The Flames and the Deadline

March 4th, 2014 | Posted in Game Takes
By: D'Arcy McGrath

The NHL has always had a date in time where rosters are frozen near the end of the season, a last chance for clubs to make any final moves before the impending playoffs.

However, the day didn’t come with a two week ramp up, two sports networks hosting “Deadline Day” and each GM feeling the need to do something to avoid the wrath of disappointed fans and media in their host cities.

Its changed a lot.

Deals in the Flames first decade of existence were made up to the deadline day when hockey trades became available and not on the last day as way of creating news.

The deadline has changed but then so has the NHL. In 1980 the NHL had 21 teams, of which 16 made the playoffs. The five teams that didn’t were really, really bad, leaving little to pluck off their rosters, and certainly no such thing as a salary dump or an impending UFA. Teams had to make moves based on the playoffs, but also the season after, and the one after that.

Given the climate the Flames were playoff teams adding throughout the calendar including the deadline. At first to win a championship sure, but then a few years later in order to catch their talent laden provincial rivals in Edmonton.

Late in the season they made some great franchise building moves, but also blunders that set them back for years …

Memorable Deals in Flames History

Looking back on trade history can be a fun exercise.

Hind-site is a huge advantage, but so too is hockey mind maturity to assess what it appears they thought they were doing at the time and how well the team fared. Additionally, those throw in picks that we as fans give little notice to in deals end up with players names selected in the archives. Players that you still haven’t heard of, or perhaps players that have gone on to play huge roles in Calgary or elsewhere.

1986

The Flames had instant playoff success when they moved to Calgary from Atlanta in 1980, winning the franchise’s first playoff round versus Chicago and then besting Philadelphia in 7 before losing in the semi finals.

But it wasn’t until 1986 that we saw Cliff Fletcher swinging for the fences in the latter stages of the regular season. A deal in February adding Joey Mullen to the fold gave the Flames the firepower to think they could compete with the Gretzky led Oilers, leading to two deals on March 11th to beef up the forward ranks.

1) Calgary acquires John Tonelli from the Islanders for Richard Kromm and Steve Konroyd. Big memory for me as the Flames were in Long Island and the players had to change rooms before puck drop. The NHL wasn’t as prepared back then so Tonelli ended up in a Flames red road jersey three sizes too small. He went on to play a big role on the veteran line with Lanny McDonald and Doug Risebrough.
2) Calgary acquires Nick Fotiu from the Rangers for a 6th round pick. Fotiu wasn’t much of a player, but man was he a story in tussling with the Oilers, coating his face with vaseline, and throwing pucks to fans before every game. Great story.

The Flames go to the cup final, both players playing a role.

1988

The Flames are in full buy mode as they are on their way to a President’s Trophy, finishing ahead of Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers in their division.

The Flames make two deals at the deadline;
1) The Flames pick up tough guy Craig Coxe from Vancouver for Brian Bradley and Peter Bakovic – Bradley was a serviceable skill player lost on a deep team, and the Flames wanted more toughness for the stretch drive. Coxe was infamous for his bouts with Bob Probert in Detroit.
2) The Flames trade young sniper Brett Hull and winger Steve Bozek to St. Louis for Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley. One of the biggest deals in Flames history, they shore up their blueine and add a great backup for Mike Vernon, but surrender a hall of famer in the process

The Flames loaded for bear are ousted by the Oilers in the second round, with Edmonton going on to win their fourth Stanley Cup in 5 years.

Good deal? On the surface no, but the Flames probably don’t win the cup in 1989 without Ramage, especially after Gary Suter got injured in the first round.

1989

In 1989 the Flames were on their way to winning their first Stanley Cup with a loaded roster that included Joe Niewendyk, Doug Gilmour and Joel Otto down the middle, and a winger class that had Joey Mullen, Gary Roberts, Hakan Loob and Lanny McDonald on his last legs. Of course the blueline was stacked with MacInnis, Suter, McCrimmon, Macoun, and Ramage.

1) Brian MacLellan for Shane Churla and Perry Berezan. The Flames move one of the good guys in Berezan and a good scrapper in Churla for a big, quiet depth winger with hands in MacLellan. The roster is essentially set, but MacLellan plays a role as the Flames move on to win the Stanley Cup. Fletcher didn’t have to tinker a whole lot as he knew his was the team to beat in the 1989 playoffs.

Interesting side angle of this trade? The Flames also picked up a 4th round pick in the deal, a pick that turned into sniper Robert Reichel.

