Tag: Calgary Flames


Calgary Flames ’15-16 Outlook


For the most part, there should be optimism in Cowtown.

After a great ’14-15 campaign in which they exceeded all expectations, the Flames had themselves an equally successful summer. GM Brad Treliving struck the perfect chord of adding to his upstart team without sacrificing youth or prospects; Dougie Hamilton came aboard at the expense of three draft picks while Michael Frolik joined in free agency, much like Karri Ramo, who was brought back to recreate last year’s successful goalie tandem with Jonas Hiller.

The Flames didn’t lose much, either.

Spare veteran parts like Raphael Diaz, David Schlemko and Brian McGrattan walked in free agency, and with good reason; the postseason emergence of youngsters like Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett and Tyler Wotherspoon made the older guys expendable.

The real excitement in Calgary, though, is the prospect of putting everything together. Up front, the dynamic trio of Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Jiri Hudler will be back for another go-round, only this time they’ll have depth behind them: Frolik, a full season of Bennett, a full season of Mikael Backlund (remember, he missed 30 games last season) and a real wildcard in Ferland, who showed flashes of being a havoc-wreaking power forward in the playoffs.

On defense? Imagine if that all comes together too. Adding Hamilton, getting Giordano back, building off the excellent playoffs from T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell — the Flames could have one of the better bluelines in the Western Conference.

So yes, Calgary certainly has momentum heading into ’15-16, but momentum can be a fickle thing. Especially when you’re trying to carry it from one year to the next.

What the Flames won’t have going for them is the element of surprise. It’s fair to say they snuck up on some few opponents last year, especially during their 17-8-2 start, but that’s unlikely to happen again. They’re a tough out, and the rest of the NHL now knows it. Upon being introduced to the Calgary media in July, Frolik, the former Winnipeg Jet, acknowledged part of his reason for signing in Calgary was recognizing how good the team was — and will be.

“With me and Dougie, I think that [expectations are] just going to be higher and higher,” he explained, per the Herald. “With what the guys did last year, the goal is for sure to make the playoffs.”

Calgary will also likely need to improve on its puck possession and shot-based metrics — we touched on that earlier today — but those improvements have a good chance of happening thanks to the new roster additions, and the maturation of incumbent youngsters.

Put it all together, and it’s easy to see why the organization’s already thinking about another boisterous postseason in front of the Sea of Red.

“Players want to be in a good situation, they want to have a chance to win,” Treliving said. “In the playoffs, seeing the atmosphere in the building, seeing this city come alive, seeing the support and the passion that our fans have, makes players excited.”

Flames’ biggest question: When will Giordano re-sign?

Calgary Flames v Anaheim Ducks

“Everybody in this room knows what Mark means. On the ice, we all know. He’s a culture-setter for me. We plan to get to work at it [contract extension] and have done some preliminary work at it, but it’s one we want to get wrapped up real quick this summer.”

That was Flames GM Brad Treliving on May 12, shortly after Calgary was bounced from the playoffs by Anaheim.

At the time, optimism was high. The Flames had made the playoffs for the first time in five years, won a series for the first time in 11 years, witnessed a slew of young talents playing big roles and, perhaps most impressively, did it all despite losing Giordano — their captain, leader and best player — to a season-ending biceps tear in late February.

But much has changed since May 12.

For one, there was Giordano’s initial ask. Per TSN, the 31-year-old — heading into the last of a five-year deal with a $4.02M cap hit — opened at around $9 million per year. Yes, this is how most negotiations start and yes, that number will eventually be lower. But it’s still an eye-popping figure in a vitally important negotiation.

Remember, Calgary’s already spent some fairly big coin this summer. Treliving made Dougie Hamilton the team’s highest-paid player (in terms of cap hit, anyway) with a six-year, $34.5 million deal, then made Michael Frolik the club’s highest-paid forward with a five-year, $21.5 million pact.

And looking down the road, Giordano isn’t the only big contract in Treliving’s future. Sean Monahan, coming off a terrific 31-goal campaign, and Calder finalist Johnny Gaudreau will also need new deals after this season.

The good news for Calgary is there’s no cap crunch standing in the way of things. The Giordano extension will get done, but it’s easy to see why it hasn’t happened yet.

Let’s assume that, when the contract is signed, Giordano will surpass Hamilton as the team’s biggest earner. It would be bizarre for any Flame, let alone a d-man, to be paid more, especially since Giordano was considered to be a Norris Trophy frontrunner at the time of his injury; he still managed to finish 13th among NHL blueliners in scoring last year, with 48 points, despite missing 21 games.

So there’s that to figure out.

There’s also how much term the Flames want to give. For as good as he was last year, Giordano will be 32 by the time next season opens and is coming off a major injury, marking the third time in the last four seasons that’s happened — a torn hamstring cost him major time in ’11-12, and a broken ankle sidelined him for weeks in ’13-14.

Finally, there’s the timing. It stands to reason both Calgary and Giordano want the extension done before the season starts, to avoid the distraction it may cause when games start to matter.

At last check — in early July — Treliving said the negotiation was underway, after getting sidetracked by the Hamilton trade and free agency.

“Mark’s our captain and our leader, and we’re gonna work away at getting that done,” he said, per the Calgary Sun. “No update on the talks with Mark, other than it remains a priority for us to continue and work away at and get to a good conclusion.”

Looking to make the leap: Sam Bennett

Vancouver Canucks v Calgary Flames - Game Three

While some might argue Sam Bennett already made “the leap,” it’s important to remember he only played 12 games last year — 11 of which came in the playoffs.

