Gamday Preview: I Miss Kristian Huselius

Kent Wilson
December 21 2010 10:05AM

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 23: Kristian Huselius #20 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up before playing against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 23, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

 

Sticking with the theme playing the same teams over and over again in a short period of time, Flames meet the Blue Jackets in Columbus tonight just eight days after beating them 3-2 in OT. The Flames capitalized on a shaky Steve Mason to build an early lead in that one and then let the Blue Jackets (read: Rick Nash) claw back into things before finishing them off in overtime.

The picture was marginally rosier at that point: the Flames were looking at a schedule featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs, two games against the Wild and then the same Blue Jackets they had just defeated. A four-and-oh record seemed distinctly possible and would have catapulted the Flames over some of their contemporaries in the Western Conference basement. Alas.

With events unfolding as they have, tonight's contest is far more important to the Blue Jackets than it is to the Flames. Columbus sits four points out of a playoff spot with a game or two in hand on the guys they're chasing. A win this evening will not only further distance them from the bottom tier clubs like Calgary, but tie them with the likes of Phoenix and Los Angeles for 9th in the WC.

Back in the fold for Columbus is former Flame Kristian Huselius. A guy claimed off the scrap heap in Florida (discarded needlessly by Mike Keenan), Huselius quickly became one of Darryl Sutter's most successful reclamation projects. He managed 39 points in 54 games with Calgary his first (half) season and then scored a career high 77 points the following year, finishing behind Jarome Iginla (94) and Alex Tanguay (81) for the team lead. Juice would manage 25 goals and 66 points under Keenan during his final year as a Flame, despite floundering in the final quarter of the year and subsequently being benched by Iron Mike. The writing was on the wall at that point with Huselius bolting for free agency, eventually signing with the Blue Jackets. He has finished second and third in scoring on that club since arriving. 

Huselius is an interesting player in many ways. A lanky, somewhat awkward skater, he is nevertheless a wizard with the puck and a master at controlling play with the man advantage. Huselius has excellent vision and an ability to thread both passes and shots through traffic as well as dangle around individual defensemen. During his time in Calgary, no other player was more efficient at producing points on the power play.

Reputed to be a liability at even strength because of his soft play, Huselius arrived in town as a described one-dimensional forward. That stigma stuck with him despite the fact he was never under water as a Flame in terms of possession: for instance, his corsi rate in 07-08 was +14.78/60 - second on the team to Daymond Langkow that year (+15.12). Huselius was always one of the club's top point getters at ES as well and never finished under water in terms of plus/minus in Calgary. There was a time during his final season in town that he, Langkow and Iginla formed one of the most potent trios in the league, exploding during a six-game road trip in December that was seen as a season saving winning streak at the time.

CALGARY, CANADA - APRIL 22:  Captain Jarome Iginla #12 (C) of the Calgary Flames celebrates a goal against the Detroit Red Wings with teammates Kristian Huselius #20 and Daymond Langkow #22 during the second period of Game 6 of the 2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals at the Pengrowth Saddledome on April 22, 2007 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  (Photo by Tim Smith/Getty Images)
 

Because he doesn't fit the profile of the prototypical hockey player, Juice became known as much for his flaws as his strengths by the end of his tenure here. His perceived inconsistency and less than rough-and-tumble style of play irked Mike Keenan and it punched his ticket out of town. When the Blue Jackets landed him for $4.75 million per year, it was roundly declared to be a gross overpay.

In retrospect, however, Juice is a guy I wish the team had found a way to keep, even at that price point. He's not a perfect player by any means, but he brings a lot of the qualities to the game the current team sorely lacks. 

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 Teddy Mancusso
December 21 2010, 10:20AM
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We could sure use husselius.....along with Hakan loob and theo fleury. Hey Kent have you heard is there any chance we can get Nieuwendyk back,,,to play or too GM. There's enough tear drops in this city to sink a battleship, suck it up this our team and all signs are pointing to us turning the corner. Were starting to sound like a bunch of guys reliving our high school glory days.

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#3 schevvy
December 21 2010, 10:40AM
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Is it possible to fire the coach and GM during the trade freeze?

