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The Calgary Flames have done an admirable job of improving their prospect pool over the past three seasons. A simple comparison of the 2010 vs the 2013 development camp rosters should be proof enough. But what does that mean to a Flames team with roster gaps at all positions? The Flames aren't looking for their prospect pool to fill in a few gaps or to provide a successor-ship plan for aging players. The Flames are going through a full scale rebuild and need help at every position.

Most Flames fans are excited about their prospects. For example, many are ready to declare a 2015 top six resembling:



Is that a realistic expectation though?

A prospects chance of success?

Johnathan Willis with Leafs Nation consolidated a number of articles measuring the chances of a draft pick being successful. You can also peruse the various NHL drafts through the Hockey DB to see how many draft picks play a meaningful number of NHL games (and how productive those games were).

Keep in mind:

  • The majority of NHL drafted players do not play a meaningful number of NHL games
  • The chances of drafted players producing in a top line role are very small
  • The chances of a prospect being successful reduce dramatically outside the top 5 picks and are reduced again outside of the top 30

In other words manage expectations accordingly. Despite the excitement level around some of our prospects many of them won't make the NHL and for those that do many of them will be limited to depth roles.

Edmonton Oiler fan's have previously been ready to declare the rebuild as complete rallying behind the Gagner's, Petry's, Paajarvi's, and Cogliano's. Clearly those players didn't meet fans expectations.

What is a top line player?

This is an often debated question. If there are 30 teams in the NHL there must be 30 'top-line' players correct? Let me suggest this: the expectation is to build a Stanley Cup contending team. So there is a difference between a player that can play top line versus a player that excels on the top line.

For the purpose of projecting a player as a 'top line' player I ask the question: Is this player projected to be in the top 15 at their position compared to other NHL players? You can argue that Tyler Bozak or Paul Stastny are top line Cs based on their role and the minutes they play but they don't compare to Crosby and Toews,

Things to keep in mind

  • The principle used above for the top line extends to all other lines as well. Just because a player can play the second line (as an example) doesn't mean they are cut out to play that position on a contending team.
  • Just because I have a player projected to a certain line doesn't mean they won't exceed the projection. But for the Flames they can't overestimate their prospects and hope they get lucky. They need to be realistic about where their gaps are.
  • Most prospects drafted outside of the top 5 don't project as top line players immediately following the draft. It takes a season or two for prospects to elevate their projection by proving what they can do. Given how young the Flames top prospects some may elevate their projection going forward.
  • As this is intended to evaluate the long term gaps of the Flames rather then the actual prospect system I have included any player who still has RFA status
  • I am projecting players at their natural position though it is possible that the Flames can move players (i.e. C to W)
  • I am ignoring handedness for this projection (LW vs RW, LD vs RD) as players are generally interchangeable.
  • I am using a 'traffic light' color scale to represent the gap at each position.

Top Line


Positions Needed: 1

Projected Prospects: 0

Status: RED

Currently the Flames do not have any prospects projected to be top 15 C's in the NHL. Players like Monahan or Jankowski may develop into top line C's but right now are more comfortably projected for the 2-line.


Positions Needed: 2

Projected Prospects: 1 (Gaudreau)

Status: RED

Many will argue that Baertschi deserves to be in this category. He may very well project to be a top 30 winger in the NHL. However, right now the only player I am comfortable projecting at that level is John Gaudreau (who has high bust potential).


Positions Needed: 2

Projected Prospects: 0

Status: RED

The Flame lack any marquee D prospects. Only TJ Brodie is close to showing he can play in a top 2 role and he projects as a player that can spend some time there but not be a top 30D in the NHL.

Second Line


Positions Needed: 1

Projected Prospects: 3 (Monahan, Jankowski, Granlund)

Status: GREEN

The Flames have strong depth at this position. Jankowski and Granlund are both still long shots to make the NHL but Monahan looks like a solid contender to be a strong 2-line C.


