With another frustrating effort in Dallas, the Calgary Flames are once again mired in a quandary. On the surface, the Flames are close to a playoff spot, only four points out of 8th, but are also stuck in 14th place, ahead of only four teams in the entire NHL. Unfortunately, when looking deeper into the math of the current situation, it does not smile kindly on the Flames side at this point.
The rough estimate for the threshold for 8th place is going to be around 54 points. The Flames currently have 26 points in the 27 games played, which puts them on pace for about 46. Unfortunately, that’s quite a bit off the pace for 8th. In order for the Flames to get up to 54 points the Flames need to acquire an additional 28 points, with only 21 games remaining, or having a record of 14-7. That doesn’t look that difficult on the surface, however, that translates to a .667 point percentage the rest of the way. Giving a comparison over an 82 game schedule, that’s a 109 point pace. Something which only 3 teams managed last year. The picture looks a fair bit uglier if the actual points necessary for 8th is any higher.
So, it appears as if we are headed for another season on the outside of the playoff picture, barring a 7 or 8 game winning streak sometime in the immediate future. The situation is fairly bleak for the current iteration of the Calgary Flames. Organizationally though, the cards are not stacked so decidedly against the Flames.
According to scouts across the league, the 2013 Entry Draft is a fairly deep one talent wise. The two positions that compose most of the first round are centers and defensemen, which, coincidentally are the two areas of our prospect pool that are the thinnest. Looking at the top ten prospects in the draft, only two of them are wingers, Drouin and Nichushkin. One will go either first or second overall, and the other might slide into the mid-teens due to the Russian factor. All of the others are either skilled defensemen or talented offensive minded centers. I would be pleased to see any of those players join Sven and Johnny Gaudreau in our organization.
The other area that serves the Flames well in the long term is that they have the 11th best offense in the league currently and most of that production is concentrated in only nine players. Of the league’s top 90 scorers, Alex Tanguay and Mike Cammalleri are tied for 49th in the league at 22 a piece, with Lee Stempniak right behind them by one point tied for 60th. Jarome Iginla, T-65th, Curtis Glencross and Jiri Hudler, T-74th round out the players in the top 90. The reason that is significant is because all of those players are producing as first line players (30 teams X 3 players on the first line). Matt Stajan is very close being tied for 100th. Additionally, both Jay Bouwmeester and Dennis Wideman have been producing very well, with Bouwmeester setting a new Flames career high with his 6th goal of the season last night.
In a year where the only skilled offensive forwards available elsewhere are Mike Ribeiro and maybe Paul Stastny, the variety of good options we have available makes the Flames a one stop shop. Add in the fact that both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have re-signed with the Ducks, and the options out there for skill are even more limited. This is the perfect situation if you are going to sell. It does not make sense to trade everyone, and I’m not advocating that. However, this is an opportunity for the Flames to maximize the return for several current players who are performing at their current best level offensively. There has to be some internal evaluations of the group of 9 to see which players can be useful pieces on this team next year and beyond, and which players you might be able to get enough assets in trade to offset their departure. There is no greater time to sell than at the deadline to maximize the return.
Just looking at the biggest names that could be on the trading block, Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, and Jay Bouwmeester, their combined salaries reach 19.668 million dollars. The hypothetical return for each of those players is likely a good prospect, a 3rd line roster player or lower end young 2nd pairing defenseman and a 1st round pick. The roster players that we would hypothetically get in return would eat a portion of the near 20 million in cap space shed, but there would still be a large amount of room to negotiate in the offseason.
If those three players were traded, the roster situation would roughly look something like this
3rd liner acquired in trade-other 3rd liner acquired in trade-Comeau
With Roman Cervenka and Anton Babchuk both extremely unlikely to be retained into next season, especially at their current cap hits, the Flames could have well over twenty million in cap space available for a quicker turnaround. The cap declines next season, so some teams might be willing to shed a good player or two for less than they should go for. Additionally, with the cap space, they could be active again trying to get another Hudler and Wideman to restore the talent lost in the trades.
If all of that were to occur, there would not be much difference overall from this year’s team and next year’s in terms of on ice talent. However, our organizational depth would be increased significantly and we would begin to see more and more young players in the roster. All of which would lead to a quicker turnaround so we could return to being a playoff team sooner than later. Short term pain for long term gain.
It’ll be an interesting two weeks.
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