Sunday, June 30, 2013

10 Biggest Days in Flames Franchise History

With multiple first round selections for the first time since arriving in Calgary, the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has been labelled by some as the "biggest day in Flames history". While that's a bit extreme considering Calgary has won a Stanley Cup in its past, I do agree that June 30, 2013, is pretty high on the list of big moments, with the potential to climb even higher if picks 6, 22 and 28 turn out as good as they could.

Here is my very subjective list of the 10 most significant days in the history of the Flames -- after their arrival in Calgary in June of 1980. Do you agree or disagree? How would you re-order? Where do you see the 2013 draft slotting in? Is there something you'd add to the list?

1. Thursday, May 25, 1989 - Doug Gilmour scored twice and Colin Patterson and Lanny McDonald also scored -- Lanny with the dramatic go-ahead goal, as the Flames won 4-2 in game six at the Montreal Forum to win its first Stanley Cup. Al MacInnis won the Conn Smythe as the playoffs most valuable player.

2. Wednesday, Apr. 30, 1986 - Calgary had a great regular season (40-31-9), posting the league's 6th best record. Unfortunately, being stuck in the Smythe division with the league-leading Edmonton Oilers (56-17-7) resulted in the 'Battle of Alberta' taking place in the second round of the playoffs. A tremendous series went to game seven with Calgary stunning the Oilers 3-2 on the most legendary goal in team history. Perry Berezan's dump-in is collected by Steve Smith behind the Oilers net. Smith's attempted pass hits the back of the leg of goaltender Grant Fuhr and ricochets in, putting the Flames ahead for good at 5:14 of the third period.

3. Monday, Apr. 19, 2004 - It had been 15 long years since the Flames had won a playoff series and they had missed the playoffs seven years in a row when as the No. 6 seed, they took No. 3 seed Vancouver to game 7. It looked like a case of "here we go again" when Matt Cooke scored with six seconds left in the game to tie it 2-2. But, 1:25 into OT with Ed Jovanovski in the penalty box for the Canucks, Martin Gelinas scored to win it and the Flames moved on to play Detroit.

4. Tuesday, Dec. 19, 1995 - Calgary GM Al Coates acquires 18-year-old Jarome Iginla, who was the 11th pick in the 1995 draft, as well as Corey Millen from Dallas in exchange for disgruntled holdout Joe Nieuwendyk. Iginla led the Flames to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 and in 16 seasons, he was the face of the franchise, playing 1,219 games and amassing a franchise-best 525 goals and 1,095 points.

5. Sunday, June 30, 2013 - Jarome Iginla is gone, so is Miikka Kiprusoff. After years of trying but failing to get back to the Stanley Cup to complete unfinished business from 2004, the Flames are finally in full-on rebuild mode and it begins on this date in New Jersey at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with the team having multiple first round selections for the first time. Calgary will pick at 6, 22 and 28 and GM Jay Feaster needs to get it right or more so, not get it wrong, to re-stock the cupboards and get the franchise pointed back in the right direction. It's easily the most important draft in Flames history.

Update (July 2/13)My recap of the roller coaster ride that was draft day for the Calgary Flames.

6. Saturday, June 15, 1985 - At the NHL Entry Draft in Toronto, Calgary GM Cliff Fletcher traded Kent Nilsson to Minnesota in a deal that included getting the North Stars second round pick that year, 27th overall, in return. The Flames used that pick to draft Joe Nieuwendyk from Cornell. Nieuwendyk made an immediate impact scoring 51 goals his rookie year. He followed that with years of 51, 45 and 45 goals and as the team captain, the Flames went on to become Stanley Cup champions in 1989.

7. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2003 - Faced with an injury to starting goaltender Roman Turek, Calgary GM Darryl Sutter traded a second round draft pick to San Jose to acquire Sharks third-string goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. What a pick-up that would turn out to be. He backstopped the Flames to the Stanley Cup final in 2004, won the Vezina trophy in 2006, and is the team's all-time leader in games (575), wins (305) and shutouts (41).

8. Wednesday, May 14, 1986 - Two days prior, looking to advance to the Stanley Cup final for the first time, the Flames suffered a colossal meltdown in game six in St. Louis. They blew a 5-2 lead with 12 minutes left and lost 6-5 on Doug Wickenheiser's overtime goal in what the Blues dubbed "The Monday Night Miracle". Back home for game 7, Calgary won 2-1 on goals by Al MacInnis and Colin Patterson and the Flames and Lanny McDonald were off to the Stanley Cup for the first time.

9. Tuesday, Sept. 6, 1988 - Calgary GM Cliff Fletcher swung a 7-player trade with St. Louis in which Mike Bullard went to the Blues and Doug Gilmour was the key piece coming to the Flames. Gilmour, a terrific playmaker, had a huge impact in his three-and-a-half years in Calgary and was an integral part of the Stanley Cup-winning team in 1989.

10. Saturday, Oct. 15, 1983 - After three seasons of temporarily playing at the cramped Calgary Corral before crowds of less than 9,000, the Flames finally moved into an NHL-type building, opening the doors on the newly built Olympic Saddledome, which would eventually boast a seating capacity of over 20,000.

Top 5 Draft Picks That Have Played for Calgary

This summer, both Vincent Lecavalier (1st overall, 1998) and Tyler Seguin (2nd overall, 2010) have changed NHL addresses. But, although there was some chatter about both, I don't think it got very serious for either to actually end up landing in Calgary.

Did you know that since the NHL came to town in 1980, only four players drafted first or second overall in the NHL Entry Draft have put on the Flaming 'C'?  Of course, none of them were drafted by Calgary as the Flames have never had a top five draft pick and that's something only they can claim. This historic fact is also on shaky footing as a bottom five finish for Calgary in 2013-14 is a very real possibility.

Altogether, 15 top five draft picks have played for Calgary including four past No. 1's.

Here is the complete list. Included is the year they were drafted, what years they played in Calgary, and their career point totals in a Flames uniform: 

1st
  • 1992 - D Roman Hamrlik (05-06 to 06-07) 126 games, 14-50-64 
  • 1990 - RW Owen Nolan (07-08) 77 games, 16-16-32
  • 1979 - D Rob Ramage (87-88 to 88-89) 80 games, 4-19-23
  • 1975 - C Mel Bridgman (81-82 to 82-83) 142 games, 45-80-125

2nd
  • 1996 - D Andrei Zyuzin (06-07) 49 games, 1-5-6

3rd
  • 2002 - D Jay Bouwmeester (09-10 to 11-12) 279 games, 18-79-97
  • 1998 - D Brad Stuart (06-07) 27 games, 0-5-5
  • 1997 - C Olli Jokinen (08-09 to 11-12) 236 games, 59-106-165
  • 1972 - C Don Lever (80-81 to 81-82) 85 games, 34-42-76

4th
  • 1986 - D Zarley Zalapski (93-94 to 97-98) 178 games, 21-55-76
  • 1982 - C Ron Sutter (00-01) 21 games, 1-3-4
  • 1973 - RW Lanny McDonald (81-82 to 88-89) 492 games, 215-191-406

5th
  • 1995 - C Daymond Langkow (05-06 to 10-11) 392 games, 123-165-288
  • 1993 - C Rob Niedermayer (01-02 to 02-03) 111 games, 14-24-38
  • 1985 - D Dana Murzyn (87-88 to 90-91) 201 games, 16-39-55

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Risk that is Sean Monahan

The biggest stage for young North American kids playing junior hockey to strut their stuff is the World Junior Hockey Championships. The Memorial Cup would be next on the list with the WHL, OHL and QMJHL playoffs ranking third on the list.

It's in these high profile settings where the games matter the most, the competition is as tough as its been, the intensity is ramped up and in the case of the World Juniors and the Memorial Cup, all of Canada is watching, putting enormous added pressure on the shoulders of these young men.

In 2013, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones all seized each of these opportunities to show off their game and leave a lasting impression and it is no coincidence that they are expected by many to be the top three players selected in Sunday's NHL Entry Draft.

