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Super 16: Flames, Sabres work from similar positions

by Corey Masisak

When Jay Feaster was removed from the position of general manager of the Calgary Flames, it meant there were now two such openings in the NHL because the Buffalo Sabres have yet to replace the departed Darcy Regier.

Though it is the same position and the two franchises are relatively close to each other in the League standings, there are a lot of differences about the two jobs and the situations make for an interesting contrast.

Super16 12 Choose Your Own Adventure

Contracts by year BUFFALO CALGARY
2015-16 5 6
2016-17 4 2
2017-18 3 0
Draft picks by year BUFFALO CALGARY
2014, 1st round 1 1
2014, 2nd round 3 1
2015, 1st round 2* 1
2015, 2nd round 2 1
*Sabres are getting a first-round pick in 2014 or 2015 from the New York Islanders (top-10 protected in 2014)
Top unrestricted free agents
Ryan Miller Mike Cammalleri
Matt Moulson Lee Stempniak
Steve Ott Matt Stajan
Henrik Tallinder Chris Butler
Cody McCormick Kris Russell
Top U-25-age players
1. Cody Hodgson 1. Sean Monahan
2. Rasmus Ristolainen 2. Johnny Gadreau
3. Zemgus Girgensons 3. T.J. Brodie
4. Nikita Zadorov 4. Emile Poirier
5. Marcus Foligno 5. Sven Baertschi
6. Tyler Myers 6. Patrick Sieloff
7. Mikhail Grigorenko 7. Morgan Klimchuk
8. Matt Hackett 8. Jon Gillies
9. Mark Pysyk 9. Markus Granlund
10. Jake McCabe 10. Max Reinhart

Neither franchise has been very successful of late, though the Flames reached the Stanley Cup Final a decade ago and the Sabres soon followed with back-to-back Eastern Conference Final appearances. Each made significant trades last season to signal a full-scale rebuild, trading their captain and other key players for prospects and draft picks.

That's about where the similarities end. The Flames have an owner who has had a stake in the team for two decades, while the Sabres have one of the newest members of the League's ownership group.

The new GM in Calgary will have one of the most experienced and famous executives in hockey as his direct boss, and will likely have to mold the franchise in an image Brian Burke desires. Buffalo's new GM will have a famous boss, but Pat LaFontaine is new at the position.

If Burke's comments from the day Feaster was removed are true, the new GM in Calgary will likely be on a shorter timeline to get the team back into Stanley Cup Playoff contention, while the Sabres have given no indication that they aren't taking the long view for the rebuild. That could mean the Sabres have one less competitor in the Connor McDavid derby next season.

Both teams have some interesting potential free agents to trade if so inclined, whether it be forward Mike Cammalleri in Calgary or goaltender Ryan Miller in Buffalo. The Flames have only two players under contract beyond the 2015-16 season while the Sabres have four, and two of them are Tyler Myers and Ville Leino for a combined cost of $10 million against the salary cap.

Check out the tables here and make the decision: Which franchise is better set up for a new GM to take over and succeed? The Flames are in a better place with respect to the salary cap and have more experience in the key positions above the GM. The Sabres have a deeper collection of young talent and the ability to add a lot more with the current draft picks owned plus potential additions in trades near the deadline this season.

It says here the Flames are more likely to return to playoff contention first, but don't be surprised if the Sabres beat them in the race to true Stanley Cup contender status.

DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is's weekly power rankings, the new-look version is going to focus more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings, and will likely take more of a long view than a short one. Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information. Also, the statistics and team records are through the games on Wednesday night.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (25-7-5) LW: 1

There are clusters of players from the best possession teams in the top 30 individual players in Corsi for percentage on [], largely because certain lines are more dominant than others. The Los Angeles Kings have four guys, including the entire top line. The Minnesota Wild have three (the top line), the New Jersey Devils have three (Jaromir Jagr and Dainius Zubrus play together), the Boston Bruins have three (Patrice Bergeron's line) and the St. Louis Blues have four (the trio of Vladimir Sobotka, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko have spent a lot of time together).

The Blackhawks have 20 percent of the top 30, six guys, among players who have played at least 28 games. There are three others, Bryan Bickell, Jeremy Morin and Kris Versteeg, who all have better CF% numbers than Patrick Kane, the sixth guy on the list for Chicago. Those three haven't played enough to qualify.

The Blackhawks are rolling out three lines every night that dominate possession of the puck. They have one of the top defense pairings in the League, and the guy who seems to be nudging ahead in the Norris Trophy race in Duncan Keith. It's likely going to take an incredible goaltending performance in the playoffs to beat this team.

MUST READ: Anntti Raanta has some interesting stories to tell about his time in the Finnish military, writes Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

2. Los Angeles Kings (23-8-4) LW: 3

The Kings have one loss in December, the second half of a back-to-back in Chicago. Martin Jones has won his first six NHL starts with three shutouts, one-upping Frederik Andersen's great start to his career down the freeway and adding another thing for those two fan bases to argue about (which club has the best No. 3 goalie).

