Sunday, June 24, 2018

Flames Get Younger and Different in Blockbuster Trade with Carolina

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There's an adage that you always overvalue your own.

It applies to fan bases and players on your favourite team. It also applies to those fantastic household items that never fetch what you were hoping for when you try to sell them at a garage sale.

Flames GM Brad Treliving pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade on Saturday afternoon, shipping away two NHL players and a prospect to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for two NHL players.

Gone are 25-year-old defenceman Dougie Hamilton, 26-year-old winger Micheal Ferland and 20-year-old blueline prospect Adam Fox. In return, Calgary receives 23-year-old right-shooting centre/right winger Elias Lindholm and 21-year-old left-shooting defenceman Noah Hanifin.

The reaction in some circles, to say the least, has been extreme and not very complimentary to the front office. Perusing comments online, there’s a lot of anger over what Calgary gave up. It comes as no surprise either given that’s the part of the trade Flames fans are closest to. With attachment comes feelings and emotion — and often intense emotion. In that regard, yesterday would have felt like a bad break-up for many fans. Pass the ice cream, and can I please get a hug.

Fans know Hamilton. They know last season he was tied with Victor Hedman and Ivan Provorov as the NHL’s top-scoring defenceman with 17 goals. Fans know the capabilities of Ferland, who had 19 goals in his first 42 games last year. Fans know the upside of Fox, who has starred with Team USA at the last two World Juniors.

When you look strictly at the upside of those pieces, then sure, that is a lot to give up. In fact, viewed through that lens, the price was too steep.

But that’s also over simplifying it.

Outgoing Pieces

Dougie Hamilton
As Hamilton, who just turned 25, moves onto his third NHL organization already, you have to wonder why. It’s not his analytics, which are good. It’s not his counting numbers, which are also good. But there is more to a player’s overall make-up. On the ice, there are other elements to one’s game like physicality and intensity/will-to-win (see Matthew Tkachuk) that aren’t as easily measured or quantified.

Then there’s the player off the ice. Was he the right fit in the room? I’m not implying anything because I don’t know anything and there’s no mud-slinging coming from Treliving, but I do know it’s highly unusual for ninth overall picks of his magnitude to be dealt multiple times this early in their career. So one does wonder what the negatives are with this particular player, because there does appear to be some.

Micheal Ferland
Ferland, at his best, is a tremendous talent. But how often he was at his best is certainly up for debate. Inconsistency haunted him his entire time in Calgary. Even last year. After that blazing start, he finished the year with two goals in his final 35 games. So did they trade away a first-line player? Or did they trade away a fourth line player?

Also a significant factor is Ferland is one year away from unrestricted free agency and may not have been in the future plans anyway. With a 20+ goal season on his resume now, his price on the open market may not have been commensurate with his projected usage. i.e. The Flames would not want to pay him top-six money to play in their bottom six.

Then there’s Fox. Prospects are always coveted by fans  because as they ascend towards the NHL, they are usually impressive everywhere they stop. Fox’s showings at the last two World Juniors, his time with the U.S. National Team Development Program before that, and his play in college, had fans giddy about the calibre of player the 2016 third rounder could one day become. But would he ever realize that potential in Calgary? Returning to Harvard for a third year as he has already committed to means he is also one year closer to being able to go the free agent route and sign with anyone, which becomes an option in the summer of 2020.

Relations between the player and the team were good, but Treliving spoke Saturday about the growing uncertainty about their ability to be able to sign the native of Jericho, New York. While Fox had huge upside to Calgary, the team who owned his rights, how much would another team be willing to spend to acquire him, knowing the uncertainty they’d be inheriting?

Incoming Pieces

Seemingly lost in all this, or at least under-stated, are the pieces acquired.

Both Lindholm and Hanifin were highly touted top-five draft picks not that long ago, who are relative unknowns thanks to the North Carolina market they're buried in.

Elias Lindholm
Lindholm was selected one pick ahead of Sean Monahan in 2013. He’s just 23. His offensive totals haven’t been nearly as gaudy as Monahan, but his numbers have been on the rise and the belief is that there’s great upside with the young Swede, who could very well end up operating on the same line as Monahan in October. With Johnny Gaudreau on the other wing, could he finally be the right wing fit the organization has been searching for?

Meanwhile, Hanifin is just 21 and already has three years of NHL experience on his resume. Last year he participated in the NHL All-Star Game. Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Boston native immediately steps into the club’s top four, likely in the spot of TJ Brodie on the second pairing with Brodie jumping up to the top pairing alongside Mark Giordano. Moving Brodie back to the right side is something new coach Bill Peters hinted at when he was hired and re-iterated again on Saturday from the draft in Dallas.

