Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dragons' Den: RFA Decisions Reveal a Cold, Business Side to Flames GM Brad Treliving

Time to rename the Saddledome.

Seriously.

I don’t mean find a different corporate sponsor either.

Playing off the word 'Flames' rather than -- yawn -- the shape of the roof, I think Dragons’ Den would be perfect.

The impetus for this suggestion is the flurry of activity the last few days in which the Olympic Way headquarters for Brad Treliving and his management team has more closely resembled the set of Dragons’ Den, the television show.

If you're not familiar with the long-running CBC series, sole proprietors stand before a panel of successful business people and try to convince them that what they do is valuable and worthy of the panel investing money in them.

A fixture on the panel since the show’s inception has been Boston Pizza magnate Jim Treliving, who is Brad’s dad. Tough but fair, he didn’t become one of Canada’s wealthiest people by blindly making flippant investments. You need to pass his scrutiny.

Well, if we’ve learned one thing about Jim’s son this week, it’s that the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree.


Like Father, Like Son

The announcement on Monday that only four of Calgary’s 13 restricted free agents received a qualifying offer surprised many. Most anticipated the number to be double that.

It seems Treliving is not just some journeyman minor league hockey player, who has stumbled his way into management accidentally. In addition to being an astute talent evaluator and steely-eyed negotiator, peel back his personable exterior and you find a cold-hearted businessman: unflappable, methodical and ruthless.

Close your eyes and you can just imagine this year’s RFAs, sauntering one-by-one up to Treliving’s personal lair, pleading their case to be re-signed, then slinking away dejectedly as the GM concludes they just aren't wise investments.

Joni Ortio, Bill Arnold, Kenny Agostino, Josh Jooris, Joe Colborne, Drew Shore, Bryce van Brabant, Turner Elson, Kevin Poulin. None of them received qualifying offers so all are set to become unrestricted free agents at 10 am MT on July 1.

The four that got qualified were Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau -- both of whom were obviously just formalities, Tyler Wotherspoon and Freddie Hamilton, who was a mild surprise.

Of the rejections, the stunner by far, which left everyone talking, was Colborne. And whatever happens next will be a reminder that every difficult business decision always carries an element of risk.


Risk of Not Qualifying Colborne

First, a disclaimer. Maybe, just maybe, Colborne and Treliving will find common ground and this will all become a moot point. However, there are reasons to be doubtful as what Colborne could command on the open market may be well in excess of what Calgary is prepared to offer.

For the same reason the Flames feared an arbitrator would review Colborne's case, examine the salary of NHL players who had similar production, and award a salary in the vicinity of $3.5 million, Colborne may conclude that if the arbitrator might think that, surely one of the other 29 GMs will arrive at a similar conclusion.

After all, we're talking about a 26-year-old first round pick, who:
  • Improved his production in each of his first three NHL seasons.
  • Is coming off a year in which his scoring clip (19-25-44 in 73 gm) had him on a pace for 21 goals and 50 points over a full season. That's top 100 production.
  • At 6-foot-5, has size that teams covet.
  • Has soft hands around the net and is particularly lethal in shootouts.
  • Can play all three forward positions.

Plus as a bonus, he's a model citizen in the dressing room and in the community -- personable, dedicated, and just an all-round stand-up guy. For example, the day after getting the news that he was not qualified, he was still out in the community representing the Flames.


Just last week, the benefit concert for Colborne's Forces was centre stage.


If that's not enough, you can top it all off with a recency bias that could crack open wallets just a little wider. In case you've forgotten just how extraordinary his close to last season was, let me refresh your memory.

Over the final five weeks of the regular season, he was fourth in the NHL in scoring. Fourth!

NHL Scoring - March 5 through end of 2015-16 season:

T1. Sidney Crosby PIT, 18 gm, 10-14-24
T1. Mark Scheifele WPG, 19 gm, 12-12-24
3. Joe Thornton SJ, 19 gm, 4-17-21
T4. Joe Colborne CGY, 18 gm, 9-11-20
T4. Anze Kopitar LA, 19 gm, 6-14-20
T4. Blake Wheeler WPG, 19 gm, 8-12-20
T4. John Tavares NYI, 19 gm, 10-10-20
T4. Derek Stepan NYR, 17 gm, 7-13-20


No matter how some of the goals went in and even if that production did come in so-called meaningless games, those are still stellar numbers over nearly a quarter of a season that put himself in some pretty elite company.


Cost of Losing Colborne

I don’t know how high Calgary is willing to go for an annual salary nor do I know how high other GMs might go. But what seems like a realistic outcome is unless Colborne is willing to take a big (and literal) 'hometown discount', he could be moving on.

If Colborne does become a free agent July 1 and sign elsewhere, here are some of the potential costs of this calculated gamble by Treliving:
  • Lose an asset for nothing.
  • Maybe he scores 20 goals again. Heck, with his upwards trajectory offensively, maybe he gets to 25-30 a couple years from now.
  • By walking away from two other arbitration-eligible players as well, that will earn Treliving a reputation of a GM, who will bail on RFAs rather than risk arbitration. Does that perceived cold-heartedness impact his future ability to woo free agents?
  • Does his handling of Colborne, Jooris and Ortio build distrust in current players? Sure it's a business and players get that, but they are humans too.


Cost of Keeping Colborne

On the flip side, what was the downside of paying Colborne and was it as bad as everyone feared?

Had Treliving just sucked it up and paid Colborne what he earned for market value for the upcoming season -- say $3.5 million -- there are a couple things to keep in mind.

For one, if the negotiation ended up in arbitration, which was the expectation, it would have been only a one-year deal. In a player-elected arbitration case, which would have been the case in this instance, the team gets to select the term with a choice of one or two years. Treliving could have simply said one-year and even if the number awarded was the worst-case scenario outcome, the silver lining is it would have been just for 2016-17.

While the AAV for this season and impact on the team salary cap would have been the con of going down this path, there would have been benefits:
  • You keep the asset and have the ability to get something for him at a later point.
  • If his numbers do return to 'normal' as the Flames expect, that should also result in a more manageable 'market value' salary for 2017-18.
  • You retain all the intangibles and character mentioned above that are good for the organization.


Livin' and Learnin'

Every year that passes, Treliving is getting more and more comfortable in his own skin as an NHL GM. A couple months into year three now, he's building quite a reputation both around the league and with Flames fans, many of whom cleverly refer to themselves as 'Trelievers'.

