Well, one of the major pieces of business everyone wanted (but few dreamed, myself included) finally happened, leaving the Flames with one final RFA deal before they bolt off to China in just about five weeks’ time. Let us go boldly into the post-Brouwer era of the Calgary Flames.
what do you think of getting rid of frolik, and who would replace him if so
— 🇨🇨 (@_Kylington) August 5, 2018
Moving Michael Frolik would be a bad idea for a myriad of reasons.
First off, yes he did have a bad season, but it’s an aberration. His shooting percentage cratered (as well as his linemates’), and his on-ice SV% did, too. Time and time again, those numbers tend to be susceptible to random variation and aren’t indicative of a player’s quality. By almost every other analytic measure, Frolik was the same player last year as he’s been for most of his NHL career.
Ergo, he’s the most likely bounce back candidate this year. He’s now third on the RW depth chart behind James Neal and Elias Lindholm and will probably play a more sheltered role, which could be helpful for Frolik finding his mojo again. He’s always been a volume shooter (his 9.12 shots per 60 at 5v5 led the team), so perhaps more offensive zone time with a hopeful shooting percentage bounceback will do wonders for the team.
Frolik is also one of the actual quality right wingers on this team. Behind him are Austin Czarnik (unproven), Curtis Lazar (bad), Garnet Hathaway (tough guy) and Spencer Foo (also unproven). There’s a significant dropoff after his spot on the depth chart, so trading him away is just going to create more problems. Even at his worst last season, he wasn’t as bad as the rest of these names.
Perhaps if Frolik doesn’t bounce back and his struggles reveal themselves to be age related (he’s 30) you explore a trade. But there’s no harm holding on for this season and affording him the opportunity to get back on his feet.
How should we feel about Czarnik?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) August 6, 2018
If you missed it, Ari’s article way back when has a lot of information on what Austin Czarnik is and how he’s performed across various leagues. It’s going to do a lot of the heavy lifting for this answer.
Basically, having Czarnik can’t hurt. He’s a player who’s been on the verge of cracking the NHL but has been stuck in the pretty deep Bruins organization for his entire career. His AHL numbers aren’t exciting, but he’s a player who will likely be a productive fourth liner. If the hyperbole is true (while I was writing this, a Bruins fan chimed in to offer his analysis of Czarnik) and he is a budding Jonathan Marchessault as many say, it’s nothing but a major win for the Flames. But realistically, he’s going to be a 25-point guy on the fourth line. I’m not even sure if the 2017-18 Flames fourth line put up 25 points, so already a major upgrade.
How much better will Stockton Heat be this year? Will greater Organizational depth mean Flames, Heat, Mavericks all make the playoffs instead of all missing the playoffs like 17-18?
— kingcambie (@kingcambie) August 5, 2018
Let’s focus on the Heat primarily, because I have no clue what’s going to happen with KC and the only Flames prospects there are two goalies (who are both afterthoughts, unfortunately). With that said, let’s look:
|D Josh Healey||F Dillon Dube (draft)||C Marek Hrivik (KHL)||RW Spencer Foo|
|LW/RW Hunter Shinkaruk||RW Matthew Phillips (draft)||LW/C Brett Findlay (Austria)||LW Andrew Mangiapane|
|F Brett Pollock||C/RW Glenn Gawdin (UFA)||RW/C Darren Nowick (Sweden)||LW Morgan Klimchuk|
|LW Ryan Lomberg||C Alan Quine (UFA)||RW Garnet Hathaway (grad)||RW Curtis Lazar|
|LW/RW Buddy Robinson (UFA)||RW/LW Emile Poirier (unqualified)||C Mike McMurtry (ECHL)|
|C Tyler Graovac (UFA)||RW Austin Carroll (unqualified)||D Adam Ollas Mattsson|
|LW/RW Yasin Ehliz (Germany)||C Colin Smith (Germany)||D Rasmus Andersson|
|D Marcus Hogstrom (Sweden)||LW Tanner Glass (UFA)||D Oliver Kylington|
|G Tyler Parsons (ECHL)||LW Luke Gazdic (UFA)||D Juuso Valimaki|
|C Rod Pelley (Denmark)||D Dalton Prout|
|D Oleg Yevenko (KHL)||D Colby Robak (unsigned)|
|D Tyler Wotherspoon (UFA)||G Jon Gillies|
|D Cody Goloubef (UFA)||G David Rittich|
In the first column, we have the players who will definitely be spending all of next year in the AHL, none of them particularly special. Healey should probably be a third pairing minutes muncher this year. Pollock arguably has the highest upside of the remaining forwards given his jump from the ECHL to the AHL last season, but probably nothing exciting. Basically, all the Heat know they have for now are their middle sixers.