MUST READ: No Quick, no problem for the Los Angeles Kings as the organization's depth in net shines, Curtis Zupke writes.

3. Anaheim Ducks (24-7-5) LW: 4

The Ducks were tied atop the Western Conference with the Blackhawks after a loss in Pittsburgh on Nov. 18. Since that night, Anaheim has gone a month with getting at least a point in every game but one (9-1-3). The team woke up Thursday morning two points behind Chicago in the standings, and three ahead of the Kings, which is the lead the Ducks had after that loss to the Penguins.

MUST READ: Craig Custance of writes about whether or not the Ducks have a championship-caliber defense corps.

4. San Jose Sharks (21-7-6) LW: 5

The Sharks beat the Kings, St. Louis Blues and Ducks in succession at the end of November, but after handling the Toronto Maple Leafs to start December, they've lost five of seven. The peripheral numbers are still strong, and they've dominated possession when the score was close in six of the past 10 games, but this is the second mini-slump of a season that isn't halfway done.

MUST READ: Derek Tanabe of Fear the Fin debunks some of the narrative about the Sharks sitting on leads.

5. St. Louis Blues (22-7-4) LW: 2

It has been a weird season for Alexander Steen. He's gone from one of the more underrated players in the League to one of the most visible, mostly because he's pouring in goals like never before in his career.

He has long been a possession statistics monster, but he's also had injury issues. He was one of those players who people always said, "If he could stay healthy …" He had two pretty good seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11 with the Blues and could have had a great year in 2011-12. He's missed at least 10 games in each of the past four full regular seasons.

This season he has been healthy, and he has 22 goals in 33 games. He also has a shooting percentage of 19.6 percent, which was even higher before he scored only twice in the past nine games. To be certain, that's not a sustainable number for the long term, but the idea that Steen has gone from underrated to possibly overrated in a couple of months seems peculiar.

This is pertinent because Steen was a potential unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and looked like someone who was having a career year at just the right time to cash in. Instead, he signed a three-year, $17.4 million extension with the Blues on Wednesday.

Steen is not likely to score 40 goals in every season of this contract (in fact he might not get to 40 in 2013-14), but if anything his health is more of a risk than his performance. He's been a consistent player who clearly helps drive possession and draws plaudits for his work at both ends of the rink.

He also excels against tough competition. Steen has faced the toughest at even strength among Blues forwards this season the previous one, according to Behind the Net.

Check out those three tables for a list of Steen's comparables. These are the wings that are of a similar age and salary cap figure who have signed deals with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Player, team Age Years Cap hit*
Dustin Brown, LAK 29 8 $5.875
Alexander Steen, STL 29 3 $5.8
Jason Pominville, MIN 31 5 $5.6
Blake Wheeler, WPG 27 6 $5.6
Nathan Horton, CBJ 28 7 $5.3
Joffrey Lupul, TOR 30 5 $5.25
David Clarkson, TOR 29 7 $5.25
Ryane Clowe, NJD 31 5 $4.85
*In millions
Player Goals, 2011-14 Points, 2011-14 Points/game, 2011-14 CF%, 2010-11 CF%, 2011-12 CF%, 2012-13 CF%, 2013-14
Brown 47 95 .583 52.0 56.6 60.0 60.9
Steen 45 91 .785 56.7 60.5 55.0 56.3
Pominville 59 130 .788 52.9 48.4 47.5 55.6
Wheeler 47 131 .799 52.2 53.3 50.1 50.7
Horton 30 54 .608 54.5 57.6 56.9 INJ
Lupul 46 104 .954 40.9 48.5 43.2 44.2
Clarkson 47 76 .500 52.0 51.0 61.1 46.3
Clowe 20 65 .551 57.1 52.0 53.4 43.6
CF% = Corsi for percentage at even strength

The case can be made that Steen is the best combination of per-game production and possession in the group. He's not the only guy on this list who's had health issues, either.

Steen's cap figure is in line, and to be able to get him signed for only three years reduces the risk and makes this a great deal for the Blues. He might have commanded twice the term and a similar per-season dollar amount on the open market.

MUST READ: The Blues were smart to do this deal, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.

6. Boston Bruins (23-9-2) LW: 6

The Bruins have won nine of the past 12, including two victories against the next team on the list. They've also had a pair of "wow" losses, a 6-1 rout at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings and a 6-2 defeat in their return to Vancouver for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup there. Brad Marchand made sure to remind everyone of said achievement on several occasions during the game.

