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Photo Credit: Andy Camp/Adirondack Thunder

It literally does not matter that Stepan Falkovsky left

In an otherwise dull day yesterday, the big news (measured by social media/pageviews/comment section reaction) was 2016 seventh round pick Stepan Falkovsky.

In a day when the Flames’ biggest move was a depth NHL signing, somehow the biggest piece of news was someone else’s signing (Brad Treliving looked surprised that it was even brought up – Ryan agrees with this assessment).

It also induced a bit of rage, which seems very dramatic for such an unimportant piece of business. If we really need to have this conversation, here’s why it literally does not matter that the Flames did not even make a bona fide offer to Falkovsky.

He is probably never going to score 20 goals ever again

Much, perhaps 100%, is made of Falkovsky scoring 21 goals in the ECHL. A defenceman scoring 20 goals anywhere is a rarity, and if it’s in a pro league, then it’s even better. That’s kind of the reason for the uproar against this move: how could anyone let a 20 goal scoring defenceman go, much less a rookie in a pro league who just hit his second decade of existence?

Let’s look deeper. Sixteen of those 21 goals came during a 14-game stretch. Here’s what that looked like (from the ECHL website):

The first column is goals, but let’s look at that last column. That’s for shots on goal.

If you add it all together, he scored 16 goals on 53 shots, or 30.19 SH% (he finished the season at 16.94 SH%). That screams unsustainable. If you look at the rest of his season, when he scored five goals on 71 shots, you get 7.04 SH%.

That number feels more true of Falkovsky because his SH% in the OHL last season was 7.96%. Using that number, his goal total drops to 10, which is a much less significant number.

The true story of Falkovsky’s 20 goals is that he got extremely hot for 14 games. In the 30 games previous, he only had four goals on 47 shots (8.51 SH%). In the 10 games following, he had one goal on 24 shots (4.17 SH%). Falkovsky averaged 3.79 shots per game during the streak and 1.78 anytime else. Sometimes, you’re just feeling it.

It was an aberration. An exciting aberration, but an aberration nonetheless. I think we can all agree that he’s unlikely to ever score 20 again, but he still isn’t an offensive guru by any means. Even if we adjust his SH% to career levels, he’s a single digit goal guy. Even more concerning, only seven of those goals came at 5v5. Unless he’s on the powerplay (in the goal-friendly ECHL), he’s not scoring much.

Like we recently learned, shooting percentage is a thing that is always and often subject to random variance and doing business based off of that number is almost always going to end in heartache.

But what of his future?

But 21 goals is 21 goals. Doesn’t matter how he scored them. Given his young age (started the season 19 years old, turned 20 in December), what he did is probably very unique.

And that is true. Since the 2004-05 lockout, only four ECHL defenders who turned 20 before the end of the year have had similar seasons (within 10% of Falkovsky’s 0.59 PPG).

Similar feels like a stretch though. The four are Dominic D’Amour, Mackenzie Weegar, Jesse Graham, and Ben Chiarot. Of those four, Chiarot spent the most time in the ECHL, playing 24 games. It’s a bit wonky to claim players were comparable when all they had to do was have a cup of coffee in the ECHL for a few weeks.

The reason that these guys spent so little time there is because they split time between the ECHL and the AHL, which seems to indicate their quality relative to their ECHL peers. Falkovsky never got that. To be fair, Stockton was bursting at the seams with defenders, but Keegan Kanzig and Ryan Culkin got shots in the AHL before Falkovsky did.

Back to those four players. The only one who has found success in the NHL is Chiarot, who is the definition of a 6/7 defenceman. The only other guy to come close is Weegar, who had a brief cameo appearance with the Panthers this year, and is still very much on the fringes of the NHL. If he makes it, he’s likely to be a 6/7.

That seems to be an appropriate ceiling for Falkovsky. If his totals this year were an accurate representation of who he was, he’s still not likely to be much.

Where does he fit?

But there remains the very real fact that his future here was never going to be here. Brandon Kisker, Stockton Heat play-by-play man has the correct take here when he sums up Falkovsky:

He would fall behind Kylington, Andersson, perhaps one of Kulak/Wotherspoon, perhaps Adam Ollas Mattsson, Kayle Doetzel, and Josh Healey. Nevermind the UFAs and retreads AHL teams usually fill their roster with, that’s at least four guys who are already on the Stockton roster, three of them regulars last year. He just worked his way to the top of the ECHL food chain, and now he’s back at zero again stuck behind prospects with higher futures.

