I find it quite interesting the resurgence in New Jersey and Calgary.
On one hand, a coaching change. On the other, a GM change. No major personnel changes. Same result. Two of the hottest teams in the league. In New Jersey, the importance of the "right" coach is stressed... in Calgary, the coach is somewhat downplayed.
Bottom line: The players have sucked it up and are playing hockey. Whether or not it's a direct correlation to the men fired or not; it's still about the players, no?
Back to the point, though.
We won't know exactly the route the Flames plan to take until we get closer to Feb 28th and the deadline. An insane run since Dec 23rd has put them back in the playoff race. A Sutter-ian gauntlet laid down in the form of .666 down the stretch. Currently, the Flames are +3 on that quest (in terms of getting 4 out of every 6 pts). Where has this gotten them? 8th place; but as many as 4 GP more than other teams ahead and behind.
Barring a collapse in the inverted form of their current run, I think Jay Feaster tries to make the playoffs. Plain and simply, it's the mandate from the owners. Although I want to go on record as saying this roster is built for a re-build. Horrific contracts coupled with pieces that would more than aide other clubs in runs for Stanley. The Flames could come away from the deadline with a plethora of assets while still maintaining a competitive team. But, I don't see that happening...
So, let's look at the options.
CapGeek.com claims the Flames could acquire a salary-cap hit of up to 4 million bucks. That's more than enough room to make changes. However, the problem lies not in cap space, but in young assets and draft picks. The previous regime seemingly used a spin-the-bottle type logic in his acquisition of players, leading to a depleted farm and draft system. Who's available? There are some... but the question is, who would want them?
Ales Kotalik: No value whatsoever. Quite possibly one of the worst and mind-boggling acquisitions I've ever seen.
Niklas Hagman: May be the only player with some value. However, he still has one more year left on his 3 mil tag. Would someone take a chance on the sniper? Honestly think he could be moved for a draft pick regardless of the Flames playoff situation.
Adam Pardy: Another player with a little value. He's shown major improvement over the last couple years and the Flames have depth on defense.
Steve Staois: I don't actually see much value here, but he's an expiring contract so the risk is minimal for a locker-room guy who's been there before.
Draft Picks: I could see some 2012 draft picks in play if combined with the players above to land an asset. Other than that, I don't see much available.
Prospects: Stefan Meyer proved capable but would have little value. Is Lance Bouma auditioning to be a trade prospect? I hope the prospects are left alone because the cupboard's bare in Abbotsford. Man, Keith Aulie sure would be a nice bargaining chip right now wouldn't he?
Not much in the form of assets that would allow the Flames to make any acquisitions. And, what would the Flames need? I would say there's room for improvement at every position on the team other than goaltending but the most glaring need would be at centre. Matt Stajan has been playing the 3rd line centre role, but there has to be better options out there. Defensive depth is always nice for the playoffs. But, I would stress that a puck-moving defenseman would be ideal.
Finally - I'd like to quickly address Eric Francis' take on the Curtis Glencross situation. He makes 1.2 million dollars and will be up for a raise.
Francis fancies himself somewhat of a Calgary Flames prognosticator but the truth is, he's never right and has no more information on the matter than you or I.
Let's face the facts quickly, and I will argue as to why Glencross WILL be back in a Flames uniform long-term as I've had Glencross pegged as a priority all year long.
He's a 3rd line winger. I know Francis will say he's a top 6 guy, but on a team that thinks it's a playoff contender, he's not. He's a 15-goal scorer with the potential for 25. He's the fastest skater on the team and has one of the hardest shots. The knock on Glencross is his consistency as he seems to take about 1/3 of the games off.
Looking around the league I'd instantly peg him as a 3 million dollar guy. Colby Armstrong is the name that comes to mind the most as comparable. Glencross is a better scorer, skater and checker and he can probably use that logic to argue for 3+. I would take the Alex Burrows example at 2 million per. Basically, it's going to take 3 million to bring Glencross back. If Feaster offers him 3 years, 9 mil... he's back. I personally think if he got 3-4 years, he'd take 2.5. But, for arguments sake, let's use the 3 mil.
That's a raise of 1.8 million. Hardly a concern for Jay Feaster and I'll tell you why. Ales Kotalik, Steve Staois, Anton Babchuk, Alex Tanguay, Brendan Morrison, Adam Pardy, Brendan Mikkelson. Those bodies add up to more than 11 million dollars in cap space. Add to that an increase in the actual NHL cap by 1 or 1.5 mil and there's more than 12 million dollars extra to spend. I think there's enough to make up for Gio's raise, sign a couple of the FA's and give Glencross his 1.8 million dollar raise.
For any of you reading Francis' columns or following him on twitter, just remember to take him with a grain of salt. He has a bad taste in his mouth for the franchise ever since Darryl Sutter took the reigns. He was added to the HNIC hot stove because the Sutter-led Flames were the most intriguing story in the NHL. It took me less than 5 minutes to find the details to disprove his theories.
I'll do some more digging on Glencross as we have several mutual friends from back in his Junior 'A' days and I should be able to get some insider info!
Until then... enjoy watching the team. It sure is nice to watch a team that wants to win again.