Flames are currently a very top-heavy club with a handful of legit stars (Giordano, Gaudreau, Brodie), a few other outstanding (and developing) guys (Hamilton, Monahan, Bennett) and then a small cadre of above average support players (Backlund, Frolik).

    What we’re seeing now is the result of a generational gap in drafting and developing talent. i.e. There is literally a missing generation of homegrown talent on this team because Sutter traded away so many picks, and also because the team drafted so poorly for so long. Some of his picks have panned out (e.g. Brodie and Backlund), but not nearly enough of them. The result is that where there should be several homegrown veterans on decent contracts there are holes that have been filled in with overpriced and underskilled acquisitions like Engelland or Smid.

    Over the next several seasons we’re going to see more homegrown talent taking over roster slots, but the truth is that it’s going to take several years for the generation gap to age to the point where it is no longer an issue. Once players like Gaudreau, Bennett, and Monahan are in the 25-30 range (i.e. veterans), that hole will finally be gone, but the team is going to need a quality younger generation on cheap ELC’s to truly put them over the top. Those players won’t be drafted for a few seasons yet. Again, this points to the Flames being several years from being a true contender.

    The Flames also have horrendous special teams, despite a roster that boasts excellent-to-elite players at various positions. Even though we’re more than 75% through the year, the team still doesn’t seem to have a an effective zone entry strategy for the man advantage, while in contrast the opposition tends to cut through the Flames’ PK defensive structure with ease.

    The silver lining is that this team has been fairly average (versus the rest of the NHL) in most even strength metrics, with the notable exception of goal-tending. That’s solid progress. Goal-tending can be fixed with one good acquisition, and special teams can be fixed with the right coach. This suggests the Flames are closer to being a playoff team than this season’s results may suggest, even if they are several years away from being a contender.

    No clarity in goal

    The Flames started the year with three goalies and no idea who would be the team’s starter. And they are going to end the season with three goaltenders and no idea who will be the team’s starter.

    One thing is clear, Hiller is due to retire. There’s no way he gets another contract with the Flames (or any other team) after this season. Ramo, on the other hand, could. He was horrible at the start of the season but, once he finally got into shape, he put together the only stretch of competent goal-tending the Flames had this season. However, he was still well below league average. Is that worth nearly $4M in cap-hit? If he does re-sign with the Flames, it will be for substantially less.

    Ortio will be re-signed, simply because you don’t give up on Finnish goalies at age 24. Ortio plays a style that takes longer to master than average. Will be be expected to play in the NHL or spend another season in the AHL though? That’s the question he’s answering right now. When he’s on, he’s good, but he struggles with consistency. Ortio is a question for which we will likely have a better answer by the end of the season.

    Scoring on the wing

    Gaudreau is a human highlight reel and Michael Frolik has managed to live up to his reputation as a solid two-way forward, but there’s very little offense on the Flames wings after those two players. With Hudler gone, Calgary’s current depth chart includes: Joe Colborne, Micheal Ferland, Lance Bouma, Josh Jooris and Brandon Bollig. The high water mark amongst all of those guys is Colborne’s 28-point season from last year.

    The loss of Jones and Hudler had really hurt the Flames on the Wing, and the return is strictly future-tense. In the system, the Flames have a couple of promising left wingers, but their most promising right winger, Poirier, has had a pretty disappointing season (along with half the Heat). It’s telling that Hathaway, who projects as a bottom six grinder, was called up first. While we can hope Poirier improves next season, it’s clear the Flames need to draft some RW’ers (or right-handed centers at the very least) and trade for some older prospects if possible too. Given how far the Flames are from being contenders, is an older player like Ladd really part of the equation? Veterans like Ladd would be nice to have next season, but should not be a priority.

