Offseason Analysis: CALGARY FLAMES

flames

CALGARY FLAMES: 2014-2015 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 45-30-7-97
Home Record: 23-13-5
Away Record: 22-17-2
Shootout Record: 4-3
Playoff Result: Eliminated by Anaheim in Western Conference Semifinal (series: 4-1 ANA)
Standings: Pacific Division: 3, Western Conference: 8, League: 16
Goals For: 237 (NHL rank: 6)
Goals Against: 213 (NHL rank: 14)
Power Play Percentage: 18.8 percent (NHL rank: 13)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 80.6 percent (NHL rank: 20)
Leading Scorer: Jiri Hudler (31-45-76)

 

2015-2016 Outlook:

One of the biggest surprises of the 2014-2015 season was certainly the emergence, performance and widespread success of the Calgary Flames. Calgary seemingly came out of nowhere, but steadfastly fought its way back each night and each week of the season, eventually clinching a playoff berth for the first time since the 2008-2009 season. This video offers a taste of the season, a season that included bursts of pure skill, unyielding work ethic and a team-wide refusal to lose. Success and production traveled throughout the Flames’ lineup, seemingly latching on to each and every member of the team. 31-year-old Jiri Hudler had the most productive season of his career (31-45-76), Johnny Gaudreau dazzled with his tremendous hands and skill as he put up 64 points in his rookie season, second-year center Sean Monahan nearly doubled his production from his rookie season, four defensemen put up 30+ points, including captain Mark Giordano, who was on his way to a Norris Trophy before sustaining a season-ending injury, defenseman Kris Russell put up 34 points and led the league in blocked shots, and the list goes on. The blood, sweat and tears seemed to pour from everywhere in the lineup, from fourth liners to star players to veterans to rookies and from goalie to goalie. Everything seemed to come together for Calgary, including an exciting first-round playoff victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The thing that Calgary must strive to avoid this season is a second-year collapse, much like the Colorado Avalanche experienced after winning their division and having the third-best record in the league in 2013-2014 and then not making the playoffs and ending up with a top-10 draft pick a year later.

Much like Colorado in 2013-2014, Calgary seemed to play above the stats, above the odds, above the probabilities, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Flames’ upcoming season. However, Jack Adams Award-winner Bob Hartley and his coaching staff will have to work diligently in training camp and throughout the season to ensure this doesn’t happen, especially since Calgary’s Corsi Close percentage last season was the third worst in the league, ahead of only Colorado and Buffalo; in fact, Calgary was one of only three teams (along with the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers) to make the playoffs despite finishing with Corsi Close percentages below 50 percent (Calgary: 45.06 percent).

General manager Brad Treliving did his job this offseason in acquiring defenseman Dougie Hamilton from the Bruins, as well as signing Stanley Cup-winning and experienced top-six winger Michael Frolik, who was most recently a member of the Winnipeg Jets. With the 2014 fourth overall pick Sam Bennett bound to compete for a roster spot this season, Calgary could once again put together a successful and spectacularly entertaining campaign. No matter what, the Flames will be a fascinating team to watch this year.

Training Camp Roster: Calgary Flames

 

Offseason Overview

hamilton frolik

Photo Credit: Leah Hennel-Calgary Herald


Trades:

  • 2015 1st-round pick, two 2015 2nd-round picks to Boston for D Dougie Hamilton
  • Rights to F Max Reinhart to Nashville for conditional 2016 4th-round pick
  • Two 2015 3rd-round picks (76 and 83) to Arizona for 2015 2nd-round pick (6)

 
Re-Signed:

  • F Mikael Backlund (3-year deal with AAV* of $3.575 million)
  • D Dougie Hamilton (6-year deal with AAV* of $5.75 million)
  • G Karri Ramo (1-year deal at $3.8 million)
  • F Drew Shore (1-year deal at $850,500)
  • F Lance Bouma (3-year deal with AAV* of $2.2 million)
  • F Josh Jooris (1-year deal at $975,000)
  • F Paul Byron (1-year deal at $900,000)
  • F Turner Elson (1-year deal at $605,000)
  • F Kenny Agostino (1-year deal at $735,000)

 
Free Agents Signed:

  • F Michael Frolik (5-year deal with AAV* of $4.3 million)
  • F Derek Grant (1-year deal at $700,000)
  • F Hunter Smith (3-year ELC with AAV* of $692,500)
  • G Mason McDonald (3-year ELC with AAV* of $853,333)
  • D Oliver Kylington (3-year ELC with AAV* of $792,500)
  • D Ryan Wilson (PTO)

 
Draft Recap:

  • Round 2 (53) D Rasmus Andersson
  • Round 2 (60) D Oliver Kylington
  • Round 5 (136) LW Pavel Karnaukhov
  • Round 6 (166) LW Andrew Mangiapane
  • Round 7 (196) D Riley Bruce

 
Notable Extensions:

  • D Mark Giordano (6-year contract with AAV* of $6.75 million)
     
    Free Agents Lost:

