FlamesNation Roundtable: Looking towards 2016-17

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.

  • everton fc

    Our depth on defence will be a tremendous asset this summer on draft day. Beginning to see some depth, as well, at centre.

    I like Jankowski’s small sample size. Mangianpane seems the next Gaudreau, or something close to it, though you never know (look at Drouin!) But Mangiapane seems a probable player for this team at some point, as does Shinkaruk. Can you imagine a line in camp of Mangiapane/Jankowski/Shinkaruk? Exciting times…

    As for the rebuild, we seem pretty set on defence. We must not forget Gillies. Could he and Ortio form a dynamic, young duo? Here’s hoping. Neither can be as bad as Hiller was, on his best nights!

    Ramo… He does deserve to be here. The team seems to play well in front of him. He and Ortio could also be a good combo. I can’t see our goaltending, even if it’s Ortio/Ramo, Ortio/Gillies… Being as bad as this season. The wheels fell off early. Russell and Wideman were horrible. Brodie was hurt (though Kulak didn’t hurt us). Our forwards included Jones. It’s a different, younger team next season. I’d say the biggest concern right now is behind to bench. We need a coaching change. If Julien becomes available, you have to go for him. Same with Tippett, but I don’t think the Yotes are that stupid. Tippett and Treliving know one another, but Tippett’s style of play is different – could our young guns thrive under that system? Keep an eye on Tippett, if he becomes available.

    • cjc

      There are a lot of ifs. I’m a pessimist, so here is what I see in Calgary’s offseason:

      They won’t move all of Wideman, Smid and Engelland in the offseason. They might be able to LTIR Smid, and they might buyout Wideman, but the associated cap hit for Wideman even if he’s bought out limits their flexibility elsewhere (i.e. getting a decent goalie). Nobody wants Wideman in a trade.

      The problem forwards (Bollig, Stajan, Raymond, Bouma) continue to clog the lineup. Maybe they move Bouma, but more likely they stick with him out of loyalty.

      Cap considerations force them to move at least one of Jooris or Colborne. Or Colborne gets resigned for >2.2 mil per (can’t see them paying him less than Bouma). They can’t re-sign one of Grant or Nakladal.

      In short, there still aren’t many spaces for the likes of Shinkaruk, Jankowski, Kulak, Wotherspoon, Kylington, or even Andersson or Mangiapane if they impress at camp. They’ll make room for whoever they choose in the first round, but needlessly burn a year of their ELC.

      They can’t get one of Reimer, Anderson or Bishop in goal because they can’t afford them (actually that’s not such a bad thing, I think).

      They don’t fire Hartley, and miss out on Julien/Tippet/Hitchcock in the process. The team misses the playoffs again but Hartley is fired midseason and replaced by Carlyle. Okay, that last one probably won’t happen.

      League average goaltending seems an obvious fix, but what it will mean is more 3-2 and 4-3 losses, and fewer blowouts.

      I don’t really think it will be this bad, but I also don’t think everything is going to break Calgary’s way over the summer. 2016-2017 will be another year lost in the wilderness.

      • everton fc

        I think they move Wideman and Smid. Somehow. I’d keep Engelland, as a mentor for the kids coming up, and I think BT will do the same.

        The problem forwards – I think Bouma and Jooris could be moved as part of a package. Guys like this keep guys like Agostino off the roster. Bollig should be waived then sent down. Stajan… Not sure how to handle him.

        I’d keep Colborne. I’d move Jooris and Bouma, over Colborne.

        I’d sign Nakladal. Not sure about Grant.

        I’d not go nuts over a goalie that will cost us to much. Let’s see how Ortio/Gillies/Ramo look when the latter two are healed. They need a seasoned backup/dual tender for Ortio, so Gillies can get a year in the “A”. If only Backstrom were 5 years younger!

        If we had better goaltending and defence last season, and squeaked into the playoffs, no one would be calling for Hartley’s head. However, the other poor stat-data under his tenure doesn’t bode well for him, in the modern game.

        A fourth line of Ferland/Grant or Stajan/Jooris or Hathaway will be as good, if not better, than the 4th lines we rolled out this season (Interesting that Stajan got shifts on the wing. Might be something to pay attention to – could a line of Stajan/Backlund/Frolik, or Stajan/Bennett/Shinkaruk work well for us until Stajan’s days here end??)

        • Kevin R

          You gotta get past the Ortio/Ramo being the net minders next year. They didn’t work, they payed better when the season was more or less over. Ramo’s injury was serious for a goalie. I would have no problem signing Ramo to a PTO & see how he does in Stockton. We need to bring in a legit goalie, I have no problem seeing if Ortio can play a solid backup role next year. Any GM that goes with the same goalies after the whole hockey world acknowledged goaltending sunk the Flames, is looking for a severance package. No way no how BT doesn’t find someone else to play net, even if he has to pay a price that many will cringe at paying.

    • OKG

      Speaking of Kulak, his two biggest rookie mistakes in October didn’t even end up in the back of the net. Hiller saved the McDavid goal and Engelland covered for the bad giveaway.

      It was almost like divine intervention to help Kulak be a future top 4 D.

      And then he got sent down.

  • KiLLKiND

    Anyone who thinks we could be better if we got Bishop is insane. Bishop has an $8 mill cap hit. If we are trading for a goalie we want him to be young and cheap enough to keep playing on this team for years, such as Gudlevskis. Let Tampa deal with Bishop’s monstrous salary as with all our cap locked up in deadweight, we have to wait another year to seriously contend. So while locking down a goalie this off season sounds exciting it would be better for us to aquire a goalie on a 1 year cheap deal. After that hand the reins over to the prospects Anaheim style and let Gilles, Ortio, Poulin, and possibly another fight for the top 2 spots.