  • ApolloRising

    Lots of ideas are being thrown around for goalie possibilities. None of them seem like very good options. All goalie options being suggested are at the end of their careers and have bad contracts. Unless we can sign a decent goalie over FA, maybe using Ortio as the starter is the best option. I’m just trying to think through the situation. The Flames are still developing and it will be 2-3 years until they are ready. By that time the bad contracts will be gone, the prospect pool will be deeper and our prospects would have made the jump. Ortio has looked good in net. He’s athletic and is very driven. Maybe the best option is let him take the starter and learn at the NHL level, along with the other rookies. It’s the cheapest option. We aren’t going to compete for the cup next year, so the best option could be to commit to full development of our rookies and remain competitive. The other option is take an old goalie that might have one more season or could fall apart like Hiller. Personally that’s not a scenario I want to see.

    • Kevin R

      Too risky riding Ortio as #1. Look what happened to the confidence of our young guys when a goalie plays consistent enough & wins or keeps us in games continually. Same goalies from last year, but they failed to give us the get out of jail cards when mistakes were made by our defence. Reason why our D group who was touted to be very good, looks like horse crap.
      So who are you going to sign as a UFA? At what cost? Or do you dump some baggage & take back a goalie similar to what you will get as a UFA on a contract the other team wants out of as much as we want out of Wideman’s & Raymond’s deals. I guess we can give huge assets to acquire the likes of Bishop or Andersen, but the price tags on those guys will set back our rebuild significantly.

      • piscera.infada

        In fairness, is Lehtonen really that much better than Ortio/Ramo though? I mean, look at his numbers the past two years.

        It seems to me an Ortio/Ramo tandem for the next year or two would probably be the best cost-effective bet, and there’s no assets involved in getting either of them.

        I’m vehemently against the organization giving up the kind of assets required to acquire Bishop or Andersen, but I’m also against trading a couple of bad contracts that are up at the end of next season for another bad contract with more term (assuming Dallas would even be willing to take on those bad contracts). Neither of those options really make sense to me.

        • MontanaMan

          Reports on Murray in the Penguins system are very positive and yes, they are based on AHL competition and not NHL. What will the Penguins do with Fluery signed long term and an emerging goalie ready to take the next step? I am not in favour of spending $5 million plus on an aging goalie. Yes, Murray will cost high draft pick(s) or an emerging youngster but the Flames need to get the goaltending situation fixed and I’m in favour of someone on their way up and not on their way down.

          • piscera.infada

            I’d be interested in Murray, but a deal needs to make sense. Pittsburgh would likely be trying to re-coup some very nice pieces as they don’t have much in their system. Where do you draw the line?

            Obviously not a first. I’m very hesitant to give up Andersson or Kylington as well. So whom?

          • MontanaMan

            Not sure what it would take and you don’t want to sell the farm, but goaltending is the number one priority for this team. If Gilles does not turn into a number one goaltender, there is nobody in the system, so the Flames may need to give up a young d-man like Kylington/plus to get it done. At this point, is the priority another defence man with potential or a goaltender with potential? Considering the cupboards are bare for goaltenders, it clearly needs to be the priority.

          • piscera.infada

            At this point, the priority is definitely another defenseman with potential. Yes, you need goaltending, but as countless teams have proven over the years, a great goalie with a crap team, isn’t going to go too far. Many great teams, with average goaltending have done very, very well.

            Don’t get me wrong, having a starting calibre goalie is important, but I’m not selling anything near the assets I think you’re ready to. Especially not for a goalie who hasn’t proven himself at the NHL level (Murray).

          • KACaribou

            I agree with your hesitation in buying ourselves a hotshot goalie. We may just have one or two already.

            Let’s not be so sure Murray would have done any better than Ortio considering the situation. Remember Ortio was an AHL All Star too before he was jacked around by the Flames this year.

            Giving Ramo the chance to start a good bulk of games produced what looked like a number 1 goalie before he was hurt. I wouldn’t doubt Ortio could do the same for the rest of the year if Hartley continues to give the young man a fighter’s chance.

            Hartley’s biggest mistake this year was not seeing a Ramo/Ortio tandem early in the season and instead jacking all of them around in unison – creating a lack of confidence in all three.

