FN Mailbag – February 27, 2017


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Mailbag

After a disappointing January and a tentative start to February, the Flames are getting hot at the right time. They’ve leaned heavily on one-goal wins and extra time to pile up the points recently, but at this point in the season and given where they are in the standings, none of that really matters. 

With their recent outburst, the Flames have now a better than 70% chance of making the postseason. That said, everything is likely to come down to the four games between Calgary and Los Angeles. The Kings are chasing the Flames for the final spot in the West, but Calgary has six-point bulge on Darryl Sutter’s club. The only reason that isn’t insurmountable is the Kings also have two games in hand.

If Calgary can at least split the series, they should be a shoe-in for the postseason. If the Kings can sweep the four games, however, things will likely be very tight. 

With just over a month left in the regular season, we’re setting up for a photo finish. Let’s see what Treliving can do at the deadline to the tip scales a bit more in Calgary’s favour. 

The question is less if the current tandem is “the answer” and more “is there a better bet on the market?” Brian Elliott had the best save percentage in the NHL last season and Chad Johnson was solidly above average. Which means it’s entirely possible to acquire ostensibly good goaltenders only to see them struggle.

This also means that both of Calgary’s guys are playing below their capabilities and, at some point, we can expect them to rebound. Of course, we’ve been saying that for awhile now…

Marc-Andre Fleury remains on the radar, although his age, lacklustre season and big contract all limit his value. At some point, the Penguins are going to get desperate to move their former #1, because his NMC means they would be forced to protect him and expose Matt Murray at the expansion draft. That would be bad. 

That also means the closer the expansion draft gets, the more desperate Pittsburgh will be to get rid of him. As a result, the trade deadline may not be the best time for a team like Calgary to trade for him.

It will depend on two things: how much salary Vegas needs to make the cap floor and how much Troy Brouwer’s league-wide reputation takes a hit after this season. Vegas is likely to have their pick from bad contracts to build up their cap budget, but Brouwer’s deal is only of moderate expense and length compared to many other toxic assets around the league. That might make him more attractive. 

In addition, Brouwer is still the player who was roundly considered one of the better UFA forwards available last summer. We didn’t agree with that assessment at FN, but clearly, there were many around the league who disagreed. They may still be high on the player even after a down year. 

All that said, this is predicated on the idea that the Flames will have the gumption to expose Brouwer just one year after signing him to a relatively big deal. I’m not sure they’ll be willing to do that (but they should).

They are getting to that point now thanks to the Kings’ recent slide. With 19 games left, the Flames have a potential 38 points to gain. The Kings have 42 thanks to their games in hand. That means if the Flames go .500 in terms of points percentage (19), the Kings will have to manage a .600 rate to catch them. Their points % to date? .517.  

Based on their 0.56 points rate so far, the Flames are projected to finish with about 91 points. If that happens, the Kings need to get over 63% of the points remaining on the table to catch Calgary. etc. The gap is significant enough such that the Flames have a 74% chance of making the playoffs whereas the Kings are down to about 46%. 

Beyond all that, Jonathan Quick (or Ben Bishop) isn’t necessarily going to give the Kings a big lift when he arrives. So far this season, Peter Budaj has a SV% of .917. Quick’s career average save percentage is .916 and his last seasons he has finished at .918, .918 and .915. As for Bishop, he’s an .919 career goalie, but has cruised along at just .911 this year.

Neither. But if I was forced to choose, I’d go with Ben Bishop because he’s a couple of years younger. 

Frankly, I’d almost never give that kind of contract to a goalie. Aside from the truly elite guys like Henrik Lundqvist or Carey Price, GMs should always avoid committing big, long-term dollars to puck stoppers. 

Personally, I’d target a forward with speed over grit if I was Treliving. Not only the Flames are one of the most penalized teams in the league already, but the biggest weakness I see in the club’s game these days is foot speed. 

Anyways, assuming the Flames stick to the size/edge thing, there are a few options on the market. Brian Boyle out of Tampa is the most obvious choice. He’s huge at 6’7″, 245 pounds and a decent bottom rotation center, though the asking price on him may be high. Tampa may also put Alex Killorn on auction block since he’s unlikely to be protected in the upcoming expansion draft anyways. 

The Canes’ Viktor Stalberg is also a “big body” at 6’3″ and 210 pounds and he’s also a capable bottom six player. A couple of Canucks might also be in consideration: Jannik Hansen (who is more fast than big, but also fairly tenacious) and, of course, Alex Burrows (who at 35 is probably well past his best before date).  

An excellent question. With the advent of tools and data that allows us to parse players according to scoring and shot impacts, it gives us an opportunity to judge guys by their aggregate strengths and weaknesses. For example, here’s Daniel Winnik’s Hero chart:

Story 1-34

Here we see that Winnik isn’t a great offensive player. He scores goals at a fourth line rate and is a middle rotation forward in terms of primary points at even strength at best. However, we can also see he’s well above average at suppressing shots and has better overall shot impact. 