Even if you only count current Flames property, Falkovsky is far away from just being on the fringes of the NHL. He’s currently behind the six guys on NHL contracts, the two qualified RFAs in limbo, and the three (Kylington, Andersson, Healey) under contract in the AHL. If you want to widen the scope a bit more, you can look at unsigned guys like Adam Fox (and to a lesser extent, Ollas Mattsson), who pencil in ahead of Falkovsky. Even Juuso Valimaki, the first round pick this previous draft, is likely already slotted in ahead of Falkovsky. He’s pretty much the 15th defenceman considering the entire organization. Given that they didn’t qualify Riley Bruce, Ryan Culkin, and Kenney Morrison and traded away Keegan Kanzig and Brandon Hickey, that places him at dead last on the depth chart.

And if that is the case, why do you need to keep him around? Better question, why would Falkovsky want to stick around anyways? If we’re honest, he has a slim shot at the NHL already. Why would he willingly be on a team where he’s behind at least two blue chippers? If he ever wants to impress, he’s going to need the spotlight in a meaningful league. That was never going to happen in Calgary.

Asset management

However, his performance was enough to interest the LA Kings, who quickly snapped him up on an ELC yesterday. Could Brad Treliving have not at least recouped something for him instead of letting him leave?

The answer is no.

Let’s look at one of the other pieces of business the Flames did yesterday to prove this point. They sent 27-year-old goalie Tom McCollum packing back to Detroit for a conditional seventh round pick. Now, we don’t know what the conditions are on this pick, but if it’s anything like the conditions (NHL GP) on the trade for Freddie Hamilton two years ago, those conditions will likely not be met. Detroit will get McCollum for absolutely free.

That’s what just the slim promise of a seventh round pick can get you: a good AHL goalie and a good AHL forward. Press box fodder in the NHL. What do you expect an ECHL defenceman would ever get?

Just imagine being an opposing GM and receiving a call from Treliving. He’s concerned that he’s going to lose an ECHL defender who scored 20 goals as a rookie for absolutely nothing, and wants to know if you want to get first dibs before everyone else gets a chance.

In this scenario, you should probably say “no thanks” and hang up. Why bother? The asset is low value enough that he’ll be there on July 1, but not high value enough that it’ll be worth it to hand in anything for the privilege of getting your hands on him. If you lose out on any sort of sweepstakes, oh well, you really shouldn’t stake an ECHL defenceman as a key offseason acquisition (your franchise is doomed if this is the case).

Even if you were tempted to throw something in, it’s probably going to be that dreaded conditional seventh whose conditions have a less than 1% chance of being met. They would get him for free, one way or another.

But perhaps there’s another trade we’re overlooking that sets the parameters. Treliving was able to throw in fellow 6’7″ ECHLer Keegan Kanzig in for a trade that brought in two NHL assets. Kanzig, by most measures, was not Falkovsky. He’s older and certainly regarded as a less talented version of the Belorussian. How come Treliving could get something tangible for Kanzig while nothing for Falkovsky?

The answer is because Kanzig is a whole other case on his own. Sure, Treliving managed to dump Kanzig, but it was for the purpose of taking back nearly $2M in salary from Carolina and (likely) buying out a player for them. Carolina was done with Lack and Murphy and wanted to dump their salaries. The Flames gave them that opportunity, and used Kanzig as a throw-in piece. That was his maximum value: trade piece used in salary dump.

And it’s weird that asset management is even coming up regarding Falkovsky, considering there are actual asset management problems that plague the Treliving management team. Many more people are outraged over a 20-year-old seventh rounder leaving town than the Flames paying a second for someone who has been a 13th forward his entire career. To be fair, only one of those players has had 20 goals in a pro league.

Wrap it up

As ferocious as this post may occasionally sound, I don’t want to kick Falkovsky on his way out. I liked him from my viewings and I wouldn’t mind if he remained within the organization. He’s a good guy who can play some exciting hockey in lower leagues.

