43

How Flames handle current adversity should dictate their moves at the deadline

There has been a lot of talk about the Calgary Flames being a big shopper on the rental market.

But if their recent losing streak was an indicator of anything, it might be that management should rethink the idea of potentially overpaying for one of the bigger names available.

With better-than-anticipated results through the first two-thirds of the season, it makes a lot of sense for GM Brad Treliving to explore ways to further strengthen the lineup for a chance at a deep run in the playoffs. They have the assets to land a player like Mark Stone, whose attributes and fit with the Flames have been discussed to death lately.

Let’s just say for the sake of argument that he’s a great fit and that the Flames could land him if they’re willing to pay the price. It’s the second part of that sentence that is the key to this deadline. The price was more palatable (as an ask, it’s likely a first round pick, another top asset or prospect, and a young roster player) when the Flames appeared as if they had a reliable No. 1 goalie in David Rittich and were getting consistent scoring support beyond the top line.

Until the 5-4 matinee victory over the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday, that hasn’t been the case lately.

Michael Frolik’s goal on Saturday assisted by linemates Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund were Tkachuk and Frolik’s first points since the all-star break. Backlund now has two. The team had gone 1-3-2, with Rittich splitting starts with the on-again, off-again veteran Mike Smith. Neither had fared well, either. Rittich is 1-1-1 and was pulled in his other start after allowing two goals on the first six shots he faced. Picking up the win in Pittsburgh (barely) Smith is 1-2-1 and has statistically been better than his counterpart.

Meanwhile, there must be a slight shortage of purple Gatorade, because the top line hasn’t been passing it around much on the bench. Not that six goals in the seven games since the break isn’t decent (Sean Monahan has two and Elias Lindholm four) but when you’ve been the only line producing and were doing so at a much higher rate previously, having one player at a point-per-game pace (Lindholm) won’t keep the Flames in the elite conversation much longer if the trends all continue.

And these are all the shortcomings people were worried about in the offseason. Secondary scoring. Goaltending. Lack of experienced depth on defence.

Is this a team that can make the playoffs? Absolutely. They’ve been one of the best in the league for more than three months. Could they also find themselves the victim of a first-round upset because of spotty goaltending on hockey’s hardest stage? Definitely — with or without an addition like Stone to help address one of the issues.

Goaltending has become equally as important an avenue of exploration. Concern is valid considering the way Rittich played down the stretch when Smith was injured last year — something Rittich addressed in an article on NHL.com this week.

“I took all the pressure on me so that was maybe my mistake,” Rittich told Kevin Woodley of NHL.com.

That was backed up by a telling quote from Flames goalie coach Jordan Sigalet.

“When Mike was hurt last season, you could see his body language was different, he wasn’t as loose as he usually was,” Sigalet said in the same article. “When he’s loose and being himself, that’s when he’s at his best. He almost became too serious and you could even see it in his eyes, sitting in his stall, that he was too intense. That works for some guys, but it doesn’t work for him.”

How seriously he handles this current adversity will go a long way in telling the Flames where their real need is at the deadline and in the offseason. It’s nice that Smith has showed signs of improvement, but Rittich is the guy the team has rallied around all year.

  • everton fc

    I still say our biggest need is a playmaker – a forward known for his playmaking abilities, to replace Frolik and/or Neal, as 2/3 RW. Doesn’t need to be elite level, as we can’t afford that type of player. Needs to be above average, though. Zuccarello continues to come to mind. (Of course, just read Duchene is available. I can’t see any mathematical way to sign Duchene, Tkachuk, Bennett, Rittich and Hathaway – not to mention Lazar, if we choose to keep him around, this off-season).

  • Getpucksdeep

    Wish I could be the proverbial “fly on the wall” in Trelivings office. We have to believe any major tinker would involve a defenseman. Brodie? He has an 8 team no trade but could be good bait for eastern Canada. If I recall he and his girlfriend/wife? are from there and she has MS and closer to family would be an attraction? He’s plus 25 and if he can clean up the sloppy break out passes he has value. He’s a terrific skater and would be an upgrade on all three eastern Canadian bluelines. One of the 4 good young guys? Maybe as in 2 years Seattle may have a crack at them anyway. If Treliving doesn’t just tinker and makes a splash it has to involve a defender.

  • snotss

    to do well in the playoffs you need great goal tending…do we have it in calgary????a little help in that department would help a long playoff run….get the help we need but don’t pay a ransom for it..is it possible????

