Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Eight from 80 Feet: Trade Deadline Edition - Four Recall Rule, Good-bye to Sven, and more...

It's time for a special NHL trade deadline edition of Eight from 80 Feet, a regular content feature I started this season that typically comes out every one or two weeks.

Comprised of a blend of anecdotes, team reaction, statistics, analysis and maybe an opinion or prediction mixed in too, it's a round-up of eight random thoughts on the current goings-on with the Calgary Flames.

This edition features insight from general manager Brad Treliving, who after holding a presser with the travelling media in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon, then hooking up with Pat Steinberg and Rob Kerr on Sportsnet 960 Radio for an on-air segment, gave me a call in Calgary where I was holed in my home office, looking after Flames trade deadline coverage for The Canadian Press.

That recap of the day including Treliving's brutally honest reaction to the devastating news around Mark Giordano's injury, which ran on the CP/AP news wire can be read here. Meanwhile, here are some additional anecdotes and more Calgary-centric stuff that didn't make the cut but I think you'll be interested in.

1. Flames Strategy with the Four Recall Rule

First, let's be clear, Treliving is not a big fan of this rule, calling it "archaic". Nonetheless, it's a rule that's in place as part of an agreement between the NHL and the American Hockey League.

The rule states that only players on an AHL roster as of the expiration of the NHL trade deadline (1 pm MT on March 2) are eligible to be demoted to the minors for the remainder of the season. Further, from the players that are on the AHL roster at that time, the NHL team only gets four non-emergency recalls for the remainder of the season.

How a team approaches this is important from a player development perspective as teams obviously want to have as many of their young prospects eligible to go down to the AHL and play additional games and playoffs should the NHL team not make the post-season. However, there's a balance you need to watch out for as you place them on your AHL roster -- often via a paper transaction on trade deadline day. What you need to be conscious of is you only have four recalls to bring them back to the NHL so if you need some of those players with the parent club at that time, you can end up gobbling up those up four recalls faster than desired.

Flames Transactions - Part 1

What the Flames decided to do got confusing on Monday because recalls/loans to the AHL are not processed or announced in real-time due to trades being the higher priority. However, Treliving explained what Calgary had done.

Placed on the AHL Roster by the Deadline - Eligible to play in the AHL the rest of the year were:
  • Michael Ferland
  • Emile Poirier
  • Markus Granlund

Recalled by Calgary Prior to the Deadline - Not-eligible for the rest of the AHL season:
  • Drew Shore

While that means Shore will not be eligible to re-join Adirondack for the rest of the season (including playoffs) -- so he's essentially done forever with Glens Falls, New York, the timing of that promotion means it does not count towards Calgary's four recalls as he was promoted prior to the trade deadline.  

Flames Transactions - Part 2

On Monday night, Treliving was going to meet with coach Bob Hartley to decide which players they were going to immediately recall because given the above transactions, that only leaves 20 on the Flames active roster at the moment and that is made up of seven defencemen and 11 forwards.

One would expect at least two of the three forwards to be brought back (or kept by the Flames as they're already with the team and just won't end up leaving) and my prediction is that would be Michael Ferland and Emile Poirier since Shore is with Calgary now and he's a centre.

For simplicity, that typically would mean Granlund's demotion to Adirondack would be the only one of the three that would be announced and would come out as an actual transaction as there's no point filling up people's inboxes with a press release sending the other two guys down and then another press release right after bringing those same two guys back again.

What intrigues me is what the team does with Tyler Wotherspoon. Despite being sent down on Sunday, he was no where to be found at Adirondack's practice on Monday so that reeks of a paper transaction. However, it doesn't make sense either. With David Schlemko being claimed, keeping Wotherspoon with Calgary would leave the Flames withg eight defencemen and that would be less than ideal way to use up one of those precious four recalls. 

Anyway, what the club ultimately decided to do for now will be made clear on Tuesday morning either via an official announcement or through the eagle eyes of the travelling media, who take inventory when the players step on the ice for their pre-game skate at 9:30 am MT.

Update - Granlund has, indeed, been sent down to Adirondack and Wotherspoon will also remain with the baby Flames at this time.

2. Understanding Baertschi to Vancouver

When it was announced that 2011 first round pick Sven Baertschi had been traded to Vancouver in exchange for a second round pick, the reaction from many Flames fans was loud and emotional. Fans were angry about:
  1. Why had Calgary given up on Baertschi so early.
  2. How could they only get a second round pick for him.
  3. Man, the Flames are dumb to trade him to a division rival.

Then, the details started trickling out including the game-changer that Baertschi had informed the team he was not happy and was not going re-sign with Calgary when his entry-level contract expired this summer.

"There were feelings and desires on his part about where his future lied with us," said Treliving. "He felt this just wasn't going to work for him. "

Without getting into specifics of what he was offered by some teams, Treliving made it clear that the demand for Baertschi just wasn't very high. Other teams did not value him as Flames fans did. He decided to pull the trigger on the best offer he got because he didn't see it getting any better if he waited until the summer.

