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FlamesNation Mailbag: Garbage bag day spectacular

How fitting to throw away all the stink and trash from the past season into one big, gigantic mailbag. Let’s dive in.

Very low, thankfully. He does have two trips to the Stanley Cup Final (largely roster driven results) but he has nearly four times as many seasons of declining hockey. He’s managed to take the Rangers from one of the better teams in the league (eighth in CF% in his first season) to one of the worst (all the way down to 31st this season, bottom 10 in CF% ever since the finals run).

The big, obvious flaw I see with him that should keep the Flames away is that his success is largely owed to playing with great goalies like Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist. Given the poor performances of the goalies down the stretch, I feel that management would stay away from a guy who is so reliant on the position.

Perhaps both?

Moving out Michael Stone is addition by subtraction because you have a young player that has a much higher ceiling in Ramus Andersson. You know what the replacement is, so you can move forward.

Buying out Troy Brouwer is an ehhh move if you don’t actually have a replacement lined up. The real tragedy of the Flames’ RW depth is that Brouwer is still somehow the Flames’ best right-shooting forward (others include Curtis Lazar, Garnet Hathaway, Nick Shore). I like Spencer Foo a lot, and his four-game, two-goal stint at the end of the year looks promising, but he was probably one of the only guys on the roster with something to play for and he was given all the chances to prove himself (Andrew Mangiapane never got a spin with the top line or the 3M line). You’re replacing a known bad quantity with an unknown quantity. Not a great bet to make when you don’t really have a backup plan.

In that case, you have to do more than just subtract (I don’t even mind Brouwer on the roster – he had an okay year on the fourth line all things considered. If he didn’t get overpaid at free agency [and who turns down that contract?] and wasn’t inexplicably given special teams time, there would be few complaints). The Flames have zero pro RW depth outside of what is already in the NHL. They need to add to that position. I wouldn’t be against moving out an albatross contract like Brouwer’s, but they have to have a plan in place that isn’t just “promote the next guy.” They don’t have a next guy to promote.

All the coaches are going to be treated as a unit, so I doubt one goes without the others joining him.

As one unit, I think the coaches have a 50% chance of staying onboard. Like they did with Hartley, there’s probably not going to be much movement on the coaching front unless there’s a market out there for an obviously better coach. It would be quite foolish to fire your coaching staff, miss on all the big hires (given that only one team has fired their coach this season, perhaps teams are a bit more shy about letting go coaches after one disappointing season, especially given Gerrard Gallant), and then have to repeat the process with another anonymous assistant coach.

Real quick, point form:

  • Jaromir Jagr (UFA) – No. Old and broken. I know he wants to come back again (and I can’t say it wouldn’t be fun), but probably not given the way it ended.
  • Kris Versteeg (UFA) – No. Old and broken. Still fun, but past his due date.
  • Tanner Glass (UFA) – No. Shouldn’t have been here in the first place.
  • Marek Hrivik (UFA) – Maybe? Didn’t get much of a shot due to injury. Could be handy depth.
  • Matt Bartkowski (UFA) – No. C’mon.
  • Dalton Prout (UFA) – No.
  • Daniel Pribyl (UFA) – No. Has been injured for 1.5 of his two-year contract and probably regrets this whole North American hockey thing.
  • Luke Gazdic (UFA) – No.
  • Tyler Wotherspoon (UFA) – Maybe. I could see the Flames being interested in bringing him back now that he’s quite clearly one of the best the AHL has to offer. I can’t see him with a much higher ceiling than the third pairing, but he could be handy depth. However, I don’t think he re-signs. It’s a very Lucy and Charlie Brown situation, with an NHL job being the football.
  • Chris Stewart (UFA) – Maybe. He was free and will also be cheap next year. He’s right-handed, looked fine, and is technically still the highest producing member of the bottom six. I think this is a late, training camp move if it happens.
  • Matt Stajan (UFA) – Maybe. He’s still got game and at a cheap cap hit, why not. He’s handy depth and well respected around the room.
  • Cody Goloubef (UFA) – Maybe. They gave him a contract post-Olympics, and could be interested again as a depth option. Being right-handed helps.
  • Nick Shore (RFA) – Qualified and re-signed. Hasn’t been flashy, but has been helpful. A very useful player, and could be a solid piece in the bottom six.
  • Mark Jankowski (RFA) – Qualified and re-signed. Will still be cheap, regardless of having a four-goal game under his belt.
  • Garnet Hathaway (RFA) – Should go unqualified, but will be qualified. He disappeared for just about 40 games and reemerged just as the season was over, but he’s someone management knows and there are still zero RWs with pro experience behind him.
  • Brett Kulak (RFA) – Qualified and re-signed. Not flashy, but did what he needed to do and was arguably one of the best four defencemen this year.
  • Jon Gillies (RFA) – Qualified and re-signed. Still waiver exempt, still getting better. They have time to be patient with him.
  • David Rittich (RFA) – I’m leaning in with a maybe on this one. He impressed in his first few NHL games, but his body of work since (in the NHL and AHL) has not been very promising. Further explained my reasoning down below.
  • Hunter Shinkaruk (RFA) – Maybe? He’s been extremely disappointing since the 2015-16 season, but he’s still a strong AHL player at the very least and winger depth. No harm in keeping him around
  • Morgan Klimchuk (RFA) – Qualified and re-signed. Hasn’t really been given a shot despite being one of Stockton’s better players the past two seasons.
  • Emile Poirier (RFA) – Unqualified. He’s been disappointing year after year and has never really worked his way up from the Heat’s third line. With a few prospects likely joining Stockton next year, you have to make space.
  • Hunter Smith (RFA) – Unqualified. He has 36 professional points in three years and 17 of them were in the ECHL.
  • Austin Carroll (RFA) – Unqualified. Has been sat for Dillon Dube, which tells you all you need to know.

