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Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Why it’s good the Flames are having a quiet off-season

If there is one thing you can say about the Brad Treliving era, is that you can usually expect a big move in the off-season. The Calgary Flames general manager has made two different Dougie Hamilton trades, brought in Travis Hamonic, and even brought in two different goalies via the trade market in Brian Elliott and Mike Smith. Everything has been pretty quiet so far this off-season, even with the team trading for Milan Lucic, yet fans are as anxious as ever for moves. My question is, why?

After the best regular season the Flames have had since 1988-89, there is still a sour taste left in the mouths of fans with just how badly the team performed against the Colorado Avalanche in the first round playoffs. It was hard to watch, yes, but those 5 games should not discredit everything that the team was able to accomplish the 82 games before.

Its not like the Flames management haven’t been trying to improve their team either, with the Jason Zucker and Nazem Kadri deals falling through before completion. Its clear that the team wants to make a move only to improve the team. Yet, these moves are for the most part are complimentary rather than necessary.

This is a team with 107 points from the year before with a young core of key contributors (with one being really old and another being somewhat old) locked up, or in the case of Matthew Tkachuk, will be locked up very soon. A large chunk of those core players had career seasons, which has caused some nervousness on whether they are able to repeat. These are not players who are at risk of their value completely tanking.

PLAYER POINTS GF% xGF% CF% AGE AT START OF SEASON
JOHNNY GAUDREAU 99 56.14 54.16 54.49 26
SEAN MONAHAN 82 52.85 52.68 53.71 25
MATTHEW TKACHUK 77 54.90 53.98 56.95 21
ELIAS LINDHOLM 78 58.49 54.43 55.54 24
MARK GIORDANO 74 60.77 55.90 57.34 36
MIKAEL BACKLUND 47 61.29 53.18 55.33 30

Really, the only two players that are likely to take a step back this year is Elias Lindholm and Mark Giordano. While its blasphemous to think this year’s Norris Trophy winner might see his play diminish, aging curves have been shown to be rather cruel. In terms of Lindholm, this past year was the only time that he has ever eclipsed the 50 point mark in his career, so it is unfair to expect a repeat 70+ point season.

However, those are the only two cases in the core that can cause fans some concern. It is not wise to worry about Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and especially Tkachuk to suddenly stop being valuable contributors after so many years of being exactly that. In addition, those three players will be 26 years old or younger to start the season. Backlund is now on the wrong side of 30, yet his style of defensive play is not over-reliant on an overt physicality or speed which bodes well for longevity.

As such, there should not be much to worry about the core going forward into next season, so how about the rest of the roster? We all know about just how bad James Neal’s season was, and perhaps because of the player and coach not getting along he has been the only player so far to get shipped out. So, instead of having a bad contract on the books until 2022-23, the flames now have… a bad contract on the books until 2022-23. Essentially, all that has changed is a player with limited abilities that they didn’t like for a player with limited abilities that they do like. Essentially, a push.

The rest of the forward group performed quite admirably. Bennett started to establish a solid role as a third line winger. He, with Mark Jankowski and Austin Czarnik formed a line that performed quite well down the stretch, especially when the top line fell onto some struggles. Derek Ryan proved to be a very solid centre in the bottom rotations, and all signs are looking positive for the two youngsters in Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube.

The defence is looking to return the same as it was last season, perhaps this time with Rasmus Andersson replacing TJ Brodie in the top pairing. The rest of the defence looks exactly the same, with Juuso Valimaki likely getting more time on the bottom pairing this upcoming year coming back from his injury suffered mid way through last year. Like the forward group. this is a defence corp still considerably young (Andersson, Noah Hanifin and Valimaki are all 22 or younger). We know how effective they are now as players and are likely going to grow as contributors over the season.

So, with looking at how the team is currently constructed, the fear of regression seems to be very pessimistic and slightly unreasonable given the ages of most of the players on the team. What more can be added to the roster without significant pieces being moved out? If the case is to move players like a Michael Frolik or a Brodie for another player on the market, how likely is it that the team will be better off?

Right now, the only real reason that I see for the Flames to make a move is to clear cap space for the remaining RFA that needs to be signed. Tkachuk is likely going to command most if not all of the cap space the team currently has, so moving a Brodie in a cap dump does make sense for the team. Other than that, what more can the team expect to really do?

It’s fair to say that this team is going to be coming back with virtually the same roster as before, baring an unforeseen major move in the works. For a young team that was first in the Western Conference, that is a sign that the team is pretty well off. However you feel about his performance this summer, Treliving built a solid team.

