The Calgary Flames are in the perfect position to rebuild (and that’s a good thing)
Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
On Thursday morning, Daily Faceoff’s NHL Insider, Frank Seravalli, dropped three pieces of news on Flames fans.
Seravalli has indicated that Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, and Mikael Backlund are all leaning towards not re-signing with the Calgary Flames.
On the surface, this may seem like bad news. Three of your best players don’t want to stay with your team long term.
But if you look beyond that fact, there is a lot of good to potentially come from this if the Flames go about this the right way.
It’s time to finally rebuild
The Gaudreau/Tkachuk/Monahan/Giordano/Backlund era is over. It’s time for this franchise and its fan base to move on from an era of Flames hockey that ultimately led to two playoff series wins in nine years.
The Flames now have an opportunity to rebuild this team through the draft. This is an organization that desperately needs to get younger, faster, more skilled and more exciting. This is a boring hockey team with not a lot of players who the fans truly have a strong connection to, like they did with Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Monahan, etc.
Now is the perfect time for general manager Craig Conroy to sell aging assets on expiring contracts for draft picks and prospects.
As currently constructed, the Flames don’t feel like a cohesive team. There is no identity with this group. And from the outside it doesn’t look like they enjoy playing together. Because of that, why not blow this thing up?
Draft skilled, fast, talented players and bring them up in your system like all great organizations do. No more building your team through trades and free agency.
Open up cap space
I know this isn’t the sexiest topic. But it is important to mention how valuable having cap space has become in today’s NHL. Having cap space allows teams to take advantage of it’s competitors who are past or up against the salary cap. I’ve brought this example up before but look what Carolina did in the Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty trades. They took advantage of capped out teams in Vegas and San Jose and got those high-end players for next to nothing. The Seattle Kraken did that with Oliver Bjorkstrand last season.
You also open the option of taking on a bad contract or two in exchange for some sweeteners aka draft picks. Carolina did this when they acquired Patrick Marleau’s contract in exchange for a first round pick that turned into Seth Jarvis. The Chicago Blackhawks did that when they took on Jason Dickinson’s contract along with a 2nd round pick. Arizona took on Zach Kassian’s contract and moved up three spots in the first round and acquired a second and third-round draft pick on top of that.
The Flames could be in a great position to leverage their new found cap space into future assets or high end players who are on capped out teams.
Build a team the fan base can get behind
The best way to build a connection between your team and your fans is to draft and develop a high end, core group of players. Let the fans be part of the process of coming up together with the team.
Look at the love and admiration the Flames fan base had for players like Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, Bennett, Giordano, Brodie and Backlund. Every one of those players were brought up in the Flames organization. Flames fans got to see them develop as players in front of their eyes. From exciting rookie seasons to maturing as a group and winning the division in 2019 and 2022. That’s how you build a connection.
This current edition of the Flames has been built through trades and free agency. These aren’t “our guys.” And that’s not meant to be disrespectful to players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, MacKenzie Weegar, Blake Coleman and Jacob Markstrom. It’s just a fact of being a fan in the NHL. Your connection to players you draft is much stronger than players you acquire in trade and who you have to beg and overpay to come play for your team and city.
An opportunity to watch more entertaining hockey
The 2022-23 season was tough to watch at times from an entertainment standpoint. The Flames played boring, slow, and uninspired hockey for most of the season. The team lacks dynamic, game changing talent which you need to win in today’s NHL.
The only way to acquire those game breaking players is through the draft. And the Flames have an opportunity to acquire a ton of draft picks in trades for Lindholm, Hanifin, Backlund, Toffoli, Tanev, and Zadorov. This is the perfect time for Conroy to draft highly skilled players and build a new core group around Dustin Wolf, Matthew Coronato and Jakob Pelletier.
Fans love watching young homegrown players and prospects. Just look at the final game of the 2022-23 season. That was the most excited I saw the fan base for a game since October. It was because we got to watch Coronato and Pelletier play on the same line. We got to see Wolf in net. That’s exciting.
What’s not exciting is the idea of running it back with the same group of old, slow, veteran players who aren’t good enough to bottom out, but aren’t good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup.
This is a Flames organization that has been stuck in the middle for a long time. Fans are tired of it. Enough with the mediocrity already.
It’s time to rebuild and start looking ahead to the future. It’s time to build a long term, sustainable winner through the draft. The chances of winning a Stanley Cup are slim to none if you don’t fully rebuild.
Calgary hockey fans are smart. They get what it takes to build a winner. They will support the team even if it if means having a couple down years to help build a cup contender as long as the Flames articulate their plan and show the fan base that the end goal is to build a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
But let’s see what Murray Edwards decides to do. He and John Bean reportedly don’t believe in rebuilds. Maybe they will listen to the fan base for once and start a new, exciting era of Calgary Flames hockey.
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