Once you get past these three and as well as top-ranked European skaters Aleksander Barkov (Finland) and Valeri Nichushkin (Russia), which round out most people's top 5, you venture into some wide open terrain, chockful of debate in terms of who could and should be next.  Of course, this is a situation of great interest and much consternation for the Flames and their anxious fan base as Calgary is the team that holds the 6th pick.

Failing one of the aforementioned five players falling out of the top five, and if you subscribe to the notion that a forward and preferably a big centre is the Flames top priority for their top pick, it seems more and more like the decision at No. 6 will come down to either Sweden's Elias Lindholm or Sean Monahan of the OHL's Ottawa 67's.

Monahan - An Interesting Situation

Remember that terrific Memorial Cup final between Portland and Halifax back on May 26 when MacKinnon had a game for the ages with two goals and three assists? That game came 70 days after Monahan had his last opportunity to leave on-ice impression with NHL scouts and GMs.

Monahan had a great season, for sure, 31 goals and 47 assists in 58 games, but he did so as the best player on a horrible team. The 67's won just 16 of 68 games, had the worst record in the OHL, and also had Ottawa's worst season since joining the league in 1967-68.

While the scouts clearly liked what they saw from Monahan between September and March, they didn't get a chance -- for better or worse, to see his game head-to-head with everything on the line against the likes of MacKinnon, Drouin and Jones. Monahan was at Canada's World Junior camp but he didn't get to share the ice with them for very long there, either, as he was in the first round of cuts.

Perhaps, if he had the chance, Monahan could have driven up his stock. If the Memorial Cup had come down to Portland and Ottawa and leading up to that, Monahan had two months of playoff hockey to showcase his skills, maybe he's in the conversation for top three right now. Or, maybe he would have had areas of his game exposed and drifted the other way in all the rankings and mock drafts. Instead, scouts and fans alike are left wondering.

History Lesson

If you go back to 2000, there have been 20 players drafted in the first round of the NHL draft, who came from WHL, OHL or QMJHL clubs that did not qualify for the playoffs. Are there lessons to be learned that Flames General Manager Jay Feaster should take into account, when mulling over who to take at No. 6 on Sunday? History suggests that yes, there is.

While generally speaking, defencemen plucked from non-playoff teams are less worrisome and in some cases, have turned out excellent -- see Mike Green, Brent Seabrook and Jay Bouwmeester, the same cannot be said for the 10 forwards on the list, who you could argue have all underachieved compared to the quality of forwards chosen right after them.

While I'd like to give Mark Scheifele, 7th pick in 2011, chosen from the Dale Hawerchuk-coached Barrie Colts (an awful 15-49-0-4),  the benefit of the doubt, the Jets could have selected Sean Couturier instead. In 2010 when Brett Connolly went No. 6, Tampa Bay passed on Jeff Skinner, who went 7th. Michael Grabner was taken 14th in 2006 by Vancouver and while he's put up some decent offensive numbers, forwards that went later in round one that year included Chris Stewart, Claude Giroux, Patrick Berglund and Nick Foligno.

So, what it comes down to is figuring out if Monahan is actually a 3 dressed up as a 6, or is he a 9 dressed up as a 6? You know NHL scouts wish they would have seen him on the ice in the last three months with hockey at its most feverish pitch, to figure that out. If it were me, a bit of a historian and a big believer in learning from the past, I'd be taking Lindholm.

2012
  • 7 - MIN Mathew Dumba D, Red Deer (WHL) 
  • 10 - TB Slater Koekkoek D, Peterborough (OHL)      
  
2011
  • 7 - WPG Mark Scheifele C, Barrie (OHL) 11 games, 1-0-1
  • 24 - OTT Matt Puempel LW, Peterborough (OHL)   

2010
  • 6 - TB Brett Connolly RW, Prince George (WHL) 73 games, 5-11-16
  • 17 - COL Joey Hishon C, Owen Sound (OHL)
  • 23 - BUF Mark Pysyk D, Edmonton (WHL) 19 games, 1-4-5

  • 12 - NYI Calvin de Haan D, Oshawa (OHL) 1 game, 0-0-0

2007
  • 16 - MIN Colton Gillies LW, Saskatoon (WHL) 154 games, 6-12-18

2006
  • 14 - VAN Michael Grabner RW, Spokane (WHL) 219 games, 75-41-116

2005
  • 10 - VAN Luc Bourdon D Val d'Or (QMJHL) 36 games, 2-0-2
  • 26 - CAL Matt Pelech D Sarnia (OHL) 7 games, 0-3-3

2004
  • 29 - WSH Mike Green D, Saskatoon (WHL) 433 games, 94-183-277 


2003
  • 14 - CHI Brent Seabrook D, Lethbridge (WHL) 599 games, 56-190-246
  • 22 - EDM Marc-Antoine Pouliot C, Rimouski (QMJHL) 192 games, 21-36-57
  • 25 - FLA Anthony Stewart RW, Kingston (OHL) 262 games, 27-44-71
  • 30 - STL Shawn Belle D, Tri-City (WHL) 20 games, 0-1-1

2002
  • 3 - FLA Jay Bouwmeester D, Medicine Hat (WHL) 764 games, 72-235-307

2001
  • 28 - NJ Adrian Foster C, Saskatoon (WHL)    

2000
  • 16 - MTL Marcel Hossa LW, Portland (WHL) 237 games, 31-30-61

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pretty Ugly - The Flames Home Draft in 2000

Talk about a sweet and sour experience.

The 2000 NHL Entry Draft, held in Calgary at the Saddledome, was the Flames best draft in the last decade-and-a-half while also being one of their worst drafts ever.

On the bright side, the nine players drafted that June 24 and 25 weekend have combined to play 1,723 NHL games. That is the most since the 1996 draft when Flames draft picks such as Derek Morris, Toni Lydman and Steve Begin combined for over 2,800 NHL games.

The problem with that 2000 draft is all but 46 of those games were played for NHL teams other than Calgary.

The draft was the first for newly hired General Manager Craig Button.  Because he had joined Calgary from the Dallas Stars organization just a couple weeks prior to the draft, there was an agreement that Button would not sit at the draft table with the Flames contingent and chief scout Ian MacKenzie would make Calgary's player selections.

This draft was an especially important one for Calgary. It came after the Flames had missed the playoffs four seasons in a row, the last three with Brian Sutter as head coach. Journeymen Fred Brathwaite was the team's No. 1 goaltender in 1999-2000 so needless to say, that was one position Calgary was wanting to shore up. The team also had a desire to get bigger and size would be a prevailing theme of that year's selections.

Recapping Calgary's Selections in 2000

1. G Brent Krahn (1st round, 9th)
  • Picking the 6-foot-5 goalie from the Calgary Hitmen was certainly a popular pick with the thousands of fans in attendance. Krahn was the second goaltender off the board after the Islanders bold selection of Rick DiPietro at No. 1. Hampered by knee problems, Krahn never played a game for the Flames and is one of many Calgary examples (Leland Irving, Jason Muzzatti) of why using a first round pick on a goaltender is not a great idea. Krahn played 169 games over five seasons in the minors for the Flames before being released and signed by Dallas in September 2008. The most damning part of this squandered top 10 pick was the collateral damage. The drafting of Krahn is one of the reasons cited by Craig Anderson for why the standout Ottawa Senators goalie chose not to sign with Calgary after being picked by the Flames in the 3rd round of the 1999 draft. 

2. D Kurtis Foster (2nd round, 40th)
  • Also 6-foot-5, Foster was only with the Flames organization for a year-and-a-half and was still playing junior when he was packaged up with winger Jeff Cowan and dealt to Atlanta in exchange for defenceman Petr Buzek, who was highly touted but never established himself in parts of two seasons with Calgary. Possessing a big slapshot, Foster has amassed over 400 NHL games with seven different teams -- most recently with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012-13.

3. C Jarret Stoll (2nd round, 46th)
  • Unable to agree to contract terms with the Flames, Stoll re-entered the draft in 2002 and was selected in the second round again, but this time 36th overall and by the Edmonton Oilers. After four seasons with the Oilers, the 6-foot-1 centre was dealt to Los Angeles where he helped the Kings win the Stanley Cup in 2012. Known for his defensive play and prowess at the faceoff dot, he's played over 640 NHL games to date.

