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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Flames History of Trading Up (or Down) in the NHL Draft

Hyped as a showdown between the big three in the 2013 NHL draft rankings -- Seth Jones from Portland, Nathan McKinnon and Jonathan Drouin from Halifax, the Memorial Cup did not disappoint.

McKinnon -- who began the tournament the consensus No. 2 in the draft rankings behind Jones, capped a spectacular nine days in the national spotlight with a clutch two goal, three assist game for the Mooseheads in the final. It was a performance that has added some spice to the renewed debate over who should be No. 1. The other thing that was solidified is that these three guys really are the top three NHL prospects.

On that note, how agonizing must the Memorial Cup have been for Flames GM Jay Feaster to watch, knowing that Calgary was inline for its first ever top-three pick before a couple wins late in the year dropped them down in the draft order to sixth.

Getting Into the Top Three

Is it conceivable for Calgary to move up into the top three for this year's draft?  There was already a bit of chatter about this possibility prior to the Memorial Cup and you can bet this conversation topic just got a whole lot more heated now that Flames fans have had a chance to sit back and watch Jones, McKinnon and Drouin strut their stuff up close and in high definition.

Calgary has been one of the more active teams historically when it comes to moving its draft picks around, right before or during, the annual NHL entry draft. There have been instances where they've given up an asset -- a player or draft pick(s), to trade up. However, more often than not, they've been the team in which others have traded up with, producing the net result of trading down and adding an asset.

In this first in a series of articles I'm planning between now and the June 30 NHL Entry Draft in New Jersey, I look at the 12 most significant draft day trade ups or trade downs the Flames have been involved in since the franchise arrived in Calgary in the summer of 1980. By "significant", this does not necessarily mean good, it could be a move that backfired horribly. I've ranked these dozen deals from top to bottom based on the impact or outcome of the deal and what could have been, had the trade not occurred.

There are two basic formulas to the most common trade-up scenario.
  1. Trade two or more lower draft picks for one higher draft pick
  2. Trade a player(s) and a lower draft pick for a higher draft pick 
One key housekeeping item. There have been many instances where a player alone is flipped for a draft pick, or where multiple players are exchanged and draft picks are also included. However, I limited the scope of what I examined for the purpose of this article to what I'll refer to as the 'classic scenario' of trading an existing draft pick for a higher draft pick -- or vice versa, as defined in the two formulas above.

Flames Ups and Downs - A Retrospective Look

1. June 16, 1990 - Flames trade up to get New Jersey's 1st round pick, 11th overall pick
  • Flames GM: Cliff Fletcher
  • Devils GM: Lou Lamoriello
  • Scenario: Calgary traded two 2nd round picks (#29 and #24) and a 1st round pick (#20) to New Jersey in exchange for a 2nd round pick (#32) and a 1st round pick (#11)
  • Calgary selected G Trevor Kidd at #11, LW Vesa Viitakoski at #32
  • New Jersey selected G Martin Brodeur at #20, D David Harlock at #24, RW Chris Gotziaman at #29
  • Winner: New Jersey
  • Analysis: Just imagine how differently Calgary Flames history, as well as NHL history, would have been written had Fletcher not moved up nine places to ensure they got Kidd, the reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year and first goalie selected, and instead remained at No. 20 and 'settled' for Brodeur. Felix Potvin, 31st overall, was the only other goalie to go in the first two rounds. Kidd played four full seasons with the Flames beginning in 1993-94 when he backed up Mike Vernon. As the team's number one goalie the next three years, Calgary was a team in decline. They were eliminated in the 1st round of the playoffs in 1994-95 as well as 1995-96 -- a playoffs in which Kidd struggled and was replaced by Rick Tabaracci. After the Flames did not make the playoffs in 1996-97, Kidd was traded along with Gary Roberts to Carolina for Andrew Cassels and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.  Brodeur, meanwhile, what can you say. He's won three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals and is the NHL's all-time leader in games played, win, shutouts. He's the only goalie in NHL history with eight 40-win seasons.  

2. June 15, 1985 - Flames trade up to get Minnesota's two 2nd round picks, 25th and 27th overall
  • Flames GM: Cliff Fletcher
  • North Stars GM: Lou Nanne
  • Scenario: Calgary traded C Kent Nilsson and a 3rd round pick in 1985, 1986 or 1987 (ended up 1986, #58) in exchange for Minnesota's 2nd round pick (#27) and a 2nd round pick in 1987 (#25)
  • Calgary selected C Joe Nieuwendyk at #27, LW Stephane Matteau at #25 (in 1987)
  • Minnesota selected D Brad Turner at #58
  • Winner: Calgary
  • Analysis: Nilsson, a fan favourite, was only 28 years old and coming off another great season for the Flames, his sixth with the franchise. He was Calgary's most exciting player its first five seasons in the NHL, finishing 3rd behind Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne in scoring in 1980-81 with 131 points. He was coming off a season in which he was the runaway team leader with 99 points and tied Hakan Loob for the lead in goals with 37. The day after the trade, a Calgary newsaper wrote, "Joe Nieuwendyk for Kent Nilsson? It stinks.” But, Calgary moved him at the right time. Nilsson would only score 35 goals the rest of his NHL career. His numbers fell off in a season-and-a-half in Minnesota before he was dealt to Edmonton. Then, he returned to Europe. Meanwhile, after original Flames draft target Sean Burke got plucked at No. 24, Fletcher opted for Nieuwendyk, who scored 51 goals his first two seasons, leading Calgary to its only Stanley Cup in his second year. In eight seasons, the graduate of Cornell scored 309 goals for the Flames. Nieuwendyk would out to be the best player of that 1985 draft class. Matteau had a strong rookie season with the Flames but then was traded during his second season to Chicago for Trent Yawney.