        • Greg

          I don’t know that I like going into next season with Ramo and Ortio. I think if you can parlay some of the extra picks we got at the deadline into Anderson, and sign him at a good number, you’ll have a bit more reason to hope goaltending won’t be an issue next year, and hopefully still have enough cap space to add a top 6 winger to offset the Hudler loss.

          The problem with going back to Ramo again, other than the likely scenario he continues to be a sub .910 goalie, is his price tag seems to be set less by what his actual NHL value is and more by what it takes to keep him from going back to the KHL. Tieing up another $3.5M on him again means our goaltending is likely going to be far below average again, and leave us unable to sign one of the decent wingers available this year (when many teams are at the cap so bidding could be lower than normal). better off making a bet where at least 1 of those outcomes (below average tending and overpaying for goalie performance) is less likely.

          • piscera.infada

            I think if you can parlay some of the extra picks we got at the deadline into Anderson, and sign him at a good number, you’ll have a bit more reason to hope goaltending won’t be an issue next year…

            Obviously that’s ideal, but I can tell you right now, it’s not happening. A couple extraneous picks isn’t going to be enough to get above average starting goaltending from within the division. Why would they do that?

            Remember when Vancouver didn’t trade Schneider to Edmonton, even though they were basically offering 7 overall and (rumoured) Yakupov? Even if Vancouver took that deal and 7 overall and Yakupov looked good, they still lose that trade because they gave their divisional rival a starting goalie for the next decade. It’s just not a thing NHL GMs will do–especially good ones like Bob Murray.

      • ApolloRising

        Yes playing Ortio as the #1 is risky, no doubt about that. But I would rather watch a young up and coming goalie struggle and learn from his mistakes than watch an old goalie with a bad contract on his way out. At least Ortio has the possibility of getting better with NHL starts. But taking an aging goalie only adds a bad contract to the Flames. Ortio is cheaper and has more upside. Dumping baggage to get baggage with a longer contract doesn’t make sense. Our baggage will be gone soon. Using Ortio and Poulin/Ramo for a year will save us a ton of money to sign a goalie in the future. And get us one year closer to losing all bad contracts. It’s better than giving up good assets for a goalie or taking more terrible contracts that last longer.

    • freethe flames

      There are goalies who are available as UFA’s who I think could be had at a reasonable cost and not need to be signed long term. We can start at home with Ramo or Ortio who have shown some signs of being adequate, Or we could look at Raanta out of NY or Enroth out of LA and hope they can be shared starters. None of these options will break the bank and can allow Gilles and MacDonald time to develop. We need to understand that next year is still a rebuilding year.

      We still need more talent upfront and even with a high end draft pick we will still need to give him time. Or middle talent forwards still need time to ripen. I still hold out hope that Poirier, Shinkaruk, Agostino can be middle 6 forwards capable of scoring 15-20 goals in the NHL and if you can get that in the middle 6 you can move the needle.

      Where I am the most optimistic about is on the backend. We have 3 quality NHL defenders already and they are signed long term.(yes I get frustrated with Hamilton but I see the talent) We have a number of guys who can fill the bottom 3 positions including Engelland who I don’t like as a #4 but I give the man his dues as he has been better this year. JJ, Nak, Tspoon and Kulak have all shown that they can play at the NHL level; might one of them be a top 4, Then there are the other prospects; Kylington first year pro and NA with tonnes of talent, Andersson, Hickey, and Olas Matteson who impressed me as a solid stay at home prospect.

    • T&A4Flames

      I’m against having Ortio be the starter. 1st, he needs to have a situation where he, at least seemingly, has to win the job. 2nd, he still needs a vet who can at least jump in to spell him off and still be able to encourage him when he runs into bad stretches.

  • beloch

    Just as a corollary to what I posted above:

    If the Flames window of Stanley Cup contention doesn’t really open up until 3-4 seasons down the road, you have to ask if Giordano will still be a top pairing defender by then and, if so, for how much longer after? Even this season, Brodie seems to be as important defensively and has produced the same number of points in fewer games. Giordano could absolutely help the Flames make the playoffs in the next few seasons, but will he defy time long enough to remain an efficient use of cap space right when the Flames need to be as efficient as possible to have a shot at the cup?

