On Friday April 11th
I attended the last Calgary Flames home game of the regular season against the Winnipeg
Jets. The Flames lost the game to the Jets 5 to 3. Calgary Flames defenseman
Kris Russell received 1st star honours and Sean Monahan was named 3rd
star of the game respectively. These two players are a sample of the new and
bright faces of the franchise. The Calgary Flames displayed a “Great Will to
Compete” throughout the long 82 game schedule. The team made some very
promising strides in a rebuilding year. Many experts predicted the Flames to
finish last this season in the NHL. However, the team played a very competitive
and entertaining brand of hockey setting an NHL record with 49 - 1 goal games!
Reflecting back on
the season, Coach Bob Hartley delivered a refreshing puck pressure, higher
tempo, and more entertaining brand of hockey for Flames fans. The Calgary Flames
identity consisted of improved fitness levels, improved work ethic and stronger
team chemistry than previous teams. It’s a true testament to Bob Hartley and
his dedicated coaching staff. Bravo gentlemen for a job well done! Coach
Hartley displayed a very demanding and savvy coaching style. He will probably not
receive many votes for the Jack Adams - Coach of the Year Award but he did a
stellar job during his first full season with the club. The team became
younger, faster, with a little more size, played more physical and showed more grit.
Overall the team made some great strides to becoming a playoff contender in the
next year or so.
But after not
making the playoffs for the 5th season in row, the Calgary Flames organization will
have some important questions to answer to accelerate the rebuilding of this
franchise and bring back a winning team to the city. Here are a few thoughts
that come to mind. I am sure you have many others!
What is the main goal of the Flames organization?
Hockey Operations Brian Burke recently hired Brad Treliving has their new
General Manager. Trevliving, 44 served as assistant GM of the Phoenix Coyotes
for the past 7 seasons and oversaw their AHL affiliate in Portland. He has been Assistant GM for Team Canada at the
IIHF world championship. As well, he previously served as President of the
Central Hockey League and President and Director of Hockey Operations for the
Western Professional Hockey League, which he founded. The next step is to hire
an Assistant General Manager.
With the Flames
hockey department rounding into shape, the Flames mission is to continue to
develop their young talent both on the team and on the farm. Their objective is
to fight for a playoff spot next season. This past season the Flames employed
44 different players in the line up! Injuries to the veterans Cammalleri,
Glencross, Giordano, Wideman, Stajan and David Jones etc. did not help the
Flames' cause. But when in the line-up each player contributed to the overall success
of the team. No one really had a bad season. The Flames have many good young
players on the team in Monahan, Backlund, Brodie, with top prospects Johnny
Gaudreau, Bill Arnold, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Max Reinhart, Tyler
Wotherspoon, Mark Jankowski and Kenny Agostino. The future is igniting for the
Flames. With some salary cap room to play with (approximately $25 M+) the hockey
operations department will continue to mould the team to Burke’s philosophy and
Coach Hartley’s likings. Next season’s salary cap is estimated at $68 Million
and the floor at $50 million and the Flames' owners seem prepared to max the cap
What to do with the goaltending situation?
It was a major
burning question at the start of last season after the retirement of Kipper but
not so much for next year. At the conclusion of the season Karri Ramo appears
to have the vote of confidence to be the No: 1 goalie next season. RFA’S Joni
Ortio and Oliver Roy plus Joey MacDonald UFA’s will probably battle for the
backup role depending on who gets
re-signed .The Flames improved their overall team defence from 29th -
2nd worst goals against in the league in 2013 to 23rd in 2014. Looks like Joni
Ortio will probably back-up Karri Ramo next season.
What Free Agents do the Flames re-sign?
significant Flames restricted free agents with last season’s salary in brackets
are TJ Galiardi ($1,250,000), Chad
Billins ($925,000), Ben Hanowski ($900,000), Paul Byron ($643,500), Oliver Roy
($628,333), Joni Ortio ($617,500), Joe Colborne ($600,000), Mark Cundari ($600,000), and Lance Bouma ($577,500). The most important re-signings for the
Flames are Colborne, Byron and Bouma. Colborne really developed on the wing
after his move off centre. Byron showed his speed and penalty killing abilities
while Bouma displayed his grit, shot blocking and hard work every shift this
significant unrestricted free agents with last season’s salary in brackets are Mike
Cammalleri ($6,000,000), Chris Butler ($1,700,000), Joey MacDonald ($925,000), Derek
Smith ($775,000), Kevin Westgath ($725,000), Blair Jones ($650,000) Ben Street
($575,000), and Chris Breen ($577,500). The two most significant UFA’s are Cammalleri and Butler. It looks like Cammalleri will test
the free agent market this summer. They may replace Butler on the blue-line with one of their up
and coming defenseman. Wotherspoon is a good candidate.
Who do they pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft?
For the first time
over the past 25+ years the Flames will pick in the top 5 of the NHL Entry
draft. This year they will pick 4th overall. They need to draft
someone who can make the roster now. Sean Monahan, last year’s 6th
pick was a gem of a selection and scored 22 goals in his rookie season. They
need another great selection. It looks like it will be either Sam Bennett, Centre,
Kingston, 6’ and 178 pounds or Michael Dal Colle,
Centre, Oshawa, 6’1”, 179 pounds. Both listed at Centre but
can play left-wing. Bennett has good size, toughness and skill package and Dal
Colle is another prospect with size and skill with a great shot. I believe the
Flames will take Bennett over Dal Colle if he is available come the 4th
pick… either prospect will be a winner. Both Centre Sam Reinhart and Defenseman
Aaron Ekblad should be selected in the top 2 and will not be available to the
Will they aggressively pursue the free agent market?
The Flames are
becoming a better team and therefore Calgary
is a better city to attract future free agent talent. This year’s free agent
crop includes the following: Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Callahan, Derek
Roy, Dave Bolland, Matt Moulson, Milan Michalek, Mason Raymond, Dustin Penner, Dany
Heatley, Steve Dowie and Steve Ott; just to name a few. Also, goalies Jonas
Hillier and Martin Brodeur are available. Do they go after one or two free
agents to add valuable skill and experience to help a youthful roster? Definitely;
the team could sure use an accomplished veteran winger especially if Cammalleri
does not re-sign with the club.
The Calgary Flames
made some tremendous strides last season to steer the franchise in the right
direction. They were competitive each and every game out. The home record is
getting better 19 - 19 - 3, but the team still needs to make the Saddledome a
tougher place to play in every night. The strength of the Flames team is with
their defensive core of Giordano, Russell, Brodie, Smid, Wideman, and Butler. Now with so many
good young prospects, will they trade Wideman to acquire a good experienced
forward or let Butler
go to the free agent market? With so many up and coming young players and
prospects in the system, Flames' fans are in store for some very entertaining
hockey in the years ahead. The worst days are behind now! The Flames will
continue to inject more youth, speed, physicality and grit into their line up.
Say tuned. It will be a very interesting off season as the Flames management
and coaches tackle the ongoing rebuilding process. Again time and patience will
be two key words for next season, but the franchise is certainly heading
in the right direction.