If you go over his resume during his time at the helm, most of the blemishes date back to his first couple months on the job where he came to Calgary in late April 2014 after several years in Arizona. Soon after arriving in his new city, he was drafting, signing and trading for players, despite not knowing his team or the organization nearly as well as he would have liked.

The trade for Brandon Bollig at the 2014 draft, the drafting in the second round of truculent Hunter Smith, while a skilled guy like Christian Dvorak lay in waiting, the signing for big money of Deryk Engelland, Jonas Hiller and Mason Raymond -- the latter expected to be bought out on Thursday.

Sure, Treliving made those moves but with his relative unfamiliarity with the team, you know he had others from the front office in his ear the whole way.

I asked him last year to reflect on the challenges those first few months presented.

"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," he told me. "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. The difference is night and day."


Final Word 

There are going to be bumps in the road. Welcome to life as an NHL GM. The Lance Bouma situation last summer and how best to proceed was the classic definition of a dilemma and the Colborne situation this year -- in which Calgary is skeptical that his offensive numbers from last season are repeatable -- put Treliving in a similar predicament.
   
But he demonstrated Monday in taking a risk and not qualifying Colborne that he's a guy willing to learn from the past and is not be afraid to make a bold decision if it is in the best interests of his hockey club.

There will always be hindsight after any damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't decision. The Colborne outcome will open himself up to criticism if ends up signing elsewhere and turns in another good season.

But if you're fan, what you like is Treliving is a guy that makes moves with conviction, he removes emotion from the equation, and he's 100 percent focused on building a Stanley Cup contender.

With last weekend's superb 24 hours at the draft as another prime example, he is quickly establishing himself as one of the brightest young managerial minds in the NHL and while that may not be good news for some players along the way, it is great news for supporters of the team.

Welcome to the Scotiabank Dragons' Den.



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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Gold Star: Eight Takeaways From an Excellent Draft Weekend for the Calgary Flames

You know how when you get to the till at the grocery store and the cashier asks you, "Did you find everything you were looking for?"

Yes.

For sure.

Damn right!

That's the type of response you'd surely get from Calgary general manager Brad Treliving after a productive and impactful couple of days for his management and scouting team at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo.


Eight Draft Weekend Takeaways


1. Emphasis on Skill and Hockey IQ

While he was GM of the Flames from 2003 to 2010, Darryl Sutter drafted a total of 54 skaters. Only five of those players were shorter than 6-foot-0. That's right, five in eight years. It was as if the height and weight columns were confused for the goals and assists columns.

My goodness how times have changed.

This weekend, half of the eight skaters drafted by Treliving are 5-foot-11 or shorter:
  • 1-6 - LW Matthew Tkachuk, OHL, 6-1, 202 lbs | 57 gm, 30-77-107
  • 2-54 - G Tyler Parsons, OHL, 6-1, 185 lbs | 49 gm, 2.33 GAA, .921 SV% 
  • 2-56 - C Dillon Dube, WHL, 5-10, 183 lbs | 65 gm, 26-40-66 
  • 3-66 - D Adam Fox, USA NTDP, 5-10, 181 lbs | 25 gm, 5-17-22 
  • 4-96 - C Linus Lindstrom, Swe Jr, 5-11, 165 lbs | 40 gm, 14-30-44 
  • 5-126 - C Mitchell Mattson, HS/USHL, 6-4, 191 lbs | 46 gm, 19-29-48 
  • 6-156 - RW Eetu Tuulola, Finland, 6-2, 227 lbs | 39 gm, 9-6-15 
  • 6-166 - C Matthew Phillips, WHL, 5-7, 150 lbs | 72 gm, 37-39-76 
  • 7-186 - D Stepan Falkovsky, OHL, 6-7, 224 lbs | 58 gm, 9-23-32

While it's one thing to see sub six-footers at forward, it's even more rare to find them on the blue-line. Right-shooting defenceman Adam Fox from the U.S. National Team development program, Calgary's third rounder taken at No. 66 -- TJ Brodie's original jersey number -- is just 5-foot-10.

If you're hoping to see him crush guys as they cross the blue-line with their head down, ala Scott Stevens, you might be disappointed. But if you want to watch someone resembling Brian Rafalski use his speed at both ends of the ice, you're in luck. Fox led all defencemen with nine points (1 goal, 8 assists) at the U18 World Championships.

"There are smaller guys in the NHL now that are breaking that mould," said Fox by telephone from the draft floor. "Guys like Tyson Barrie, Kevin Shattenkirk, Duncan Keith are all smaller defencemen. For me, my hockey sense, hockey IQ and just my playmaking abilities definitely help me make up for any lack of size."

While they play different positions, the New York-raised Fox says nearby New Jersey resident Johnny Gaudreau is also an inspiration.

"I look at him as a guy that was able to produce at every level when people still questioned his size. Then came a point where he he did it at the highest level and people finally started to look away from his size and just realize he's a great player and he's able to produce," said Fox.

"He never let me anyone get to him, he just kept working hard and it worked out for him. That's definitely something I can look up to to see how hard he worked to prove people wrong."

As for hockey IQ, that was another buzzword on the weekend because most Flames picks were touted as packing that all-important ability to think the game at high speed. It is an attribute that can distinguish guys that make it from guys that don't.

"Growing up around the game, I was fortunate enough to obviously have my Dad," said first rounder Matthew Tkachuk, whose Dad Keith retired when he was 13. "I think huge credit for my hockey IQ comes from always being around the rink and watching hockey."

Tkachuk was voted second in his conference for 'Smartest Player' in the OHL annual coaches poll last year. It's a notable accomplishment when you consider who is doing the voting. The coaches know these players better than anybody else. Interestingly, past winners or runners up in that same category have included Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett.


2. A Necessary Re-Stock of the Cupboards

After selecting only five players a year ago and not picking once in the top 50, General Manager Brad Treliving and Co. came to Buffalo armed with twice as many draft picks this year. And somewhat surprisingly, they also returned with 10 players.

Mind you, not all 10 players were drafted.


Unlike a year ago, there were no bundle-together-two-picks-and-trade-up scenarios that played out so beyond the Elliott trade, it was a straight-forward day of grabbing the mic and making the pick. For the scouts, who spent countless hours the past year evaluating prospects, it makes for a very rewarding day (unlike a year ago when the Flames traded away its first three draft picks for Dougie Hamilton, which was a great deal for Calgary but was still a punch to the gut for the scouting staff.)

