Playoff Preview: Flames and Ducks Renew Hostilities

April 12th, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

A return to the playoffs is magic. Be it every year, missing a year, after five years, or like up in Edmonton ten years.
Back in 2004 when the Flames returned to the playoffs after missing 6 seasons in the post season the building was electric. People were in their seats before the warmup, the building almost 90% full 45 minutes before the puck drop; the players hit the ice to loosen up to a chant of “Go Flames Go”.

Two years ago that feeling was back, not to the same extent, but it was back.

This year the Flames are back in the dance, and to a man you can tell they feel like the deserve it; it’s no longer a surprise. They made it on their skill, their depth, and not on late game comebacks, or unsustainable metrics.

A first round match up with the Ducks is an interesting case study in the two playoff teams as they are facing off against their second round opponent from two years ago. The Ducks an experience team are just that little bit more experienced. The rebuilding Flames are just that little more built.

To change things up, we’ll diverge from the usual “how they match up” analysis, and look more at how much the two teams have changed. – Full Article –

Managing A Playoff Team in Transition

April 10th, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

When the NHL instituted a salary cap in 2005 it quickly brought the end of the idea of a perfect NHL hockey team. Every NHL team is faced with limitations in assembling a roster, you can’t put high end quality in all 20 roster spots.

The 2001 Colorado Avalanche didn’t have that problem. Up the middle they had Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Stephane Yelle and Steven Reinprecht. On the wings they boasted Alex Tanguay, Milan Hejduk, Chris Drury and Adam Deadmarsh. On the blueline they had Adam Foote, Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, Martin Skoula and Aaron Milller. Of course in net they had Patrick Roy.

They had a top end of the roster for sure, but the drop off wasn’t like the cliff that today’s general managers must manage.

The winning organizations are able to find solid talent on first year contracts, either by keeping players in the AHL to blossom longer, signing key college free agents, or by doing a bang up job of scouring Europe for those rocks that need to be overturned. But even the best organizations will eventually run into trouble. The Blackhawks have been masters at turning over their roster, while the Los Angeles Kings eventually ran out of luck and hit a wall.
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Banking on Bennett

March 22nd, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Sometimes it’s easier to not have a choice.

The Edmonton Oilers have had to wonder when gazing back on draft history if they selected the right player time and time again. The book is in on Nail Yakupov, but additional questions swarmed the choices of Taylor Hall (Tyler Seguin) and Ryan Nugent Hopkins (Gabe Landeskog). That first overall choice gives you the field, but with that comes a lot of post draft analysis and navel gazing.

When The Hockey News went to select their cover for the 2014 NHL Draft they couldn’t decide on just one player, instead they put four on the cover, and as it turns out that’s exactly the four that went as expected in the top four picks.

The Flames, with the fourth pick, took the last guy standing, that being the somewhat controversial Sam Bennett, a player who has struggled in his sophomore season after a pretty good rookie season, and a playoff showing before that that looked very promising.

The Oilers, who sat third in the draft had the choice between Leon Draisaitl and Sam Bennett, and at this moment in time only a fool would call that a bad choice, as the German center has become a huge part of their core and has passed the previous core players like Nugent Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, in terms of importance.

The results are still early though, not as early as any proclamations from Calgary that Matthew Tkachuk is the better player over Jesse Puljujärvi, but early nonetheless.

But why with the Flames only 9 games and 3 weeks from returning to the playoffs would I be writing a draft article?

Naturally, the suspension to Matthew Tkachuk.
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Built for a Run?: Flames Roster Post Deadline

March 2nd, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Going into any trade deadline it’s inevitable that a bubble team would have three different courses of action, all with their own perils and tribulations.

You buy. You sell. You do nothing.

It’s Canada, the city has a keen interest so doing nothing is just plain mean, so let’s face it the choices are down to two.

Brad Treliving was quite bold a couple of years ago with a team just on the outside, he didn’t add other than a waiver wire pick up, and he sold in jettisoning both Curtis Glencross and Sven Baertschi; the Flames of course made the playoffs anyway.

I think this year the assumption was the add, with the Flames in a playoff spot somewhat firmly, but then the trepidation became the cost and the timing. Do you want to go all in as a wildcard seed? Seems a little rushed. How can you be in a rebuild and move picks and prospects?

