Welcome back to our roundtable! Yesterday, we simply looked at the positives and negatives of 2015-16; today, we’re looking ahead towards the 2016-17 season. Will it be an improvement? Well, we all certainly hope so.
Which positives will carry over into next year? Which negatives?
Ari: I want to say there’s no way the goaltending can be this bad again. Like how the Flames’ shooting percentage from before was unsustainable, this year’s save percentage has to be too, right? I’m trusting Treliving to fix this. Really, I think the positives of the kids continuing to grow will carry over into the next season, while the only negative I’m wary of is awful deployment and special teams to go with it – which I suspect won’t be fixed unless there’s a major change at the coaching level.
Ryan: The good news is that the players that are good are young and likely to either stay good or get better. And if they can get themselves a competent goalie (or two), they may be able to get back on track towards the playoffs.
Kent: I think Calgary’s young core will continue to develop and the team should improve at even strength as a matter of course. It’s an open question if this coaching staff can take that core and move the Flames into playoff contender status, however.
Mike: Positives: The youth movement (presumably) led by Bennett, Gaudreau, Monahan, and Hamilton. Hopefully we get a chance to see Nakladal stick around as well as seeing more from Kulak, Kylington, Andersson, and more.
Negatives: Bob Hartley at this point still has a job as the Flames’ coach. This team is in fantastic shape aside from Hartley and a few issues with the cap.
Taylor: If all goes well, the Flames have three absolute stud defencemen (Brodanilton), three very good forwards (Monahan, Frolik, Backlund), and a pocket-sized phenom. That’s not bad. Stop some pucks and then let’s see what we’ve got in Bennett.
Christian R: A strong finish to the season and a bunch of players finishing off strong with a renewed view on what it takes to win could carry over into a STRONG start to the season. I don’t think any negatives carry over except perhaps Hartley’s infuriating system and player usage if he starts the season in Calgary, again.
Christian T: To repeat myself, only one member of the core is over 30. The youth can only get better, and the team could be a menace next year if management brings in an actual right winger. As for negatives, I feel that this goalie drama won’t be as easily resolved as some people think it will be. The popular solutions are going to be costly and still won’t be able to guarantee immediate payoffs.
Byron: See above for positives. The offensive pieces are almost all there and they’ll probably add another dynamo this season (may not be ready next year but an offensive-minded stud will be added to the prospect arsenal… hopefully). Negatives that will continue: they’re a young team trying to find their way. They’ll make a lot of mistakes and miscues. Hopefully less than this year. They need to shore up the goalie situation with a very good to great goalie. That will help greatly. If we’re left with poor to mediocre options again, it could be a rough year again. The goaltending can’t possibly get any worse so at least it will improve no matter the situation.
Beloch: The kids are going to continue improving and there’s some good talent ripening in the farm system. Kylington looked decent enough in his debut, but it was Rasmus Andersson who looked more NHL ready in the pre-season last fall. Could one of these two force their way onto the roster next fall? As for negatives, there’s a huge hole where two top-six RWs should be and a total lack of depth in net.
What’s priority #1 for the off-season?
Ari: Goaltending is important, I’m not doubting that, but honestly: a new coach is necessary, and probably the only position that can singlehandedly impact a team more than the guy in net. And really, it doesn’t do any good to leave Bob Hartley in place only to can him if the Flames get off to another bad start. Have a fresh season with the new guy in place, don’t wait to settle.
Ryan: Grab a goalie. Or two (you can never have too many). After that? Do whatever they can to clear out some of the bottom-six and bottom-pairing salary cap driftwood and give themselves some much-needed wiggle room. As it stands now, they’ll need to spend a ton more money than they did this year just to run in place.
Kent: Goaltending, clearly. The Flames’ crease situation is pretty much in shambles with no clear answers moving forward. The injury to Gillies and the completely lacklustre performance of every other internal option at the pro level muddied the waters for the executive team.
Aside from that, it’s making moves to clear up the club’s problematic cap situation and finding capable NHL talent for the RW.
Mike: Aside from finding a replacement for Hartley? Roster adjustments. It’s high time to dump Wideman by trade or buyout, it’s time to sell high on Colborne, trade Bouma (since there was a deal that fell apart at the deadline), and trade for a goalie or two.
Taylor: It goes without saying that it’s a goalie. Which scares me. Man, this fan base was spoiled with Kipper, that’s one of my biggest takeaways this year. However, with signing Monahan and Gaudreau being such a pressing issue, I’d have to think offloading some of the dead weight (Wideman, Bouma, Stajan, Smid, Raymond, Engelland, Bollig, etc.) via trade or buyout is pressing as well. I don’t really care how it is done, but moving some of those pieces is essential. I’m not a crazy person, I understand no one wants most of these players, but if the Leafs found homes for some of their misfits, then hope remains for ours.
Christian R: Goaltender. RW is secondary because league-average goaltending pushes this team into the playoffs more than likely.