    As for playoffs next year unless one of the California teams blows up I don’t expect us to be in. We have so much cap locked up in guys that don’t produce that any team who spends as much as the Flames will likely be better simply by spending their money on better players. From a team that finished closer to the bottom of the league than competing for a playoff spot I think a few of you are still out of touch with reality after last season’s miracle. Next year I expect us to be closer to Colorado, Minnesota level. The thing with the NHL though is that every team tries to improve in the off season and so will every team that finished higher than us.

    Coaching wise I think Hartley has been a great influence on the team. He may not have the greatest systems or player usage but no coach is perfect. Having a coach like Hartley that brings that “winning” attitude and instilled the work ethic is something I can live with for another season. He won’t be winning the Jack Adams next season, but once again until this team is ready to compete we don’t need a new coach.

    In summary our priority needs to be unloading deadweight while not restricting our cap in the future any more than it needs to be. Starting goalie, new coacg, and playoffs can wait until we can ice a team with a top line RW and without Raymond, Smid, Engelland, Wideman, and Bollig off our books.

  • Looking towards 2016-17 I’m cheering for the Dallas Stars in the 2016 playoffs to reach the Western Conference finals so that we get their first round draft pick as per the Kris Russell trade.

    I think the goaltending is still a bigger liability than the head coach but still expect Hartley will be the head coach at the start of the 2016-17 season. Beyond that, if the team stumbles in October or November, he’s gotta go.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    BT hasn’t been perfect (Engelland, Bollig (?), Bouma), but he’s been pretty close (TJ, Gio, Dougie & The Fro, etc). I’d give him an A. As such, I expect Hartley to be gone this summer if a better option becomes available (Julien, Hitch, etc…).

    If the Flames get average ‘tending and a decent coach, I fully expect them to make the playoffs next year, but I don’t think a corner will really be turned until the year after that when I expect the team to be an actual playoff threat, i.e. winning a couple of rounds.

  • The Fall

    Next year will still be a growth year. They have to turn the corner 2017-2018.

    The Flames are still dealing with two types of bad contracts: Feaster’s bandaid signings, and BT’s “I have no idea if I even have and NHL team and need to insert couple vets”.

    The Flames should be out of the woods by next trade deadline, and the current executives can look at opening day 2017 as ‘their’ roster.

  • mattyc

    I think there’s an inordinate focus on the bottom-of-the-lineup players. The difference between Bollig and Byron (a bad vs. good 4th liner) is important at the player level, but when you correct for the fact that they play ~10 minutes a night, they’re peripheral. Put another way, if you think replacing Smid/Bollig/Bouma/whoever, with a slightly better 4th liner is going to get the Flames into the playoffs, I have some bad news.

    In terms of impactful things that they flames should (need to) do to get back in the playoff conversation:

    1) Get one (or two)at least league-average NHL goalie

    2) Get an above average NHL coach that understands the modern game and can put their talent in successful situations.

    3) Acquire another top 6/9 FWD with some scoring upside.

    … 10) replace Bollig/etc with Grant/etc.

    • The Fall

      I think the major issue with those bottom end players is to make sure they are affordable. Smid/Bollig/Bouma represent an investment that handcuffs signing a goalie at this point.

    • cjc

      Then this should be very concerning for Calgary, since it means their mediocre (albeit improving) possession numbers can largely be laid at the feet of the players getting the most minutes.

      Bollig may be getting less than 10 5v5 minutes/game, but about two thirds of goals went against the flames when he was on the ice (to say nothing of the PP goals surrendered when he took dumb penalties). Same for Lance Bouma. In Bouma’s case he was outscored by 10 goals 5v5 when on the ice. Bollig’s number is similar. Monahan, on the other hand, outscored the competition by 4 goals 5v5. Keep in mind that Bouma and Bollig played 44 and 54 games respectively, so the damage could have been worse if they played a full season.

      I know just looking at goals is fraught with issues (i.e. shooting percentage, goaltending), but the picture doesn’t change much when you look at Corsi, Fenwick or scoring chances. The negative impacts of these players – in absolute terms – outweigh the positive contributions of our best players. They’re also expensive and blocking potential upgrades from playing.

      The best teams in this league pay close attention to their depth. Look at Dallas – they had goaltending almost as bad as Calgary’s, but dominated regardless. On the other hand, look at Vancouver. They got league average goaltending, but still got smoked.

      I’m not saying good goaltending isn’t important – the other good teams got 0.920+ goaltending all season. Without improvements to our depth though, can we expect any goalie to post league-average save percentages?

      • mattyc

        Yeah – I mean, it’s definitely sub-optimal. And in a relative sense, it should be an easy thing to remedy, so why not?

        Having said that though, Bollig (almost assuredly the worst player on the team) had a net fenwick of -45 (so 45 more unblocked shot attempts hit our net) over the entire season. By comparison:

        Wideman was -82;

        Stajan was -103;

        Russell was -130 (!);

        Engelland was -84;

        Backlund was +79;

        Giordano was -2.

        (link)

        Having said all that — I think there’s still a lot of interesting work to be done on how to optimally construct your roster — especially given, as you rightly point out, that every dollar we pay Bollig is one we can’t spend somewhere else.

  • Stan

    Wow. Mike and Arii must absolutely despise Hartley if they seriously think he is this teams biggest problem. I’m no Hartley fan and also think the team needs to make a change, but to state that as the #1 priority for the team this offseason is overkill to say the least.