Center of Attention

Pat Steinberg
July 05 2010 04:19PM

 

EDMONTON, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 23: Daymond Langkow #22 of the Calgary Flames looks on during the game against the Edmonton Oilers on September 23, 2009 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)

 

When Calgary Flames GM spoke on Friday morning, many were interested in his take on his signing of Olli Jokinen, and how he'd heard only positive response.  But as people digested and opined on Sutter's decision to re-sign the former Flame, I was more interested in the GM's take on another center: Daymond Langkow.

Sutter didn't bother hiding his concern for Langkow, who suffered a scary neck injury on March 21st in Minnesota.  I remember watching that game and noticing how odd it was to see the entire Flames team out on the ice, and wondering if that was an indication of the severity of the injury.  When I talked to Flames brass about an hour afterwards, it was quite the relief to hear them say he's moving and doing just fine en route to a St. Paul hospital. 

But that didn't mean there wouldn't be a long road back...and that long road is still being trekked.  Sutter said Langkow is at around 60% on the comeback trail, which is a little slower than the Flames were hoping.  Not from a hockey perspective, but more from a human being perspective...that's something you want to see happen as quickly as possible.  Now, with two months until training camp, a lot more improvement could certainly be in the cards.  But I don't think anyone would blame Sutter and the Flames for making sure their bases were covered on the ice.

I'm not saying the lingering Marc Savard rumours have any legs or that Calgary is about to land Jeff Carter.  But you certainly wonder if Flames brass is coming up with some sort of contingency play if Langkow isn't able to start the season.  Don't get me wrong, not only do I want to see the veteran center get back to 100% because it would be great to see, I want to see him get back for the good of the hockey team.  A healthy Langkow helps this team, there's no question about that.

With Eric Nystrom leaving for Minnesota, you've got Langkow, Jokinen, Stajan and Backlund as your four potential centers to start next season.  What would Calgary's contingency plan be?  Restricted free agent Brett Sutter can also take shifts down the middle.  Maybe that's the contingency plan.  Maybe the Flames are fine with Sutter being the fourth guy if Langkow isn't ready to start the season.  Or maybe they want someone with a more proven NHL pedigree.  I don't know, but I do know it's a concern, and I do hope that it's less of one when we're talking in September.

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Pat Steinberg can be heard daily on the Fan960 in Calgary at can be read at the FAN 960. Born and raised in Calgary, Steinberg considers himself a huge fan of all sports including the CFL, MMA and 13 round bare knuckle boxing matches. Follow Steinberg on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg.
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#1 icedawg_42
July 05 2010, 04:25PM
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Im kinda thinking Backlund, Sutter, Jokinen, Stajan IS the contingency. I think it gets more convoluted (if Lanks comes back - knock on wood) with the cap situation...

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#2 marty
July 05 2010, 05:20PM
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i just hope lanks makes a full recovery. even if it means he can just function normally with his family. he is one of my favs. they are a better team with him and i would like to see nothing more than him back on the ice but just hope it doesnt effect the rest of his off ice life either.

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#3 Jamie
July 05 2010, 05:29PM
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I agree. I think you'll see a Jokinen/Stajan/Backlund/B Sutter centerman lineup if Langkow is out for an extended period of time.

That being said, when/if Langkow becomes 2nd line center again, it'd hard to see Stajan or Backlund be the 4th line pivot. Both are good enough and proven enough to run 2nd and 3rd lines and I can't imagine either of them on 4th line which makes me think that Sutter could possibly have some other moves up his sleeves...

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#4 Kent Wilson
July 05 2010, 05:33PM
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If Langkow is hurt, I'd bet on at least one more veteran centerman being brought in. Heck, that will probably happen anyways.

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#5 sincity1976
July 05 2010, 05:35PM
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Maybe I am reading too much between the lines, but I don't think Sutter anticipates Langkow will play at all next season.

I think Jokinen was the contingency plan. Both due to the Langkow injury but also due to our inability to acquire a first line centre.

That said, I think if Sutter has the opportunity to acquire a true number 1 he takes it.

I wish all the best to Langkow.

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#11 CitizenFlame
July 06 2010, 01:59AM
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@Pat Steinberg

I agree with Kent, I see the Flames signing Conroy. A)because Sutter likes brining in players that he knows i.e. Tanguay, Jokinen, Conroy once already. B)because Conroy is still available and waiting to hear from the Flames and C)because he was an extremely popular player here and can come in pretty close to league minimum for short term (probably a 1 year contract).

Even if Langkow is healthy I think they'll sign another center and Backlund is going to spend time on the farm.

