Patience in the face of adversity can be the difference between success and failure. I was told that once when I was having difficulty finding a solution to a problem I was working on. Keeping the advice in mind, it helped me to not focus on why my solutions were not working, but rather to place emphasis on how exactly to fix it properly. Being patient helped remove some of the pressure from the situation, and a successful outcome soon followed.
The Flames are currently in one of those adverse situations. There are many different ways to move this team forward from where they are now. Some of those paths will lead to varying degrees of success, and others will lead to years of frustration. One thing that we all must do though is be patient.
Whenever a team begins rebuilding, it is necessary for those in charge to determine whether the team can bounce back quickly or if the organization needs more than a surface level change to return to relevance. The Flames are facing the latter scenario, thankfully though the major changes have already begun. The question now is “Now what?”
Over the past six games, the Flames’ young players have all stepped in and showed that they can play in the NHL, and have played effectively in their roles. It is definitely encouraging to see Mikael Backlund emerge as a top two line center, and TJ Brodie quickly becoming a top pairing defenseman. All the other young players have been acquitting themselves very nicely thus far as well.
Where management needs to be patient, is to allow these players to become the players that they can be. In order for that to happen, they will need enough ice time to learn how to become good NHL players. It is very difficult for a rookie to emerge if they are only getting 5-8 minutes of ice time every night. We saw that happen in the past with Mikael Backlund, and with Sven Baertschi earlier in this season as neither were really given the opportunity to become an offensive force until after the trade deadline. Because of that, it is very important that the Flames do not go out this off season and acquire too many veteran players to take spots away from the younger players.
The only players that they should attempt to acquire should be character types that can help teach the young players how to play to win. The number one player on my list would be Eric Nystrom. His type of leadership would go a long way to bring the most out of players like Reinhart, Hanowski and Horak. We need solid players that do the little things the right way. The little things like giving 100% in practice or with training can rub off on the young impressionable players and they might get in the habit of giving it their all as well. That is nothing but a positive.
If you look at teams that have had difficulty turning the corner in their rebuilding efforts, the one thing they lack is having a number of character players on their team. Looking at Edmonton, the only leaders they have are Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff. Decent players, sure, but neither of those players are particularly tough players to play against. Rarely do those players ever outwork the opposition. Because of that, the kids are learning bad habits and are having a hard time turning the corner. Talent, in of itself cannot overcome effort on it’s own.
Additionally, it is important to not rush things with the draft. The Flames will pick at least four times in the top 70, I hope. That will allow our organization to acquire some top end talent, something sorely lacking over the past 30 years. The worst option that the Flames could choose to take is to rush things by trading up. The top 10 prospects in this year’s draft consist of players that range from excellent to very good. There is not a huge separation from the top end of the list to the bottom. Because of that, it would be counter intuitive to sacrifice one of the other top 70 picks to get a player that is only marginally better if at all.
We as fans also must be patient. One of the problems with having young players in key positions is that they are prone to making mistakes. Over the next season or two, it might be very frustrating to endure their growing pains. Facepalms and eyerolls will happen with more frequency than we are accustomed to. However, in order for a rebuild to be executed properly, young players will struggle and perform inconsistently before they learn to become good all round players. Mikael Backlund was on the verge of not being an NHL player before this season, and now he’s a top 2 line center. Nazim Kadri was looking like he would become a bust before emerging a near point per game player for the Leafs this year. In 05-06 and 06-07 Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook played a lot of minutes and were terrible but they learned how to be good. It just takes time.
The main obstacle that could occur during this rebuild is for the fan base to abandon this team by not purchasing tickets and showing their normal levels of enthusiasm. This might cause management to rush their plans to appease the fans before the team is ready and could stunt the team’s growth. Look at Toronto for example. They tried to rush things by acquiring Phil Kessel and it didn’t cause them to make the playoffs any quicker, and they do not have Tyler Seguin, or Dougie Hamilton, both of which would be better pieces to build around for this year and moving forward. It also does not help that Kessel is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
The Flames are playing their best hockey since the last time they’ve played in the playoffs. The effort has been there, even if they do not match up skill wise with their opponents. We have several good prospects already taking spots on the roster and several more that are close to competing for spots. The rebuild is moving along quicker because we are not starting from scratch.
Just relax and enjoy the effort that our guys are putting in both on the ice and upstairs, and look forward to all the new and exciting players that will be coming into our organization over the coming months. Be patient and have fun. That’s the point right?
Go Flames Go now and for the long term.
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