Christian T: I think everyone else will say goalies, so to change things up, I will say that clearing out cap room is an imperative. By next season, Monahan and Gaudreau will have new big contracts and Gio will get a $2.73M raise. Together, those three could be a burden on the payroll to the tune of anywhere between $18M-$22M. According to General Fanager, they only have $3M in cap room right now. Even if they don’t re-sign anyone else (a problem in itself seeing as there are some quality names hitting the market), they have so little room to sign any new players (such as goalies). Moving bad contracts – namely Wideman, Engelland, Bouma, Bollig, and Stajan; a shade under $15M in savings already – is going to be tough, but necessary.
Byron: Goalie. Goalie. Goalie. Bishop or Andersen are the best options. Matt Murray, obviously, would be excellent as well but I don’t think there’s any way he’s available. Elliott and Reimer are options if the first three fail. But it’s gotta be somebody! I’d also love to see them go after a fourth defenseman to play with Dougie as well (a guy who suppresses shots and drives the play the other way but isn’t flashy and won’t cost too much… Patrick Wiercioch is absolutely perfect and he’s enormous and a left shot). Third, shedding some bad money/contracts. Raymond, Stajan, Bollig, Bouma, Wideman, Smid, and/or Engellend need to somehow be moved. If two or more of those guys can be moved somehow that would be most excellent and create a good bit of breathing room for money that’s needed for a goalie and Monadreau. Fourth, sign a RW like Okposo to a decent contract to shore up the right side (very slim chance of this however).
Beloch: Sign the kids and find a #1 goalie.
The Flames are three years into their rebuild. When does the team *have* to turn a corner? Can they do it in the timeframe you’ve specified?
Ari: Next season. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan’s big contracts will officially be on the books, and Sam Bennett’s will be up next. The thing is, I don’t know if they’ll be able to do it by next season; the Flames may need a one year mulligan period simply to deal with all the bad contracts they’ve accumulated (and possibly to really find their next goalie and coach, should things go wrong next year). But I fully expect the Flames back in the playoffs next season, and for them to consistently make it for years to come. A top-heavy base is present that only needs a few more pieces added to it; there’s no reason why, at absolute latest, they can’t get there within the next two years. But next season is ideal.
Ryan: I’d say 2016-17 is the season you’d expect to see a significant forward movement; their “good young players” aren’t cheap anymore, and if they’re going to get their money’s worth they’re going to have to start cementing themselves as a consistently good team rather than a just cute story down the stretch. I’m not sure if they CAN do it, though, as they have a lot of bad contracts to so-so players weighing them down.
Kent: The team has to start turning a corner this year. Gaudreau and Monahan are about to get expensive while Sam Bennett is just one year away from getting a raise. As a result, the org’s core is not only entering its prime years, but they are about to become very expensive. The only thing worse that being a lousy team is being a lousy team with a capped out roster.
Mike: By the end of this coming season it’s a matter of immediately turning a corner. The team has a considerable leg-up in this rebuild because they have two of the four most important assets (center-depth and blueline-depth). All they need is a goalie and the coach to push them onward (it’s not Bob, I hope we all can acknowledge this now). They can do it if a coach and a goalie (or two) become available this summer or by the draft. There is legitimate hope for this team if wonderful human Brad Treliving can deliver this summer.
Taylor: I, like many of you here, am a die-hard. It’ll take a lot for me to lose my faith. That being said, we all care about this team because we want to see them win. I don’t care about consecutive lottery picks. I would want the Flames to be a legitimate (as in: good, not simply lucky) playoff hopeful by 2017-18. With the pieces they currently have, and maybe perhaps a coaching switch, I don’t think this is unreasonable.
Christian R: I’ve been very vocal about the three remaining pieces missing from this team. Another elite winger, preferably on the right side, an above average goaltender and a strong coach who meshes well with this team. John Gibbons isn’t anything special with the Blue Jays, but he’s the right guy for that group. Flames need to find a guy like that for them, and I don’t think it’s Hartley.
Christian T: That depends on a lot. I think bringing in a solid goaltender would help set them in the right direction, but there’s still work to be done to make the Flames a serious contender. The absolute deadline is the 2017-18 season, when a lot of bad money will be off the books. However, I trust BT will do some savvy business to make sure that the team is in fighting shape for next year.
Byron: I would say by year four or five in a true rebuild done right you should start to turn the corner. They’ve got the offense, they’ve got the six pillars to build behind, their possession is not very good but it has gotten much better than the year before. I’m expecting next year they’ll be around the playoffs or sneaking in on one of the last days and year five to be a team that’s nearly cemented in to the dance by March, year six I expect them to have made their way through the “rebuild” and be in the contender conversation.
Beloch: I’d say this team has already turned a corner. They’re now almost totally reliant on their young players and their possession stats were greatly improved this season versus last season. Add a decent #1 goalie and this is a playoff team. To become a serious cup contender… Well, that’s the next goal.