Nine players selected is the most since 2004 when Calgary drafted 10 players in what back then was a nine-round draft.

Many believe that more than any other factor from scouting expertise, to analytics, to top secret algorithms, the easiest path to a good draft is to simply have more draft picks than anyone else. With the draft being such a crapshoot anyway -- defence develop so late, goaltenders develop even later, the more bullets you have in the chamber, that's what increases the odds that when you pull the trigger, you're going to hit a bullseye.


3. A Dose of Piss & Vinegar

Photo via The Canadian Press
Admittedly, I never saw it coming.

Not in December, not in February, not in April, certainly not in May after the Memorial Cup, not even Friday afternoon. Yet, despite being a top-five lock on nearly every experts' draft rankings, an unexpected decision by the Columbus Blue Jackets at pick No. 3 set off a chain reaction of contingency plans that stunningly resulted in Tkachuk falling into the Flames lap at No. 6.

Plays with an edge, has some bite, plays nasty, these are the terms you hear with Tkachuk and are the ingredients the Flames have been desperately seeking for a very long time. Sure enough, it comes to them in the form of a top-six winger that can also score. Talk about a double dip.

In talking to Tkachuk briefly by phone on Friday, he talked about his style of play.

"Playing aggressive is my style. Always in the middle of the action, trying to piss off the other team," he said. "Playing on that edge helps me be more effective on the ice."

You knew right away this was going to be a Brian Burke-endorsed selection and the president of hockey operations was not shy on Saturday confirming exactly that.

Normally a left-winger although he did play some right-wing this season and told me he liked coming in off his off-wing, it remains to be seen where he slots in down the road but given his ability to work so well with crafty Mitch Marner this past season, playing the right side on the top line with Johnny Gaudreau seems like a great fit.

That said, similarly alluring is the idea of Tkachuk on the left side of a line centred by Sam Bennett. Those two intense guys playing together could be a handful for the opposition.


4. Penticton Primer

Now that we know the names, their stats, have read the scouting reports on their strengths and weaknesses, it's time to see the Flames 2016 draft class up close and in person.

Development camp in early July is one opportunity although with the focus there on skill development, it's more of an exercise in getting to know these young men better off the ice.

More so what I'm looking forward to is the annual Young Stars Classic rookie tournament in September and a first chance to see these guys in actual game action and with a Flames logo on their chest. I figure at least five of them should be part of the charter of rookies that fly to Penticton on Sept. 15 -- Tkachuk, Parsons, Dube, Phillips and Falkovsky.

Fox (Harvard) will both be in school as he begins his freshman NCAA season. I'm not sure the availability for Mattson, who will play in USHL next season before heading to North Dakota to play college hockey starting in 2017-18. As for Lidstrom and Tuulola, their status is not yet clear but if they play next year in Europe, they won't be there either. But we'll see. What I would expect though is for all nine to be at development camp that begins July 4.

Is it too early to contemplate line combinations for mid-September? Of course it is. It's way too early. But that's never stopped me before. Time to get out a napkin and a pen and do some scribbling.

Tkachuk - Jankowski - Mangiapane
Shinkaruk - Karnaukhov - Poirier
Klimchuk - Phillips - Pribyl
Pollock - Dube - Carroll


Adding intrigue to this annual Flames-Jets-Oilers-Canucks get-together in the Okanagan will be a Memorial Cup champions reunion with Canucks first rounder Olli Juolevi hooking up with his pals Tkachuk and Parsons.

Also, Jesse Puljujarvi dropping to Edmonton at No. 4 adds an extra layer of intrigue to the rookies that the Oilers will take to Penticton.

If you missed it amongst the draft hoopla as it was released on Friday, here is the Flames schedule with the times listed in MT. All games played at the beautiful South Okanagan Events Centre. Tickets go on sale July 8.
  • September 16 vs Wpg, 5 pm
  • September 17 vs Edm, 8:30 pm
  • September 19 vs Van, 4:30 pm

I'll be on the ground in Penticton to cover this event for a third straight year and look forward to keeping you connected.


5. The Legend of Pick 166

It was spooky when the diminutive but talented Andrew Mangiapane was drafted last year with pick No. 166 in the sixth round, the same number that Theoren Fleury was selected at in 1987. What made it eerie, of course, is the similarities in their stature and in their skills. You're familiar with Fleury's prolific NHL career. Meanwhile, Mangiapane -- expected to turn pro this fall -- was fantastic again last season and looks like an absolute steal at that part in the draft.

Well, can lightning strike potentially three times at No. 166? Sure enough, Calgary picked at No. 166 again this year -- special thanks to Connor Bleakley's re-entry into the draft -- and they used that pick to take a flyer on highly-skilled Calgary kid Matthew Phillips, who a young man that assistant general manager Craig Conroy absolutely raves about.

Phillips, who played his bantam and midget hockey for the Buffaloes, is coming off a terrific rookie season with Victoria in the WHL in which he led all rookies with 76 points. Heck, that was even one point better than eighth overall pick Alex Nylander, the OHL's rookie scoring leader. (Although Nylander did play 15 fewer games.)

Small guys that can motor and create offence. Fleury defied the odds to do it in his era, but he had the stocky build needed back in the heyday of clutch and grab. But in this era of the new, fast-skating NHL, Gaudreau is proof that size is no longer the factor it used to be. Mangiapane will be an interesting study this season. What kind of impact can he have in the AHL? His future certainly looks bright.

Phillips, listed by the NHL as 5-6, 140 lbs but given an extra inch and 10 extra pounds by the Flames, is perhaps the most intriguing of them all. Whether he's 5-6 or 5-7, 140 or 150, it's still not even close to the specs you would ever expect for an NHL drafted player.

Whether or not Phillips ever makes it to the NHL, he's still going to be an electric player to watch at the various levels he plays along the way.


6. 'Murica

One of the more unusual aspects of this year's draft is only two of the nine picks are Canadian. That's the lowest ratio of home-grown talent for the Flames since the 2001 draft with Craig Button at the helm when Calgary picked 11 times and only selected two Canadian kids.

In particular, there were four Americans with the states of New York, Arizona, Minnesota and Michigan all represented. Add in a Finn, a Swede and a Belarusian and that's seven. The other two are both local content -- Phillips from Calgary as mentioned and Dube, who has played the past two seasons in Kelowna, is a resident of Cochrane.