    • D Raphael Diaz–New York Rangers
    • D John Ramage–Columbus
    • F Brian McGrattan–Anaheim
    • F David Wolf–Hamburg (DEL-Germany)
    • D David Schlemko–UFA
    • D Corey Potter–UFA
    • G Brad Thiessen–UFA
    • F Devin Setoguchi–UFA
    • D Mark Cundari–UFA
    • D Sena Acolatse–UFA
    • F Ben Hanowski–UFA

     
    Buyouts:
    None
     
    Organizational Changes:
    None
     
     
    *AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
     

    Significant Moves

    Here are the best and worst offseason moves the Calgary Flames have made, and how they will affect this upcoming season:

    BEST:

    1. Acquiring Dougie Hamilton:
    2. hamilton

      Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

      hamilton

      Leah Hennel-Calgary Herald


      The Calgary Flames rocked the hockey world by pulling off a shocking draft-day deal that brought restricted free-agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins to Calgary for three draft picks (Toronto’s first-round pick, number 15 overall, and two second-round picks, numbers 45 and 52).

      Hamilton signed a six-year $34.5 million extension with Calgary shortly after the trade; the details of the contract were more reasonable than most expected, especially after it seemed like the cap-straddled Bruins were forced to trade him after failed negotiations. Apparently, Hamilton had turned down similar offers from Boston; it was later surmised that he did not want to stay in Boston on a long-term deal, for whatever reasons, even at a favorable price. There is no way that Boston’s management would give up easily on such a talented and valuable asset, though it seemed (at the time) that the timing of the draft may have affected how quickly the Bruins pulled the trigger. Most teams were unaware Hamilton was even available, and several general managers expressed that they would have made an offer had they known. Not only was it a shocking trade, but it was the start of a series of shocking trades made by the Bruins on draft day (for more on that, refer to Offseason Analysis: Boston Bruins, due to be published later this month on HockeyFanLand).

      Since being selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, Dougie Hamilton has developed into a solid, dependable two-way defenseman. Playing alongside Bruins captain Zdeno Chara has certainly helped Hamilton’s development in all aspects of the game. Spanning his three-year career, Hamilton has accrued 83 points in 178 games (22-61-83) and 10 points in 19 playoff games (2-8-10). Last season, Hamilton, 22, reached career highs in goals, assists and points (10-32-42) in 72 games for the Bruins. This 6’5″ 210-pound defenseman will be an enormous (no pun intended) addition to an already-talented Calgary defense. Expect Hamilton to play with Kris Russell this year, which will be a fantastic all-around pairing for the Flames. Hamilton’s presence should also make the Flames an even more appealing destination for potential free agents in the future, which can only improve the Flames in the long run.

    3. Adding Michael Frolik:
    4. frolik

      Photo Credit: John Woods-Canadian Press

      via jets.nhl.com

      via jets.nhl.com


      On day 1 of free agency, Flames general manager Brad Treliving signed right winger Michael Frolik to a 5-year $21.5 million deal with an average annual value of $4.3 million.

      “I’m really excited about it,” Frolik told the Flames’ website. “Calgary had a great year last year and they got a great young group of guys. It was sort of exciting for me. I know the city is pretty good, too. I have a family now so it mattered too in that. … I’m really happy to be a Calgary Flame.”

      Frolik, who won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, has 235 points in 512 career games for the Panthers, Blackhawks and Jets, spanning eight seasons. Frolik was one of only three Jets to play all 82 games last season, in which he finished fourth on the team in goals (19) and sixth overall in points (42), including seven power-play points, three short-handed goals and four game-winning goals. Frolik has 18 points in 38 career playoff games.

      Treliving said the Flames were interested in Frolik from the beginning. He added, “One of the things [Frolik] said was that he thinks this is a team that has a chance to do some things. This is a young group. Some of our best players are our youngest players, and that excited him.”

      Though the price of $4.3 million against the cap is a bit steep for a 42-point forward, Frolik is an important addition the Flames needed to balance out the lineup. He will add stability to a lineup filled with young talent, and can provide veteran leadership, especially in the playoffs (Frolik scored 10 points in 23 playoff games on his way to winning the Cup with Chicago in 2013).

    5. Mark Giordano’s Extension:
    6. giordano

      Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus-Getty Images


      The Flames extended captain and star defenseman Mark Giordano to a six-year deal with an annual average value of $6.75 million, which will kick in starting in the 2016-2017 season. This was a key move by the Flames. Giordano would have demanded and received more money on the open market, and he is an integral part of this Flames roster that is working towards achieving long-term success. Giordano was on his way to a Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman last season before sustaining a season-ending injury in late February. Giordano, who scored a career-high 48 points in 61 games, was on pace for 65 points in 82 games. Though there are some injury concerns with Giordano, he is apparently 100-percent healthy and ready for training camp, according to this NHL.com article. The addition of Hamilton will take some of the pressure off Giordano, as Hamilton and Russell will be able to take on difficult minutes. Giordano will continue to be an effective defenseman and leader for the Flames, and it was crucial for the Flames to extend him.

    WORST:

    1. Lance Bouma’s Contract:
    2. bouma

      Al Charest-Calgary Sun


      The Flames’ offseason has been filled with intelligent drafting, productive signings, exciting trades and other positive moves. However, signing Lance Bouma to a three-year contract with an average annual value of $2.2 million was not one of them.

