ScorchStack Issue #119 - "𝙎𝙪𝙢𝙢𝙚𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝘽𝙧𝙖𝙙"
Yes, it's been a while but not talking about this team is actually a favour to you
Sorry that Scorchstack took a little hiatus. We are offering up to you several reasons why this was, and you can pick your favourite.
Things got a little busy with some new jobs and responsibilities
Covering this team is bad for your mental health and we’re into self-care now
One of us got shanked
Krayden changed the passwords and wouldn’t let us log in until we agreed to meet him for seven (7) minutes in real life in a public place where other people could see us hanging out
Tibs has embraced the tank. We know the Flames will do the exact opposite (probably) because that’s the Calgary Flames, baby!
Nathan waxes poetic about The Roons. Everything has gone down hill since he was sent down. Coincidence? Hardly. Anyway read Nathan’s emotional tribute to The Roons.
Mike writes a collection of things that have been in his head for the last few weeks. The nihilism is off the charts.
Since last issue
The team stinks, but at least Mikael Backlund is great still. Go figure.
Scranstack was a hit. Everyone from Gordan Ramsey to your grandma are talking about it. Now everyone is wondering if what they’re eating is scran or not-scran.
Everyone at Scorchstack is busy with their new day jobs, watching Physical 100 on Netflix, and waiting patiently for the MLB regular season so we can fully embrace MarinerStack.
This doozy involving Theo Fleury:
Embrace the tank
It is time.
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by Tibs (@decayinwtheboys)
Preamble: As we are all aware, the Flames never do anything that we want them to. Therefore, what follows is either ironic or sincere, depending on how you want it to play out and how superstitious you might be.
Dearest readers of the Scorchstack, esteemed intellectuals that you are, let’s all admit one thing: the Flames suck. They’re a shitty hockey team. They play like poo poo and smell like doo doo. Stinky!
But as intellectuals, you also know there is a reward for being a smelly poop team: a good draft pick. While many of the optimists will point out that they are a mere winning streak (not sure what they’re talking about, what is a winning streak) away from being right back in it, the pragmatists will respond that they’re also two Red Wings wins away from being the tenth worst team in the league. There are two directions you can go from here:
Have a heart-to-heart over beers, go on a ten-game winning streak, make the playoffs, and have all your flaws exposed anyways in a first-round matchup against the conference’s best team.
Throw your hands up, admit when you’re cooked, and go gracefully into the good night. And also draft a teenager to save your hockey franchise.
In the past, I’ve been anti-rebuilding, anti-tanking, anti-intentionally having a bad team. Not out of some sense of honour and the dignity of being a fan of a winning team, but mostly because a) watching bad hockey stinks b) no it really stinks, don’t fool yourself, and c) some of you never sat through the early 2010s, it truly fucking stinks. When you have no expectations and can only find joy from September-April in the copium-heavy mindset that losing is actually good, you get a dreadful season you only pretend to enjoy.
But fuck it, pass me that copium brother. What was expected of the Flames is out of reach, any positive result feels like mirage, and there is truly no honour in grinding your way to a first-round ass-kicking. Let’s embrace the tank. Here are some reasons it’s actually good this time.
The 2023 draft is insanely good
I am not a prospect pervert, I’m just repeating what other people have said to me. The 2023 draft is good, you want one of the best players, getting a high pick is a way to do that. Seems easy to me.
The Flames are more unlucky than bad, so getting a good pick to compliment a (theoretically) good team is free real estate
No wait, hear me out:
All data is from natural stat trick (ed. note: from a while ago when Tibs’ actually wrote this. Sorry to Tibs). It is presented in minimalist glory thanks to microsoft excel. The data only goes as far as the Bruins game because I wrote this for a different article and I’m too lazy to take another screenshot.
Our 2022-23 Flames, somehow, compare favourably to last year’s heroes in terms of shot metrics. They’re doing all the right things that got them success last year, except their shooting percentage has hit the NHL basement (maybe I should’ve included those Bruins numbers to really drive that point home) and their goaltending has fallen off by 20 points.
Coris for%, Fenwick for%, and expected goals for % are all mostly unchanged and all very high. Scoring chances and high-danger chances for% have fallen (and if you do comparisons on the /60 numbers, the change is caused by the defensive numbers more than the offensive numbers), but remain on the positive side. A novice to stats can tell you that those numbers being high is a good thing for teams that win hockey games, because teams that keep those numbers high generally win a lot of hockey games. They don’t guarantee wins (lol), but the longer you keep those numbers high, your chances at emerging as a playoff contender increase.
But allowing softies and hitting the post at every available opportunity? Well, them’s the breaks. That’s the famous PDO that we have come to love/hate depending on what season it is. This season, we hate it. Next season, we might love it. Again, them’s the breaks. There’s a very good chance that it rebounds next season (even if it doesn’t, Dustin Wolf is right there), even league-average shooting and goaltending will put them comfortably in a playoff spot.
