There’s just a few games left in the year and I’ve already moved on from watching the games to thinking about the offseason. The next step is the post-mortems and after that a reckoning of assets, priorities and obstacles. The Flames have a plenty of each in what promises to be the most interesting – or at least the most challenging – offseason in Brad Treliving’s brief career as the org’s GM.
While the Flames’ roster has clear areas of need, what’s unknown is just how the club will fill those holes given their problematic cap situation. How will they afford the raises to Mark Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and still find a way to solve their RW depth and net issues? There’re no obvious solutions from where we stand today.
In this edition of the mailbag we look at surprises and disappointments this year as well as the chances of the Flames challenging for a playoff spot next year.
— Clay (@clayTRON8000) April 1, 2016
Cheer up! Just when you think it can’t get worse, the Flames go and humiliate the Oilers in last Battle of Alberta ever at Rexall Place.
— John MacKenna (@JohnMacKenna) April 1, 2016
Unlikely. If buyouts hurt a team’s ability to sign free agents, players would stop signing with Rangers. And the Flyers.
— MattyFranchise (@breakerNHLSC2) April 1, 2016
I’d say that would have to be a last resort if all other avenues for improvement fail. If the Flames have a Ramo/Ortio pairing in the crease next year, we should probably prepare for another underwhelming finish. The chances of getting league average netminding between them is slim.
— Jaicin aka Jason ► (@Jaicin) April 1, 2016
— Jordan Fleming (@Ashasx) April 1, 2016
The most disappointing player this season has to be Jonas Hiller. I thought he’d be capable of at least mediocre goaltending after a pretty capable career (and previous season), but he fell off a cliff. It reminded me strongly of watching Kipper falter in his final season in Calgary. He’s done as an NHL goaltender.
Otherwise everyone is pretty close to expectations. Joe Colborne’s offensive outburst is probably the second most surprising result. I figured he’d either establish himself as an NHLer this year or wash out completely. Half way through the season I was leaning towards the latter, but it looks like he’s figured it out enough to be a capable bottom-six guy.
Make no mistake, we probably shouldn’t expect 18 goals out of him moving forward, but at least he’s moved out of the washout zone.
@Kent_Wilson If you can’t buy out an injured player, and Wideman is now injured. How do we circumvent if we choose to buy him out?
— jbarbs (@jbarbs8) April 1, 2016
You can’t trade an injured guy either, so there’s absolutely nothing the Flames can do to circumvent Wideman’s cap hit if he is still on the shelf this summer. If so, the team has to hope they can LTIR him when the season starts.
That said, I’d be surprised if Wideman is hurt for that length of time.
— jbarbs (@jbarbs8) April 1, 2016
I have no use for Yakupov so this is an easy one. I don’t think either guy is going to become an especially great player, but at least Nichushkin has shown that he can be at least a capable top-six RWer when healthy.
— Rod Thick (@karasu8989) April 1, 2016
Aside from goaltending, the Flames have two other clear areas of concern that need to improve in order for playoffs to be a realistic goal: defense and special teams.
Though the club’s possession game improved some degree this year, Calgary still spends way too much time south of the red line. So far this year, the Flames yield the fourth highest amount of shots against in the league per hour at even strength (57.2/60), ahead of only Colorado, Arizona and Ottawa. Calgary is 20th in the league in terms of shot attempts for per hour (52.9/60), so they have a five shot per hour deficit to make up in order to get to even.
Calgary’s special teams started out dreadfully and have only seemingly come around the last month or two. Having a single bottom-five PP or PK is potentially survivable, but both being awful simultaneously means you have to be a dominant 5on5 team to get by. And the Flames aren’t.
Getting better netminding will improve Calgary’s fortunes significantly, but if they can improve at least one of these other two areas it will go a long way to getting them back to the dance.