No World Cup? No problem for the Flames

The rosters for September’s World Cup of Hockey were finally finalized yesterday, with 173 National Hockey League players named to the eight teams. Some eyebrows were raised, though, by the small number of Calgary Flames players named to the competition.

Top-six forwards Johnny Gaudreau (North America), Sean Monahan (North America) and Michael Frolik (Czech Republic) are headed to the World Cup, along with blueliner Jyrki Jokipakka (Finland) and pending unrestricted free agent Jakub Nakladal (Czech Republic). Not headed to the tournament, at least for now, are everybody else on the Flames roster including the three best defensemen (Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton) and the rest of their top six (Mikael Backlund and Sam Bennett).

Honestly? I’m kind of happy more Flames aren’t going.

If I’m an NHL general manager, I’m not a huge fan of the World Cup.

It takes place a couple weeks before the season starts and places many of each team’s best players in a really unpredictable environment. Considering the parity in the league, how jam-packed the Pacific Division has been in recent years and how important a good start will be to the Flames’ success in 2016-17, I’m not overly upset that more of the Flames’ important players aren’t taken.

But when you look around at the number of important players from divisional rivals, suddenly the World Cup begins to get really, really interesting.

  • ANAHEIM: both of their goalies (restricted free agent Freddie Andersen and John Gibson), one of their defenders (restricted free agent Sami Vatanen) and three key forwards (Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg).

  • ARIZONA: two defenders (Zbynek Michalek and their best player Oliver Ekman-Larsson) and two forwards (Martin Hanzal and restricted free agent Tobias Rieder).
  • EDMONTON: their top defender (Andrej Sekera) and four forwards (Lauri Korpikoski and three key players in Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins).
  • LOS ANGELES: their starting goalie (Jonathan Quick), their two best defensemen (Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin) and three forwards (Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and their best player Anze Kopitar).
  • SAN JOSE: three defenders (pending unrestricted free agent Roman Polak and their two most important blueliners Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic) and four key forwards (Joonas Donskoi, Joe Thornton, restricted free agent Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski).
  • VANCOUVER: their backup goalie (Jacob Markstrom), a defender (Luca Sbisa) and three forwards (Jannik Hansen and their two most important players Daniel and Henrik Sedin).

Most of the Pacific Division teams have a lot of skin in the game, and the top Pacific Division teams – the clubs that the Flames need to topple in order to return to the post-season – all have a really big chunk of cap space and talent tied up in the September tournament. In particular, San Jose has their big guns and the Kings and Ducks have their goalies (and other key figures there). The Flames don’t have a netminder signed for next season and other than Freddie Andersen, none of their likely future goaltenders are in the tournament. (See you at training camp, Freddie!)

There are some risks, but Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan get a few weeks in some intense competition to get going and they’re younger than the core players going from every other team aside from Edmonton. Meanwhile, the players that the Flames are going to rely on the most – their skilled defensemen – will be fresh as a daisy and perhaps a bit antsy after watching hockey for two weeks. Considering how important Giordano, Brodie and Hamilton are to the team’s success and how rough they were last October, having them fresh and motivated will be crucial to the Flames clawing their way back into the post-season.

The World Cup runs September 17 to October 1, 2016 in Toronto.

    • freethe flames

      Ryan; I get your point the other thing as a Flames fan is maybe just maybe we should rethink how good our top 3 defenders are. Personally I think all three of them are close to being added although both Gio and Brodie are in competition with each other. Dougie must be close to that group and I suspect had Chia from Edmonton acquired him he would be playing; politics are even played at that level.

      Also a question for the fancy stats crowd. Will you be doing a segment on who would be cost effective players that the Flames should target from the both the UFA and RFA trade market?

    • brodiegio4life

      sadly I’m not that surprised, gio and Brodie have never got the respect they deserve simply because of the team they play for. The fact Hamilton didn’t make the U23 is laughable though… back to back seasons of over 40 points for a dman and somehow Murray,trouba, and reily get picked over him is a joke. Had he played with Boston still no doubt he’d be on the team… eastern bias is a thing

      • Kevin R

        Or if Chiarelli got him in a deal or offer sheet, he would have been picked.
        But to see D like Subban & Letang being left out puts it in perspective. Im blown away Klingberg didn’t get picked either, the guy had a monster year.