7. Bagged Their No. 1 Goalie

It was the team's most glaring need, has been a non-stop discussion topic around the city for over a year and you could just tell listening to Treliving and Conroy heading into the weekend that securing a No. 1 goalie was their No. 1 priority by far. Assistant coach search, that would have to wait. Re-signing Gaudreau and Monahan, on the back burner for now.

This was the opportunity to get a goalie because if trade picks were going to be involved -- and that was expected, it couldn't be next week, the deal had to be consummated this weekend.

Sure enough, they made it happen after first shedding a few bars off the cell phone battery life of every GM that potentially had a goalie to peddle.

As I wrote Saturday morning, pulling the trigger on Blues goaltender Brian Elliott ended up being the ideal transaction.

What we're still not sure of is will it be Elliott and Ortio? Or will it be Ortio and someone else. Among the other back-ups that could be possibilities are NYI's JF Berube, Minnesota's Darcy Kuemper, Nashville's Carter Hutton. Like with Elliott, it could again come down to weighing the acquisition cost.

James Reimer, as a UFA, could be a possibility too if he can't find a satisfactory long-term deal out there, something which is a possibility given there are no No. 1 jobs available. I don't see Calgary being interested in signing Reimer long term but on a one-year show-me deal, so he can take another run at free agency a year from now, that could work.

Regardless, Elliott is the man and Treliving and Burke, as heard in conversations with Sportsnet960's Pat Steinberg, both spoke very highly about their new acquisition.


8. Stockpiling Goaltenders

In many ways, it was like the draft two years ago when the Flames took Mason McDonald as the first goalie off the board. This time it was Tyler Parsons as the second goalie to go when Calgary used its pick at No. 54 to grab the Memorial Cup champion and teammate of Tkachuk.

Considering the Flames depth in net outside the NHL level, it was surprising to see the Flames take a goalie in that second round and by all reports, that wasn't their plan. However, when Calgary got to pick 54 and he was still there and they had him ranked significantly higher, the GM just couldn't let him slip by.

Given the struggles in net last year and the ongoing saga it's been trying to trade for a goalie, you can understand why that position might be a sensitive one at the moment. To breakdown where everyone will be next year, here's my best guess:
  • NHL - Elliott and TBD (possibly Ortio)
  • AHL - Jon Gillies and David Rittich
  • ECHL - Mason McDonald
  • WHL - Nick Schneider
  • OHL - Tyler Parsons

As discussed with Treliving in this piece earlier in the week, McDonald is the one in question as he could also return to the QMJHL for an overage season. However, as he said at the time he expects McDonald to turn pro this fall and the drafting of Parsons may cement that.

You want to stagger when your goalies are coming out of junior so you have spots for them all on your AHL and ECHL affiliates. By bumping McDonald up to the next level this season, that will provide more options and better versatility next summer when it comes time to decide what to do with Schneider and Parsons.


Final Word

From Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon, it really was an intense 24 hours of action. While the optics from my vantage point are that Calgary came away one of the big winners of the weekend, the reality is you won't know for sure for several years.

But it was fun and entertaining and at it's root, isn't that what hockey is supposed to be all about.



By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Practical Prevails over Sexy as Flames Acquire Brian Elliott to Shore up Their Goaltending

Despite having way sexier options to choose from, the Flames opted for the goalie with the great personality.

On Friday night, Calgary general manager Brad Treliving left Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop and Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury standing at the curb, instead acquiring 31-year-old Brian Elliott from St. Louis in exchange for a second round pick in 2016 and a conditional third round pick in 2017.

Meant as a metaphor, there is actually a lot of truth to it.

While Bishop and Fleury would have been the type of additions that would get you wolf whistles at the bar, Elliott is the one you would be proud to bring home to meet your mom.

Consider this: For four out of the last five years, the native of Newmarket, Ontario, has been the Blues nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which goes to the NHL player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey."

Those are qualities that will mesh well with the culture that's been established in Calgary. Three nights ago, team captain Mark Giordano was awarded the NHL's Foundation Award that goes to a person "who applies the core values of hockey—commitment, perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community."

To borrow one of the patented expressions of radio colour commentator Peter Loubardias -- good people.


Perseverance and Dedication

To truly appreciate Elliott's journey to where he is today, you must go back to the beginning.

Drafted out of Junior A

In 2003, Elliott was drafted 291st by the Ottawa Senators. That was the second-to-last pick in what was a nine-round draft back then. As the 28th and final goaltender off the board, he was taken exactly 290 picks after Fleury.

However, rather than astonishment that Elliott went so late, the reaction more so could have been one of surprise that he was drafted at all.

Ranked 29th among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting, he was coming off a year in which he played for the now defunct Ajax Axemen of the Ontario Junior Provincial Hockey League.

If you're not familiar with the OJPHL, that would have been considered Junior A so a level below the OHL. Ajax was a lousy team too, finishing 8th out of nine teams in its division with a 12-31-6 record. Elliott had a nondescript 3.86 goals-against average.

College

That fall of 2003, it was off to 'Badger Bob' Johnson's old haunt, the University of Wisconsin, to play for former Flame Mike Eaves. The leading scorer his first season was former Flame Rene Bourque.

After two years patiently biding his time as the back-up and only making a combined 15 starts, Elliott took over Wisconsin's starting job in his junior season in 2005-06. With Joe Pavelski providing the offensive spark, Elliott backstopped the Badgers to a National Championship. He went 25-5-3 in 33 games with a 1.55 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and eight shutouts. Included was a shutout streak of nearly 270 minutes. He was one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker.

After completing his senior season in which he graduated with a marketing degree with honours, Elliott quickly signed with Ottawa which enabled him to report to the AHL. He got into eight late-season games with Binghamton. 

Senators

With Ray Emery out with a wrist injury, Elliott opened 2007-08 -- his first pro season -- as the back-up to Martin Gerber

After watching from the bench for the first two games, he made his NHL debut on Oct. 10 and made 28 saves as the Senators won 3-1 in Atlanta. Only Ilya Kovalchuk beat him. Elliott was named the game's first star. Of note, that dropped the Thrashers record to 0-3. That losing streak would extend to six games resulting in the firing of coach Bob Hartley exactly one week later.

Despite the fine performance, that was his only NHL action that year as Gerber started the next night and Emery returned shortly after.

After splitting the next season between the NHL and AHL, Elliott took over as Ottawa's starter in 2009-10 and was their No. 1 guy for a season-and-a-half before being dealt to Colorado in exchange for former Flames draft pick Craig Anderson.

