Calgary Flames: Where to go from here?
Calgary has a good team. They have had a good team for years. The problem with this good team it isn’t good enough. They are also getting old, fast. As Detroit perpetually reminds us, old isn’t necessarily bad (especially on D), but there are certain scenarios in which old is bad.
No right minded hockey fan would deny that what makes Calgary good every year is Miikka Kipursoff. Not that this team is talentless, but Miikka is a perpetual workhorse that consistently puts up good numbers. Why is this a problem? Well, Kipper is 36 with one year remaining on his contract after this season. He may very well want to sign with the Flames again or look to go to a contender in his last year or two. Though the signs aren’t pronounced, he is starting to look his age in net, something a tightly packed season likely won’t help.
Next problem: Jerome Iginla, the Flames Captain and best skater is 35 and in the last year of his deal. Having been with the Flames organization his whole career, it is understandable that he would want to stay with the Flames. On the other hand, like Kipper, he’s likely only got another season or two at a high level with no cup rings to tote. Maybe he doesn’t resign with the flames next year…
Why are these two players so important? Well, without them the flames are almost certainly a league bottom feeder. You cut the star goalie and best forward and Calgary would have a hard time frightening any team. They could easily lose Iggy after this season and Kipper after next season. As I see it, they have two options: Trade these two while they still have value or improve to a cup contender in the next 1-3 years.
If we’re being realistic, the second option is a very long shot. Most preseason predictions had them finishing between 11-7 in a competitive Western Conference. If their first games are representative of the remainder of the season, 11-7 might be very generous.
This leads to the conclusion that they have to do something with their two best players while they still have value. If they were to get rid of both of them and collect a total of two round 1 picks, 2-3 round two picks, and a few prospects, plus their own picks, they are on their way to a rebuild. The Flames also have the advantage of having few players signed beyond next season, making what assets they do have more attractive and low risk. Cammalleri, Stajan, Stempniak, Bouwmeester, and Sarich’s contracts are all up after next season. Only Hudler, Tanguay, Glencross, Giordano, and Wideman are signed long term.
Losing Iggy and Kipper alone would likely mean a top 5 pick; swapping Cammalleri, Stjan, Bouwmeester, and co for prospects would almost guarantee it. Some of them (Jay Bo) have contract to performance ratio issues, but retain some trade value, particularly because of their short contracts. This strange and short, though condensed, season could have a handful of teams looking to go deep this year that could benefit from some vets bolstering the lineup.
If Calgary wanted to tank it would be easy. They could fetch a decent return for their crop of talent, hold onto some of their younger and long term signings, draft well this year, and already be on their way to a rebuild next year. If they do it right and get some luck (especially with the G position) they could only need one full season (next season) of tanking to get back into the running with a young crop.
Picks and prospects are always risky, but you can’t defy time, and unless Miikka and Jerome are willing to wait in a cryogenic freezing tank for a few years, they won’t be able to carry the Flames on their back much past this season, if they still can at all.