Realignment means several things for the National Hockey League. Most obviously, it means different teams in each division (duh), and fewer divisions overall. But perhaps an overlooked aspect of this is how much more important competition within the divisions becomes under the new system. Playoff seedings will be determined primarily by division, rather than conference, with the top three teams from each division getting in (it was watered down somewhat with the needlessly complicated "Wild Card" system, but let's just go ahead and ignore that for now). Playoffs in the first two rounds will be divisional. And the regular season schedule will again put an increased focus on divisional play: rather than the old system where the Kings would play the non-Pacific Western teams 4 times per season, they will only see the teams from
#ConferenceIII the other Western division twice per year. Which is, yes, the same amount of times they'll see the Eastern Conference teams.
So you'd better get used to the Kings' divisional opponents: like it or not, you'll be seeing them more often than the rest of the league, and the games will be more important than ever before. With that in mind, we're going to go team-by-team and talk about each of them: where they've come from, what they've done recently, and what might be expected from them in the future. A few of these teams (San Jose, Anaheim, and Phoenix) are already quite well-known to us, as they also come over from the former Pacific division. The other three are refugees from the ex-Northwest, as the Canadian trio of Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary get invited to our hockey beach party (err, or desert party? they have beaches in Arizona, right?).
So without any further ado, let's get started with.....
2012-13 Record: 19-25-4, 42 pts, 4th in Northwest, 13th in West
2011-12 Record: 37-29-16, 90 pts, 2nd in Northwest, 9th in West
Last Playoff Appearence: 2008-09 (lost 4-2 in 1st Round to Chicago)
Last Stanley Cup: 1989 (def. Montreal 4-2)
SB Nation Blog: Matchsticks and Gasoline
Why start with the Calgary Flames, you ask? Well, when doing almost anything in life, it is usually best to start from the bottom and work your way to the top. And had the New Pacific or whatever they're going to call it existed in this lockout-shortened season, the Flames would have finished at the very bottom. The only two teams who finished below Calgary in the Western Conference last year were Colorado & Nashville, both who will be taking up residence in.....uh......the division that isn't ours.
The Flames have seemingly been circling the drain for most of the past decade, ever since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004 with some guy named Darryl Sutter as their head coach. That plucky Flames team finished 6th in the West before going on a string of upsets, finally falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 7 games. Of course, as you probably know, the NHL went into a season-long lockout right after that, and then coming out of that lockout the Flames were talked up as Canada's best hope at bringing home the Cup. The Flames did pick up a Northwest division title in 2005-06, but their playoffs would be over shockingly quick after getting upset in the 1st round by the (then-still-Mighty) Ducks in 7 games. That would end up being the start of a trend for the Flames, as they made the playoffs the next three seasons and were eliminated in the first round each time.
Then finally, it happened: for the first time in 7 years, the Flames missed the playoffs entirely in 2009-10. Over the course of the next three years, the Flames would try just about every quick-fix method on the planet to try and return to the playoffs, while the rest of Canada loudly proclaimed they needed to blow it up and rebuild. Indeed it often seemed like every Canadian sports columnist wrote a "the Flames should trade Jarome Iginla" column every other week. That Darryl Sutter guy would move up from coach to GM following that Stanley Cup final loss, hire everyone from Mike Keenan to his brother to try and fill his shoes, only to get fired and.....well.....we know what happened to him next. His replacement as GM, Jay Feaster, has been highly criticized by both Flames fans and the general hockey community, with his infamous deceleration during the 11-12 season that they were "going for it" becoming a comedic refrain. Indeed the Flames entered the lockout-shortened 12-13 campaign with a rebuild seemingly the last thought on their minds, hiring a veteran coach in Bob Hartley and looking to once again contend with the same Iginla/Kiprusoff core of the past decade. He also made a bold move early in the season, attempting to offer sheet Colorado Avalanche restricted free agent Ryan O'Reilly while he was a contract holdout. The Avalanche ended up matching the offer sheet, and it later came out that the Flames would have had to put him on waivers anyway (due to ROR playing in the KHL after the NHL season had already begun); in another words, the Flames would have had to give Colorado their 2013 first and third-round picks without actually getting the player. This has understandably been held up as another example of Feaster's general incompetence, but to the shock of some this gross miscalculation did not result in Feaster losing his job.