All of this is to say that the Flames have enough quality in their lineup already (and bad luck seasons tend to force management to make the roster even more failsafe), so a top-ten pick isn’t a franchise saviour but actually just adding another piece to the puzzle. You can salivate at the thought of an undeserved (?) immediate top six making ELC money, but really, the beauty of being bad with a good team and getting a lottery pick is :
It would be really funny
Imagine: a bunch of loser (more so than the Flames) franchises have been waiting for their date with destiny at the 2023 draft, the watershed moment that will make the last five years of suffering worth it. Then some bumblefuck team that’s 100% in the playoffs if they didn’t hit the post so often comes in and swoops up their coveted boy. The higher the pick is, the funnier it gets.
You deserve something nice for once!
Yes, you do. You earned it. Even if you didn’t, it’s good-self care to give yourself a top-ten draft pick from time to time.
Look, I am flat out of things to cheer for
I need emotional investment in something, anything to hold me over until baseball (Marinerstack Season 2 is coming up). Losing? Fine, I’ll cheer for that.
O Roons Where Art Thou
In memory of happier times
by Nathan (@hanoten)
When Trevor Lewis scored the other game against Ottawa for only the second time since Christmas, it gave the folks at Scorchstack HQ the reason to bust out Trev Time, one of the beautiful creations that ramz made when we, much like this season, were so much more full of life.
But it overshadowed another wonderful creation that we haven’t gotten to use in a long time, and it’s time we asked: why?
Did we appreciate what we had in Kevin Rooney, and could he have saved the season?
I don’t want anyone to come in here with a chart or whatever, we all knew what the Roons dog was. He was, as said by Brad Treliving himself, someone we’re excited to get and specifically someone who “fits with the identity of the group,” which presumably meant that Roons was the sage genius who knew what their identity was.
But did the players embrace Roons? Hell yeah they did. We know that Blake Coleman was texting him up to come to Calgary in free agency. Per Wes Gilbertson, who is only the Calgary chapter chair of the PHWA, the two are - and I’m quoting directly from one of his pieces here - “pals”. Can’t deny that.
But what was it like when Rooney was up with the team? Well, if you recall, they went 5-1 to start the year all with Kevin. And when he was sent down, the team had just won four of their last five games. Do you know the last time the team won four of their last five games? It was about two weeks after Roons was sent down, when his memory was still fresh and inspiring.
Don’t ask about how they did the other times with him in the lineup.
With Rooney in the lineup, the team had a .555 points percentage. Without him, it’s only .540% and in a season of razor-thin margins, that’s enough for me. I even looked up how the Wranglers were doing with him, which is despicable but I’m gonna make the case for him here.
Without Roons, the Wranglers were a pedestrian 3-3-0. With him? A juggernaut 39-12-3. I’ve never heard of sample sizes and this data is infallible.
Does he contribute to the team? Oh, so we’re all about points now? Look at how much he inspires, not just his teammates but people who go to AHL games. Also, he has 13 points which is more than I expected to chew on that little nugget.
Kevin Rooney, you were a guy who made other people into winners, including our content. To me, at only $1.3 million, that is a bargain we did not appreciate. We await your return, one day.
We’re still doing this so you might as well get your questions in. No questions about hockey allowed.
Want to know how exasperated this team makes us? Okay, let’s go.
A Collection of Thoughts; Perhaps Coherent, Who Knows? Who Cares?
by Mike (@mikeFAIL)
This team is hard to write about. Not that there aren’t stories or analysis to be done or even haphazard attempts at architecting a rebuild by warping your brain more than it needs to with CapFriendly armchair GM concepts; but a crippling disparity between actual critical thought and regurgitated word soup that reads like the writer wants the Calgary Flames to write a book report on what they should do to correct the direction of the franchise.
Imagine that: Brad Treliving trots out during a press conference with a book report he made about how Karl from Flames Twitter wanted an articulate plan of how to correct the franchise. He sits up there, like a third grader at the front of his class, sheepishly reading his poorly articulated thoughts to a room full of local media. Maybe Treliving wets himself as he stumbles through explaining a key part of the plan and the whole room laughs at him.
He wakes up realizing it was only a nightmare and that he has an early shift at Boston Pizza in a few hours; and he dozes off to sleep again, aware that the book report he was tasked with completing is apparently a real thing wanted by fans.
The team’s window is yet again closing and any optimism that this team could have corrected its course is behind us in a rearview mirror. The sign on the road reads “rebuild” and it’s given way to the an eschatology era of Calgary Flames hockey, Twitter usage, and blog writing that makes my stomach crawl. “Summer of Brad” disciples that were singing the holiest of holy songs in his namesake and sucking his toes clean as he navigated a course for the franchise this summer have become street corner preachers pleading with bystanders that the world is going to end and the only path forward is the salvation of a rebuild.
The warm months of believing things will be okay have given way to frigid and cruel months; of being unable to string more than two wins together; goaltending that barely would pass in the 1980s; and a team so adverse to creating higher quality chances that it might kill them all. It’s not great and I can understand why everyone has become a Harold Camping in their own right.