Positions Needed: 2

Projected Prospects: 3 (Baertschi, Poirier, Klimchuk)

Status: YELLOW

The Flames should be comfortable penciling Baertschi into a future 2-line role. However, the other two prospects still have a lot to prove before being considered legitimate NHL candidates.


Positions Needed: 2

Projected Prospects: 3 (Brodie, Wotherspoon, Culkin)

Status: YELLOW

Similar to wing the Flames have one prospect (Brodie) that they can rely on in the future. Again, the remaining two players still need to prove their NHL value. However, the Flames do have a high number of 3-line project D prospects who may elevate their projection.

Third Line


Positions Needed: 1

Projected Prospects: 4 (Knight, Horak, Backlund, Arnold)

Status: GREEN

The Flames have four solid prospects who project to be strong 3-line C's in the future.


Positions Needed: 2

Projected Prospects: 2 (Agostino, Galiardi)

Status: ORANGE

The Flames lack depth at this position. Fortunately Galiardi is proven in the NHL already and Agostino has a high likelihood of reaching his projection.


Positions Needed: 2

Projected Prospects: 10 (Ramage, Butler, Russell, Billins, Sieloff, Cundari, Breen, Roy, Kulak, Kanzig)

Status: GREEN

The Flames are rich in bottom pairing defense prospects. Hopefully some of these prospects can surpass their projection and be impact players on a higher line.

Fourth Line


Positions Needed: 1

Projected Prospects: 2 (Reinhart, Bouma)

Status: GREEN

Fourth line C are not difficult to acquire and the Flames have a couple of good candidates in the system.


Positions Needed: 2

Projected Prospects: 3 (Elson, Hanowski, Harrison)

Status: YELLOW

The Flames lack depth at this position with 3 mostly unproven prospects. That said finding fourth line wingers outside of your prospect system isn't usually a problem.


Positions Needed: 2

Projected Prospects: 4 (Gilles, Brossoit, Ortio, Berra)

Status: YELLOW

On one hand the Flames have four players to fill two positions so are relatively deep at this position. On the other hand finding prospects that develop into starting goalies are very difficult to find. Gilles might be the Flames best bet to be a top 15 NHL goalie, but he has a long way to go to prove he can play in the NHL.

I left this position at yellow due to a lack of near NHL ready highly ranked prospects.

In Summary

The Flames have made strong improvements to their prospect system and have built a respectable pool of prospects filling gaps from the 2-line down. But they need to find top line defense and forward talent. Either through younger prospects improving their projections, by acquiring new prospects by draft or trade, or external to their prospect system. They could also use more security in net.

A lot of fans are hoping the Flames draft in the top 5 for the next couple of season. Although I don't advocate losing that is the most certain way of finding top line prospects.

The rebuild is just started folks. I am happy to see an improvement to the prospect pool. But the Flames still need more prospects. And they need time to develop players and get them NHL experience before they can comfortably assess what they have.

Barring a LOT of luck this is probably going to be a long and bumpy road.


I thought it would be interesting to evaluate the various lines that were used through this season and how each line produced. I evaluated even strength only production only. I may look at the PP lines at another time.

TP: % of Time Played

P: % of Points Produced

D: Differential between time played and points produced.

FORWARDS: The Big Guns

Tanguay-Cammalleri-Iginla: TP (2.05%) P (3.95%) D (192.68%)

Tanguay-Stajan-Iginla: TP (3.18%) P (5.59%) D (175.79%)

Tanguay-Jokinen-Iginla: TP (3.74%) P (6.25%) D (167.11%)

Glencross-Jokinen-Stempniak: TP (2.02%) P (2.96%) D (146.53%)

Glencross-Jokinen-Iginla: TP (9.35%) P (13.49%) D (144.28%)

Glencross-Jokinen-Bourque: TP (2.15%) P (2.30%) D (106.98%)

Glencross-Jokinen-Moss: TP (3.58%) P (3.29%) D (91.90%)

Tanguay-Backlund-Iginla: TP (2.01%) P (1.32%) D (60.20%)

Cammalleri-Backlund-Iginla: TP (1.26%) P (0.00%) D (NA)

The most productive line at EV was Glencross-Jokinen-Iginla. However, they also saw the most ice time by a wide margin. The Glencross-Jokinen combo also produced at a similar pace with just about any RW on their line. Their production was identical with Stempniak on the wing and only dropped when anchored by the underachieving Bourque. In short, Iginla was wasted on that line.