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#12 Graham
July 06 2010, 09:03AM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

I agree. I think you'll see a Jokinen/Stajan/Backlund/B Sutter centerman lineup if Langkow is out for an extended period of time.

Would there be a lot of outrage if Backlund started the season in the minors? I don't know...I think a lot of people want to see him start the season on the big team, but is it worth it if Stajan, Langkow and Jokinen are ahead of him?

I don't see much point playing Backlund on the fourth line, the guy needs ice time, not a handful of minutes playing with grinders. We also have cap issues, so finding a cheaper alternative makes much more sense.

If Langkow remains out of the lineup, I would start Backlund on the 3rd line, and see how he handles some decent competition.

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#13 D C
July 06 2010, 10:33AM
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@Graham

Well, I think Daryl Sutter wants Backlund to earn the spot. Force Daryl to do something, because if Backlund doesn't prove he's capable hes going down to the minors one more year.

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#14 marty
July 06 2010, 12:41PM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

I agree, first and foremost is him making a recovery period...but he was walking around and talked to the media prior to the season ending.

oh ya i just meant that i hope he doesnt have chronic back/spinal injuries that limit him.

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#15 Nolan
July 06 2010, 01:02PM
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I believe that is Sutter's plan. Save cap space by placing Langkow on LIR. Problems solved. But what if he is ready? Will Darryl send Ivanas (however you spell it) over to see if he had an "accident"? LIR only kicks in after 10 games and only for a replacement up to that value, so you can be $4M over the cap for 1 player i think it is.

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#20 Jonesin
July 06 2010, 01:45PM
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If the Flames were able to trade for Savard as some have suggested, would his cap friendly 4 million dollar hit qualify him as a replacement for Langkow(if he does end up on LTIR, or would they look at his actual salary of 7 million this season? That could be an ideal scenario for the Flames, although they would then have an abundance of centers.

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#21 Kent Wilson
July 06 2010, 02:03PM
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On Backlund - I'm perfectly happy to see him start in the AHL this year. He didn't knock it out of the park in the minors last year and, although he has some raw ability, didn't exactly kill things in the bigs either. I don't see him as a slam dunk player, nor one who has surpassed his peers in the AHL yet.

If he starts killing it in Abbotsford, then find a way to squeeze him on to the big team.

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#24 Luc
July 06 2010, 02:34PM
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we want one of our most creative players to not be on the team when we lack offense already?

im aware he didnt post huge numbers when in the ahl or on the team last year, but i would much rather have him on the roster. especially on the powerplay. i would much rather have him on the PP then say a stajan.

thats just me tho.

ill go to watch entertainment and of course a winning team and i dont think we hinder ourselves by keeping on on the roster. he would play his guts out.

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#26 Luc
July 06 2010, 02:41PM
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oh for sure. but watching him alst season he actually created EVEN A LITTLE BIT OF EXCITEMENT in the offensive zone. which on this team is rare.

fun to watch rather then....

dump.....chase......lose

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#27 walkinvisible
July 06 2010, 02:41PM
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i was shocked to hear sutter mention john armstrong as a kid with potential to make the big club. if you listen to friday's presser, he's asked if there's room for any abbotsford guys and he offers, "mikael and brett and army if he's healthy and negrin if he's healthy and matt pelech, we're going to give them every opportunity to play on our team and that's at the expense of older guys.

i have to admit that the last time sutter talked about promoting young guys at the expense of older guys, pardy got a spot over eriksson.

anyhow. the point is that armstrong is a centre and sutter LOVES him (as do i). ready for NHL rotation ? if he's healthy, i would think he could feasibly usurp backlund's spot.

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#28 R O
July 06 2010, 02:52PM
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He does need to be protected though...that's why I was spitballing about using him after icings and also using him frequently on the PP.

To me, Backlund didn't have very strong offensive forays on NHL ice. Maybe it was rookie jitters (though generally that's just a cop-out excuse) but the dude must have turned two out of every three potential scoring chances in transition into muffins from the blue line. He was average on the cycle, he does have skills with the puck (in that he won't just throw it away willy nilly) but his ability to win pucks back from opposing defenders didn't blow me away.

I don't know, the transition-muffin arrow doesn't exactly flatter what we want to believe (me included!) is an incomplete offensive dynamo. Then again, RCleave showed that he had a terrifically healthy shot rate in the AHL.

We'll see Pat, we'll see.

