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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Tkachuk leads Calgary’s 2018 Christmas Wishlist

It’s totally cliche and absolutely lacking any originality as a concept, but I’m a total nerd for this time of year. As such, in no particular order, here’s our 2018 Christmas Wishlist for the Flames!

MATTHEW TKACHUK: A NICE NEW DEAL

Is he the best player on the team? Is he second best? Maybe third? In the end, it doesn’t really matter where you fall in on that conversation, because regardless of where you rank him, Matthew Tkachuk is poised to get paid in a big, big way.

We’re all aware Tkachuk is having a career season, but perhaps a little context can add to the conversation about just how productive he’s been. From an efficiency standpoint, only 10 players in the NHL (and zero of his teammates) have produced at a higher rate than Tkachuk this season. Those players happen to have last names like Kucherov, MacKinnon, McDavid and Rantanen, so yeah, he’s been pretty productive.

P/60 Rank A/60 Rank G/60 Rank
3.85 11th 2.38 17th 1.47 39th

I guess it’s still probably accurate to say the sooner Tkachuk’s deal gets done, the more friendly it’s going to be for Calgary. At this point, though, I’m not sure how much of a difference a contract signed in January is going to look compared to, say, one signed in June. “On Pace Guy” says Tkachuk is on pace for 93 points this season, so the Flames are likely wishing they can keep his cap hit around $8 million on a long-term deal.

JAMES NEAL: A TIME MACHINE

Santa knows Neal’s start to the season belongs on the naughty list, but he’s not totally giving up hope, either. I’m not sure where Santa sits compared to other Flames fans, though, because Neal’s first year on the team is making his contract look worse and worse each passing game. If you’re invested in this team, whether you’re Brad Treliving or a fan, a jump back in time for Neal would be extremely well received.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around exactly what we’re seeing and all I come up with is questions. Has Neal fallen off a cliff? Is he lacking motivation? Are we talking about a tired player after two straight trips to the Stanley Cup Finals? Is he a victim of awful luck? I don’t know any of those answers, mind you, but knowing what we’ve seen from Neal thus far, questions are all we’ve got.

Here’s what we do know: Neal has never scored fewer than 21 goals in a single season and he’s been extremely accurate throughout his career. While his shot volume is slightly down from his career average, Neal’s shooting percentage is dramatically off career norms. Whether it’s a time machine or Santa’s special treat, having Neal revert to what we’ve seen in years past would be quite the pleasant surprise.

DAVID RITTICH: MORE STARTS

David Rittich

We don’t have to spend much time on this one, because it’s pretty simple: Rittich is one of the league’s best goaltenders right now. For the Flames, this should no longer be about Mike Smith and what he needs to return to being a number one. Instead, why not make it about what Rittich has accomplished?

SV% Rank EVSV% Rank
0.923 T-9th 0.937 6th

Everything Rittich has shown us in 17 starts suggests he’s capable of playing at a number one level. Yes, it’s true, he hasn’t done it over a full season, which is an important test he’ll need to pass. But at this stage, even if Smith was playing at an average level, we’re talking about elite stuff from Rittich.

Through Calgary’s first 37 games, Rittich has started about 45% of the time. If he keeps playing the way he has, Rittich is deserving of somewhere in the 65% range, which would be around 36 of their remaining games.

MARK GIORDANO: A NORRIS TROPHY

Earlier this month, we laid out Gio’s case for Norris Trophy love, albeit early on. Well, nothing has changed since then. We’re still talking about one of the league’s very best defencemen this season and he’s showing zero signs of slowing down. The wish would be Giordano to sustain this level of play all year long, because if that happens, it’ll be hard for voters to deny him Norris consideration.

With 35 points, Giordano remains tied for third in scoring amongst NHL defencemen and continues to take on the toughest opposing matchups every night. The best part if you’re wishing for a Gio Norris Trophy nod is you’re not daydreaming; there’s a legitimate shot this could happen.

SAM BENNETT: MOUSTACHE PRODUCTS

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Beautiful. Divine. Perfect. Mesmerizing. Intense. There are any number of positive adjectives you could use for Bennett’s beautiful upper lip decoration and they’d all likely be accurate. In fact, Bennett’s moustache might be the most criminally under-reported story in league history, and there’s really only one way to change that: consistent maintenance.

Bennett can’t chop it off. He can’t bring it closer to the vest. This thing needs to keep growing and it needs to be groomed, waxed, and tended to like any other masterpiece. Oh, by and large Bennett has also been playing the best hockey of his career this season… there’s that too. With that duster, though, it’s hard to focus on anything else

For those celebrating, Merry Christmas! And may all your Flames wishes come true!