But really, keeping him was in the best interests of no one. The Flames already have a lot of defenders who either offer much more or have the potential to be much more than what Falkovsky is/will be. Losing him is of no consequence, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

    • HAL MacInnis

      I agree. Yeah, it was very interesting circumstances that put him on everyone’s radar, but… that’s why you follow through and see what the kid is really capable of. The question probably bothered Treliving because he was most likely already pissed off about letting Falkovsky go.

      • TheoForever

        Tre wasn’t happy when talking about Falk, I bet someone screwed up. It makes 0 sense to let the guy walk, absolutely none. Falk improved and being 7th rounder its the type of improvement you would have hoped for.
        With big low draft picks you want to see some signs of improvement because it is a long term approach with them. And since we have bunch of contract spots left, why wouldn’t they offer one to him?
        Perhaps, Falkovsky didn’t want to be the Flames system.

        • OYYC

          “It also induced a bit of rage, which seems very dramatic for such an unimportant piece of business.”

          After fumbling for words, Treliving said this: “We didn’t extend him in qualifying, so he’s a free agent.” That’s just a simple factual statement. He could have said that with a shrug, like no big deal. He could have used the word “decided” not to extend him.

          He had to know somebody was going to ask him about Falkovsky – the fact that he was visibly very pissed off says that this was far from an unimportant piece of business. I agree with you guys, he was visibly mad that he lost a player who should have been extended, and that somebody in the organization dropped the ball.

  • DangleSnipeCelly

    I just feel like if you’re taking a flyer on a big defenseman in the 7th round these are the types of numbers you would hope for… why even take that kind of player then? I would’ve like to have seen another year before I let him walk.

    • T&A4Flames

      Exactly. If you have no intentions of signing a player to an ELC if they show positive signs in their draft +1 year, then why bother using the pick? I agree with WW that someone messed up. What else would Falkovsky have to have done to get an ELC from the Flames?

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Absolutely agree. He absolutely exceeded any expectations of a 7 th rounder. Let’s not forget this was his 2 nd year in North America . We are quick to defend poor seasons BT some of our pros like Brouwer and Elliott as having to adjust to a new system , new coach, new teammates… How about new country, new language, and new customs for Falkovsky. Justifying that he scored most of his goals on the PP and in a 14 game span is convenient back pedalling.

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    Based on the article’s logic, why draft on the 6th and 7th round at all? Just say “pass.”
    Best case scenario is a guy with tools who shows some progress and is worth investing a few years in to see if he can grow and improve, to have a ceiling high enough to play.
    Falkovsky did that, I believe. If we’re waiting for 6-7 rounders to light up the AHL in their draft +1 year or we’ll let them loose, I don’t know why we draft in those rounds at all.

    • There is absolutely value in 6th and 7th round picks. The Flames have added some interesting players there in recent years (Mangiapane, Phillips, Tuulola, Joly, Ollas Mattsson).

      The only thing is that most of, almost all, of these guys are going to prove to be expendable. Sure, Falkovsky had an intriguing season, but he wasn’t going to solve any needs immediate or future (the Flames have three younger defenders in Kylington, Fox, and Valimaki who are already better than Falkovsky). Why do you need to offer an NHL contract to an ECHL/AHL tweener? There’s nothing lost there.

      • Legend of Weevil

        And they have built easily one of the best defence in the leagues, have a solid forward corps that’s mostly homegrown drafted talent and on top of that have an extremely solid prospect pool. I don’t see how you can look at this team and say that they have bad prospect management.

        As for signing Stone a day early, management obviously felt it was better to keep good relationships with NHL GMs than have a 5th

  • The GREAT WW

    You are a good soldier Christian; you have done an admirable job trying to put lipstick on this pig to try and save face for management.
    Unfortunately no one is buying it…..

    WW

    • Rockmorton65

      Wally, I know I ask you this every year. But…are you suuuurre you’re a Flames fan? You’ve gone full “Grumpy Smurf” the last year or two and it’s getting tough to tell.

      • Parallex

        Normally I agree with this assessment but this is one of times Walter’s blind squirrel has found a nut. This doesn’t make a great deal of sense and really sounds a lot like excuse making. Someone in the org made a mistake and they’re trying to save a bit of face by claiming it’s deliberate.

