March 05 2009 04:30AM
Welcome to the 16th Game Day Fire Drill, for this, Calgary’s 64th game of the season on March 5, 2009.
Think this game is gonna be fairly important?
Well, not in the grand scheme of things, obviously. It's one game, and a couple points won or not won isn't going to make the hugest difference in the world. By mentally, there aren't going to be many bigger games than the first one post-deadline.
This is the point at which a team sees what it has for the stretch run for the first time. This is when the new guys make an impression.
I think Jordan Leopold might be a bit more immune from the scrutiny of that, though. Flames fans are, after all, about 142,281 times more forgiving of anyone that used to be on the Flames and comes back (see also: Conroy, Craig). "REMEMBER 2004?" they'll shout. And I'll say, "Yes I do." And then they'll say, "YEAH THAT WAS AWESOME LEOPOLD IS AWESOME BECAUSE THAT WAS SO AWESOME." And I get that, but if people expect the Jordan Leopold of five years ago, they will only end up disappointed.
The pressure, of course, is truly on Olli Jokinen, who it appears will be slotted between Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri, at least on the power play. The Flames gave up a lot to get him, firstly. Well, maybe not "a lot" in the grand scheme of things, since I'd argue that the most valuable asset given away was a late first-round pick (an enforcer and a No. 3 center that never lived up to expectations, partially due to injuries, are not terribly hot commodities in my estimation), but certainly this is the biggest deadline deal the Flames have had since they offloaded Cory Stillman for Craig Conroy and a seventh-round pick in 2001.
Jokinen is a guy that obviously draws a lot of criticism, as anyone watching TSN yesterday could tell you.
"He's never been in the playoffs," they scoff.
But was he an effective player (prior to this year)? Clearly. He was also on a slew of truly horrendous, inept teams in the run-up to his long-rumored arrival in Calgary. In the first 10 full seasons of his NHL career, not including this year, his teams went 262-356-131 (I lumped ties, OTLs and SOLs into the same category for simplification's sake), an average of about a 26-36-13 record, or 65 points. Only in the last three seasons has his team finished above .500, and even then by three games, four games and three games.
The Coyotes this year are on pace for about 77 points (a record of roughly 35-40-7), which of course would not get them into the playoffs at any point in the last trillion or so NHL seasons.
I fail to see how that becomes Jokinen's fault.
"He's not a leader," they titter.
And in Calgary, at last, he doesn't have to be. The leadership in the Flames' locker room is, umm, ridiculously rife. So yes, if like 14 Flames suddenly get hit with injuries, Jokinen might be called upon to lead three quarters of the Quad City Flames into the NHL playoffs, and he'd be doomed. But it wouldn't be because of his poor leadership. It would be because he was centering Kris Chucko and Cam Cunning on the top line.
The only pressure on Jokinen is to prove that the faith that Darryl Sutter, Mike Keenan and the rest of the organization showed in him is not misguided or misplaced. Luckily, too, the Flames are in the middle of a road trip, so even if he has a bad shift, a bad period or a bad game, he won't be getting crucified anywhere but in the papers and on the internet. Who gives a crap about those places?
And really, are you seriously going to miss Matt Lombardi?
The Calgary Flames (38-19-6 for 82 points. Third in the West, first in the Northwest) and the Philadelphia Flyers (34-18-10 for 78 points. Fourth in the East, second in the Atlantic)
5 p.m. Mountain time and 7 p.m. Eastern time. All other time zones should not encourage their children to swear.
Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Calgary is 16-11-7 on the road this year, and, hey, they've won five in a row away from Calgary (wait that can't be right, can it?). The Flyers are a stingy 18-8-4 at home and have earned points in seven of their last nine games, going 6-2-1 in that stretch.
What (to hate about the Flyers):
Dany Briere — His contract more or less ruined the National Hockey League's collective bargaining agreement. Fact. Also, he is a stupid baby. And stupid babies need the most attention, Dion Phaneuf.
Riley Cote and Arron Asham — Two meathead goons on one team? Who do the Flyers think they are? The Calgary Flames circa 2003-04? Well I got news for you punks: You're not Krzysztof Oliwa and Chris Simon, and you never will be.
Dan Carcillo — Here's a tip, buster. Having a mustache like Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite doesn't make you funny or ironic. It makes you a dink.
Joffrey Lupul — Former Oiler. 'Nuff said.
Scott Hartnell — His hair is absurd. Just look at him.
I think my mom had the same haircut in 1987.
Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne — Together they've combined for 15 shorthanded goals. Only four other TEAMS in the NHL have two-thirds of that total. Showoffs.
John Stevens — "Oh look at me, I'm a coach that wears glasses I must be super-smart." Take it outside, poindexter.
Because you just need to see that pumpkin-headed freak light it up on the PP tonight. Enjoy the game and let everyone know about your infinite disappointment at Leopold's inevitable first-period injury in the comments section.