3. June 21, 2003 - Sharks trade up to get Calgary's 2nd round pick, 47th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Sharks GM: Doug Wilson
  • Scenario: San Jose traded a 3rd round pick (#97), a 5th round pick (#143) and a 6th round pick (#173) in exchange for Calgary's 2nd round pick (#47)
  • San Jose selected D Matt Carle at #47
  • Calgary selected LW Ryan Donally at #97, RW Greg Moore at #143, C Tyler Johnson at #173
  • Winner: San Jose
  • Analysis: The classic example of quantity not making up for quality. Carle went on to win the Hobey Baker Award in 2006, then signed with the Sharks and was named to the NHL's All-Rookie team in 2006-07. He was later traded to Tampa Bay in a multi-player swap in which the Sharks acquired Dan Boyle. Carle played only 12 games with Tampa Bay before being traded to Philaelphia where he was steady member of the Flyers blue-line for four years. Carle became a UFA and signed a six-year $33-million contract with the Lightning prior to the 2012-13 season.  He's been a reliable player, only missing two games in the last four seasons. In 519 NHL games in his career, he has 37 goals, 187 assists, and is a plus-56. Not one of the three players selected by the Flames appeared in an NHL game.

4. June 29, 1994 - Devils trade up to get Calgary's 3rd round pick, 71st overall
  • Flames GM: Doug Risebrough
  • Devils GM: Lou Lamoriello
  • Scenario: New Jersey traded a 3rd round pick (#77), a 4th round pick (#91) and a 5th round pick (#107) in exchange for Calgary's 3rd round pick (#71)
  • New Jersey selected D Sheldon Souray at #71
  • Calgary selected RW Chris Clark at #77, C Ryan Duthie at #91, RW Nils Ekman at #107
  • Winner: New Jersey
  • Analysis: Moving up six spots in the third round often isn't going to make much of a difference. Not true in this instance as New Jersey grabbed Souray, who would go on to establish himself as a top NHL defenceman with a wicked slapshot and an ornery side. Souray's best year was 2006-07 in Montreal when he scored 26 goals. He spent six seasons with the Canadiens after playing his first three years with New Jersey. He's been with six NHL teams in total, playing last season with Anaheim. He's played in 758 NHL games. Chris Clark would be solid role player for the Flames over five seasons, helping the team reach the Stanley Cup final in 2004 in his final year with the team. Clark really came into his own in Washington where he was captain for four of his five seasons. He scored a career-high 30 goals in 2006-07 playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Dainius Zubrus.  Ekman spent most of his time in Sweden and was eventually traded in November 1999 by Al Coates to Tampa Bay along with a 4th round pick in 2000 for Andreas Johansson. Ekman would later have a pair of 20-goal seasons with San Jose before returning to Europe and playing in hte KHL. He was forced into retirement at age 35 due to a heart condition.

5. June 25, 2004 - NY Rangers trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 19th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Rangers GM: Glen Sather
  • Scenario: NY Rangers traded a 2nd round pick (#46) and a 1st round pick (#24) in exchange for Calgary's 1st round pick (#19) and a 8th round pick (#247)
  • NY Rangers selected LW Lauri Korpikoski at #19, D Jonathan Paiement at #247
  • Calgary selected RW Kris Chucko at #24, traded the #46 pick to Columbus for a pair of third round picks (#70, #98) *See trade ranked No. 7 on this list
  • Winner: NY Rangers
  • Analysis: Chucko turned out to be another 1st round pick that did not work out for the Flames. A serious concussion in October 2010 limited Chucko to two games with the Abbotsford Heat in his second year with the Flames AHL affiliate. Due to the injury, he would retire from hockey at the end of the 2010-11 season. Korpikoski made his NHL debut in the 2008 playoffs for the Rangers scoring a goal on his first shot. He played the next season with New York before being traded to Phoenix where he's played the past four seasons. He has 113 points in 336 NHL games. 

6. June 26, 2009 - Devils trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 20th overall pick
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Devils GM: Lou Lamoriello
  • Scenario: New Jersey traded a 3rd round pick (#84) and 1st round pick (#23) in exchange for Calgary's 1st round pick (#20)
  • New Jersey selected C Jacob Josefson at #20
  • Calgary selected D Tim Erixon at #23 and then bundled the #84 pick along with its 4th round pick (#107) and traded those to the Kings for their 3rd round pick (#74), which the Flames used to select LW Ryan Howse.
  • Winner: TBD
  • Analysis: At first blush, just seeing the name Tim Erixon, you'd think New Jersey has the instant edge. Josefson had a rough start to his NHL career tearing a tearing a ligament in his thumb in his first season, which required surgery. The following year in 2011-12, Josefson broke his clavicle and later in the season, fractured his wrist. The 22-year-old pending RFA remains a Devils prospect and is expected to be resigned this summer. He's spent the past three years split between Albany (AHL) and New Jersey and has played 91 NHL games, collecting 6 goals, 16 assists. Meanwhile, Erixon, son of former NHLer Jan Erixon, is now with his third NHL organization in Columbus. However, it's what GM Jay Feaster was able to subsequently do with Erixon two years later, which could ultimately swing this deal into Calgary's favour when we look back on it 10 years from now. When Erixon refused to sign rather than see him go back into the draft, Feaster dealt him on June 1, 2011, to NY Rangers for C Roman Horak and two 2nd round draft picks in 2011. Feaster used those picks to select RW Markus Granlund (45th) and D Tyler Wotherspoon (57th). Wotherspoon had a strong showing for Canada in the 2013 World Juniors, was a +62 with the Portland Winterhawks this past season, who lost in the final of the Memorial Cup. As for Howse, he seems to be drifting off the Flames radar. He followed up 51 goals for the Chilliwack Bruins in his final WHL season with six goals in his first year with Abbotsford (AHL). His goal total dropped to two in 40 games in 2012-13, a year in which Howse split time between the Heat and the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL.

