I'm divorcing Hockeybuzz... once and for all.
*For anyone from Edmonton who happens to stumble onto this blog accidentally, swan song in this case means my last post (figured I'd save you the google search).*
Quickly, I can't stand the website anymore. It started when Eklund attempted to set up a meeting with me to discuss writing for the site, then, never followed through. I took a self-imposed hiatus and then came back recently, only to find the quality of the site had hit absolute rock bottom.
The only thing worth reading on this website is the Oiler blogger and that's because I enjoy the idiocy. The personal and fan boy vendetta's give me a laugh every time.
The Flames coverage is terrible.
And, the rumors that the site was built on, don't really exist anymore because real journalists took over the reporting of rumors and squashed the small guys to pieces. If you want to hear second-hand news already reported by TSN, this is the place for you.
I strongly encourage all Flames fans who still come here looking for news to read or continue to read the likes of Kent Wilson, Robert Cleave and even Dome Beers. These gentlemen do actual research that doesn't involve sticking their noses directly up the a** of the Flames.
And now - for the people who actually braved my farewell... here is my Flames post-mortem. There's a lot to talk about... because there's a lot going wrong.
Thank you to all of you who read my blogs and left your comments. Thank you for all the messages encouraging to write more. It's appreciated.
There are too many things to cover in one blog without boring you all to death. But, we'll do our best. Here's what we'll cover:
Flames Management, How Do We Move Forward
Tanguay and Glencross, How Much?
Why Did We Miss the Playoffs?
Salary Cap Problems
What to Expect for Next Year
Let's start with why we finished 10th... again:
I think most Flames pundits predicted they would battle for 8th in the conference and that's exactly how it turned out. Slow start, torrid middle and lackluster finish.
Robert Cleave recently wrote an article pointing to Kipper's depleted play over the final 17 games and noted that was probably the cause for the Flames missing the playoffs. I think he makes a fine point.
Some will point to the injuries to David Moss and Brendan Morrison. That played a large role as well given their solid second-half play.
These are great points, and contributed heavily to the underachieving end to the season.
But, I point to the teams play in very critical home games throughout the course of the season. Must-win games against weaker opponents or games where the Flames held leads late, only to flounder. A lack of focus has been a constant theme in my criticism of this team, and losses in these games continues to prove my point.
Dec 18 MIN - LOSS
Jan 3 NYI - LOSS
Jan 7 DET - LOSS (:18 seconds left when tying goal scored by Det PP)
Jan 19 MIN - LOSS (6-0)
Feb 11 ANH - LOSS (2:07 left when tying goal scored by ANH PP)
Feb 25 SJ - LOSS (2:34 left when tying goal scored by SJ)
All of those games happened AFTER the Flames started playing better. I could list other games as well. How about the early season game against Colorado that they choked away late. The game in ANH late in the season that they gave away a late lead to ANH with a PP. 2 goal leads blown against Van down the stretch. They followed the Dec 18 loss to Minnesota with losses to Minnesota again, and the Jackets.
They missed the playoffs by 4 points. There's 9 points listed above, not counting the extra games listed in the paragraph.
This team showed us all year long why they wouldn't make the playoffs. But, when they rattled off a nice 30-game run, we all overlooked it. It was right there the whole time. Bottom line, your team is never as Bad or as Good as they seem. In the last 17 games, they settled into their groove and that is probably the best stretch of games to analyze the quality if this team... and it's not enough.
Tanguay and Glencross, How Much?
We know they both want to come back. Tanguay will be the easier of the two to re-sign because he's older and has made some major bank in his day. This is Glencross' chance to make long-term money following a career year; it's going to be more of a struggle with him, even though he wants to come back.
Taking a look at the 5 most comparable players to Tanguay above and below him in league scoring and you'll find a wide array of salary's. Ranging from 4 million to 7 million. These are players with comparable point totals as well as goal/assist ratio. Now, Tanguay would be the oldest of these players and the Flames will ask him to take a major pay cut from that value. Realistically, he could ask for 4, but if he wants to come to Calgary and play with Jarome, he'll have to accept lower than 3.
