Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Flames are a team of half measures

“The moral of the story is, I chose a half measure when I should have gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again. No more half measures, Walter.”

Let’s review Brad Treliving’s recent trades.

  • Traded a third round pick and a conditional fifth (based on a re-signing) for Michael Stone.
  • Traded Jyrki Jokipakka and a second round pick for Curtis Lazar and Mike Kostka.
  • Traded Chad Johnson, Brandon Hickey, and a conditional third round pick (that becomes a second upon reaching the playoffs) for Mike Smith.

These trades have a couple of things in common: they were all deadline deals, and they were all half measures.

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Committed, but not really

A half measure is when you recognize you have to do something, so you do just that: something. You make a move. It may seem like it makes a difference, and technically it does because, well, things are different now. But they aren’t really.

You need to upgrade your defence? Here’s Stone. He’s not particularly good, but he’s not Dennis Wideman, and that’s all that matters.

You see an opening for a young player you value highly? Here’s a second round pick for him. The player maybe has the ceiling of that of a third liner, but he’s better right now than whoever else you may have spent that pick on, and that’s all that matters.

You need to get a new goalie? Here’s Smith. There’s very little reason to believe he’ll be better than Brian Elliott, but he hasn’t had a meltdown for you in the playoffs, and that’s all that matters.

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These are cosmetic changes. Just because Stone isn’t Wideman doesn’t mean he’s suddenly a capable top four defender. Just because Lazar is untested as a Flame doesn’t mean the 180 NHL games of evidence we have are irrelevant. Just because Smith isn’t Elliott doesn’t mean going for yet another stopgap will solve things this time.

Stone, Lazar, and Smith weren’t part of the Flames a couple of months ago. Can you convincingly say the Flames became better upon acquiring them?

Assets still spent

Here’s the thing with essentially running in place: if you’re doing it by swapping out one name for another, it’s still costing you something.

In this case, draft picks.

Jokipakka, Johnson, and Hickey are all irrelevant: none of them were expected to stick around, so none of them have particularly high value. But that’s now a second and a third from this year’s draft gone, and probably a second from next year’s, too. The Flames have one pick in the top 100 this year, and who knows how many they’ll end up with for next year’s draft.

It doesn’t matter that a draft may be dubbed a weak one, it doesn’t matter that the Flames have a much better looking prospect pool than they did in years past. It matters because those picks are assets that can be spent on a variety of things. Scott Darling’s rights cost a third rounder; the Flames felt their third rounder was best spent on Stone. Who knows what the going rate for someone like Antti Raanta was, but if a second round pick could have been a part of it, that option is gone because the Flames felt their second rounder was best spent on Lazar. Once they made those trades, they neutralized their options, and the trades weren’t particularly meaningful to begin with.

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The pick that would have cost the Flames to keep Elliott was a 2018 third rounder – exactly what Smith was traded for, unless the Flames make the playoffs, in which case, he’s more expensive. Smith has never come close to touching Elliott’s career highs, even when he was starting fewer games, but suddenly, he’s worth more.

All the while, nothing has actually changed, and the Flames keep losing picks for it.

Gotta give to get

The Dougie Hamilton trade was a unicorn. You are probably not going to get a young top defender for a handful of picks ever again. In most cases, trying to upgrade your roster is actually going to cost you something.

Brad Treliving appears to be attempting to sidestep that by trading a handful of decent picks for lateral moves. And who knows – maybe, at some point, one of them will actually pay off.

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Let’s be fair: the Flames were handcuffed by the expansion draft in who they could acquire to bolster their backend. They couldn’t make a truly meaningful acquisition, so they kind of half-assed it instead.

And maybe the Flames were looking at Raanta, but got scared by his price tag. In which case, well – yeah, Raanta has a higher upside, of course he would cost more. But the reward is much greater: you’ve got a goalie for years.

Instead, the Flames have likely traded a superior pick for yet another stopgap option in the hopes that one of Jon Gillies, David Rittich, or Tyler Parsons will be ready within two seasons. That’s the part where taking a half measure isn’t necessarily so bad: that’s a huge show of faith in their prospects.

And if it backfires, it will be spectacular, and a window may have been wasted.

  • Derzie

    It may work, it may not. The optics of what has been given up to get a goalie at the end of the road is a problem. Smith stinks? There goes a 3rd. He does OK? There goes a 2nd. Either way, next year we are looking for another stopgap. Gilles & Rittich, and certainly Parsons, will need more than a year to be ready.