7. June 26, 2004 - Blue Jackets trade up to get Calgary's 2nd round pick, 46th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Blue Jackets GM: Doug MacLean
  • Scenario: Columbus traded two 3rd round picks (#70, #98) in exchange for Calgary's 2nd round pick (#46)
  • Columbus selected RW Adam Pineault at #46.
  • Calgary selected LW Brandon Prust at #70, C Dustin Boyd at #98 
  • Winner: Calgary
  • Analysis: Drafting Prust made this a good trade for the Flames. Now, if Calgary had only hung onto him either of the two times they had him, then it would have been a great trade as Prust has established himself as a very useful NHL player. Boyd played four seasons with the Flames and also saw NHL time with Montreal and Nashville before signing in the KHL prior to the 2011-12 season and he remains there today. Boyd scored 32 goals in 220 NHL games. Pineault did not pan out for Columbus, only playing three NHL games in 2007-08.  

8. June 8, 1982 - Sabres trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 9th overall
  • Flames GM: Cliff Fletcher
  • Sabres GM: Scotty Bowman
  • Scenario: Buffalo traded D Richie Dunn, G Don Edwards and a 2nd round pick (#37) in exchange for Calgary's 2nd round pick (#31) in 1983, a 2nd round pick (#30) and a 1st round pick (#9). Buffalo also accepted an option to swap 1st round picks in 1983. As a result, the Sabres got Calgary's 1st round pick (#10) in exchange for Buffalo's 1st round puck (#13)
  • Buffalo selected C John Tucker at #31 (in 1983), D Jens Johansson at #30, LW Paul Cyr at #9, RW Normand Lacombe at #10 (in 1983) 
  • Calgary selected LW Rich Kromm at #37, C Dan Quinn at #13 (in 1983)
  • Winner: Calgary
  • Analysis: Of the four draft picks Buffalo received, Cyr at No. 9 -- the highest of the picks, was a serviceable NHL player but he topped out at 22 goals in six seasons with the Sabres and more was expected. Lacombe at No. 10 the next year spent most of his time with the Buffalo organization in the minors. Tucker turned out to be the best of those draft picks. Edwards, 26, was supposed to be the key acquisition for the Flames as he had been great for Buffalo. But his three years in Calgary were disappointing and he ended up the back-up to Reggie Lemelin. It was a quick career decline for Edwards, who played his last NHL game at age 32. Unexpectedly, what swung this deal in Calgary's favour was the two draft picks it received and ultimately, what those draft picks turned into. Quinn was recalled for good by the Flames right from Belleville in the OHL early in the 1983-84 season. He was the league's leading scorer at the time with a scintillating 23 goals and 36 assists in 24 games. Quinn had three good years for Calgary including 30 goals in 1985-86 as Calgary made it to the Stanley Cup final. Early in his fourth year, the Flames traded Quinn to Pittsburgh for Mike Bullard and two years later, Bullard was part of the package shipped to St. Louis to acquire Doug Gilmour, who was an instrumental member of the Flames team that won the Stanley Cup in 1989. Similarly, Kromm had three good seasons for Calgary before being part of the package moved to the NY Islanders to get John Tonelli, who was a key contributor on that 1986 Flames team, which lost to Montreal in the final.

9. June 24, 2000 - Capitals trade up to get Calgary's 2nd round pick, 43rd overall
  • Flames GM: Craig Button
  • Capitals GM: George McPhee
  • Scenario: Washington traded LW Miika Elomo and a 4th round pick (#116) in exchange for Calgary's 2nd round pick (#43)
  • Washington selected LW Matt Pettinger at #43
  • Calgary selected G Levente Szuper at #116
  • Winner: Washington
  • Analysis: Pettinger, who played briefly in junior with the Calgary Hitmen, developed into a solid role player for Washington. In seven years with the Capitals, he peaked offensively in 2005-06 scoring 20 goals. He played 422 NHL games, his last appearance coming with Vancouver in 2009-10. He's spent the last three seasons in Germany. As for Miika 'Tickle Me' Elomo as he was referred to along press row at the time of the trade, he spent one season in the Flames organization and played that entire year in the minors before returning to Finland. Meanwhile, Szuper, the pride of Hungary. His professional career was not so 'szuper', never making an NHL start in three years with the Flames organization, spending all his time in Saint John (AHL).  