The Tanguay-Cammalleri-Iginla line was the most productive in terms of points relative to ice time. However, the sample size of time played is relatively small. The line may be worth a look next season, but more time is needed to determine if it will ultimately be successful.

Perhaps surprising is the production of Tanguay-Stajan-Iginla. They were the second most productive line relative to time played and the third most productive line overall. For a team going into the season with two relatively unknown centres (Backlund, Cervenka) Stajan should be seriously considered to play between Iginla and either Tanguay or Cammalleri.

One of those unknown centre's, Mikael Backlund, had a disappointing season in terms of point production. That is really shown here where his lines failed to produce despite the presense of the big gun wingers in Iginla, Cammalleri, and Tanguay.


Byron-Horak-Stempniak: TP (1.15%) P (2.63%) D (228.70%)

Kostopoulous-Morrison-Jackman: TP (1.93%) P (1.64%) D (84.97%)

Comeau-Backlund-Stempniak: TP (2.94%) P (2.30%) D (78.23%)

Kostopoulous-Horak-Jackman: TP (1.74%) P (0.99%) D (56.90%)

Kostopoulos-Stajan-Jackman: TP (4.48%) P (2.30%) D (51.34%)

Kostopoulos-Jones-Jackman: TP (1.06%) P (0.00%) D (NA)

This was a dogs breakfast due to the number of line combinations made throughout the season. I recorded the most common lines.

One item of note is that Stempniak seems to be able to get the most out of the rookies getting production with Byron, Horak, Comeau, and Backlund. Something to consider if the Flames are planning on getting younger. Especially considering the lack of depth on RW and how injury prone Moss is.

It is also interesting that noboody except Morrison seems to be able to get production from the fourth line. Not that you expect amazing production from the fourth line. But in its present form it doesn't appear to be a hospitable place to park players like Horak, Byron, Stajan, or even Jones. If the Flames continue to go big, bad, and ugly on their fourth line players like Bouma may be better fits.


Babchuk-Giordano: TP (0.94%) P (3.75%) D (398.94%)

Brodie-Smith: TP (2.34%) P (5.00%) D (213.68%)

Babchuk-Smith: TP (2.15%) P (2.50%) D (164.93%)

Giordano-Hannan: TP (19.66%) P (25.00%) D (127.16%)

Babchuk-Hannan: TP (2.39%) P (2.50%) D (104.60%)

Bouwmeester-Butler: TP (26.99%) P (25.00%) D (92.63%)

Brodie-Sarich: TP (11.29%) P (10.00%) D (88.57%)

Hannan-Smith: TP (4.46%) P (3.75%) D (84.08%)

Sarich-Giordano: TP (2.73%) P (1.25%) D (45.79%)

Sarich-Smith: TP (2.85%) P (1.25%) D (43.86%)

Point production is less meaningful for the D. However, there are a couple of notable trends.

First, Sarich doesn't produce with anyone. Despite relatively soft circumstances and a variety of partners he is a point vacuum. His lack of offense and mobility should be seriously considered before signing him to an extension.

Second, Brodie and Babchuk produce with anyone (except Sarich). They should given the soft circumstances they faced and their offensive focus. Babchuk was seriously underutilized last season. Hopefully a new coach will rectify that.

One also has to wonder if Brodie gets an opportunity to play with Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester managed to keep Butler's head above water under very tough circumstances last season and he could be a very good mentor for Brodie. Also, Brodie and Bouwmeester were by far the most productive tandem on the PP last season accounting for 28.57% of points among D on the PP despite only getting 12.69% of the PP time. That tandem, combined with slightly softer circumstances, could bring Bouwmeester out of his offensive slump.