I expect a 2 year, 5 million deal for Tanguay (2.5 cap hit) and I expect him to re-sign in Calgary.
Looking at comparable players to Glencross and you'll find a much wider array of salary's. Anywhere from .875 to 5. Realistically, a 24-goal season from a strong 2-way player can get you as much as 4 or 4.5 million per season. But, again, is Glencross a top 6 forward? I would say no. And, you can't pay a 3rd line winger anything more than 3 million; even that is stretching it. Glencross is on record asking for 4 or 5 years. I'm a big Glencross fan but I wouldn't give him any more than 3 years. I can't make a valiid argument to giving a player a long-term lucrative deal when he doesn't show up to play every night, which is a common theme with Mr. Glencross.
I now expect Glencross to become a UFA. If he's willing to accept 3 years, 7.5 million, he might remain a Flame. He might even be expected to take less.
Quickly, with Brendan Morrison. It will strictly be up to him wanting or not wanting to come back. I expect him to pursue a Stanley Cup somewhere else, like Pittsburgh, who will likely lose pending FA Tyler Kennedy. And, Anton Babchuk should give Brent Sutter a huge thank-you, because that big Russian D man is going to get a raise. It won't be in Calgary unless Glencross bails. Points-wise, Babchuck was productive, but he was sheltered by the coaching staff, never playing against top talent. He's a good 3rd pair guy. At 1.4, you re-sign him, anything more and he'll disappoint.
Salary Cap Problems
The Flames are in deep doo doo with the cap thanks to the "genius" Darryl Sutter. But, there are options. It just involves ownership either taking a big hit, or counting on the help of a European franchise. Hagman and Kotalik need to be gone. Take their 6 million over to Europe. If the Flames are unable to do so, then they need to be buried in the AHL. No questions asked. Terrible acquisitions that played well below my low standards for them.
Obviously, Matt Stajan needs to be gone. It is possible that a team like the Florida Panthers who are well below the league minimum salary requirement will need to take on salary. This is a major long shot. Otherwise, again, the franchise needs to cut ties with him. In my honest opinion, he is the worst player in the NHL and his salary compounds it. I would Sheldon Souray him if you can't deal him.
Cory Sarich is another that needs to be dealt. 3.6 million with one more season left. There are teams who would take a flyer on Sarich. In years past he could have garnered as much as a 3rd round pick... not anymore. Get rid of him and get what you can, but don't bring salary back.
I would also cut ties with Daymond Langkow. He played terrible in 09-10 and wasn't any better in his limited time in 10-11. 4.5 million was a terrible deal by Sutter to begin with. But, he won't be going anywhere. And I don't think the Flames would put him in the AHL. If you can rid yourself of the 13.1 million dollars of useless salary listed above, you can swallow this Langkow deal and lie to yourself that he'll be productive. Flames fans are getting good at that, aren't we?
Flames management basically needs to decide. Bite the bullet and swallow some large contracts that they allowed Darryl Sutter to strap this franchise with, or continue losing.
Which brings me to my next point;
Somehow, amidst all of the stupidity of the last 2 seasons, a lot of us forgot that someone had to approve what was going on in terms of trades and contracts. Darryl Sutter wasn't just swinging for the fences blindfolded, he had to get approvals. Anyone who approved the contract for Matt Stajan should be relinquished of any responsibilities within the hockey operations of this franchise.
Yes, I'm looking at you Ken King.
Mr. King is in the process of reviewing Jay Feaster's game plan for the team moving forward. Well, I can promise you this, if Ken King remains in charge, the right thing will not be done. What is the right thing?
This GM position needs to be opened to everyone. There are several candidates waiting in the winds that would serve this franchise better than Jay Feaster. At the very least, they need to be reviewed. The likes of Jim Nill and Paul Fenton (former Flame).