  • Puckhead

    If nothing changes, the Flames top 5 D are set for the next 3 years. On top of that, the team has loaded up on good D prospects. Looks like a potential log jam of talent in the making until players are traded or gradually phased out.

    If there was something there the Flames would have kept him. Something caused them to not sign him and we can only speculate what it was. No biggie.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      IMO…as great as it is locking down the top 5 D for 3 years comes with collateral damage in the form of players like Falkovsky asking to move on and Fox likely not signing. It forces Fox to do another 3 years at Harvard which will allow him to sign with any team at the conclusion. With the off chance that one of the 5D is traded, how do the convince Fox that he will jump the que.

  • McRib

    The Flames have some decent prospects at defence, there is no arguing that, but none have the same kind of “big man” upside as Falkovsky. If Falkovsky hits we’re talking about worse case Colton Parayko, best case Zdeno Chara. Yes the odds are against him that he will ever reach that kind of upside, but if he does (8-10% chance) this will haunt the Flames for a decade
    plus. Let’s not forget that Chara didn’t have a breakout year until 23-24. Parayko only had 0.41 PPG in the AHL at 21, something Falkovsky is more than capable of doing next year. Huge defensemen take time to come around, but Falkovsky has the kind of raw tools to think he could explode onto the scene in the coming years.

    The thing that really bothers me in all of this is that we gave a AHL roster spot to Kayle Doetzel all of last season over Falkovsky. Doetzel is a ZERO upside defender who I am still surprised even lasted five full years in the WHL. We’re talking about a mediocre stay-at-home defensemen. Please don’t even try comparing Falkovsky to Kanzig, Falkovsky has more talent in one leg than Kanzig does in his entire body. The odds are against Falkovsky that he will ever be a impactful, but if he hits it is going to hurt real bad and he is now in LA of all places (a franchise that knows all about developing big, skilled players).

    • Just because there are other big guys in the NHL doesn’t mean Falkovsky is guaranteed anything by virtue of being big. A lot of his flaws were covered up by the fact that he got hot for a few weeks. Anyone who watched him can tell you that he has major defensive issues that need solving.

      • McRib

        I’ve watched Falkovsky a few times live in the OHL and Flames development camp and I always thought he was a fantastic skater for his size at his age with above average tools all across the board. If I was going to take a shot on a huge raw defender the last 4-5 years it’s him and no word of a lie I would have drafted Falkovsky over Logan Stanley last year, a first rounder.

        I understand Falkovsky is a long shot, but if he hits it doesn’t matter what our prospect pool looks like at defence, because no one would replace the fact we gave up on a 6’7″ defender that can skate and shoot. You aren’t wrong, maybe his goal totals were a blimp on the radar, but why not just give him a three year entry level deal to ensure that they weren’t, but to also play devils advocate if any type of player is going to show late growth it’s 6’5″+ defenders. I don’t mind Josh Healey, but I would have given Falkovsky a contract all day over Healey if it came down to it. Healey is likely just another Kenney Morrison with slightly more upside. NCAA Free Agents are beyond overrated (only about 6% turn into impactful NHLers). Once again don’t even get me started on a Kale Doetzel.

        I understand that there is a 85-90% chance that this ends up as a nothing move, but oh boy if he hits it won’t look good and it could have been avoided with a simple entry level deal. I also don’t like the message that this sends to other prospects in the system, choosing unknown NCAA FAs over drafted prospects already producing in our farm system. It takes some decent character to go to the ECHL and produce for you in such a nothing league. Sometimes I get the feeling that Trevling tries too hard to outdo himself, like I said yesterday everything isn’t greener on the other side.

      • Kevin R

        Thanks Christian! I was afraid to come back to the boards because the angry mob syndrome feels we gave up the next Chara. I think something else all these experts are forgetting is that we do have a very good number of higher ceiling, higher end D prospects already. There are contract limitations as well & does the team really want to give a tweener a 3 year ELC when in reality, the ELC’s we need to have need to be invested in some higher ceiling forward contracts. We already have a logjam at the D level in Stockton. The kid wanted an ELC, we didn’t have room & the Kings have basically empty cupboards. Flames were prepared to give him an AHL deal, I don’t see how this is poor asset mismanagement. Contracts given out is also asset management. The reaction is mind boggling. Thanks for this post Christian. Most of the people who are upset probably haven’t watched this guy play 1 game.

