Rekindle the Fire: Time for the Flames to Rebuild


After their loss last night to the Los Angeles Kings, the Calgary Flames, who have missed the playoffs three straight years, are currently sitting in 14th place in the Western Conference with a 5-7-3 record.  Many would say its early, but this shortened 48 game season is nearly 1/3 complete.

The Flames, who have not won a playoff series since their dramatic run to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 continue to live off that former glory.  Management led first by Darryl Sutter, and now by Jay Feaster, have executed a number of short-term band-aid like moves over recent years in an attempt to surround the core of Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff with enough talent to go on a similar type run.

In recent years we’ve seen moves that have worked, such as free agent deals to bring back Alex Tanguay, and last summer’s signing of Jiri Hudler.  But we’ve also seen moves that have been puzzling, and in many ways turned out to be disasters.  The trade of Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the lack of impact players received in return is one that stands out.  The subsequent big money deal given to Matt Stajan is another.  And last, but certainly not least are the big trades/free-agent signings of Jay Bouwmeester (-21 last season, $6.68 million cap hit), and Dennis Wideman ($5.25 million cap hit).  Put it all together and we keep seeing the same aging core surrounded by a group that is just good enough to finish on the outside of the playoffs.

Meanwhile the Flames have not been amassing a great stable of prospects.  While 2011 first round pick Sven Baertschi is an absolute stud and the jury is certainly out on 2012 draftee Mark Jankowski.  Earlier high draft picks such as Greg Nemisz, Mitch Wahl, and Leland Irving have turned into what can best be described as busts.  Tim Erixon was a good pick who spurned the organization and ended up traded to the Rangers.  Meanwhile the 2007 second round pick, 2009 second round pick, 2010 first and second rounders, and 2013 second rounder, have all been traded away in search of short term fixes for the organization.

They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  If that is true, then the Calgary Flames are insane.  Despite an aging core that continually loses in the first round (2006-2009), or misses the playoffs (2010-12), the Flames have never committed to a full scale rebuild of this organization.  They continually try to paper over the holes of the team with big money free agent signings, and trades that sacrifice the future of the team in order to try and win in the present.  Its not working, and Calgary management needs to realize that its time to move on.

The Flames would be best served to take a good, hard look at their team, and start the rebuild now.  This team is not a Stanley Cup Contender, in fact with the way they are currently playing, they are likely to once again miss the playoffs.  Yes, I realize this means some painful decisions need to be made.  Its time for franchise icon, Jarome Iginla to be moved to a contender for a package of picks and prospects.  He is still a great player, but is getting older, and moving him can really accelerate a rebuild.  A similar move should be made with Mikka Kiprusoff once he recovers from his recent knee injury.  Other soon to be UFAs such as Anton Babchuk and Blake Comeau should be dumped for whatever the Flames can get, and trades for veterans such as Mike Cammalleri, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Tanguay, Cory Sarich, and Lee Stempniak should be explored.  Yes, I know that some of these players have “No Trade Clauses” or modified NTCs; however there have been many trades of players with such clauses over the years.

One player where a decision must be made is Roman Cervenka.  He is certainly young enough to be part of Calgary’s long term vision, however he is also scheduled to be a UFA this summer.  A new contract should be explored, but if he chooses not to re-sign prior to the trade deadline, a move must also be made.

In short, its time for Calgary to stop chasing the impossible dream, and to make the painful but smart decision to rebuild their club from the bottom up.  It may feature some short-term pain for fans in the Saddledome, but the long-term payoff of a proper rebuild, and becoming a true Cup Contender can not be achieved by continuing down the team’s current path.  The past several years have shown that.  Its now time for GM Jay Feaster to take a leadership role and make the choice to look towards the future of the Flames.

And that’s the last word.

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photo credit: Dinur via photopin cc


  1. One of their best options for a trade (unfortunate given their big gaffs the last two times these teams met up for trades) would be to move Kipper to the Leafs. The Leafs get a vet in net, and one that does not come with a long term commitment attached to it. The question would be could the Flames get a Reilly, Gardiner or Kadri from the Leafs in return. The likely answer is no. So then the Flames are likely stuck with an offer of Scrivens, Fraser/Gunnerson and a pick for him, which again like the Gilmour trade and the Phaneuf trade, is very little impact in return.
    Iginla will garner a lot more interest from clubs like Detroit, NYR, Montreal and Boston looking to bolster their line-ups going into the play-offs but can the Flames get something equal in return (I still remember screaming the day I heard Joe Niewendyk had been traded for a prospect named Iginla, not screaming the same way anymore). Can the Flames pull off a similar move now with Iginla? Maybe a package including Galchenyuk from Montreal might fit both teams. Montreal gets the bigger spark plug player they have been missing with leadership quality, and Calgary gets a player to build around (and the package would only include him and a salery dump/space filler player like a Cole. Doubt it goes this way as Montreal to near a rebuild themselves, but a similar package would be needed from another club.

    As for the other players you have mentioned, I am sure Detroit will again ask about Jaybo and Babchuk and the other forwards mentioned might get you some decent picks in return.

    In the best case for the Flames, the best return in any and all of the deals they make might just be the additional losses it gives them. Each loss will take them one step closer to a top two pick in this years draft, and frankly, either would be a stud in Calgary, and both would be needed.

    • Iginla will not net a top 5 player from the 2012 like Rielly or Galchenyuk. Considering Galchenyuk is performing well as an 18-19 year old and has the skillset and work ethic to become a franchise #1 center, there’s really no point in the Habs trading him for a veteran player – no matter how good he is. Teams will be willing to include their 1st round pick in a trade because it’s with the mindset that they’re going deep in the playoffs and thus won’t be a lottery pick.

  2. Oh, I agree. It would be nice if you could get that return but Montreal is not interested in Vets right now. The more likely trade option for the Habs, and it is rumored that the Habs are inquiring, is for O’Reilly from Colorado. The asking price right now for him is high I understand and don’t think the Habs would be willing to part with whom the Aves would want in return (for now).

    As for Iginla, I think the Flames have to get more than a late first rounder back for Iginla or they may lose their entire fan base. That said, teams that had a recent top 5 pick are not likely in need of a quick vet hit. The other issue the Flames will run into is the cap. Teams like Pittsburgh, Philly and San Jose would love to get a top 6 forward for a play-off run, but may not be able to work it out under the cap (Flames wont trade Iginla for Boyle (another rumor floating around is that Boyle is being shopped)). Boston has interest and Cap space but would not likely give up a package including Hamilton.

    Flames are in a tough spot, you want to build for the future, but they have had their obvious difficulties in the draft, so picks wont excite many fans, and as you mention most teams will not give up a future franchise player (unless Kipper or Iggy are that final piece to a cup winner, which any team in that position most likely does not have a young player like that). Trades will be made, and Galchenyuk will not be included in any of them, I just home for Flames fans that they don’t fire sale the team only to end up with nothing of value in return.

    On the Reilly front, it is interesting that the Leafs cannot even call up Gardiner from the Marlies as their front 8 are playing well enough to stay with the big club and all of the 8 would have to clear waivers. It is possible the Leafs, for the right player (not saying the Flames have the right player) that the Leafs move either Reilly or Gardiner. I would assume that if Burke wants Gardiner back he might be able to assist his new club (Ducks) acquire Gardiner back with a package for Getzlaf if the Ducks decide to move him.

  3. Flames have needed a rebuild for years! It makes me sad how they have been floating for years now between 9th and 8th spot and seem to be a bit weak on the drafting side. I hope they can pick it up again soon.


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