Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Flames Player Power Rankings - The Offseason Edition

The Calgary Flames had a banner year last year, with many of their players enjoying career-highs in multiple categories and the team as a whole making the playoffs for the first time in six years.

And now, they're not playing anymore. Thanks, Anaheim.

However, let us not let that detract from what a great experience last year was. So let's reflect on the 2014-15 season, and rank the guys* who gave us the great year that was.

*Only players who played 4 games + (including regular season and playoffs), and traded players are not included (Sorry, Glencross).

Not pictured: Paul Byron looking for a breakaway pass.
(Credit: Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports)
1. Mark Giordano
 What better way to start off these rankings than with the captain of the team?  Gio was instrumental to the Flames' success this year - he was their leader, their martyr, their example to follow. He drove possession, was leading all defensemen in points until he got injured, and would be a lock for the Norris had the aforementioned injury never happened. He was an All-Star, and the Flames' best player this year, and they must resign him.

2. Jiri Hudler
'Huds' had a career year in 2014-15, finishing in the top ten in the National Hockey League's scoring race, and leading his team in scoring with a career-high 76 points, 31 of which were goals. He helped to form one of the most potent lines in hockey with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and helped to solidify his status on the team as a leader. He also finished second in team scoring in the playoffs, with 8 points in 11 games.

3. Johnny Gaudreau
The guy who finished ahead of Hudler in playoff scoring with 9 points in 11 games was Johnny Gaudreau. 'Johnny Hockey', arguably the best rookie in the League this past season, burst onto the scene in 2014-15. The pint-sized left winger posted up 24 goals and added 40 assists for a 64-point year. He is also a finalist for the Calder Trophy along with Mark Stone from Ottawa and Aaron Ekblad from Florida.

Then I went up to Hudler and I said, "nice pass, Jiri." And he said, "actually, Sean, Johnny gave you that pass." And we laughed. It was so funny.
(Credit: Candice Ward - USA Today Sports)
4. Sean Monahan
Monahan renounced the sophomore slump in 2014-15, almost doubling his point total from the previous season. He scored 30 goals for the first time in his career, joining Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Daymond Langkow, Kristian Huselius, and Valeri Bure as the only Flames to do so since the turn of the century.

5. T.J. Brodie
Brodie took great strides in his development this past season, as he helped to drive possession and add a hint of a scoring touch to a potent Flames defense corps. Brodie complemented Mark Giordano very well on the top pairing and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future - his five-year extension kicks in this year.

6. Kris Russell
What a find! Russell was a very pleasant surprise for the Flames this year, providing valuable experience and skill on the new, de facto top pairing with Dennis Wideman after Mark Giordano went down with a bicep injury, on the way to establishing a new NHL record for blocked shots in a season. Bonus points for scoring a heartbreaker with 30 seconds left against Vancouver in game 1 of the first round of the playoffs.
Frustrated by not wearing a hat like his spectator companions, Mikael Backlund attempts to make do by other means.
Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports
7. Mikael Backlund
Mikael Backlund had a strong season in 2014-15. The veteran centre posted respectable point totals whilst being, by far and away, the club's best defensive forward. Although he was snakebitten in the playoffs (due largely in part to a low shooting percentage and a minor injury), he still played with lots of heart, and helped his team get past the Canucks into a second-round date with the Anaheim Ducks. Backlund has previously served - although not this past year - as a third assistant captain during injuries to captain Mark Giordano.

8. Dennis Wideman
2014-15 was a breakout year for Wideman, who potted 15 goals and finished fourth on the entire team in points with 56 - both of which are career-highs. He really meshed with Kris Russell to form a formidable second pairing for the team, and was able to step up and fill the void left by their injured captain in March, and also served as an assistant captain while Mark Giordano was hurt this past seaon.

T9. Karri Ramo
T9. Jonas Hiller
I'm listing the goalies together for one reason - they worked so well together, they meshed so well together, that they almost seemed to form one collective player. Although Ramo and Hiller both have different styles - Hiller tends to be more of a stand-up goalie while Ramo is a butterfly guy - they shared the net equally well and both of them were adept in pressure situations. I have Ramo listed ahead of Hiller due to his performance in the playoffs, but Hiller was more consistent in the regular season and I think that they share this rank as well as they shared the crease in 2014-15.