4. G Levente Szuper (4th round, 116th)
  • The 5-foot-11 goaltender from Hungary, who had been playing for the Ottawa 67's (OHL), was the 11th goalie taken in the draft. He spent three seasons with the Saint John Flames (AHL) and never got into any game action with Calgary although he was called up when Roman Turek got injured in 2002-03 and dressed as the back-up to Jamie McLennan for nine games.

5. D Wade Davis (5th round, 141st)
  • The quest to get bigger continued, this time with 6-foot-5 Davis, who also playing with the Calgary Hitmen. Things did not pan out for Davis. After his junior career ended, He played one professional season in the East Coast Hockey League and that was it. He then the University of Calgary and played four years of hockey for them.

6. LW Travis Moen (5th round, 155th)
  • Like Stoll, Moen also did not sign a contract with the Flames. He eventually signed as a free agent with Chicago where the big winger began a long NHL career. His most success to date came with Anaheim where Moen, Rob Niedermayer and Sami Pahlsson were a formidable third line that helped the Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007. Moen has amassed over 600 NHL games and is currently with the Montreal Canadiens.  

7. RW Jukka Hentunen (6th, 176th)
  • After one more season with Finland, Hentunen came over to North America and played 28 games with Calgary and nine in the AHL. Later that season, he was dealt to Nashville for a conditional draft pick. He played just 10 games with the Predators before returning to Europe. He's most famous around Calgary for being the lone player left sitting on the Flames bench at the conclusion of the famous fight-filled Ducks-Flames game on December 8, 2001, in which 279 penalty minutes were given out in the final 85 seconds.  

8. D David Hajek (8th, 209th)
  • The 6-foot-3 blueliner never did leave his home country, choosing to remain in the Czech Republic.

9. D Micki DuPont (9th, 270th)
  • The trend of picking kids that played locally or locally born kids continued with the selection of the high-scoring DuPont, who was coming off an 88-point season with Kamloops (WHL). He helped the AHL Flames to a Calder Cup in 2001 and then enjoyed two short stints totalling 18 games with the Flames before being traded to Pittsburgh in a deal that brought second round pick right-winger Shean Donovan to Calgary.

The Flames Five Worst Draft Years

There are different ways to slice and dice draft performance and measure success or lack there of. The list below is not subjective but rather an objective look at the five worst drafts in Calgary Flames history based solely on the accumulative number of games played by the players selected for the Flames.

This list is based on drafts going back to 1980 when the franchise arrived in Calgary and is only up until 2008. Eventually, the 2009 draft may end up on this list as no one yet from the 2009 draft has played an NHL game for the Flames. However, with a guy like goaltender Joni Ortio (5th round, 22th in 2009) still a prospect, I'm not shutting the door on that draft just yet. Same goes for drafts in 2010, 2011, etc.

1. 1982 (Held in Montreal) - 3 games
  • D Mark Lamb (4th round, 72nd) - 1 game
  • D Dave Reierson (2nd round, 29th) - 2 games

2. 2006 (Held in Vancouver) - 13 games
  • G Leland Irving (1st round, 26th) - 13 games

3. 2005 (Held in Ottawa) - 24 games
  • D Matt Pelech (1st round, 26th) - 5 games
  • G Matt Keetley (5th round, 158th) - 1 game
  • C Brett Sutter (6th round, 179th) - 18 games

4. 1997 (Held in Pittsburgh) - 31 games
  • C Daniel Tkaczuk (1st round, 6th) - 19 games
  • LW Erik Andersson (3rd round, 70th) - 12 games

5. 2000 (Held in Calgary) - 46 games
  • RW Jukka Hentunen (6th round, 176th) - 28 games
  • D Micki DuPont (9th, 270th) - 18 games  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Is Trading Down the Smarter Move?

The topic du jour in Calgary these days is the Flames' three first round draft picks (6, 22, 28) in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and what to do with them. Just like visiting the Banff Candy Store with two children and a pocket full of loonies, there's no shortage of options on what you can do nor other people's opinions on what you should do.

One of the most popular notions is turning those three draft picks into every hockey fan's current man-crush Nathan MacKinnon. And, as I explained two days ago, if you can liquidate those three particular picks to get the 1st overall pick, history says you should absolutely do it. However, Flames General Manager Jay Feaster reportedly tried, got rejected, and here we are today contemplating an alternate tact.

While many puck pundits are pondering what current player could be included to sweeten the offer for No. 1 -- names like Curtis Glencross, Mark GiordanoSven Baertschi and Johnny Gaudreau have all been bandied about by the swooning throngs of MacKinnon Nation. Instead, let me propose that for maximum rebuild effectiveness, the Flames might be better off moving the opposite direction. 

In the spirit of the Stanley Cup final, here are five reasons why the Flames draft philosophy should be 'trade down and expand' rather than 'trade up and downsize':
  1. Patrice Bergeron
  2. Milan Lucic
  3. Corey Crawford 
  4. Duncan Keith
  5. David Krejci
I'm Intrigued, Please Tell Me More

Lost in all the chatter about Calgary having multiple first round selections for the first time in team history is the harsh reality that for the seventh time in the last 10 drafts, the Flames possess no second round picks -- zip, zero, natta. Their second round selection at No. 36 which is rightfully theirs based on their 25th place finish, was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in January 2012. That pick, along with Rene Bourque and prospect Patrick Holland, were shipped off to the Habs in exchange for Mike CammalleriKarri Ramo and a fifth round draft pick in last year's draft.

As things stand today, after the Flames select at 28th, they don't pick again until the third round and 67th pick. Recent draft history has shown that a lot of very good hockey players will be selected in-between Feaster's trips to the podium. This includes the aforementioned quintet of Stanley Cup finalists, who in case you haven't noticed, are pretty darn good.
  • Bergeron (2nd round, 45th overall in 2003)
  • Lucic (2nd round, 50th overall in 2006)
  • Crawford (2nd round, 52nd overall in 2003)
  • Keith (2nd round, 54th overall in 2002)
  • Krejci (2nd round, 63rd overall in 2004) 

The Art of Acquiring Second Round Picks

In a perfect world, the Flames would love to be able to move out some veteran players in exchange for second round picks in this year's draft -- Mike Cammalleri and Alex Tanguay are two players that immediately come to mind. However, Cammalleri's contract size ($6 million in 2013-14) and Tanguay's contract term (signed through 2015-16 at $3.5 million) will work against Calgary getting that type of return.

Instead, the best option to pick up one or more second round picks for 2013 is for the Flames to leverage one or even two of their current first round picks and trade down to create even more picks.

To be clear, I wouldn't do this with the No. 6 pick. The player they get at that rung, should they stay there -- be it Sweden's Elias Lindholm, OHL's Sean Monahan or by some act of divine intervention either Finland's Aleksander Barkov or Russia's Valeri Nichuskin, that player is going to be the key building block of the future. However, the two latter picks should very much be in play and if you have a chance to turn each of them into two or more picks, it should at least be considered.

With every draft class, once you get outside the top few tiers, the differences between the players diminish and the subjectivity from team to team, scout to scout increases. It's not unusual for one team to have a guy at No. 25 while another team has him at No. 40. If Calgary Assistant General Manager John Weisbrod and the player evaluation crew for the Flames feel they can get four players of nearly the same ilk for the price of two, this year's deep draft might just be the year to do it.

Here are some examples from past drafts of how teams, picking in the general vicinity of where the Flames are positioned this year, have traded down from those spots to generate an extra second round selection.
  • 2011 - Anaheim traded 22nd pick to Toronto for picks No. 30 and 39 (Ducks selected stud American goaltending prospect John Gibson with that 39th pick)
  • 2010 - Chicago traded 30th pick to NY Islanders for picks No. 35 and 58
  • 2009 - Anaheim traded 21st pick to Columbus for picks No. 26 and 37
  • 2008 - New Jersey traded 21st pick to Washington for picks No. 23 and 54
  • 2008 - Anaheim traded 28th pick to Phoenix for picks No. 35 and 39
  • 2007 - Washington traded 28th pick to San Jose for picks No. 41 and 57
  • 2007 - Phoenix traded 21st pick to Edmonton for picks No. 30 and 36
Now I said I wouldn't trade No. 6 but what about this. If the player the Flames liked best at No. 6 is someone they also felt they could get at No. 8, and if you can add a second rounder by dropping down two spots, should the No. 6 pick be in play too? In 2008, the New York Islanders did exactly that with Nashville, dropping from 7th to 9th pick, and picking up the Predators second round pick at No. 40. (Nashville selected Colin Wilson at No. 7, Islanders selected Josh Bailey at No. 9).

