Congrats to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on winning the Stanley Cup. Now how do the Flames get there?
Housekeeping: You can now submit your questions via email at email@example.com for those Twitter-less folks.
With the offseason officially starting, what moves should the Flames do first?
— Lucas Mendes (@lucas_flames) June 10, 2018
It has to be buying out Troy Brouwer, no? That can start happening in four days.
This year makes the most sense to execute the Bryout. If they buy him out this year, the team will only have to pay him $6M as opposed to $7.5M if they bought him out next year and $9M if they stuck through the duration of the contract. Some might fret over the notion of having $1.5M on the cap for two extra years, but that’s pennies considering how much the cap jumps per year (it’s expected to jump up $5M this year, which is an exception, but if the cap goes up its usual $2M per yer, it is offset).
An honest evaluation of Brouwer is that he’s a perfectly fine fourth liner. But you can find many of those for under the $3M in savings the Bryout will give you, which makes it a feasible option. Given that you have players like Dillon Dube, Spencer Foo, Andrew Mangiapane, and Morgan Klimchuk (among others) who will be in a fight for those spots and can likely offer you more than 33-year-old Brouwer can, it just makes sense.
If the Bryout doesn’t happen, they’re probably setting up a trade involving a defenceman for a high-end forward. I imagine it will happen around draft time.
We haven't talked much about Ferland this off-season. Does he get moved this summer? If he doesn't and we sign a right winger, what does his role on the team become? Is he serviceable in a bottom six role?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) June 10, 2018
Micheal Ferland is probably a good chip to cash out on. He’s reaped the benefits of first line play, picking up 21 goals and 40 points this season, both career highs.
But those who watched the Flames this year will know that he’s not exactly a first line solution. His play was inconsistent and he’s just not at the level of his two linemates. When he’s on, he’s on. He is more often times not on. Ferland’s likely not going to shoot above 15% for a third year in a row (just like he wasn’t going to continue shooting under 5% his first two seasons in Calgary), so if you can get a decent return for him, maybe a high pick or a promising prospect, you’re being smart.
I think the team holds off on trading him because he’s a fan favourite and also an insurance policy. Nabbing a top six RW is easier said than done, and if you ship off Ferland you will have absolutely no one to fill that void should a trade not materialize, which is less than what you started with. Even if they find that elusive RW, they can shuffle him down the lineup and perhaps provide a scoring edge to the third line. That’s a better idea.
Is there room on the flames for two small dynamic forwards (Gaudreau and Phillips) or would that be a liability in this league? Do you still need to be surrounded by larger guys to be effective as a small speedy skater?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) June 10, 2018
No and no.
The Lightning have Yanni Gourde (5’9, 64 points), Brayden Point (5’10, 66 points), and Tyler Johnson (5’8, 50 points) in their lineup. Nikita Kucherov also falls below six feet (5’11) and put up 100 points. That’s four NHL tiny players in their lineup who are incredibly productive. It’s not as if they’re surrounded by bigger guys either: the biggest Lightning top six forward is Steven Stamkos, who is 6’1, which is also league average.
Our pal Byron Bader did a look into the correlation between height and scoring. Short players tend to succeed in the NHL just as much as tall players do, even though the NHL does not value them as such. Perhaps Tampa has found a market inefficiency there (none of their forwards were over 6’1) and exploited it to the tune of a Conference Finals appearance.
So don’t be scared of short players. If they’re productive, they’re productive. Bring them in on the basis of what they can do, and not how tall they are.
Does a Corey Perry trade make sense (if he'd waive his NMC)? What about Alex Galchenyuk or Nino Neiderreiter?
— Brad (@brad_1729) June 10, 2018
Even if we all put aside our personal disgust for Corey Perry, a trade doesn’t make sense. Perry is 33 and quite clearly trending downhill even while playing with the best in Anaheim. Even if you can swing another high paid RW Anaheim’s way, you’re still on the hook for Perry’s $8.625M contract with three years remaining. That’s going to be toxic in no short time. If they can find an elite RW that is a major pain in the ass and can put up scoring numbers (as much as I disagree with it, a Tkachuk-Perry pairing would infuriate the hell out of opponents so I’m all for it from that perspective), go for it, but Perry is not going to be that guy over the next three years.
