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FlamesNation Mailbag: May 29, 2017

We’re only weeks away from the expansion draft and just under a month away from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Calgary is easily one of many teams with significant question marks in terms of what they do at the draft, decisions which may be significantly impacted by who is claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights.

General manager Brad Treliving has some of the heaviest work ahead of him this summer. This summer will by all accounts – whether you buy into the hyperbole or not – be the true litmus test of what he can do. This draft has been well documented as being a weaker draft relative to years past, but it doesn’t mean you can’t capitalize in some respects.

The first and most obvious field of improvement is the second pairing. Really, if Brett Kulak is claimed it opens up the discussion of internal options. It’s expected that Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington, two exceptionally talented defensemen, take a run at solidifying an NHL role. Still, they’re young and the jump from the AHL to NHL isn’t always easy.

It’s still incredibly important to frame them like any other prospect in the organization or any team: a work in progress.

Guys like Radko Gudas – who I’m personally a big fan of – has had his name floated over the last few months. Sami Vatanen’s name was floated in Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts this weekend and so was Sam Bennett’s name. We’ve discussed at great length the rationale behind pursuing Cody Franson as a UFA, who might be the best bet via free agency.

There’s also been some off the record discussion that the Dallas Stars’ Patrik Nemeth is looking for a fresh start. If cheap, he could be worth exploring in some capacity.

Sam Bennett’s regular season was incredibly disappointing. So much so that it’s raised honest questions about his trajectory and whether or not he can become the viable top six centre he was touted to be. All that aside, Bennett did a fantastic job as the season went along on the Flames’ penalty kill.

I wrote about this five months ago as we started to see more usage out of him and the results were promising. They still are, as we have a full season’s worth of data to prove he deserves more usage (4v5 data via Corsica):

PLAYER TOI CA60 FA60 SA60 xGA60 GA60 xGA GA
Bennett 100.86 71.39 53.54 39.86 4.41 3.57 7.42 6
Chiasson 85.44 63.90 51.26 39.33 4.72 4.92 6.72 7
Stajan 143.77 99.74 74.7 52.58 6.39 7.93 15.32 19
Brouwer 111.55 85.52 66.7 48.41 4.9 4.84 9.1 9

Remember that Bennett and Chiasson were typically deployed on the fly so typically you’re going to see the opposition’s second power play unit or the PP trying to enter the zone on the rush/to set up. As you can see, both Bennett and Chiasson were pretty fantastic in their usage. Stajan and Brouwer did see their share of struggles adapting to Jerrard’s system so it makes sense moving forward to see Bennett take more 4v5 time away from them.

Even when we account for deployment, it still proves at this point that Bennett deserves to take on the PK2 role more than ever:

PLAYER OZS DZS NZS OTF OZS% DZS% NZS%
Bennett 8 25 18 134 7.22% 76.29% 16.49%
Chiasson 5 20 13 143 13.16% 52.63% 34.21%
Stajan 8 96 23 148 6.3% 75.59% 18.11%
Brouwer 7 74 16 123 7.22% 76.29% 16.49%

Maximizing any avenue of player development should be explored with Bennett. Gulutzan and Jerrard’s trust in him grew throughout the season as he essentially took Sean Monahan’s role on the penalty kill. It might help if there are any confidence issues he has and it might help facilitate growth in ways some may not expect.

I can’t speak for my peers here at FlamesNation, but I can say we’ll likely go in depth this summer. That said, I’m pretty impressed with what Gulutzan did after the team adapted to what he wanted to implement. Personal growth, systemic changes, and usage adjustments saw the Flames’ raw 5v5 CF% improve from 47.99% to 50.55%.

That’s a 2.56% improvement taking them from 22nd in the league to 10th. If you look at score, venue, and zone adjusted CF% the Flames went from 47.62% to 51.09%: again, an incredible improvement.

The team is improving and Gulutzan right now appears to be a good guy to facilitate this next era of Calgary Flames hockey. He has his warts – specifically player usage, like most coaches – but he’s also found ways to acknowledge and adapt. Another season with him and his coaching staff behind the bench is a good thing. Whether or not they can sort out of the penalty woes and the power play inconsistencies is still up in the air.