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#4 hal a pena
December 21 2010, 11:26AM
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Teddy Mancusso wrote:

We could sure use husselius.....along with Hakan loob and theo fleury. Hey Kent have you heard is there any chance we can get Nieuwendyk back,,,to play or too GM. There's enough tear drops in this city to sink a battleship, suck it up this our team and all signs are pointing to us turning the corner. Were starting to sound like a bunch of guys reliving our high school glory days.

that corner you speak of turning is the beginning to a very long spiral to the depths of the nhl basement. the flames need to purge the current management who engineered the demise. dutter through his ineptitude has stagnanted the organization, the flames are now a wasteland of fourth line fringe nhl forwards and seventh defensemen, with little hope for post season glory.the flames are caught in the evil vortex of dutter hockey.

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#5 the-wolf
December 21 2010, 11:45AM
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Agreed Kent. I could never understand the fans here who always complained Juice was "soft." While you wouldn't want a team full of them, he brought a dimension to the team no one else did.

He's also underated defensively. Very good at that European way of taking away the passing lanes and slowing the other team's transition game. Man, I hate Keenan.

Then they signed Tanguay, which I thought was redundant. And then they get rid of both which myself and about a couple of million other hockey observers knew would kill the pp.

Man, I hate Darryl.

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#6 Arik
December 21 2010, 11:59AM
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Also, Juice had some soft hands- which is something we're absolutely starving for right now.

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#7 matty
December 21 2010, 12:11PM
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It's too bad the trade xmas trade freeze is in effect, as another loss to Columbus tonight would have definitely given Darryl the itchy finger, although I am guessing the owners won't let Darryl do anything stupid to try and make one last effort to save his neck, which is already cooked and stuffed with Jokinen's conract.

I love to read this board, its not easy being a Flames fan these days but as a seasons ticket holder the past 10 years, and been able to swallow the teams dramatic decline since the 2009 season. The "Flames" haven't really been the "Flames" since Darryl made the 2 crazy trades on Jan. 31, 2010, the team has lost its identity ever since. One could also go back as far as when they hired Iron Mike, who always left shrapnel where ever he went.

I am prepared to see them partially rebuild, as a full rebuild isn't possible with all the long term/expensive contracts in place. As much as I am thankful for what Sutter has brought to the table over his tenure, but its time to give the team and fans a new direction so we can cheer and criticize the next regime. Coach Sutter will stay but GM Sutter will step down after xmas I am guessing, with Feaster directing the ship the rest of the year. Feaster then can swap a few players at the trade deadline for young talent/draft picks when a team can get more on a return from desperate teams and then re-assess the team in the summer and draft accordingly. What else can they really do?

Just my 2 scents!

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#8 B
December 21 2010, 12:27PM
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@ Kent Wilson

"Huselius is an interesting player in many ways. A lanky, somewhat awkward skater, he is nevertheless a wizard with the puck and a master at controlling play with the man advantage. Huselius has excellent vision and an ability to thread both passes and shots through traffic as well as dangle around individual defensemen. During his time in Calgary, no other player was more efficient at producing points on the power play."

...you couldn't be more spot on with this post Kent. I'm usally not into questioning the method to the madness of the Flames GM, but in two cases I am. The first being Cammy, the second being Huselius. We likely would have had to pay them a combined 10 million per season, but the offence the create it worth it twice over. To put their salaries in perspective, I'd take those two over J-Bo and Sarich anyday.

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#9 hal a pena
December 21 2010, 12:41PM
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juice has 7 yep 7 20 goal seasons, other than iggy not many current flames have had this kind of offensive touch.after witnessing the flames blatant lack of finish, the juice may be the tonic the flames drink is missing.

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#10 Scott in Grande Prairie
December 21 2010, 02:02PM
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Yeah, for an Oiler fan up here in the north, it was a bit of a head-scratcher when the Flames let Huselius go. Hard to believe there wasn't a spot on the Flames roster for a guy like that ... even two years ago.

Oh well just keep doing what you're doing...

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#11 Teddy Mancusso
December 21 2010, 02:56PM
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Hey Kent your right, I should have clarified my position. I think the flames turning the corner is that they are losing games and are beyond a quick fix or a fix period. I like the status quo and the turning the corner I speak of is one that the oilers are a few years ahead of us. I like this because it is time to accept our fate and turn to the draft and youth. I think the sutters need to stay and keep this ship heading in the right direction.

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#12 Ricky
December 21 2010, 05:51PM
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Huselius was great with Iginla, Sutter the idiot refuses to offer him a contract we lose him as a UFA, Cammalleri was great with Iginla, Sutter the idiot refuses to offer him a contract we lose him as a UFA. Sutter would rather have Stajan and Hagman as forwards? What a freaking joke! Sutter is a piece of crap who if allowed to keep running this team will put us into the toilet for the next 10 years

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