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    Eric Staal….. been beating this drum for a while, gives us size, toughness, a playmaker and pushes Backs to the third line, will only cost us futures, I think he would be a GREAT fit…

  • Justthateasy

    Whatever is decided they have got to hang on to Bennett. You got to love that guy. He is a reminder of how Gary Roberts used to play. Tough as nails and you don’t mess with him.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      He picked a fight with a non-fighter yesterday. Not saying he didn’t have a good reason to sort out the guy, but where was he a couple weeks ago when Tommy Wilson was running down, running over and running through the Flames? Do you really believe that if the Flames draw the Knights in the playoffs Bennett can neutralize Reeves? I don’t. Bennett has game and I give him credit for that but against the true baddies in the league, Bennett is a speedbump. If Reeves or Gudbranson wants to have his way with any Flames’ superstar, having to answer to Bennett is no cause for concern. That said, he is the closest thing the Flames have as a nuclear deterrent, but in realpolitik terms, it’s like comparing the nuclear arsenal of India against Russia’s of China’s.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I agree, he has a skill set that we don’t have much of on the team. After Bennett dropped the gloves no other Penguins wanted a piece of him. I think he is getting a reputation like Roberts as a player not to mess with.

  • Off the wall

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I believe we need ONE more playmaker-scorer- finisher on the team.

    Look at Colorado. They have taken a huge nosedive in the standings. One line can’t do it all, especially when opposing teams focus on them.

    SAN Jose is a concern. I think we’re going to be in a race from now until the final game of the season, for 1st in the Pacific, maybe the Conference title as well.

    There’s a lot of pressure on our team this year. I hope Treliving finds a equitable trade for the final BIG push!

    • everton fc

      I agree – see my “First” post.

      Just read the Wings have asked Nyquist for a list of teams he’d consider, if traded (Flames were scouting the Wings/Flyers game, so it could be Simmonds they are looking at). Rumours out of NYC are the Rangers will move Zuccarello, with hopes of signing him, off-season. They are also in contract talks w/him, and Hayes, though both might fizzle. More and more, I wonder if the “conditioning stint” for Valimaki may lead to a move involving Brodie and a prospect for a playmaking forward and a depth defencemen. The question would be, who plays w/Gio. Andersson? Could we trust Prout/Valimaki, Kylington/Valimaki, through the playoffs? Would Duchene + for Brodie +, work?

      • Trevy

        Kypreos was saying on HNIC last night that the Flames may decide to add another veteran defenseman since we’ve been running with four dmen under the age of 22. Getting rid of Brodie and addin Valimaki would just make our defense core that much more inexperienced, especially if we go on a long playoff run. No doubt Andersson will soon be in the top pairing, but not this year. I would love to get Kronwall

        As for Bennett, I love his game and agree he cannot be relied on to carry the heavy lifting against the likes of Wilson or Reeves. I doubt Prout would be used in any playoff games either just to neutralize the other heavy weights. I for one would not mind an additional low key trade involving someone like Clifford. He’s a built for the playoffs, has experience and would keep the other teams in check. The question is, where do ou fit him in, especially if we get someone else for the top nine. I trust BT is doing his usual due diligence and sifting through every scenario

  • Trevy

    Forget the big fish, let the others fight for them…we just need a little extra push from a character player that has playoff experience and chip in offensively. Staal definitely would fit that bill as an example. I would be very hesitant giving up too many assets for a high priced rental. There are no guarantees and right now we have a good thing going

  • Kevin R

    Steve, goaltending is what it is for the remainder of the season & playoffs. Smith has had two decent games & as a backup, what more do you want. A goalie acquisition doesnt make sense at this point, we made this bed, now we have to lie in it. Lets just see how Rittch & Smith do & then decisions will be made on garbage day & the goalie situation will be addressed in the summer. No assets should go anywhere to acquire a goalie that would have probably looked about the same as Smith did yesterday.

    Trading Brodie, nope, not now, maybe at the draft but we need all hands on deck for the home stretch & playoffs. Personally, the adds to me will be Valamaki & fingers crossed Stone will be ready for duty if called upon. Again no one expected us to be where we are with the amount of youth we have employed on our backend. Why change now & give up assets for what is available on the market to rent?

    Forwards is the natural place to acquire a rental. First off, there is a whole lot of them, they are great rentals, high calibre players & the teams that have them are facing a rock and a hard place if they still own those players after the trade deadline. The cost to acquire such players earlier is ridiculous, hence why there has been little movement on any of these players. Tick-tock & I see prices dropping as the TDL counts down. In play for our team should be maximum our 1st but preferably not, a prospect like Ruzicka and a roster player like Czarnik or Magpie. This package would only be for the best rentals & if other teams want to give up more, let them. Zuccarello & Staal would be pretty good rental additions & give Peters some pretty good juggling options for the 2nd & 3rd lines & the cost should be way less than for Stone, Panarin & Duschene.