10. June 20, 2008 - Flames trade up to get Montreal's 1st round pick, 25th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Canadiens GM: Bob Gainey
  • Scenario: Calgary traded Alex Tanguay and a 5th round pick (#138) in exchange for Montreal's 1st round pick (#25) and 2nd round pick (#49) in 2009
  • Calgary selected C Greg Nemisz at #25, later traded the 2nd round pick to Colorado to acquire D Jordan Leopold
  • Montreal selected RW Maxim Trunev at #138
  • Winner: Nobody (Loser: Calgary)
  • Analysis: The fact that Montreal didn't win this deal is of little consolation to Calgary. What stings for Flames fans is that Calgary didn't win the trade. Leveraging Alex Tanguay to get a 1st and 2nd round pick all went for nought when Calgary used that pick on Nemisz, who became a bust. Taken right after Nemisz at No. 26 was C Tyler Ennis to Buffalo. Washington chose D John Carlson at No. 27. Either one would have swung this deal in favour of the Flames big time. Making matters worse, the 2nd round pick was used up re-acquiring Leopold at the trade deadline, which didn't produce the end result desired as even with the veteran, Calgary was still knocked out of the playoffs in six games.   

11. July 30, 2005 - Flames trade up to get Buffalo's 3rd round pick, 74th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Sabres GM: Darcy Regier
  • Scenario: Calgary traded its 4th round pick (#96) and its 3rd round pick (#87) in exchange for Buffalo's 3rd round pick (#74)
  • Calgary selected C Daniel Ryder at #74
  • Buffalo selected D Marc-Andre Gragnani at #87, D Chris Butler at #96
  • Winner: Buffalo
  • Analysis: Daniel Ryder was seven years younger than big brother Michael Ryder, whose been an NHL regular for the past nine seasons. Daniel, named MVP in the OHL playoffs in 2006-07, would never reach the NHL and his time with the Flames could be best be described as tumultuous -- twice getting suspended by the organization. He walked away from the game of hockey in 2009 and an indication of his personal problems off the ice came in 2010 when he turned himself in after committing an armed robbery in Newfoundland. Buffalo selected a pair of defenceman in Butler, who eventually was traded to the Flames for Robyn Regehr and Gragnani, 26, who has spent most of his time in the AHL, playing 74 NHL games with three different teams.

12. June 22, 2007 - Blues trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 18th overall
  • Flames GM: Darryl Sutter
  • Blues GM: Larry Pleau
  • Scenario: St. Louis traded a 3rd round pick (#70) and a 1st round pick (#24) in exchange for Calgary's 1st round pick (#18)
  • St. Louis selected D Ian Cole at #18
  • Calgary selected  C Mikael Backlund at #24, D John Negrin at #70
  • Winner: TBD
  • Analysis: Thanks to a solid year by Backlund in 2012-13, which got his career back on track, the Flames have the early edge in this deal. As well, Calgary traded Negrin to acquire RW Akim Aliu so that may amount to something still, or may not. The Blues remain high on Cole, who's been splitting time between the AHL and NHL so far. He should be an NHL regular in 2013-14 and potentially a top four defenceman down the road. We'll have to revisit this one in a few years to see how the careers for Backlund and Cole (and Aliu) have turned out.  

Honourable Mention

13. June 22, 2012 - Sabres trade up to get Calgary's 1st round pick, 14th overall
  • Flames GM: Jay Feaster
  • Sabres GM: Darcy Regier
  • Scenario: Buffalo traded a 2nd round pick (#42) and a 1st round pick (#21) in exchange for Calgary's 1st round pick (#14)
  • Buffalo selected C Zemgus Girgensons at #14
  • Calgary selected C Mark Jankowski at #21, D Patrick Sieloff at #42
  • Winner: TBD
  • Analysis: Way too early to tell how this trade will work out as Jankowski, drafted out of prep school, is still a long way away. The 6-foot-3 centre just played his first year of college hockey scoring 7 goals in 34 games with Providence. The Flames did not have a second round pick and needed to stock the cupboard so adding that was deemed important and so far, so good on what they've seen from hard-hitting Sieloff, who won a gold medal at the most recent World Juniors representing the U.S.. Girgensons, who was born in Latvia but was drafted during his two years of USHL, spent last year with the Sabres AHL team in Rochester scoring 6 goals in 61 games.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

12 Neat Things About Reto Berra

The IIHF World Championships are complete and other than wishing Reto Berra would have made a few more starts including in the gold medal game, Jay Feaster and the Flames had to have been pleased with what they saw from the Swiss goaltender, who was part of the return Calgary received from St. Louis when Jay Bouwmeester was shipped to the Blues at the trade deadline.

At the time of the trade, Feaster said his scouting staff were divided when it came to which goalie was the best goalie not playing in the NHL -- half liked Karri Ramo and the others thought it was Berra. Well, now the organization has both assuming Ramo, who played the past four years in the KHL, is inked to a contract when be becomes eligible to be signed on July 5.

While most eyeballs have been glued to the NHL playoffs the past couple weeks, I spent some time watching the World Championships as well. While always a challenging tournament to gauge given all the absent talent, I did some digging around over the course of the 17-day event and here, in no particular order, are a dozen things to know about Berra, who will join the Flames at training camp this September.

1. He's a Tall Dude - His old Swiss team Biel lists him as 6-foot-5 and he looks even taller than that. Only one goaltender in Flames history would have looked down on him and that was the old 'Calgary Tower' himself -- Henrik Karlsson, who stood 6-foot-6. The taller goaltenders Calgary has deployed over the years have included Dany Sabourin at 6-foot-4, Roman Turek at 6-foot-3, and a group at 6-foot-2 comprised of Trevor Kidd, Jason Muzzatti, Brian Boucher and Curtis McIlhinney. Of 82 goalies to play in the NHL in 2012-13, only three (Jacob Markstrom, Anders Lindback, Ben Bishop) were taller, putting Berra around the 95th percentile.

