Everyone can predict what the Calgary Flames will do this off-season. But nobody knows for sure until the team’s management comes out and says something.
Many analysts and fans alike have opinions about the sports teams they cheer for. And most of those opinions have to do with what players should stay and what players should go. And of course, when it comes to the Calgary Flames, that doesn’t change. The Flames over the last few seasons continually deal with players that they’re stuck in bad contracts with.
First, we already know about Dennis Wideman. I don’t even really need to mention that. Other players people have mentioned for bad contracts: Matt Stajan, Lance Bouma, and sometimes Deryk Engelland. Last off-season, the Flames signed Troy Brouwer on a 4-year/$18 million with a base salary of $4.5 million and he’s also on a full-no trade clause.
Seeing how Brouwer did last season (spoiler alert: it wasn’t good), this is now another bad contract that the Flames are somewhat stuck in. Unless Vegas picks up Brouwer in the expansion draft which we don’t know how much they’d want to with his contract, he’s most likely staying in Calgary. So another bad contract for the Flames for the next few years.
A couple days ago, TSN analyst Scott Cullen broke down some off-season plans for the Flames to make. Here is his projected 2017-2018 Flames depth chart:
Now, some people were somewhat shocked at the goaltending options. Here is what Scott Cullen said about it:
"It was a complicated season for goaltending in Calgary. Brian Elliott struggled early, and lost playing time to Chad Johnson, but then as Johnson struggled, Elliott recovered and played really well in the second half of the season to push them into the postseason.However, after Elliott’s playoff performance, it seems likely that Calgary looks for a new duo between the pipes. They could trade for Jimmy Howard or sign unrestricted free agent Ryan Miller, but if the Flames really want to dream big, they could take a swing at getting Cory Schneider from New Jersey.No matter which approach they take, the Flames will continue to hope for improved goaltending performance. Last season they ranked 22nd in 5-on-5 save percentage, which was an improvement on 30th from the year before, but it’s still not great. Getting to average would be a reasonable objective."
While the Calgary Flames goaltending did struggle this past season, bring in Jimmy Howard may not be the best option. He’s a 33 year old somewhat washed out goaltender. He’s also been somewhat injury prone the last few seasons and an inconsistent goalie who’s been dealing with injuries is exactly what Calgary doesn’t need.
Last season, his record was 10-11-1. While his save percentage and goals-against-average was decent (0.927% and 2.10 respectively), he still wasn’t there to back up his team all the time when they needed it most. Something the Flames don’t need. The season before was also not the best for the veteran, with a record of 14-14-5, save-percentage of 0.906% and GAA of 2.80.
Now, Darcy Kuemper, I wouldn’t be completely opposed to as the backup. He has solid number as a backup, but the only concerning thing is he’s never had a full-time position. Howard and Kuemper together isn’t exactly an ideal duo to have in the crease.
There wasn’t too much of a shock with the defence pairing Cullen picked, except for Karl Alzner.
"T.J. Brodie is a good skater and puck-mover, but the Flames had trouble finding him a suitable partner last season, going from Dennis Wideman to Michael Stone, with a little of Deryk Engelland sprinkled in, and none worked particularly well. Thus, one of this summer’s biggest priorities is finding a legitimate top-four defenceman to pair with Brodie.[…]While the Flames have some defence prospects on the way, including Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington and Tyler Wotherspoon, there is probably some incentive to bring in at least one veteran to fill out their top four and maybe one more for the third pair. If the Flames don’t bring back Michael Stone, Karl Alzner, Cody Franson, Brendan Smith and Ron Hainsey would be among the free agents to consider."
The writers here at Flame for Thought had a virtual Monday roundtable earlier this week to discuss defence options for the Calgary Flames and the general consensus was that we’d like Michael Stone to stay. While he was primarily used a replacement for Dennis Wideman, he still made a good defence pairing to TJ Brodie and he should be given a shot.
Now, if that doesn’t go through, someone like Alzner isn’t the way to go. Alzner only had three goals and ten assists last season on a good team. That’s not top-four defenceman quality on a GOOD team. Let alone if he were to come to Calgary which is somewhat mediocre right now (although it can be great with a solid top four). He had no powerplay points last season even with averaging 19 minutes of ice-time per game.
While he does have some pros like his ability to block shots, he apparently can’t open jars anymore from broken bones because of blocking shots. On top of this, Alzner shoots left while Brodie also shoots left. An ideal partner for Brodie would have a right-handed shot (like Stone).
While the forwards as well didn’t have that shock factor in the decisions Cullen went with (which of course, we don’t expect it to), there is one decision in that final roster that Calgary Flames fans on Twitter didn’t quite agree with: Having Troy Brouwer, Alex Chiasson, and Lance Bouma stay over a player like Kris Versteeg. While I wouldn’t mind having Chiasson as a bottom-six guy since he isn’t too expensive, keeping Brouwer over Versteeg is definitely not ideal.
"Although Alex Chiasson had a modest 24-point season, he also had positive relative possession numbers, and that’s a decent overall contribution. He may not ever be a big scorer, but he’s reached double digit goals in three of the past four seasons.[…]The Flames could use another top-nine forward, or even a top-line forward that would allow Ferland to slide down the depth chart, but it also isn’t likely the biggest priority of the summer. Perhaps a veteran winger like Patrick Sharp or Chris Kunitz would be worthwhile on a short-term deal, or the Flames could keep Kris Versteeg, who was effective after signing late last offseason."
So this is good to hear: Cullen would like Versteeg to stay, but it’s a matter of him re-signing with the team, how much he wants, and negotiation processes. If Micheal Ferland can hold his own as a top-six guy, which many people are hoping he can, the Flames won’t need a player like Chris Kunitz who is used to having top-line minutes. And he may not want to leave Pittsburgh, whom he’s already won two cups with and is battling it out for another cup.
It’s understandable if the Flames can’t rid of Brouwer. Which is why he may stay over Versteeg. But it’d be ideal. Patrick Sharp wouldn’t be an ideal candidate right now with this young Calgary Flames team. He’s 35 years old and has slowly been digressing in his production. The Flames don’t need that right now when they’re trying to build up their team.
There you have it! My take on Cullen’s take (that’s a weird sentence). Who would be your ideal defensive partner for TJ Brodie, and while we’re on the subject, who would be your ideal goaltending duo?