  • TheBigChef

    Not sure I would qualify this off-season as “quiet”, but if it is, I don’t think that is by design. It is quiet because years’ worth of poor decisions, particularly with bad UFA signings, has left us with no cap space and no discernible way of improving on the roster as it is other than through hoping young players within the system improve. Still, if the Kadri deal had gone through, along with bringing in Talbot and making the Lucic trade would make for a pretty eventful off-season.

    Also don’t think it’s fair to be calling anyone thinks there will be some regression this year pessimistic. I call it tempering expectations. Lindholm was recently named the 5th most likely regression candidate by the Athletic and is likely not going to repeat his almost point per game season. Gio is probably not going to be a back-to-back Norris winner at 36. And you didn’t really account for the fact that, as you mentioned, another player from the roster might need to be dumped to clear cap room–so now we are subtracting from last year. It will be great if Dube and Mangiapane and Bennett and Jankowski can all take big steps forward. It’s unfair to rely on them to take those steps in order to make us as good as last year or better.

    Expecting some regression from a Western Conference title is not pessimistic, it’s realistic. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to be excited about this year.

  • SourCreamGlazed

    Anybody want to talk Heritage Classic jersey wish lists?
    Sites have reported that Flames will wear white.

    A white Adidas version of the retros seems like the obvious choice – but I’d actually be keen on seeing a new design that incorporates the city flag. Think Colorado 3rds.
    That or really lean into the hat itself with a white Calgary Cowboys design (as Hitmen have already paid tribute with a CCM red version this past season).

  • Abagofpucks

    I totally believe your team will be good this coming year and make the playoffs. But it all comes down to how you make it thru the season as far as injurys go, and how much players regress. And like the oilers your goaltending will be a big factor. Your team had 107 points last year and 1st in the division, that will be pretty hard to do again, regression is more likely but i’m sure you will be fine.

    On another note getting the boot in the 1st round does define a team and not in a good way, being good in the regular season is nice, but winning in the playoffs makes a franchise great.

  • Off the wall

    It’s going to take a while before we can convince our beloved fans to be realistic or even hopeful.

    We haven’t had any postseason success since 2004. Only once have we went past the first round since then and that was in 2014. Only to lose in 5 games to the Ducks.

    Same thing last season. 5 games. I don’t think that’s a trend that sits well with fans, regardless of how well our regular season was.

    We WANT postseason to mean or say something about this team!

    I like that Treliving is trying to make this team tougher, harder to play against. The failed Kadri trade demonstrates his acknowledgement about this.

    Lucic is tough as nails. I hope he can use whatever’s left in his tank for the betterment of our team, but I’m keeping expectations in check. I’d still rather have 8-10 minutes of Lucic on the ice, than 13-15 minutes of watching Neal flounder around.

    This season has been quiet, because we don’t have Cap space and trade partners, as of yet. There’s a lot of teams in a similar situation.

    I’m waiting until training camp…
    There’s going to be a lot of traffic between now and then.

  • SeanCharles

    I just hope there is still a market for a Brodie/Janko for a top 6 C/RW deal out there.

    I think it would be a major failure to not move Brodie out from an asset management standpoint.

    Dont want to lose him for nothing next offseason.

  • Trevy

    Everything stated in this article seems to pertain to our regular season success. That’s fine, but to me, the playoffs is where I watched to see who elevated their game and I was extremely disappointed at how many disappeared. Bennett and Gio were perhaps the only two that really stepped up. Others were ok and some I didn’t even know were on the ice. I for one would tweak the roster to include a player or two that can rise to the occasion during playoffs. Instead we have some that think they can just ride their regular season success into it. Janko is one I would target to jettison with a Frolik or Brodie. Ryan did a great job during the playoffs. That leaves Janko, who was invisible, expendable. Personally, I also thought Monahan was a huge disappointment during the playoffs as well and if he continues to be a non factor, I would entertain offers for him in a couple yrs, cause his regular season success is basically relying on JG and that won’t last forever

    • Skylardog

      Ryan was the worst player in the playoffs. He didn’t even have to face the Aves top line on a regular basis and yet got crushed by the opposition. How does a 30% CF% sound? At least he was the worst up front.

      Hamonic and Hanifin got crushed as well on D. Yet we let Fant walk despite him and Andersson being the best guys on the ice.

      Up is down, left is right, and nothing makes any sense. Perceptions of what went wrong in the playoffs are so mismatched as to what actually happened.

      And while Mony didn’t score, he didn’t get scored on either.

