If there is one thing you can say about the Brad Treliving era, is that you can usually expect a big move in the off-season. The Calgary Flames general manager has made two different Dougie Hamilton trades, brought in Travis Hamonic, and even brought in two different goalies via the trade market in Brian Elliott and Mike Smith. Everything has been pretty quiet so far this off-season, even with the team trading for Milan Lucic, yet fans are as anxious as ever for moves. My question is, why?
After the best regular season the Flames have had since 1988-89, there is still a sour taste left in the mouths of fans with just how badly the team performed against the Colorado Avalanche in the first round playoffs. It was hard to watch, yes, but those 5 games should not discredit everything that the team was able to accomplish the 82 games before.
Its not like the Flames management haven’t been trying to improve their team either, with the Jason Zucker and Nazem Kadri deals falling through before completion. Its clear that the team wants to make a move only to improve the team. Yet, these moves are for the most part are complimentary rather than necessary.
This is a team with 107 points from the year before with a young core of key contributors (with one being really old and another being somewhat old) locked up, or in the case of Matthew Tkachuk, will be locked up very soon. A large chunk of those core players had career seasons, which has caused some nervousness on whether they are able to repeat. These are not players who are at risk of their value completely tanking.
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Really, the only two players that are likely to take a step back this year is Elias Lindholm and Mark Giordano. While its blasphemous to think this year’s Norris Trophy winner might see his play diminish, aging curves have been shown to be rather cruel. In terms of Lindholm, this past year was the only time that he has ever eclipsed the 50 point mark in his career, so it is unfair to expect a repeat 70+ point season.
However, those are the only two cases in the core that can cause fans some concern. It is not wise to worry about Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and especially Tkachuk to suddenly stop being valuable contributors after so many years of being exactly that. In addition, those three players will be 26 years old or younger to start the season. Backlund is now on the wrong side of 30, yet his style of defensive play is not over-reliant on an overt physicality or speed which bodes well for longevity.
As such, there should not be much to worry about the core going forward into next season, so how about the rest of the roster? We all know about just how bad James Neal’s season was, and perhaps because of the player and coach not getting along he has been the only player so far to get shipped out. So, instead of having a bad contract on the books until 2022-23, the flames now have… a bad contract on the books until 2022-23. Essentially, all that has changed is a player with limited abilities that they didn’t like for a player with limited abilities that they do like. Essentially, a push.
The rest of the forward group performed quite admirably. Bennett started to establish a solid role as a third line winger. He, with Mark Jankowski and Austin Czarnik formed a line that performed quite well down the stretch, especially when the top line fell onto some struggles. Derek Ryan proved to be a very solid centre in the bottom rotations, and all signs are looking positive for the two youngsters in Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube.
The defence is looking to return the same as it was last season, perhaps this time with Rasmus Andersson replacing TJ Brodie in the top pairing. The rest of the defence looks exactly the same, with Juuso Valimaki likely getting more time on the bottom pairing this upcoming year coming back from his injury suffered mid way through last year. Like the forward group. this is a defence corp still considerably young (Andersson, Noah Hanifin and Valimaki are all 22 or younger). We know how effective they are now as players and are likely going to grow as contributors over the season.
So, with looking at how the team is currently constructed, the fear of regression seems to be very pessimistic and slightly unreasonable given the ages of most of the players on the team. What more can be added to the roster without significant pieces being moved out? If the case is to move players like a Michael Frolik or a Brodie for another player on the market, how likely is it that the team will be better off?
Right now, the only real reason that I see for the Flames to make a move is to clear cap space for the remaining RFA that needs to be signed. Tkachuk is likely going to command most if not all of the cap space the team currently has, so moving a Brodie in a cap dump does make sense for the team. Other than that, what more can the team expect to really do?
It’s fair to say that this team is going to be coming back with virtually the same roster as before, baring an unforeseen major move in the works. For a young team that was first in the Western Conference, that is a sign that the team is pretty well off. However you feel about his performance this summer, Treliving built a solid team.