"We felt the ability to grow the value with Sven was not great," said Treliving. "I felt that right now, knowing where his mindset was, knowing he's getting to the end of his contract, I just didn't know this type of value was going to be there in the summer or a year from now."

The reality is much like buying a brand new mini van, first round picks only retain their value for so long. Look at Joe Colborne for example. Selected in the first round in 2008, 16th overall, he was traded to Calgary five years later for a fourth round pick.

It had been four years since Baertschi was drafted 13th overall and given what he's done so far in his career, there's no chance one of the other 29 GMs is going to cough up a first round pick for him. (Prior to the season, I chronicled right here the seven things that had gone wrong for Baertschi since being drafted by the Flames, which set the two on this collision course.)  

You wonder if the Canucks were the only team to offer up a second round pick. 

Calgary and Vancouver don't trade with each other very often. The last time was March 5, 1991 when Dana Murzyn was traded to the Canucks for Ron Stern and Kevan Guy.  

Make no mistake, Treliving is very aware that the Canucks are divisional foes and he knows exactly where they're at with their rebuilding and young players.

"Without question, that's a consideration but you also have to say, where's the best value for us," he said.

The fact he still traded Baertschi to Vancouver demonstrates that deal was by far the best value Calgary was offered.

While it's easy for a fan to say they should have taken a third or fourth round pick for him and dealt him to the Eastern Conference, that would be poor asset management.

3. Loaded with Draft Picks in 2015

By adding the second from Vancouver for Baertschi and getting a second and third round pick from Washington for Curtis Glencross, Treliving has given himself all sorts of options at the draft and he's excited about that.

"We've given ourselves some really good assets moving forward, especially in this year's draft, going in with the number of picks that we've got," said Treliving. "We'll have to see how this plays out whether those are picks that are made, whether we do something with those picks, but we've positioned ourselves nicely."

It's impossible to project exactly where draft picks would be right now as teams that advance to the third round of the playoffs pick later and there is always the lottery also. However, barring the Capitals, Canucks or Flames winning two rounds this post-season, and based on the standings as of this today, Calgary's first six picks would all be in the top 80:

Round One
  • 15th - Calgary's pick

Round Two
  • 45th - Calgary's pick
  • 48th - Vancouver's pick
  • 50th - Washington's pick

Round Three
  • 75th - Calgary's pick
  • 80th - Washington's pick

For context, Darryl Sutter in his final five years as the Flames GM, only picked in the top 80 a total of 10 times.

4. Treliving in a More Comfortable Place

Many have been quick to criticize Treliving's early body of work as Flames GM. There was the giving up of a third round pick at the 2014 draft to acquire Brandon Bollig, then came the rich deal given to Deryk Engelland on July 1 as well as the signing of Mason Raymond, and later in the summer came the signing of Devin Setoguchi.

Yet I've always felt it was unfair to be overly critical of the work of someone so new on the job. At that point, he is not making decisions based on his own assessments and first-hand knowledge but more so is relying on the advice of others on what the teams strengths and needs are.

"When I first got here, I had a computer full of reports and had seen them all play at certain times and I had opinions on them but it's different," Treliving said. "Until you're living with them and you're spending time with them, you don't know them. Now I see them every day, you get to know them as people, you get to know their character, you get to know their values, and all those things are critical."

Treliving said by knowing the team far better like he does now, it was easier to confidently make the two deals he made the last couple days.

"Difference is night and day," said Treliving. "I feel way more comfortable now about our group and our reserve list and our players -- 100 percent from where I was at last May and June."

5. Dwindling Playoff Chances

I entertained a segment of the Twitterverse the other day with my 'outlandish' suggestion that even without Giordano for a while -- the severity of his injury not known at the time, that the playoff race for the Flames was not over.

And it's not.

However, without their best player for the rest of the season, Calgary is certainly looking at a very steep climb and while I had the odds of the Flames making it at around 40 percent with Giordano in the line-up, it's probably down to 10 percent without him. But considering they're in a playoff spot today and only a 20-game sprint remains, there absolutely is still a sliver of a chance.

While Treliving was unable to find smart deals to help his team in the push, he rewarded his team in a more subtle way by not dismantling the team as he could have, a small way of acknowledging all that that the players have achieved so far.

"Part of today was showing belief in this group. We had a lot of calls on players we have and we had no interest in moving people out. There are other picks that could have been had for roster players but we weren't of that mindset that we're going to just start shuffling people out of town," said Treliving. "This group deserves to stay together and make a push."

That said, those odds of making the playoffs are still twice what the odds of winning the lottery will probably be should Calgary miss the playoffs so yes, I'm saying there's a chance.