    Speaking of Duschene, it sounds like 8.0 mill was enough $$$ but he wants the right situation. Would he be an upgrade over Backlund, if Tre were able to do a trade & sign where Backlund was part of the deal going back the other way? Honest question, would he be an upgrade over that 2nd line centre position?

    I think with the cap rising, Backlund $5.3 mill per will be a reasonable pay for a decent 3rd line centre, but we need to get Chucky a better offensive centre.

  • Inglewood

    Stone puts us over the top, no doubt about it. What BT needs to be looking at is who we would be willing to part with, and make a deal which includes Stone signing LT. It won’t be easy but there is a way. Combination of moving small amounts of money right now at the deadline + more moves at the draft. Stone is elite, make it happen Brad!

    • freethe flames

      I read this morning that BT does not want to use the 1st rounder for a rental and I agree with him. The cost of the elite FA forwards will be much more than a 1st rounder. Here’s hoping he can add a piece at a price we can afford.

  • Flamesforever

    I think we should make a push for Dzingel out of Ottawa, makes the most sense to me, plus I think we would be able to resign him if Tre does some financial tinkering. We need another goal scorer like him.

      • Flamesforever

        If some sort of Sign and trade can be worked out.. I’d give up our first + (Mangiapane and or Phillips) but I wouldn’t touch our 3 young studs on the backend or Dube unless we are getting Stone our way.

    • Skylardog

      I get the feeling that Dzingel is a product of playing with Duschene and to a small extent with Stone, not because he is a good as his numbers appear. He is getting the bump guys get from playing on a line with top players.

      All good if he plays with JG or Monahan, but given that spot is taken, who gives him that bump?

      We need a guy that is the driver, not the passenger.

  • freethe flames

    Until the first significant rental player is moved we wait and speculate. Are there players who make us significantly better without breaking the bank? It will be interesting.

  • Skylardog

    Holes have been identified (raised their ugly head to some extent). So you push the ship forward and try to fix some of those holes. You do some of it at the trade deadline. You probably can’t do it all.

    The fact is this however, anything you do right now that brings in a player that has a significant cap hit for next season is a rental. And you don’t bring in rentals in a year where holes like we have and staring us clearly in the eye.

    Why is that? Because of cap space next season. After you sign Tkachuk, Benny, Ritter, and find and sign a second goalie, there is very little to no space left to sign anyone you bring in.

    Step one in plugging the holes is to create cap space so players that we bring in to plug the holes can be signed. If we just got some of that done, it would help to keep the window open longer, and make our chances of winning better. And go find that goalie.

  • Off the wall

    Sunday story time. Sorry folks.

    I was up late last night trying to play my guitar, after leaving it collecting dust in it’s stand for weeks.

    My finger-tips were raw from getting callouses again. I really should be playing it regularly, so I don’t have to experience that pain every time I use it.

    I’m not gifted in playing either. I’ve recorded myself and at times I wonder why I even try to make music. I’m sure coyotes are howling every time I pick it up. My dogs fight each other when I play, so perhaps that’s an indication that I’m just never going to be that good.

    But I love the acoustic instrument. It brings me great pleasure. Even when my fingers blister from lack of use.

    I am also a mediocre hockey player, the same as my guitar playing. But damn it, I love them both.

    The Flames give me inspiration and hope. They give me the same feeling as strumming my fingers across the strings of my old worn down guitar. Perhaps if I put some NEW strings on it, it wouldn’t be so hard for me to play. But then I’d have to re-tune it again.

    Herein lies the conundrum. Do we pick up another piece or two to get us playing the way we’re capable each game?
    And if we do, then that means more fine -tuning.

    New players don’t automatically come tuned for our style of play.
    They need to be instructed, if you will. Maybe that’s my biggest challenge. I’ve never taken lessons. I’ve probably reached the pinnacle of what I can accomplish on my own.
    Lessons, instruction are always good.

    How much time do we give these new players, to see if they fit our orchestrated lineup? I think we know the answer is never clear. Some fit perfectly. Lindholm for example.

    Others take time. James Neal. How is it one can fit so seamlessly, while another struggles?

    Look at our team. We’re orchestrated for quick, puck-moving transitional hockey.

    If our future player(s) don’t fit that makeup, should we go out and get em’ ?

    It’s a question we’ll be facing until the TDL approaches and disappears.

    For now, I think I’ll get back to strumming my guitar.
    There’s Coyotes out there dying to listen! 😉

  • Slowmo

    if ppl here think we will land a big player like Stone or Duchene your all dreaming BT is way to smart for that as much as he would love to bring a player like them into the fold the cost is just way to much for a rental. If we do land some one it will be a bottom 6 player some one we can get for next to nothing.