    • freethe flames

      WW: Here’s something we agree on but I will say this if Gio is a serious Norris candidate and Rittich continues his form and gets the majority of the starts then these two things could contribute to your wish list.
      Tkachuk signing long term would help keep the cup window open long term. My wish for Bennett is more games like Tampa and less games like St L.

      My Neal wish is that some team would take him off our hands or we could have a time machine and keep BT away from the FA phone calls.

    • Flaming moe

      My wish list is for the cap to rise abot 10 million so we can sign a starting goalie (a good one won’t come cheap) and to resign Chucky. He is only 3 points behind Draisaitl. He will command more than Drysaddles 8.5 million contract. ?

  • RKD

    Pay Matty, sorry Gio, Johnny and Sean there’s no way he’s not making more than Gio. Matthew is the future captain of this team sorry Monahan. So pay the man. Can’t get rid of Neal that easily he’s signed to deal that’s a year longer than Brouwer. Can’t believe he would fall off a cliff this fast I think maybe in the 2nd half things could change his sh% is abnormally low. He does look slow and doesn’t look like he fits sometimes he has a good game other times he has a really bad game. Even when he has a good game he’s not getting any results goal wise. Would love for Gio to take the Norris he deserves it.

  • Pizanno

    Wishlist (in no specific order):

    1) James Neal gets 20 goals (but I’ll be happy with 15 at this point)
    2) A BoA first round match (Flames lose the first game just to get the Oiler mouths jabbering, then win the next 4)
    3) An 8-year contract for Tkachuk at the same cap % as Gaudreau’s contract
    4) Winning the Cup on home ice against TB
    5) Parsons playing lights out in Stockton

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Matty would be a fool to sign his new deal before seeing what the likes of Matthews, Liane and Rantanen get. I maintain that the offer sheet made by a club (possibly Arizona) to Matthews will be a game changer and result in so much extra cash pouring into Chucky’s wallet. Hard to tell Chucky he is worth a mere $8M a season when Matthews gets $14M. As Chucky’s agent, I would rebuff any of Tre’s contract overtures until the big 3 have been locked up.

    We can only hope that whatever funk has enveloped Neal is fixable. I remain confident that he will find his game this season. He is not a lost cause.

    Sure, I’m fine with anointing Rittich as the starter, but the team still requires a backup who gets a regular turn, and until things change, Smitty is the backup who should be starting every 4th or 5th game. No way should Peters do to Rittich what Gully did to Smitty last season until the ol’ fella broke down.

    Gio doesn’t stand a chance to win the Norris as long as that wretched eastern media bias exists and Morgan Rielly keeps putting up the points. Moreover, in the long history of the Norris, no Leaf has ever won it. You know the likes of Friedman and McKenzie are just itching to make history by voting for Rielly.

    Count me as one who hates Bennett’s lady tickler. Besides making him look old before his time, he has not earned the spectacular moustache Patty waxes about. A man in any walk of life needs to first distinguish himself before he can sport a soup strainer that wears its own big belt buckle. Bennett ain’t done it yet, so the more he lets it grow, the more he resembles the guy from your high school who 10 years after he moved on, looks identical except for a bad moustache, his only post secondary accomplishment. You don’t want to be that guy, nor should Bennett. Own the stache; don’t let it own you and the only way to do that is to earn the right to grow it.

    Contrary to what many believe, the Greatest wasn’t born with it. He earned the right, just like Bennett needs to do:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_73vrC8K-GHM/TUX8WCpTRjI/AAAAAAAAELA/D-MbBsH4z5w/s1600/168+Lanny+McDonald+1974-75+OPC+RC.jpg

    • Skylardog

      There are 2 types of deals out there, and I think Matty is smart enough to take the second type.

      The first is one where the player gets all they are worth and then some, but leave nothing on the table for the team to sign quality depth. Edmonton is locked into this for the duration of McD and Drysaddle’s best years and will have trouble going deep or even making the playoffs because of their greed. Toronto is on this path as well, and will have to let some key piece walk to just make cap in the next 2 years.

      The second type of deal is where the player takes less but signs a deal that makes the team able to sign a core around him. This is how the Flames are set up so far, and I think Matty and Keith are smart enough to settle for a fair value that allows the Flames to pursue a cup.

      At the end of the day, I believe that the true leaders understand that they can take a bit less, have a shot at a cup or 2, and still have a bundle of money in the bank at the end. Nothing ever will taste quite as good a sipping from the cup. You can’t buy that as a player.

      Matty – 8 years at $8.0

      • BlueMoonNigel

        As much as I hope your second scenario plays out, it seems rather pie in the sky. First, players and owners hate each other’s guts but regard one another as a necessary evil. How many players will take less money on the owner’s promise that the team will spend the leftover to sign high-end talent rather than the owner pocketing it? Ask yourself how many folks here would trust their retirement funds or their kid’s education fund with Murray “London calling” Edwards? If you wouldn’t, why should Chucky?