    • VoRaCS

      I’m not convinced that years of seasoning is always the best approach for young players. Perhaps goalies more so than other position players, but there are definitely some young goalies having great success right now.

      • McRib

        Yeah, Jon Gillies is at most a year away from entering his prime at 24 and as Rob Voleman has pointed out most elite netminders actually hit peak a year earlier than players at 23 (if not the setback of missing a year Gillies would be NHL ready right now). Tyler Parsons is at most two or three years away and you realistically have to give Gillies (and Ritich) a chance before then as well. So really all we need out of Mike Smith is two years of 40-50+ GP a year at a 0.914 Save Petcentage (which he has done three of last four years, Arizona was a tire fire in 2014-2015. He can’t be blamed for that).

        Worth mentioning, the only year in his NHL Career Mike Smith has played on a legit playoff caliber team back in 2011-2012, he had a 0.930 Save a percentage.

  • Alberta Ice

    I’m looking forward to this new upcoming NHL Southern Alberta movie: “Mr. Smith Goes to Calgary.” Some excellent drama ahead. May it become a Stanley Academy Award Cup winner like a very recent Northern Alberta movie: “Mr. Schultz Goes to Pittsburgh.” (No kidding, Sid.)


      Hmmm Oilers swept the Flamers last year and won 3 of the four games against Coyotes, you just traded for a 35 year old goalie, that is on his last legs. Yes, the Flames beat up the Oilers in the past(just like we beat the Flames up many times). The past is the past and present day is not looking good for Cow town. McDavid and Draisaitl are only getting stronger and bigger and i couldn’t be happier.

  • Just.Visiting

    The more I think about this, the more I ‘m comfortable with it. We’ve given ourselves what should be solid goaltending at a time when we’re putting the other pieces in place to be a serious contender. As well, Smith is a competitor, so the ability to play in a Cdn hockey market for the first time in his career should have him pumped. He also has the opportunity to mentor his successor, assuming the Flames try to bring one of the Stockton players along in the backup role, versus go down the serviceable veteran path on a backup. I like this a lot more than creating a big hole to go and roll the dice on someone who could be as easily a big bust instead of a Talbot or Martin Jones. Of course, I suppose Brad could have tried much harder to try to get Price from Montreal for Brouwer, Stajan, Bouma, the rights to Wotherspoon and Mason MacDonald.

  • hulkingloooooob

    There was something of the Hartley era flames I missed this last year and it has to do with Johnny and Sean catching the opposition on their heels. I think having a reliably good puck moving goalie could bring some of that back.

  • Sol Goode

    I wish people would stop giving credit to Elliott for his great seasons with St Louis. I think if Mike Smith got to play in front of that defense, his numbers would be equal or better. I have seen Smith win games by himself, something I have not seen Elliott do.

  • Theo4HoF

    So whats a full measure, trading for Carey Price, Drew Doughty etc. All the available goalies right now would be a gamble. A legit top four D-man will cost you an arm and a leg. People over value picks, if the flames had mostly older players than I’d be more concerned about trading picks away. Smith was the only bright spot in Arizona last year. I like all those half measure trades.

  • pennerm

    There seems to be an assumption by some people that draft picks are an I Strinds ic good. “Assets” in hockey – particularly in the form of draft picks – are not like gold or money in the bank. They have no determinate value and require timing a good dose of luck to cash out. And they mean nothing if you don’t use them.

  • jonahgo

    i don’t see the point of including michael stone in this mix. it’s pretty clear that tre had the expansion draft in mind when making that deal, i.e. it didn’t make sense to go for a costly/high quality dman, when he’d have to expose him this summer.

  • BringtheFire

    This article is wrong.

    Treliving made the best moves he could, because he didn’t have any defenceman to move, and that’s what everyone wants. In all trades-particularly the goaltenders-Tre made the best deals with the situation he was in.

    You act like Tre could have just gone out and “done better” based on what your opinion of the trades is, regardless that it’s totally OPINION, until these players prove themselves or fail.

    Which is what this article is. A fail. You can’t just pluck good deals off the good deal tree, Ari. You’re the worst example of an armchair GM.

  • cberg

    Ari, you’re getting the hang of this. Headline an absurd/controversial statement in direct contradiction to your main point last week, weakly support it with some vague notions and wait for the comments to roll in refuting/agreeing with the current thought-de-jour….