Three things that need to happen:
  • Flames need to catch lightning in a bottle with either David SchlemkoTyler Wotherspoon or Engelland if promoted into an elevated role. You can't replace Giordano but mitigating his loss by more minutes from TJ Brodie, Wideman and Kris Russell and bigger contributions from the others will help.
  • Calgary needs to win nearly all its remaining games against non-playoff teams. The Flames still have one of the easiest schedules remaining but the margin for error is slipping so they'll need to run the table on those teams to give themselves a chance.
  • Continued good goaltending. Karri Ramo has been spectacular. He's got a 1.02 Goals-Against Average and a .968 save percentage this road trip and as broken down in Saturday's Eight from 80 Feet, he has been the best goalie in the NHL this season on the road, leading the entire NHL with a 1.86 GAA and a .937 SV%.

Calgary was already a team that the anlytics community had an adversarial relationship with because of their propensity to win hockey games despite their unflattering advanced stats. Now the Flames are really up against it and every victory will only further draw the ire of that crowd and that subplot in itself, will make the final five-and-a-half weeks intriguing to watch.

6. First Round Misery

Sean Monahan got things turned around in 2013. The selection of Sam Bennett last year is looking very good also. While first round picks are back in style in Calgary, Baertschi's departure adds one more failure to a decade of poor first round drafting between Jay Feaster and Darryl Sutter.

Make no mistake, missing out on all but two first round picks over a 10-year span is exactly how you end up in the state the Flames organization has been the last few years. To be fair, Mark Jankowski is not a bust yet but he's not tracking with where you'd expect a first round pick to be at at this point.

Jay Feaster 

2012 - Mark Jankowski, 21st
2011 - Sven Baertschi, 13th (66 gm, 8-20-28)

Darryl Sutter 

2009 - Tim Erixon, 23rd
2008 - Greg Nemisz, 25th (15 gm, 0-1-1)
2007 - Mikael Backlund, 24th
2006 - Leland Irving, 26th (13 gm, 3-4-0, 3.25 GAA, .902 SV%)
2005 - Matt Pelech, 26th (5 gm, 0-3-3)
2004 - Kris Chucko, 24th (2 gm, 0-0-0)
2003 - Dion Phaneuf, 9th

The saving grace with Feaster is his work outside the second round with Johnny Gaudreau, Wotherspoon, Granlund, Monahan and Poirier among his

7. Not Adding Was the Smart Move

While fans might be disappointed that Calgary did not bring in a player or two at the deadline to try and keep the playoff push alive, the reality was the prices to add anything of substance were expensive while the odds of still making the post-season were very low.

By staying the course instead of sacrificing prospects and draft picks, the Flames are still going for the playoffs, just not this year's specifically. Instead, their sights are affixed on a return to the post-season that can be sustainable like Detroit -- 23 years in the playoffs in a row, and San Jose -- 15 of the last 16 years in the post-season.

"A lot of the deals that were taking place, we were in on in terms of the conversation, but we couldn't find a match and specifically a price that we felt fit and worked for us," said Treliving. "You're not going to replace Mark Giordano. Those things just don't happen and if you think that you are, you're going to make a massive mistake and pay a huge price that isn't going to replace him."

8. What Could Have Been with Cammalleri

While market conditions vary from year-to-year, the exorbitant prices paid this year by buyers make you wonder what could have been last year with Mike Cammalleri. If the former Flame had not gone in that horrendous slump right before the trade deadline (2-0-2 in 15 games), surely he could have commanded a price similar to what Glencross got this year.

Now we'll wait and see if Glencross, who at the time of the deal, was in a similar slide to Cammalleri offensively with 1-1-2 in his final 14 games with Calgary, can bust out like Cammalleri did last year going 13-11-24 over the season's final 20 games to earn himself a five-year, $25-million contract from the Devils.


Recent Related Flames Reading
  • Eight Flames That Could Get Dealt at the Trade Deadline - While the trade deadline could be a quiet one for Brad Treliving, there are several players in the organization from Curtis Glencross to Sven Baertschi, who I can see being moved if teams are interested and Calgary's general manager gets an offer he likes.
  • Eight from 80 Feet: Ramo Ranked No. 1, Glencross' Spot in Team History, and more -Topics included in the lastest eight Flames thoughts includes Karri Ramo -- the NHL's best road goaltender this season, Curtis Glencross and his final place in team history and Sean Monahan's evolution at the face-off dot. 
  • No, the Western Conference Sky is not Falling - Tumbling out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference has left fans feeling much consternation. Much consternation about nothing, that is. Calgary still controls its own destiny and with one of the softest schedules remaining, rumours of the death of the Flames playoff chances are greatly exaggerated
  • The Cardiac Kids: Fun Facts About the Third Period Comebacks - A comprehensive look back at the Flames 10 come-from-behind victories. Also included are a bunch of fun facts that will make you go "hmm..." and a look at the historical significance of it all.
  • Eight From 80 Feet - Glencross Debate, Tie-Breaker Status, and More - Edition six of my eight Flames thoughts broaches a number of topics from what to do with Curtis Glencross, how to deal with Sam Bennett, and the state of the Flames tie-breaker situation with surrounding teams just in case they finish up even.

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