      The reason we lost was because we have no second line. And we still won’t have one after the offseason of nothing…

      • Trevy

        Mony is paid to score. Sure you have to play a good defensive game too, but all too often, if he’s not scoring, you wouldn’t even know he played. I’m not bashing Mony, but if he’s not scoring, at least throw the body once in a while to show us you’re involved

        • MiamiRedhawks

          As much as I want to blame players for not checking. I am on the thought they were not supposed to be checking. Play a fast clean game and open it up in the opponents zone. Seemed like a systematic thing, not an individual player thing.

      • CowboyBob

        Come on Fantenburg was horrible that series. A complete pylon the only thing missing was wearing an orange jersey. He can’t do a proper cross over using his outside edge as he pivots. Pro scout should have picked this up before we traded for him. Gio did have a tough series but Peters didn’t adjust. He left his centre in front of the net, leaving his d on an island against the Avs top line. The Sharks had their centres more active supporting the d out to the corners and taking away the high cycle from the Avs.

      • The Iggy complex

        Pretty sure everyone has said that basically the entire team sucked. It was a wierd playoffs where the best teams were eliminated early, except Boston. Doesn’t change how well Gio played through out the 82 game season and was well deserving of the Norris

      • Trevy

        The effort was there, Gio doesn’t do anything without giving it his all. Let me also add, he’s not my favourite player, but I respect his game. He struggled for sure but bottom line, there were far too many other passengers just floating around hoping something good was going to happen. They let the Avs come in waves and our defence were working double time trying to stop them

      • BendingCorners

        Nah. For all we know Treliving may have offered 5.9 to Tkachuk on a one-year deal and 0.88 to Mangiapane. Then he can be at least minimally cap compliant even if nothing else happens, by sending Kylington and Quine and Gillies to Stockton. Meantime Treliving can arrange hockey trades to get the shooter the team still needs and maybe move one or two softer players for more of a corner guy. Even without an extra shooter the team is good.
        A propos of nothing. I’m not convinced buying out Stone is either necessary or good. A replacement level D is still going to cost 700K so the savings this year is 1.6 not 2.3, and the net saving over two years is only 0.4. Might as well keep him for depth. It ‘s entirely possible that what we see today is the lineup we will see in season. They should have managed a deeper playoff run last year, so this year – if they have learned from the experience – they should actually go into the third round.
        Cheer up, ‘Dog!

          • BendingCorners

            Not so. Any player that is waived provides cap relief up to the lesser of his actual cap hit or the current year’s defined threshold. For the upcoming season that threshold I believe is 1.05MM so waiving Gillies provides cap relief for his entire salary. Contract structure has nothing to do with waiver-related cap relief.

      • KootenayFlamesFan

        I’m not saying we need to get anything back, I’m saying we can get rid of him by either buying him out or waiving him. Dont need to give a pick up though.

  • wot96

    The reason the offseason is “kind of” quiet is because Tre hasn’t done anything monumentally stupid in terms of signing players. Arguably the Lucic thing, but…that trade has its plusses and it’s been done to death here and elsewhere. Only the season will tell.

    People are asking why can’t we get this for Stone, or that for Frolik, or whatever for Brodie? Because other GM’s have their own problems and they aren’t paid to alleviate Tre’s. At the start of this season one of two things will have happened: either Tkachuk sits (because on any analysis there isn’t enough money for even a bridge deal) or Tre will have sold a player (or two) for pennies on the dollar in order to make the cap space, and I’m including a Stone buyout in that. No one will help us.

    Now, at the trade deadline, look out. Calgary will have one or two players, barring injuries, that other teams will go after. And then Tre will just extract maximum value because that’s what he is supposed to do.

    He got himself and the Flames into this. He can’t count on anyone bailing him out.

  • buts

    6 Flames had career years, the team faded in the last third of the season then we got schooled in the playoffs, our GM has cornered himself in regards to the cap and is handcuffed. I’m looking forward to the season and not pessimistic but the stars will have to align for a repeat of last season. It seems that Kylington has been forgotten, I’m a big fan yet no one seems to think he can make the top 6 D. This guy should be a starting defensemen, he’s good enough.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Realistically, Kylington is the 7th D if Stone is bought out and 6th if Brodie is also traded. He needs to be versatile enough to play RD, or perhaps Valimaki can do that. What we really need to do, assuming Brodie is traded and Stone bought out, is to sign a cheap RHS RD. The you can play Valimaki or Kylington.

