So without thinking too deeply about it, here are some thoughts on the season:
The first 30 games, the last 50 games, this whole meme, we don't have time for. If the Flames were really as good as their record for the second half of the season suggests that they were, why do they have such a lousy record against teams that went on to make the playoffs? The Calgary Flames last 50 games showed, if anything, not that they are a good team, but they are the leagues best, or one of the leagues best, bad teams. Certain segments of the fanbase will not be subtle enough to see this point. They hear the team went undefeated in the second half, and they don't think to ask, "Well, who did we play?"
If anything, the tale of two cities was an extreme example of things evening out in the end. Teams have to be truly terrible to crap out in this league, and the Flames were not 14th place terrible. They are also not the second best team in the entire league, trailing only the Vancouver Canucks, which is what they team appeared to be (record wise) during the second half.
We will be straight about this, this team, as currently assembled, has a chance to make the playoffs. If this year was to be replayed on some sort of machine somewhere, we would not be shocked if we ended in the 10th - 7th range. The problem, though, is there are plenty of mediocre teams in this mediocre league, so not every mediocre team has a chance at the 7th and 8th spot. Spending $65 million dollars on a coin flip doesn't seem to us a prudent move.
And that's the hidden elephant in the room. The Calgary Flames are only constrained financially by the salary cap. If they are going to spend to the cap ceiling, and they are going to charge what they charge for tickets, greatness, or at least goodness, is expected. Mediocre doesn't, and shouldn't, cut it.
But it appears being mediocre is the goal. Listening to Feasters presser just now, he claimed the goal of the team this year was to make the playoffs. This isn't a laudable goal. Making the playoffs should be an obvious; the goal is to win a Stanley Cup. If the goal is to make the playoffs, if the goal is to just be minimally effective, if the goal is to be 8th in the conference and 15th in the league, should the team be charging top prices for tickets? There is a disconnect there. We would really hate to see this market get Maple Leafed.
Anyways, and to that end, we feel that this team, the Calgary Flames, owe the fans a mission statement. For two years in a row, and for who knows how long, unmentioned, before that, the goal of this team has been to simply make the playoffs. Why? We believe the team was operating under a false assumption brought on by the 2004 Cup run; that if we simply made the playoffs, we would go far into the playoffs. Obviously, this hasn't worked out, even when we made the playoffs in the past.
It seems to us, in this market, the organizations goals should be higher. The goal should be to win the Stanley Cup. This mantra should permeate the organization, at every level. Ken King should talk about it, Feaster (or whoever Ken King allows to play GM) should talk about it. Jarome and Miikka should talk about it. The marketing campaigns should be built around it. Everyone with a passing interest in hockey, when asked about the Flames, should have in their heads that the team is trying to win a Stanley Cup. We know why the organization doesn't do this: it's hard to win a Stanley Cup, especially when you are handing away tens of millions of dollars to the Matt Stajans of the world. People in the organization don't want to put there jobs and reputations on the line. We would fire those people.
So a mission statement then, should simply be the Calgary Flames are going to win the Stanley Cup in the next X years. We would suggest that it should be in the next three years. And if they don't, then there should be consequences. The new GM should know, before he is hired, what the expectations are, and given a contract with the term to match. If the goal is to win a Cup in the next three years, then the GM should be given a three year contract. Same with the coach.
(Hey, here is a question. Why don't we know the contract terms of the executives? How long did B Sutter sign for? How long is Feaster trying to sign here for? The fans and the media should know this.)
Furthermore, the roles in this organization need to be made public and concrete. If the GM has to pass everything he wants to do by Ken King, we should know.
(Here is another question; why is there all this talk about the future of Brent and the future of Feaster but not a single solitary peep about the future of Ken King?)
Look, this team can spend to the cap ceiling, and has incredible support in the market. Without ever having played a game in the Calgary Flames organization, we think we can assume that the organization treats its players well. Olli Jokinen said as much when he resigned here. We might not have some of the selling points of other markets (namely, hot weather and anonymity), but we do have excellent selling points to attract free agents to Calgary. Plus the team has cash. There is no reason that the talent cannot be assembled to make a run for a Stanley Cup.
We want the organization thinking big, not small. Stanley Cups are big, 8th place is small. For some of you, 8th place is a fine place to be. You remember the 90's. Fine, we do too, but the deprivation experienced then shouldn't make us caustic and jaded now. If this organization aims high, when it fails, we will fail high. If the goal is truly to win a Stanley Cup, that behooves the organization to assemble a quality team. If the team fails in it's goals of winning a Cup, it will probably at least have made the playoffs (failing high). If the teams goal is truly to simply make the playoffs (which means be 8th place, for those who don't speak the code), then if we fail, we fail low. Like this year, and the year before, where we failed to 10th. Don't know about you guys, but we would rather fail high then low.