        Second, the second type presumes that all members of a team think alike. They are men, not robots, and thank God for that. Let’s say Chucky is your second type, but two years down the road, when two-time all-star and Norris winner Jusso Valimaki reups and is a first type. Chucky might look upon his decision in hindsight as being pretty damn foolish.
        Third, I can’t say when it began exactly but today’s NHL superstar regards an Olympic gold medal much higher than a Stanley Cup ring. This applies to both the Euros and the North Americans. Crosby is already on record saying his gold medals mean a lot more to him than his Stanley Cups. McDavid and Matthews have both talked about when they were kids and how their biggest hockey fantasy was not scoring the game winning goal in the Stanley Cup, but the golden goal in the Olympics.

        Fourth, the Flames and Chucky won’t be negotiating in a vacuum. What happens with other player contract negotiations can and will affect the contract Chucky gets. An offer sheet of $14 M for Matthews or Laine will most certainly and very understandably cause Chucky to raise his salary demands. A rising tide lifts all boats, especially the luxury yachts.

        Finally, never lose sight that pro sports is a business first, second and third, and business is ruthless. It is not a charity. Those involved in it know that to be true even though it is sometimes hard for fans to accept this. I am quite sure that if Chucky behaves like the first type, nobody within the Flames’ org will really begrudge him for taking care of business for Tkachuk Inc. first. It would only be expected by every one involved.

        • calgaryfan

          If it plays out as you suggest with a greedy Chucky it will be up to Treliving to make sure that it does not put a wrench in the Flames plans. Treliving not only has to please the owners but also the existing core players who tooks less.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Since when is selling yourself short being greedy?

            According to King Bettman, the NHL has never been healthier with its on-ice product and financially. This does not appear to be a struggling industry, so why should Chucky be tagged “greedy” for demanding fair market value for his services?

            Who took less to stay here? Certainly not Monahan as he is being paid more than his draft year buddies Nate Mac, Barkov, Drouin, Jones, Lindholm and Nurse. Looks like fair market value at the time for all of them.

        • calgaryfan

          It is a team game and if every player goes for the absolute max the team will not be able to sign enough quality players therefore less chance at a cup. I would say Johnny took less than he could have. Selling yourself short means not giving yourself enough value.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Johnny is by far the highest paid player in the NHL from his draft year. If you’ll remember the Flames had a few hooks in Johnny at the time his contract came up so he didn’t have as many cards in his favour like Monahan, who had played 3 full seasons when his ELC expired.

            Another thing to consider is that why should Chucky have to suffer for the mistakes of Tre? Did Chucky hold a gun to Tre’s head to force him to sign Neal, Frolik, Stone, etc.? Tre’s mistakes should not be Chucky’s problem. Chucky’s value needs to be based on league-wide comparables, not cap money left over from the misspendings of the GM.

            I don’t see your point about superstars having to take less money so lesser talents can get paid. You’re nutty. That’s the same kind silly socialist thinking Rachel Notley has been ramming down our throats these past 3 years which has choked the life out of this once great province.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      Stu … dude. Dare to dream!

      Wishing for 2nd round playoffs is equivalent to wishing for

      … a plain but good hearted girl for a girlfriend.
      … A job managing those who greet people at Walmart.
      … A coal fired hibachi grill to use up the contents of your Christmas stocking.
      … An extra six pack of Pilsner (or Lucky Lager if you live on Vancouver Island) as a substitute for two cases of Canada’s finest microbrews.

      • I should be GM

        Stu is just being realistic. There is nothing more that I would like to see other then the boys hoisting the holy grail, but we must first get to the dance!

        Let’s slow down and not be like Leafs or Oilers fans. If those teams were in charge, there would be no reason to play out the season as they would have their names engraved in the cup before the season even starts!

  • calgaryfan

    Tkachuk becomes a free agent in 4 years as I read the NHL free agency rules. (27 years old or 7 years in the league). It will be interesting to see how this rolls out. Johnny will have 3 years and Monahan and Gio 4 after this year. I wonder if Matty and his agent just want the minimum 4 years and see how the Flames future looks at that time. For me he is going to get the money just a matter of when and where, I would think winning the cup is the most important for these players. If Johnny were to leave and Gio will be retiring those are big holes in the lineup.

      • calgaryfan

        My point is the Flames window right now appears to be 4 years but Treliving needs to still tinker with the lineup. Tkachuk and his agent know this and they also know there is not much in the pipeline except Dube right now. His best chance for a cup could be somewhere else in 4 years. Treliving has been doing a better job drafting so maybe Calgary is the place time will tell. Tkachuk is going to get paid, if I were him the cup would be my goal.