What a 2nd Round Pick Can Get You

Once you get into the latter half of the first round and especially into the second and later rounds, you get into players that in most cases are going to take longer to develop. Flames defenceman TJ Brodie, as an example, was drafted in the fourth round in 2008 and last year was his breakout season. This longer development period should not be a concern for the Calgary Flames. A proper rebuild is going to require a couple of these kinds of drafts anyway, where cupboards are re-stocked with fresh prospects and plenty of them. That should be the priority for his year and next year, at minimum. 

To give you a small sampling of what you can get in the second round, here are the best in each slot over the last 13 drafts, dating back to 2000 when the NHL expanded to 30 teams. There are many others not mentioned here but this is my subjective look at the best-of-the-best in each spot.
  • 31 - G Jacob Markstrom
  • 32 - D Slava Voynov
  • 33 - LW James Neal (This pick has been especially good -- Ryan O'Reilly, Loui Eriksson, Nick Schultz)
  • 34 - G Jake Allen
  • 35 - D Marc-Edouard Vlasic
  • 36 - C Jarret Stoll
  • 37 - D Justin Faulk
  • 38 - D Roman Josi
  • 39 - LW Jakob Silfverberg
  • 40 - D Fedor Tyutin
  • 41 - LW Bryan Bickell
  • 42 - LW Justin Abdelkader
  • 43 - D PK Subban
  • 44 - C Paul Stastny
  • 45 - C Patrice Bergeron
  • 46 - G Jhonas Enroth
  • 47 - D Matt Carle
  • 48 - LW Dane Byers (This pick is haunted. Under no circumstances should you trade for 48th pick)
  • 49 - LW Mike Cammalleri
  • 50 - LW Milan Lucic
  • 51 - C Derek Stepan
  • 52 - G Corey Crawford
  • 53 - D Travis Hamonic
  • 54 - D Duncan Keith
  • 55 - RW Jason Pominville
  • 56 - D Nicklas Grossman
  • 57 - C Matt Stajan
  • 58 - LW Jiri Hudler
  • 59 - LW Jason Zucker
  • 60 - C Brandon Dubinsky
  • 61 - RW Wayne Simmonds
  • 62 - RW David Backes
  • 63 - C David Krejci
Note: In case you're wondering, sometimes for various circumstances there are supplementary picks awarded in the first or second round. this is why the above list goes beyond 60. All of the above were classified as second round picks.

Stay Tuned, More to Come

Considering all the time and resources that the Flames have put into scouting and player evaluation this year given the pressure on this draft and what's being billed by many as the most important day in the history of the franchise, I would be shocked if where Calgary is slated to draft today doesn't change considerably between now and draft day -- and even on draft day. This is especially the case now that the Flames have traded away their fourth round pick in 2013 for the rights to former Florida Panthers 2009 fifth round pick Corban Knight, a centre who played U.S. college the last four seasons.

As a result of this June 18 trade, Calgary is currently slated to have only one pick (3rd round, No. 67) between their last pick of the first round (No. 28) and their pick in the fifth round (No. 135).  That stretch of 106 picks is an awful long period of hopelessly and agonizingly waiting around, watching other teams select those gems that as a scouting team, you've had your eye on for months if not years, who you felt could deliver 1st round value while being taken in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th round.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why Colorado said "No thanks" to a 3-for-1

Elliott Friedman created quite a stir around Calgary on Saturday night when he reported during the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of game two between Chicago and Boston that Flames General Manager Jay Feaster had offered all three of Calgary's first round picks (No. 6, 22, 28) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft to Colorado in exchange for the No. 1 pick -- and that the Avs had rejected the offer.

Despite the operative word in there of "rejected", the idea nonetheless sparked immediate debate on Twitter of whether or not that was even a smart offer by Feaster. Many were of the mindset that for sure, you do quality over quantity in a heartbeat. However, also well represented was the opposing view that in this very deep draft and with the Flames cupboards needing a lot of re-stocking, that giving up three first round picks for one -- even if it is No. 1, is a terrible idea.

Rather than speculate at the three players Calgary would have been potentially giving up to get Nathan MacKinnon -- who surely would be their target (not Seth Jones) if they got top pick, and then guessing at the long term impact those players along with MacKinnon might end up having in their NHL careers, I decided to look the other direction and let history decide.

Going back to 2000 when the first round grew to 30 selections, I looked at each of the 13 drafts and asked the question, 'Is 1 truly greater than the sum of 6+22+28?'  What I learned is a resounding yes -- unless you make the mistake of using that No. 1 selection on a goalie or a defenceman. Ten of the past 13 years including the last six drafts, you do what Colorado General Manager Greg Sherman did (okay, what Patrick Roy did) and say 'Thanks, but no thanks' to the 6-22-28 package, end of story. But, nice try Calgary.

Which is Better? Pick No. 1 or No. 6, 22, 28?

2012

1 - RW Nail Yakupov Edm (48 gm, 17 g, 14 a, 31 pts)
-------------------
6 - D Hampus Lindholm Ana
22 - D Olli Maatta Pit
28 - D Brady Skjei NYR

My Thoughts: Yakupov's dynamic game and personality certainly makes this one an easy call, at least for now. Obviously, three defencemen is not a realistic portrayal of how the other three picks would have gone had one team held all of them but regardless of that, Yakupov looks like the choice here.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1 , for sure

2011

1 - C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Edm (102 gm, 22 g, 54 a, 76 pts)
-------------------
6 - C Mika Zibanejad Ott (51 gm, 7 g, 14 a, 21 pts)
22 - RW Tyler Biggs Tor
28 - C Zack Phillips Min

My Thoughts: Zibanejad has shown flashes and he'll need to be superb, and at least one of Biggs or Phillips must pan out for this package to end up as the preferred choice. The best of Nugent-Hopkins is very much still to come. 
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1, for now

2010

1 - LW Taylor Hall Edm (171 gm, 65 g, 80 a, 145 pts)
-------------------
6 - RW Brett Connolly TB (73 gm, 5 g, 11 a, 16 pts)
22 - D Jarred Tinordi Mtl (8 gm, 0 g, 2 a, 2 pts)
28 - RW Charlie Coyle Min (36 gm, 8 g, 6 a, 14 pts)

My Thoughts: Hall can do it all and could very well end up being the best of the batch of Oilers No. 1 picks -- should he stay healthy.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1, no brainer

2009

1 - C John Tavares NYI (291 gm, 112 g, 137 a, 249 pts)
-------------------
6 - D Oliver Ekman-Larsson Phx (178, 17 g, 50 a, 67 pts)
22 - C Jordan Schroeder Van (31 gm, 3 g, 6 a, 9 pts)
28 - D Dylan Olsen Chi (28 gm, 0 a, 1 a, 1 pt)

My Thoughts: Ekman-Larsson is a really nice player but he's not a face-of-a-franchise type of player like Tavares is. With the Islanders relevant again, expect Tavares to really put himself on the map in the years to come as one of the NHL's best.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1, for sure

2008

1 - C Steven Stamkos TB (373 gm, 208 g, 178 a, 386 pts)
-------------------
6 - LW Nikita Filatov Clb (53 gm, 6 g, 8 a, 14 pts)
22 - C Jordan Eberle Edm (195 gm, 68 g, 88 a, 156 pts)
28 - LW Viktor Tikhonov Phx (61 gm, 8 g, 8 a, 16 pts)

My Thoughts: Despite Stamkos' ridiculously lethal goal-scoring prowess, this one could have been close thanks to Eberle and his upside, if pick 6 had turned into the player you should be getting in that spot. Filatov sure didn't. With that, welcome to the inherent uncertainty of picking outside the top 5.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1, for sure