2. He Wears a Forward's Number - Berra wore No. 20 for the Swiss National team, he wore No. 20 during his time in the Swiss league. If you are my age, there's one goalie that comes to mind when you see a goalie wearing No. 20 and it's not Evgeni Nabokov. The great Vladislav Tretiak made that number famous for the Soviet Union throughout his sensational international career and in all those great clashes with Team Canada. But, in Calgary, that number belongs to Curtis Glencross so a  new number will be in order.

3. A Mighty Fine Worlds - If you look at the goaltending statistical leaders during the World Championships, at the very top is Buffalo's Jhonas Enroth (1.15 GAA, .956 SV%), who was named the tournament's top goaltender. The only Swiss goaltender listed is Martin Gerber (1.81 GAA, .923 SV%). So, what about Berra who posted a sterling tournament-best 1.00 GAA, .967 SV%?  Well, he didn't qualify for the leaders because the cut-off was having played 40% of his team's minutes, Berra played 39.7%. If he had played just two additional minutes, he would have officially been the leader in both categories.

Now sure, the sample size is still small at four games but 118 saves on 122 shots? Pretty darn good no matter how you slice it. He also drew the start in the pivotal semi-final against the U.S. on Saturday and posted a 29-save shutout. This was the same American team that two days earlier in the quarter-final had racked up eight goals on Russia.

As good as this year's WC was for Berra, he also played four games at the 2012 World Championships with less favourable results. One year ago, he posted an unpleasant 3.01 GAA and .880 SV%.

4. Drafted Seven Long Years Ago - St. Louis selected Berra in the fourth round (106th overall) of the 2006 NHL entry draft. He was the 12th goaltender off the board that year. It was that same draft that in the first round, 26th overall, Calgary selected the soon-to-become former Flame Leland Irving. Other goaltenders in that draft class selected ahead of Berra include Jonathan Bernier (11th), Semyon Varlamov (23rd), Enroth (46th), Steve Mason (69th) and James Reimer (99th). The only goalie selected after Berra that has played >10 NHL games is Richard Bachman (120th).

5. Goaltenders Made in Switzerland - Only 20 Switzerland-born players have made it to the NHL. Three of the top five in terms of service time have been goalies -- Martin Gerber, David Aebischer and Jonas Hiller have all amassed over 200 NHL games. Aebischer (6th round, 1997) was the first to arrive on the scene with Colorado in 2000 at age 22. Gerber (8th round, 2001) was next, debuting with Anaheim in 2002 as a 28-year-old. Hiller, who was undrafted, has been with the Ducks since joining them at age 25 in 2007.

6. Former Teammate of Tyler Seguin - In case you've forgotten, there was this thing called an NHL lockout still going on five months ago. Biel, which was Berra's club team in the Swiss National League A (NLA), is where Boston's Seguin and Chicago's Patrick Kane chose to get in some work and stay sharp while the rest of us were trying to figure out what exactly was a disclaimer of interest. Man, glad that's behind us.

7. Calgary's Former Swiss Miss - So what do the Flames expect from Berra? Historically, Calgary's made two prominent dips into the Swiss player pool at the NHL entry draft and its resulted in a thumbs up and a resounding thumbs down. The success, of course, is Sven Baertschi, plucked 13th overall in 2011. But the first one, not so much did it work out. Six-foot-one defenceman Tim Ramholt spent two years in the minors for the Flames, eventually returning home to play in Switzerland with all of one NHL game on his resume. Nope, that wasn't what General Manager Darryl Sutter was hoping for when he selected him with the second round pick (39th overall) in 2003, one round after selecting Dion Phaneuf. Now 28, Ramholt has played the last four years for Davos.

8. Rare Swiss Mates - If Berra does see NHL time next year alongside Baertschi, it won't be the first time there have been Swiss teammates in the NHL. For the past two seasons, Swiss countrymen Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber-- an RFA this summer, have been part of the Montreal Canadiens defence corps. Together on the Anaheim Ducks since 2010 have been Hiller and defenceman Luca Sbisa, who was born in Italy but is of Swiss descent. Montreal had a different Swiss duo from 2005 to 2007 in Mark Streit, patrolling the blue-line for the Habs and Aebischer.

9. Beyond the Numbers - During his four years at Biel, Berra's raw stats in the 12-team league have been not overwhelming. This past year, he was 11th in GAA (3.01) and 9th in SV% (.906) among goalies with 10 or more games. For comparison, former Oiler Jussi Markanen, 38, was 2.86 and .910. Tobias Stephan, 29, who made 11 appearances with Dallas a few years back, was 2.66 and .921. That said, by all reports, Berra's team was not very talented and he's credited with getting them into the playoffs this year where as the 8th seed, they faced No. 1 ranked Fribourg and after falling behind 3-0 in their opening playoff series, fought back to win three in a row -- two in shootouts, before losing in game seven.

From this past December, here's a splendid two-save sequence (begins 3:44 into clip) from Berra that made headlines in Yahoo's Puck Daddy column. We know how Miikka Kiprusoff never quit on a puck. If he's got that quality to accompany his giant frame, that bodes well.

10. Could he be Henrik Karlsson 2.0? - For sure, that will be the concern. Their height -- similar.  Their butterfly style -- similar. And Berra will be 26 next September, the same age Karlsson was when he made his Flames debut in 2010. Yet, from what I've seen, Berra seems more comfortable, calm and confident between the pipes than the undrafted Karlson ever was. I guess time will tell but I like Berra much better.