As the Flames began to flounder yet again during the course of the season, finally (and mercifully), action was taken. Jarome Iginla was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, after some confusion where the Boston Bruins apparently thought they had a deal for him. Iginla's preference however was Pittsburgh, and having a full no-movement clause he was in control of his own destiny, and so the Flames ended up taking a vastly inferior package from the Penguins to make the deal. Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was later dealt to the St. Louis Blues as well, and Kiprusoff was nearly dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs before the goaltender himself blocked the deal. All signs now point to Kipper retiring after a less-than-stellar season, and now the Flames are poised to enter the new division without any of their previous franchise cornerstones. However, Feaster himself has made conflicting remarks on whether or not this will be a "full rebuild", declaring in separate statements that ownership expects the team to contend for a playoff spot next year while also hinting that this could end up being a much slower process. The Flames can thus be viewed at as kind of an X factor in the new division; they could end up tanking this coming season in order to add a high draft pick, or they could end up making some kind of bolder move to try and turn things around more quickly. However, their relative lack of action in the offseason so far would seem to indicate a more patient, long-term approach is finally being taken in Calgary.
Calgary Flames Recent Team Statistics
(note: due to the smaller-than-usual sample size of a 48-game season, I have also included their team stats from the last full 82-game season in 2011-12. obviously, all ranks are out of 30. for comparison's sake, I have also included LA's stats for each season.)
|Season||Goals For Per Game||Goals Against Per Game||PP %||PK %||FenClose|
|CGY 2011-12||2.43 (24th)||2.65 (14th)||17.7 (13th)||84.3 (9th)||47.47 (26th)|
|LA 2011-12||2.29 (29th)||2.07 (2nd)||17.0 (17th)||87.0 (4th)||53.60 (4th)|
|CGY 2012-13||2.67 (12th)||3.27 (28th)||20.0 (9th)||81.5 (14th)||48.22 (20th)|
|LA 2012-13||2.73 (10th)||2.38 (7th)||19.9 (10th)||83.2 (10th)||57.35 (1st)|
As you can see, Calgary was a very poor puck possession team in the 2011-12 season, finishing just 26th in Fenwick Close (which is a team's fenwick rating when within two goals). They actually improved a bit in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, and their team scoring improved even more than that, despite being a middling team in 5v5 shooting percentage (ranking 18th). However, their goals against per game plummeted from 14th all the way down to 28th, thanks in large part to a league-worst .890 5v5 save percentage. Miika Kipprusoff deserves much of the blame for that, starting 24 games and posting a godawful .882 sv% along the way. His backup, Joey MacDonald, only fared slightly better, starting 17 games (mostly while Kipper was out due to injury) and posting a .902 sv%. Kipper's likely retirement should see their save percentage climb at least a little, even though his replacements don't exactly inspire confidence. If they can keep their possession numbers closer to last year's dismal 20th rather than the truly awful 26th ranking of the last previous season, their goals against should come down a bit.
Calgary Flames Offseason Transactions
Sent Alex Tanguay & Cory Sarich to Colorado for David Jones & Shane O'Brien
(Calgary saved some money on this deal, but the return for Tanguay- a productive, if aging scorer- was very underwhelming. Jones is a 28-year-old winger who did have one 27-goal season, but was one of the worst puck possession players in the NHL last year. Sarich and O'Brien is largely a wash, and indeed have the exact same cap hit.)
Sent a 4th round pick in 2015 to San Jose for TJ Galiardi
(Galiardi was a middling 3rd liner for San Jose, who played relatively easy competition and didn't fare especially well against it. Still, the cost was obviously low for Calgary here.)