So why tune in? Contempt? Collective misery and suffering? An outlet for what pains ail us in our daily routines? The warm sensation of knowing that your fellow fans and friends are reeling in the same pains you are, as you watch Nikita Zadorov take his 70th stupid penalty of the season leading to a penalty kill that will inevitably falter? The masochism we’re enduring on a nearly-nightly basis is incredible, even for this market.
None of it really matters because the season by most accounts is a wash. Micah Blake McCurdy’s model as of today has the Flames at 12.4% to make the playoffs despite being five points back of Winnipeg now. Is that enough hope to hold in your hands, that something could occur and spring forth? Hardly, but for me it’s just enough to tune in and suffer with the lot of you — maybe we can celebrate moments here and there together, but it’s likely this team is destined for the toilet like I am after eating expired luncheon meat.
Conceptually a rebuild doesn’t even fit the salary structure of this team either. With Kadri’s deal in year one; both Huberdeau and Weegar’s set to kick in this summer; and Dan Vladař’s extension kicking in, the Flames have a significant portion of their salary cap in a flat cap league dedicated to moving forward with what they have. You’re not committing that kind of money to three high-caliber players for a rebuild, even if things are off the rails.
It could change as the significant names everyone typed repeatedly on Twitter leading up to the trade deadline were moved but it seems suspect at least; at least at this point. The league more or less is capped out; teams looking to shop for names relentlessly shared as “great fits” on other teams looking to make a significant bid at winning the Stanley Cup can only do so much given the constraints of a flat-cap league. You can dump salary in the landfill that is Arizona, Anaheim, Montreal, or some other bozo market trying to do what fans want the Flames to do, but it’ll cost you draft picks. And those draft picks are what you need to rebuild.
Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the team has hard decisions looming with expiring contracts next summer.
Elias Lindholm has carved out his name as a 1C in the league, even if his underlying impacts remain suspect but on a good team he can offer value; Mikael Backlund has been everything and more in his tenure, with fans seemingly believing he could be traded and replaced with Connor Zary despite the fact he is a Selke contender and irreplaceable currently; Chris Tanev outperformed a contract many (including myself) thought was a poison pill, who has happened to add demonstrably more defensive value than the expected demise he was trending towards; Tyler Toffoli is playing perhaps the best hockey of his career and if it carries over to next season he’s guaranteed one-final contract to set him up until retirement; and then there is Noah Hanifin who will easily command $7M on the open market.
Hell, we haven’t even discussed RFAs who actually could have or will command value this offseason. With names like Dillon Dubé (career year, absurd shooting percentage) being someone you could easily unload for assets equal or greater in his long-term value added, it would be painstakingly clear to anyone who is the GM of this year come July that you start there before the bigger names.
So anyway look forward to Milan Lucic getting an extension, the low-cost value-add RFAs being retained far too long, and Brett Ritchie coming back to disrupt what fans want. Don’t worry: the Flames will then trade Brett Ritchie for Nick Ritchie again becoming the first team to do this, twice.
The Flames are in the worst position possible and the most Calgary Flames position possible all at once: at odds with what probably makes sense, but too good to be bad; and too bad to be great. It doesn’t make matters easier that there is a contingent of fans who have irreconcilable beliefs when it comes to Murray Edwards; specifically the two:
Bozos who wants public money used on a new arena despite the clear swindling that CSEC was attempting to push forward with, with the city of Calgary.
Bozos who also wants a rebuild but also knows the team they cheer for is owned by an oil tycoon whose wife left him, is obsessed with chasing the dream of 2004, is obsessed with revenue, won’t approve rebuilds, often needs to be involved with decision making on big deals, has a history of being a shithead, and is also looking to recoup some revenue from COVID.
You may remember COVID as that thing still going on but society has widely just decided to move on because you know… capitalism, people are dead, but we’re not and all that. Great, truly great stuff.
So just to summarize: ownership group headed by Edwards has their own concepts and focuses that differ significantly than Gary on Twitter wanting a rebuild (or a new arena, or both; it doesn’t matter). None of this is clearly easy to navigate, especially since Brad Treliving lacks an extension.
Do you even go back to him? The guy who has architected some pretty impressive deals while also handily making colossal mistakes that have derailed the franchise at various times? Is he a better solution moving forward as the devil you know versus an uncertainty? It feels that way given how the number of nepotism and retread hires occur in hockey. It’s an insular sport, league, and culture that rewards being a part of an old boy’s club because that means you always have a lifeline for when you’re fired.
Nothing is easy, but that’s life. Once when I was a kid, no older than 10, I was whining about something completely insignificant - even by today’s standards - and my dad turned to me and uttered the following: “Life is hard and then you die.”
He’ll be gone three years next month and it’s still one of the most hilariously accurate things ever said to me. I miss him.
Being a fan of the Calgary Flames is hard and then you die.
Up Next Week
We begin to here a lot of words like “mathematically” and “technically” so brace for that.
In a brighter spot, maybe Jakob Pelletier will do another adorable thing. After kissing Kadri and trying to lift Lindholm, maybe he will do a Quebecois declaration of love for Huberdeau.
Tickets are about to get reaaaaal cheap on those secondary sites so if you want to suffer collectively, now is the time!
Marinerstack inches closer and closer.
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