We’re now well into the summer and are consequently shifting our focus from reflecting on the 2013-14 campaign to looking forward to next season. So it seems appropriate that this week we will be largely closing the book on our look back on the campaign that past by wrapping up the What Went Wrong series this week.
Since April, we have been analyzing the teams that missed the playoffs and what led that to that fate. Now just two teams remain.
There’s a few teams where the title of ‘What Went Wrong’ feels inappropriate and the Flames are one of them. After years of futilely trying to claw their way into the playoffs, the Flames finally marked a change in direction by trading Jarome Iginla.
Since then they’ve been putting a greater emphasis on building for the future and while they certainly would have liked to make the playoffs last season, the odds were stacked heavily against them to begin with. For now it’s more important that they’re assembling a core that can make them competitive down the road and in that regard, they’re making progress.
That all being said, certain Calgary players encounter problems that caused the Flames to slip further than they otherwise might have…
Dennis Wideman – Probably the Calgary Flames biggest challenge last season was trying to overcome the number of key defensive injuries they suffered. Calgary used 12 defensemen in 2013-14 and only Chris Butler and T.J. Brodie played 70 or more games. Wideman’s season in particular was devastated by injuries as he was limited to 46 games due to a broken hand and then upper-body injury. The good news is that his injured-ridden season was the exception rather than the norm for him. There’s a fair chance that he’ll be able to get through the 2014-15 campaign without suffering a similar setback.
Reto Berra – With the Miikka Kiprusoff-era over in Calgary, the Flames turned to Europe in search of their next starting goaltender. They turned to the Swiss league’s Berra and the KHL’s Karri Ramo, but only one of those two ended up working out. Ramo held his own in the NHL, while Berra posted a 2.95 GAA and ugly .897 save percentage in 29 games. Berra also had a 9-17-2 record while the rest of the team’s netminders were 26-23-5. The Flames dumped him on Colorado before the season ended and he’s projected to start the 2014-15 campaign as Semyon Varlamov’s understudy.
Sven Baertschi – Before the 2013-14 campaign started, Flames president Brian Burke tried to light a fire under Baertschi by saying that the young forward only has learned to compete in one zone, and even then only sporadically. Burke also said that he’s seen “flashes of brilliance” out of Baertschi, but that’s not even at this level. Baertschi didn’t end up even sticking with the Flames as he played 26 games with them compared to 41 at the AHL level. He’s just 21, so he still has plenty of time to grow, but those hoping he would show Burke up this season by breaking out were disappointed.
Curtis Glencross – Glencross was limited to just 38 games in 2013-14 due to knee and ankle problems, which was particularly disappointing because it could have been a strong season for him. When he was healthy, he was solid offensively with 12 goals and 24 points in 38 games. Had he maintained that pace through a full season without getting hurt, then he would have surpassed his previous career-high of 48 points. He might end up doing that in 2014-15 though.
The Oilers’ 2013 campaign looked like a stepping stone season towards finally contending. They still had some obvious question marks, but it looked like they were finally entering the next phase of their quest to win the Stanley Cup. Instead, 2013-14 proved to be a major step backwards for them as they missed the playoffs for the eighth straight season.
Their defense was a major problem last season and that was never more evident than on Jan. 29, when Scrivens earned a record-breaking 59 save shutout. After the contest, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said he was "proud" of Scrivens and "mad" at the rest of the team for offering him no support. Embarrassingly, that was just one of three times Scrivens had to face 50 or more shots in his 20 starts with the Oilers.
Edmonton’s defense has naturally been the focus of the GM Craig MacTavish’s efforts this summer. He added blueliners Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin, and Keith Aulie and brought in veteran coach Craig Ramsay to guide the team’s defense.
Devan Dubnyk – He’s always been a question mark in Edmonton, but they were hoping he was ready to be a starting goaltender after posted a 2.57 GAA and .920 save percentage in the shortened campaign. Instead he completely fell apart in 2013-14, posting a 3.43 GAA and .891 save percentage in 32 games with the Oilers before they shipped him to Nashville. The only silver lining is that his collapse triggered a series of moves that left the Oilers with the much more promising goalie tandem of Scrivens and Viktor Fasth.
Nail Yakupov – The 2012 first overall pick struggled mightily in his sophomore season and spent a fair amount of time in the press box as a result. His defensive work was insufficient and he wasn’t even particularly productive offensively in 2013-14 with just 11 goals and 24 points in 63 games. His rough season has opened the door to questions of if he will ultimately prove to be one of the bigger duds amongst top selections, but it’s still far too early to give up on him.
Sam Gagner – Gagner took a big step forward in 2013 by scoring 14 goals and 38 points in 48 games. Armed with a three-year, $14.4 million contract, the hope was that he would be one of the Oilers’ major contributors in 2013-14. He missed the start of the season due to a broken jaw though and he couldn’t seem to get things back on track after that. He ended up with 10 goals and 37 points in 67 games and was consequently traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning and then Arizona Coyotes over the summer.
Ales Hemsky – The Oilers were counting on Hemsky to provide them with some secondary scoring behind their usual top-line of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He got off to a good start, but fizzled out and ended up with just nine goals and 26 points in 55 games. Hemsky did end up turning his season around, but only after the Oilers shipped him to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for third and fifth-round picks. In particular, he meshed well with Jason Spezza and will get a chance to continue to benefit from that on-ice chemistry now that they’re both in Dallas.