Noah Hanifin
It’s safe to say that Carolina Hurricanes games aren’t very high on most people’s lists when it comes to what NHL game to turn on in the winter. For that reason, Hanifin and Lindholm are very much unknown commodities still to many. That said, they’re not new to Calgary’s new head coach, who endorsed the acquisition of both of them.

It’s fitting that the trade happened at the draft as these were two coveted players in the draft not that long ago. While it’s too early too pass judgement that they are both superstars in the making, it’s also far too early to assume they’re not.

Final Word

In analyzing the trade, the age of the newly acquired Flames is the other very relevant piece to the discussion. Both will remain under team control for a long time. These are pieces acquired not just for the current, but for the future too.

With Giordano turning 35 prior to this upcoming season, one doesn’t have to squint very hard to envision Hanifin and 2017 first rounder Juuso Valimaki, turning 20 in October, as making up the left side of the club’s top four a few years down the road. With Rasmus Andersson, turning 22 in October, on the right side, Calgary’s got some real nice, young pieces on defence.

With the emergence of Matthew Tkachuk up front, the long-awaited arrival of Mark Jankowski, the hoped-for breakthrough of Andrew Mangiapane and Spencer Foo. With Dillon Dube and Glenn Gawdin in the pipeline. With Gaudreau and Monahan still south of age 25 also and now add in Lindholm, that’s a real nice youthful foundation up front as well. Plus, there’s still Sam Bennett if the club can ever get him on track.

The consensus this off-season after the coaching change is that Treliving was stapling his future to Peters. Perhaps instead, he’s pushing all his chips in on Carolina in general. Or, make that ex-Carolina.

The debate will continue to swirl until October, as will the venom as the die-hard Hamilton supporters are not a quiet bunch, but for those of the opinion that Calgary got fleeced in Saturday’s trade, my suggestion is try holding a garage sale. You’ll learn that some things just aren’t as valuable to others as they are to you. It sucks, but it’s true.


  1. I always enjoy your takes Darren. I really really like Dougie but our defensive pipeline is incredibly strong. I’m hoping that Valimaki is going to be an easy replacement in a year. The upside on the two young studs coming back is so high I thinks it’s a win. The tipping point will always be Fox. I don’t believe he was ever going to sign and I’ve been doubting his foot speed anyway. He got walked on several times at the world juniors. Great offensive instincts but slow (IMO).

  2. A top pair D and 3rd line forward for a 2nd pair D and 2nd line forward, both with upside. It could work out but the Flames gave up the best player so on the face of it they lost the trade. Two years from now we might be glad they did this, but we are all hoping I think for BT to fleece somebody and this is not that.

  3. Great analysis Darren! Hamilton has loads of talent but I think the head didn't match the heart. I recall the year they played Anaheim in the playoffs and the mistakes in his mental game. Ferland was tough to lose but he was given tons of opportunity and the last half of last year didn't do him any favours. Fox is the x-factor as some reports indicate he could be the next Brian Rafalski. Hanafin will more steady on the back-end but we lose the offense Hamilton would've provided. Let's hope that the likes of Andersson, Valimaki and Kylington improve considerably this year. I like Lindholm's skill and versatility. Still some work for BT to do but a positive step I think!

  4. The best part of this IMO is that if we can get Brodie back to 14/15 form on Gio's right side, that means we traded Dougie for 14/15 Brodie (which isnt too much of a decline from Dougie), and added what we thought Brodie could be on the left side in Hanifin.

    Almost as if we got 1.5 defencemen in return for Dougie. This gives us options down the left side for when Gio eventually declines, which we didn't have before.

    I think Lindholm is an excellent upgrade, even though I love Ferland.

  5. Thanks Darren, great perspective. I can see the Theory behind the thinking but as Mike Tyson said “ everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth”. Hopefully flames management gets it right this year. I think the previous coaching staff had a lot on influence or lack of influence of the culture that formed. Putting a character like Dougie in the top pairing really put a Brodie in a tough spot mentally. I also really like Browers play as a 3rd liner but awarding him the “A”? The always earned never given culture that did exist with the Hartley regime went out the door. I believe this move not only corrects a few wrong decisions along the way it also makes the team better. I bet the core is relieved to see this trade and hope BT can make a few more moves to fill some gaps. (Back up in net & More Grit)

  6. You nailed it with the garage sale analogy. My biggest surprise about this trade was how so many people can't see past the numbers and remember that these players are human beings who are just as affected by real day-to-day stuff as the rest of us. The Flames were not a team last year, especially at the end. And that had nothing to do with stats.
    BT is reported as saying (today's Sun) he's not finished yet so I guess Bennett is probably gone too. (Whenever the camera zoomed in on him on the bench he always looked like he was waiting for a bus - never talking to his teammates, never any obvious emotion. Imo, he certainly didn't look like a happy camper.
    I'm betting he'll be somewhere else July 2nd.

