December 30 News and Notes

Robert Cleave
December 30 2010 03:16PM

 

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 27: Darryl Sutter of the Calgary Flames speaks with the media  during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 27, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

 

The Christmas break has come and gone, with little in the way of news while we were away. Boring, really. In this week's installment, injuries plague teams good and bad, the Winter Classic nears, and a small matter of interest occurs in Cowtown.

 

Northwest:

 

The neighbours took a another injury hit on Tuesday in their loss to the Sabres. Ryan Whitney's ankle gave way, with a lengthy recovery time allegedly in the cards. The Oil now have exactly one top-four NHL defenseman on the roster, which might be what, roughly three below the proper number? Give or take? They play the Avs this evening in a game that might turn into a no-defense track meet. Colorado doesn't exactly try to play things tight, and they have their own injury issues on the back end, although it appears that Kevin Shattenkirk will play despite taking a puck to the face in Monday's loss to the Red Menace. Neither of these two teams could kill a penalty if their lives depended on it, either. Seriously, tonight's game might end 7-5.

 

The Canucks are still cruising along, with a smoking of the Flyers in the rear view, and Sami Salo is on his way back to what passes for health on his part. I don't know if there's any market for him, but he's the pending UFA that the Dys should trade rather than Kevin Bieksa at this point. Salo would need to waive a NTC, but the guy is ridiculously injury-prone and 36 years old. If the Canucks can move him anything at all, that seems like a pretty clear move to make. Vancouver has to sacrifice someone for cap reasons. Why not him? 

 

 

Elsewhere:

  

 

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 15: Pavel Datsyuk  of the Detroit Red Wings battles for position with Matt D'Agostini  of the St.Louis Blues during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on December 15, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

 

 


The Wings have continued to roll despite a series of injuries to various forwards. The Datsyuk injury is the major item of interest, but they also lost Dan Cleary this week, and Hank Zetterberg's back was acting up before yesterday's trouncing of Dallas. At some point, even a team with Nik Lidstrom playing at a very high level has to suffer a bit from losing top end talent, but there's been no sign of that from the Red Wings as of yet. The Wings also managed to get Chris Osgood his 400th win on Monday in Denver. That's a nice round number, but he's no Hall of Famer unless the voters decide that the current Wings deserve the '67 Leafs treatment.

 

St. Louis loved and lost this week, as they signed Marek Svatos to a contract, then had him snatched away by the Predators. He was subject to waivers after his return from the KHL, a requirement colloquially known as the Reijo Ruotsalainen rule, which was named for the Finnish rearguard that Glen Sather routinely recalled from Europe in the late 1980's. Svatos was kind of a marginal player in Denver, really, only being productive when he shot a very high percentage. He is cheap, though, and that sort of inexpensive gamble is what Nashville has to take when it can. I do wonder if that kills the market for Evgeni Nabokov, or if the normal gentleman's rules among GMs will resume. As I've mentioned in the past, Nabokov was a serviceable goalie with inflated win totals during his tenure in San Jose, but he might be better than what a few teams are sporting in net if he comes back cheap.

 

Being available at half-price didn't make Brian Rolston any more appealing, though. That contract is as bad as it gets, even at 50 cents on the dollar. I don't wish any actual ill-health on anyone, but I do hope Lou Lamoriello metaphorically chokes on a few of his deals, and the Rolston one is a contract he might be stuck paying in full.  Elliotte Friedman suggested that the Islanders might take the plunge on the aging forward, but New York's actions this week hint at a team that isn't interested in any older players or pending UFAs. Moving James Wisniewski to the Habs for a couple of picks fits that mode as well, and although I don't mind him as a player, Wisniewski's not much more than a 4th or 5th D and PP guy on a competitive team. 

 

 

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 29: Marc-Andre Fleury  of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes the save against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on December 29, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 2-1 in the shootout. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

 

The Isles were involved in last night's primary on-ice story as well, as they ended Sid Crosby's scoring streak. I watched a fair bit of the proceedings, and was left with a couple of thoughts. First, the people that don't look for nuance in the game are missing out if they ignore the abilities of Frans Nielsen as a hard minutes center. He's a player that Kent and I have discussed in the past as being as big a bargain as there is in the NHL, and he went head to head with Crosby last night, never once looking out of place. He plays on a very bad and very unfashionable team that's about 8th or 9th in its market in terms of media attention, give or take the Nets, but he's doing superb work without a lot of help. 

