The shortest day of the year is also the darkest day of the season for the Calgary Flames. Losing a home and home series to the Minnesota Wild is a dagger in the heart of Calgary’s playoff hopes.
The Wild are one of five teams the Flames were hoping to pass in order to finish in the top eight of the conference and even though Calgary deserved a much better fate than two L’s, let’s be realistic here. The team just isn’t good enough and is in need of a dismantle.
First the facts. It’s going to take any team at least 94 points to make the playoffs in the West. The West is so much better and more competitive than the East, it might take 95, 96 or 97 points to nail down eighth place or better. For the Flames to reach 94 points, they need 63 points in their final 48 games. That’s something like 30-15-3, a pace only four or five teams are playing at this season.
So when mid-January rolls around and the Flames need something like 50 points in the final 35 games — or a fabulous 24-9-2 finish — the decision should be made to let GM Darryl Sutter trade off marketable assets or dismiss Sutter and empower assistant GM Jay Feaster to start the rebuild.
The most marketable asset is, of course, Jarome Iginla and he would fetch much in return at the trade deadline, a first round pick, a top prospect and a promising young NHLer from a contending team.
Next on Calgary’s tradable list should be defenceman Robyn Regehr. The 30-year-old is weathered beyond his years and is signed for $4 million each of the next two seasons. While still a solid defender and respected dressing room leader, Regehr’s game has slipped the past two seasons and he is prone to being beat wide and with speed. He’s certainly worth a young prospect and first round pick from a contender not picking in the top 20.
The Flames have a number of players due to become unrestricted free agents in the off-season they should consider trading. Even though Alex Tanguay, Brendan Morrison and Curtis Glencross have filled important roles this season, they’re going to want raises in the off-season and are bound to sign elsewhere. Securing second and third-round draft picks in return is a good way to build up assets in a depleted organization.
Same goes for pending UFAs Steve Staois, Anton Babchuk and Adam Pardy. Even fourth and fifth round picks can be parlayed into prospects.
The corollory effects of trading away three or four or five Flames before the trade deadline is it opens up cap space on the books for future seasons and it means a projected bottom 10 finish in the NHL this season turns into a bottom five finish.
And moving up that much higher in the draft is invaluable for a team in need of a major facelift.