  • class1div1

    Maybe you can explain why Gio was never drafted and what happened after.With your logic he was less than nothing who became a pretty good defenseman.Please explain.

    • I don’t see how the two are related in the slightest. Gio was a late bloomer who was undervalued at every step of the way. Falkovsky is the opposite, overvalued because of a good 14 game stretch and for being 6’7″.

      Although we did not have the data back then that we do now, there were many indications based off of his OHL performances in his draft year and D+1 year that Giordano was going to become something good, and his AHL performances reinforce that. The main knock was that he wasn’t very tall for a defenceman at just 6’0″

      With Falkovsky, he was always a long shot. His OHL numbers were alright, but not great. Aside from his hotstreak, he was a mediocre player all year. He had a fluke performance, and that’s okay because they used a fluke pick on him.

      • class1div1

        Very easy to explain away Gio as a late bloomer after the fact.The point I was trying to get across is that no-one had a clue Gio would become the player he is.You use Late bloomer ,luck,and randomness as if you know what they mean .What do they mean? What is there value?

  • Just.Visiting

    In the absence of anything we don’t know on the intangibles side, it looked like a worthwhile gamble to check him out at the development and, possibly, main camp and then confirm where he ranked in the pecking order.

    While I agree with the current ranking of prospects, the reality is that you can’t buy a combination of size and offence. Is it probable that everyone was wrong on draft day and he’ll be another Chara? No, of course not. Is it too early to dismiss that as a real possibility? I think so. That’s why I would have liked to have seen him in the AHL in the spring.

    • Kevin R

      At whose expense? ELC’s require a level of investment, not only cost $$$ wise, but the cost of opportunity to maybe a 2nd or 3rd round picked player or even I highly touted free agent signing out of College.

  • Puckhead

    This is crazy. For example, a guy with a degree from Harvard gets a job and is laid off. Based on the arguments being made here he should have kept his job because of his education. You don’t now why he was fired. Did he have a bad personality, was he a poor fit with the corporate culture etc. etc?

    If the Flames saw value in him they would have kept him. They did not because something was not right.

  • The other thing to take into consideration in this whole conversation is the 50 contract limit. The Flames are currently sitting at 35 with 9 RFA’s to sign (however one of those 9 is Linden Vey). After they sign those contracts they’ll be sitting at 43 spots. There’s a good chance they’ll still sign 1-2 more contracts before the season starts putting the team at 45.

    Is Falkovsky worth one of those last five contract spots? If each team had an unlimited number of contracts they could sign, then I would say there’s no harm in signing him and seeing what happens. But the team is going to want some flexibility going forward to sign additional contracts. If signing Falkovsky to a contract now meant saying no to a potential NCAA FA, then is it still worth it?

  • freethe flames

    The bigger issue is whether or not someone dropped the ball. If that’s the case they need ti fix it before it causes a real issue. If it’s b/c he doesn’t fit that is a different story.

  • T&A4Flames

    I usually Believe people are welcome to their opinions, but these arguements for this being no big deal are lame. If he wasn’t worth signing, then why did the Kings scouts believe he was? The 50 contract limit? We’re nowhere close to it and each year new guysget dumped after their ELC expire. The 21 goals were a blip, until we see the next few years you have no way of knowing that. Your guessing based on supportive advanced stats. These are kids and you never know what they’re going to become. So if one shows any kind of promise, Is it not the responsible thing to do to sign him and see?

    • If he wasn’t worth signing, then why did the Kings scouts believe he was? That’s a terrible argument. That’s like saying, “If Griffin Reinhart wasn’t worth a 1st & a 2nd, then why did the Oilers trade those picks for him?” Sometimes scouts are wrong. Furthermore, the Kings and the Flames are two teams trending in opposite directions. The Kings are going to be much more willing to play the lottery with a 6’7″ defender than the Flames will.

      Additionally, we’re very close to the 50 contract limit. As I mentioned above, once the Flames sign the RFA’s they’re going to be at 43 contracts, if they sing 2 more UFA’s during the off-season that’s 45. If they invite 1-2 PTO’s to training camp that could put them at 47 contracts. I’m not saying the team chose not to extend him a bona fide offer specifically because of the contract limit but it wouldn’t surprise me if that played a consideration.

