Well another season and come and gone, only this time there were no expectations for playoffs. In fact, there were few expectations at all. Because of the clean slate, Flames fans were delightfully impressed. Even though Calgary sat 5th worse in the entire league, it was the team’s play down the stretch that left the faithful feeling less helpless then say, you know, those fans further North.
No playoff hockey still means a failure, so how about we take a look at these players and offer up some thoughts about their progress / contributions?
In alphabetical order.
#51 KENNY AGOSTINO
Playing in only 8 games and registering a goal and an assist, Kenny will likely play the entire hockey season next year on the farm club. He does, however, have better hands than say Ben Hanowski, the other third of the Jarome Iginla deal. Agostino may peak at a solid 2nd line winger, but look for him on the third line to start the 2015-16 season.
#46 BILL ARNOLD
Only one game played for the centreman who’s mostly known for playing in the middle of Jon Gaudreau. Arnold has size and may round out to be a solid two way centreman. Suddenly the Flames are looking at options down the middle in the not so distant future. A full season in the AHL will help his progression.
#11 MIKAEL BACKLUND
Stand out year for Backlund. He probably would’ve hit the 20 goal plateau if it weren’t for injuries late in the year. Around the end of November Backlund started to turn his game around and gained the much needed confidence to play against top line centres all year round. He showed great improvement in his two-way play, arguably the Flames’ top 2-way centreman, and he also put up the points with 39. Look for another solid year this coming season. His improvement will be in the areas of size and on the face-off dot.
#17 LANCE BOUMA
You get what you pay for with Bouma and then some. The rugged left-winger played mostly fourth line minutes all season but was one of the most consistent Flames players all year. His work ethic combined with his penalty killing made him a fan favorite. The Flames need players like Bouma, and although he was pressed into bigger minutes and doesn’t have the offensive skill, he’s a keeper on the 4th.
#32 PAUL BYRON
Byron started the season on the farm club, and then before the Olympic break was told to find a place in Calgary. His game improved with time on the second and third lines. Despite his size he packs a punch and honestly will make management decide whether or not he should be signed. The reality is he’s shown he’s capable to play in the league, albeit his size is the problem. There’s a possibility in my mind he sticks for one more season, even though the Flames want to get bigger, since they’re gameplan eventually includes Gaudreau who won’t be playing on the big club next year. He has tenacity, just not the size. Tough to see if he’s qualified.
#13 MIKE CAMMALLERI
Cammalleri really picked up his game after the trade deadline, but before that was quietly putting up numbers despite a slow start. He lead the Flames in goals with 26. Arguably the most talented Flames on the roster, Cammalleri will be looking at greener pastures this off-season in an attempt to maximize his free-agency. Despite the fact the Flames offered him a deal, it’s unlikely he will be back, and it was unlikely the Flames could’ve received much for him at trade deadline. This story is probably going to end with Cammalleri exiting the organization. Once he goes, look for the Flames to make a splash in free agency for another winger, albeit bigger.
#8 JOE COLBORNE
Size is the new identity of the club and Colborne was brought in just for that. He has upside with his skill, and he still has room to fill into his 6’5″ frame. Colborne started the season as a centreman and even supplanted Mike Backlund early on. However, with a glut of centres on the roster Colborne was moved to the LW where he learned another facet to the game and managed to control the puck down low using his size. Despite lower offensive numbers it seemed as though he found his game late in the season. Expectations will be higher this upcoming season.
#39 TJ GALIARDI
Brought in under Jay Feaster, the local product Galiardi was mostly a bust. His disappointing season saw him sitting in the press-box many nights, and working mostly 3rd line minutes. Despite speed Galiardi didn’t put up the points he was expected to. Don’t expect him to be back.
#53 JOHNNY GAUDREAU
He only played one game but the hype around Jon Gaudreau, especially late in the season, made it seem he was a regular player. Whether or not he’s the ‘real deal’ will depend on how well he takes the speed and size of the professional game. A full season in the AHL is likely given his stature. Without additional size he’s prone to injury at the NHL level. Skill isn’t the issue. He has incredible hands and will get a chance to showcase his stuff at the NHL level in 2015-2016 IMO.
#20 CURTIS GLENCROSS
Injuries hampered Glencross this season, however, he can still score goals. So long as the local product wants to stay the Flames would do well to keep him as he’s taking a deep home town discount. If he buys into the system wholeheartedly there’s no reason he doesn’t become a mainstay on the club.
#24 JIRI HUDLER
Leading the team in points, and leading the young players in a maturation process, may not be enough to keep Hudler around. You get the sense that Hudler, along with Baertschi, are two players that have great skill, but lack the grit the Brian Burke fanclub wants around. At 4 million a season Hudler still contributes, and he’s signed until 2015-16, so unless he can be moved for comparable skill he’s probably not going anywhere.
#54 DAVID JONES
Along with Galiardi, the David Jones experiment that started with Jay Feaster was a complete bust. The added issue with Jones is his contract, 3 million dollars for 9 goals. Does he produce more if he can stay healthy? Time will tell, he’s under contract for another year and it’s unlikely any other team will take the chance on him for the price tag.
#16 BRIAN MCGRATTAN
Outside of the captain Brian Mcgrattan probably holds the title of fan favorite. He put up career numbers in points (which isn’t saying much), yet more importantly created an atmosphere that made the Flames what they became later in the year. His style of play, and his continued status as the league’s most feared pugilist, are all things the Flames want, need, and will need in years to come (although how long he can keep playing is the question.)