Sent a 5th round pick in 2014 to St. Louis for Kris Russell
(Again, Calgary acquired an asset at a very low cost just for the purposes of icing a team next year. Russell will likely play top 4 minutes in Calgary; probably not particularly well, mind you, but he'll play them.)
Karri Ramo- 2 years, 5.5 million
(His rights were originally acquired by Calgary in the Cammalleri-Bourque trade with Montreal during the 2011-12 season. Ramo has spent the last four seasons playing with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, posting sv%s of .913, .925, .925, and most recently .929. His last stint in the NHL was in 2008-09 when he appeared in 24 games for a dismal Tampa Bay Lightning squad, posting just an .894 sv%. Time will tell whether he can translate his recent KHL success to the NHL this time around, but expect him to battle hard with Joey MacDonald for the Flames' starting job in October. Of course, it could certainly be argued that the Flames overpaid a bit here for a goalie that hasn't started a single National Hockey League game in four years.)
Joey MacDonald- 1 year, 925,000
(Speaking of Joey Mac, he'll return to battle Ramo for playing time next year. You know what you're gonna get out of MacDonald, which is probably below-league-average goaltending.)
Chris Butler: 1 year, 1.7 million
(Butler was among Calgary's worst defensemen last season at driving play, as he was a -13.50 in on-ice Corsi- only Anton Babchuk was worse. In relative Corsi, he fared even worse at a -11.1, worst on the team. With only 8 points in 44 games he's not exactly a scoring threat from the back end, either.)
Chad Billins: 1 year, 925,000
(The undrafted 25-year-old Billins was an AHL all-star last year on the Calder Cup-winning Grand Rapids Griffins, and will get a shot to play on Calgary's bottom pairing. He may have some offensive upside after posting 40 points in 76 games last year, but is undersized at just 5'10.)
1st round, 6th overall- Sean Monahan (Center/Canadian/OHL Ottawa 67s)
1st round, 22nd overall- Emile Poirier (Left Wing/Canadian/QMJHL Gatineau Olympiques)
1st round, 28th overall- Morgan Klimchuk (Left Wing/Canadian/WHL Regina Pats)
3rd round, 67th overall- Keegan Kanzig (Defenseman/Canadian/WHL Victoria Royals)
5th round, 135th overall- Eric Roy (Defenseman/Canadian/WHL Brandon Wheat Kings)
6th round, 157th overall- Tim Harrison (Right Wing/American/NEPSAC Dexter School)
7th round, 187th overall- Rushan Rafikov (Defenseman/Russian/MHL Yaroslavl Jrs.)
7th round, 198th overall- John Gilmour (Defenseman/American/Hockey East Providence)
By all accounts the Flames had a solid draft, as their three first-round picks (their own 1st plus Pittsburgh & St. Louis' picks from the Iginla & Bouwmeester trades, respectively) allowed them to restock their desperately bare cupboard with some high-end offensive prospects. Some were surprised that the Flames didn't attempt to trade one of their first rounders to try and pick up some more picks later in the draft, as Calgary had no 2nd or 4th rounders. And the pick of Poirier at 22nd was looked at as a bit of a reach by some, as he was ranked all the way down at 57th in the NHLNumbers "consensus rankings" (basically a weighted average of many different draft rankings, based on previous accuracy), an especially confusing move when you consider that Calgary still had another pick at 28th.
(an expected NHL roster based on what they currently have signed, as well as any pending RFAs. again, for the sake of looking at a full season, both their numbers from the shortened 12-13 campaign & full 11-12 season are included. unless otherwise listed, they played in the NHL with Calgary.)