11. His Time in the Alps - Berra has only ever played in Switzerland. He started off not far from home in Zurich before being brought in with much hype to Davos in 2007 to replace Swiss star Hiller, who had departed that summer for the NHL. However, Berra never could solidify himself as the No. 1 guy at Davos and after two years, he signed on with Biel, one of the weaker teams in Switzerland. Viewed by some as a step backwards, it was there he seized the reins as the No. 1 guy and built a reputation as one of the best goaltenders in the league. After four seasons with Biel, Berra's contract expired at the end of the 2012-13 season.

12. Social Media Adoration - When the Berra signing was announced in April, former Oiler first round pick Marc-Antoine Pouliot, a teammate of Berra's this past season, tweeted "Raw talent and a great guy. You deserve it."  Speaking of Twitter, Berra is on it, you can follow him at @RetoBerra.  However, he's no Paul Bissonnette. In fact, he's more the polar opposite. After a strong start with an inaugural tweet last August of "Can't wait for the season to start!!!", Berra's made 42 retweets since and that's it, that's all ladies and gentlemen, 43 tweets total and nothing original since that first one. Too busy concentrating on stopping pucks, I suppose, and the Calgary Flames are just fine with that.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Flames Fan's Viewing Guide to Round 2

On the eve of the 2nd round of the NHL playoffs, here is your comprehensive guide to what could happen and if so, what would happen with regards to the St. Louis 1st round draft pick for 2013 that belongs to Calgary (from Jay Bouwmeester trade) as well as the Pittsburgh 1st round draft pick for this year (Jarome Iginla trade), which also belongs to the Flames.

Even though the Blues have been eliminated, the intricacies around how the NHL determines the 1st round draft order means the fate of that St. Louis pick is far from sealed. At the outset of the playoffs, that pick had the potential to fall anywhere from 19th to 30th. After some favourable outcomes for Calgary in the opening round, that window has narrowed to between 19th and 22nd. Where it will end up exactly will be known by the end of round two so if you're die hard Flames supporter wanting those draft picks to be as good as they could possibly be, the viewing guide below will tell you who you should be rooting for.

Meanwhile, despite Pittsburgh's first round victory over the Islanders, nothing has changed in regards to the Penguins 1st round pick, also belonging to Calgary. It remains a best-case scenario of 25th and a worst-case scenario of 30th. The fate of that pick will be known by the end of round two if Pittsburgh is knocked out by Ottawa (and would be 25th if Chicago also loses in round two, or otherwise 26th). If the Pens win, the possibilities become 27th to 30th and won't be known until deeper into the playoffs. So, time to dip into the kids dress-up trunk, find that old Radek Bonk Sens jersey and start cheering on Canada's (only remaining) team.

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Round Two Potential Outcomes - Ranked From Best to Worst

Note: The series between the #6 Los Angeles Kings and #7 San Jose Sharks does not factor in so is not listed below as one of the variables.

1. Winners: Detroit, Ottawa, NY Rangers
  • Result: Stl pick is 19th, Pit pick is 25th
2. Winners: Detroit, Ottawa, Boston
  • Result: Stl pick is 20th, Pit pick is 25th
3. Winners: Chicago, Ottawa, NY Rangers
  • Result: Stl pick is 20th, Pit pick is 26th
4. Winners: Chicago, Ottawa, Boston
  • Result: Stl pick is 21st, Pit pick is 26th
5. Winners: Detroit, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers
  • Result: Stl pick is 20th, Pit pick is 28th to 30th
6. Winners: Chicago, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers
  • Result: Stl pick is 21st, Pit pick is 27th to 30th
7. Winners: Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston
  • Result: Stl pick is 21st, Pit pick is 28th to 30th
8. Winners: Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston
  • Result: Stl pick is 22nd, Pit pick is 27th to 30th

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bouwmeester Joins the 'Olli Jokinen' Club

From one dubious club to another, so goes life for embattled NHL defenceman Jay Bouwmeester. For his newest distinction, I'll kindly ask Olli Jokinen to shove over and give Jay a place to sit down.
By now, everyone's familiar with Boumeester's story. It took 10 seasons and 764 regular season games for the Edmonton native to finally make the NHL playoffs, which he did this season with St. Louis as a 29-year-old.
Perhaps known best for his iron man streak of 635 games -- highest among active players, not to be overlooked as a key contributor to such a string of good health are two variables:
  1. He's consistently had the longest summers of any NHL player. That's more rest, more relaxation and most importantly -- more recovery time.
  2. By taking every spring off, as well as summer, he's missed out on the hard-hitting, knock'em-down-drag'em-out wars of attrition that are the NHL playoffs. e.g. When the Blues and Kings last met in the regular season this year, there were 37 hits in that game. In game one of their playoff series, there were 79 hits.
As of the end of the 2012-13 NHL regular season, 679 players had played 750 or more regular season games in the NHL with Bouwmeester and Jokinen tied for the top.  And by the top, I mean the bottom
On May 10, Bouwmeester joined Jokinen as the sole two members of the exclusive 'Six Playoff Games and That's All' club when Los Angeles eliminated the Blues from the playoffs in game six of their first round series.
So, after an 11 year wait that followed being drafted 3rd overall by Florida in 2002, Bouwmeester's debut in the post-season lasted just 11 days -- long enough to grow just a tiny bit of stubble. Oh, don't worry Jay, many guys can relate to not lasting very long after waiting oh so long for their, ahem, 'first time'.
Here is a list of the other playoff-deprived players who have rarely had a chance to play NHL hockey in May. Notable is the presence of a whopping eight former Calgary Flames on this list and that sure can't be good.