2007

1 - RW Patrick Kane Chi (446 gm, 149 g, 275 a, 424 pts)
-------------------
6 - C Sam Gagner  Edm (414 gm, 91 g, 167 a, 258 pts)
22 - LW Max Pacioretty Mtl (246 gm, 68 g, 85 a, 153 pts)
28 - D Nick Petrecki SJ (1 gm, 0 g, 0 a, 0 pts)

My Thoughts: Is two top six forwards better than one? This one's a great debate as Kane's the better player, for sure, but Gagner and Pacioretty together, that's two very nice pieces. Not to be overlooked is the relatively poor quality of this particular year's first round on the whole. I flip-flopped back and forth on which way to go several times and in the end, Kane's clutch performance in the NHL playoffs over his career is what was the distinguishing factor. But, keep an eye on this one, it could still end up ultimately being the two-man combo that prevail in the end.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1, slightly

2006

1 - D Erik Johnson Stl (329 gm, 27 g, 104 a, 131 pts)
-------------------
6 - C Derick Brasard Clb (322 gm, 63 a, 117 a, 180 pts)
22 - RW Claude Giroux Phi (333 gm, 91 g, 199 a, 290 pts)
28 - LW Nick Foligno Ott (396 gm, 67 g, 100 a, 167 pts)

My Thoughts: With Johnson now with the Avs, this year is a life lesson for Colorado and all NHL teams on what could happen if you take a defenceman first overall. In a brutal draft year for blue-liners, Johnson -- the only one of 12 d-men picked in the first round to play >50 NHL games, looks like Bobby Orr compared to the others. But, he's never developed into the player everyone expected and while he's only 25 and it could still happen, three full-time NHLers in the other package makes this one a rare slam dunk the other way.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 6-22-28, no question

2005

1 - C Sidney Crosby Pit (470 gm, 238 g, 427 a, 665 pts)
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6 - C Gilbert Brule Clb (296 gm, 43 g, 52 a, 95 pts)
22 - D Matt Lashoff Bos (74 gm, 1 g, 14 a, 15 pts)
28 - D Matt Niskanen Pit (410 gm, 25 g, 96 a, 121 pts)

My Thoughts: I'll will have to dig into the numbers in much greater detail later but for now, gut feeling, slight edge to Sid. (Is the sarcasm translating okay?)
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1, no brainer

2004

1 - LW Alex Ovechkin Wsh (601 gm, 371 g, 364 a, 735 pts)
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6 - G Al Montoya NYR (64 gm, 24 w, 3 so, 2.77 GAA)
22 - LW Lukas Kaspar SJ (16 gm, 2 g, 2 a, 4 pts)
28 - D Mark Fistric Dal (282 gm, 3 g, 26 a, 29 pts)

My Thoughts: Wow, trading away 1 for 6, 22 and 28 this year would have not only cost Washington GM George McPhee GM his job, but probably would have cost him his life, too (figuratively speaking of course, he would have had to enter the NHL's version of the witness protection program.)
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1, no brainer

2003

1 - G Marc-Andre Fleury Pit (467 gm, 249 w, 23 so, 2.66 GAA)
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6 - LW Milan Michalek SJ (549 gm, 170 g, 185 a, 355 pts)
22 - C Marc-Antoine Pouliot Edm (192 gm, 21 g, 36 a, 57 pts)
28 - RW Corey Perry Ana (574 gm, 220 g, 245 a, 465 pts)

My Thoughts: Another life lesson - don't take a goalie either if you have first overall pick. I'm not judging Fleury on the 2013 playoffs, nor on his 2012 playoffs. Okay, maybe a bit. More so, it's about the others and who cares about Pouliot's fizzled NHL career. Perry -- in particular, and Michalek as well makes this an easy decision.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 6-22-28, no question

2002

1 - LW Rick Nash Clb (718 gm, 310 g, 279 a, 589 pts)
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6 - LW Scottie Upshall Nsh (414 gm, 92 g, 90 a, 182 pts)
22 - LW Sean Bergenheim NYI (388 gm, 71 g, 61 a, 132 pts)
28 - RW Jonas Johansson Col (1 gm, 0 g, 0 a, 0 pts)

My Thoughts: It feels like Nash should have accomplished much more in his career than he has and perhaps it's still to come. That said, even though Upshall is a decent player and Bergenheim had a nice run with the Isles before returning to Finland last year, there's no question you have to go with the big fella here.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1, for sure

2001

1 - LW Ilya Kovalchuk  Atl (816 gm, 417 g, 399 a, 816 pts)
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6 - C Mikko Koivu Min (536 gm, 119 g, 279 a, 398 pts)
22 - C Jiri Novotny Buf (189 gm, 20 g, 31 a, 51 pts)
28 - C Adrian Foster NJ

My Thoughts: You won't find someone that likes Koivu better than me, solid all-round player, great leader, outstanding person, so if you would have gotten something at 22 or 28, this could have been close with the enigmatic Kovalchuk, despite his 400-plus goals. But, neither of the other two picks worked out so you have to go with Kovalchuk for now, although it's closer than you think and if last season is any indication, I could easily end up saying Koivu and co. next time the question is asked.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 1, slightly

2000

1 - G Rick DiPietro NYI (318 gm, 130 w, 16 so, 2.87 GAA)
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6 - LW Scott Hartnell Nsh (875 gm, 230 g, 256 a, 486 pts)
22 - D David Hale NJ (327 gm, 4 g, 25 a, 29 pts)
28 - RW Justin Williams Phi (755 gm, 190 g, 308 a, 498 pts)

My Thoughts: This was the first time covering the draft for me as it was in Calgary that year and wow was it ever good fun wondering what Mike Milbury's next move was going to be. This is an easy one -- enjoy riding along on the coattails of the other two, Mr. Hale, it's not about you, it's about them.
Pick(s) You'd Rather Have? 6-22-28, no brainer

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

TJ Brodie, a Canadian Roman Josi (and vice versa)

While NHL defencemen Roman Josi (Bern, Switzerland) and TJ Brodie (Chatham, Ontario) were born 6,700 kilometres apart, one could make a case that Josi's accent is the only real discernible difference between the two rising stars, who -- statistically, are each other's twin in a number of ways.

This is a relevant comparison for Calgary because Josi, like Brodie, was a pending restricted free agent. However, he isn't any longer. On June 10, Josi signed a 7-year $28-million contract with Nashville. To save some unnecessary duplication of work, should Flames General Manager Jay Feaster just call up Predators GM David Poile and ask for a photocopy of the Josi contract? Let's take a deeper look.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Age:
  • Josi - 23 (born June 1, 1990)
  • Brodie - 23 (born June 7, 1990)
Height:
  • Josi - 6-foot-2
  • Brodie - 6-foot-1
NHL Career Statistics:
  • Josi - 100 games -- 10 g, 24 a, 34 pts, 22 PIM, minus-6
  • Brodie - 104 games --  4 g, 24 a, 28 pts, 24 PIM, minus-9
NHL Career Path:
  • Josi - Spent one full season in AHL (Milwaukee, 2010-11), one season split between AHL and NHL (2011-12), then played full year last season in NHL (48 games)
  • Brodie - Spent one full season in AHL (Abbotsford, 2010-11), one season split between AHL and NHL (2011-12), then played full year last season in NHL (47 games)
Time-on-Ice in 2012-13:
  • Josi - Averaged 23:31 for the season
  • Brodie - Averaged 23:25 in 15 games in April (after Jay Bouwmeester traded), or 20:13 for the season
Drafted:
  • Josi - 2nd round of 2008
  • Brodie - 4th round of 2008

Another similarity between these two young, dynamic players is how well they finished off last season. In May, Josi was named MVP and top defenceman at the IIHF World Championships, leading Switzerland to silver -- it's first medal in 60 years. Josi's play may not have surprised people living in Nashville but for others who don't get to see the Predators play very often, Josi made quite an impression with his poise, puck-moving ability and all-round game.