|Name||Position/Age/Nationality||2011-12 Stats (GP/G/A/P)||2012-13 Stats (GP/G/A/P)|
|Akim Aliu||RW/24/Nigerian||2 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P||5 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P|
|Mikael Backlund||C/24/Swedish||41 GP, 4 G, 7 A, 11 P||32 GP, 8 G, 8 A, 16 P|
|Sven Bartschi||LW/20/Swiss||5 GP, 3 G, 0 A, 3 P||20 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 10 P|
|Carter Bancks||LW/23/Canadian||(AHL) 55 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 P||2 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P|
|Steve Begin||RW/35/Canadian||did not play due to injury||36 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 8 P|
|Paul Byron||C/24/Canadian||22 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 P||4 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P|
|Michael Cammalleri||LW/31/Canadian||(MTL/CGY) 66 GP, 20 G, 21 A, 41 P||44 GP, 13 G, 19 A, 32 P|
|TJ Galiardi||LW/25/American||(COL/SJ) 69 GP, 9 G, 6 A, 15 P||(SJ) 36 GP, 5 G, 9 A, 14 P|
|Curtis Glencross||LW/30/Canadian||67 GP, 26 G, 22 A, 48 P||40 GP, 15 G, 11 A, 26 P|
|Ben Hanowski||RW/22/American||(WCHA) 39 GP, 23 G, 20 A, 43 P||5 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 P|
|Roman Horak||C/22/Czech||61 GP, 3 G, 8 A, 11 P||20 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 P|
|Jiri Hudler||RW/29/Czech||(DET) 81 GP, 25 G, 25 A, 50 P||42 GP, 10 G, 17 A, 27 P|
|Tim Jackman||RW/31/American||75 GP, 1 G, 6 A, 7 P||42 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P|
|Blair Jones||C/26/Canadian||(TB/CGY) 43 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 P||15 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P|
|David Jones||RW/28/Canadian||(COL) 72 GP, 20 G, 17 A, 37 P||(COL) 33 GP, 3 G, 6 A, 9 P|
|Max Reinhart||C/21/Canadian||(WHL) 61 GP, 28 G, 50 A, 78 P||11 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 P|
|Matt Stajan||C/29/Canadian||61 GP, 8 G, 10 A, 18 P||43 GP, 5 G, 18 A, 23 P|
|Lee Stempniak||RW/30/American||61 GP, 14 G, 14 A, 28 P||47 GP, 9 G, 23 A, 32 P|
|Ben Street||C/26/Canadian||(AHL) 71 GP, 27 G, 30 A, 57 P||6 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P|
|Name||Age/Nationality||2011-12 Stats (GP/G/A/P)||2012-13 Stats (GP/G/A/P)|
|T.J. Brodie||23/Canadian||54 GP, 2 G, 12 A, 14 P||47 GP, 2 G, 12 A, 14 P|
|Chris Butler||26/American||68 GP, 2 G, 13 A, 15 P||44 GP, 1 G, 7 A, 8 P|
|Brett Carson||27/Canadian||2 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P||10 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P|
|Mark Cundari||23/Canadian||(AHL) 48 GP, 2 G, 13 A, 15 P||4 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 P|
|Mark Giordarno||29/Canadian||61 GP, 9 G, 18 A, 27 P||47 GP, 4 G, 11 A, 15 P|
|Shane O'Brien||29/Canadian||(COL) 76 GP, 3 G, 17 A, 20 P||(COL) 28 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 P|
|Kris Russell||26/Canadian||(STL) 43 GP, 4 G, 5 A, 9 P||(STL) 33 GP, 1 G, 6 A, 7 P|
|Derek Smith||28/Canadian||47 GP, 2 G, 9 A, 11 P||22 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P|
|Dennis Wideman||30/Canadian||(WSH) 82 GP, 11 G, 35 A, 46 P||46 GP, 6 G, 16 A, 22 P|
|Name||Age/Nationality||2011-12 Stats (GP/SV%/GAA)||2012-13 Stats (GP/SV%/GAA)|
|Leland Irving||25/Canadian||7 GP, .912 sv%, 3.20 GAA||6 GP, .883 sv%, 3.33 GAA|
|Joey MacDonald||33/Canadian||(DET) 14 GP, .912 sv%, 2.16 GAA||21 GP, .902 sv%, 2.87 GAA|
|Karri Ramo||27/Finnish||(KHL) 45 GP, .925 sv%, 1.96 GAA||(KHL) 40 GP, .929 sv%, 2.00 GAA|
Coach: Bob Hartley (2nd season)
General Manager: Jay Feaster (4th season)
(the following is a list of Calgary's top 10 prospects, as ranked by Hockey's Future. for the sake of this list, I didn't include any players they listed as "prospects" who already made my Calgary roster list, such as Sven Baertschi for instance, who is ranked as #1 on their site.)