        • Heeeeere’s Johnny

          Thanks for that … I didn’t really make my point well … I’m good with 3,5,6,7 or 8 year terms. If I’m BT I’m watching if MT asks for 4 … that’s a warning sign for sure.

        • Kevin R

          Not sure I agree. Trades happen that keep a window open longer. With a young core like we have & the young D coming up & getting NHL time, that window is open longer than you think. Its getting the right mix.

          • calgaryfan

            The right mix and the right cap room. The Oil are struggling and can’t make any changes because of cap issues. If the cap keeps going up the Oil may be get out of cap jail sometime.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      You too SydScout. My oldest friends in the world live south of Hobart (and no they don’t have a scar on their necks … born in Canada!). Have a wonderful sunny hot Christmas!

      • SydScout

        Haha, nice one Johnny! I’m guessing they’re the surgeons that put that second scar there. South of Hobart is…pretty much Antarctica. They’ll be safe in an Armageddon. I’d take Calgary any day!

    • Stockton's Finest

      Merry Cristmas Syd from chilly NYC. Off to DC on Wednesday to catch Ovi and the Capitals play the Hurricanes. Will be back in time for the Heat’s next game on New Year’s Eve.

  • buts

    Great view on Neal Pat. Did he fall off a cliff? Motivation? Fatigue? Bad luck? There’s no way he could regress this much over a summer, could he. How many games do we give him to show if he can play in the nhl? I could argue there’s 4-6 guys in Stockton that could have more than 2 frickin goals given the ice time and opportunity that Neal has been given. When does the organization try to cut there loss? TDL in February or do you wait out the year and hope? I would start shopping him now hoping a team looking to make a run in the playoffs takes a chance. Brouwer is playing better which is unbelievable.

    • Albertabeef

      I wouldn’t pump up Brouwer too much as he is on pace for the same 22 points he had last year. But what do you expect from someone playing 3rd and 4th line minutes?

      As for Neal we could give him a little more time. So this guy goes to the finals in back to back years and then gets to change cities. He may not have trained so much with all that going on and still doesn’t have his proper game legs. Playing reduced minutes makes getting into gameshape harder. Playing on lower lines means playing a different role. He is not being looked at(by coaches) for primary scoring as much as a leader. There are just so many factors to consider. He should consider training with Frolik in the offseason.

      A dream trade? How bout Neal and Smith for Getzlaf and Gibson?

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Things to ponder as we head into 2019…

    Rittich currently has the third best GAA 2.29 slightly ahead of Bishop who has a GAA of 2.31 while both sport an identical SV% .923. Now the big difference is Bishop is making 6.5 M this year and has a 6 year contract at a cap hit 4.92 M which runs until 2023. Rittich on the other hand makes 800k in 2018-2019 and then he is an RFA.

    Teams have a difficult time being competitive if they can’t maximize the cheap or entry level contracts. If we signed Bishop like we had hoped we would not be able to be active in the FA market. Now we all know that the FA market has not yielded the results that we had hoped but it allows us to compete for player services.

    When your team has 2 of its core players making 800K(Rittich) and 925K(Tkachuk) the future is bright. Of equal importance, is the flexibility that is creates. It would be easy to go out and overpay for a goalie like Bishop but there is no guarantee he comes as advertised and there is a really good chance that he is not a good investment for his entire contract.

    So while we may not have had the money to sign, Neil which may not have been a bad thing we also would have to look at our current roster minus some key pieces like a Tkachuk, Valimaki, Ras, or Dube if we traded for Bishop before he signed with Dallas.

    The risk of trading a first rounder for a starting keeper today seems greater since more first rounders are making an impact on their team’s starting rosters much sooner than in the past. As a team that sits in the top 5 we have not been negatively impacted by giving up our first rounders but it will catch up to the organization. We need to stay the course because it seems to be working out fine.

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    I said it in another thread I say it here besides missing drone coverage and Riddick stopping the pick why Mike Smith is getting showed down our throat. Everyttime he make a save your heart is one throat and u r praying it doesn’t go in

    • oilcanboyd

      Believe it or not, the Flames need two goalies to finish the season. When Smitty is in the nets, sit in your LazyBoy rocker, get relaxed and guzzle down a case or two of beer! Merry Christmas!

  • Smithwick

    How about Boxing Day sales? Dumping people or buying at a discount? Probably not great ideas in reality but something to write a filler piece and restoke the comments section.

  • Jourflamesfan

    I just hope we dont have a repeat from last year.
    On a win streak going into the break. Came back vs Jets and their scoring disappeared. Lost 2-1.
    Things spiralled out of control from there…