November 11 2010 05:57PM
He's a Mo(n)sster!!!!
With the Flames calming the waters in Denver the other night, today seems a good time to examine their plight and that of the other clubs around the league. In this week's round-up, Calgary heads to the desert, the Blues hit a roadblock, and the Leafs feel the cold slap of reality.
Note from Robert - In breaking news that hit Twitter right after I hit publish the first time, Brett Sutter was arrested early this morning in Phoenix after allegedly punching a bar patron. He was held on suspicion of assault and released on bond today. The Club hasn't commented as of yet.
Tuesday's third period has quieted the calls for the team to unload everyone but Harvey the Hound, although the undercurrent of discontent surrounding Jarome Iginla's performance thus far is still there. I try to distinguish a player that isn't getting bounces from a player struggling with actual performance whenever the topic arises, and I have no problem in saying the Captain isn't really producing the quality of play that the club needs from him if it has designs on being more than mediocre.
In Brent Sutter's latest tinker, he slid Matt Stajan down a few pegs in practice today with Brendan Morrison moving between Iginla and Tanguay. I'm still of the opinion that Stajan's shoulder is acting up. He took a pretty nasty shot from Kevin Porter Tuesday and he gets full marks for staying in the game, but if he's nicked, I wouldn't be shocked. He's not really the only problem with the top trio, though.
As hard as I am on the captain, fairness compels me to note that he's almost certainly due for a bit of fortune to arrive. Iggy's shooting about 4%, and even if you think, as I do, that he isn't creating the quality of chances that he should, that percentage isn't likely to continue much longer.
Stajan and Olli Jokinen are in that boat as well, which does give me the sense that the club is due for a few guys to start getting bounces. One item I noticed was that the Flames are shooting 7.8% when they skate 5 on 4. That's worse than the 8.2% they manage 5v5, which isn't close to normal for them or any other club. Last year's team was one of hockey's worst at 5v4, and they still managed to shoot 11% for the year when a man to the good, so if we see Iginla, Stajan and Jokinen's SH% start creeping up, it will almost certainly be on the back of the PP getting on a bit of a run.
The Flames are in Phoenix awaiting their encounter with last season's surprise package, the Coyotes. The Yotes were a good out-shooting team last year, but their point total got a bit of juice from winning 19 of 26 games that went to extra time. This year? 0 for 5. They aren't out-shooting 5v5 this season, either, and as a result they're break-even after last night's win against the struggling Hawks. Phoenix will have to make due without Shane Doan for an extended period, as the winger is out week to week with some variant of leg injury, so the return of Wojtek Wolski to the land of the living is a timely one.
Off-ice, Matthew Hulsizer made some promising noises last night on the Coyotes' TV broadcast, hinting that a deal to keep the Dogs in the Valley of the Sun was nearing completion. The City of Glendale will almost certainly bear the brunt of whatever deal gets cooked up, because having 15,000 show up for the Pens or Wings won't make up for the 8-9,000 that the team seems to attract on other occasions, and the ticket prices aren't NHL standard. A massive subsidy over an extended period will be the only thing that keeps a team in that market, the end.
The Oilers return to the fray in Detroit this evening, hard on the heels of a demolition at the hands of the Hurricanes that featured a bit of petulance from Taylor Hall. In review, a young guy has a game where it goes poorly, displays unhappiness, and the world heads for the fainting couch.
Lowetide's calm take is one that Oiler fans might want to embrace as the next few years proceed. Tom Renney has an unbalanced roster to work with, and there will be nights where Hall, Paajarvi and Eberle will have a hard time keeping the puck out of their own end, especially with Horcoff on the limp.
We're starting to see teams pile up the injuries, and no team has had more guys fall than the Avalanche. Tuesday's loss to the Flames saw two more forwards hit the press box, as David Van Der Gulik tore a MCL and T.J. Galiardi broke his wrist in a collision with Jarome Iginla. The 'Lanche were already down four defenders and Craig Anderson, and this morning they made a deal to add a blueliner when they acquired Ryan O'Byrne from the Habs. He's another relatively cheap guy that will be RFA after this year, so he fits Greg Sherman's M.O.
The Blues are another team that has begun to feel the sting of injury. T.J. Oshie broke an ankle in last night's 8-1 paddling by the Blue Jackets. He'll miss three months, and joins Roman Polak, David Perron and Barrett Jackman on the sidelines for the slightly surprising Missourians.
I use the word slightly because St. Louis wasn't that bad a team last year, and they have a nice mix of vets and younger players to go with a good goalie when they have a full roster. No team is deep enough to overcome the loss of four solid players over the long term, and only Perron has any chance of returning in the next few weeks, presuming his headaches from Joe Thornton's hit begin to subside.
The Devils, lousy play aside, are also missing a few useful men. Zach Parise's loss to knee surgery might keep them out on the playoffs no matter what else occurs in Newark this year. It does appear that Marty Brodeur's injury is a short term matter, though, so at least there's that. I suspect that if the season continues as it has for the Devils, last night's shoot-out effort from Ilya Kovalchuk might be seen as emblematic.
Jersey isn't playing that badly at EV, but they can't get any pucks to go in and the goaltending has been pretty suspect even when Brodeur has been in the net, so their record might not be a perfect reflection of actual play.
Speaking of teams with potential goalie issues, the Pens got launched in the third period by Boston last night, and lingering questions around the use of Marc-Andre Fleury even got the ultimate milquetoaster to offer a comment that didn't have the whiff of the utterly canned about it. Sid might not be wrong when he hints that Fleury needs to play his way out of it, but the guy is batting a smooth .863 at EV, so if Dan Bylsma isn't quite as prone to let his expensive goalie play every night without fail, he's not acting in the absence of evidence.
The Leafs. Oh, yes. What would the hockey world be without Brian Burke sniping at enemies, real and imagined, Ron Wilson under the gun, unrest in the management suites and our old buddy Dion on the shelf? Oh, and Tyler Bozak is exactly who sensible people might have suggested he was all along, a middling NHLer at best. Other than that, peachy. I don't know what people expected out of Canada's Team, but a club with a limited group of forwards was never going to keep shooting 15%, and anyone that watched the Flames' start in 09/10 could have advised otherwise.
This year's All-Star game will be contested as a pick-up game in practical terms, as two captains will choose their teams irrespective of conference affiliation for the tilt in Raleigh this January. Gregor touched on this today, but worrying about the competitive nature of a corporate weekend is pretty low on my list.
Finally, the GM meetings concluded without seriously considering Dale Tallon's request for a coaches' challenge ala pro football. Brent Sutter's comments, meandering as they might be, are sort of on the mark, since the league almost certainly should try this at the AHL level first. Better officiating in the collective might be the long-term solution, but that would mean finding more competent whistle-blowers, and the NHL has had a difficult time replacing retirees as is.
The headshot issue did get a bit of a going-over, and if players are still clueless about the effects of brain damage, they might want to peruse this article about Jim McMahon. Maybe players don't care, and it might smack slightly of paternalism to force adults to conform to safety measures that they'd willingly ignore if they could, but people spending their middle age in a daze as a consequence of their job doesn't seem quite right either. YMMV, of course.
That's all for this week. As always, links to other items of note can be left in comments.