MikaelBacklund

 

 

Lancione takes a look at the fantasy hockey outlook for the Calgary Flames. 

 

The Calgary Flames have missed Lord Stanley’s Playoffs for four seasons running; a trend with no end in sight. In fact, the 2013-14 Flames outfit will be hard-pressed to avoid finishing in the deepest shadows of the NHL’s basement. The fire sale that media, pundits and fans alike had been clamoring for several years for, finally began this past spring when franchise player Jarome Iginla, big money rearguard Jay Bouwmeester and depth winger Blake Comeau were dealt. Alex Tanguay returned to Colorado in the offseason and the all but official farewell of the Saddledome’s crease junkie of the past decade, Miikka Kiprusoff, certainly marks the end of an era.

 

To be quite frank, save for one glorious run in the spring of 2004, where Calgary came within one Martin Gelinas call away from a second franchise championship, this era was indisputably an unmitigated disaster. Immediately preceding that magical run which took us through the red mile a decade ago, the Flames hopeful had witnessed a horrid run of seven straight seasons failing to qualify for the playoffs. Following that run and the subsequent 2004-05 work stoppage, the club endured four straight first round exits, followed by the current four year playoff drought and counting… (For those of you running the numbers at home, that’s --count it-- five playoff appearances and only one venture past the first round over the past 16 years!)

 

It really is a shame this large scale overhaul was put off for so long by an upper brass in denial, led by GM Jay Feaster. It goes without saying that had the fire sale been activated three years back, the ransom that could have been fetched for Iginla (two low level prospects in 13’), Kiprusoff(nothing), would have been dramatically more significant. It could have sped up the turnover period drastically, but instead we have watched those once high profile assets wither away in value, due to advanced age, diminished abilities and impending retirement.

 

The core of the team as currently constructed consists of Mike Cammalleri and Jiri Hudler, a goaltending tandem of Joey MacDonald and Karri Ramo, as well as defenseman, Mark Giordano. Ouch! That being said, the prospects have been silently travelling up the Alberta pipeline to Calgary despite regional rival Edmonton gaining all of the attention for the higher profile blue chippers heading that way. Despite Calgary surprisingly only having had a single top-20 selection over the past decade before this summer’s No.6 overall selection of Sean Monahan, some promising picks have gradually been amassed. I.e. The fully groomed Mikael Backlund, Sven Bärtschi (now primed for his first full season), 2013 U.S. World Junior standout: John Gaudreau, Markus Granlund and the newly selected Monahan-- not too shabby a collection of young talent.

Lancione’s Top Five Flames Prospects

(2012-13 level of play and production)

5) Markus Granlund (Liiga= 50 GP, 30 points)

4) Mikael Backlund (NHL= 32 GP, 16 points; SEL= 23 GP, 30 points)

3) Sven Bärtschi (NHL= 20 GP, 10 points; AHL= 32 GP, 26 points)

2) Sean Monahan (CHL= 58 GP, 78 points)

1) John Gaudreau (NCAA= 35 GP, 51 points)


However, the majority of these kids are far from being every day, NHL-ready contributors. With Mike Cammalleri entering the final year of his deal and likely headed out the door by midseason, the departure of Roman Cervenka back to Europe, an unproven goaltending duo, an increasingly thin blue line and serious lack of offensive depth, things will assuredly be getting worse before they get better in Calgary.

 

With a striking similarity to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ past decade of ineptitude (before they finally righted the ship in 2013), the Flames have perpetually been too poor to squeak into the postseason, but not quite horrible enough to garner top picks to boost the talent pool in the entry draft. The reluctance of management to throw in the towel and ascertain the much needed injection of youth and the odd promising blue-chipper that would have been hauled in, by converting said aging assets, when still possible, has impeded the growth of the franchise immeasurably.

 

Not unlike the Toronto path, this Flames group did finally divulge itself of those aging flotation devices (Iginla, Kipper, Bouwmeester), so to speak, which prevented them from sinking low enough in the standings to be in a high percentage position to draft an elite talent. This year, all signs point to such a finish that may enable the Flames to have a top two pick next summer. However, unlike the Toronto route, they have not surrendered top picks by acquiring a Phil Kessel type talent at the completely wrong time in the rebuild.

