The Flames gave us a nice early Christmas present heading into the break by crushing an exhausted Canucks group. What Calgary will be in the new year, however, is still up in the air. The first portion of the season has been filled with inconsistencies and contradictions – terrible and then resurgent special teams, awful and then elite goaltending, etc.
So the team is still very much a work in progress. They’ve settled into a sort of middling area through their wild oscillations, but I doubt either Brad Treliving or Glen Gulutzan are satisfied with the results, even given some of the peaks so far. New gaps have formed in the roster this year and some questions still remain unanswered. The rest of the season may well be spent pursuing solutions to these issues, as well as chasing another playoff appearance, of course. We’ll see what can be accomplished in the first half of 2017.
Given that the Flames’ second defense pairing is one of those glaring aforementioned questions, it’s appropriate that we talk about nothing but defensemen in the final edition of the mailbag for 2016…
@Kent_Wilson I know it’s not mailbag time but if you do one soon my Q: Will teams be reluctant to acquire Wideman, due to his ref incident?
— Colin B (@IamCbecks) December 21, 2016
Probably, but mostly because there are a lot of reasons to be reluctant to trade for Dennis Wideman. A top notch defender, or at least a guy known for “leadership and character”, could get past an incident like that without issue, but for Wideman it’s just another reason to be wary.
I don’t know how much value Wideman will have at the deadline. He’s 33, slowing considerably, and he doesn’t even play much on the PP anymore. Moving him would be ideal, but I’d be surprised if they are any suitors.
— Atheist Roadie (@The_Beeker73) December 23, 2016
Trade them if you can, but mostly likely just walk away.
Engelland might draw some interest as a depth and intangibles guy at the deadline, but I imagine the Flames will keep him if they are anywhere near contention. If not, they might put him on the block and get a mid-level pick or prospect for him.
Wideman, as mentioned, I’d be surprised if they get anything for him (they should shop him under all circumstances), but chances are there won’t be much interest.
— Bring back 12 (@rocktown_9) December 23, 2016
It’s going to be a challenge to acquire a useful player during the season, particularly since most teams are loathe to give up legit top four guys. The only potential target I can imagine right now is Cody Franson in Buffalo. The Sabres are likely to be sellers at the deadline and they aren’t in love with the player, so it’s possible the Flames could extract him for a relatively minimal price.
Franson hasn’t put up great results in Buffalo, but he still has positive underlying numbers and is likely an upgrade on Wideman at the very least. Here are the two players side-by-side by various scoring and possession metrics (via Own the Puck):
As you can see, Franson is somewhat comparable in terms of offense, but much better at suppressing shots and in terms of possession overall. Which leads us to…
@Kent_Wilson Given our current coach’s predilections… who are the top 3 RH defenders set to be available on July 1?
— James Foster (@YKJFosterYYC) December 23, 2016
The good news for the Flames is there should be a few RH free agent defenders in July (although Brodie doesn’t necessarily need a RH partner since he’s comfortable on the right side). We’ll skip Franson because he’s discussed above, but there is also Kevin Shattenkirk, Dmitry Kulikov, Michael Stone, Karl Alzner and Michael Del Zotto.
Obviously Shattenkirk is the big prize in the UFA pool. The 27-year-old scores at a high rate and is an excellent shot suppressor, shot generator and overall defender. He’d make an ideal complement to the Flames blueline, but he’s also going to cost a pretty penny to sign. Adding another big contract to an already expensive defense corps may not be in the cards.
After Shattenkirk and Franson, things fall off a bit. Del Zotto and Stone might be the best of a marginal lot, because they are actually above average at at least one thing (shot generation and offense) whereas guys like Kulikov and Alzner tend to have marginal results across the board.
For an official list, then, it goes:
3.) Del Zotto/Stone