Which, in a roundabout way, brings us to Brad Richards. Very simply, if we were Murray Edwards, we would tell Ken King to tell Jay Feaster that if he wanted to be the Flames GM, then he had better sign Brad Richards. Look, lets be real here, Jay Feaster has no other pursuers for his services. He won't balk if the organization offers him a one year contract. What we would do is say to Jay that we are extending him one year, and if he doesn't sign Brad Richards, he probably won't get another one. If he does, he gets extended out to whatever the period is the team has chosen to win a Stanley Cup in (going back to the mission statement that this team should use).
Already we can hear you going 'signing Brad Richards is unserious'. To this, we say that signing Curtis Glencross to a big money, long term contract is unserious. Even more to the point, how is bringing back Tanguay and Glencross improving the team? It isn't, it is maintaining the team, it is not making the team any worse. But it isn't improving it, it is treading water. And the Flames need to actually get better. Does anyone out there doubt that Brad Richards (0.93 PPG) isn't a better player than Curtis Glencross (0.49 PPG) or Alex Tanguay (0.84 PPG)?
Actually, it's close with Alex, homey just doesn't play centre...
Anyways, with all that said, it seems prudent that we present some sort of vision for this team.
The club, as it currently stands for next year: (Numbers from Capgeek.com)
Without bringing back any of the UFA's, and without signing anybody above a league minimum contract to replace the departed, the team would have $2,059,167 in cap space. That isn't a lot.
It is about to get worse. Because, the team wouldn't be bringing in free agents who are on minimum contracts. With 'player development' being all the rage these days (we feel that this is wrong because the NHL isn't a developmental league, but we digress) we would probably end up playing players from the Heat.
So let's see what that would look like:
Oh boy. That would leave us with about $1,765,835 in cap space. The assumptions in this spreadsheet are simple. If you had a contract for the 2011-2012 season, you probably made it on the list. That is why Breen is on the list over Pelech, for example. The organization currently doesn't have any goalies of note besides Kiprusoff on the roster for the 2011-2012 season, so we assumed Karlsson at a small raise would be back. This is not an endorsement, because we don't know if we want four kids on the defence for next year. If only they could find a way to move that Bouwmeester fellow and replace one defender at 6.7 for two defenders at 6.7...
Anyways, if you go by the above charts, you are thinking the Brad Richards dream is over. Not the case.
The team can be over the cap by 10%. That's about 6.2 million dollars the team can be over the cap (during the offseason). The team would have to have salaries below the cap ceiling come the start of the season. You know what you can do during training camp? Send players down to the Heat. Which players can we send down? The ever so useful Ales Kotalik and Nik Hagman (and unless capgeek is lying to us, you could send Gio down too, but really, let's not think such thoughts). That is about it, because most other players on the roster have NMC or NTC's, but that's about all you need. Currently, the apple of our eye takes up 7.8 million dollars in cap space. If we assume Mr. Richards at the same cap hit, we can afford to bring him in ($1,765,835 in cap space plus the 10% 'overdraft limit' of $6.2 million gives us $7,965,835 to work with).
Now, of course, you try to circumvent the hell out of this salary cap with this contract. Richards would be in his age 30-31 season, so one could reasonably expect five more years of reasonable hockey out of him. So with a wink and a nudge, you offer him a 10 year contract. $70 million dollars over 10 years would bring Richards cap hit in line with Iginla's, while allowing Richards to get his cash as well. The assumption here is that when Richards is 36 and older, he may retire. The team would still have to pay him, but the cap hit goes away.
There is one problem with this scenario. It puts us extremely close against the cap. If Hagman and Kotalik are sent down, and we sign Brad Richards, and we replace the UFA's with the kids from the farm, we would still be over the cap. Because if we send Hagman and Kotalik down, we need to bring up two players. If we replace one of those two with Richards, we would have only $765,835 worth of cap space to replace the other one with. Which means that Nemisz can't be called up because he makes too much money. Most likely, we would be forced to bring up someone cheap like Stefen Meyers instead.
And it would look like this:
As you can see, we have tried to be as realistic about costs as possible. Stajan hasn't been traded off our roster, niether has JBlow, and Langkow has not retired. What the main point of this exercise was about was to show that it is indeed possible to sign Brad Richards, without having to make up trades and what not. We even used the more expensive kids from the farm over some hypothetical minimum wage NHL player.
Would this group have enough? Well, Jarome, Richards, Bourque, and Moss are all players that scored at a higher rate than one goal per 60 minutes of icetime. The team would still be able to score goals, even missing Glencross and Tanguay. Richards would give Jarome that mythical centre, while allowing David Moss to play on the second line, which would allow the team to play Langkow in the 'shut-down' role. Jokinen would move over to the wing, and Stajan would probably have to as well. The main drawback of this plan is it does nothing to address the clubs main concern, which is the defence.
Which is something we will address at a later date. It's nice out and we have spent way too much fucking time in front of this computer screen.
Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias should be fired.