I think there’s a lot of overreading happening with recent media appearances (specifically one that seemed to call for a culture change) but there’s nothing in Brad Treliving’s GM history that suggests he’s panicky.

Looking back on trades, his biggest overreaction may have been Michael Stone. At the time, Stone did not appear to be that much different than the defencemen he was theoretically replacing, and acquiring him was mostly for the sake of it. Otherwise, most of his trades and signings appear to address some sort of need rather than needlessly weakening a strong point for very little reason.

The caveat on that is that he can occasionally misidentify what is valuable and what is repeatable when addressing weaknesses. Both Brouwer and Lazar, two of his most costly whiffs (one was supposed to be a first liner and the other was supposed to be a long-term Flame), have been attempts to address the RW depth. Treliving didn’t foresee Brouwer actively getting worse as he got older, somehow. He thought Lazar was an underappreciated asset rather than a low ceiling one. He thought Stone was a solid defenceman rather than an immobile one.

What should immediately draw red flags this offseason is them overpaying for a position that doesn’t require extra payment. They’ve done this every year, starting with Deryk Engelland (a third pairing guy), Lance Bouma (not in the NHL anymore), Brouwer (fourth line), and Lazar (barely replacement level). They’ll continue marrying themselves to bad depth options and then wondering why it doesn’t work out for them. They’re generally good on their huge moves, but bad on their smaller ones.

Specific to Dougie Hamilton rumours, they always pop up time and time again (remember last year when his not great playoff performance sparked trade rumours?) and often for the same, silly reason. Trading your best defenceman to get picks to rebuild while also trying to build a contender makes no sense.

Depends on what sort of pick.

You’re certainly not getting a high pick for him. The supposed premium on right-handed defencemen is bogus. The biggest trades this season where a RHD was the centerpiece was the Sami Vatanen trade (which involved Adam Henrique being sent back, so it’s hard to call that a “premium” when both teams had to offer something big up) and the Jason Demers trade (for Jamie McGinn, who is also not a great return). Besides that, the only other big trade involving a RHD was Kevin Shattenkirk around last year’s deadline, which got a first and a conditional second back. Considering the type of player Shattenkirk is, not much of a premium. It only seems to be the Flames that paid that premium for Travis Hamonic.

I think the max you can get on return is a fourth. There’s not much interest in a 27-year-old player with 25 points over his past two seasons (versus 36 in his 2015-16 season).

Maybe, but only for the same reasons any other UFA would be interested in the Flames. They have a young core, a win-now mentality, some cap space to burn, playoff potential, and intriguing players you’d rather play with than against. I can’t get into Tavares’ mind, but Calgary might be a good fit. There’s a clear discrepancy between the top two and bottom two centres, and the top two are really, really good but aren’t exactly elite. There’s a clear cut space for him to thrive in.

I honestly can’t see reasons for him not to come to Calgary. There’s always murmurs of the intimidating Canadian markets, but how often are they true? He’s from Toronto, but does he want to go there? The decision is always down to the player’s personal leanings, which I have no say on.

However, would the Flames like him? They have an internal cap for a reason, and it’s likely because they’re too cheap to actually pay for high quality. That’s going to mean bupkiss to Tavares, who will demand an eight figure salary. It also screws up the entire idea of the internal cap, as it does keep costs down. It also seems super disruptive to build your identity as a homegrown team, but have the centerpiece be someone else’s lottery pick. I think this could work for Tavares, but I’m not sure the Flames see Tavares working for them.

(For what it’s worth: we were goofing off in the FlamesNation group chat with the capfriendly.com armchair GM function and found a way for this to work while still living under a $78M cap.)

