Online sports polls can be a lot of fun. They give us a glimpse into what a fanbase is thinking, but let’s be 100% clear – they aren’t a scientific source of unimpeachable data. So, when I posted a survey on a couple of Calgary Flames fan pages this week, I was hoping to get a snapshot of how people are feeling about the team’s offseason moves with training camp just over a month away.
Would Fans Like to See More “Wheeling and Dealing”?
After a flurry of summer activity, including the Seattle Expansion Draft, NHL Entry Draft and the opening of free agency, Flames general manager (GM) Brad Treliving has been fairly active with a few minor deals and one pretty big one. The addition of Blake Coleman to the forward group will make the team stronger upfront, but the loss of captain Mark Giordano really hurts the back end. With that in mind, should Treliving stand pat? Does he need to do more? This is what I wanted to find out.
My online poll asked what the Flames’ top priority should be before the season starts with five choices:
- Secure another top six forward.
- Snag another top four D-man.
- Sign a veteran backup goalie.
- All of the above!
- Do nothing. We’re good to go.
The fan pages I posted the survey on have a combined following of over 23,000 people and, after a couple of days, I had several hundred responses. I figured this was more than enough feedback to gauge the pulse of the fanbase, so I started crunching the numbers. What I found did not surprise me in the slightest.
Almost 70% Want the Flames to Secure Another Top-Six Forward
I debated whether or not to ask specifically if the Flames should trade for Jack Eichel, but in the end, I wanted to make the question more open-ended and asked about a top-six forward. However, I’m sure a boatload of the 69.9% who voted for this option had a particular disgruntled elite center from Buffalo in mind. According to social media, there is a significant number of diehard fans who would love to see Calgary make a bold move and secure Eichel’s services for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
But at what cost? Word on the street is that the Sabres want the equivalent of four first-round picks to make the deal happen (from ‘Jack Eichel and the Flames 2.0,’ The Athletic, 08/10/2021). I’m not sure the Flames could make a deal work because to take on Eichel’s massive cap hit, they would need to shed big dollars. There’s been a lot of speculation that Calgary would have to include Sean Monahan and another roster player in this trade to make the numbers work. Would the Sabres accept the compromise? Maybe. The longer this saga drags out, the weaker Buffalo’s position gets.
Not Much Support for Another Top Four D-man
Losing Giordano to the Kraken in the Expansion Draft left a huge hole in the Flames’ defensive core. Treliving tried to address this by trading for the hulking Nikita Zadorov in late July. The Moscow native won’t be chipping in many goals, but he can dole out punishing hits and make opposing forwards think twice before they enter the offensive zone. The 6-foot-6 defender plays a solid defensive game and will likely be paired with Rasmus Andersson, but do the Flames need more help on the blue line?
While only 7% of respondents think beefing up the back end should be the top priority, it’s not crazy to think the Flames are still looking for another top-four defenseman to pair up with Andersson, allowing them to play Zadorov on the third pairing. There are still some decent free-agent options out there like Erik Gustafsson, Jack Johnson, Jordie Benn and Sami Vatanen. While he may not be a second-pairing option, I still think Calgary will (again) sign veteran blueliner Michael Stone to a one-year deal to round out their d-core.
Fans Are OK with Untested Vladar as Backup Goalie
When the Flames acquired Daniel Vladar from the Boston Bruins for a third-rounder last month, I said, “Daniel Who?” After Googling the 23-year-old Czech netminder, I now think the team has found a pretty solid option for their backup, but I was still surprised that Treliving didn’t find an established veteran to share the net with Jacob Markstrom. That’s why I was a little shocked that only 2% of my respondents chose the “sign a veteran backup goalie” option as the team’s top priority.
Maybe fans think Markstrom will again get the lion’s share of the starts, so the backup position isn’t as important? Or maybe they share the same confidence in Vladar’s abilities as management. Apparently, Calgary’s goaltending department has been keeping tabs on Vladar since his junior days in the Czech Republic, and with his low $750,000 cap hit, perhaps the Flames think that rolling the dice on the young netminder is worth the risk (from ‘Matthew Tkachuk as Flames captain? Is there still time to make a significant roster move?: Mailbag,’ The Athletic, 08/13/2021).
Many Fans Want to See the Flames Do It All
When I saw that 20% of respondents checked “All of the above!” the first thing that popped into my head was a little kid with a Christmas wish list that is two miles long. Yes, fans want what they want, but for Treliving to trade for Eichel, secure another top-four defenceman and sign a veteran backup goalie, he would need a fairy godmother. It’s simply not economically feasible for the Flames to put everything on my shopping list into the cart, but I had to ask.
However, seeing so many fans choose “do it all” proves a certain level of dissatisfaction with management. This franchise has been stuck in limbo for a very long time. While they aren’t good enough to truly contend for the Stanley Cup, they aren’t terrible either. In fact, they’ve made the playoffs four times in the last seven seasons, which I think is the textbook definition of a middling franchise. That is why I wasn’t surprised to see how many people voted for the final option.
Only 1% Chose Option #5: Do Nothing. We’re Good to go.
Most fans would like to see Treliving swing a deal or two in the coming weeks, but as crazy as it sounds, doing nothing could be management’s most likely route as we head into training camp. I don’t get the sense that Calgary is a front-runner in the Eichel sweepstakes, and most of the veteran goaltenders have already been signed. There are still a few decent UFA defencemen kicking around, so if we’re going to see any last-minute moves, it would likely be to snag another top-four defender.
We all know that putting up an informal poll on a couple of fan pages and publishing the results isn’t an accurate indication of how the Flames faithful are really feeling as we inch closer to the 2021-22 season. But, it was a fun and useful exercise that shows that many fans believe the team isn’t good enough and want to see some big roster moves before they drop the puck on Oct. 16.
Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube and all podcast outlets.