      I’m also not saying I agree with the decision not to sign him. But I believe either way Falkovsky is a very minor role player to whom many people are choosing to over-react.

  • Slowmo

    BT has decided to keep a couple of contracts free for other additions there will be PTO this fall and if 1 of them become relevant he will need some wiggle room but I agree could have signed but what if he can’t find a taker then what? Now he has a contract on the books he can’t move. Just wasted a contract if he becomes a player for LA then that bits he will then be killing our players along the wall but I doubt he can keep up with speed.

  • DoubleDIon

    It was too early to walk away from him. I don’t buy your logic in the slightest. Sure, he was a long shot and a project, but he showed way more ability then I think almost anyone projected. He has an outside chance to play in the NHL and showed remarkable progress in a short time. Your argument rings even more hollow when you look at LA snatching him up with a high value contract right away. If he was as much of a waste of time as you suggest there’s no way another NHL club does that.

    • Just because a guy is more impressive (and remember, his impressive numbers are very suspect) than whatever low expectations you had for him doesn’t mean he’s suddenly a worthwhile player. Performing above expectations is not the same as being a diamond in the rough. Ex: no one expected Brandon Bollig to score two playoff goals, but that doesn’t mean Brandon Bollig is now a proven playoff performer or a day-to-day NHLer. It’s a stretch to claim that Falkovsky is a future NHLer because he overperformed for a seventh rounder.

      And LA signed him because they have zero defensive depth in the AHL. The Reign had 15 defencemen suit up for them last year, and only three of them were 21 or under. Compare that to the Heat, who had 10 defencmen last year with five 21 or under. Falkovsky fits a need for the Kings organization and doesn’t for the Flames. He’s still a long shot project for them, but for now, he suits a need on a low value (ELCs are never high value unless you have a bona fide superstar on an ELC). The Flames took a flyer on him with a seventh round pick last year, and now the Kings are taking a flyer on him this year with an ELC. Nature of the game.

      • DoubleDIon

        Impressive for a late pick. Should we toss Mangiapane too? Ferland played in the ECHL and was actually sent back to Junior from the ECHL. I’m not saying he is the next Chara or anything, but no one ever thought Chara would be Chara. This is poor asset management one calendar year after he was drafted and exceeded expectations. I doubt our 1st rounder this year could do what Falkovsky did in the ECHL and I think quite highly of our 1st rounder. LA gave him a two-way deal, but included bonuses that you wouldn’t include for someone who is a farm hand.

    • Brownblazer

      My take is that they have used too many roster spots on a very very deep defence prospect pool (the deepest in the entire NHL in my opinion). The need more spots for forwards to take and be developed.

  • HOCKEY83

    Way to much over a dropped prospect. Every team in the NHL does not qualify a ton of prospects every season. Big deal. They’ll be another handful of prospects the flames won’t qualify next season. A lot of the players being signed in the free agency are other teams prospects that they didn’t qualify. Big deal

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Falkovsky could read the writing on the wall. He wanted out of the organization. Im sure that was a factor for how it all turned out. Nobody wants to force a guy to be somewhere he has almost zero chance of getting to the big show.

  • Derzie

    An idiotic argument to pick apart underlying numbers of an ECHL prospect. In simple terms, a prospect needs to show positives and progression. Stephan ticked those boxes. Where he fits in the depth chart is noise. You don’t let positive results walk for nothing. Ball dropped. Also the longer the article is the more likely it is clutching at straws. See above.

  • L13

    Of course it doesn’t matter when there are two vastly superior RHDs in front of him on the depth chart (Fox and Andersson) whose ascension to the NHL is already undermined or at least vastly complicated by Stone’s unnecessarily long contract and another player the Flames clearly prefer to him in Ollas Mattsson.

    But giving up on a player you only drafted last year whom your scouts have been following for at least 3 years and who had a successful season by his own standards is noteworthy and warrants discussion. The question, “Was Falkovsky a valuable asset we’re going to miss?” is separate from, “Is Falkovsky’s departure the result of sound asset management policy?” which is what people are asking.

    • L13

      Oops, I was looking at my comment and thinking something wasn’t right when I realised Falkovsky and Ollas Mattsson aren’t RHDs. Sorry about that. But the situation on the left side is the exact same.