Let’s talk additions, which are the exciting part. The Heat are getting three of the top 10 WHL forwards next year, and perhaps one of the WHL’s best defencemen depending on how training camp shakes down, so they should have some exciting talent. Hogstrom was apparently the SHL’s best defenceman and Ehliz was one of the better DEL forwards, so there’s a lot of prospective talent coming in.
Of known AHL assets, Quine and Robinson are both pretty sturdy AHLers. Robinson hit 53 points last year, while Quine has mostly been a point-per-game AHLer, albeit having not played full time in that league for two years. Graovac has had bursts of alright-ness, and projects to be a bottom six centre in Stockton. Parsons is also likely coming up, so there’s another high ceiling prospect in the organization.
Does it offset the roster losses? I would say yes. Dube, Gawdin, and Phillips are certainly upgrades on departing CHLers Carroll and Poirier. Losing Yevenko, Glass, Pelley, and Gazdic isn’t much of a big deal: all four are one-dimensional goons. Graovac, Robinson, and Quine are all about the same as Smith, Nowick, and Findlay, so lateral moves on those fronts. The real large losses are Wotherspoon, Hrivik, and Hathaway, and it’s up to the aforementioned CHL graduates to fill those spots up.
A lot of Stockton’s season will depend on who makes the Flames out of camp. There might be a forward spot open on the big roster, and perhaps a 13/14 F spot, but the defence is looking pretty tight right now. I think Mangiapane has the best chance at getting a job out of camp, which would take away Stockton’s most dominant player, but they would get stuck with Foo and Klimchuk, which isn’t that bad. If there’s no space for Andersson, Kylington, and Valimaki in the NHL, the Heat will be very happy. Getting one of Gillies or Rittich back is also going to be helpful for the team, so they’re likely going to be loaded from back to front.
Overall, there’s a lot to like if you’re a Stockton fan. There’s a healthy amount of talent being injected into the system and with the increased NHL depth, the best of the Heat will have a hard time cracking the lineup. Having multiple players that could arguably be in the NHL is good for AHL and NHL fans alike. Everything depends on injuries, but the Heat will be a force to be reckoned with come October.
Do you think Oliver K will make a push? I personally like him a lot and where could he positively push the roster. I am afraid if he goes back for yr 4 he will become de- motivated
— @thegatorswamp (@thegatorswamp2) August 5, 2018
Kylington will probably make some serious noise at camp this year.
He’s consistently improving year after year (he’s only 21) and has established himself as one of the best 5v5 producers among AHL defencemen. His defensive game gets flak, but he’s quietly made improvements in that regard, too. His physical tools (he can skate) are coming along quite nicely, and his decision making is also rounding out. Not quite a finished product, but much closer than people are willing to give him credit for.
And if it comes down to Valimaki versus Kylington for Brett Kulak’s spot, the contract situation gives Kylington a bit of an advantage. Valimaki’s contract can still slide if he’s in the AHL, so playing him there gives the Flames an extra ELC year (and buys him protection from a looming 2020 Seattle expansion draft). Kylington’s contract is already running, so you might as well make use of it.
I really wouldn’t worry about demotivation. He signed a five-year ELC, so I’m sure it’s been explained to him that his development is a work in progress.
What does Brouwer’s buyout mean for Hanifin’s deal? Is a bridge deal still more likely than a long term extension?
— Nick Tivadar (@nicotivs) August 5, 2018
A bridge deal and a long-term extension are certainly both still on the table. Two major deals involving defencemen coming off their ELCs were signed this week: Brandon Montour received $3.387M AAV for two years and Brady Skjei received $5.25M over six years. Those two contracts are the frameworks for the eventual Noah Hanifin deal.