#23 SEAN MONAHAN
Let’s not forget that Monahan started at an 18 year old and could’ve went down to play in the OHL if the Flames didn’t keep him after 9 games. But he stayed. That’s how good he is. There are only a handful of draft picks that can make that jump, but his size, maturity, and his offensive touch made Monahan stick with the big club. Flames fans were delighted to see him pot his 20th goal in what many are hoping is a sign of better things to come. If he can develop an edge there’s no reason why Monahan can’t emerge as a Jonathan Toews like player.
#18 MATT STAJAN
Resigned for another 3 years, everybody’s favorite whipping boy will be sticking around. Considering he came part of the Phaneuf trade and never put up the offensive numbers that anybody expected I’m surprised he was resigned. However, for the role he’s playing, as a solid veteran centre for a young team, his contributions will be needed. He’s also finding the net more often which helps.
#48 BRYCE VAN BRABANT
Only a couple of games for the newly signed free-agent out of college. Being a local boy, one with size, helps his cause. Whether he can stick with the big club is questionable. Foot speed and stick skills will be the issue. A full season in the minors will help him progress to a 4th or 3rd line position on the big club.
#15 KEVIN WESTGARTH
Perhaps the dumbest move of the season, getting rid of Tim Jackman and then giving up picks for Westgarth, essentially the same player. Not to knock Westgarth, he puts it all on the line, but there are plenty of players that do the same thing. The only thing Westgarth has going for him is a bit more size. It’s unclear whether or not he will be resigned. One would think there might be someone within the organization that could take his place.
#7 TJ BRODIE
Not too many points, but certainly growth by leaps and bounds. If Brodie can put on a bit more size he’ll be mainstay on the blue line for years to come. Playing with Girodano helps, but this puck moving defenceman is exactly what the team needed with the departure of Jay Bouwmeester last year. He’s young and has lots to prove and is one of the shining spots on the team. He was also nearly the rare plus player on the team (finishing the season even.)
#44 CHRIS BUTLER
As a UFA it’s unclear whether or not the Flames will resign Butler. Part of the Regher trade from eons ago (it seems) Butler quietly asserted himself as a capable 5-6 dman, although playing more minutes than that on most nights. The question is whether or not the club can find someone like him, with more size, on the free agent market this Summer. That will dictate whether or not he’s resigned. Many fans, for some reason, don’t want to see that.
#5 MARK GIORDANO “C”
The identity of the team was put in very capable hands despite some apprehension amongst fans. Mark Giordano lead the team primarily through is commitment to the program and work ethic. Despite being hurt for 18 games this season he put up career numbers with 47 points. With a healthy season we could very well be talking about Giordano in the Vezina discussion. He was possibility for the Olympic Team, and although he didn’t ‘make it, the Flames are happy to have him in the fold. Look for him to sign longterm for a pay increase at the end of next season.
#4 KRIS RUSSELL
Lacks size yet was resigned under the Brian Burke regime in his tenure at temp-GM. Russell moves the puck and commits to the system so those are all pluses. He doesn’t have size or an edge so it’s questionable whether or not you build a Stanley Cup winner with him.
#3 LADISLAV SMID
Why the Oilers got rid of Smid is anybody’s guess. He’s a stay at home defenceman but he also has an edge that you see game in and game out. That kind of play was lacking on the blueline and Smid answers the call. Couple in the fact he consistently blocks shots with his face and you have a true gritty Flames D man the Fans love.
#6 DENNIS WIDEMAN
Injuries cut short Wideman’s season. For his price tag his fell below expectations. He also has a couple years left. Flames fans want him out, it’s unclear whether or not anybody will take him. The reality is Wideman has offensive capabilities and is a good puck moving defenceman. If he can up his game so he’s harder to play agains then he’ll be fine.
#56 TYLER WOTHERSPOON
The future is bright for Wotherspoon. Stepping in for injuries and the demoted Shane O’Brien, Wotherspoon was consistent. Once he fills in (injured as most young players who haven’t fully developed get) he may be the diamond in the rough like Brodie, albeit with less offensive talent.
In goal the Flame started with Kari Ramo and Joey MacDonald. They also, much to everyones surprise, ended the same way. MacDonald was demoted early in the year to make room for Reto Berra, who although showed flashes he was a capable NHL goalie, still had room to grow. He (Berra) obviously showed enough to warrant Colorado investing a second rounder for his rights at the trade deadline. The tune for a #1 goalie changed mid-way through the year, and was solidified at the end with Kari Ramo emerging as clear winner. The Finnish goalie has shown he is capable to carry the load, and with a full NHL season under his belt, he will only be better next year. Whether or not he’s a cup contending goalie remains to be seen.
Players we caught glimpses of:
There were a few players that should be mentioned that we caught glimpses of, most notable the surprise of Markus Granland at C, and another Finn, Joni Ortio, at Goal. Ortio won’t make the big club, the team wants him to carry the full workload in the AHL rather than tote the clipboard up in the big’s. Grandlund has shown his smart and capable at the NHl level, whether there’s room for him for the roll he plays yet is questionable, but Flames should be happy they have another emerging C-man.
What were your thoughts after this season? Anybody you want to see gone? Anybody who was the unsung hero? post your thoughts.