Wednesday, June 21, 2006


He speaks

Darryl Sutter met with the media for some time yesterday, basically on whatever they wanted to talk about. He addressed the coaching situation:
Darryl Sutter has put his decision on himself on the back burner.

Sutter, expected to relinquish his head coaching duties as early as this summer, said yesterday he hasn't had time to make that decision.

"There's the draft, there's dealing with the Group 2s (restricted free agents), then free agents. When that time comes, that time comes," he said.

Not big news at all, but it certainly erases any remaining chance that the Flames will have a new HC from outside the organization. I'd also say that this means he's staying behind the bench for another year. Certainly if Playfair or Preston is being promoted to HC, that decision is already made; if so, I would have expected them to announce it yesterday. My sense now is that in mid-July, we'll hear Sutter casually announce one of these things:
The rest of the scrum was about, well, everything else. It appears that the Flames' roster, to a greater extent than just about every other team, is going to be very similar to last year's. Lombardi is the last remaining unsigned RFA; if/when they tie him up, that'll be 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and Kipper retained from the end of last season.

Salary Cap: there's a bit of guesswork here, because I don't know what Lombardi is going to get, or what Kobasew and Tommy signed for (or Yelle's actual number - cannot possibly be right). But roughly speaking: with the cap set at $44M, I'm assuming the Flames will start the season at about $40-41M. This means that Sutter can turn their 13th forward (Nameless Guy making the minimum) into a forward making $3M-$5M. This is great news, although obviously mitigated by the fact that there's at least a dozen teams ready and willing to spend $4M on a good scorer and much fewer of those gentleman available.

My somewhat pie-in-the-sky hope for a guy to bolster the forward ranks is Martin Havlat. I don't think the Sens can afford Havlat (RFA), Spezza (RFA), and one of Chara/Redden (UFAs). If they sign Chara or Redden, then either Havlat or Spezza will have to be dealt, i.e. Havlat.

A trade between the Sens and the Flames centred around Havlat and Jordan Leopold seems somewhat plausible to me. Leopold is under contract for $1.15M and would fill out Ottawa's top 4 D nicely (with Meszaros, Phillips, and Chara/Redden). The Flames are deep enough on the blueline to give someone up to improve their scoring. Win/win?

(The possibility remains that the Sens will sign neither Redden nor Chara; it would free them up to do a lot of other things--like sign their young forwards and get a goalie--but would leave them awfully thin at D).

Systems: Outwardly at least, Sutter's story on what needs to be done to improve the offense is this: some guys need to score better. Hmmm... I don't disagree at all that Lombardi, Nilson, and Leopold should have been, and ought to be, more productive (not to mention Iginla). The Flames do not suffer from an absence of scoring talent: they were T11th in the league on the PP. (Or perhaps you believe that the Flames' roster is stacked with players who are inherently above-average PP scorers and way-below-average EV scorers. Such players exist, but not disproportionately in Calgary).

But: to suggest that the Flames' EV scoring can suddenly surge with the same roster, the same coaching staff, and substantially the same system seems a bit, well, fanciful. Peter Maher said on the radio that, pace Sutter, he understands that the Flames are planning on opening it up a bit this season.

I hope this is true. The Flames have assumed an identity that has made them pretty damn successful. They don't give up a lot of scoring chances, and they can play with and beat anybody (except, apparently, the Predators). But it's Grade 8 math to prove that if you have the best goalie in the league, then--all else being equal--more shots in both directions is to your advantage.

The balance went a bit too far this past season. The Flames have a historically excellent goaltender in his prime years: it makes little sense to play as if the worst thing that could happen is have him face a 3-on-2.

Draft: jeez, this post is getting long. Next one.


They were actually tied for 15th by PPGF/hr, if you're talking strictly about scoring talent. The NHL PP% is idiotic.