I’d give him a ‘B‘ though.

It’s a really hard question to answer because we’ve seen two extremes of Micheal Ferland. There was the 2015-16 Ferland whose shooting percentage at 5v5 was 2.73%, and the 2016-17 Ferland who finished with 13%. So somewhere in between is the real Ferland. What fans think Ferland can be and what Ferland is/may be could be two entirely different beasts.

There’s also an element of endowment effect at play with Ferland – much like many players in the eyes of fans – and it’s something that needs to be examined objectively. What we know about Ferland is this: at the very least he is a third line forward, which is good, and finding a cost-controlled third line to fill out the roster is a huge value add in this NHL.

Re-signing him helps, be it on the top line or down the lineup. Really though, the Flames should be looking to players with higher ceilings for roles best suited for them. Which is not to say Ferland isn’t inherently suited for the top line permanently, but so much an acknowledgement for maximizing the most out of your roster.

Jeff, my dear friend, there are a few logical scenarios. But at the same time – as you alluded to – the Flames don’t have second (Curtis Lazar deal) or third (Michael Stone deal) round picks. The optics of moving the pick in a deal might be perceived negatively, especially if they aren’t picking again until the fourth round. It’s not like acquiring Dougie Hamilton when the team had picks that were used.

It’s possible that there could be opportunities to trade down and recoup picks they gave up in the aforementioned deals, which might make it more palatable for potential trades to occur.

Really though, if there is a deal that you can’t walk away from that will make the team better then you should do it. Acquiring a right wing or a defenseman would be two deals worth giving long, hard looks at if presented.

  • Rudy27

    I still like Bennett regardless of his up and down season. Much like defense, there is a longer learning curve to be an effective Center in the NHL. And considering he pretty much lost a year of development due to the shoulder surgery, I still believe he can be our top Center in the future (closer to a Getzlaf or Towes type Center than Monahan will ever be). He has good skills and the toughness and edge you need in this division.

  • DKramer

    Bennett to me reminds me of Galchenyuk in Montreal. Just the part where he was always shifting from the middle to the wing and there was always rumours of him being dealt. And the media constantly asked about whether he would bust or not. But now he’s a legitimate top 6 centre in the league. Some guys with tons of skill just take longer to adapt. I’d hate to see the Flames give up on him two years into his pro career. I love his heart and tenacity. Really hoping instead of trading him we can find suitable line mates for him. Would love nothing more than a breakout season from him next season

    • Nick24

      See, the difference with Galchenyuk is that he’s almost always been very productive as a centerman, but still got shafted by the coaching staff. Bennett, hasn’t been nearly as good in his time as a center or winger, and its not because of lack of opportunity.

          • King Quong

            Your right he’s not a number 1 or 2 centre in the league… Yet he’s basically still a rookie not many players as young as him could carry Troy Brouwer as a rookie centre and put up points. Bennett is struggling now with low confidence and that’s clearly having a negative impact on his development. He’s over thinking the game and not playing how he can be most effective and I think the cause of that is him not gelling with his linemates while trying to learn the game at centre which is a hard position which isn’t as natural to him as many people would think. He played a large portion of his time on Kingston on Lw and before junior he played wing as well because he was on a line with Connor Mcdavid who obviously plays centre. So give the kid some slack.

    • Soupy19

      I understand your point about Bennett. But I don’t think Galchenyuk is a good comparable. Claude Julien was questioning whether he could be a centre in this league at his year end press conference. Or maybe I should say that I hope Galchenyuk is not a good comparable. Despite his struggles, I think Bennett did a lot of growing this year and (I hope) he takes a huge step forward next year.

      • country mac

        Galchenyuk is a generous comparable, right now nothing points to bennett being more than a 40 point player. If he can produce at Galchenyuk levels regardless of position, that would be huge news for the Flames. Hell if he ever hits 40 in his career, call it a win.