In the end, Treliving did pretty much what I would have expected him to do;

1) Fix the most glaring hole on the team with a creative and less expensive option
2) Alter his protection list for next season by taking on a forward that another team would have trouble protecting

Did I have the defenseman solution nailed? Nope. Stone was a name out there, but he wasn’t the one I was guessing (Kyle Quincey). Was the protection list forward the guy I saw coming? Once again no, I was imagining a more established player from a non-playoff team.

So how did he do?

When the Curtiz Lazar news came down I did what every hockey fan in the city did. You google Kostka and realize it was a throw in, you ignore Jyrki Jokipakka as he was waiver fodder the day before, you nod your head on the Lazar project idea and then you cringe that they gave up a second round pick.

What’s interesting is chasing down some Ottawa views before the trade; I like others noticed the Lazar on the market comments on Twitter and the asking price of a first round pick, something that seemed way to high from my standpoint.

Exhibit A:

When I saw this I thought they should jump on it. Lazar has value no doubt about it, but he’s sputtering so a second seemed fair to me.

Exhibit B:

Really? I get that it’s a weak draft and that you’re dealing a young player, but a first for a player that is listing? If that’s his firm price he wasn’t going to get it.

Exhibit C:

Turn a first round pick down?

From a Calgary perspective I like this now that Lazar is Flame’s property, but Ottawa media has known to be some of the most kool-aid’d group in hockey so you have to take it with a grain of salt.

I am glad history like this exists though, as I’m sure many in that nation’s capital will change their tune now that Lazar is gone.

Either way I think the Ottawa view before the trade helps frame the value somewhat when assessing the move made by Brad Treliving.

My personal view before and after the trade? Meh. I wasn’t a big Lazar fan. When he was added to that World Junior team and made captain I thought they bolstered the club with an NHL ready forward and I didn’t see it. He didn’t stand out all that much to me.

So my gut is a 2nd is a little too much to acquire a project player, not a lot too much, I would have been really happy with a third, but the 2nd seems steep.

What adds some uptick for me however is Treliving. This is very much a player he wanted. The group has said they worked on this for weeks. Additionally, comments from Lazar suggest the player was a Treliving target in the 2013 draft when he was leading the show for the Coyotes.

He knows him, he likes him, and he clearly has spot for him as he’s already hinted he will be protecting him in the expansion draft. To Treliving he’s adding a piece, not a project, but from his comments he seems alert enough to know there is some work to do.

If he’s right, even to the 70th percentile and the player becomes a solid top nine forward in Calgary, then this is a very good move for the Flames.

If he’s wrong, then you go back to his comments on the draft and that they just don’t value the picks in the 2017 showcase as high as they have in previous years.

No GM is right 100% of the time, but compared to other GMs in Calgary history, I at least trust the guy’s process and work ethic to make sure he’s doing what he can to get it right.

All in all the Flames are better than they were a few weeks ago. They looked to have landed a real bargain in Michael Stone given all they gave up was a third round pick. Heck I don’t think I’d trade him straight up for Brendan Smith who cost the Rangers a 2nd and a 3rd.

The Matt Bartkowski move looks to be pretty shrewd as well as it cost them nothing.

The team has rebuilt their defense core, eliminating the biggest weakness on the team. They didn’t add up front in a significant way, but then heading into the deadline I suggested they shouldn’t as the chemistry lost could be just as important as the addition.

It’s stretch drive time, and the Flames are in a better position to not only make the playoffs, but possibly make some noise when they get there.

Pretty much all I could have asked for this season.

A Quiet Deadline Awaits?

February 27th, 2017 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

It’s very difficult using the past to extrapolate the future; a statement that’s true in almost everything, but even more so a trade deadline in the National Hockey League.

Every year is different in terms of standings, where a club sits, and their appetite for either buying or selling. But additional variables also complicate things including the number of teams willing to transact, the value of the upcoming draft and the implications on the worth of a draft pick.

In Calgary, the GM currently occupying the chair, Brad Treliving, is also relatively new to the position, so any gazes to the past would only reveal two deadlines with this being his third.

Two weeks ago it was pretty much common knowledge that the Flames needed an upgrade on the bottom half of their defense core, an additional top nine forward, and a boost to their goaltending wouldn’t hurt as well. The Flames were a solid bubble team, but with games in hand against them they were hardly a good bet to load up at the deadline.

Add to that the existing GMs recent past of selling even if they’re in the mix and it was hard to imagine any massive additions heading to Calgary on the 1st of March.

Now, however, much has changed.
– Full Article –

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