Monday, December 10, 2007


The Flames currently sit 12th in Western Conference. They have 29 points in 30 games and a -9 GD. Only the Kings have given up more goals against in the WC. With a theoretical cut-off point of 93 points to make the post season, Calgary will have to go something like 29 - 17 - 6 to even have a prayer of making the play-offs. And the team is currently staring down the maw of an ugly 6 game road-trip that could go a long to making or breaking their season.

So...should Sutter do something drastic right now? If the Flames go 2-3-1 on this trip, will it be too late to recover? What can he do?

Fire Keenan and become coach again

This is as drastic as it gets. I don't think one can rightly blame Keenan for the club's plight right now, but Iron Mike clearly hasn't been "the answer" either. Sutter has proven that the club responds to his presence, as evidenced by the winning streak incited by his dressing room visit back in March. The Flames were one of stingiest and hardest working teams under his rule and those are both qualities the boys have lacked since he kicked himself upstairs.

The pressure of an expensive roster and high expectations - as well as a dearth of suitable replacements - makes this move possible if not plausible. Sutter will have a lot to answer for if this club takes another step backwards after last year's debacle. My guess is he'd rather resort to axing Iron Mike later rather than sooner however.

Make a trade

The Flames have an aching need for defensive depth and another top 6 forward. With Rhett Warrener unexpectedly sidelined (*derisive snort*) and Aucoin, Eriksson and Hale all proving they are who we thought they were, Calgary is once again a team with 3 top minutes guys (Phaneuf, Regehr and Sarich) and 3 bottom-minutes guys (Aucoin, Eriksson and Hale). Add in Phaneuf's struggles, Regehr's swollen ankle and the expectation that Aucoin will be hurt any day now and the Flames are a bad blocked shot or step-backwards away from full-on, Chinese fire-drill territory.

What's available? Not a lot. The Ducks are facing a cap squeeze with the return of Scott Niedermayer. Shane Hnidy (700K) or Sean O'Donnell (1.25M) might be up for grabs there. O'Donnell plays about 20 minutes a night against decent competition and is behind only Beauchemin and Pronger in terms of SH ice/game. He also has a decent GA/60 rate (1.89). He's not the best puck mover and is rather lead of foot, so he's rotten at promoting goal scoring. His teams GF/60 rate with him on the ice is a pedestrian 1.45 and the opposition tends to generate more shots at the net whenever he's on the ice (-3.5 CORSI). Hnidy plays only about 13 minutes/game total and is therefore more of what the Flames have already.

The Blues are also a defensemen rich franchise. Jay McKee could be available there, although his bloated salary would be tough to swallow. A salary dump would be required in order to add him. Not to mention adding another 4M contract to an already unwieldy back-end should be the last thing on Sutter's mind.

Boston and Philly are both pressed up against the cap, but both have the same needs as the Flames. Neither have a top d-man to spare. Unless Sutter is willing to accept the remainder of Darien Hatcher's 3.5M/year contract (expires after next season)? No? Didn't think so.

Im guessing Wade Redden will be available to rent at some point this year since it's unlikely the Sens will be able to re-sign him in the off-season. Redden isn't worth his 6M price-tag, but can still bring decent value as a 2nd pairing/1st unit PP guy. A rental may be the way to go for Calgary given the ensuing budget crunch in the summer. In Redden's case, it would be a matter of having the kind of assets the Sens would demand in return, as well as somehow shoe-horning his salary under the cap. Other pending UFA's (and potential rentals) include: Dan Boyle, Paul Mara and Dmitri Kalinin.

As for the top-6 forward, as a primer, consider the Flames RW depth:

Iginla - 16-22-38 +7
Nolan - 5-4-9 0
Moss - 1-5-6 -3
Godard - 1-0-1 -1

Let's all declare the Nolan experiment a failure, shall we? He's not a 2nd line RWer anymore. Nor is Moss and Godard probably shouldn't be taking a regular shift at the NHL level anyways.

As mentioned, the NY Rangers are pressed closely to the cap ceiling. Martin Straka can play wing and has been made redundant on that roster with the addition of Gomez and Drury. He's also set to become unrestricted next year. As such, the Rags would probably like to divest themselves of his 3.3M cap hit.

Also, Petr Prucha is underperforming this year, relative to his rookie campaign. While it's possible his 30 goals that season were an aberration (especially considering his 23.1 shooting %), he only costs 1.6M this year and next and is a mere 24 years old (meaning room and potential for him to outperform his contract in the future). He's more of a gamble but also comes with a cheaper price-tag.

Some other potential rentals that might be available include: Satan (4.255M), Ryder (2.950), JP Dumont (2.25M) and Hunter (1.55M).

Of course, all this trade talk comes down to what the trading partner would demand in return. The Flames have a lot of "flotsam" on their roster that won't command much interest. Yelle, Nilson, Nolan, Conroy, Primeau, Warrener, Eriksson and Aucoin are essentially untradable. Huselius, with his cheap contract and pending FA status is probably a movable asset. Ditto with Langkow. The problem being the team needs to clutch top 6 guys like Huselius and Langkow close to their chest in order to remain competitive. Not only are both invaluable in terms of "secondary" (or primary) scoring, both are probable to outperform their contracts: an increasingly rare commodity on the Flames roster these days.

Matthew Lombardi is also potentially attractive to other squads. He's young, lightning fast, can put up some points and is signed for a relatively cheap 1.83M for the next couple years. Of course, he's also a key cog in the organization's plans going forward: with the pending departures of Langkow and Conroy and the obsolence of Stephane Yelle, Lombo looks like the best NHL ready center in Calgary's system. Argh.

The best (only?) strategy would be to court clubs with cap problems I guess. A salary dump means a prospect or draft pick going the other way. Right now, that's all the Flames could spare anyways.


Will the addition of a Martin Straka makes the Flames more competitive? Maybe a little. While Straka (or someone Straka-like) certainly wouldn't hurt, another capable defender is probably higher on the priority list. Particularly one that can produce on the PP occasionally (and manage to keep the puck in at the blue line).

Anyhoo, that's my take. Comments? Complaints? Criticisms?