    The odds of Giordano being moved soon are low, but this is a guy the Flames will probably need to cash in on before they truly enter their contender phase. If you sell him within 2-3 seasons you can get an excellent return and free up cap-space right when it will (hopefully) be needed to sign recently or soon-to-be drafted talent to well-earned big contracts. I’d love to see Giordano retire as a Flame, but trading him at peak value may be the smart long-term move.

    • freethe flames

      AS we found our with Iggy it is always a hard choice to move the face of your team and the captain. Emotions run high, but the business of hockey suggests that you learn from the past. I wonder if BT has the stones to do this?

      How exactly do you see the next 5 years breaking down?

      Next year: A return to the rebuild. We will draft another top end forward who probably can make the team immediately. BT will sign a UFA goalie that makes us better in net. BT will attempt to sign a RW top 6 but because he can’t move salary won’t be able to upgrade. We wait on or middle six prospects to develop. We make progress but don’t make the playoffs. Get a top 10 pick

      Following year: A young forward emerges from our crop of forwards to compliment the top 6, defense core is solid but youngish only Gio over 28, Gilles emerges as the NHL back up, likely in the playoff hunt until trade deadline but miss again, another top 12 pick.

      Year 3: Top 6 solidified with two highly productive lines, bottom two lines look more like 2 #3 lines with depth and some scoring punch. Core of defense is young and mobile. Gilles is sharing the starting job and we make the playoffs. I suspect at least one of Gio, Backs or Frolik is traded.

      Year 4: Back in the playoffs but up higher in the pecking order. Maybe even a contender. Harder to get quick help but more depth through the organization makes it easier to be patient.

      Year 5: Budget constraints cause us to trade both a top 4 defender and a top 6 forward. They are missed but the depth of the organization withstands the lose and we contend for the cup, not saying we win it but teams know we are in the conversation.

        • Kevin R

          5 year plans are too far out there. 2 years is all I care to look at.

          1/Goal: Gilles & Macdonald are the hope but neither of them will be ready to even get a whiff next year. I hope they come to camp next fall, have good showings & wind up being the two manning the nets in Stockton, obviously Gilles will be the #1. So a goalie like Lehtonen has 2 years left. He’s to me like Hiller, experienced, has playoff experience & is capable of giving above NHL average goaltending for extended period of time. Would be a very good mentor for Ortio. Don’t like the 5.9 mill cap hit for next 2 years, yes we can go free agent & get same calibre goalie for 1/2 price, but we are stuck with contracts of Wideman/Raymond/Smid/Stajan. We need a competent placeholder for next 2 years & who knows, we defy the stats or the young guys get even better & still get a sniff of playoffs. Why not, it happened with Hiller.

          2/Defence: We have a top 3 signed. We have some young guys pushing for NHL time soon & we have some real cheap options in Wotherspoon, Naks & Kulak & maybe even Culkin. We need to unload Wideman & the only way is taking a bad contract back. Smid I hope retires but otherwise we are stuck.
          Ideally, the next 2 years will have 3 high paid bonaifide top D & 3 young under 1.0 mill options that we hope will rise to a 2nd pairing level. Once we get rid of Wideman, I feel our blue line is going to sort out quite comfortably.

          3/Forwards: We need cap space to resign Monny & Johnny, the year after will see Bennett probably get a similar contract to those 2. We need rid of Raymond & Stajan. Too much $$$ for 4th liners. I expect a better year from Bouma next year & Jooris is ready for a regular role in the bottom 6. Backlund & Frolik are a luxury for that 3rd line. Not sure how long we can afford them if the cap stays the same or goes down, next year no problem & probably the year after that, should be OK as well. By year 3, we will have some new blood, hopefully a goalie, a #4 Dman & 2 bonafide top 6 wingers to pay some serious $$$ to. By then, this team should be ready to compete in the playoffs & not be taken lightly.