That's actually the Flames' bench.
Candice Ward - USA Today Sports
11. Lance Bouma
Lance Bouma was a thorn in many an opposition player's sides this year, as his bang-and-crash mentality mixed with a newfound ability for finding the back of the net with explosive results. Bouma scored 16 times this year, a career high, and finished with 34 points. He also finished second on the team in penalty minutes with 54 - he only ended up behind Brandon Bollig, who had 88. Of course, Bouma had a sky-high shooting percentage in 2014-15 of 15.4%, but he is only 25, so you can potentially expect improvement in the future to offset potentially, dare I say, unsustainable luck.
12. Sam Bennett 
Where to begin? Sam Bennett only played one regular season game this year, and got exactly one point. Not a bad start, and if his year with the Flames had ended there, we'd all be able to look back on that game and say, "I like what I see, and I can't wait for the future!"
His year with the Flames did not end there.
No, Bennett added 11 playoff games to his total in 2014-15, and ended up third in goals, with 3, and fifth in points, with 4, among all Flames players in the extra season. Oh, and one of those goals was a game-winner. Said game-winner gave the Flames back the series lead, and with it, all of the momentum.
Get excited, Calgary.

13. Josh Jooris
Where did he come from? Jooris, an undrafted free agent signing from the Feaster regime, was famously pencilled in by coach Bob Hartley at the very beginning of the season - even before the Young Stars tournament in Penticton - for one pre-season game, before he'd be sent to the minors.
Then, this happened.
Well, as it turned out, the man they call 'Churros' ended up playing sixty games in 2014-15 - and that's only in the regular season. Jooris added 9 more in the playoffs, for 69 total. Not only that, he actually contributed in those games, and really - he scored 12 goals and added 12 assists in the regular season (he was hurt for much of the playoffs and played injured when he did draw into the lineup). Not bad for a 24-year-old undrafted kid.

"Ow, Brian!" "Sorry, Dave, force of habit."
(Credit: Bruce Fedyck - USA Today Sports)
14. David Jones
Ol' Jonesy had a solid year in 2014-15, contributing regularly offensively while serving as the Flames' only real power forward for most of the year. Jones scored 30 points in 67 games last year, while playing mostly on a line with Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan. However, in the playoffs, Jones really stepped up his game - he formed a sort of tag-team duo with Micheal Ferland and gave the Canucks all sorts of trouble in the first round. Jones scored 5 points in 11 games during, including a massive goal in the first game of round one when things looked very bleak for the Flames.

15. Markus Granlund
'Granny' saw limited action for the Flames last year, but he made the most of it, scoring 18 points, including 8 goals, in 48 games with the big club. The Finn continued his consistent play in the playoffs, maintaining his approximate points-per-game average by nabbing 1 assist in his three games that he dressed for. For a guy that was frequently thrust between the AHL's Adirondack Heat and the Flames in Calgary, Granlund performed spectacularly - and the 2011 2nd round pick is still only 22.

16. Micheal Ferland
Blink and you'd miss him during the regular season - Ferland received limited ice-time in his 26 regular-season games, and only put up 5 points - 2 goals - in that span (he did throw 34 hits in that span, though).
The playoffs were really where Ferland really stood out, however - his big frame and great tenacity are a perfect combination in the bruising postseason. Ferland battled through all of this and more during the playoffs, including being called a 'dumb-dumb', 'Ferkland' and 'irrelevant' by one Kevin Bieksa in a post-game interview. Ferland's response: he posted those same 5 points - 3 goals this time - in the playoffs, only in 9 games instead of 26. He also threw 12 hits.
Ferland also celebrated one year of sobriety during 2014-15, which is outstanding and should be recognized as such. Good on you, Micheal.
My eyes are taking in so much red like now it's almost like there's nothing that I can't SEE of RED. A-aha! Ahahaha!
(Credit: Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports)
17. Joe Colborne 
Joe Colborne is an interesting case to deal with if you are the Flames. On one hand, you have a former first-round pick who increased his points-per-game in 2014-15 from 2013-14 (0.35 to 0.44). However, you also have a winger who has poor possesion numbers, is very tall but not very phyiscal, and doesn't seem to be able to put the puck in the net very often despite a relatively high shooting percentage (11.9%). Only eight goals in a season for a former 16th-overall pick? Many thought Joe regressed this year, but he still is a great skater, has good potential, and is only 25. Let's see what the Calgary native has in store for us next year.