King will take the interim tag off of Feaster. Scouts and advisors will all be retained. And the Flames will continue swirling the toilet bowl... battling for 8th year in year out.
Changes need to be made. Ken King needs to be fired, Lanny McDonald should be brought in as President of the team with no major say in hockey operations and the team should hire a new GM and let him repair this team from the ground up. That would include major changes in the scouting department and in Abbotsford.
I hear Jim Playfair might be up for an NHL gig? Wow, this amazes me, but please, someone take him off our hands. Again, Playfair needs to be let go. Basically, anything Darryl Sutter touched in the last 2 years needs to be looked at long and hard.
It's time for the Calgary Flames to move into the Post-Lockout era of the NHL, I mean, it's been 6 seasons!
And, finally, the current team...
How Do We Move Forward? What Can We Expect for Next Season?
The overall, most important fact to keep in mind is this: The 2010-2011 Calgary Flames did not have enough talent to advance in the Western Conference playoffs. Something that was evident all season long. Could they have worked their way through one round... maybe... a long shot maybe. But, they couldn't compete with the top talent, and if you consider yourself a cap team, then you'd better be competing for the Cup every year. The Flames are currently not in that realm.
But, what options do we have?
Well, start with the options expressed in the salary cap section. Freeing up that cap space would allow some flexibility in trying to attract players to Calgary. If a new GM is named, Calgary might just become an attractive spot once again. As it sits, would you choose Calgary as a destination if you were a UFA? I didn't think so.
How can we bring in some talent? Well, I think taking a couple steps backward now would actually lead to a better product on the ice once the season starts.
Did you know, of the top 10 Western Conference teams, Miikka Kiprusoff was the worst starting goaltender? Did you know that he's the highest paid of all of them? Kipper has 3 years and 12.5 million left on his deal. Cap hit of 5.8 but actual contract around 4.2. If the Flames could move Kipper to a team like, oh, say the Phoenix "Manitoba Moose" Coyotes or, again, the Florida Panthers, they could bring up Irving and let him and Karlsson tend the nets, or make a run at the likes of Bryzgalov (unlikely) or Vokoun. Kipper could fetch some young talent from either team, provide some cap relief and make for a more competitive squad. It's hard to even think about it, but the organization really does need to think about moving Kipper.
The other piece I would consider moving is Robyn Regehr. I love Reggie. He's been my favorite Flame for many many years. But, he's not getting any younger, certainly not any faster or better with the puck and his knees could give out at any minute. He's a beast. A warrior. But, would probably fetch a really nice return. With TJ Brodie being ready for a shot at the NHL and possibly even Tim Erixon, a trade of Regehr could allow the Flames to get younger and faster, something they desperately need to look into. I look to LA, how about a Regehr - Irving for Jonathan Bernier, Linden Vey and a 3rd? Might be overpaying, but if you haven't had a chance to watch Vey play, check him out, a 3rd round pick who reminds me of Jarome Iginla. He plays centre but I do see him converted to the wing for the pros.
As for the draft, I have one guy circled for the Flames at 13, but I seriously doubt he'll get there. Sven Bartschi. They need to do whatever they can to grab this fella, or hope someone like Dougie Hamilton or Ryan Murphy happens to fall. Bartschi could step in immediately and fill a void on a scoring line. If you don't believe me, tune into a Portland Winterhawks game and watch.
Without a small overhaul of the Flames the future remains bleak. Fighting for 8th will be best case scenario. That's what I expect for next season, because I really don't feel they will make any of the major changes I suggested. I believe they'll hire Feaster, retain King and struggle to add anything of substance while losing key FA's.
Thank you to everyone for taking the time to read my blogs. It's been a slice. I'll likely emerge somewhere else, writing... but for now, the only place you can read my thoughts is on twitter. mslepp.