17 June 2007
Avs fans will probably be interested in these 5 questions because not only are the Flames NW division rivals, but the Flames have some free agents the Avs may be interested in. Brad Stuart, a deadline acquisition from the Boston Bruins, and Roman Hamrlik are both free agents to be. As well as pretty decent filler players like a Jeff Friesen and Wayne Primeau. Here are my questions, and his answers (note I asked my questions on the night before the suprise Keenan hiring, of which I will probably do a follow-up to):
1) Both Brad Stuart and Hamrlik and Brad Stuart are free agents this season, if you can only keep one, which one would you keep, and why?
1) Roman Hamrlik was the Flames' best and most consistent defenceman last year. When he makes mistakes, they're huge — the unimaginable pass up the middle, for instance — but it doesn't happen enough to be a real concern. He's also been Dion Phaneuf's defence partner for his first two seasons in the NHL, and has played a big role in Phaneuf's development. Early last season, Dion was paired with Robyn Regehr, who doesn't exactly suck. But he looked lost until reunited with Hamrlik, then the two became the go-to pair for most of the year.
Brad Stuart struggled to fit in with the Flames at first, and again wasn't able to form much of a rapport with Regehr as the two were paired together. The idea was to fit Stuart, a mobile guy, into the role that Jordan Leopold played on their extremely effective Calgary pairing. But Stuart's best games as a Flame were played in the playoffs, when Regehr was injured. Stuart is a more ferocious hitter, is younger, and might be a better partner for Phaneuf than Hamrlik if given the chance. He'll also be more expensive.
But for age and physicality alone, after what we saw in this year's playoffs, I'd take Stuart if we could only bring one back. I would bring them both back if it made sense financially.
2)Brad Stuart was a "rental" player from Boston, I am not too familiar with him, what kind of Defenseman is he? Big bruiser? precision passer? What kind of weaknesses does he have?
2) I kind of got into this already. He's been called just about every different kind of player during the course of his career, but he's the classic "all-around" guy, on the second level below the Lidstrom/Niedermayer/Pronger etc. mark. He's capable of absolutely destroying guys with hits, but won't do it every game. He's got great offensive flair, but won't score more than 40 points. He's great one-on-one, but can occasionally look lost positionally. The wheels are fine. Inconsistency is probably his biggest weakness. And the effort's always there but, honestly, I think his hockey smarts are in question a bit after watching him for half a season.
3) Roman Hamrlik has been a pretty good defensman for a while now, do you think Calgary will bring him back? Would you like to see him back? I am more familiar with him, as a solid puck moving defenseman, who is solid in his own end too. Does he have any weaknesses that I may be unaware of?
3) If Hamrlik agrees to a hometown discount, which he might, I think Sutter will have no problem bringing him back. He's more likely than Stuart to re-sign in Calgary — he likes it there, likes his role mentoring Phaneuf, and had maybe his best season (not offensively, but for consistent play) last year. He won't be all about changing systems, and he'll still be under the defensive guidance of Jimmy Playfair, even with the bizarre entrance of Mike Keenan behind the Flames' bench.
I already mentioned his biggest weakness, which is that absolutely mind-blowing mistake that can somehow crop up. And he also has about four games a year where he's bad enough to cost his team the game — a complete loss of concentration. He isn't the offensive force he used to be, or was supposed to be, but that's fine — he knows his role now and can still make a smart, crisp first pass.
4) Calgary has $31M tied up in only 12 players this season. Next season it seems all your best players, (Iginla, Langkow, Yelle, Huselius,Nilson, Conroy, Rehgar and Zuzyn) as well as all-world goalie Kiprusoff are all free-agents. How should the Flames approach this off-season to keep their core together after next season.
4) OK, first off, don't mention Zyuzin among the Flames' best players. He's 20 of 20, no joke. A nice guy, but also a complete waste of talent who weirdly put together a couple of OK games in the playoffs. He'll get crushed with Keenan as coach, and that's fine by me.
But, your question was how to approach the off-season. Keenan being in the fold changes everything, because guys who might have re-signed to play for another coach might have second thoughts about playing for Iron Mike. But if I made the choices, I'd be signing Kiprusoff and Iginla to long-term extensions as soon as possible. These guys are the franchise, the players who give you a chance to win every night, and are worth every penny they're paid. Kiprusoff, well, he's the best goalie in the world who played for a badly coached team last year and still was a Vezina finalist. Iginla is like Ryan Smyth, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic — a guy who should play for the same club his whole career. You build your identity around players like Jarome Iginla, and you just *know* that one day he'll win a Stanley Cup. You want that around.
Whether it's Stuart, Hamrlik or two other guys, the team needs to find two more top-four D-men. Otherwise, there are some top prospects on the farm ready to show their way next year to supplement a very good Top 6 of Iginla, Daymond Langkow, Kristian Huselius, Matthew Lombardi, Alex Tanguay and Craig Conroy. Any other additions, I think, will be spare parts.
As for Playfair, he was horrible as a head man. We called him Nervous Jimmy because the name was pefectly appropriate — he just clearly couldn't handle the pressure of the position, but isn't a bad hockey man. I think even he knew it, which is why he accepted the demotion rather than be prideful and walk away. So, bringing in a new head coach was a good plan. But Keenan, given his reputation for alienating everyone around him and having horrible judgment (Bertuzzi for Luongo is all you have to say), is a huge freaking risk right now.
Oh, and don't under any circumstances re-sign Tony Amonte or Darren McCarty.
5) It seems Playfair is a terrible coach, and with the pending UFA's next season this may be Calgarys last chance for a playoff run for a couple years. Does Sutter kick Playfair to the curb and take over if Calgary goes through a rough patch? How safe is his Job?
5) I think Sutter answered this one for you.
NOTE: You can find Duncan's thoughts on the Keenan hiring here at his blog
A big thanks from Duncan for answering these questions for me. Analysis from me, I think Stuart or Hamrlik, if Sutter lets either of them go, would be a good fit for the Avs. Stuart moreso than Hamrlik, but either would add a significant amount to the Avs Defense, if we could sign one.
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