October 17 2010 11:40AM
With a full week in the can, it's time to have a look at a few matters of interest around the Flames and the NHL. This week, the Flames get a desperately needed win to by them a bit of breathing room, Joe Thornton extends his stay in NorCal, and the Coyotes might have a
sucker owner after all.
Last night's effort was more in line with most of us would prefer to see, absent a bit of sloppiness in the defensive zone. Amid all the noise about Iginla and Tanguay getting off the schneid, I hope people don't lose sight of the excellent game Matt Stajan authored last night. He was winning puck battles in bunches while playing almost exclusively against the Oiler top six, and his 11-4 tally on scoring chances and +15 Corsi figure by night's end were rewarded on the scoresheet as well. He'll need about 300 more games over the next four seasons to silence the doubters, but he gets a gold star for at least one night.
Off-ice, Roger Millions added some good news to the pile, as his late night Tweet intimated that Rene Bourque might be returning to action sooner than we might have expected. I don't hold any specific hope that Langkow will be back soon, but the Flames' schedule takes a turn to the more difficult next month, and having Bourque and Moss in harness would be very helpful
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
I took a bit of stick in the comments from Oiler fans for my preview leading into last night's game. In my defense, here's one paragraph that I'd like to repost:
The third line has been an absolute train wreck, though, and the continued use of Andrew Cogliano as a center has drawn the ire of more than a few of the more perspicacious types that follow the Grease. He, Paajarvi and Brule have managed the rare trick of being badly outshot while starting in the other team's end the majority of the time. That's not good.
As per Dennis King's scoring chance count over at MC79 Hockey, the terrible trio tallied these quality numbers at EV:
Yikes. And speaking of yikes, the Wild dropped another decision last night, falling to the BJs 3-2. Our old pal Eric Nystrom is having a time of it thus far, as his -6 might suggest. He's only playing about 10 minutes a night as well, but his plight is the least of the concerns Minnesota has at the moment.
Guillaume Latendresse has been busted to the fourth line, and as Nathan Eide notes, no one is exactly sure what the issue is between the winger and Todd Richards. At any rate, a team in the divsion that isn't the most prolific under ideal circumstances has relegated a likely top sixer to the doghouse, so I'll keep the tears to a minimum.
The Canucks aren't ripping it up to start the season either, and they'll have to make due for the short term without one of their prize UFAs from the summer, as Keith Ballard is already nicked, courtesy of a concussion suffered Friday in L.A. As mentioned, Vancouver isn't killing it so far, but as much as I'd enjoy seeing that team crash and burn, I kinda doubt they'll shoot under 4% at 5v5 for an extended period, so let's savour it while it lasts.
The best team in the division thus far has been Colorado, and unlike last season's smoke and mirrors production, the Avalanche have actually played quite well. They're outshooting teams at EV thus far, which is certainly a change from last year's trend. I've seen bits and pieces of all their games to date, and they've been the better squad every night save their loss in Philly. Last night saw Colorado get Avalanched, if you will, by the Islanders, as they lost 5-2 despite outplaying New York for large stretches of the game.
That sound you hear is Joe Thornton counting his cash, as the Sharks extended him for three more seasons at 7M a pop. He's a very good player, but every time I think I'd like to defend him in an unabashed manner, two things jump out at me. First, his shooting percentage drops like a stone every year in the playoffs without fail.
He shoots more often as well, and those two things suggest that teams are willing to let him shoot once they have a chance to specifically prepare for San Jose over an extended period, because they don't think he can beat them unless he's pass-first. That's more a matter of curiosity to me than any thing else, but I also note that his regular season results against Western Conference playoff teams since he moved to California aren't exactly top shelf:
Plus/Minus season totals Against WC playoff teams
05/06 +17 +6
06/07 +24 +5
07/08 +18 -1
08/09 +16 +1
09/10 +17 -4
The first two seasons are eminently acceptable figures given the sort of competition he's faced, but the last three are no hell and honestly, even when I look at his underlying numbers I see a player who's very good, but not someone at the Datsyuk/Zetterberg/Crosby/Ovechkin elite level. I don't think it's a bad contract in the realm of some others we've seen, but it's not some incredible discount either.
I see Larry Brooks is fully onside with the notion that goons are a waste of money. I found it interesting that the broadcast team of Lee and Weekes also mentioned that since the Flames neglected to dress a goon for last night's Oil-Flames tilt, Steve McIntyre was rendered superfluous. I'll just add that if these gents can figure it out, one can only wonder if that idea will make its way to the management suite.
The interminable Coyotes' ownership saga might actually have reached a point where something might happen. Matthew Hulsizer has allegedly reached a deal with Glendale, and is, depending on your POV, either on the cusp of owning a team, or still trying to make the dollars work on a purchase price for the franchise.
The 'Yotes drew a nice crowd for the Wings last night, and as much as I'd like a team within 25 minutes of my house, I'll simply once again state my long-held belief that the league will do absolutely everything to keep the team in the desert, irrespective of whether the underlying structure is sound or not.
That's all for this week. As always, link 'em if you got 'em in comments.