FN Mailbag – February 20, 2017

The 2017 edition of the Calgary Flames is a study in frustration. 

Some games they are terrible and rightfully lose. Other games they are dominant… but still lose, either because their scorers can’t score or because their goalies can’t stop the puck. Or because the club takes too many penalties. 

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that none of these problems were supposed to be problems. Last season, Calgary was the least penalized team in the league. This year, they’re the most. Every single high priced player that Brad Treliving has re-signed in the last 12 months is having a down year, hobbling the Flames offense. And the goaltending that should have been vastly improved, isn’t. It’s a minor miracle Calgary is within throwing distance of a playoff spot despite all of these issues. 

We’re nine days away from the trade deadline and Treliving must be scratching his head. Almost of his assumptions heading into the season have likely been undermined. Many of his core players haven’t been primary contributors, his goaltending remains shaky, his blueline is still top heavy, his big UFA signing isn’t working out and his farm team has just finished losing 10 in a row. 

Nevertheless, the playoffs are still possible. So what’s next?

That’s the million dollar question right now. 

Honestly, if any one of the issues mentioned in the intro improves or reverses, Calgary would be far more competitive. At some point one would expect the scorers to rediscover their touch, the goalies to get hot, or the penalty differential to even out. 

Beyond hoping for one of those things to improve, the Flames still desperately need another top six forward and top four defender. Troy Brouwer’s lackluster performance and Sam Bennett’s inability to take a step forward (on top of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan struggling) has harmed the Flames’ attack. 

In the backend, we’re all well aware by now that the club simply doesn’t have an apt partner for T.J. Brodie at the top of the rotation. In the offseason, the organization will also need to iron out the goalie question. Neither Chad Johnson nor Brian Elliott have made a case for being long term solutions in net. At some point, Calgary really needs to find a guy who can consistently provide league average or better netminding over the long term.

I think the goal is to move him down the rotation rather than remove him completely. That said, if Treliving can find another, more capable RH defender at the deadline, it wouldn’t surprise me if Wideman gets shuffled to the pressbox.

If I was McPhee, I’d look at Brett Kulak, Micheal Ferland or Matt Stajan, depending on my needs and cap budget. Ferland would probably be at the top of the list given his age and skill set, assuming the Flames expose the player, of course.

I think we’re starting to get a good sense of the coaching, although to some degree I’d like to see how GG operates when at least one of his expensive, star players is actually performing to expectations (or one of his goalies is stopping pucks). 

There’s a sense he may be to blame for the drop in performance in the Flames’ stars, but that’s potentially correlation/causation confusion. A more systematic investigation would be in order to determine if the changes that have led to improved shot volumes and differentials is also suppressing his players’ offense. 

It is, if only because the organization has so much money and cap space invested in other players. Mikael Backlund is the fifth highest paid player amongst Flames forwards at $3.757M/year and the ninth highest paid player on the team overall. 

That means a whole lot of guys ahead of him are having relatively unimpressive seasons. While we have argued for years that Backlund is actually a core player on the team thanks to his 5on5 play, it means the club is getting bad value for all of their big investments if Backs is leading the way.

This is a very interesting proposal. By leveraging Sam Bennett in a trade for a top four defender, protecting four forwards and four defenders suddenly seems more palatable. 

By moving Bennett, the Flames would be left with Gaudreau, Monahan, Backlund and Michael Frolik as the guys to protect up front. Management would need to feel comfortable with leaving Brouwer and Ferland unprotected, but that’s impossible (I think they should expose Brouwer either way, personally). 

Targets for this kind of trade include the aforementioned Jacob Trouba, but also one of the young defenders from the Carolina Hurricanes including Justin Faulk or Jaccob Slavin.


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  • Jakethesnail

    The problem with Trouba is that it’s going to take more than Bennett. While Bennett continues to struggle Trouba is having a good season and Myers is already injured on the back end.
    Trouba is also on a good deal . I don’t see Winnipeg’s need for getting rid of Trouba and getting a question mark in return like Bennett.

    • Greg

      Winnipeg’s need is to be able to protect more forwards. They have 4 D they have to protect (Enstrom (NMC), Buf, Myers, and Trouba), so they can only protect 4 forwards. This means they are going to be left exposing some really good young forwards like Armia, Dano, and Lowry. A Bennet for Trouba trade would allow them to protect 3 more forwards, so Bennet, and whichever two of the above they’d least like to lose. Plus it would resolve the Trouba-holdout situation permanently.