    • BendingCorners

      I agree about Kylington but he is not as good as Valimaki so he likely sits (or plays in Stockton) until somebody is injured. Good trade candidate though, if Treliving can put together a package that brings back a top six RHS scoring forward.

      • cornwallroyals

        He may well be part of a trade package. There could be a good chance he gets picked in the expansion draft so let’s get something for him if a good player comes back our way.

        • everton fc

          I was one of the more negative posters here, when it came to Kylington. No longer. It’d be a mistake to move him, just yet. And I like Valiev, his potential – he could be a real sleeper.

    • Jobu

      Its all about getting hot at the right time and making it last as long as possible. We peaked WAY early too early last year, as you suggest. Strangely enough, the Flames have this tendency to peak 1 to 2 months before the all star game and then let off the gas after all star weekend.

      • Abagofpucks

        The only fly in the ointment jobu is when you peak that early in your season it usually means you overachieved and it wasn’t the all about the skill.

  • Herringchoker1971

    I agree with the article in who most likely will regress based on history……because there’s nothing to tell us otherwise in the case of Lindy. I do foresee some positive growth potential from Bennett, Janko, and Mangiapane. So it will all wash out in the end. This is a deep team. I predict……Same Same.

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    Good lord. It’s that time of the offseason again where everyone gets monumentally pessimistic and depressing.

    I know its hard not to have any hockey news or games or excitement, and there are definitely valid concerns to be raising.

    But Tre is facing what literally all GMs are facing except like 3: a cap crunch. This is Bettmans league, and Bettmans NHL. The cap crunch is part of the game now. How many other teams have a Chucky (or worse) to sign?

    Tre is masterful at contracts, and has done a wonderful job with his other stars. JG and Mony at under 7?? Lindholm at under 5?

    Also, as the article points out, this is a really, really good team.

    Yeah, the playoff thing is a big issue, but we finished first in the league last season. It’s just a tough time of the year to both not have hockey to watch, and to have such negativity around this team.

      • Theo/14

        So you truly believe in your heart of hearts Sean Monohan and Johnny Gaudreau can beat the best of the best in multiple 7 game series???? They could have 5 more years of playoff failures and I think some fans would still be convinced they could do it based on “experience of losing”. Monohan is not going to go beast mode at this point in his career. Johnny is Johnny. Playoffs are his worst nightmare. Refs put the whistles away.

        • FlamesFanFromMI

          That’s why we need a big right winger to make room for him. 2 guys gang up on him and rest on Mony and they leave the third forward alone cause he can’t do anything Jonny needs someone to make room for him. It’s that simple just like we couldn’t find true number 1 center for iggi

          • CowboyBob

            I not sure if the answer is a big hulking forward are we just need more 200 foot guys who are willing battle for the puck all over the ice. Patrick Kane had a lot more success when he played in Chicago’s second line. He didn’t have to take on the other team’s top players. Jonathan Toews’ first line did that. Kane was on the first power play unit. That’s where Johnny is going to have his best success, playing on a second line for a regular shift and the first power play unit. To be honest Monahan is not a first line centre either. Hence first round loss in 5 games.

        • buts

          Watching Zadorov have his way with our forwards in the playoffs and BT was pissed at the season ending press conference regarding our teams soft play and he seemed very ready to address this weakness. Lucic will help for sure, that’s one player but we have no D or forwards that others fear. Our deficiencies are so freaking obvious and growing “scar tissue” as Tre puts it will not make a difference. Tre really dropped the ball at the TDL, that’s where he would not only have others overpay but it would have added picks and cap space. Bad management plain and simple. Jonny Turnover and Sean Monomuffin are not playoff performers.

        • BendingCorners

          Yes I think they can. Whether it happens or not is anybody’s guess. In a 32 team league even most good and very good players will never make it to a Conference Final, much less win a Cup. It is simply the law of averages. Rather than calling some very talented and dedicated players inadequate losers, I choose to temper my expectations and enjoy the games and cheer when they win.

    • freethe flames

      How good were they? 9-9 and 2 OT games first 20, 12-4 4OT games 2nd 20, 11-4 5 OT games, and 13-9 for the last 22 games and as we all recall 1-4 in the playoffs. This team has some very good parts but it has serious flaws that should not be over looked. We have players who are playing too far up in the line up b/c we don’t have anyone to play there. My favorite example is Backs; I’m a huge fan of his game but he would be better served playing as a #3 center whose priorities are shutting down the other team He should not be on the second PP. It’s just not his skill set. We had Lindy play on the first line and he had a great season but faltered as the season went on; I don’t know why but he did. Personally I would like to see him be the #2 center with tkacuk but then who plays RW on the first line? This team needed to add 2 forwards that could help the top 9 and the only player added was Luc. I do believe that we added by subtraction when we lost Neal in that I would rather see a Dube or Mangiapne get a chance to play up the line up than watch another painful year of Neal. But Luc does not help this teams top 9. Are we still likely a playoff team; if the goaltending tandem holds up we likely are but is this a team built for long playoff run probably not.