Top 25 - Fewest NHL Post-Season Games
(With at minimum 750 regular season games, as of end of 2012-13 season)
1. Jay Bouwmeeser, D, 2002- (Fla, Cgy, Stl) - 6 games
1. Olli Jokinen, C,  1997- (LA, NYI, Fla, Phx, Cgy, NYR, Wpg) - 6 games
3. Scott Lachance, D, 1991-2004 (NYI, Mtl, Van, Clb) - 11 games
4. Walt McKechnie, C, 1967-1983 (Min, Cal, Bos, Det, Wsh, Cle, Tor, Col) - 15 games
5. Robert Kron, C, 1990-2002 (Van, Har, Car, Clb) - 16 games
5. Nick Libett, LW, 1967-1981 (Det, Pit) - 16 games
7. Bill Collins, C, 1967-1978 (Min, Mtl, Det, Stl, NYR, Phi, Wsh) - 18 games
8. Michel Petit, D, 1982-1998 (Van, NYR, Que, Tor, Cgy, LA, TB, Edm, Phi, Phx) - 19 games
9. Karlis Skrastins, D, 1998-2011 (Nsh, Col, Fla, Dal) - 20 games
10. Gary Bergman, D, 1964-1976 (Det, Min, KC) - 21 games
10. Andrew Cassels, C, 1989-2006 (Mtl, Har, Cgy, Van, Clb, Wsh) - 21 games
12. Marty McInnis, LW, 1991-2003 (NYI, Cgy, Ana, Bos) - 22 games
13. Lubomir Visnovsky, D, 2000- (LA, Edm, Ana, NYI) - 24 games
13. Marty Reasoner, C, 1998- (Stl, Edm, Bos, Atl, Fla, NYI) - 24 games
13. Nick Schultz, D, 2001- (Min, Edm) - 24 games
16. Mikeal Andersson, RW, 1985-2000 (Buf, Har, TB, Phi, NYI) - 25 games
16. Marc Savard, C, 1997-2011 (NYR, Cgy, Atl, Bos) - 25 games
16. Rogie Vachon, G, 1966-1982 (Mtl, LA, Det, Bos) - 25 games
19. Gilles Marotte, D, 1965-1977 (Bos, Chi, LA, NYR, Stl) - 29 games
20. Jason Blake, C, 1998-2012 (LA, NYI, Tor, Ana) - 30 games
20. Eric Brewer, D, 1998- (NYI, Edm, Stl, TB) - 30 games
20. Niklas Hagman, LW, 2001-2012 (Fla, Dal, Tor, Cgy, Ana) - 30 games
20. Bill Houlder, D, 1987-2003 (Wsh, Buf, Ana, Stl, TB, SJ, Nsh) - 30 games
20. Don Lever, LW, 1972-1987 (Van, Atl, Cgy, Col, NJ, Buf) - 30 games
20. Scott Walker, RW, 1994-2010 (Van, Nsh, Car, Wsh) - 30 games

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Ovechkin: Deadlist Sniper in this Year's NHL Playoffs

How good is Alexander Ovechkin's 30 career playoff goals in 51 games?

Among this year's NHL post-season participants with 10 or more career playoff goals, he ranks number one with an average of 0.59 goals/game.

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Top 20 (Entering this year's playoffs)

1. Alexander Ovechkin Wsh, 30 goals in 51 games, 0.59
2. Jarome Iginla Pit, 28 goals in 54 games, 0.52
3. Sidney Crosby Pit, 33 goals in 68 games, 0.49
4. Evgeni Malkin Pit, 32 goals in 68 games, 0.47
5. Henrik Zetterberg Det, 51 goals in 109 games, 0.47
6. Jaromir Jagr Bos, 78 goals in 180 games, 0.43
7. Johan Franzen Det, 38 goals in 88 games, 0.43
8. Daniel Alfredsson Ott, 47 goals in 111 games, 0.42
9. Patrick Marleau SJ, 52 goals in 129 games, 0.40
10. Patrick Kane Chi, 20 goals in 51 games, 0.39
11. Anze Kopitar LA, 10 goals in 26 games, 0.38
12. Brad Marchand Bos, 12 goals in 32 games, 0.38
13. Teemu Selanne Ana, 41 goals in 111 games, 0.37
14. Andy McDonald Stl, 18 goals in 50 games, 0.36
15. Patrick Sharp Chi, 23 goals in 64 games, 0.36
16. Joffrey Lupul Tor, 14 goals in 39 games, 0.36
17. Zach Parise Min, 21 goals in 61 games, 0.34
18. David Krejci Bos, 20 goals in 59 games, 0.34
19. Brian Gionta Mtl, 31 goals in 93 games, 0.33
20. Corey Perry Ana, 18 goals in 54 games, 0.33

Honourable mention goes to Toronto's Phil Kessel, who entered the playoffs with nine goals in 15 games. He was just under the 10-goal threshold, otherwise his 0.60 goals/game would have had him No. 1 on this list.

Strong Ex-Flame Presence in 2013 NHL Playoffs

It might surprise you to learn that there are only four teams in the 2013 NHL playoffs that do not have a former member of the Calgary Flames on its playoff roster -- Minnesota, Ottawa, NY Islanders and Washington.

If I said that a dozen of the 21 Ex-Flames in the post-season are defencemen, would you be able to name all 12?

