Monday, January 16, 2012

Direction, You Say?

What's with questioning the "direction" of a team when it acquires a skilled, top-6 player? If any organization is turning down a shot at a proven scorer at 29 years old in order to stay true to the "direction" of the franchise, they need to get a new direction. In any industry, competitiveness is essential, regardless of the 5-year plan.

Mike Cammalleri has a high skill level. The Flames do not. He's performed well in the playoffs within the last two seasons. The Flames haven't even qualified. He's a proven top-6 guy and adds another weapon to the PP. And most of all, he was underachieving this season, and therefore available in the market. Are the Flames in a position to pass up on this guy because they're in a soft rebuild (or "re-tool")? No chance. 

In terms of direction, since when is a 29-year old winger over-the-hill? This is the big leagues, where most players don't make a significant impact until age 24-25. The age component of the deal is entirely reasonable, especially when shedding a 30-year old in the process, with a contract that was arguably worse (double the term). To me, it's a win: a wash in terms of age, for more skill and fewer years. And no, I don't expect him to put up 80 points in a Flames sweater again. I could certainly live with 65-70 points in the next two seasons, however.

On top of all the asset banter, professional hockey is about entertainment, and Cammalleri is the type of player fans come to see.

Now, for the other assets that were sent packing...

Patrick Holland is a heck of an overachieving 7th-round prospect, but how much has he elevated his NHL potential in this time frame? Could he be a top-6 forward in the NHL one day? Maybe. More likely, however, he's a 3rd or 4th line utility player. Guys like that are readily available, and the Flames have plenty of them in the system as is.

Losing a second round pick (in 2013) is a concern -  no question... But you'd expect there will be a number of players made available at the deadline (Stempniak, Moss, Morrison, Jackman...?) for contending teams that *could* bring about a small handful of 3rd-5th round picks. Quantity over quality is a decent consolation prize when it comes to draft picks.


Originally, I was skeptical about Karri Ramo as a "throw in" for the deal. I figured it was Feaster re-acquiring a former TB prospect as his reclamation project. Ramo is certainly a project, but as it turns out, he may not be far off in terms of everyday contributions at the NHL level. Known as a top goalie in the KHL, with a back-to-back goals against avg of 1.97, he's worth the gamble. And at only 25 years old, this "throw-in" goaltender may bring much more:

Rebuild, Re-tool or contend, there will always be a need to add skilled, proven players to the line-up. Just ask the Oilers or Islanders. Cap space notwithstanding, I could see Cammalleri fitting in on 25 of the 30 teams in the league. You can scout and draft well, calling it "organizational direction" or "progress." Yet, if you're not constantly improving your team's competitiveness, free agents will sign elsewhere, and your former first-round picks will diminish into obscurity.

Welcome back, Cammo.

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