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.
— Travis Lentz (@LentzTravis) May 26, 2017
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.
— Sheldon Smith (@sheldons465) May 26, 2017
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):
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:
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.
— L D (@ltdesroches) May 26, 2017
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.
@FlamesNation is ferland the answer on the top line. Or should we get a legit first line winger?
— Rod Thick (@karasu8989) May 27, 2017
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 (@nhlflamesfan) May 26, 2017
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.