        But this tourney is going to be a high level event & the impact of players playing like that will show by mid season as this will mess with how they prepare & pace themselves over the long gruelling schedule. Maybe like Ryan says, we get some benefit from being over looked.

    • Wheels

      Markus Kruger with a mere 4 assists in 41 games this season got chosen over Backlund. There is no way his defensive responsibility is that much better than Backlund’s so that he would be chosen over him.

    • Hockeyfan

      it may turn out beneficial our D men are not there. Babcock is known to want very defensively responsible players and the way Hartley had Gio and the boys playing doesn’t fit his mold.

    • The Fall

      I think it’s positive for the young players. Johnny seemed to get better after his first all star game. It’s a huge learning experience. Gio doesn’t need the extra work load.

    • beloch

      Just four of the players on Team Canada’s roster are from non-playoff teams: Carey Price (Habs), Matt Duchene (Avs), Patrice Bergeron (Bruins), and Brad Marchand (Bruins).

      Carey Price was actually that much more impressive this season because of the low quality of the team playing in front of him, and how their season went down the toilet when he was injured.

      The remaining guys are all forwards with a minimum of 59 points last season. The performance of forwards on bad teams is relatively easy to measure, even with counting stats.

      Not one defender came from a non-playoff team.

      None of the Flames’ defenders are going to make Team Canada while the team is dead last in goals against, even if that’s primarily caused by goal-tending. The Flames top 3 defenders may be great possession players who bring their team-mates up, but there’s no denying defenders on better teams surrounded by better possession players have higher absolute possession stats.

      To sum up, good defenders on bad teams don’t make Team Canada. Hopefully the Flames won’t be that kind of team next season.

      • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

        The Canada Cup /World Cup has given us some of the best hockey memories and I don’t know why you think this will be any different. When they lace them up they do it to win . It will be a great tournament.

    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      So Gaudreau and Monahan would not represent their country at the worlds cuz they are Rfa’s right. They did not want to risk being injured without a contract.
      If they don’t have contracts in place before the World Cup I don’t think you will see them there either.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Todd McLellan is going to earn every cent for coaching North America at the World Cup.

      Arguably, he has the most talented players to work with, but he also has the biggest egos to deal with. I also wonder if the inclusion of Canadian and US players will cause any sort of rift or disunity. It is, after all, largely a tournament of nations and many of the guys on the team aren’t that far removed from World Juniors where Canada and the US are the fiercest of rivals.

      The North American team is by far the most intriguing squad in the event.

      Notable that 3 Jets are on the team. Buy Jets’ stock and Sabres’ stock as those teams will be perennial Stanley Cup favourites in the next 3 to 5 years.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      I don’t buy the argument that playing in the World Cup will be overly taxing for an incredibly fit professional athlete in his teens to mid 30s. Moreover, I don’t believe the disruption of the usual summer ritual for the players involved will discombobulate them and leave their head space in a bad place when the NHL season begins. If that is the case, do you think the Sharks and Penguins, 2 teams with a lot of players involved in the WC, have conspired so the final is a sweep and the WC players will get an extra week of rest before having to start training camp for WC in August? I’m not buying it.

      As for having players fresh and raring to go when the season starts, there is something called training camp and exhibition games where a well-rested player can get dinged up and miss significant time in the regular season. Have we already forgotten where Brodie was when the Flames and Canucks opened the season in 2015?

      Look back at other years from the Summit Series in 1972 to the last Olympics when players usual habits were disrupted by a tournament and what happened to the players and the teams they played for when the NHL season began or resumed. As I recall, the Canadiens and the Hawks played for the ’73 Stanley Cup and those two squads had the most representatives on Team Canada. Don’t think playing in the Olympics damaged too many of the kingsmen in 2014.

      Flames not having a defenceman chosen is reminiscent of when JayBo was acquired and so many here drooled and wet themselves that JayBo and Dion would form a third of Canada’s defence in the next Olympics. It didn’t happen. Frankly, Gio, Brodie and Hamilton were not good enough. One hopes that Hamilton will view is omission as a wake-up call.

      The WC could have an impact on the Flames if they hire Ralph Krueger as head coach. Yes, the assistant coaches can run practices and coach exhibition games, but the new head coach needs to be hands on from day one so he can see exactly what kind of talent he has to work with and let the players know all about what kind of ship he runs. This is one of the reasons I don’t think Krueger will get the job here, and that is a pity, especially if they hire Mickey Yeo, who I am on record as saying would be a terrible choice.