The Bryout opened up the possibility of a Skjei-type deal happening. The Flames would still have around $2M in cap space for the year should that deal happen. Treliving has been good with driving RFA numbers down (managed to get Elias Lindholm under the reported $5M ask he had in Carolina), so perhaps there’s a few more pennies to be saved.
But I think the Bryout was a two birds, one stone move. You can certainly fork over more money to Hanifin while he adds a few more years to the deal, but what’s most important is that it’s opened up more space for the upcoming Matthew Tkachuk extension. A Skjei deal would make a Tkachuk extension much, much harder, as the only major deal coming off the books next year is Mike Smith’s. You essentially have to re-up Sam Bennett, Tkachuk, maybe Kulak, and find a goalie for about $9M-$10M in cap space. A pretty tough ask.
So maybe a Montour-type bridge deal is still what the Flames are hammering out. If he gets two years, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Michael Stone, and Frolik will be off the books too, and you can afford to really pay Hanifin his money.
I know who wears the "A" is ultimately meaningless and doesn't really prove who is a leader, but since Brouwer is gone are they finally gonna show some respect to Backlund and give him an "A"?
— Atlas ¯_(ツ)_/¯ed (@Hanoten) August 5, 2018
Does Tkachuk get an A or is it more likely to go to Johnny?
— Jared Thiessen (@thiessenj3) August 5, 2018
We ran the numbers, and they say Mikael Backlund.
The forward As were Sean Monahan and Brouwer, who both missed time with injury at points in the season. Monahan missed seven games after being shut down (and one before the bye week), so the A was handed off to Backlund for them. When Brouwer went down with injury, the A went to Backlund as well. So your answer is Backlund.
And I know it’s a different coach around, but it’s kind of hard not to give it to Backlund. He’s the team’s second longest tenured player behind Mark Giordano and has generally been considered a leader throughout these last few years. He’ll have the A this year, barring any surprises.
— Nick Adams (@T0Y_L0VE) August 5, 2018
The handy SKATR Comparison tool is Nick’s toy of choice here. It basically condenses a player’s production through various metrics and measures them relative to the entire league.
Before we get to comparing, let’s answer the first question: Derek Ryan is one of, if not the, strangest NHLers around. He had a milquetoast WHL career, could only find pro work in the now-defunct United Hockey League, played CIS hockey for the University of Alberta, and then found work in Europe in Austria’s league. After plying his trade there, he got the attention of the Swedish league and spent one season there (leading the league in points) before making his way back to North America and the AHL. There, he worked his way up to being a 29-year-old rookie who played reliably and consistently in the bottom six. I can’t think of any NHLers with a career trajectory even close to that.
In Carolina, Ryan filled a need as a bottom sixer on a team that didn’t want to spend a lot of money. His rookie year was alright stuff for a third liner, but his second year is what made a reported 20 NHL teams interested in his services. Ryan jumped out to just under 40 points, posting eye-popping possession numbers for a guy in that role. Naturally, he’s drawn some comparison to Backlund, as both were analytical darlings in the bottom six.
And there’s some smoke to that. Peeking at the chart Nick provided, Ryan and Backlund are mostly similar in terms of results, but the contexts are very different. Ryan is a very sheltered player, seeing way less of the defensive zone, ice time, and competition that Backlund does (but also doesn’t get as high quality teammates). I think what this says about Ryan is what I’ve said in the previous paragraph: he’s one of the more productive players in the NHL, but almost exclusively in a depth role. If given Backlund’s workload, he’s probably not going to survive long as the 2C.
So then is Ryan likely the Flames’ third best centre? Here’s him compared to Mark Jankowski:
The usage context is about the same for Ryan and Jankowski. Both received a fair amount of sheltering, although Ryan got more icetime and higher quality teammates (though he did see slightly harder competition). The major difference is that Ryan blows Jankowski out of the water in most categories, save for individual goals and shooting.
For next season, Ryan probably starts as the 3C. Sorta because that’s what he’s paid to do, sorta because he’s a favourite of the coach, sorta because he’s thrived in a 3C role. He’ll probably see some struggles though, as he’s going from Jeff Skinner and Justin Williams to Sam Bennett and (likely) Michael Frolik as his wingers, but his short NHL career has demonstrated that he’s a pretty strong player as a 3C.
Note: This may be the last mailbag until September-ish because of all the news slowing down.