  7. One interesting aspect that no one has mentioned is that Noah Hanifin went to the all star game last year as Carolina's representative. Someone must like him just a little bit.

  8. I'm still trying to understand why we needed to "sweeten" the trade with an A prospect in Fox. We gave up the best player (statistically) in the trade and more pieces ... I think we needed to get a pick in return. Having said that, I'm sure BT didn't offer this from the start, makes me wonder why this was necessary.

  9. I really feel that we got in huge upside, as far as potential is concerned, with this trade. I have never been a huge Dougie fan because even though he could put up some pretty good offensive numbers, defensively I felt that he was a liability. One of the reasons the Gio had such a great year as a defenseman was because he had to. He was always covering up because of the situations that Dougie put him into. Everybody always talks about Dougie’s huge upside as an offensive defenseman. However, with Hanafin we only lose seven goals and five assists and I’m sure that that can be made up in the defensive end, not to mention the intangibles of hard work, grit and desire that I found very lacking in a 6‘6“ defenseman that played with the physicality of a 5‘6“ forward. It’s really tough to see Ferland go because I really like the way he played, but like it was mentioned, the last half of the season did not do him any favors. I was also very excited about Adam Fox but if you can’t sign him, that seems to be a huge waste especially with the outstanding young defenseman that we have in the organization.

  10. Missed your commentary Darren, welcome back and glad you wrote about this!

  11. Good blog.

    Lots of moving parts to deconstruct moving forward.

    Worst case scenario for Carolina is Ferland moves on as an UFA, Fox signs with the Rangers(he will imo) and Hamilton moves on after three years(as he is prone to) and hits UFA. Signs in TO.

    That is significant risk, which I feel that has to be factored into the return.

    I love this trade. However I am not a fan of Hamilton. He has a lot of skill, but I never felt he could carry his own pairing or saw him play with any real intensity.

    Some would disagree but I believe this was a great trade made under difficult circumstances, which shows Treliving is a lot better GM than I thought he was.

    Time will tell.


    1. I agree. There has been a lot of talk about Fox and while the deal looked even at two for two the concern was to much went to the Canes. Dougie is the best player in the trade and Ferland is a beast. To which I say what went their way was risk. BT made a great deal and I am not sure just how he managed it. Listening to the interview you hear him say we want players that want to be here and it is natural to think he is referring to those coming but may just as likely be about those leaving. Fox wasn't going to sign Ferland is a beast when he wants to be and Dougie could only be happy it seemed when his brother was here. The cost of these players was just to high and now its someone else that will have to pay it. Maybe Ferland figures it out, maybe Dougie does, both have talent, both make a team look better on paper, but we here in Flames nation know that teams don't get far on paper. I love the trade great work BT, Again! People seem to forget that Dougie was drafted 9th and we got him for a fifteen and two seconds. Feerland was a fifth round pick both with risk were traded for two fifth overall picks that are nothing but upside, we should be dancing in the streets.

  12. Nice to have you back at the blog. Good analysis on a tricky trade. Let's see what's next.

  13. Hey Darren, I know it's kind of random but I dont understand why some people keep slotting Bennett back as Centre or top 2 lines Winger? In his 3 seasons he has regressed despite several opportunities.
    I dont think he will be THAT guy! What are your thoughts on this?

  14. I know every one looks at points produced but there is alot more to Bennett than just points he does it all except score to a point he doesn't put up alot but he does make ppl suffer on the boards he hits he nasty and he make the opposition look behind them.Every one goes on about he was a 4 over all well look to the north and see how maney 1st that have failed there yukapuff is gone is he not 1st over all he did nothing Bennett does a ton. I hope I make another yr just to see how good this team will look with the additions? I knew from the third no sign from Fox it wasn't going to happen I got alot of flack from Flames forum from my attitude towards the Fox situation now the Flames have picked another group of College kids I guess I don't understand taking the risk but they toke what they thought was the best at the time problem is if any of these kids become quality kids they can become runners. College rules suck and they should not be allowed to go through the draft unless they are willing to guaranty they will sign with the team that drafts them.

  15. Good article. The forward group looks better than last year, and if they stay healthy their results should be much better. (I’m assuming that the coaching change will fix the “not ready to start” and “not backchecking” problems). Losing Hamilton is a big blow to the defense I think, so I’m not sure what the overall impact of all the changes will be. Hanifin and Brodie look similar, in that they both are good at carrying the puck, but Hanifin seems to shoot more, hit more and give away the puck less. If Brodie plays well with Giordano then Hanifin and Hamonic might be successful in slightly sheltered minutes, and Kulak and Andersson might make a strong third pair. So it could work out, or at least I hope it does. Your article on the Hamilton trade seemed to take a wait-and-see approach to the outcome; is that still your view (assuming I understood the article correctly)?