1994

The Flames still a power house though on the decline, win their division and go looking for a shake up at the deadline prior to the playoffs.

1) Calgary acquires Michael Nylander, Zarley Zalapski and James Patrick for Gary Suter, Paul Ranheim and Ted Drury. Tough trade to swallow as a Flame fan as Gary Suter was one of the greatest, and departing with drafted and developed star players is never easy to stomach. A great hockey trade though, with six NHLers getting swapped prior to the playoffs.

The Flames get Vancouver in the first round in a series that really should have won. Up three games to one, they somehow manage to drop three straight overtime games to their rivals who went on to the cup finals against Mark Messier and the New York Rangers. All three acquired players had a good stop in Calgary, but the team was never the same.

1997

Amazing in itself that 1997 was the Flames first trade deadline as sellers, after 17 years of success in the Stampede City, but it’s true. The 1996 Flames were the last playoff team until 2004, and the club knew they were in trouble by March of 1997. The Flames under Pierre Page finished 9 games under .500 and well out of a playoff spot sending them into dump mode at the deadline.

1) Steve Chaisson moved to Hartford. The Flames pick up a package that included a prospect, a player and two picks including Iginla’s WHL linemate Hnat Domenichelli, Glen Featherstone. The picks were a second rounder and a 3rd rounder netting Dmitiri Kokorev and Paul Manning. Neither became players, though Kokorev was on Calgarypuck prospect lists for years!
2) Jamie Huscroft moved to Tampa for goaltender Tyler Moss. Kind of a meh move for both sides, Moss saw some time between the pipes in Calgary.
3) Robert Reichel moved to Long Island. Another sell mode trade, the Flames pick up Marty McInnis, junior goaltender Tyrone Garner and a 6th round pick. McInnis plays in Calgary but never replaces Reichel’s output, and Garner only gets a handful of games.

Clearly the Flames failed miserably in turning three veterans into help in turning around a sinking ship. Chiasson moves to Carolina with the Whalers and is later killed in a truck accident coming home from a party.

1998

Sometimes in a rebuild a hockey club targets a young player they hope to acquire and then build around, a player they’re willing to step up and move assets to land. The Flames thought they were doing just that when they went after a Tampa player.

1) Jason Wiemer – An 8th overall pick in the 1994 draft the Flames loved Wiemer’s size and projection to a dangerous NHL power forward. To gain his services they moved scrapper Sandy McCarthy, a third and fifth round pick.

The catch? The third rounder turned out to be Brad Richards, ironically helping the Bolts to restock their team to an eventual Stanley Cup win over the very same Flames 7 years later. Whoops!

You just never know what those throw in picks will do to a hockey trade.

2003

The Butch Goring and Ron Francis trades are well documented instant impact deals for teams, the shiny bobble to be hoisted just a few months down the road. Sometimes however, the deals don’t pay off as intended right away, with returns seen further down the road. The Flames made two deadline deals in 2003 that didn’t see their full impact until the next season, their Cinderella drive to the cup final.

1) Flames trade Rob Niedermayer to the Ducks for JF Damphousse and Mike Commodore. Niedermayer was largely seen as a lightening rod for Flames fans as the over paid winger that simply had to go. The Flames salary dumped him to the Ducks for a goalie prospect and a big lumbering defenseman. A year later when the Flames get into injury trouble Commodore becomes a cult hero in the Flames march to the final.
2) Flames acquire Shean Donovan from the Penguins for Micky Dupoint and Mattias Johansson. Donovan and the Flames miss the playoffs but a year later he plays a monster role on the second line of an improbable hockey team.
3) Dean McAmmond re-acquired from Colorado for a 2003 5th round pick. One of those players that just belonged in just one NHL local, McAmmond struggled in Denver but found his hands again in Calgary.

Honorable mention in this year’s transaction list is the acquisition of Andrew Ference in February for a third round pick. Ference too was a huge part of that 2004 club.

2004

The Flames were heading back to the playoffs, and Darryl Sutter must have seen something in his crystal ball, as the 6th place Flames loaded up like a cup contender, and not the playoff neophytes that they were.