Blues

After finishing off 2010-11 with the Avalanche, it was off to St. Louis, signing as a free agent.

It was in his five-year stint in St. Louis where he established himself as one of the NHL's best goaltenders.


However, as good as he performed, he never seemed to fully gain the trust of the coaching staff and despite some very good regular seasons, he gave way to Jaroslav Halak in one playoffs, Ryan Miller in another and Jake Allen two years ago.

Ken Hitchcock turned to Elliott this year and was rewarded. Stopping 31 of 33 shots in game 7, he led St. Louis past the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and ultimately got the Blues to the Western Conference final.


The Undisputed No. 1

Vacationing in Croatia so unavailable for comment on Friday night, Elliott shared some thoughts with PostMedia reporter Kristen Odland on Saturday. Clearly he is excited about coming into a situation where he's finally the guy, no question.



Then he greeted fans himself.

Equally excited should be the Flames as the goaltending has been a constant issue in recent years.

Combined save percentage for Calgary goalies since Sept. 9, 2013, when Kiprusoff officially hung up his blocker, has been several shades of mediocre:
  • Karri Ramo, 106 starts, 49-42-8, .911
  • Jonas Hiller, 67 starts, 35-30-5, .905
  • Joni Ortio, 34 starts, 15-15-5, .901
  • Reto Berra, 27 starts, 9-17-2, .897
  • Joey MacDonald, 9 starts, 5-4-1, .890
  • Niklas Backstrom, 3 starts, 2-2-0, .881

Compare the whole lot to the remainder of the league over that three-year period and they all rank in the bottom third. Captured in full grisly details here, this past season was especially awful.


Final Word

The more you think about it, Elliott really was the shrewd choice for Treliving.

Seven years at $7 million for Bishop, if reports are accurate of what he wanted in an extension, would have been frightening term. His injury history would have been another worry.

Now the chronic playoff yips for Fleury will no longer be anyone's concern, nor will his concussion history.

Instead, the veteran known affectionately as 'Moose' makes for a very practical pick-up that at a $2.5 million cap hit this year is dirt cheap. Should he be extended 2-3 years as one would expect -- perhaps as soon as July 1 when such an extension can be proposed -- the salary increase shouldn't be that extreme. Plus that extra dough would kick in after several other big contracts come off the books after 2016-17 -- see Mason Raymond, Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland.

Meanwhile, Elliott will serve as the ideal bridge to Jon Gillies and should the Flames top prospect be ready sooner than expected, that's a 'good news' scenario that you deal with it at that time.



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Friday, June 24, 2016

Goaltending Revitalization: Flames Anxious to Address the Team's Most Pressing Need

It's been nearly 34 months since the Flames No. 34 retired and for the most part, it's been an agonizing stretch for both the team and its fanbase.

Combined save percentage for Calgary goalies since Sept. 9, 2013, when Miikka Kiprusoff officially hung up his blocker, has been several shades of mediocre:
  • Karri Ramo, 106 starts, 49-42-8, .911
  • Jonas Hiller, 67 starts, 35-30-5, .905
  • Joni Ortio, 34 starts, 15-15-5, .901
  • Reto Berra, 27 starts, 9-17-2, .897
  • Joey MacDonald, 9 starts, 5-4-1, .890
  • Niklas Backstrom, 3 starts, 2-2-0, .881

Compare the whole lot to the remainder of the league over that three-year period and they all rank in the bottom third. Captured in full grisly details here, this past season was especially awful.

On top of that, you can add in Kiprusoff's less than scintillating farewell tour in which he turned in an uncharacteristic .882 save percentage in 24 starts during his lockout-shortened final season.

You need to go back to 2011-12 for a reminder of the fine calibre of goaltending the Flames once received and the type of goaltending Brad Treliving has arrived in Buffalo so desperate to find.



Rewinding Four Years

Jogging your memory on how 2011-12 unfolded, Kiprusoff was the club's workhorse making 68 starts. The other 14 were split in half -- seven to Henrik Karlsson, seven to Leland Irving. The wins were split even less equitably -- Kiprusoff had 35 of the team's 37 victories, Karlsson and Irving had just one each.

Kiprusoff's .921 save percentage that year ranked him ninth in the league. Ninth was also where Calgary placed in the Western Conference playoff race, finishing five points back of eighth place Los Angeles.

While that team four years ago squandered a stellar performance in net from the flexible Finn, that team was also much different from the current team.

The team's top scorers in 2011-12 were Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay, aged 34, 33, and 32 respectively. All of them on the back nine, the careers for all three have been on the decline since.

Comparably, leading the Flames in scoring last season were Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Aged 22 and 21 respectively, both of them are young stars on the rise.

Looking back on Kiprusoff's tenure in Calgary -- other than 2003-04, of course -- and seeing all those great seasons wasted by the sub-par team in front of him, the last thing Treliving wants to do is repeat history and see the great years for Gaudreau and Monahan wasted by sub-par goaltending behind them.


Who Are They Looking At?

In one word -- everyone. Seems the Flames general manager has arrived in Buffalo with his eyes wide open.


By "number of markets", what is Treliving saying? I would suggest it means he has sketched out a number of different scenarios of how he can improve the position and it runs the gamut from an 80/20 split to a 50/50 time-share.


1. Pick One: Bring in a No. 1 Starter

You sense a desire to get back to the Kiprusoff days and leave behind the win-and-stay-in rotation (that was more often a lose-and-come-out rotation) that we've witnessed the last few years. In such a scenario, the keys are handed over to the undisputed starter for 60-plus games and he lets the coach know when he needs a rest.

Best Options: Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brian Elliott
Other Options: Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard


2. Pick Two: Go With a 1a/1b Approach

If the asking price is too high for one of those big three, an alternate approach is to bring in two guys from the next tier down and have them slug it out for the No. 1 job. Ideally, one of them emerges as next year's Martin Jones. That said, the risk in bringing in two goalies in this tier is they both play mediocre, which is a scenario Calgary is all too familiar with from the past few years.

The other aspect of this approach is you can only protect one of them in the expansion draft a year from now. If the price to acquire is modest, that's not necessarily a big concern, although it's still a consideration. Also, as I've noted before, the upside of exposing a decent goalie next June is it could dissuade Las Vegas from plucking Jyrki Jokipakka, a blueliner with top four-potential that otherwise is the player most likely to be lost in the expansion draft.

