Connecting the dots

Jean Lefebvre
July 23 2009 09:08AM

A certain manufacturer and distributor of brewed beverages in this country claims in an ad campaign that there’s an unwritten code in this country and then proceeds to list a bunch of actions that are supposedly reflective of Canadians. Not surprisingly, many of the code items are hockey-related, but there seems to be one missing. Allow us to rectify this error:

There's an unwritten code in Canada. If you live by it, chances are …

You’ve left your coat on some pile and knew it wouldn’t get stolen.

You've never made a move on your buddy’s girlfriend.

You know that on a road trip the strongest bladder determines the pit stops.

You've kept all your hockey trophies.

You've replaced someone’s pint if you've knocked theirs over.

If your buddy’s in trouble, you've got his back.

You've clapped for a dancer even though she shouldn't be a dancer.

You've used a blowtorch to curve your stick.

You've used your arm as an ice-scraper and YOU’VE MADE A PROJECTED LINEUP FOR YOUR FAVOURITE HOCKEY TEAM IN THE MIDDLE OF JULY WHEN IT’S STILL MONTHS AWAY FROM THE START OF THE SEASON AND HARDLY ANY COACHES KEEP LINES AND DEFENCE PAIRINGS TOGETHER ANYMORE SO WHAT’S THE POINT?

But no matter how pointless the exercise, it’s something that has to be done and besides, the powers that be at FlamesNation don’t seem that keen on that hard-hitting and oh-so-timely-and-relevant after-the-fact analysis of the trade that sent Pat Riggin from Calgary to Washington in 1982. So we’ll keep that piece on the shelf a while longer and take a stab at what the Flames lineup could/should/would look like on Oct. 1.

Kent W. took a stab at this a while ago, but the subsequent acquisition of Nigel Dawes has created repercussions that have been felt from Cranbrook to Cremona to Carstairs and so the topic begs a re-examination, even if it’s from someone who has no clue why the old California Golden Seals trio of Dennis Maruk, Bob Murdoch and Al MacAdam was called the 3M Line.

OK, let’s start with the easy part — Jarome Iginla plays right wing on the top line. Also, despite recent cyber-innuendo suggesting otherwise, Alex Tanguay probably doesn’t play anywhere on any Flames line.

In his lineup, Kent had Olli Jokinen playing the wing because of the Flames’ relative shallowness there compared to centre and you know what? That hasn’t changed all that much in spite of the addition of Dawes. So the Finn stays on the wing in this set-up, too. Kent, your royalty cheque for borrowing your intellectual property is in the mail.

Jokinen-Langkow-Iginla

Glencross-Boyd-Moss

Dawes-Conroy-Bourque

Nystrom-Backlund-Sjostrom

Even if Brent Sutter has promised to crack the whip and keep the forwards honest in regard to their defensive responsibilities, a solid two-way centreman is a must beween Jokinen and Iginla and the best man for the job is Daymond Langkow, no matter how much “He’s-not-a-true-No. 1-centreman” wailing that provokes.

After that, it’s easy enough to assemble two more three-man partnerships but it’s a little harder to assign “second line” and “third line” labels to them according to the classic definition. In this scenario, Curtis Glencross, David Moss and Dustin Boyd play together because they had some nice moments together during the 2008 pre-season and, for various reasons, didn’t get enough extended time as a unit once the regular campaign got under way.

The presence of Craig Conroy and Rene Bourque gives the other second/third line some nice versatility and this is the trio that would get the tougher opposition in a match-up situation.

The Flames would presumably like to make Wayne Primeau and his $1.4-million ticket disappear before the season gets under way, and if they can that might open the door for Mikael Backlund to make the squad for some carefully chosen minutes and cameo power-play time. Not sure Backlund won't actually start the season in the minors, but it was fun writing the names of two Swedes and the son of a Swede on the same line.

If it's determined that spot duty would be detrimental to Backlund's development, then it’s stick in Jamie Lundmark and pray he doesn’t play his way back to the minors yet again. Bear in mind that Brian McGrattan will get the call on nights Sutter believes some muscle is needed. There’s Brandon Prust, too.

As for the back end, it seems unfathomable the Flames won’t at least try former WHL Central Division wunderkinds Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf as a pairing. That would allow Calgary to keep Cory Sarich and Robyn Regehr together as a punishing shut-down pair.

Phaneuf-Bouwmeester

Sarich-Regehr

Giordano-Pardy

Barring any significant August movement at the Saddledome offices — and the cap situation would seem to preclude anything drastic, including the return of Todd Bertuzzi at a bargain-basement price — those are the building blocks the new coaching regime will have at its disposal. Is it good enough in a tepid Northwest Division field?