 

The other idle thought that struck me was that the day that the Penguins move Geno Malkin might not be so far off, if they can find a taker for that contract. He's as physically talented as any player you might want to mention, but there's a disconnect between his style and everyone else's on that club, and he's one of those players that's gotten away with relying on his raw talent for so long that his development as more than a soft-minutes guy has stalled. He might need to move on for his own benefit, as much as anything else, and the Penguins could use a bit of variation on their roster. 

  

Unfettered?

  

 

Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau leads his team against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Verizon Center in Washington on December 23, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

 

 

It was interesting watch last night's installment of HBO's 24/7 with that thought in mind, because Bruce Boudreau went out of his way to emphasize to his club that Malkin could be goaded into stupidity, and Malkin obliged the Capitals by taking an ill-advised run at Ovechkin after they'd bumped him a bit. Last night also allowed people to hear first hand that Sidney Crosby might know a few naughty oaths, but for all the tongue-clucking about the language, I'll confess that the series, although beautifully shot, doesn't feel incredibly ground-breaking in terms of content. Maybe I'm just a terrible old cynic, but finding out that Bruce Boudreau likes Haagen-Dazs or Mike Rupp's kids had a pile of Christmas presents isn't striking me as greatly surprising.

 

I also notice that for all the trumpeting of raw access, the moments where the two teams are away from the rink are pretty family-friendly, or saccharine, take your pick. I don't mean to suggest anything too nefarious, but in my experience being around the odd pro athlete, they do like to get out after a game for a pint every now and then, and they might even enjoy a casual bout of flirting with an attractive young woman or two on occasion. Yet, other than Max Talbot's playful suggestion to Santa in episode one, we might presume that every last one of the 46 players on the two rosters is either a steadfast husband/boyfriend or as ascetic as a Tibetan monk. I don't doubt that there may be privacy and permission issues with players and non-players that would preclude anything too over-the-top being shown, but it still rings a bit too cutesy for me.

 

Oh, that:

 

 

MONTREAL - JUNE 26:  General Manager Darryl Sutter of the Calgary Flames shakes hands with draft pick Tim Erixon during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

 

Nothing like leaving the best for last, I suppose. I'll start by reposting the conclusion of a piece I wrote in March over at the other place:

  

It really is the cap space management aspect of the Staios move that gives me the most pause. I was hoping that last year's season-ending fiasco would serve as Darryl Sutter's "kid touching a hot stove" moment. He was openly contemptuous of people that questioned how he handled the team's roster last spring, and for anyone who would point to injuries or bad luck as an excuse, you'll notice he didn't leave the team in that spot this year.  His cap management for this season was actually pretty reasonable for a team that had as many big tickets as this one did coming out of camp.

What he has done, of course, is ham-string himself for next year, and for a very shaky potential return in the short term. The only conclusion I can come to is he believes that every summer can be like last summer, where he managed to extract himself from a couple of self-dug holes, but that's questionable risk-management given the limited number of teams that can take on the contract of a player like Sarich, Staios or Kotalik. I can only hope that for the sake of those of us that cheer for the Flames, he actually can move the necessary pieces around this summer, because if Darryl Sutter has lost another gamble, next season will be another where the team remains mediocre at best.

 

 

Things didn't really get any better over the summer or early fall, obviously, and now Daz is gone, leaving a capped team with a questionable future as his current legacy. I do try to see things in full, though, and Darryl Sutter deserves every last bit of of the praise that Ken King lavished on him Tuesday afternoon when the subject of his role in the rebirth of the franchise came up. He was at the heart of rebuilding a moribund operation, and for all his crap depth signings in the first couple of years of the cap era he did have a pretty decent team on the ice for several years running. 

 

It was from the first Jokinen trade onward where he began to act as if there was no cap hole he couldn't escape, and I think the last couple of seasons were proof that he wasn't immune to the realities of the modern financial era of the game. It was almost certainly past time for him to move on from the organization, and his removal might give the organization a chance to re-examine its mildewed thought processes regarding where it should scout for talent.