Best Options: Darcy Kuemper, Calvin Pickard, Scott Darling, James Reimer*
Other Options: Michal Neuvirth, Steve Mason, Phillip Grubauer, Mike Condon

* Pending UFA


3. Pick One More: Bring in a New Back-up

If they do secure one of the big fish to carry the load, that's the scenario in which I can see Joni Ortio being brought back to be the back-up. However, there is still no assurance of that. If there is a desire to completely refresh the position, there are other names that could also be of interest.

Best Options: J-F Berube, Chad Johnson, Carter Hutton
Other Options: Jonathan Bernier, Al Montoya*, Joni Ortio, Karri Ramo

* Pending UFA


What was made pretty clear by Assistant Manager Craig Conroy on Thursday is trade is the team's preferred route to go versus free agency where you never know what the price could end up being, especially if you end up painted into a corner with limited options.



Final Word

In 35 seasons in Calgary, over one-third of Flames games have been started by one of two guys -- Kiprusoff or Mike Vernon. At 576 and 526 career games respectively, the only other goalie in team history to start more than 200 games was Reggie Lemelin (303).

It's against that backdrop that you really get an appreciation of the magnitude of what could happen this weekend. If Treliving can return home from the draft with a legitimate No. 1 goalie in tow, it will be a huge deal and potentially a franchise-defining one.

Sure the coach hiring was a big deal a week ago but coaches come and go, goaltender is the position that can make or break a team.

With the big three on defence locked in for the next several years, with the budding superstars up front getting better as every year passes, the Flames are in a situation where strengthening the crease could instantly turn this club into a playoff contender next season and a legitimate Stanley Cup contender not long after that.

So while the hype around the Flames goalie search may seem off the charts at this point, it's warranted. Yes, it is that important of a decision. Man, this is going to be an interesting 24 hours.



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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Random Thoughts on the Flames as the Draft Approaches

Off-season? What off-season?

You would never know there is no hockey going on judging by the amount of chatter and activity around the NHL these days.

In this edition of Eight From 80 Feet, which is essentially eight thoughts on the Flames, we touch on a wide variety of topics.


1. The 411 on AC Candidate Jared Bednar

With Glen Gulutzan hired as head coach, he and Brad Treliving have now turned their focus to rounding out the coaching staff and bringing in at least one more person to fill the void left by the departure of associate coach Jacques Cloutier, who was dismissed at the same time as Bob Hartley.

As Ryan Pinder and I discussed on Sportsnet960 radio on Monday morning, someone to keep your eye on is Jared Bednar,


If you are not familiar with the name, you're forgiven. But similar to the case with Gulutzan, who was also a relative unknown, dig into Bednar's coaching resume and you find a lot of success in his 13 years behind a hockey bench.

Most recently, he was the coach of the Calder Cup-winning Lake Erie Monsters. In capturing this season's AHL championship, his team went a dominant 15-2 in the post-season. This came after reaching the final the previous year also, although the Columbus Blue Jacket affiliate lost that one.

Winning the Calder Cup has been beneficial lately for coaches aspiring to make it to the NHL. Going back to 2012. three consecutive AHL champion coaches are now head coaches in the NHL:
  • Tampa Bay's Jon Cooper (Norfolk, 2011-12)
  • Detroit's Jeff Blashill (Grand Rapids, 2012-13)
  • Vancouver's Willie Desjardins (Texas, 2013-14)

After five years as an ECHL assistant coach in South Carolina, Bednar was promoted to head coach and with James Reimer (named playoff MVP) as his goalie, he promptly went out and won the Kelly Cup in 2008-09, which is the ECHL's championship.


Having proven himself at that level, Bednar went to the AHL, where interestingly he was part of the Flames organization as an assistant to Jim Playfair in 2009-10 in Abbotsford. Mikael Backlund was on that Heat team in his first year of pro hockey in North America.

There are also other traits Bednar has in common with Gulutzan and Treliving.
  • Like the other two, he is also a western guy, hailing from Yorkton, Saskatchewan.
  • He also played in the WHL as a player, just missing being on the same team as Gulutzan in Saskatoon by one year. 
  • At 44, he's around the same age also.

Treliving said he had a few candidates in mind for the assistant coach job that he wanted to discuss with Gulutzan so we'll find out soon enough, I'm sure, who they end up going with. But you can see why the Flames are likely one of the the reportedly many NHL teams that have asked Columbus for permission to meet with him.


2. Adios Andersen

It was three years ago at the draft when Canucks GM at the time, Mike Gillis, reportedly passed on better offers from both Edmonton and Calgary to avoid trading Cory Schneider within the division. Instead, he settled for an offer from New Jersey that most importantly sent the young goalie cross-country to the Eastern Conference where it would sting a little bit less if he went on to be a star.

Fast forward to today and it would not be a surprise if we one day learn that Ducks GM Bob Murray passed on a better offer from the Flames in keep Frederik Andersen out of the Pacific Division. Examining the price Toronto paid to get the 26-year-old Dane, Calgary had the ammo to top that offer and the motivation to do so.

In looking back at this piece from February when I took a comprehensive look at 25 potential goalies (five categories of five) that could be of interest to the Flames, a lot has changed.
  • Of the pending UFAs, cross off No. 5 Cam Ward, who re-signed with Carolina.
  • At the top of the list of veterans stuck behind young goalies, cross off Andersen. Given his cheap salary and importance in the Blues deep playoff run, I'm skeptical if Brian Elliott would actually be available now.
  • Of the AHL starters knocking on the door, one can certainly remove Pittsburgh's Matt Murray from trade consideration. 

Meanwhile, a name to add as we've talked about plenty lately is Marc-Andre Fleury. While there are some that vehemently oppose the idea of Calgary bringing in the 31-year-old longtime Penguins starting goaltender, these folks likely jaded by his post-season failings in recent years, the thing to keep in mind is this is still a very good goaltender. Fleury did not lose his job in Pittsburgh. What happened was Murray stole it while he was injured and simply never gave it back.

Fleury, what they decide to do in Tampa Bay between Ben Bishop -- a year away from being a UFA -- and young star Andrei Vasilevskiy, and pending UFA James Reimer -- who has never played more than 36 NHL games in a season -- are certainly three situations for Flames fans to monitor moving forward. With the cost to acquire varying greatly in each of those scenarios, that will also be a key consideration.