Meanwhile, Brodie's coming out party came the previous month. After Jay Bouwmeester was dealt to the St. Louis Blues on April 1, Brodie really opened some eyes, thriving on his increased work load and playing in all situations. Over the final 10 games, Brodie had six points (1 goal, 5 assists), which was tied for second on the team behind fellow countrymen Sven Baertschi. Looking back on the year and how he entrenched himself as one of the club's go-to blue-liners, it's hard to believe he was healthy scratch for the Flames season opener. That will never happen again.

In 2008, a dozen defencemen were drafted in the first round including four in a row after Steven Stamkos went first overall -- Drew Doughty (2nd), Zach Bogosian (3rd), Alex Pietrangelo (4th) and Luke Schenn (5th).

Josi and Brodie weren't in that top 12 but if their careers continue on the same trajectory they established last year -- Josi taking over Ryan Suter's role/minutes and Brodie inheriting the same from Bouwmeester, they'll find their way into that top 12 soon enough if they're not there already. While that's good news for the Flames, it's also a skill set that you do have to open the wallet for.

Will Brodie Really Get the Same Contract?

Probably not. There are three things working against Brodie, which may prevent him from locking in for the same amount and could leave him more in the $21 to $23-million range if the two sides agree to a similar length of contract.
  1. Raw Skills as of June 20, 2008 - While neither Josi or Brodie went in the first round of that defence-loaded draft held that year in Ottawa, Josi (No. 38) still went 76 picks higher than Brodie (No. 114) and that's significant -- 29 other defencemen were chosen in-between. There's definitely an expiration date for when your draft position can no longer be considered a relevant factor but the market would suggest we're not at that point quite yet.
  2. 2013 World Championships - They were both there but in greatly different roles. Granted, Team Switzerland doesn't have nearly the same depth as Canada, but while Josi was leading his team in scoring (4 goals, 5 assists in 10 games) and logging over 20 minutes of ice time per night, Brodie (0 goals, 1 assist in 7 games) averaged just over 11 minutes as Canada's 7th defenceman and was a scratch in their final game. While this is far from a perfect apples-for-apples comparison for many reasons, it won't do Brodie's agent any favours at the bargaining table.  
  3. Smaller Sample Size - Josi played at a high level the entire 2012-13 season while Brodie wasn't elevated into that similar altitude until the final month. When teams are playing out the stretch and you have a non-playoff team often playing non-playoff teams, it can make it awfully hard to accurately gauge performance.
One way or another, expect Brodie to be re-signed with the Flames in the near future as he is undeniably a big part of it. Will it be a short-term deal for a reduced salary giving Brodie another couple years to establish what his market value should be? Or, has Calgary seen enough good things to lock him in long term? Stay tuned.

Related Link:

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Iginla Post-Mortem - A Dozen Thoughts

Jarome Iginla's Stanley Cup dream is dead for another season. This isn't an autopsy of how it died as much as it is a reflection back on his 73 days with Pittsburgh, which all began that weird Wednesday night at the Saddledome on March 27. You'll remember the night, the Flames-Avs game was nothing more than the occasional diversion from everyone's main focus of trying to figure out where Iginla, a healthy scratch, was going to be traded. Ultimately landing with the Penguins despite rumours that had him most certainly going to Boston -- and what a fiasco that was, his season in black and gold came to a screeching halt on June 7 in Pittsburgh's stunning sweep at the hands of the Bruins in the Eastern Conference final.

Before I get to my dozen thoughts on Iginla's time with the Penguins, let me preface it by saying that I have only the utmost respect for everything he has accomplished in his 16 NHL seasons. Iginla is a future hall-of-famer whose accomplished nearly everything except winning the Stanley Cup. As the face of a Flames franchise that has enjoyed very little post-season success the last two-plus decades, it couldn't have been easy standing up and answering to the media after every loss, especially in a passionate, scrutinizing, hockey-mad market like Calgary. Yet, he did so and always with class.

A Genuine Good Guy

As good a player as Iginla was on the ice, he's always been a better person off it, right from his first media scrum as an 18-year-old in April 1996 after his NHL debut in the playoffs against Chicago (which I'll always remember was kicked off by local sports radio/TV reporter John Henderson with the question, "What was more exciting, your first NHL game or wearing Jim Peplinski's old number?"), to his lengthy and heartfelt farewell address the morning after the trade, as he packed up his things and departed for Pennsylvania. Iginla was always a true gentleman to deal with and in the Calgary media, we have been spoiled compared to the antagonistic relationships some other markets have had over the years with their star player(s).

No, Jarome is never going to be confused with the likes of Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick or Brett Hull -- guys us media types love because of their propensity to speak first, think later. Rarely did we get anything too candid from the self-censoring Iginla, instead getting a lot of cliches, a lot of rinse and repeat from the previous game. Just like his nine years as the Flames captain, his play on the ice is always what spoke loudest.

A Dozen Thoughts on Iginla's Time In Pittsburgh

1. A Date to Forget

Let's face it, June 7 isn't a day Iginla will ever have fond memories of. His best two chances to win a Stanley Cup, so far, have both ended on this fateful day.
  • June 7, 2004 - It was a Monday night, Calgary had just blown a chance to win the Stanley Cup at home on Saturday losing 3-2 in double overtime. Now they were back in sunny Tampa Bay for game 7. Down 2-0 after two, Craig Conroy scored in the third but that was as close as they got. It ended 2-1 and the Flames Cinderella run came up one game shy.
  • June 7, 2013 - So used to having a Finnish goaltending saviour in the net behind him, this time the unflappable Finn was in the opposition net and Boston's Tuukka Rask had the playoff series of a lifetime stopping 133 of 135 shots in the Bruins four-game sweep. Last time Pittsburgh were held to a paltry two goals over a four-game span was Oct. 31 to Nov. 7, 1973, back when the roles of Crosby, Malkin, and Letang were played by Syl Apps, Jean Pronovost and Ron Stackhouse.

2. An Aging Chassis

What makes Iginla an impactful player is his hard-nosed style and all-round power game. He can score -- 530 career goals, and he's also tough, willing to drop the gloves and go toe-to-toe with anyone -- 63 scraps on his NHL fight card. In his prime, it seemed like he would put the team on his back and could will the Flames to victory.

But, carrying the weight of a franchise's high expectations on one's shoulders for well over a decade isn't healthy, nor is Iginla's gritty style of game conducive to career longevity. There are vehicles that have been 'highway driven' and remain in good condition forever. Iginla is more like a 4x4 half-ton, which has been driven only on gravel roads. The wear and tear adds up and as the playoffs wore on, the soon-to-be 36-year-old couldn't seem to find that extra gear he once had. That left Pittsburgh with a vehicle that despite reasonable mileage, just looked like it had been driven too hard for too long.

3. Beyond the Numbers, Part 1 - Regular Season

Iginla put up decent numbers during his one month of regular season action in Pittsburgh. The challenge of adjusting to a new team, new system and new conference mitigated by the benefits of getting to play alongside offensive dynamos like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni MalkinKris Letang, James Neal and Chris Kunitz. However, was it as impressive as it looked? 
  • On the surface: Had five goals and 11 points in 13 regular season games with Pittsburgh -- that's a good pace.
  • Below the surface: Four of his five goals came on the power play and seven of his 11 points came against non-playoff teams. (Two of his five goals were against Buffalo, five of his six assists were against Carolina and Tampa Bay.)

4. Beyond the Numbers, Part 2 - The Playoffs

Iginla's regular season scoring pace continued into the first round of the playoffs against the New York Islanders. However, the deeper Pittsburgh progressed, his production tailed off and it seemed to happen during those pivotal moments in the post-season when the Penguins needed him the most -- and was part of the impetus in General Manager Ray Shero making the deal to acquire him and add that offensive depth.
  • On the surface: Had four goals and 12 points in 15 playoff games
  • Below the surface: Two of the goals and nine of the points came against the 8th seed Islanders, playing in the post-season for the first time in six seasons. Over the final two series, Iginla had just 2 goals and 1 assist and one of the goals was a meaningless power-play tally late in the third period of a 7-3 blowout of the Senators.