 

All that noted, I don't really wish Darryl Sutter any serious ill, because it's just a damned game and I'd like to think I can reserve my true enmity for more worthy targets, so I think it's not unreasonable to thank the man for his work and wish him well in his future endeavours. At any rate, it's time to let Jay Feaster do as he will and see where that leads us.

 

That's all for this time around. It will be very nice to talk about an actual hockey game tomorrow.

 

 

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Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#1 Scott
December 30 2010, 04:19PM
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Great Sum up of the past week.

Its worrisome to me to see the Islanders heating up, shockingly just in time to play the flames... My guess(fear) is a 2-1 victory by the islanders, at which point, its the last game they win the remainder of the season...

Nice to see some bi-partisan comments on Darryl. I was felt that we atleast had a GM that wasn't too scared to pull the trigger on a deal to improve the team. That is until last December, and all hell broke loose. He did a lot of great things of the team, city and the fans, and that is what his legacy should be.

I haven't watched the HBO series, but I must say, the only thing note worthy about this winter classic, is that it doesn't appear that it will be played in winter. The weather seems to have dominated the game, and I'm looking forward to seeing just how bad it will get out there.

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#2 dustin642
December 30 2010, 08:07PM
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Great stuff as usual Robert!

With Whitney's injury and Tom Renney's, lets call it, optimism about his teams chances to make the playoffs do you think that they might take a chance on Ryan Parent since the (douchebag) Canucks placed him on waivers today? Parent would fit well on the Oilers.

One thing that has been troubling me (and a lot of other Flames fans) this week is the continuous march to the press box for Mikael Backlund. What is up with that? Does this not seem like such a black and white situation, yet somehow we are stuck in a grey area? Either you play Backlund if he's NHL ready (which in my opinion he is) or you think he needs more time and you send him to Abbotsford to be the teams #1 center, get him more time doing the job that he is one day expected to do at the NHL level. His growth, even from late last season till now, has been huge. Far more dependable in his own area, great PK, much stronger work ethic. I am surprised that his point totals aren't much better than they are this year.

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#3 Kent Wilson
December 30 2010, 08:13PM
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What is up with that? Does this not seem like such a black and white situation, yet somehow we are stuck in a grey area?

There was an article in the Herald today talking about it. Brent said he put Backlund in the press box because he was struggling and then the team started playing well without him so whatchagonnado?

That strikes me as silly, but probably accurate. And if that's how the team is going to role, the kid should be sent down.

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#4 dotfras
December 30 2010, 08:19PM
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I read an article saying that management had told Backlund to find a place as he'd be staying with the club....

Apparently he's going to draw back into the lineup soon. My guess is he plays comes back for either Edmonton or NYI and stays.

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#6 dustin642
December 30 2010, 08:25PM
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@Kent Wilson

Yeah, quite silly. Backlund should be playing every game. Either with the Flames or the Heat. It's unfortunate that the kid is stuck in such a crap situation where he needs to wait for one of his teammates to suck or get injured or the team to start doing poorly in order to get a chance to get back into the lineup.

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#7 44stampede
December 30 2010, 08:30PM
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Yeah I never had the venom for Daz as a lot of citizens have but it was certainly time to go. He did bring us back from the brink of obscurity and deserves some credit. It could've been worse. Imagine Milbury?

What is needed most in this organization is a decent scouting staff with a group patient enough to let the boys develop. Draft well and let's develop from within. I know...easier said than done.

Happy New Year Y'all

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#8 Greg
December 30 2010, 09:26PM
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When it comes to Dutter's downfall, I still wonder if it wasn't the Ferrence trade that really started it off. Up until that point it was "everything he touches turns to gold" but that trade really seemed to give everyone pause. Ferrence was a guy who negotiated his own contract and took a huge home town discount. The environment around the flames after that seemed to shift from from "this is about being a team and winning together" to "this is about winning the cup and ain't no one innocent in this." team cohesion is a huge part in just about any championship, and that really seemed to kill it, and they haven't seemed to be the same since. Obviously they were still good for some time after, but the mood was different and I wonder if that wasn't the beginning of the end more than the Jokinen trade?

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