Ilya Kovalchuk has shown no signs of aging, shoots right, is a weapon on the powerplay, and is generally a fun player to watch. Sign me up.

Would the Flames be as enthused? Not quite sure about that. He’s going to attract a bidding war, which the Flames probably don’t want to get into. If they aren’t going to pony up for Tavares, they are probably not going to do the same for Kovalchuk. If he comes in at a reasonable $6-7M, I could see them paying that, but there’s all those other factors, too. He’s older and could certainly still hit a speed bump as he grows closer to 40 (their old European player didn’t work out this year; might give them pause). Plus, there are zero Russian players in the org, which kind of places a huge cultural barrier in the room. I don’t really see that as a big issue, but management types tend to. There was a big fuss when Alexander Radulov made his comeback too, which seemed to be completely unsubstantiated, so perhaps it’s not that big of a deal.

It would be super cool if they did! Unfortunately, they won’t. But they should.

All of those are decided by his replacement, should he get fired.

Let’s look at Bob Hartley. Part of the reason for firing him was that his special teams were awful and the Flames’ next coach could improve them. That was listed as a pro of firing him. Then the special teams didn’t improve and some of the same infuriating habits popped up again (remember Joe Colborne playing on the powerplay forever without ever actually doing anything? Brouwer scored zero powerplay goals this year and still managed to have more powerplay points in less powerplay TOI/G than Colborne did in his last season with the club). Firing a coach does not necessarily mean things automatically get better

Perhaps many would disagree with me, but I hold to the opinion that most coaches are fundamentally the same. All coaches are going to play Brouwer or a Brouwer-type player (presumed Jack Adams winner Gerrard Gallant plays Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Reaves, despite both of them being obviously awful. Undisputed best NHL coach Mike Babcock still plays Leo Komarov, Matt Martin, and Roman Polak heavily). All coaches are going to have wonky lines from time to time. All coaches will take out the blender. All coaches will do the same irrational thing over 30 games. Etcetera, etcetera. Those are not flaws unique to one coach, but rather issues that all coaches have and then pass down to other coaches.

Coaches will have their annoying tendencies that are built into the hockey coach package, and there’s rarely (if ever) a coach that will satisfy the demands of everyone. Don’t assume firing a coach is firing the mindset: the mindset still exists.

For the record, I would like either Darryl Sutter or Bill Peters to replace Glen Gulutzan, if it does happen.

An offseason? With goaltender uncertainty? Say it ain’t so.

I can’t see them getting Philipp Grubauer. He had a great season while Braden Holtby did not so I can’t see the Caps moving Grubauer, especially not for what Calgary can offer them (a lightly used Lazar? A refurbished T.J. Brodie?). I’m not even sure the Flames would want to sink futures into a goalie for the third consecutive offseason, so I don’t think it’s on their mind.

So we’re looking internally. I think they can retain Gillies and Rittich for cheap, so they do that. Gillies kind of got an audition in the last few games of the season (two poor, two pretty good, but both relatively meaningless) and has had good AHL numbers (he ranks ninth out of 32 for U25 goalies in SV%). He’s also still waiver exempt next season, so there’s flexibility. I think Gillies gets the nod as the backup next season, but I’m not sure if he can take over for Smith should something awful happen.

Since we last saw Rittich, things have gone poorly. Since returning to the AHL, he’s allowed 24 goals in six games started, absolutely dreadful numbers, especially during a playoff push. Perhaps Stockton is a little bit weakened from call-ups, but he needed to mix in a save at some point and just didn’t. In his final 10 appearances in the NHL, he put up a paltry .885 SV%. He had great games against Ottawa, Buffalo, and Boston, but stunk for the other seven. Perhaps he comes back strong, but given the goalie logjam and the likely preference of giving Tyler Parsons AHL time, I could see the Flames moving on if these final few Stockton games don’t go well.

I don’t know but I hope Peter Chiarelli is employed by the Oilers forever.

  • BiggDogg

    As far as goalies are concerned I’d like to see the Flames go the route of getting a great back up who is stuck behind a starter, like a Martin Jones to SJS situation. Someone like Aaron Dell or Joonas Korpisalo.

  • Intercourse the Penguins

    Many of us thought Flames would be better this year and make some noise in the playoffs. We were wrong. The Flames only maintained a weak position in a league that punishes treading water in a race upstream. I do not think (paying) Flames fans would support a rebuild and ownership knows this. Blowing it up is no guarantee of success (look north) but a win-now mentality is a guarantee of mediocrity.

  • TheWheeze

    There is one thing Tre is guilty of. Let’s face it, half this team is made up of stop gap players brought in to fill an immediate void. With no thought of them being around in a year. Gotta look to the future more people. Planning for tomorrow is a much different thing than planning for two years down the road.