So if your team needs a strong defensive shot suppression forward (and not so much a goal scorer) Winnik is a good target as third or fourth line winger. 

Let’s compare him to a guy like Shawn Thornton, who is well known as a role player:

Story 1-35

Similarly, Thornton’s biggest asset is shot suppression, but he’s much, much worse at everything else. In fact, Thornton’s various, pronounced weaknesses at this stage in his career work to overcome his lone era of strength. 

Identifying guys who are good possession players but mediocre offensive players is a good way to get fringe players with value. As you can see from the Thornton chart there are depth players in the league who are bad at just about everything. If you have guys who are at least reliable at driving play in the bottom six, it can help the top end of the rotation immensely.

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  • The GREAT WW

    Re Brouwer: see how this season plays out.

    If he still sucks after the playoffs(?) expose him in the expansion draft.

    If he is not picked up by Vegas; work out a trade with another team and give Brouwer his options: accept a trade or go through waivers to the minors….

    WW

  • ClayBort

    Another consideration with exposing Brouwer is the term of his contract. I’m not sure Brouwer will be the answer, but Las Vegas will need AAV on the books for longer than 2 years. Teams have been smart and have or are trying to protect their best assets, so I wouldn’t expect Las Vegas to be very good.

    With that said, Las Vegas has to meet a cap minimum that is lower than the floor other teams are subject to in year 1. This is where the talking heads thought process appears to end. A real issue Vegas will face is they will have to meet the real cap floor in their 2nd season. If the team is lackluster in year 1, it could prove difficult to attract free agents to Las Vegas, and the team won’t really have any players rolling off ELCs into more expensive 2nd deals. This means they should draft a few players with term. This provides hopes to the likes of a Brouwer claim, Gaborik in LA, etc.

  • The GREAT WW

    See how this season plays out with Brouwer.

    If at the end he still sucks; expose him in the expansion draft.

    If Vegas does not pick him work out a trade with another team and explain the options to Brouwer; accept the trade or go through waivers on your way to the minors/ picked up by another team….

    WW

  • Denscafon

    Kinda surprised no one asked about Duchene? Craig button mentioned it a few days ago and said the asking price would have to start at Bennett. Though I doubt flames will want to make such a big trade within the div. Thoughts?

    • ClayBort

      Avs and Flames aren’t in the same division. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Flames take a run at Landeskog or Duchene. They meet the ‘age appropriate’ mandate. The team is performing from an CF% standpoint but needs more skill to start driving scoring chances and become a contender. The Flames are also one of the few teams with the assets to make this type of trade work.

      • Sanintarious

        IF the Flames look at Duchene, the conversation starts with Bennett. While this makes the Flames better right now….do you want to give up Bennett so soon?

        Monahan, Duchesse, Backlund as a top 3 is REALLY good, but man I’d hate to give up on Bennett…..

        • everton fc

          Keep Bennett. The Avs want a young goaltender… And young prospects on defence. And a team’s first, at the very least

          You’d be talking Gillies (or Rittich), Kulak, Andersson or Kylington (or two of the three) and our first. They may want more.

          Some team will ante-up. Won’t be the Flames – I can’t see it. And I like Bennett. He’ll be fine. Can you imagine Bennett w/Versteeg and another “fleet”, playmaking wing?? Brouwer’s not that player these days…

          (Personally, I wonder how Versteeg-Bennett-Hathaway would perform? Or even Hamilton. Not ideal… But…)

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        Price on Landeskog is supposed to be cheaper. I’d go there and trust Bennett will be the center this team needs if not now, in the near future. Landeskog also fits the age range nicely

        Flames 1st + Brouwer + Kylington for Landeskog

        I know we all love Kylington, but we are deeper on the left side on the Farm and in the system on D. Rasmus has also been steadier down there this year according to Huska. Gotta give to get. Brouwer makes the cap work.

        Johnny/Monny/Ferly

        Chuck/Backs/Frolik

        Landeskog/Bennett/Versteeg

        Bouma/Stajan/Chiasson

        • everton fc

          We won’t get Landeskog for our first, Brouwer (too old) and Kylington (Andersson is probably closer to the NHL, and Kulak should be in the NHL).

          I think it’d take our fist, perhaps Kulak or one of the two young goalies (Rittich or Gillies) maybe a player like Bouma… Might get this done.

          • Bean-counting cowboy

            I’d actually be happier with your deal than mine! More upside to Kylington than Kulak.

            The thing that brings the price down on Landeskog is his cap hit.

          • everton fc

            I’d hold onto Kulak. I think he’s a potential top-4 defender. I may be wrong… But he seems very mature, especially composing himself when he makes the odd mistake.

            His 5.75. cap hit until he’s 28/29 is not too bad, all things considered. Can you imagine him on Bennett’s LW?

            If we could dump Brouwer’s contract…

            Then again, next year you lose Wideman, others. And I can’t see Bouma here next season.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          I would do that deal in a heartbeat but I am not sure Colorado would think it is enough. By all accounts, giving up a first rounder is not w big loss, Brouwer is not going to get any better, and Kyllington simply does not seem to possess the strong Hockey IQ to be atop 4. He seems to run the PP for Stockton and it is one of the worst.