In trying to uncover the next Martin Jones, the list of young back-ups ready to start but trapped behind a veteran No. 1, are also names that pack some intrigue for me. These are guys likes Darcy Kuemper, Scott Darling and Calvin Pickard. Stay tuned. We might know the answer as soon as this weekend.


3. Bennett Finishes a Top-Five Teen

Nineteen-year-old Sam Bennett is no more. The 2014 fourth overall pick turned 20 on Monday. Upon his official graduation from being a teenager, time to update the the Calgary Flames all-time teen scoring list.

These are regular season goals scored for Calgary before their 20th birthday.

1. Dan Quinn (1983-84, 1984-85) - 39
2. Sean Monahan (2013-14, 2014-15) - 22
3. Jarome Iginla (1996-97) - 21
4. Robert Reichel (1990-91) - 19
5. Sam Bennett (2014-15, 2015-16) - 18
6. Kevin LaVallee (1980-81) - 15
7. Richard Kromm (1983-84) - 10
8. Derek Morris (1997-98) - 9
9. Oleg Saprykin (2000-01) - 7
T10. Robyn Regehr (1999-00) - 5
T10. Brian Glynn (1987-88) - 5

If you add in playoff goals, Bennett climbs to fourth on the list. With three in the 2015 post-season, a combined total of 21 would move him one ahead of Robert Reichel and put him one back of Monahan and Iginla, who would be tied with 22.

Enjoy your precarious perch in the top 10, Robyn Regehr and Brian Glynn, as Friday night's sixth overall pick could crack this list within the next year or two.


4. Impact Cap Uncertainty has on Contract Negotiations

Of the many unknowns around the NHL that will be confirmed by the league very soon -- probably this week -- the most important is the team salary cap number for this season.


While Treliving says not knowing the final salary cap isn't necessarily a showstopper and that contract negotiations and roster planning continues, he says it would still be useful to know with certainty what the number will be in 2016-17. Last season, it was $71.4 million.

The impetus for asking him this question last week was the Flames long list of RFAs in need of new contracts -- Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne the three most notable.

"As important as the cap is, you still have in your mind what's reasonable numbers for certain players and where they fit in the marketplace. It doesn't paralyze you in terms of conducting negotiations," said the Flames GM.

That said, as the amount of space begins to dwindle as you allot money for goaltenders and any other additions you may be considering, knowing exactly where you're at becomes more crucial.

"Ultimately, you only have 'x' amount of money in the pot so you want to know how big your pot is," said Treliving. "For every nickle you draw out, that's a nickel less to spend."

He says that what ends up happening is you come up with a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C, depending on what ends up unfolding.

"We have different models based on different (salary cap) ranges," explains Treliving. "You also always operate under a glass half-empty scenario because it's far easier to add money later than it is to start whacking."


5. Does Everybody Love Raymond (Again)

If you had asked me at season's end to name a Flames candidate for a buyout this summer, top of the list would have been Mason Raymond. After spending most of last season in the minors, is there really an appetite to pay him $3.1 million again this season to play in Stockton.


However, if the firing of Hartley, with whom there was a clear disconnect, was a stay of execution for Raymond, then the hiring of Gulutzan could very well be a pardon.

Listening to Gulutzan talk on Friday at his press conference and the emphasis he is placing on playing a fast game, on having speed throughout his line-up and with the penchant he places on surrounding the team's young players with solid vets, perhaps Raymond isn't a candidate to be bought out by the June 30 deadline after all and he could resurrect his NHL career.

There should be space on the roster too with the departures of veterans David Jones and Jiri Hudler. Raymond has one year remaining on a three-year deal that has an annual average value of $3.1 million.


6. Three MIAs Expected for Gulutzan's First Camp

When Bob Hartley was hired by the Flames four summers ago, what followed was a worse-case scenario in terms of being a new coach with a new team trying to implement a new system -- a reduced training camp.

As you'll recall, that was the year of the lock-out and by the time the owners and players stopped their squabbling and came to an agreement, the result was a reduced 48-game regular season with no preseason games and only a short training camp to get ready for it. The result expectedly was it took longer for the team to adapt.

While not nearly to the same degree, Gulutzan will face a similar challenge this year with star players like Gaudreau, Monahan and Michael Frolik both away at the World Cup and thus absent for the first 7-10 days of training camp. With the World Cup running through October 1, it's conceivable none of them will be back in town until there's only two preseason games remaining.

For a team that has to start off better this season, last year's poor 2-8-1 start a significant contributing factor to the overall poor season, missing two-thirds of the top line for a big chunk of training camp isn't going to be ideal but at least the three of them should be good-to-go fitness-wise when they do arrive.

Maybe they'll also be given some homework to do while absent so they'll arrive in Calgary with the book smarts on what Gulutzan will be asking his forwards to do.


7. Queue the Arena Envy

Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.

With the Flames' fledgling CalgaryNEXT arena project in disarray, the NHL has conveniently booked in Calgary to be the first visiting team to play in the luxurious Rogers Place in Edmonton, which opens this fall.

Not only are the Flames the first visiting team to play there in the preseason on September 26, they'll also be the opponent for the Oilers inaugural regular season game in their new digs on October 12.

Knowing where Gary Bettman and the NHL stand on this heated debate -- very much in favour of getting a new arena constructed -- the conspiracy theorist in me can't help but wonder if going back to back with Edmonton to open the season isn't a sneaky way to try and sway public opinion in Calgary.

There will be a lot of hype gushing out of Northern Alberta about the facility and I suspect some major jealousy from fans in the southern part of the province, who can't help themselves. It is, after all, always a Battle of Alberta when it comes to this stuff and the disparity between the two buildings is something we're going to hear plenty about.


8. Minor League Goaltending Picture More Clear

While the identity of the goalie tandem that will be in Calgary next season is very much up a mystery still, there's a lot more clarity to how things will look with the Flames two minor league affiliates.

With top prospect Jon Gillies completely healed from his hip surgery last year, and ready to resume his development, you can slot him into the AHL.

The recent signing of 23-year-old David Rittich to a one-year, two-way deal, gives the Flames another goalie expected to open the season in the minors.

Then there's 20-year-old Mason McDonald, the first goaltender taken in the 2014 draft when Calgary selected him 34th overall.

"The good news with Mason is he was on a team (last year) in which he got a lot of work," says Treliving. "It was a good season for him. He took a big step, both in his game and maturity-wise. He got a chance on the international stage again with the World Junior team, which was good for him and another learning experience."

Treliving says his expectations, as of today anyway, are that McDonald will turn pro this summer.