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Lefebvre is in that awkward stage of hockey following -- old enough to fondly remember the Cleveland Barons and too set in his ways to accept charity points and games where there's a winner but apparently no loser. As a long-time ink-stained wretch, he's also a firm believer in the old Bobby Knight quote about journalists: "All of us learn to write in second grade, but most of us go on to better things."
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#1 b1ackhat
July 23 2009, 10:23AM
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"the powers that be at FlamesNation don’t seem that keen on that hard-hitting and oh-so-timely-and-relevant after-the-fact analysis of the trade that sent Pat Riggin from Calgary to Washington in 1982"

I'm of the opinion that this trade continues to haunt the Flames to this very day.

LOLZ

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#2 b1ackhat
July 23 2009, 10:24AM
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Also Jean don't you think it is amazing how the Northwest has gone from being arguably the most competitive division in the NHL last season to being - as you so aptly put it - tepid.

Parity. Who would have thought it would arrive chez NHL?

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#3 Kent
July 23 2009, 12:26PM
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I like the 4th line, Jean, but in reality you know we're going to have to pencil one of McGrattan or Prust in every night, barring injuries.

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#4 Lefebvre
July 23 2009, 12:36PM
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@ Kent: Yeah, I vaguely mentioned about using muscle on the nights the coach thinks it's necessary, but you're right about likely seeing an enforcer often because most teams seem to think that a deterrent is needed virtually every night.

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#5 Lefebvre
July 23 2009, 12:42PM
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b1ackhat wrote:

Also Jean don’t you think it is amazing how the Northwest has gone from being arguably the most competitive division in the NHL last season to being - as you so aptly put it - tepid. Parity. Who would have thought it would arrive chez NHL?

I guess these things go in cycles. This could be a topic for another day, but what division is the deepest and strongest now? I think there's one contender for this title in each conference.

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#6 Matt
July 23 2009, 04:54PM
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Jokinen-Langkow-Iginla GlenX-Conroy-Moss Dawes-Boyd-Bourque Prust-Lundmark-Nystrom (Sjostrom)

The Jokinen at LW is wishful thinking, as is the idea that Prust's presence in the lineup will preclude McGrattan's. But July is for wishful thinking...

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#7 Brent G.
July 23 2009, 08:50PM
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Dawes-Langkow-Iggy Bourque-Jokinen-Moss Glencross-Conroy-Boyd Greentree-Nystrom-Sjostrom (Prust/Macgratton will sub in for Greentree on tougher nights)

Regher-Buowmester Phaneuf-Giordano Sarich-Pardy

This seems to be the ideal line combinations. Sutters a smart man, I can see him separating Jokinen and Iggy very quickly into camp. Everyone knows Langkow and Iggy work way to well together. Bourque and Moss will keep the puck going in the right direction while Jokinen remains a liability; both posted 50% FO% too. I truly believe Dawes can thrive (albeit a little unwarranted) working with good line mates ... cue Langkow and Iggy feeding him the puck.

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#8 Wanye Gretz
July 24 2009, 12:04AM
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@ Lefebvre:

I'd have to say that the toughest division is the best division in the league now. With the exception of the Islanders, who more resemble an informal NHL starting goaltender association meeting than a hockey team - the division is stacked:

New Jersey Devils 106 Pts Pittsburgh Penguins 99 Pts Philadelphia Flyers 99 Pts New York Rangers 95 Pts New York Islanders 61 Pts

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#9 TLP
July 24 2009, 09:25AM
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Wow, 61 for the Islanders? You're being pretty optimistic, boss.

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#10 drunk broadcaster
July 24 2009, 02:06PM
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Thoughts...

A) Boyd's not signed. B) Anybody who thinks Backlund's development is helped by bottom 6 minutes needs to have their head examined. Sutter has repeatedly stated its top 6 or no-go for Backlund for this season. C) Man is McGratten a bad signing. D) Lots of left-handed shots all of a sudden E) The D-corps is locked in for 2 years... No UFA/RFA next summer. At some point in the next 2 years... Pelech>Sarich = Trade Sarich

Bourque - Jokinen - Iginla Glen-X - Langkow - Moss Dawes - Conroy - (Lundmark or Boyd if signed) Sjostrom - Primeau - Nystrom (McGrossContract)

Regehr - Bouwmeester Sarich - Phaneuf Gio - Pardy (Kronwall)

Kipper (Tabasco)

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