18. Matt Stajan
Ah, Matt Stajan. We all love you, Matt. You're great at what you do: grinding in the bottom six, you can come up with some clutch goals, and you are pretty decent defensively. You produce offensively some, too - 17 points in 59 games is pretty okay for a guy who spends his 10 minutes a night primarily with Bollig and co.

19. Paul Byron 
Believe me - 'Mighty Mouse' would be way higher on this list if he could just score on a breakaway. Byron scored 6 goals, and had 19 points total, in 57 games this year, but those numbers could have been way higher if he had scored on even a quarter of all of the breakaways he received in 2014-15. A Paul Byron breakaway in a game became not an if, but a when, and it was commonplace for the winger to get multiple opportunities of the sort per game, seldom of which he converted on. Oh, well, better luck next year, Paul.

After doing some research, Joni Ortio finally understands why his new pads are getting such a reaction in Chicago.
(Credit: Candice Ward - USA Today Sports)
20. Joni Ortio 
Remember when 'oh, oh, Ortio!' was the hot topic around the country? You don't? Well, it was still a prevalent storyline, and one that helped define the Flames' season last year. So, here's the situation: both Ramo and Hiller are hurt, so the Flames have to turn to top prospect Ortio for a game or two, as was planned, in the middle of January. He won them both. So Hartley kept playing him. He won the first two. And then another. And then another. By the time that he finally lost, in his fifth consecutive game, a loss in Anaheim, both goalies were back. So Hartley sent Ortio back to Adirondack and started playing his regulars again, and Ortio wasn't seen in Calgary again until April.
T21. Deryk Engelland
T21. Mason Raymond
These two men were both brought in as free agents this past summer. Engelland's contract was viewed as a massive overpay at first, and now, a year later, it still is. However, Raymond's contract was initially viewed as a steal, and still was, five games into the season, as he was leading the team in points and had already gotten a hat-trick.
Raymond only scored nine more goals all year on his way to his worst statistical season since 2011. He was injured for a lot of the season and seemed rather unmotivated while he was on the ice. He only managed 23 points in 57 games all year, and only added 2 assists in 8 playoff games.
Engelland was brought in on a three-year deal worth a total of 8.7 million. That's, to be frank, tons for a third-pairing defenseman, and Engelland didn't improve vastly this year from his years in Pittsburgh to be worth the raise. He was a solid, if a little slow, defensive defenseman whose only two goals all year came in one mid-March shootout loss to Dallas.

Is it just me, or does the towel that guy behind Matt Ellis is wearing look a lot like the Sabres' players' socks?
(Credit: Candice Ward - USA Today Sports)
23. Raphael Diaz
Rafa Diaz didn't have horribly high expectations coming into this year, but managed to be a sturdy, capable #6 defenseman for the Flames this year whenever Ladislav Smid was out, as he often was. I actually view Diaz more highly than the two players directly above him, but he's ranked lower. Why is that? Well, Diaz exceeded all expectations set for him, while the duo above didn't. The only difference is that the expectations for Raymond and Engelland were higher than those for Diaz so even in not reaching them, they still did more than Diaz did while exceeding his goals. And speaking of goals, Diaz only scored two this year, like Engelland, and one even came against Dallas, and was it ever a beauty.
I could honestly see Treliving and the rest of management choosing to re-sign Diaz next year, and I'd be fine with that. He's a serviceable defenseman with good puck-moving skills and decent hockey sense - I like him.

24. David Schlemko
Schlemko didn't have a huge impact on the Flames' season this year - he was brought in at the trade deadline as some blueline insurance.
But man, this goal.