"We'll see where he is but I would tell you right now as I crystal ball it, we expect him to be playing pro," says Treliving. "But the one thing we want to do, especially with goaltenders, is you want to make sure you have enough nets for everybody. Whether it be in the AHL, or in the ECHL."

Rittich backing up Gillies in Stockton (AHL) and McDonald in Adirondack (ECHL) seems like the likely outcome. Perhaps Rittich and McDonald flip-flop at times to make sure the young Czech is getting enough starts.

"Lots of good goaltenders have spent time at the ECHL level, it's about giving them reps," says Treliving. "For Mason, whether it's going back (to Charlottetown) for his overage year or whether that's him turning pro, time will tell but right now our plan and our hope is for him to be playing pro next year. That's the next step for him."




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Eight Nuances of the Flames 2016-17 Schedule

Calgary's schedule for the upcoming NHL season came out today and that is always a nervous time for hockey fans as they cross their fingers and scour the dates to see if there are games that conflict with those special occasions such as your spouse's birthday (no conflict, excellent) or your wedding anniversary (conflict, uh-oh).

There are a few oddities this year. No homestand longer than four games is not something I recall seeing very often over the years, if at all. Similarly, there are just two road trips longer than four games. The longest is a six games-in-nine days trip out East from Nov. 20-28 that sees Calgary play in Detroit, Buffalo, Columbus, Boston, Philadelphia and in Brooklyn against the NY Islanders.

Here are eight other things that caught my eye:


1. California Heartache

Eesh. How's this for a killer final two weeks. The Flames finish the season with an extended home-and-home set with all three of the California teams. First up is LA, San Jose and Anaheim at the Saddledome from March 29 - April 2. Next is a roadie April 4-8 that takes the team through Anaheim, LA and San Jose. Man, that's harsh.


2. Pedal to the Metal

After stumbling out to a 2-8-1 record to start the season a year ago -- digging a hole the club could never dig itself out of, the Flames get the opportunity for a better start this season. To start out, they will open with five consecutive games against non-playoff teams from a year ago. Four of those opponents finished in the bottom eight of the overall standings. After a home-and-home with Edmonton on Oct. 12 and 14, Calgary heads to Vancouver to play the Canucks on Oct. 15 before returning home to face the Sabres and Hurricanes on Oct. 18 and 20. Let's just say they better take advantage of these couple weeks (see point No. 3).


3. Slamming on the Brakes

If the Flames don't bank three or four wins from that opening sequence of games, then they could be in serious trouble because things get awfully nasty very quickly after that with 11 of the next 12 games against playoff teams from last season. The Blues visit on Oct. 22 to wrap-up a homestand. Calgary then heads on the road for a two-game joyride to Chicago and St. Louis. Flames return home to play Ottawa and Washington before going on a killer four-game roadie that opens in the United Center against the Blackhawks and also has stops in San Jose, LA and Anaheim -- the latter two on consecutive nights.


4. Not Nearly Enough Bay City Rollers

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!

It's my favourite night to head to the Saddledome for a Flames hockey game yet it seems to rarely happen this season. Calgary has only six home games on a Saturday night all year and that's over the span of six months. Meanwhile, they have nearly the same number of Sunday games with five. Sunday? Sunday?? That used to be a day that historically the Flames rarely played on, especially at home. The situation isn't much different on the road either with Calgary in action only seven times on Saturday nights. In total, the Flames plays on just 13 of the 24 Saturday nights . If I had my way, they should be playing on all 24 but hey, they didn't ask the opinion of this crusty old traditionalist.


5. Coyotes on New Year's Eve

For a long, long time, this night was reserved for a visit from the Montreal Canadiens and there were some great tilts over the years. Lately, it seems that Edmonton has been a frequent opponent and that's been good too. This season, the guest at the Saddledome to wrap up the calendar year will be the Arizona Coyotes and that just feels wrong.


6. Flames-Oilers in Short Supply

Due to the necessary annual scheduling imbalance, this year it's the Oilers, whom the Flames only face four times. Calgary will play all other Pacific Division opponents five times. What makes it really weird is half of those four games fall in the first three days of the season. Calgary then plays Edmonton only twice more over the final five-and-a-half months -- both coming a week apart in mid-January. Why not spread them out a little bit better? It's a head scratcher for me.


7. Trade Deadline at Home

By my unofficial calculations, the trade deadline should fall on Tuesday, Feb. 28 this year and that means for the first time in three years, Calgary will not be on the road in Philadelphia for it. That would also mean the Flames play that night -- hosting the Kings. Honestly, there is so much going on that day that it should be a day off around the league. Playing that night with trades still being finalized in the mid-to-late afternoon is just plain dumb. But again, they didn't ask for my opinion.


8. Mandatory Bye Week

For the first time, all 30 teams will get a mandatory five-day stretch off at some point in the 2016-17 season. This is a new thing for this year that was requested by the NHLPA. It gives the players time to decompress and get away from the game and for fans, who hate missing games, it also is a chance for them to schedule in that trip to Mexico and be distraction free. The Flames 'bye week' goes from February 8-12.


(Bonus) 9. No Conflicts with the Stamps (Until the Playoffs)

As someone that also spends every Stamps home game in the press box, I'm always curious to see if there are any conflicts between the two teams as that really complicates things. I'm sure many of you like to go to both team's games also -- probably many of you are season ticket holders -- so you can relate. Well, the good news this year is there are no conflicts during the regular season.

For devoted fans of both the football and hockey teams, both teams play on the same day only twice and in each instance, one team is at home while the other team is on the road. Also, the game times don't overlap either.

The two dates with conflicts (all game times in MT) are:
  • Saturday, Oct. 15 - Stamps host Montreal at 5 pm at McMahon. Flames play in Vancouver at 8 pm.
  • Sunday, Oct. 30 - Stamps play in Montreal at 11 am. Flames host Washington at the Dome at 7:30 pm.

However, the bad news is the playoffs are a different story should the Stampeders qualify.

While the Flames are off on the Sunday (Nov. 13) of the Western semi-final, the Flames do play on the Sunday of the Western final (Nov. 20). On that day, the Flames are in Detroit to play the Red Wings at 5 pm while the football game starts at 2:30 pm.

On the day of the Grey Cup, there is a direct conflict. The consolation is it is a Flames road game. The Grey Cup on Nov. 27 is scheduled to kick off at 4:30 pm while the Flames play in Philadelphia beginning at 5:00 pm.



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