Welcome back to The Sunday Census. Throughout the week, The Win Column will be posing topical and intriguing polls on Twitter (@wincolumnblog) to gauge the fan-base’s stance on pressing issues. Want to make sure your opinion is taken into effect? Vote in the polls, start a debate, and propose alternative suggestions on the polls!
— The Win Column (@wincolumnCGY) December 18, 2018
Much maligned at the time, and through the majority of the summer, the Dougie Hamilton trade was one that many did not want to see happen. Originally using a wealth of assets to acquire the defensemen back in 2015, he was viewed as a main piece for the Flames blueline for years to come.
The return for Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and Adam Fox was Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin; in case you had forgotten. Both players at the time had large question marks over their heads, as they had yet to completely proved what type of NHLers they would be, and were RFAs in need of new contracts. Back in June, I took a more optimistic view point on the trade for what it could potentially bring to this team.
Guess that wasn’t a terrible idea.
Through the Christmas break, here are the statistics as they stand:
It’s clear that Hanifin and Lindholm have had more success in their new homes so far, with Lindholm far exceeding even the most optimistic projections. The new Flames duo is scoring more than their Carolina counterparts, and also taking less penalties and providing more impact in the defensive zone.
We wanted to know what the fanbase’s opinion of the trade is now, after some time has passed. Not surprisingly, 59% of voters think that the trade is an absolute steal at this point. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration by us, but at the same time Hanifin and Lindholm have been key reasons for the Flames success so far this season. Perhaps if the Flames hadn’t been playing as well as a team, this number would be different, but fortunately this is not the case. Fans may also turn to the fact that Hamilton is struggling away from Mark Giordano, while the Flames’ captain is having a Norris season with his former partner TJ Brodie. Chemistry is key, and while Hamilton and Giordano were statistically one of the best pairings in the league, clearly there is an X-factor causing this massive resurgence.
What is key to note, is that 40% of voters opted for the “too early to tell” and “hinges on Adam Fox” options. This is also probably a safer bet for most people to choose, as it has only been 37 games. In a year, two years, or even five years down the road, the view of this trade could change drastically. The biggest question marks exist in Carolina where Ferland needs a new contract come July 1st, and Fox needs an NHL deal. If both players choose to stay in Carolina, and become stars, then it could be concerning for Flames fans. If the opposite happens, then Carolina will have given up quite a lot for not much in return.
My vote went for the “absolute steal” option, as frankly right now it’s hard to classify it as anything but that. Lindholm is a star on the top line, Hanifin is coming into his own with Travis Hamonic, and both players got locked up to long term deals at ridiculously good cap hits. You can be a worrier and say Fox becomes Carolina’s #1 defenseman in a few years, but my money is on him pulling a Jimmy Vesey and heading to a different team.
Which potential UFA should the #Flames target to aquire by the 2019 trade deadline?
— The Win Column (@wincolumnCGY) December 19, 2018
The Flames sit in first place heading into the Christmas break, which is a statement that very few would have believed at the start of the season. There is so much about the team to love at the moment, and only a few weaknesses that need to be fixed. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves at the moment, but it is statistically likely that the Flames will end up making the postseason. Sure there is always the potential for that not to occur, but we like to remain optimistic.
With 2019 almost here, this means that there are just around two months left before the NHL trade deadline. The Flames have not been very active in years past, with Curtis Lazar being the biggest acquisition in the past few seasons. Brad Treliving has never been afraid of making a big move, as per our previous poll question, but he has remained quieter than most GMs on trade deadline day. If his team is still in first place, is this the year he goes after a big fish?
Of the potential rental players available, we highlighted four players that make the most sense for the Flames: Wayne Simmonds, Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, and Sergei Bobrovsky. All four players are UFAs come the summer, which means all three teams that hold these players rights could make them available for the right price.
Simmonds is an all around player, with a pesky side, that could fit up and down the entire Flames lineup. There has been some decline to his game the past two seasons, which could play in the Flames’ favor. Unfortunately, unlike other names on this list, he could be the most available and most desirable player for teams to look into. He took an even quarter of the vote, which tied him for second, and was my personal choice for which player the team should look to acquire.
Duchene, acquired in last seasons three team blockbuster by the Ottawa Senators, sits in an unfortunate situation. The team’s well documented drama has been a red mark over the organization for the better part of a year now. With its first round pick belonging to Colorado this season, they may look to use Duchene to recoup that lost pick. Would the Flames be willing to part with their first rounder for Duchene? Potentially. He can play at center and wing, and could also slot up and down the lineup. He is not the most desirable player on this poll, as only 19% of fans want to see him acquired but is having a monster season.
The two Columbus Blue Jacket players on our poll took up the majority of votes. Panarin took 25% of the vote, while Bobrovsky took the most at 31%. Both players would provide immediate, and most significant impact to the lineup, but at a massive cost. If the Flames were to acquire either player, it would make the Flames an immediate contender, with Bobrovsky providing a bit of an extra boost. We know Mike Smith hasn’t been his best this season, which would make an additional goalie acquisition that much smarter. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that either player would be worth the cost, plus there is strong chance that Columbus wont make either player available come February if they decide to take a run at the Cup themselves.
What was more interesting is that there were a wealth of replies to the poll that said none of the players should be acquired. This wasn’t one of our options, but over ten people replied with that choice. This may be the most realistic at this point in time, as the Flames are playing amazing team hockey at the moment. Why mess with a good thing?
— The Win Column (@wincolumnCGY) December 22, 2018
Thursday’s thrilling shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning was easily the most exciting Flames game all season, if not in the entire league. Many fans were clamoring for “seven more games in June”. This got us thinking, what seven game series would provide the most entertainment for Flames fans?
The defending Stanley Cup champs got virtually no love on this poll, with only 2% of the vote. Even though they currently hold the title of “champions”, it is clear that many don’t see this as an intriguing match-up for the Flames.
The Winnipeg Jets received 14% of the vote, which is a bit surprising. Easily one of the better teams in the Western Conference, the Jets and Flames have always stacked up for some interesting contests in the past. An all Canadian playoff series, in addition to both teams being near the top of their respective divisions is a series that I would sign up for immediately.
The Lighting received 40% of the vote. Perhaps it was due to the back and forth nature of their last game, or harboured resentment from the 2004 playoff run, that Flames fans want to see another seven game series between the two teams. It’s clear that both teams are evenly matched in most regards, and would be a series that would take seven games to complete. Even saying that sentence outloud makes you want to scream “it was in” at the top of your lungs. This is where my vote lies, as it would make for the most entertaining hockey series.
The clear and obvious choice for most fans is the Edmonton Oilers. It has been 27 seasons since the Alberta teams met in the post season, and based on the two games this season, it could be time for these teams to meet again. This would easily be the most aggressive of the options, as it’s clear both teams do not like each other. Plus the potential offense produced by both teams could lead to some wild shootouts. They take this poll with 44% of the vote.
Other write in candidates include the Minnesota Wild, who have a lot of bad blood this season with the Flames, and the Nashville Predators. I would opt more for the Predators for a seven game series, as their brand of hockey would be much more entertaining. Bad blood makes for good stories, but sometimes less exciting hockey.
Want to be a part of the conversation next time around? Follow us on Twitter @wincolumnblog and be sure to keep a look out for our polls throughout the week.