By quantity, St. Louis and Chicago have the biggest presence with three each. However, in the case of the Blackhawks, two of the three -- defenceman Steve Montador and goaltender Henrik Karlsson, were late season recalls from Rockford of the AHL and are unlikely to play. (Although could you imagine if the ol' 'Calgary Tower' somehow found himself in a playoff game. That would certainly be a bad sign for Chi-town.)

Here are the 12 teams with Flames representation. I've ranked them in order of the most games played by the former player(s) while with Calgary:

1. Pittsburgh: F Jarome Iginla - 1219 games
2. Los Angeles: D Robyn Regehr - 826 games
3. St. Louis: D Jay Bouwmeester (279), D Jordan Leopold (233), F Scott Nichol (128) - 640 games
4. Anaheim: F Matthew Lombardi (347), D Toni Lydman (289) - 636 games
5. Toronto: D Dion Phaneuf - 378 games
6. Montreal: F Rene Bourque (249), F Brandon Prust (78) - 327 games
7. Boston: D Andrew Ference (224), D Aaron Johnson (22) - 246 games
8. Chicago: D Steve Montador (94), F Jamal Mayers (27), G Henrik Karlsson (26) - 147 games
9. NY Rangers: D Roman Hamrlik - 126 games
10. Detroit: F Todd Bertuzzi (66), D Ian White (43) - 109 games
11. San Jose: D Scott Hannan (78), D Brad Stuart (27) - 105 games
12. Vancouver: F Chris Higgins - 12 games

Blues and Penguins 1st Round Picks - Best, Worst-Case Scenarios

The Calgary Flames have three first round picks in the upcoming 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The Flames own pick is 6th overall. The other two picks received from the St. Louis Blues (Jay Bouwmeester deal) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (Jarome Iginla deal) hinge on playoff results so won't be known for a while yet.

While it's impossible to know today where those picks will be exactly, I've compiled the best-case scenario, worst-case scenario and what I think is the most likely scenario for those other two picks.

Myth  - The draft order for 15th through 30th is based on the regular season standings.

This is not true, or, perhaps better worded -- it is not that simple. While final standings may weigh into it, there are three other variables to be considered first: (a) If you exit the playoffs in round one or two. (b) If you won your division during the regular season. (c) If you make it to the Conference final and if you win that, if you do or don't also win the Stanley Cup.

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St. Louis Draft Pick (from Jay Bouwmeester trade)

Best Case - 19th

By winning 11 of 14 to close the season (this run came after Jay Bouwmeester joined them), the Blues climbed all the way to sixth overall. To think, just making the playoffs was a question mark at one point. Here is the perfect storm of playoff outcomes Flames fans will be hoping for in order for this pick to end up inside the top 20.
  • St. Louis (4th seed in West, plays 5th seed L.A.) must lose in the first or second round -- it doesn't matter which of the two rounds.
  • Western final must consist of two non-division winning teams that finished below the Blues in the overall standings. Options are #5 Los Angeles, #6 San Jose, #7 Detroit, #8 Minnesota.
  • Eastern final must consist of two non-division winning teams that finished below the Blues in the overall standings. Options are #5 Toronto, #6 NY Rangers, #7 Ottawa, #8 NY Islanders.
In this scenario, the Stanley Cup winner gets 30th pick, the other finalist gets 29th. The two teams knocked out in the conference final get 27th and 28th. Next comes the division winners so Pit, Mtl, Wsh, Chi, Van, Ana would get picks from 21st thru 26th. Of the eight remaining teams, Boston had more points than the Blues so would get 20th. That leaves St. Louis at 19th.

Worst Case - 30th

If the Blues win the Stanley Cup, they pick last in the first round, it's that simple. Losing in the Stanley Cup final leaves the pick at 29th. If St. Louis stays hot and makes it to the Western Conference final, the pick would be no better than 27th and would be either that or 28th depending on the record of the team knocked out in the Eastern final.

Most Likely Case - 22nd

Here is what I think is most likely to occur:
  • St. Louis gets knocked out of the playoffs in the second round.
  • Western final will consist of two of the top three teams (I predict Anaheim and Chicago).
  • As there's always an upset somewhere, I predict it happens in the East and that the Eastern final will consist of Pittsburgh and an underdog from the bottom four teams.
In this scenario, the four conference finalists are assigned draft picks 27 to 30. Then comes the other three division winners, who are assigned picks 24 to 26. That leaves Boston, who will still finish higher than St. Louis and pick 23rd. The Blues then come next and would be assigned the 22nd pick.
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Pittsburgh Draft Pick (from Jarome Iginla trade)

Best Case - 25th

For this scenario to shake down, here's what needs to occur:
  • Pittsburgh loses out in the first or second round of the playoffs
  • First overall finisher Chicago also loses out in the first or second round of playoffs
As mentioned, picks 27 to 30 are reserved for the four conference finalists. The division winners have their draft picks assigned next and since Chicago was the only team with a better record than Pittsburgh, the best a Flames fan can hope for is that the Blackhawks don't make the semi-finals so end up with 26th pick. That would drop the Pittsburgh pick down to 25th.

Worst Case - 30th

Same as above. If the Penguins win the Stanley Cup, they pick last in the first round. Flames fans definitely do not want to see a St. Louis-Pittsburgh Stanley Cup as that is the combined worst of the worst scenarios leaving those two acquired draft picks as 29th and 30th.

Most Likely Case - 29th

Pittsburgh makes it to the Stanley Cup final but sorry Iggy, they get knocked off by the West representative -- probably Chicago. But, the opponent doesn't matter as the bottom line is the draft pick ends up in the runner-up spot of second-last.