What will the New Year bring for the Calgary Flames?
As 2014 begins, the Flames sit 28th overall with the dream of post-season already gone. The team has no choice but to look to the future and take steps to improve.
Brian Burke is acting as the general manager while he looks for a replacement for Jay Feaster, who he fired in December, but that process may run into next June’s NHL draft. What impact will Burke have whether he remains the GM or not? Will his preference for truculent player make the Flames bigger but not necessarily better?
Top Draft Picks
One of the top wishes for the Flames in 2014 has to be receiving a top 3 draft pick and continue to rebuild the team. Calgary needs a top 6 forward or top 4 defenceman and either Sam Reinhart or Aaron Ekblad would fit the bill. In fact, the Flames should try to grab another first round pick in a trade, not unlike the three first round picks the team had in 2013.
Speaking of trades, it seems inevitable that the Flames will trade some veterans for future prospects and draft picks. Mike Cammalleri is at the top of the list along with Lee Stempniak, Matt Stajan, Chris Butler and Kris Russell, all free agents at the end of the season. How much the team will receive is anyone’s guess. It all depends on the needs of the teams interested in trading, but with the team going nowhere, it makes sense to get as many young prospects as possible.
Calgary has some solid prospects in its system but few are top end talent. Jon Gillies is only 19 and has already shown great potential to be a number one goaltender. The hope is for his continued success and perhaps a move on to the AHL level next fall. Joni Ortio has played very well for the Abbotsford Heat, giving the Flames hope for the future in the goal crease.
Success in AHL
The success of the Heat may be among the best news for Calgary. The Flames’ minor league team is among the best in the AHL and filled with promising young players. In the past, management tended to have too many veterans. Allowing some of their young prospects to play in the AHL benefits the Flames in the long run. These young players are getting great experience and a chance to improve their skills.
These are difficult times for Flames fans. The team is not going to make the playoffs in 2014. Fans still want their team to win and, at the very least, play hard but with each loss, Calgary gets closer to drafting a top 6 forward or top 4 defenceman; both are desperately needed to be competitive again.
2014 will be a long year for Calgary and fans will have to be patient. If management continues to add top prospects, fans can look forward to the future. As long as there is consistency and rebuild plans stay on track, fans won’t mind – but things have to be done right. A little truculence is fine but all championship teams have the same element: balance. Now comes the time to fill in needs where required and produce a blueprint for the future.