      • The one thing I loved about the team last year that we rarely ever saw over the past 20 is the come from behind wins. I can’t remember how many games we out scored teams in the 3rd. It was by far the Flames best in decades. Hope they can have that confidence throughout the year!

  • PlayitagainSam

    If Treleving would have bought Neal out they would have an extra 3.5 million to use to pay Tkachuk and not paint himself into a corner, but instead he took on the worst contract in the league in the boat anchor Lucic. Our cap space looked great a year ago!

    • Getpucksdeep

      Agree, good article and certainly expresses what I think. I’m not too concerned about the playoffs and the final regular season stretch. I think Gaudreau, Monahan and Tkachuk all have more to give as they reach the 25-28 age range. Yea they didn’t play well last post season. I do recall 3 years ago Monahan had a goal a game in the losing cause to Anahiem. To me its a good core that I think still needs a swift winger with a wicked shot (doesn’t have to be as tough as Jarome, just shoot it like that!) and another forward besides Lucic who can and will throw his weight around. I think the blue line is in great shape by virtue of the Gio showing the young guys the right way to play. Treliving isn’t done. He can’t be done as the math doesn’t ad up. He’s Treliving, which means he won’t tip his hand either, so relax and enjoy.

  • Raffydog

    This team is so flawed it’s quite depressing. There were only two players on the team able to up their game in the playoffs, and one of them is now playing for the Oilers. Anyone who says they aren’t concerned, or that they dont read much into the early playoff exit, is basically burying their heads in the sand saying if I cant see it, it doesnt exist. Everybody should be very concerned, that was a choke job of epic proportions. It’s not so much that they lost, it’s how they lost. All of the supposed “stars” on the team choked and caved under the pressure. Every Single One Of Them. And if you think they will learn and get better with experience, well they are somehow getting worse the more playoff games they play. This is a poorly built team that will never get past the first round, in fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they miss the playoffs all together next season.

    • HOCKEY83

      Because they didn’t have good players up to this summer. This time next season when they need to resign half there roster involving some key players they will have cap issues.

  • freethe flames

    I suspect BT has been working the phones trying to get a deal done; with the window now open for the second buyout period for the Flames I suspect we will be having something to talk about soon.

    My question is: would people be happy with moving Frolik and Stone and retaining half their salaries for late round round draft picks or B prospects. That would save the Flames around $3.85m. So a deal with say Ottawa(they have cap space and could use some help) for Stone and Frolik for a 3rd and 6th and we retain 1/2 of each of their salaries.

      • The Iggy complex

        I’m glad we both believe in Tre. I mean he did turn the flames from a bottom dweller into the second best team in the league within a few years. That is some pretty good work

        • Albertabeef

          Actually most the guys were team assets before Tre arrived, they just needed time to develop. Again I credit the scouts for the drafted players not Tre. Tre has made a lot of bad moves. Feaster made us playoff bound again, most of Tre’s Vet player moves have been lateral at best. Especially if Lindholm regresses as media are saying.

        • Albertabeef

          Oh and how come you never say “second(tied) best team in the league”? We were tied with Boston in points to finish the season. Considering the lead we had I’m a little embarrassed they caught up. At Xmas time I really thought we were a contender, we were playing awesome hockey. Then the All-Star game happened and we looked like garbage afterwards. Now I have serious doubts about this team. But you go on tooting your horn about second place lol.

          • The Iggy complex

            Tre is there one that signed them all to team friendly contracts. And yes second best because they tied Boston on points but had them beat with the ROW so finished second.

            Lol yes I will be proud of the team I cheer for doing so well in the season. All Tamas go through bad stretches. We will see how the season goes.

  • drogon

    The Lightning should now be able to sign Brayden Point, this should move the needle for Tkachuk.
    Looks like Jake Gardiner is about to be moved.
    TJ Brodie is next.

  • Jobu

    Wouldn’t be surprised if Frolik goes to Tampa now that they dumped the Callahan deal. Not sure what a return would look like though. Probably only a 3rd round pick, given what Vegas got for Gusev.