          • freethe flames

            You and I agree on much however where we disagree is with trading contracts that will be over next year for a contract that will last two years. Having a $5.9m goalie is not something we can afford unless BT can move both Wides and Stajan(he is the only bad contract with 2 years left). Like you I hope Smid retires or is on LTIR but is healthy enough to have a good after hockey life.

            I actually think that some team will like Wides especially if the Flames eat half his salary. If Eng’s has to be our 6/7 defenceman next year so be it. Burying Raymond in the AHL would not be the end of the world. Stajan’s no trade clause and price tag is an issue that I’m not sure what BT can do.

        • ApolloRising

          Don’t worry about others. You put yourself out there to discuss the Flames future. Nothing wrong with that. I think it’s probably your year 3/4/5 that people disagree with in your prediction. In year 3, Suggestion we will trade Gio usually gets trashes. No matter what circumstance.

          In year 4, I think it will be easier to attract free agents as the Flames Youth has developed into serious players. The Organization has already done a decent job at attracting some FA (Frolik). As we progress I only see FA becoming easier.

          I think you are also missing the raise in cap over the next 5 years. The cap won’t raise much this year or next, but it will rebound. I can’t see your year 5 happening. Many teams keep their core together. They find ways to keep it intact. Trading both a Top 6 F and Top 4 D would be crazy when the Flames become a serious contenders. A 5 year plan needs to based on retaining those players. Teams move auxiliary players to maintain their core. Also using prospects wisely to fill roles reduces cost. Luckily by year 5 our bad contracts and place holders will be gone. Freeing up serious cap space. That money will ensure we can retain and sign players.

          Also any 5 year plan needs to include winning the Cup. It’s the rule. Which the Flames will do. I predict they will win it in 3 years!! Go Flames Go!!!

          • freethe flames

            You are bit more optimistic than I am and that’s okay. I have chosen to be pessimistic because so many on this site jump on the bandwagon with any change. You may be right that I did not factor in the salary cap going up but alas so will salaries for fringe players and the trend is to pay young stars early in their careers.

            As for trading a top 4 d and top 6 f I see the trend as teams moving those complimentary pieces in these positions when the price tag gets to high. The core up front will look like Johny/Monny/Sam/(probably whoever we draft this year) and the D core will be TJ/Dougie/ and one of I think Hickey or Andersson. But the others will be replaceable when their contract demands get to high.

            But the truth of the matter is that BT has a lot of work ahead of him to get this team back in championship contention; it would be great if it happened sooner but I’m less optimistic. Also I think once teams get through the initial phase of the rebuild the plan needs to be continual renewal from within, with only minor tinkering via trades and the UFA market.

    • Greg

      I assume he’s got a NMC in his upcoming contract? I’d be all for it given the flames demographics and, likely, being at least 3 years away from contention. But they’d have to do it before July 1st, and it would have to land a young top 4 d.

    • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

      But last July when I, and a few others suggested that they should be trading him we were all shouted down, and now they are agreeing with you (judging by the thumbs up).

      Now it’s too late. We signed him, how would other players sign here if we treat our players like that? No, we’re stuck with him now, and as you just explained, this must mean that we will be trying to win the Cup within the next 3 years, not in 4 or 5.

      So, goodbye young guys and hello old guys.

  • T&A4Flames

    The reasons I’m of the mind to singly acquire a goalie vet with a somewhat bad contract are these. 1st, I’m not keen on signing a FA goalie like Reimer because he will likely take a 5-6 year deal to get him. He’s risky in my opinion because he’s been inconsistent throughout his career. Gating an already signed vet wth only 2-3 years left assures he’s gone sooner and likely when (hopefully) Gillies or McDonald are ready. 2nd, taking on one of those contracts likely brings back another asset Ike perhaps another 2nd round ick, or better.