5. Plus and Minus of it All

Regular season and playoffs combined, Iginla played 28 games with the Penguins, scoring nine goals and racking up 23 points. However, only three of those goals came at even strength. That's a pace of only eight even-strength goals over an 82-game season.

The man advantage was the source of many of the points for Iginla, who finished the playoffs minus-4, worst among Pittsburgh's forwards and better only than Deryk Engelland (minus-6). Iginla was a plus player in only four of Pittsburgh's 15 post-season games.

6. Diminishing Ice Time

If you look back over his last 12 seasons, Iginla had received less than 14 minutes of ice time in a game just eight times.  The first three were all games in which Iginla left the game early due to injury (Mar. 20/03 - shoulder, Jan. 17/04 - leg, Jan. 4/07 - ankle). His only 'legitimate' sub-14 minute game with Calgary was Feb. 13 of this year against Dallas. That night in which he finished at 13:01, he also spent seven minutes in the penalty box.

The other four games in which Iginla had less than 14 minutes time-on-ice were with the Penguins and it came in four of Pittsburgh's final six playoff games. In fact, he would have been below 14 minutes in five of the last six as he was only at 12:34 TOI after three periods the night of the double-OT game. On the night Pittsburgh was eliminated, Iginla had a season-low 15 shifts and played a mere 11:16. 

7. Boston Too Strong

Iginla certainly had plenty of company in the category of underachiever versus the Bruins but the final numbers for Iginla in the series in which Pittsburgh desperately needed some complementary scoring with Malkin/Crosby stifled, were just not good enough -- no points, just five shots, and a minus-4.

8. Debating Iginla's Usage

Could Iginla have had a bigger impact with a greater role and more minutes? How he was used, especially as the playoffs marched on, will be one of the things scrutinized when assessing the performance of Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. We've seen many examples over the years of guys who are more effective when they play more. But, was Iginla deserving of more playing time? That's the counter argument and I'm of the school of thought that no, not really.

Was playing him on left wing a mistake? Should he have seen more time with Crosby in an attempt to conjure up some Vancouver 2010 gold medal magic? Why did his power-play minutes seem to dry up in the third round? It would be interesting to see Iginla re-sign with Pittsburgh next year just to see what he could do over a full season. I just don't think that is going to happen.

9. Flames Traded High - Sorta

Without question, trading Iginla a few years earlier while he still had term left on his contract and had younger legs would have netted the Flames a much greater return than what they ultimately ended up with this year at the trade deadline. That said, the way Iginla's closing three weeks of the playoffs went and his decreased role, the Flames came away with a better haul than they would have otherwise.

The game in which Pittsburgh was eliminated was Iginla's 59th game of the year. In a normal season, the NHL trade deadline is historically around the 60-game mark. Granted, Iginla wouldn't have been being used as a third liner in Calgary, but I'd argue the Flames do not get a first rounder and two prospects from the Penguins if that trade is made today.

10. Net Results of 'The Trade'

It will be years before we know if Calgary ends up winning the trade with Pittsburgh but given the harsh and sudden departure of the Penguins from the post-season this year -- and with Iginla destined for unrestricted free agency, there will be no scenario in which the Flames end up losing the trade.

Will Ben Hanowski and/or Kenny Agostino find a niche in the NHL and have a prolonged impact in a Flames uniform? It is certainly possible but far from certain. Early reviews have been great and Hanowski showed in his cup of coffee with Calgary in April that he has a nose for the net and a scoring touch. For me, it's the 1st round draft pick in this year's draft, which will be 28th overall, which could really make it a great deal for the Flames. Selected 28th in the draft in the past were Corey Perry and Justin Williams so getting a guy of that ilk that late in the first round, while rare, is certainly possible. Others chosen at No. 28 like Matt Niskanen and Nick Foligno would work out just fine, too.

11. What Does the Future Hold?

Admittedly, this is not the same opinion I would have had if you asked me six weeks ago but the way things unfolded in the Steel City, I'd be shocked if Iginla finds his way back to Pittsburgh as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Those favourable first impressions were put to bed long ago and an irritated 'what have you done for me lately' Penguins fan base will not be too receptive to bringing back the same parts that didn't get it done, especially in the case of Iginla, who would need to be re-signed and whose role became so reduced. 

Boston, having seen No. 12 up close for four games, likely won't be too interested any longer, either, unless it's a very economical contract accompanied by expectations of less significant role. My gut says Iginla ends up back in the West but it won't necessarily be on the contender he wants -- previously agreeing to be traded to Chicago and L.A., as ultimately a team needs to want the player just as much as the player wants the team. It will be an interesting storyline to follow this summer, that's for sure, with Flames fans hoping that of all places, Iginla doesn't end up signing three hours up the highway to the north and playing for his hometown.

12. The Next Contract - What will be the Number?

I'm intrigued to see what kind of contract Iginla commands this summer. To play for a Stanley Cup contender, he most certainly will have to accept a reduced role and such a reduction would apply to his salary too. That said, NHL general managers are an unpredictable lot at the best of times and it only takes one who feels Jarome still has plenty left in the tank for him to get a big contract similar to what he just had. My prediction is something in the $3 to $4-million range for two or three years, which could turn out to be a steal although just as likely could end up being a contract a team will regret.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Best and Worst of Draft Picks No. 6, 22 and 28

With Chicago's defeat of Los Angeles in the Western Conference final and with the earlier ousting of Pittsburgh by Boston in the Eastern final, the position of the Flames three much-anticipated 1st round draft picks for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft is official.

Barring trades by Flames General Manager Jay Feaster, Calgary's three 1st round selections will be No. 6 (their own), No. 22 (from St. Louis, in Jay Bouwmeester deal) and No. 28 (from Pittsburgh, in Jarome Iginla deal).

Here's a quick look back at what players were selected in those three spots in the drafts held between 1993 and 2009. As you'll see, each slot has produced some gems, some duds, and a mixed bag of guys in-between. What you may also notice is in no year did all three of the 6, 22 and 28 picks turn out great.

The best year for those three draft slots combined was 2006 when a team would have left the first round with Derick Brassard (6th), Claude Giroux (22nd) and Nick Foligno (28th) -- all three are full-time NHLers. The room for improvement in that batch was Brassard at No. 6, but all in all, not bad.

Pick No. 6

Brilliant
  • C Mikko Koivu (2001)
  • LW Ryan Smyth (1994)
Commendable
  • D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (2009)
  • C Sam Gagner (2007)
  • LW Milan Michalek (2003)
  • LW Scott Hartnell (2000)
Unremarkable
  • C Derick Brassard (2006)
  • C Gilbert Brule (2005)
  • LW Scott Upshall (2002)
  • C Boyd Devereaux (1996)
  • C Viktor Kozlov (1993)
Wretched
  • LW Nikita Filatov (2008)
  • G Al Montoya (2004)
  • G Brian Finley (1999)
  • RW Rico Fata (1998)
  • C Daniel Tkaczuk (1997)
  • LW Steve Kelly (1995)

Pick No. 22

Brilliant
  • C Jordan Eberle (2008)
  • RW Claude Giroux (2006)
Commendable
  • LW Max Pacioretty (2007) 
  • LW Simon Gagne (1998)
Unremarkable
  • C Jordan Schroeder (2009) 
  • D Matt Lashoff (2005)
  • LW Sean Bergenheim (2002)
  • D David Hale (2000)
  • G Brian Boucher (1995)
  • D Anders Eriksson (1993)
Wretched
  • LW Lukas Kaspar (2004)
  • C Marc-Antoine Pouliot (2003)
  • C Jiri Novotny (2001)
  • G Maxime Ouellet (1999)
  • D Nikos Tselios (1997)
  • D Jeff Brown (1996)
  • D Jeff Kealty (1994)

28th pick

Brilliant
  • RW Corey Perry (2003)
  • RW Justin Williams (2000)
Commendable
  • LW Nick Foligno (2006)
  • D Matt Niskanen (2005)
  • LW Jan Hlavac (1995)
  • RW Shean Donovan (1993)
Unremarkable
  • D Dylan Olsen (2009)
  • D Mark Fistric (2004)
Wretched
  • LW Viktor Tikhonov (2008)
  • D Nick Petrecki (2007)
  • RW Jonas Johansson (2002)
  • C Adrian Foster (2001)
  • D Kristian Kudroc (1999)
  • LW Ramzi Abid (1998)
  • LW Brad DeFauw (1997)
  • D Pavel Skrbek (1996)
  • C Johan Davidsson (1994)

Friday, June 07, 2013

TJ Brodie - Where He Ranks in His Age Group

One of the best Calgary Flames players over the final month of the 2012-13 regular season was TJ Brodie. For a guy who was a healthy scratch for the season opener, he certainly made the most of his return to the line-up in game two, never relinquishing his spot the remainder of the year, and looking more and more confident and assertive each month.

