February 25th, 2014 | Posted in Commentary
By: D'Arcy McGrath
With most decision processes in life there is the obvious answer, then the more convoluted one.
The knee jerk action, and the road less traveled based on additional information and weighing different parameters.
For the Calgary Flames, and Mike Cammalleri it sounds like the obvious choice – that is the soon to be unrestricted free agent’s assumed trade out of Calgary – is a lot less of a given that many, most if not all have guessed.
Brian Burke told listeners at two speaking engagements in January that he felt the Flames would do their best to retain three of their restricted free agents and attempt to move the rest of the list for futures.
Since that proclamation the Flames have inked Matt Stajan and Kris Russell to contract extensions, building some of the veteran core (along with captain Mark Giordano) that will be intrusted with helping to shape the game and minds of Calgary’s young, emerging core.
Is Mike Cammalleri the third?
He isn’t big. Burke likes big.
He lacks truculence. Burke likes truculence (sorry it fit the article, I’m sick of the term too).
But as he told Calgary radio this morning, “he’s a disciple for what we are trying to accomplish in this rebuild”, a factor that has a lot of weight given;
a) what’s happening in Edmonton
b) the season that we’ve witnessed in Calgary.
It’s amazing how much media and public opinion can change in a calendar year.
The Oilers were on their way to the playoffs after many uninspired seasons of finishing at the bottom half way through a shortened 48 game schedule last season when the wheels came off. The team spiraled to the bottom of the standings and almost ended up drafting ahead of the Flames.
This year they were bad from the start and despite a few recent outcomes are still last in the West and destined for another top five pick.
The summary of the abuse Edmonton fans are taking comes down to a team that just doesn’t seem to be on the same page, that lacks leadership, that has a core of young players that are taking the easy way on the ice far too often.
Which brings us back to Calgary.
The expected road to travel for a franchise sitting in 27th spot in league standings is to move veteran assets for prospects and draft picks. This would include unrestricted players like Mike Cammalleri, Chris Butler and Lee Stempniak, but would also leave the door open for players under contract that have demand and won’t be around when the team, using its young players as a core, turn the corner and march back up the standings.
Omit the three aforementioned veterans and the Flames would have likely added a top prospect, and two draft picks between say a second and a fourth.
Makes sense right?
Development and Culture
The Flames are 24 games from the completion of the first real year in a rebuild that many a fan have been chiming for for almost a half decade.
When garbage bag day comes in 7 weeks there will be smiling faces and excitement about the next season, a far cry from the past few campaigns when management, coaches and players would each have to answer questions about how they didn’t meet expectations.
The reason for this happiness amidst losing far more games than they lose can be traced to a culture, and leadership both largely stemming from the “feel” created by coach Bob Hartley and captain Mark Giordano.
The players care, they all work to set an example and not let each other down.
If a player like Mike Cammalleri is traded for futures the Flames will have to go out and spend a very similar amount of money on a very similar player with a big fat boatload of unknowns.
Will this player be the same positive influence on young players?
Will the subtraction of a player like Cammalleri result in a step back in development for the team and its young core that a second round pick or a top prospect can’t equalize?
I think the Flames brass didn’t expect this outcome this season. A likeable losing team, and players that want to stay. They pictured a fire sale and two brutal seasons, and now they’re changing on the fly. They’re putting value in bringing back positive veterans in an environment that has the team potentially pushed to spend to the floor.
Maybe Sportsnet will come up with a behind the scenes hockumentary called “Spark” next season exhuberently following the Flames march up the standings!
Or maybe Burke just went on the radio to give the impression that he’s about to sign a veteran player to create a panic amongst GMs, inflate their offers, and give the Flames more futures.
Time will tell.
Fun time of season.