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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiari / USA Today Sports

Thoughts about Garnet Hathaway’s new contract

One of the B-plots for the 2016-17 season was the rise of Garnet Hathaway as the new and shiny core depth player. An undrafted college surprise, Hathaway became an AHL favourite for his energetic playing style and earned a contract with the Flames two years ago.

The team kicked tires on him briefly in the dying sunlight of the 2015-16 season, but he really didn’t become a player of interest until this season, where his presence in the lineup correlated with the team going 18-7-1. He was a pest, an energy guy, and a kid with decent offensive handles. It was hard for many not to love him.

Count the management of the Calgary Flames among that group. Hathaway is found money. Groomed in the AHL since 2013-14, he is proof positive that their development system works. If they can take an Ivy League nobody and put him in the NHL in just under three seasons, it must be going great.

Why not?

Perhaps his possession numbers weren’t good, but how much does that matter for an eight minute a night guy? You’re likely to have a handful of players who aren’t going to be great possession guys in the cap era.

Why?

Well there’s that entire thing about Hathaway not being very good. Let’s run a quick comparison:

CF% CFrel% xGF% xGFrel% OZS%
Lance Bouma 46.55% -5.21% 45.87% -2.88% 20.31%
Garnet Hathaway 44.33% -5.81% 45.30% -2.85% 20.00%

By most measures, Hathaway is a lateral move on Lance Bouma, the player he is most likely going to replace. Sure, you save cap space by swapping the two out, but the better option is to have neither of them. Replacing Bouma with right-handed Bouma (if you browse through our archives, you find that the two share a lot of buzzwords!) is not a good use of the space.

And space is important right now because the Flames have about none of it. Here’s a Simpsons reference we are obligated to make:

Great clip. Now, let’s loosely use that as a metaphor for the Calgary Flames:

This is an article for later, but without getting too much into the specifics, the Flames have nine players under contract next year, four RFAs that need qualifying (and there’s really only a case to not qualify one – Alex Chiasson – although there’s a much stronger case to qualify him [and they probably will anyways]), and one UFA (that they’re probably going to re-sign). That’s 14 forwards. That’s all the forwards you need.

There is no door in that scenario as it stands, but the Flames are likely going to make one. The likely thing to happen is that Las Vegas selects a forward from the Flames (if they select a defenceman, uh oh) and they might bury Bouma. Perhaps there’s a trade or two. They could also somehow add to this group, but I definitely feel that they’re going to find some way to make some space. Boom, there’s your door.

The diseases coming through the door (apologies to the prospects: they are not juvenile diabetes or influenza, but good hockey lads) are Mark Jankowski, Hunter Shinkaruk, Morgan Klimchuk, Emile Poirier, Daniel Pribyl, to a lesser extent, Andrew Mangiapane and Ryan Lomberg, and to an even lesser extent, Hunter Smith and Austin Carroll. There are seven expiring contracts there and two who are at least in the conversation for an NHL spot. There’s your door jammed with diseases (again, apologies).

Oh wait, one more: Garnet Hathaway. If the team qualifies and signs him, he is also jamming that door.

And like the doctor warns, this is not an ideal situation despite the appearance. Sure there’s stiff competition between many good prospects, but there’s also the major risk that you stunt growth and make those prospects on expiring contracts either less likely to want to re-sign with the team or less likely to actually become NHLers. There’s more harm than good being done at this point.

Perhaps I’m being a bit of a worrier, but you cannot help but be concerned here. The Flames turned to Hathaway whenever a forward went down. His rise to prominence was mostly due to the fact that Johnny Gaudreau was out of the lineup. The team probably doesn’t buy into superstitious mumbo-jumbo about their record when he’s in the lineup, but at the very least, they trust him as a regular.

Although he is waiver eligible, you feel that Hathaway can successfully argue for an NHL spot next year, or at least a one-way contract. By usage, he can argue that he’s earned the trust of the coaching staff more than any other prospect did, and thus should be first in line. And come training camp, it’s likely that he will be first in line. He’s got the experience, the right hand, the grit, and potential (0.65 PPG in the AHL and five in the NHL). It would be surprising if he didn’t make the team out of camp.