        • King Quong

          Bennett easily has the potential to be the best player on the team, I also am pretty certain he will end up Being captain of a team one day.. I just hope the flames give him the chance he deserves and he doesn’t end up being a great player for another franchise.

    • country mac

      but now he’s a legit top 6 forward in the league? There were 217 forwards that produced more than him. And as a top 6 that is what you are measured on. That means on average he is the 8th forward on all teams.

  • everton fc

    I like Bennett. He’ll be fine here. I also like Ferland w/Gaudreau and Monahan – don’t forget, he helped them, as well. But, if we miraculously obtain a true first/second line RW, a line of Versteeg/Bennett/Ferland would produce points. I bet a line of Bennett/Jankowski/Ferland would do the same. So would a line of Bennett/Jankowski/Versteeg, if they Ferland w/Gaudreau and Monahan. The latter scenario may be how things pan out, if we have to keep Brouwer around.

    As for Nemeth, if we’re dealing w/the Stars, he seems another Jokipaaka, in terms of career-ceiling. I’d rather have Roussel here in Calgary. I also like Gudas – way more-so than Franson, who I hope we don’t sign. Kylington needs another year in the AHL. And if we sign Stone, he may be partnered w/Kulak, or our 5/6 is Kulak/Andersson. If we can get Gudas (I think we’re all dreaming here), then you’d have to put him w/Brodie, would you not? He averaged 19mins/game, last season. Is he an upgrade to Stone??

  • deantheraven

    It would be super swell if the Flames could dump some dead weight for picks. Bouma, Brouwer, Bartkowski, maybe even Stajan for any combination of picks (seriously, ANY combination) would give the scouting staff something to work with. That’d be my wish for how Treliving reboots this draft. Then fill in the roster from within. Lots of guys should be getting looks this year.

  • sathome

    I like the idea of potentially moving down in the draft. If they can identify a tier of similarly talented prospects in the range of their 1st round pick, try to trade down to the end of that tier and recoup a 3rd or even a 2nd round pick.

  • everton fc

    And one of my late round sleepers – Jeffrey Truchon-Viel from Acadie-Bathurst.

    “Second year eligible winger with decent size and girth. Plays with an edge and is always a handful to play against. Fearless in traffic. One of the top skilled players in the Q. A difficult player to line up against, and he makes sure you know it.”

    —Bill Placzek—

  • DKramer

    I understand players like Bouma and Stajan carry significant salaries. Teams won’t want to give up anything for them with what they cost. But if the Flames plan to replace them with kids from the farm then would they retain salary to move these guys. A team may not want bouma because he’s an expensive 4th liner. But if you take back 50% of his salary then maybe a team would like a player like him with a cap of 1.1 million. Then you replace him with a player from the farm making until a million. Even if bouma at 1.1 only gets a fifth back would you rather have bouma on the 4th line making 2.2 or a prospect on the team and getting that pick for what probably makes up just under that 2.2 ? Don’t know if I worded that the best way possible but I think the concept gets across.

    • Puckhead

      Bouma’s ship has sailed and he doesn’t add anything that cannot be replaced or improved upon by a prospect. If they can’t trade him I hope they don’t hold onto him hoping that he can be moved at the trade deadline. Send him to Stockton and give a prospect with a future a chance.

      I think Stajan could be moved for a pick but not until closer to the trade deadline

  • freethe flames

    I see Bennett trending a lot like Backlund did early in his career(not being everything we want from him but developing into a player) and if he could somehow be Backlund with his own snarl I would be okay with that. That also is how I see how Janko is going to develop as well.(Which is why I advocate him playing LW with Backs/Frolik to start the year) If somehow we have Monahan as a scoring center and 3 Backs like centers in two years I could live with that. Upfront I believe we have young players(Janko/Klimchuk/Shinakruk/Hathaway/Mangiapane/Lazar) who are knocking at the door and they need to kick the door down and force management to replace the $10m line. Hopefully one of Stajan/Brouwer gets claimed by LV but unlikely and then bury Bouma in the AHL; maybe he gets claimed off of waivers when he is sent down.