          I would not do the deal if I had to give up Rasmus asI feel he is going to be a Giordano type player with huge upside.

          • everton fc

            Would they do the deal for Kulak, along w/the first?? I can’t see them wanting Brouwer. Perhaps Bouma could help them. Or a player like Hathaway, who I think will be a good player here, albeit 3rd/4th line minutes, might be worth tossing out there. They want a young goalie. We have two, in the “A” – who is worth more to us potentially, Kulak or Rittich/Gillies??

            Landeskog would be a nice player for us to have. But I’d be wary of moving Kulak, though we may lose him anyway, in the expansion draft.

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            Definately some tough decisions. I am open to moving any prospect in Stockton with the exception of Janko, Andersson, Mangiapne, Shink or Gillies. Brouwer is the exact type of player that gets left behind as the league gets quicker and more skilled. He has already confessed to slashing the quicker players on the hands to slow them down.

            I think there is still a role for Brouwer but he needs to bring more grit if his offense dries up. The Brouwers and Lucics of the league will struggle to keep up. Bouma is much younger and can keep up. I have not seen enough of Kulak to know if it would be a mistake to cut him loose.

            I do think that a player like Landeskog would excellerate our re-build….at the price.

        • everton fc

          Swap Roussel out of Dallas w/Bouma on the left side of our 4th line and that’s quite a lineup. Lower cap hit than Bouma, too – and scores double-digit goals consistently.

        • deantheraven

          A first and two pros? No way. Sure, Landeskog would look good anywhere but I can’t see 3-for-1 happening. 2 picks (like our 2nd this year and next) and a prospect playing pro (like a goalie or defenseman from Stockton) for Duchene and a pick would be better for both sides…

          Right, the idea was to get rid of Brouwer. So, then yeah, Brouwer + Stockton piece + 2017 1st= fair enough. Still would like a pick coming back in any deal with a lottery candidate like Colorado!

  • everton fc

    I like Killorn. The fact we wouldn’t be able to protect him is the challenge.

    How can they not protect Backlund, Monahan, Bennett, Gaudreau, Froklik… And, yes Ferland. Ferland is a better player than Brouwer right now, and is will be 25 when next season starts. Sort of a no brainer if your a GM, is it not?

      • everton fc

        Probably not. That’s the challenge.

        If we sign “speed” on the wing for the playoff push… It’d have to be a rental player who we could expose and possibly retain, if Vegas went for a different player. I myself hope they pass over Kulak – I think he’s a very good two-way defender.

        I thought we could only expose 6 forwards?? (I keep forgetting…)

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    If I’m not mistaken, it’s 7F and 3D OR 4F and 4D.

    So, Gio, Dougie, TJ, Johnny, Sean, Mickis, Fro, Chucky, Sammy, … Ferly I assume. That leaves Troy available.

      • everton fc

        I didn’t think he needed to be.

        So we protect Brouwer, or make a deal for a guy like Killorn (does he play wing, or simply centre?) and/or Landeskog. Would be exciting, hey?!

    • Nick24

      Matthew Tkachuk is ineligible for the expansion draft.

      Also, if a team chooses not to protect 3D and 7F the team can protect 8 skaters, not necessarily 4F and 4D.

      • Avalain

        This is exactly correct, but in practice there will be hardly any reason to protect 8 skaters in a configuration other than 4F and 4D. No one will ever choose 3D and 5F, 2D and 6F, or 1D and 7F when they could go with the other option. So that leaves either not protecting any D at all in order to protect one more forward, or protecting a 5th defenceman (who would be on the 3rd line) while exposing all but 3 forwards. If a GM has a team like this then they likely have a balancing issue with the roster.

  • The GREAT WW

    I wouldn’t be surprised if our lottery protected first was in play this year. BT has shown he is willing to trade a mid first round pick. For a guy like Duchene, Landeskog or even Domi…

    WW

  • The GREAT WW

    Colorado and Arizona are lottery teams again? Weren’t these same teams tanking 5 years ago? How long does it take to build a team by tanking? The Oilers 10 years the norm?

    WW

  • Miki

    Forget about Boyle he is picked by Leafs, i would pursue Landeskog because he would be cheaper over Duchen. Besides for now we have enough centers we need a winger.

  • Rexx

    I believe Landeskog would fit in our lineup better than Duchene.
    Someone hit the nail on the head earlier that a Landeskog / Bennett / Steeg line would be incredible – but I wouldn’t be too quick to send a fresh prospect like Kylington the other way.

    I’m sure Colorado will be fielding offers better than our 1st, Kulak and (insert prospect here). Teams in the East are hungry to break from the pack… and Sakic seems like the type of GM who would rather hold on to what he has until the off season rather than send a core player out for less than his vision.

    But yeah, I’d love to see him in Flames silks ?