The Rebound Kids

Fans like to make comparisons between the Sutter brothers and their coaching styles. Yet they couldn't be more different. Some will focus on their demeanor or communication styles as key differences. And although that is accurate I don't think that captures the real differences between the two.

Darryl expects effort from his players. Go hit something. Forecheck hard. Shoot the puck. Work, work work. That captures his approach. Darryl is less interested in following the X's and O's and more interested in getting the highest amount of effort from his players.

On the other hand Brent is all about the X's and O's. His expectation is the system. In fact he often mistakes a lack of adherence to his system as a lack of effort. And vice versa. He takes a faceless approach to the game where all players are interchangeable. "There is a certain way to play the game ...." An apt description of his coaching phylosophy.

There are advantages of approaching the game that way. It provides a level of predictability for your goalie. It fits certain playstyles like Glencross and Moss. It allows for interchangeability among the players which was a boon when the Flames were fighting through injuries. It worked for Jokinen who needed to recapture his career. And it simplified the game allowing players like Smith and Butler to play over their heads.

Unfortunately there are also downsides. Most notably it fails to leverage the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of those players that don't fit the mold. Brent made little effort to match his lines or to deploy them in focused ways. Players were truly interchangeable. As a result some players didn't fit while other's didn't play to their potential.

The following players are those I see as most likely benefiting from the coaching change.

Matt Stajan

Stajan appeared to break out in the 08/09 season as a 24-year old putting up 55-points in 76-games. His PPG each season since then:

08/09 (TOR): 0.74

09/10 (TOR): 0.75

09/10 (CGY): 0.48

10/11 (CGY): 0.41

11/12 (CGY): 0.30

In Toronto he spent most of his time with Antropov and Ponikarovsky playing less then 17-minutes per night. Antropov was replaced by Kessel when he came on board. None were putting up huge scoring numbers. He played against middling to tough competition and was a postive possession player. In short he was full value for his production.

Since coming to Calgary Stajan has seen the quality of his line mates steadily decline. He has also seen his ice time drop down to 13-minutes per night with his PP time disapearing entirely.

Matt Stajan has generally produced when given ice time and when paired with the Flames better forwards. However, an inability to thrive in a fourth line checking role combined with a lack of compatibility as one of Sutter's prototypical forwards limited his opportunity.

Returning to 60-point production may not be a realistic expectation. However, being a productive 2-way forward capable of 50-points if given the opportunity under a different coach does seem pracitical.

Jay Bouwmeester

Jay Bouwmeester hasn't been an inadequete player under Sutter. In fact he has continued to be a big minutes mobile shut down defender. However, his 6.8-million dollar contract was inked after 3-consecutive 15-goal and 4-consecutive 40-point seasons. Since then his PPG average has dropped from 0.51 to 0.33. More disturbing his GPG production has droped from 0.17 to 0.05.

Anybody that watched Bouwmeester in Florida knows that his production came from jumping into the play. Bouwmeester doesn't have a strong shot from the point. A large percentage of his production came while 5 on 5 during his time in Florida. He isn't a PP specialist.

In Calgary Bouwmeester has had limited opportunity to jump into the play. Especially 5 on 5. In part due to the system. In part due to facing incredibly tough competition each shift. Hopefully a new coach puts him into situations where he has an opportunity to produce offensively.

Anton Babchuk

Babchuk is what he is. A defensively challenged power play quarterback with an elite level shot. He has the ability to put up double digit goal numbers. Most of them on the PP. When deployed in a sheltered enviroment focusing on offensive situations Babchuk can be a real threat from the right side. However, an inability to interchange into a Sutter sterotypical position severely limited his ice time and games played last season.

Mikael Backlund

Backlund, Like Bouwmeester, has played well under Sutter. Also like Bouwmeester Backlund's strength is his hockey intuition and creativity and there was limited opportunity to play that way under the previous coach. This limited Backlund's offensive opportunities. You could see the impact to Backlund's comfort and confidence has he was shoved into the Sutter box. Hopefully a new coach will embrace what Backlund brings to the table and let him focus on those strengths.