 

There is virtually no shot that Calgary spends anywhere near to the cap ceiling this season, despite certainly having the wherewithal to do so. The theory of them ‘tanking’ will probably fester among media outlets and the blogosphere at times this year. Though this is the model (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Edmonton, etc) which tends to yield the highest and quickest level of talent-pool regeneration, while positioning for long term success in the cap-world NHL. There are only a couple players who should continue to thrive in this diminished lineup this season. Mark Giordano, for one, is positioned to replace Jay Bouwmeester as the Defensive Corps leader. He leads by example, falling amongst the NHL leaders in blocked shots on an annual basis. In 2010-2011, he placed third in the NHL with a whopping 193 blocked attempts on the campaign.  Look for him to push 200 this season with the weakest corps he’s been a part of yet, throughout his decade as a Flame.

 

This season, the Abbottsford Flames should have a number of future NHLers given ample room to develop their game this year. Markus Granlund comes to mind if he will finally leave the Finnish Elite league set-up to begin adapting to the North American game. His prospect camp performance this summer in Calgary was well received by scouts and local media, having being deemed a much improved player over a year ago. American collegiate standout, John Gaudreau, has surprised many in his committing to remain in the NCAA circuit for another season, rather than report to the farm club (AHL). Though he will again be a top candidate in that circuit for the 2014 Hobey Baker Award.

 

In the Canadian Major Junior ranks, Sean Monahan is primed for a very important  final season with the OHL’s Ottawa 67's (assuming he doesn't make the Flames), as well as almost assuredly, a role on Canada’s WJC squad. Both outlets should allow for a fantastic opportunity for him to really elevate his performance level.

Meanwhile, the already graduated AHL prospects, such as: Max Reinhart, Sven Bärtschi and Mark Cundari will be positioned to gain valuable experience, with full-time gigs in the big show in store for them this upcoming campaign.

 

Top 5 Projected Flames Producers for 2013-14

5) Curtis Glencross  – 47 points

4) Lee Stempniak  – 49 points

3) Mikael Backlund –  52 points

2) Jiri Hudler – 54 points

1) Mike Cammalleri – 56 points

 

Looking forward a year from now, the Flames may decide to make a big free agent splash in the summer of 2014, when they will have a ton of cap space to allocate freely. Though this team is still likely a few years away from ending the current four year playoff drought in any event. In fact, matching the seven year streak transpiring prior to the 2003-04 Cup Final run is probably a reality for Flames Nation.

 

What can be said for the first time in years though, is that Calgary is no longer compounding the length of time required to right the ship. They are finally in a position to take a step or two backward in order to take a few steps forward.

 

~~ Follow Anthony Lancione on Twitter @ANTHISDAMAN ~~

 



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Comments (11)add comment

Rodgort said:

Rodgort
Great Article I really enjoyed the insight on this article. Especially living here and watching the product live
August 13, 2013
Votes: +1

UKflames said:

UKflames
Not a great article Well it makes a change to see a Flames article of here, such a shame that it's not very good. I am no writer, so I am not questioning the style more the content and, what seems to be some missing research.
On three occasions you mention the fact that the rebuild was delayed whilst managment hung onto the past, is stating this fact once not enough. When you talk about the team finally trading away the ageing parts you state that this prevented the team from dropping low enough in the standings to gain a high pick, how can trading away these parts prevent the flames dropping in the standings?? The flames were actually hurt by their own ability to win games they shouldn't have at the end of the season and teams with far more talent than them (cough Carolina Cough Tampa Bay) losing games that they really had no business losing, securing a higher pick than they probalby needed or deserved.

As mentioned below you talk solely about Giordano, again repeating yourself over the course of the article, whilst failing to mention Wideman or Brodie, who is considered to be a very good prospect D man following his rise towards the end of last year.