      Whether a struggling Bennet would be enough to entice them, and whether Calgary would feel Bennet has too much potential to trade straight up, is an open question. It would probably get the talks started though, although neither team is likely to do that before the deadline given the playoff race.

      The point isn’t Trouba specifically though, just that the flames have that option, if they can find a trade partner that needs to open up a couple more forward protection spots (Carolina, Anaheim, Minny, etc.)

      Of course the problem is that 4 years down the road, when Bennet is hitting his prime years and Backlund is exiting them, they might really regret having used their Center depth to fix their D.

  • freethe flames

    The Flames are a legit playoff team not a Stanley Cup contender. We currently hold the last playoff spot despite all the flaws in this team. I believe we could solidify that spot with some minor tweaks that would not destroy the rebuild.

    However if the question is are we a Stanley Cup contender; then the answer is no. Beginning in net neither guy has given us the type of goaltending needed on a nightly basis. On d we have 3 solid guys, a young prospect that looks NHL ready(Kulak) and some older guys that need to be replaced. So we need 2 RHD defenders and preferably some guys with some grit. The kids on the farm have potential but are not ready. Upfront we have some good pieces but need some help. We need to find a guy that jells with Johnny/Monny; this player needs to have skills and some grit in giddy up. Maybe it’s time to give Tkachuk a look at this position.
    Until Bennett either lives up to our hopes for him or we acquire an upgrade there we remain a stagnant team. Even then we don’t have a RW who can add enough there.(Side note: I liked the chemistry I saw with Ferland/Bennett/Brouwer so there is hope)

    Ideally the Tkachuk/Backs/Frolik line is your third line; unfortunately it has frequently been your best line. Until this actually comes to be we are not a cup contender. The 4th line does it’s job and we have plenty of those guys. There is little help on the farm to fill the gaps in the top 9.

    So to be blunt we are a goalie away, 2 RHD defenders away, and 2/3 top 9 forwards away from being a cup contender but yet we remain a playoff team in the Pacific and would still likely be one in the East as well.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      The scenario I believe could work for a Flames upgrade this season is for the Flames to trade a roster player that will be exposed, plus a 2017 pick (maybe two) for a right winger on a fair contract. This is ideal for the Flames short term for a run at the playoffs, midterm protecting players from expansion exposure and long term by fixing a glaring top 6 hole.

      Short of the above, my vote would be to do nothing. This team is still in their rebuild, selling assets for a rental would be wrong at this point.

      • freethe flames

        Again who would fit the bill? I don’t want to overpay for a rental but I believe one could be had for our own UFA’s, RFa’s, B prospects and late draft picks. The right rental could also be seen as test drive or a first date; something to explore. IMO you never use your first or second rounder for a rental unless you are true cup contender; which we are not. Adding one piece to the puzzle would not make us a cup contender.(especially not a rental)

        For the Flames to move their first or second rounder it would have to be a guy who is a top 6 forward (or looking like one) who is between 20-25; still part of the youth movement and I’m not sure any of these guys are available.

        It will be interesting to see if BT does anything. I believe he should.

          • freethe flames

            Yes but what is the cost? Will the Ducks make a trade before the deadline? Within the division.

            @Lucky 13 Smith; yes (I think he can be had at a reasonable cost). DD; no thank you we don’t need a small center whose 30.

            Here’s my deal. I think you can secure a playoff spot w/o abandoning the rebuild and I believe that playoff experience is more valuable than late round draft picks. I also would be prepared to lose the playoff race to add the right pieces; not just more late round draft picks. What I don’t want is to do nothing and also miss the playoffs which is entirely possible.

            @Greg: I am puzzled with this too. Is it because we have made such good progress or is it because the rest of the division is also in transition?

    • Kevin R

      Rather than make any moves with our core players I would like to see that stubborn GG move Tkachuk to RW with Monahan & Gaudreau & shift Bennett to LW with Frolik & Backlund & just see where the heck this goes. Bennett has a lot of things to his game I really like, he’s having a tough sophomore year, so what if he isn’t a Centre. The kid has a lot of offensive skills he just hasn’t had the confidence to show us let alone carry a couple of veterans & shine on a 3rd line. I just don’t see how this is going to make our 5v5 scoring any worse than what it is.