TJ Brodie

Brodie has an incredible offensive awareness. According to Dobber's Hockey Bouwmeester and Brodie were on the ice for 10-points last season. By far the most productive defensive pairing on the PP despite the limited amount of time they were paired together.

Unfortunately we saw Brodie consistently discouraged from jumping into the play while playing EV. As a result we saw his point production drop from 4-points in his first 10-games (0.40, 75% EV) to 10-points in his remaining 44 (0.23, 50% EV).

I am not discounting the improvements we saw to Brodie's overall game. The Flames coaching staff deserve credit for his development. But Brodie isn't just another D-man and I hope the coaching staff of the future recognize the unique skill set he brings to the table and encourages rather then restricts that.


The Right Topic

As a fan it is entertaining to debate about the dramatic topics. The fun topics. Should the Calgary Flames trade Jarome Iginla? Should the Calgary Flames blow up the roster? Perhaps the Flames can trade Iginla for Brayden Schenn and then target Yakupov in the draft. Can you imagine a first line of Baertschi-Schenn-Yakupov? Maybe they get Parise as a free agent. What if they trade Bourque for a first rounder and pick up one of the many D-men in this seasons draft. Drool.

Good times no doubt. Fun topics. But they are the wrong topics.

As a fan I don't need a specifically prescribed strategy followed. Trade Iginla? I can support that. Don't trade him? I can support that as well. Go ahead and blow up the roster. Or don't. I am easy. I am happy to support the Flames management as they apply their strategy to this team. They just need to sell me the right product.

Today Mr. King and Mr. Feaster are trying to sell me wins. But the thing about a win-now strategy is that if you employ it then you better win. Sell me that strategy and then lose and I am going to get a annoyed. Repackage the team to sell me the same thing next season and I get frustrated. Throw a bow on it to sell it to me for a third season and still lose and I am exasperated. Don't you dare to try selling it to me for a fourth time. I am not buying. I don't care how fancy your bow and wrapping are.

What do I want? I want the light at the end of the tunnel. I want a plan with a future. I want hope. I want Ken King and Jay Feaster to stand up and admit that the team they put together can't win right now and then show me a plan to put one on the ice that will in the future. In the absence of wins then sell me hope.

At the end of the day Hockey isn't a product that I can put on my shelf or hold in my hands. Its emotion. Its entertainment. I can rally around a team that I can think will win in the future. I can be entertained by watching Sven Baertschi get better season after season. That is infinitely more appealing then watching this boring brand of hockey not bring results while I wonder what in the heck we are going to do when Kipper and Iggy stop performing.

"We are a lunch pail team with only two stars" (said in my best old father voice). I agree. So go get a better team.

Some of you will tell me that is what Feaster is doing. I disagree. Feaster goes on national television and tells the country that he won't make a trade unless it helps the team today. He guaranteed us a playoff spot. He went after Brad Richards. He went after Ryan Smyth. That sounds like a win-now attitude to me.

Feaster isn't Daryll Sutter sure. He isn't selling the future to buy wins today. Rather he is trying to balance the tight rope of winning today while building the team of tomorrow. The problem is that only works if your team of today is good enough to win today and your prospects and young players are good enough to win tomorrow. Neither is true for the Flames.

In the absence of that you have a non direction. Inactivity. Are you willing to trade players for future assets? Well you can do that. Do you want to trade future assets for players? Because you could do that. Or you could just make a trade for the sake of making a trade. Want to trade my problem for your problem? How about my second liner for your second liner? Those are available. Don't want to do any of that? Well then do nothing.

Very few moves of substance helps you to day and tomorrow. So you do nothing. Or perhaps it is fair to say that you do just short of enough to put a winner on the ice. Well almost winning is getting old. I want to be better then mediocre. I want my bite of carrot already! If you can't give me that then at least tell me about the steak sandwich I can get down the road.

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