I am pleased to see an article on the flames but there are some glaring problems here in my humble opinion.
August 13, 2013
Votes: +0

sasquatch said:

sasquatch
Brodie No mention of him, from what I've heard/read he's suppose to be pretty darn good!
August 13, 2013
Votes: +2

Marshal said:

Marshal
... Agree with mabus regarding where responsibility lies for the team's failures and rationale behind "retooling" instead of "rebuilding". Feaster's free agent signings were likely mandated (or something like that) from ownership, but what about the drafting? Jankowski last year and Poirier this year. Almost seems like Feaster is trying his best to make bold moves to demonstrate that the Flames seek to "stand out" and show a lot of confidence in their scouting staff.
Historically for the Flames, not great. They've had a very, very tough go-around with drafting in the last long while. Monahan is a good piece to add to Baertschi, but this team looks really light on impact prospects. If the Flames do end up with a lottery pick next spring, is Feaster going to be "bold" and try creating conversation? Or make the rational, obvious choice?
August 12, 2013
Votes: +0

Crazy Invader said:

Crazy Invader
... one glorious run in the spring of 2003 2004
August 12, 2013
Votes: +1

mabus said:

mabus
... Final thoughts. Reto Berra was supposedly the key part of the Bouwmeester trade, so he should at least be mentioned as a prospect.

I've also seen a lot of flames prospects analysis, and in those lists I have never seen one where Gaudreau was listed as the flames top prospect, so you should at least state why he so high on your list. I'm not a huge Monahan fan, but he's got to be better than a fourth rounder from 2011 that is 5'8", a buck and a half and probably has 2nd line upside.
August 12, 2013
Votes: +0

Big Ev said:

Big Ev
... Monahan plays for the Ottawa 67's and is likely to play in Calgary this year
August 12, 2013
Votes: +1

mabus said:

mabus
... I'd agree paerdog, but that Ryan O'Reilly fiasco that could have cost us our first round picks for nothing turned me against Feaster in a big way.

He was hired because management wanted someone to right the ship without a rebuild, and Feaster signed up for that job and agreed that it was possible. The fans new it was a bad idea, but for some reason Feaster took the job with those expectations and seemed to buy into the idea that a rebuild wasn't necessary. Ownership is to blame here for sure, but it's tough to look at many of Feaster's moves and say - that was really good. It feels like after every trade I say "that was the best we could get?" I can't remember the last draft pick or trade that made me say - this is going to be a fun team to watch someday soon.

He's no Mike Gillis, but I hope we are rid of Feaster soon, because I think he's done very little to help our team and a lot to hurt it over his tenure.
August 12, 2013
Votes: +0

mabus said:

mabus
... Amazing to see an article about the flames where Wideman wasn't mentioned once. You mentioned Giordano's blocked shots, but Wideman blocked more. He also had more icetime, powerplay time, goals, assists and shots on goal. Pretty much do a search and replace in this article from Giordano to Wideman, and then add a sentence that says that Giordano needs to have a bounce-back year after a subpar one, and we are headed the right direction.
August 12, 2013
Votes: +2

paperdog said:

paperdog
... Not so sure that the delay in the rebuild was so much Feaster's call as it was the ownership's. Here in Calgary we've heard stuff about ownership's expectations. An excellent example is Murray Edward's ridiculous mandate to Feaster about making the playoffs this year. Feaster may not be the best GM in the league but there are a lot of us here that think he gets more of a bum rap than he necessarily deserves.
August 12, 2013
Votes: +4

rataylor22 said:

rataylor22
... Hmm.

Well. It's Mark Giordano, not Marc, and I strongly disagree with the "fair weather" assessment.

Secondly, Backlund in no measure of the word qualifies as a prospect anymore. He's 24 and hasn't played in the AHL since the 2010-11 season. He's missed time due to injury, but he isn't a prospect.

Also. Monahan is certainly a higher ranked prospect than Gaudreau. A more accurate list would look like:

1. Sean Monahan
2. Sven Beartschi
3. Johnny Gaudreau
4/5. Some combination of Corban Knight, Morgan Klimchuk, Mark Jankowski, and Mark Cundari

And the comparison to Toronto seems completely useless and unnecessary, different era's, different kind of teams, different everything really. Kinda reeked of throwing out a "big market" plug.

August 12, 2013
Votes: +6
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