That’s a bit of a problem because that’s a spot for a prospect who will likely be better and more important to the team two years from now. Give them some playing time! It shouldn’t have started in the first place, but the Flames really need to be done with the entire truculence for the sake of truculence phase of the rebuild. They’ve made a grit move every year under Brad Treliving (Bollig, Engelland 2014; Bouma extension 2015; Brouwer 2016) and it has paid off about zero times. It hurts the on-ice team and it hurts the pipeline. Be done with it.

So do what?

So perhaps it’s best to move on. If the team doesn’t recognize that players like Hathaway are routinely the ones who are causing the problems, they’re not going to be true contenders for a long time.

Hathaway is an interesting trade piece. He’s cheap, ticks the aforementioned boxes, waiver exempt, and expansion exempt. Definitely not someone teams are tripping over themselves for, but he could function as a handy sweetener in a trade deal. I mentioned Brandon Bollig earlier.

If that doesn’t happen, the team should just let him walk. The team is in a very cautious moment right now where they have to pay attention to both their present and their future. Hathaway makes neither better.

  • everton fc

    Chiasson should be our 4th line RW. We can upgrade our 3rd line RW, or move Ferland down there and sign a proven 1st/2nd line RW to play w/Gaudreau and Monahan, though I still say go w/Ferland and you will see massive results from that line, next season.

    An ideal 4th line here would include Jankowski and Chiasson, (and dumping Brouwer!) Or, you slot an unproven Jankowski as 3rd line center, w/Bennett on his LW, and Versteeg on his right, and find a LW to play w/Stajan and Chiasson (take your pick of Bouma/Freddie/Shinkaruk/Lomberg/Hathaway/Klimchuk). I think we’ll do very little juggling of forwards. I think we’ll do more juggling in goal and on defence.

    I like Hathaway. But I “get” this and the other posts against re-signing him. Still, I think he has more to offer, if given more regular shifts.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Hathaway was brought up to play minimal minutes as opposed to a legit prospect the org wanted playing large minutes. No sense of Janko 9 minutes a night.

    BT may surprise us all. Think of last year when he hardly qualified any RFA’s. I can see “bringing up the farm” this year and surprising everyone. Bouma is buried in Stockton given his expiring contract. Vegas is incentivized to take Brouwer and we end up with something like this:

    Johnny/Monny/Ferland
    Frolik/Backlund/Lazar
    Tkachuk/Bennett/Versteeg
    Stajan/Jankowski/Chiasson
    Extras – Klimchuk or Shinkaruk (whomever makes the team out of those two), Hamilton

    Gio/Hamilton
    Brodie/Top 4 UFA or D trade (Vegas as broker?)
    Kulak/Stone
    Extra – Bartkoski

    Goalies – nobody knows….

  • L.Kolkind

    Treliving now has a history of going for grit and over valuing truculence, experience, heart and other intangibles. I’m not convinced extending Treliving was the right option. Look at Arizona and the amazing moves they made last year as well as drafting Keller. Chayka has implemented a solid mix of analytics and has not bought into the grit wins championships. I’m not sure if it’s Burke or Treliving, but if Hathaway earns a spot that is above replacement over other prospects I will ve concerned.

    • BringtheFire

      I’d be inclined to agree, but the juxtaposition of smart moves like Hamilton and Frolik with poor moves like Troy and Bollig makes me think that the bad moves were Burke’s doing.

      I mean is it just me or is Burke, like, the poster boy for dumb old school hockey moves? Because I just don’t see how Tre could make those bad moves.

  • everton fc

    Bouma had 3 goals, 4 assists, and 7 points in 61 games.

    Hathaway had 1 goal, 4 assists and 5 points in 26 games.

    Makes Bouma look really bad, no matter the “underlying analytics”.

    There’s no mention of “what-to-do” w/Freddie. ???

  • class1div1

    Due Diligence would result in management having a fairly good evaluation of there assets. If the assets don’t spend any time with the big club it has a negative effect on there value. Calgary has done a poor job supporting the development of prospects,IMO. A few of them will likely get moved this summer, without a fair evaluation.
    Modern NHL coaches are so paranoid of losing as well, which compounds the problem of ice time for prospects.

  • Cheeky

    Im hoping this is the year we get rid of the hangers on. Now I like both Freddie and Hathaway and think they would make 2/3 of a good 4th line but then we need to get rid of Stajan and Bouma to make that happen. If thats not possible then why string these guys along. Teams need guys like Hathaway, like Ferly (without the silky hands) willing to add rough with energy but not just a goon (ala Bollig).