NHL Rumors: A Rebuild In Calgary Would be a Painful One

TSN: Chris Johnston on TSN 1050 talking with Bryan Hayes, Jeff O’Neill and Jamie McLennan about the Calgary Flames, what could happen if they continue to struggle and Jonathan Huberdeau.

** NHLRumors.com transcription

O’Neill: “CJ, what do you think the options are potentially in Calgary if this thing doesn’t get turned around? Like, what would the sense be, and Hayes brought it up earlier and  Noodles, the new rank coming in and you’d like to be up and cooking for that whenever that’s gonna happen. But why sell the fans a bill of goods that’s false, and telling people that you believe in the team and this team can win, when it’s just, it doesn’t look close right now?”

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Johnston: “It does and it really feels like it’s teetering on a knife’s edge in a sense. I mean, you go back a week or two from where we’re standing today.”

O’Neill: “What exactly is teetering? Like what, what?”

Johnston: “Well, what decisions you make and how do you approach this? I mean, look, they were they were having discussions with Noah Hanifin on a long-term extension. And I’m not saying that will or won’t happen, I don’t think you know, three or four game losing streak alone changes that but it changes some of the, probably the feeling around talks like that on both sides.

If you’re a team, you’re probably like, man, do we want to go into another long-term commitment, you know, with any player at this point in time, and we already have a number of those and do we ever have to consider a change of direction?

Probably if you’re at Noah Hanifin’s camp, you’re, you’re thinking, do I really want to sign this contract? Is this a team that is gonna go right into a rebuild?

And so, you know, I don’t know that that decision has to be made in October, but it’s almost November and we’re starting to get to the point where you, you know, you’re not calling it just the start of the season or, you know, you’re not chalking it up to small sample sizes, or some of the other things that can maybe get a team through a rough two or three-week stretch to start the year.

And so I think that the level of urgency is extremely high in Calgary because I don’t see an easy answer, and they still have a lot of good players. And again, a lot of those players that are maybe on the wrong side of 30 with big contracts, and this is not necessarily an abundance of easy guys to move there that would, would make a lot of sense.

And so it would probably be a painful teardown. I mean, look what you’ve seen in some other markets in the league where they’ve gotten to that point, you know, I look at San Jose, for example. No, who are right back at the bottom of the standings this year, they, you know, they haven’t snipped the playoffs for a couple seasons. Like, it can be a long slow decline for a team. And I realized the Sharks, you know, climbed a little higher than this sort of current version of the Flames did.

But, you know, the point is, is I think sometimes a little bit like Winnipeg’s trying to do, you just have to try to tough it out, man. And so, I don’t know how it’s gonna go. You’ve got a new general manager. You know, obviously, Craig Conroy has been there as part of this management team, but now he’s got his hands on the wheel and you’ve got a new head coach, and I think he tried to just try to keep it calm as long as you can and you know, let things sort themselves out and I don’t think that they’re as bad as the record is, I’ll say that much. It’s just, it’s hard to sell that to anybody when, when the season started as poorly as it has.

Hayes: “Well, they missed the playoffs last year, but barely. It’s not, It’s not like they finished…”

McLellan: “Two points.”

Hayes: “Yeah, they didn’t finish with 65 points last year, but

Johnston: “Exactly.”

Hayes: “I think, you know, the concern is who they’re, who they’re building around, or based on the money it’s supposed to be Huberdeau, (Nazem) Kadri, I guess Lindholm and, yeah, (Mikael) Backlund, (Jakob) Markstrom, you know, I guess (Noah) Hanafin, (Chris) Tanev. But it’s just, you know, the way they’re playing you’re not, that doesn’t scream like a stud core. It just.

O’Neill: “It’s weird that so many of them are off by that much.”

Hayes: “Exactly. Like, it’s just what is going on, like this Huberdeau fall is, is almost unprecedented. Like the guy’s 30. He’s not 38 and he had 115 points two years ago.

O’Neill: “Ah, you said it. I thought we weren’t saying it anymore. It’s beyond us in the past.”

Hayes: “No. It’s just the fact though. I mean, the guy, like watching him play this year, it’s really, he is really, really non-existent on the ice. I mean,

O’Neill: “That’s just to be on the way to describe it.

Hayes: “He’s not, he doesn’t even factor in. There’s just nothing about his game that scares anybody.”

McLellan: “Non-threatening.”

Hayes: “Non-threatening and he’s in, he’s, he’s eight games into an eight-year deal. I don’t know what you do. Like if he’s gonna snap out of this. He’s not just gonna be this bad, but I don’t think he’s he’s gonna all of a sudden be 100 Point guy again. Like this is two years. What if Florida saw something? What if it wasn’t just good Tkachuk? What if Florida was like this guy, we got to, this is peak. He hit it, and we got to move and we got to take advantage of it. And they did. Because that trade is starting to look like one of the great trades in NHL history. It really is.

Johnston: “Yeah, and it’s funny when you go back to the day, I think a lot of people you know, were applauding it from the Calgary end and a lot of that was due to the fact that you know, Matthew Tkachuk had wanted out of Calgary to a degree or wasn’t willing to sign a long term extension there at the time and there was a limited number of places he would and so it was a difficult trade, for Treliving to be making, you know, under those circumstances.

But you know, I with ya, I don’t see an easy answer. It’s funny you mentioned to their Hayes you know, Lindholm, Lindholm’s sitting there. I mean, he’s not signed. He’s the one guy that there doesn’t seem to be any traction towards signing and, you know, not necessarily the be-all and end all but then, you know, at some point we’ll shift to, do they have to trade them? You know, it’s hard to imagine wanting him to walk away for nothing. I’m mean…”

O’Neill: “Well how could you watch what he’s doing out there right now CJ and say, ‘I got to get this guy locked up.’ Cause he’s in the mix too.”

Johnston: “Well. no one looks good. I’m does anyone look good on their team?”

Hayes: “No.”

O’Neill: “No, that’s what that’s what the weird thing is, they all look the same. And it’s like, how could so many good players, who are looked at throughout the league as good players be off by that much? It’s just it’s it’s mind-boggling.

Johnston: “I’m with you. Well, and it’s a group to that obviously has been pretty vocal about wanting rid of their coach last year and that’s

O’Neill: “Okay, that happened.

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Johnston: “And to my point is no, but now you move on and now it’s it’s someone else there. And, you know, I feel like that there should be onus on those players and to find a way to make it work with another coach, or maybe the coach wasn’t the problem.

Hayes: “Well, yeah, I mean, at a minimum, you can’t use that excuse. You know, like it it’s, it’s a tough start and Huska you know, he’s trying to stay positive. He said that after the game. He’s a positive guy, and he referenced his goalie Markstrom playing well, but it’s a tough scene in Calgary.