If you're waiting on Nilson to come around at ES, don't hold your breath.
01/02 - 1.2 ESP/hr
02/03 - 1.1 ESP/hr
03/04 - 1.1 ESP/hr

This past year? 1.1 ESP/hr. Unless Sutter can squeeze blood from a stone, it's not happening. He's a career 8.4% shooter as well and hardly deviates from that number from year to year. (BTW these are pretty crummy rates for a forward. Above average for a dman though ;) )

Lombardi won't do better than the 1.9 ESP/hr he put up last year but at least he'll play more games. He did only put up 1.4 ESP/hr as a youngster in 03/04 though with a much better SH%.

Leopold will probably never score at ES. 0.5, 0.7 and 0.4 ESP/hr the last three years running. He's also mediocre on the PP. Leopold's like MAB or Brewer with respect to the PP - seems to have the tools but just does not produce. MAB can put up points at ES though.

Leopold's very good in his own end to my eye and he probably played more tough minutes than Regehr in the few Flames shift charts I looked at last year. They won't replace him with a better dman if he's dealt IMO.

They won't replace him with a better dman if he's dealt IMO.

Plainly true. His offensive tools just haven't translated (i.e. been good enough) to the NHL game, but he's excellent defensively and plays all the tough minutes with Regehr (they're generally paired together).

Next year, Phaneuf can and will take tougher minutes, and Giordano, or Richie Regehr, or New Guy will pick up the 3rd-pair minutes.

You don't trade Leopold because he's a disappointment; you trade him because he's worth something, in order to meet a more obvious need.

If Iginla plays to expectations next year, Calgary's a lot better. I know that we made fun of him a lot here but I didn't realize just how bad he was. Dvorak got more pts/60 than him at ES? WTF? There are guys screaming to ditch Dvo at Oilfans and he makes way less than Iggy. Bad year on the PP too for Iggy although there's something strange there. He was in on less than 1/2 the goals the Flames scored with him on the ice for the PP-in previous seasons, he's up around 65% or so. No idea what that means but you wonder what the hell was wrong with him.

Hey Rivers...drop me an email.

Any word on how big the flaming C will be on their jerseys this year. Last year it threatened two feet long so I'm wondering if they'll make it even bigger (say the National League strike zone).

Is there any doubt that Sutter is going to use his first round pick to take a grinder whose upside is as a 3rd line left winger or a physical 3rd pairing defenseman?

Next year, Phaneuf can and will take tougher minutes...

How many extra minutes do you intend to load onto a 21-year-old kid who started coming apart in March from a second-pairing workload? By all means, please implement this idea strenuously.

I guess my comment was premised on the belief that said 21-year-old hasn't physically peaked. I don't see that as terribly controversial.

He'll be able to play 23 minutes a game this upcoming season (up from 21:43/gm): same minutes on the PP, a bit extra on the PK, and EV minutes against tougher lines. He doesn't need to be Chris Pronger yet.

matt said...
He doesn't need to be Chris Pronger yet.

Or maybe ever.

I still love the sound of that though. Great season from Pronger.

Wish I knew where to find PPG/time unit - I've always thought PP% was stupid since you can have 1 seconf power plays due to penaly overlap, and since a minor penalty ends on a goal but a major contnues, that skews the stat.

Anyways, I think Leopold is staying put. He has value, but I don't think he showed his skill this season. If Sutter does want to open it up, he'll want Leo back there. Ference will be the one to make space for Ri.Regehr - Ference looked lost at times during the season, trying to do too much when paired up with almost anyone but Warrener; but he played great in the playoffs so if Sutter can milk that value then I think Ference will be the one to go.
I think Iggy was concentrating on D too much this year. He had confidence in Conroy covering, so with him missing it took a while to trust his linemates, whomever that was on a given night.
Kobasew, Lombardi & Phaneuf will all play better with another year under their belt. A bit more playtime and confidence and Chuckie/Lombo have the ability to score some more. Dion can round his game out a bit more, and maybe allow Hamrlik a few more chances to get creative.

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