Over the final 10 games, the 6-foot-1 defenceman tied for second on the club in scoring behind Sven Baertschi and for April, he averaged a whopping 23:25 in ice time.  The exclamation mark on a breakout season was when Brodie was invited to play for Team Canada at the World Championships.

Now, the question facing Calgary General Manager Jay Feaster is what is Brodie worth?

Last year was the final year of his three-year entry level contract and Brodie is now a pending restricted free agent. What is he seeking for money and term?  What will the club be offering?  As impressive as Brodie looked last year, it was still a small sample size of just over half of a normal NHL season.

One comparable in many ways for Brodie is Nashville defenceman Roman Josi. When the Predators signed him to a 7 year/$28-million deal on June 10, I compared the two and their eerie similarities.

Note: This article will continue to be updated as RFAs on the list below agree to contracts. It was last updated August 1, with details from the long awaited contract signed by TJ Brodie added in.
Brodie and his 23-year-old (or soon to be) Peers

Below is a list of NHL defencemen from the same birth year as Brodie -- 1990. The list consists of the top 20 players in this group based on career NHL games played and has been sorted that way.  Also included is each players's contract status (per CapGeek.com) to give you a sense of what that age of defencemen are making, or are about to make. Although, there are many other pending RFAs on this list also.

One thing that's interesting is that while Brodie ranks 11th on the list, he is the lowest draft pick of all 20.  There are 11 first rounders (including the first nine on the list), 6 second rounders, 1 third rounder and 2 fourth rounders including Brodie, who was chosen by former GM Darryl Sutter and the Flames with pick No. 114 in the 2008 draft.

Could a 4th round pick get 1st round pick money this early in his career? Or, is the draft a moot point at this stage and it's all based on past performance and future potential?  

Safe to say there are more questions than answers at this point and it's yet another intriguing storyline in what promises to be an eventful June, July and August for the Flames.

Top 20 Defencemen - Birth Year of 1990
(sorted by regular season NHL games played, as of end of 2012-13 regular season)

1. Zach Bogosian, WPG, 2008 Round 1 (#3)
  • Stats: 297 gm, 34 g, 69 a, 103 pts
  • Last Year: $3-million (2nd year of 2-year $5-million contract)
  • 2013-14: $4-million (1st year of 7-year $36-million contract)

2. Victor Hedman, TB, 2009 Round 1 (#2)
  • Stats: 258 gm, 16 g, 73 a, 89 pts
  • Last Year: $3-million (1st year of 5-year $20-million contract)
  • 2013-14: $3-million

3. Tyler Myers, BUF, 2008 Round 1 (#12)
  • Stats: 256 gm, 32 g, 84 a, 116 pts
  • Last Year: $12-million including $10-million signing bonus (1st year of 7-year $38.5-million contract)
  • 2013-14: $6-million

4. Michael Del Zotto, NYR, 2008 Round 1 (#20)
  • Stats: 250 gm, 24 g, 86 a, 110 pts
  • Last Year: $2.2-million (1st year of 2-year $5.1-million contract)
  • 2013-14: $2.9-million

5. Luca Sbisa, ANA, 2008 Round 1 (#19)
  • Stats: 236 gm, 8 g, 42 a, 50 pts
  • Last Year: $2-million (2nd year of 4-year $8.7-million contract)
  • 2013-14: $2.6-million

6. John Carlson, WSH, 2008 Round 1 (#27)
  • Stats: 234 gm, 23 g, 74 a, 97 pts
  • Last Year: $3.8-million (1st year of 6-year $23.8-million contract)
  • 2013-14: $4-million

7. Erik Karlsson, OTT, 2008 Round 1 (#15)
  • Stats: 233 gm, 43 g, 120 a, 163 pts
  • Last Year: $5-million (1st year of 7-year $45.5-million contract)
  • 2013-14: $5.5-million

8. Dmitry Kulikov, FLA, 2009 Round 1 (#14)
  • Stats: 232 gm, 16 g. 64 a. 80 pts
  • Last Year: $2-million (1st year of 2-year $5-million contract)
  • 2013-14: $3-million

9. Alex Pietrangelo, STL, 2008 Round 1 (#4)
  • Stats: 224 gm, 29 g, 92 a, 121 pts
  • Last Year: $875,000 (3rd year of 3-year $2.625-million entry level contact)
  • 2013-14: RFA

10. Travis Hamonic, NYI, 2008 Round 2 (#52)
  • Stats: 183 gm, 10 g, 50 a, 60 pts
  • Last Year: $875,000 (3rd year of 3-year $2.625-million entry level contact)
  • 2013-14: $3.8-million (1st year of 7-year $27-million contract)

11. TJ Brodie, CGY, 2008 Round 4 (#114)
  • Stats: 104 gm, 4 g, 24 a, 28 pts
  • Last Year: $525,000 (3rd year of 3-year $1.775-million entry level contact)
  • 2013-14: $1.75-million (1st year of 2-year $4.25-million contract)

12. Slava Voynov, LA, 2008 Round 2 (#32)
  • Stats: 102 gm, 14 g, 31 a, 45 pts
  • Last Year: $787,500 (3rd year of 3-year $2.462-million entry level contract)
  • 2013-14: $2.75-million (1st year of 6-year $25-million contract)

13. Roman Josi, NSH, 2008 Round 2 (#38)
  • Stats: 100 gm, 10 g, 24 a, 34 pts
  • Last Year: $875,000 (3rd year of 3-year $2.625-million entry level contact)
  • 2013-14: $2.5-million (1st year of 7-year $28-million contract)

14. John Moore, NYR, 2009 Round 1 (#21)
  • Stats: 99 gm, 3 g, 11 a, 14 pts
  • Last Year: $810,000 (2nd year of 3-year $2.7-million entry level contract)
  • 2013-14: $810,000

15. Marco Scandella, MIN, 2008 Round 2 (#55)
  • Stats: 89 gm, 4 g, 11 a, 15 pts
  • Last Year: $610,000 (3rd year of 3-year $2.017-million entry level contract)
  • 2013-14: $900,000 (1st year of 2-year $2.05-million contract)

16. Jake Gardiner, TOR, 2008 Round 1 (#17)
  • Stats: 87 gm, 7 g, 27 a, 34 pts
  • Last Year: $875,000 (2nd year of 3-year $2.625-million entry level contract)
  • 2013-14: $875,000

17. Michael Stone, PHX, 2008 Round 3 (#69)
  • Stats: 53 gm, 6 g, 6 a, 12 pts
  • Last Year: $575,000 (3rd year of 3-year $1.862-million entry level contract)
  • 2013-14: $800,000 (1st year of 3-year $3.45-million contract)

18. Patrick Wiercioch, OTT, 2008 Round 2 (#42)
  • Stats: 50 gm, 5 g, 16 a, 21 pts
  • Last Year: $875,000 (3rd year of 3-year $2.625-million entry level contact)
  • 2013-14: $1.1-million (1st year of 3-year $6-million contract)

19. Justin Schultz, EDM, 2008 Round 2 (#43)
  • Stats: 48 gm, 8 g, 19 a, 27 pts
  • Last Year: $925,000 (1st year of 2-year $1.85-million entry level contract)
  • 2013-14: $925,000

20. David Savard, CLB, 2009 Round 4 (#94)
  • Stats: 35 gm, 2 g, 8 a, 10 pts
  • Last Year: $765,500 (3rd year of 3-year $2.222-million entry level contract)
  • 2013-14: $709,000 (1-year, 2-way contract, pays $67,500 in AHL)