So more of a hop than a leap, really.

Which is why we’re profiling the 19-year-old here. For all the promise Bennett showed in ’14-15 — three postseason goals, boundless energy, quality net-front presence — this is the year where he’ll try to establish himself as a full-time NHLer because, despite that stellar spring cameo, Bennett isn’t guaranteed a roster spot this fall.

“It’s still the NHL,” Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy told NHL.com in July. “There are no givens. You play bad in training camp, and that’s not good.

“[Bennett’s] mindset is he’s going to do this and this and this, but you just don’t want to feel like it’s going to be given. You want him to know he has to come and earn it. It’s earned, not given.”

Taken fourth overall by Calgary in 2014, Bennett really hasn’t played much hockey in the last 12 months. A torn labrum in his left shoulder limited him to 15 games with OHL Kingston last year, and from there he transitioned straight his 12-game stint with Calgary. Heck, Bennett was green enough to take part in the Flames’ prospect development camp last month, which further illustrated just how inexperienced he is.

“I’m still only 19 years old,” he explained. “I think there is tons that I still need to learn.”

It’s worth noting that, after last year’s impressive showing, the Flames know the stakes have been raised. Prized offseason acquisitions Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik have raised expectations and, at center, Bennett will be in tough for minutes with the likes of Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Josh Jooris and Matt Stajan — all of whom are older, and more experienced.

That said, Bennett thinks what he showed in the postseason is proof he’s ready for a full-time gig.

“I feel like I proved myself in the playoffs,” Bennett said. “Obviously it’s not going to change the way I act or anything.

“I’m still going to work as hard as I can to make this team again.”

Under Pressure: Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton

First, there was the big trade.

Then, the big contract.

Now? The big expectations.

That’s what d-man Dougie Hamilton faces this season, his first in Calgary, after this summer’s blockbuster move from Boston and his subsequent contract — all six years and $34.5 million of it.

“I think the expectations are going to be higher,” Hamilton admitted earlier this summer, per the Calgary Sun. “But I think in Boston there’s a lot of scrutiny from fans and expectations for me when I came in, being a top-10 pick.

“I think I handled that fine and think it’ll be the same here, just have fun and play my game.”

Though the Flames and GM Brad Treliving have been quick to classify the 22-year-old Hamilton as an “emerging talent” and remind everyone he’s still young, there will be pressure on Hamilton produce, probably more than the 10 goals and 42 points he notched in Boston last year (which, by most measures, was a pretty productive season.)

There’s also that price tag.

At $5.75 million, Hamilton will be the highest-paid Flame — at least in terms of cap hit — next season. That’s ahead of a slew of older, more experienced veterans, including captain and team leader Mark Giordano (who, it must be mentioned, needs a new deal himself) and last year’s leading scorer, Jiri Hudler.

As for other challenges? Oh, you know: Develop rapport with a different defensive partner, get comfortable in new surroundings, make the switch from Eastern to Western Conference and establish a relationship with a fairly demanding head coach. Stuff that most veteran players would find overwhelming, let alone a guy with less than 200 NHL games on his resume.

Which is probably why Hamilton, like Treliving, also trying to temper expectations.

“You can’t really put too much pressure on yourself, better to just do your best and try to be as consistent as you can,” he explained. “It’s interesting. I’m still 22 and there’s a long future ahead, so I think there’s a lot of development.

“I think I have that ceiling that hasn’t been hit and hopefully do my best to reach my potential.”

It’s Calgary Flames day at PHT

Anaheim Ducks v Calgary Flames - Game Four

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Calgary Flames.

Calgary’s 2014-15 campaign could be summed up with one word:


Heading into the season with low expectations and riding a five-year playoff drought, the Flames surprised everyone not just by making the postseason — squeezing out the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings in the process — but also winning their first series in 11 years. Impressively, Calgary did this without the services of captain and top defenseman Mark Giordano, who was lost for the year in late February with a torn biceps.

Individuals exceeded expectations as well.

Bob Hartley, in the last year of his contract, earned himself a two-year extension and then won the Jack Adams as coach of the year. Jiri Hudler smashed his career-high in points, with 76, and went on to capture the Lady Byng. Johnny Gaudreau, who wasn’t even on Bovada’s preseason list of Calder favorites, finished as one of three finalists for rookie of the year.

So, needless to say… it was a pretty stellar year in Cowtown.

Off-season recap

GM Brad Treliving’s second summer in Calgary was by far his most exciting. His boldest move, no question, was orchestrating the blockbuster deal that saw ex-Bruin Dougie Hamilton come aboard for a package of draft picks; Treliving then wasted little time locking up the 22-year-old blueliner, inking him to a six-year, $34.5 million deal.

In free agency, Treliving continued to make significant moves. Former Winnipeg forward Michael Frolik was brought aboard for five years at $21.5 million, and the club opted to bring back goalie Karri Ramo for another year in tandem with Jonas Hiller.

The Flames also re-upped with a few of their quality RFAs — Mikael Backlund, Lance Bouma, Josh Jooris, Paul Byron — and might’ve scored the steal of the draft when Swedish d-man Oliver Kylington, who some had pegged as a potential first-rounder, slipped to them at No. 60.

The only thing Treliving hasn’t done yet, it seems, is sign off on his “No. 1 priority” for the summer — an extension for Giordano. The veteran d-man still has a year left on his deal, so there doesn’t appear to be any rush, but it is worth noting that reports suggested Giordano’s initial ask was for a whopping $9 million per season.

If those contract talks go sideways, they could take the shine off what’s been an otherwise sparkling summer.