If Alex Galchenyuk is available, that’s something worth looking at. Montreal seems to have no clue what to do with him and it’s quite clearly impacted his on-ice results. Perhaps he actually is going backwards (two straight years of negative -2% corsi rel), or perhaps it’s Montreal’s screwy experiments to find out if he’s a centre or a wing. Habs fans say he’s pretty lethal on the right wing and more of a playmaker on the left, so perhaps it’s time to free him in Calgary. If they continue treating him like a fourth line winger and pushing him down the rotation, perhaps he comes for cheap.
(On the elite RW who is also a pain in the ass but also not mentioned in Brad’s question: how about Brendan Gallagher from Montreal instead of Galchenyuk?)
The safest selection of the three is Nino Niederreiter. El Nino doesn’t put up a boatload of points, but he’s been a reliable producer for the Wild with limited ice time (seventh among forwards in average TOI at all situations and 5v5). Despite leading Wild forwards in CF% and CF rel%, he is buried on the roster and his production suffers for it. Perhaps he can be had for cheap and then flourish in a top six role.
now that Capitals are off the SC drought list, I noticed the Flames have quitely climbed to 8th longest SC drought. Do the Flames hoist the Cup while Gaudreau is a Flame?
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) June 10, 2018
This is a million dollar question and the honest answer is: I don’t know!
To begin, let’s do a brief-ish recap of the Stanley Cup Final:
The Ovechkin era in Washington took 13 years to deliver a cup, and it wasn’t even with their strongest roster ever (the 2009-10 Caps had seven 50-point scorers and won 54 games en route to losing in the first round to a Montreal team with a losing record). Even more astounding is that the Caps were a cap disaster before the season started, having to fill out their roster with players like Alex Chiasson, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Chandler Stephenson for around $600K a pop just so they could ice a full lineup. Given the overall strength of the East (including Tampa and Pittsburgh loading up for deep runs), you could probably write Ovi and co. off. If there was one Caps team that wasn’t going to win the Cup, this was it.
But that’s how the playoffs are sometimes: unpredictable. You could see that in Washington’s opponent, the Vegas Golden Knights. You’ve heard the story before, but a rag tag group of guys put it all together for a wild ride to the final and looked actually unstoppable while doing it. Then their .950 goalie (who was having a career year at 33) suddenly became a .850 goalie and their 40-goal scorer stopped scoring. A decent amount of Vegas’ success this year was the result of good fortune, and it was bound to one day go against them, but to have it all fall apart when it mattered most was purely awful luck.
There’s a certain amount of randomness in the playoffs that makes winning that much more difficult. Boiling down a team’s success and dominance over 82 games to just four or seven at a time is throwing all the traditional odds out the window and putting it all up to who gets hot at the right time. Case in point: since the 2005-06 lockout, only three Presidents’ Trophy winners have advanced to the finals and only two have won the Cup. Compare that to the four winners who have lost in the first round.
I think the reason why the Caps won the cup this year is because they stuck with it after a while, never blowing up their team even when everyone else said they should (you can find “trade Ovechkin” suggestions every year the Caps crashed and burned in the playoffs). Eventually, everything just went in their favour as opposed to the years where everything went against them.
To bring this back to the Flames, they have the pieces in place to become a more dominant team. They’re in good position with Johnny Gaudreau and a large part of their core players locked down for a long time. They will also have a healthy influx of prospects who can provide quality depth in the immediate future and hopefully become complimentary pieces a bit down the line. That’s better than what the Caps entered the season with.
The key is patience. You shouldn’t trade a great player just because things went wrong, and you shouldn’t shake things up for the sake of it. If you continue icing a playoff roster year in, year out, you will eventually succeed. I can’t say if they will win a Stanley Cup, that’s out of my hands. But they’re currently in a good position to make the playoffs and go deep for the next few years and maybe they get lucky somewhere along the way.
Founded in 1950, Sports Excellence Corporation represents over 150 family-owned independent hockey retailers across Canada and the United States. Our highly knowledgeable hockey specialists are available to assist all your equipment needs. Find your closest Sports Excellence retailer here: Find a location near you!