25. Drew Shore
Another mid-season acquisition, Shore was traded from Florida to Calgary for fellow prospect Corban Knight. Shore's a bit younger than Knight and has a bit more experience, and the trade's worked out well for Calgary thus far - in Shore's 11 games for the Flames last year, he scored once and added two helpers.
Knight has yet to suit up for the Panthers.

The Wolf, preparing to devour his next victim. - (Credit: Michael Goulding - Orange County Register)
26. David Wolf
David Wolf is a fun guy to watch on the ice. He's not the best skater, but he gives it his all every shift and has tons of hustle in his game. The 25-year-old German rookie barely qualified for this list and has yet to record an NHL point, but you can always tell when he's out on the ice and he has a bright future as a bottom-sixer in the NHL.

27. Brandon Bollig
Bollig injected a dose of toughness and grit into the the Flames' lineup this year, although the price paid to acquire him (a 2015 3rd-round pick) was a little steep. Bollig managed a goal and four assists in 62 regular-season campaigns in 2014-15 whilst leading the Flames in penalty minutes, and he added another two goals in the playoffs in 11 games.
Yes, I chose this photo because I couldn't find any of Smid wearing #15 and this one at least blocks his old number 3. (Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel - USA Today Sports)

 28. Ladislav Smid
Ladislav Smid suffered a season-ending neck injury only 31 games into the regular season, which could potentially endanger his career. Smid was not at his best prior to the injury, as he at times appeared slow and as a shell of his former Oiler self on the Flames' bottom pairing with Deryk Engelland. He only managed a single assist in his time with the Flames before his injury, but if this really is the last of Smid that we've ever seen in the NHL, it really will be a shame to see him go, especially prematurely - he's still only 29, and just entering the prime of his career.

29. Tyler Wotherspoon
Tyler Wotherspoon didn't have a great year in 2014-15, and that's not really his fault. The 6'2" Burnaby, BC native was called up to Calgary from Adirondack numerous times during the regular season, but only drew in once: the last game of the year, a 5-1 loss to Winnipeg. He played in six more games in the playoff, managing only two shots in sheltered minutes on the bottom pairing with Corey Potter or Raphael Diaz.

30. Max Reinhart 
'Rhino' didn't get much time to showcase his talents this year, as his four games, all in the regular season, resulted in only three total shots, a -3 plus/minus rating, and a mere 8:07 of ice-time per game. Of course, this is, more likely than not, less Reinhart's fault than it is of Bob Hartley - the latter probably gave more ice-time to those already established into the lineup, those who he trusted, and only allotted time to his rookies when he could afford to.

'Yer' a wizard, Corey.' - (Credit: Bruce Bennett - Getty Images)
31. Corey Potter
Potter was definitely not a regular for the Flames this year, as he was often their seventh or eighth defenseman, who would almost always draw in to find limited ice-time. Potter managed eight games total with the Flames this year - two in the playoffs, and six in the regular season. He managed zero goals and zero assists in those eight games, off of three shots. Overall, Potter's plus/minus was -2, and he spent the majority of his time on a pairing with Raphael Diaz. Do not expect him to be back next year, unless he's signed to an AHL deal with Stockton.

32. Brian McGrattan
This longtime fan-favourite was forced into a very limited role in 2014-15, as he only managed to get into 8 games and amassed only 10 minutes in penalties before finally being shipped off to Adirondack for good. 'Big Ern' worked on concentrating on his scoring game in the AHL to see if the Flames' brass would be impressed and re-assign him back to the big club, but the call never came. The 33-year-old managed 6 points in 16 AHL games.

33. Devin Setoguchi  
The Devin Setoguchi experiment in Calgary did not go well - seemingly on his last legs, the 28-year-old Taber, Alberta native signed a one-year, two-way, show-me contract with the Flames over the summer.
In 12 games with the Flames in 2014-15, Setoguchi collected zero goals, added no assists, took two minor penalties and amassed a -7 plus/minus rating before management decided they'd had enough - Setoguchi was sent to the minors and never came back.

So, there is the first Flames Player Power Rankings - I think I'll do another edition about a month after free agency. So, what do you think? Sound off on Twitter or in the comments section below.

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