      Bouma, a restricted free agent, went through arbitration with the Flames in late July. According to various reports, the Flames were offering $1.5 million, whereas Bouma’s agent was requesting $2.5 million. The result, an average of $2.2 million per season (technically $2.1 million in year one, $2.2 million in year two and $2.3 million in year three) is heavily in favor of Bouma’s request. For a career fourth-liner, this seems a bit extravagant, to say the least. Yes, Bouma had an effective season, scoring 16 goals and 18 assists for a career-high 34 points. However, there are two factors that heavily contributed to his success that might be difficult to replicate for the duration of his three-year contract. The first factor is that he played with Mikael Backlund. It’s possible that Hartley will leave Bouma on Backlund’s line this season, along with right winger Frolik. However, if Sam Bennett makes the team, he could slot in as the second-line left winger next to Backlund, or Bennett could even be the second-line center himself. It’s unclear at this point, but the Flames have better players than Bouma who could fill that position. Bouma could end up on the third line, but he is more likely a fourth-line candidate. There is nothing wrong with fourth-line players. In fact, it is very hard, if not impossible, to win without four effective lines. However, paying a fourth-line player $2.2 million a year is what makes the situation troubling, especially when multiple star players will require fresh contracts in the middle of Bouma’s three-year deal.

      The second factor contributing to Bouma’s out-of-character successful campaign is his shooting percentage, which was astronomically high compared to all other years of Bouma’s career, including his years in the AHL. Bouma managed a 15.4 percent shooting percentage last season. The highest shooting percentage Bouma has maintained in any season of his career in which he has played more than three games is 9.3 percent. The season in which Bouma maintained a 9.3 percent shooting percentage was the 2010-2011 season when Bouma was a member of the Abbotsford Heat AHL team. That year, he scored 12 goals and 8 assists for a total of 20 points in 61 games. In the 2013-2014 season, as a member of the Flames, Bouma scored 5 goals and 10 assists for 15 points in 78 games; his shooting percentage was 6.1 percent. It is extremely unlikely that Bouma will be able to replicate such a high shooting percentage, making it unlikely he will be able to produce that level of production again this year.

      In all likelihood, Bouma’s 2014-2015 success was largely due to these two factors. While it is always possible for a player to reach and exceed expectations, it is statistically unlikely that Bouma will be able to produce at the same level this year. It won’t be significantly important if that is the case this year. However, when Bouma is headed into year two of his three-year deal, Treliving may look back and deeply, deeply regret this deal, as Jiri Hudler, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Paul Byron, Kris Russell, Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris, etc., along with all three goaltenders (Hiller, Ramo and Ortio, who will be on one-way contract this season), will be due for new contracts. That might be the time when Treliving realizes that you just can’t give $2.2 million to a bottom-six player for three years.

     

    Possible Line Combinations

    Calgary’s lineup could take dozens of forms. There are a lot of talented players who will be competing for a limited number of open roster spots at training camp in mid-September. It is very difficult to speculate about the lines considering it is unknown which players will earn permanent roster spots, which players will get a handful of games in at the beginning of the year and which players will be sent to the minors or juniors. The top line will most likely be the same successful trio from last season, with Sean Monahan centering Johnny Hockey and Jiri Hudler, but the other lines could feature all sorts of combinations.

    That being said, here is one possible set of line combinations for the Flames in 2015-2016:
     
    Forwards
    Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler
    Bennett-Backlund-Frolik
    Raymond-Jooris-Colborne
    Bouma-Stajan-Jones

    Defensemen
    Brodie-Giordano
    Russell-Hamilton
    Engellend-Wideman

    Goalies
    Jonas Hiller
    Karri Ramo
     

    top line

    Calgary’s top line: (from left) Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan                          Photo: Al Charest-Calgary Sun

    Disagree?

    Explain in the comments below!
     

    Final Thoughts

    The Calgary Flames have had a mostly successful offseason as a follow-up to a surprising and thrilling season and playoff ride. The Flames definitely need to avoid regressing this year, especially as a team near the bottom of the league in possession statistics. However, the effective balance of young talent, dependable veterans, great coaching and a confident team-wide winning attitude the Flames maintained last year should lead to another productive season. Now that the younger players have had a taste of the playoffs, they will be especially determined to return, and the veterans (along with Hartley) can help them get there. With one of the best defenses in the league, strengthened by the addition of Dougie Hamilton, strong (though sometimes inconsistent) goaltending and a lot of young and explosive firepower upfront, the Flames are gearing up for another exciting run. The Pacific Division should be weaker this year than normal, which could help the Flames’ chances of reaching the playoffs. However, it will be difficult to replicate such an incredible year, especially in the face of raised expectations from around the league. As general manager Brad Treliving put it, “What we accomplished last year was nice, but ultimately it’s just a step. … If we all want to be good, this is what happens. There’s more expected. There’s more pressure. We’ve got to start living like a team that wants to be good.”

    It will certainly be interesting to watch that unfold this season.
     

    johnny hockey

    Photo Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

     
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    Featured image via flames.nhl.com