MUST READ: From the way back machine, Jack Olsen of Sports Illustrated writes about the 1970 SI Sportsman of the Year, No. 4, Bobby Orr.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (24-10-1) LW: 8

The top four defensemen are missing. Two of the top four forwards, both of All-Star quality, are missing. Basically, 10 of the team's top 20 guys (plus two replacements for the missing) were not available because of injury or suspension Wednesday night. The kids are alright on defense, Sidney Crosby remains dominant without Evgeni Malkin and James Neal to offer other options for the top defenders to deal with, and Marc-Andre Fleury is yet again having another excellent regular season.

MUST READ: The Penguins have been lauded for their young depth on defense, and that group has helped the team keep winning, writes Wes Crosby.

8. Colorado Avalanche (22-10-1) LW: 9

Matt Duchene is back and looks great again, but the Avalanche are 8-8-1 since the amazing 14-2-0 start. If Colorado is ultimately a team somewhere in the middle of those two sample sizes, the Avalanche will qualify for the playoffs with ease. If they were to hover around .500 the rest of the season, it is a little murky. If they secure 66 points from the final 66 games of the campaign, that would give them 94 points after the great start. Most years, that's enough, but this isn't most years in the West.

MUST READ: Tim Wharnsby of writes about Joey Hishon, a Colorado prospect who is back on the ice after 22 months away because of a concussion.

9. Vancouver Canucks (20-10-6) LW: 11

Seven wins to start the month, including a 5-for-5 homestand, is a pretty nice way to shrug off a so-so start. Just as expected, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Mike Santorelli have been carrying the offense. Wait, one of these things is not quite like the others.

MUST READ: Kesler is healthy and has his mojo back, writes David Ebner of the Globe and Mail.

10. Phoenix Coyotes (18-10-5) LW: 7

The Coyotes, like the Blues and Avalanche, are still lagging behind in the games played department, but Phoenix has lost four of six at the same time as Vancouver's surge. Seven of the next nine contests are against teams not on this list, and the Coyotes need to take advantage to keep pace in the unrelenting West.

MUST READ: Speaking of mojo, the Coyotes are starting to look a little more like the old Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic writes.

11. Minnesota Wild (20-11-5) LW: 10

The Wild have defeated Chicago, San Jose, Colorado and Vancouver in the past two weeks, while also losing at Anaheim and San Jose. The other game was a 4-0 loss at … Columbus? It was the second night of a back-to-back while the Blue Jackets hadn't played the previous two days. That's a tough bounce from the schedule matrix.

MUST READ: Gregg Doyel of writes that Josh Harding's story is marvelous, but not miraculous.

12. Montreal Canadiens (21-12-3) LW: 12

The Canadiens have won 11 of 15, with one blowout win (6-2 against Minnesota) and one large defeat (6-0 against Martin Jones, destroyer of cities). Eleven of the next 15 games are on the road, and Montreal's Corsi for percentage at even strength when the game is close has been below 49 percent in eight of the past 10 games, which could be a problematic trend should it continue.

MUST READ: Speaking of narrative debunking, Curtis Kinden of All About The Habs writes that Max Pacioretty is far from a "perimeter player."

13. Tampa Bay Lightning (20-11-3) LW: 16

Wins in regulation haven't been easy to come by, but the Lightning are clawing and scratching along without Steven Stamkos. The late comeback win on Long Island was huge, and they've beaten a direct competitor (Detroit) twice in the past eight days. Losing Stamkos might have been a good spot for Jonathan Drouin to take on a larger role had he stuck with the team, but rookie Nikita Kucherov has been impressive in spurts.

MUST READ: Clare Austin of Raw Charge makes the case for why general managers are more willing to pay lots and lots of money for goaltenders in the current economic system.

14. Dallas Stars (16-12-5) LW: 15

Consistency (and the key injuries on the blue line) is probably going to keep the Stars from truly challenging for a playoff spot in the West, but they are certainly entertaining. A team has reached six goals in a game involving the Stars seven times this season, just one fewer than the previous two campaigns combined (don't tell Lindy Ruff his team is 3-4-0 in those games).

MUST READ: The Stars' top line has been fantastic, writes Steve Hunt.

15. Detroit Red Wings (15-12-9) LW: 13

The Red Wings have a seven-game and a six-game losing streak just in the past six weeks of this season, and they can't win at Joe Louis Arena. They've got tons of injuries, but have scraped by with non-regulation losses (seven since Nov. 7) to ease the pain while they try to stem the tide and wait for reinforcements.

MUST READ: HBO's "24/7" gives fans inside access, and Justin Bourne breaks down some of the inside hockey stuff the cameras caught glimpses of.

16. Washington Capitals (18-13-3) LW: 14

The Capitals have won two games in regulation in the past month, and only four teams have fewer non-shootout victories in the entire NHL. They've also been pretty brutal at even strength. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and the power play have been great, and the positives might be enough for the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division, but there are less power plays and no shootouts in the playoffs.

MUST READ: Muneeb Alam of Japers Rink put Ovechkin's recent scoring surge into a historical context.

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