1) Ville Nieminen was picked up from Chicago for Jason Morgan and a draft pick.
2) Marcus Nilson is acquired from Florida for a 2nd round pick that turned into David Booth. Booth looked like a great player a few years later making the deal look a little painful, but the player has since fallen on hard times in Vancouver and never lived up to his potential. Nieminen and Nilson joined the aforementioned Donovan to form the least likely successful second line powering the Flames through the playoffs.
3) Chris Simon picked up from the Rangers for Blair Betts, Jamie McLennan and Greg Moore. Sad that the popular McLennan wasn’t around for the playoff push, but the Flames loved the addition of Simon and managed to re-sign the rental in the off season.

The moves gave the Flames the depth needed to pluck their way through three upset victories in the playoffs and into the finals. It would be easy to argue that none of that would be possible if they didn’t make a move on all three players.

Very successful deadline moves by Sutter.

2009

Sutter goes all in at the 2009 NHL trade deadline trying to push his club further up the standings, they encounter the emerging young Blackhawks and go down in the first round in 6 entertaining games. Probably one of the biggest “buy” years in Flames history.

1) Olli Jokinen was the surprise acquisition from Phoenix for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and the Flames 1st round pick (Brandon Gormley). The Flames also pick up a third rounder. Jokinen starts well in Calgary but fizzles making this a pretty painful move for the Flames going forward. The first move of a bizarre set of transactions that has Jokinen acquired then traded, then resigned then let go via free agency. Prust too was reacquired then traded again with Jokinen.
2) Jordan Leopold returns to the Flames in exchange Lawrence Nycholat, Ryan Wilson and a 2nd round pick. Wilson goes on to play a big role on the blueline in Denver.

2009 was the beginning of a cycle of seasons where the Flames management and ownership failed to see the writing on the wall in Calgary, and the need to let go of 2004 and retool the club. Decisions to sell at this point would have saved the franchise a lot of grief in the next five years. Instead band aid and splashy adds were the order, with no playoff success and then no playoffs at all the result.

2013

The real rebuild. The Flames have a summit meeting in California asking Iginla and Bouwmeester their thoughts on waving no trade clauses sending the Flames and Calgary media into a day in day out drama that finally sees the two principles moved for futures.

1) Jarome Iginla moved to Pittsburgh for Ken Agostino, Ben Hanowski and a 1st round pick (Morgan Klimchuk). A lot of controversy in the deal as the Flames reportedly had a deal to Boston worked out only to have it fall through when Jarome picked the Penguins as a destination as a preference. Time will tell on this deal, but it appears to feature two serviceable B prospects and a first round pick that landed a Calgarian with solid 2nd line upside. The Boston prospect is still a “tweener” and the pick wouldn’t have been as high so the Flames wouldn’t have landed Klimchuk, but this deal will be argued for decades.
2) Jay Bouwmeester is deal to St. Louis for goaltender Reto Berra, defenseman Mark Cundari and two picks; 2013 1st and 3rd rounders that turn into Emile Poirier. The Flames have already utilized one prospect in the deal as Berra has been part of a split tandem in Calgary, and also played goal in Socchi for the Swiss. Cundari had a cup of coffee in Calgary late last season but just hasn’t put it together this season. The Flames are really high on Poirier as he’s lit up the Q this year and looks to have the sandpaper needed to add a solid agitation element to go along with scoring in Calgary.

As an aside, the St. Louis deal gets more interesting in that the Blues felt they wouldn’t be able to acquire Bouwmeester and instead went out and picked up former Flame Jordan Leopold. When Bouwmeester was landed as well it pushed current Flames defenseman Kris Russell to the sidelines for the playoffs. This ousting soured Russell on the Blues, leaving St. Louis to trade him in the off season when they couldn’t come to terms. The Flames were happy to oblige, the blueliner then turned things around in Calgary and has recently signed a two year deal to stay in town.

Could the Flames have done better in the biggest “sell” in team history? Clearly. However, a lot of the future hinges on the two first round picks and their projections. Time will tell.

Trade Deadline 2014

Which brings us to tomorrow …

As we’ve seen in the list above, the true value of what happens tomorrow won’t be known for years. The third, fourth and fifth round picks either returned to Calgary for free agent assets or tossed in by Calgary to balance out deals won’t have names attached for months or years, and those names won’t have value in history for years after that.

But as we’ve seen in years past, don’t underestimate the additional chances in the lottery that these picks bring to the fold.

The Flames will reshape some of the 2014-15 season tomorrow, but also alter the chemistry of that and many years to follow.

Brian Burke really hasn’t put his stamp on the hockey club. Tomorrow is step one in doing just that.

Fingers crossed that our server can handle it!


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