    • Greg

      It is quite a puzzle how the flames can be having such terrible seasons individually, and still have moved up in the standings. It’s only the 3M line and Hamilton that have outperformed expectations this year, virtually everyone else is well below.

      And yet here we are. 😉

  • Raffydog

    Please for the love of everything holy, trade Gaudreau. That contract will be the Flames Achilles heel for the next five years. There are hundreds of players in the NHL that can put up 35 points a year for far less money. Will we miss his offensive contributions? No. His turnovers and giveaways? No. His sulky attitude? Nope. At this point we may only get a 4th or 5th round pick for him, but if they can turn that into a guy that can only put up 30-35 points a year, but actually plays like he gives a damn, then make it happen.

      • everton fc

        Gio’s contract will be a millstone.

        So will Brouwer’s.

        I think Johnny will find stride again. But I bet the Devils would send Hall this way for Johnny Hockey, as part of a package… Not saying I’d approve… Rangers would also love him on LW w/Hayes on RW.

        But Johnny’s going nowhere.

    • ComeOn

      When the coach throws his offensive system to the side that stacks up five guys on their blueline and completely removes rush offense from the game…and Johnny continues to struggle, then I’ll agree. Till then I see a hard headed junior coach overasserting a system that eliminates rush offense and by association the potential of our most talented players.

      Watch some highlights and count how many goals come off the rush vs grinding in the o zone.

      Johnny isn’t the issue.

  • Lucky 13

    I doubt Treliving does anything but if he can add some more at the back end like a Brendan Smith ..plays left or right (Detroit) or maybe David Desharnais up front (centre) to compensate for Bennett and move Bennett to the wing then I could see him pulling the trigger on a trade.

    This may help us out without costing too much while giving us some time to address future issues… just a thought

  • It is disheartening to see the crash and bang style of hockey of late; and fans would love to see their original team that exhibited scoring excellence and discipline. Why on earth are we in dire need for a defensive player when we had a gem in our team – Kris Russell?

  • freethe flames

    So with Ottawa’s injuries what about Brouwer/Versteeg/Johnson or Elliot for Lazar and Conklin(let him have the reigns and try and earn a contract) and a pick.

    • everton fc

      Lazar may never be much more than Shinkaruk. I think that’s too much. Brouwer’s salary would be nice to dump. What would Ottawa prefer to dump back this way? That’s gotta be part of this discussion.

  • freethe flames

    The discussion about Johnny is worth having. I like Johnny and would be reluctant to trade him but if the right deal came along you would have to consider it. Does the style of play that BT and GG are planning for fit his game? If the answer is no then the question is how do you deal him? I don’t have an answer but it a question that has to be asked.

  • I’d be very wary of trading Bennett at this stage, even for Trouba straight up. At 20 he still has loads of time to turn it around and figure it out.

    Not a perfect comparison by any means, but consider that in his 20-year old season even Iginla only posted 32 pts (13 g 19 a). Sammy’s on pace for 28 pts (14 g 14 a) in spite of his struggles this season.

    I do hope a couple of moves are made, but nothing involving the kid

  • T&A4Flames

    CGY and FLA have trade history. I think inquiring about Nick Bjugstad is worth a look. He’s having a really bad year but he’s still quite young, big and is a right shot. He could come at a relative bargain and could be a prime candidate to rebound by next season.

    • freethe flames

      At this point the Panthers are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, not sure they are going to sellers of Bjugstad even if he is having a bad year. But as a target he is a least a legitimate one although his salary is high if he struggles.

  • everton fc

    If the organization lets Ferland go via expansion (or trade, for that matter) they are incompetent. He’s our toughest player, he has playmaking ability, he plays smart, physical… Good on both ends of the ice… Why would you give that away – and he’s still a kid?

    I think you expose Brouwer and protect Kulak, along w/Brodie, Gio and Hamilton. Protect Backlund, Monahan, Gaudreau, Bennett, Frolik and Ferland w/these four defenders, see if Versteeg signs after the draft (I like his game, but he’s replaceable)…

    How hard is this?!

    As for Bjugstad… What’s the cap hit? If you can get him, then you leave Kulak unprotected, or trade him. But you still protect Ferland. Bjugstad and Bennett might make nice linemates (Bennett on LW, of course).

    Same with Silfverberg. If you can get him, you still expose Brouwer and keep Ferland (or trade Brouwer).