  • Jake the Snail

    My random thoughts

    I do not think that having to hold onto Stajan’s contract is the worst thing that could happen to the Flames. He is a good bottom 6 contributor to the team, only at a high price. Wideman is neither here nor there…Raymond will not go anywhere except the Heat…and So long Hiller, the KHL awaits you.

    I would be happy to go with Ramo and Ortio in the nets next year…Flames are still in a rebuild and not being hampered by a high priced goalie from someone elses roster is the way to go. However, it is possible that Ramo would not be fully recovered from his injury by training camp….maybe Backstrom could fill – NOPE! below .900 save % his 2 playing years with the Wild…Finding a decent goalie is still the Flames biggest challenge going into next year.

    It would be best for the Flames to maximize the use of their 4 callups to the end of the season…but are we sure Hartley will utilize them like the Leafs are doing…

    Jyrki Jokipakka has been a pleasant addition to the Flames roster and he is only 24.

    I am not sure that Hartley is the coach going forward for the Flames. His player utilization this year has everyone baffled.

    • ApolloRising

      I agree with you on all your points. Stajan isn’t terrible to keep. He’s a smart player and doesn’t screw up like our other bad contracts. That likely makes him easier to trade. But I’d personally like to see Stajan go last if possible. Everyone says he’s great to have around.

      I’m skeptical that Hartley will use the 4 callups effectively. Treliving will, but getting Hartley to play those callups seems like a issue. Like you said, his player utilization is baffling. Especially when it comes to rookies. I don’t think he is the right coach any longer. I hope I’m wrong. The end of the year should be used to develop and experiment with new systems/players.

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    I say talk kipper into returning to mentor ortio. He doesn’t have to play but get him here to mentor our young goalies. But I would love to see some pre season kipper

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    You make it sound like any of us had any control over wether gio was signed or traded. It’s not too late the deal would have happened no matter how many thumbs up or thumbs down and I’m glad it did happen.

  • Bob's Hockey Stick

    The team we have as currently assembled isn’t getting the job done. We do have to add to the depth and talent pools with at least two more top six wingers, another top 4 defenceman, and a pair of goalies that can stop a puck.

    The problems is what’s available to fill those holes. And isn’t going to gut the team’s current asset pool to accomplish it ? I don’t have any decent answers and this is why I’m glad I’m not the GM.

    As for coaching , yes our special teams are horrible and whomever is charge in the coaching staff for special teams needs to be shown the door. The head coach should be fired, given the poor play of the team this season. Coaches been fired for alot less.

    My problem with firing Hartely is simple. Who in the blue blazes we going to hire to replace him ? Who is available to lead the team to the promised land and isn’t one the following ?

    1) not another old NHL retread ala Keenan. We already tried that route.

    2) Not an inexperienced nobody coach. Look at how well that’s playing out in Vancouver.

    3) Is it better to run with the devil we know in Hartley ? Or the unknown / untested demonic replacement ?

    As to the team’s future, I’m hoping Gilies can be the Goalie we need ( a Starter ) in 2 -3 years time. I would like to bring Ortio back as a back up next year let him play into a 1A- 1B situation if he earns it and shows consistency. I’m not sold at all on McDonald as a goalie. So I’d expect were going to draft another goalie or two.

    For available ufa goalies / rumoured available goalies. My issue there is all of them Terrify me for all the wrong reasons. Hiller needs to go he’s clearly not the answer. Ramo back and splitting time with Ortio might end up the best option not a popular one but I could see it playing out that route. Backstrom I doubt will be back, and I suspect does retire season’s end.

    Yes we do need to recoup some cap space on the back end. So I’m hoping we see Smid do the smart thing and call it a career. And either at 50% retained trade Wideman or buy him out. Stajan is grossly over paid but he still has value to the team and despite over paid I’d keep him.

    Raymond if there’s a trade market for him great , if not leave him on the heat.

    I like that defenceman we aquired from Dallas, he may end up a shrewd pick up by BT. I want to see more of T-spoon, Nak in the defense line up. I feel they help provide what we need at a good cost.