|Name||Position/Age/Nationality||Acquired||2012-13 Stats (GP/G/A/P)|
|John Gaudreau||LW/19/American||Drafted 2011, 4th Round, 104th Overall||(Hockey East) 35 GP, 21 G, 30 A, 51 P|
|Mark Jankowski||C/18/Canadian||Drafted 2012, 1st Round, 21st Overall||(Hockey East) 34 GP, 7 G, 11 A, 18 P|
|Tyler Wotherspoon||D/20/Canadian||Drafted 2011, 2nd Round, 57th Overall||(WHL) 61 GP, 7 G, 30 A, 37 P|
|Patrick Sieloff||D/19/American||Drafted 2012, 2nd Round, 42nd Overall||(OHL) 45 GP, 3 G, 8 A, 11 P|
|Laurent Brossoit||G/20/Canadian||Drafted 2011, 6th Round, 164th Overall||(WHL) 49 GP, .917 sv%, 2.25 GAA|
|Bill Arnold||C/21/American||Drafted 2010, 4th Round, 108th Overall||(Hockey East) 38 GP, 17 G, 18 A, 35 P|
|John Ramage||D/22/American||Drafted 2010, 4th Round, 103rd Overall||(WCHA) 42 GP, 8 G, 12 A, 20 P|
|Michael Ferland||LW/20/Canadian||Drafted 2010, 5th Round, 133rd Overall||(WHL) 26 GP, 8 G, 21 A, 29 P|
|Jon Gillies||G/19/American||Drafted 2012, 3rd Round, 75th Overall||(Hockey East) 35 GP, .931 sv%, 2.08 GAA|
|Joni Ortio||G/22/Finnish||Drafted 2009, 6th Round, 171st Overall||(SM-liiga) 54 GP, .917 sv%, 2.42 GAA|
As you can see, Calgary's overall top ten prospect list does not feature a ton of high-end offensive talent. According to Hockey's Future, the Flames prospect strengths are 3rd/4th line forwards and "grit and leadership" (??), while their weaknesses are offensive defensemen and first-line forward talent (which would explain why all three of their first rounders were forwards taken for their offensive upside). Overall, HF ranked Calgary's prospect pool at 20th out of 30 in their 2012-13 spring rankings (for comparison's sake, the Kings, a current contender, were ranked slightly higher at 18th). It's clear any potential rebuild would basically be starting from almost square one in Calgary.
It's difficult to be all that intimidated by the Flames entering our division next season. Calgary is a team that appears to be just at the very beginning stages of a rebuild, and as their provincial neighbors can tell them, a full rebuild can be a slow and sometimes frustrating process, one that is hardly guaranteed for success. Despite Feaster's previous bluster about looking to contend for a playoff spot as soon as the upcoming season, the team has done virtually nothing in the offseason so far beyond simply acquiring players to ice a team. They have not been active in free agency, and their few trades were not exactly blockbuster acquisitions. The Flames will have a younger team than ever before and could play spoilers late in a season (as they did to some degree this year, having a decent record once they moved Iginla & co.), but they should be no significant threat for one of the new division's three guaranteed playoff spots.
Agree or disagree on my outlook for Calgary? Fire away in the comments and let me hear it! Of course, I would also love to hear from any fans of the Flames themselves, to see if they disagree with any of my assessments. I hope you enjoyed reading this breakdown of a new division rival, and we'll get back at it next time with the *other* new arrival from Alberta.