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#29 Graham
July 06 2010, 03:04PM
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walkinvisible wrote:

i was shocked to hear sutter mention john armstrong as a kid with potential to make the big club. if you listen to friday's presser, he's asked if there's room for any abbotsford guys and he offers, "mikael and brett and army if he's healthy and negrin if he's healthy and matt pelech, we're going to give them every opportunity to play on our team and that's at the expense of older guys.

i have to admit that the last time sutter talked about promoting young guys at the expense of older guys, pardy got a spot over eriksson.

anyhow. the point is that armstrong is a centre and sutter LOVES him (as do i). ready for NHL rotation ? if he's healthy, i would think he could feasibly usurp backlund's spot.

Sutter talks a lot about giving the younger guys a shot at making the big club, but actual roster spots are few and far between.

Sutter likes to add veteran players, often with no trade or no movement clauses, which tends to push the younger guys out of the lineup. The signings of Jokinen, Tanquay, Ivanans and Jackman pretty much fills out the forward ranks. Depending on the status of Langkow, it might even be hard for Backlund to make the lineup. Sutter is more likely to resign Conroy or Mayers than to give Armstrong a spot on the 4th line.

We basically have 8 NHL defensemen (including White), so spots for Negrin, Pelech are also unlikely. Its not impossible, but you would basically have to move two dmen for one of these guys to get a real shot. Like it or not, the chances are that Staois will be in the lineup, one of Pardy or Kronwall are likely to make it (both cheap)so this is going to be a tough core to crack.

We even signed a potential backup, so this pretty much rules out one of the farm hands.

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#30 Kent Wilson
July 06 2010, 03:29PM
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I heard the same thing you did WI.

Personally, I've never understood the orgs fascination with John Armstrong. Dude has been injury prone his entire career (including junior) and has put up less than middling results in the AHL.

Apparently he has a good package of skills, but so what. That and a toonie can get you a small coffee at Starbucks. He needs at least one full season in the minors where he does something worth a damn to be considered a viable prospect.

I'd say Armstrong had a long way to go to usurp Backlund. Or Brett Sutter. Or anyone even remotely within distance of being NHL replacement level.

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#31 JackBauer
July 06 2010, 03:48PM
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I dont see why you guys are concerned. You have Oli Jokinen coming back!! And everybody that matters is happy with that!!

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#32 SmellOfVictory
July 06 2010, 04:03PM
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@Graham

Importantly, the following players do not have NTCs or NMCs: Cory Sarich, Steve Staios. Kotalik's is void now that he's not with the Rangers, correct?

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#33 Domebeers.com
July 06 2010, 04:33PM
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@SmellOfVictory

I was reading the CBA and that's what I took out of it, when the guy gets traded that stuff gets voided. Heres hoping our legal-ese is correct.

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#34 Graham
July 06 2010, 04:48PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

Importantly, the following players do not have NTCs or NMCs: Cory Sarich, Steve Staios. Kotalik's is void now that he's not with the Rangers, correct?

Interesting question on Kotalik, I was under the assumption that he waived his no trade to move to Calgary, but the NTC remains in place.

Guess it is largely a debating point, Kotalik has no trade value, nor did anyone express any interest when he was on waivers.

The real question is what does Sutter have planned for these guys... I wouldn't be surprised to see Kotalik and Staios playing for the Flames, and Sarich being moved to allow the resigning of White.

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#35 rubbertrout
July 06 2010, 05:11PM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

I don't see much point playing Backlund on the fourth line, the guy needs ice time, not a handful of minutes playing with grinders.

Maybe you tailor how you play Backlund...play him on the PP, start him with better offensive talent after icings, and then play him in a different role at ES. I still think you have to protect him, but I also don't know how much more he can do in the AHL.

Wow Steinberg you really are starting to embrace some of the higher level stats. Glad to see it wasn't just a passing fancy.

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#41 RossCreekNation
July 06 2010, 06:23PM
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*THIS JUST IN*

Via Darren Dreger...

Flames signed former Oiler Ryan Stone... Stone was a group 6 UFA. Missed half a year with a knee injury. Flames sign him for 1 year, $500,000 over $105,000 (AHL).

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#42 SmellOfVictory
July 06 2010, 06:27PM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

Sutter likes to add veteran players, often with no trade or no movement clauses, which tends to push the younger guys out of the lineup.

How many are we talking when it comes to these no movement or no trade clauses...Regehr, Bouwmeester, Jokinen, Tanguay, Iginla, Bourque, Stajan, Kiprusoff...is that it?

There are 10 in total, according to the Herald.

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#43 RossCreekNation
July 06 2010, 06:32PM
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NMC - Iginla, Kiprusoff, Langkow, Regehr, Jokinen, Tanguay.

NTC - Bouwmeester, Stajan (modified), Bourque (modified), Kotalik.

As per capgeek... http://www.capgeek.com/charts.php?Team=9

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#44 Graham
July 06 2010, 09:01PM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

Sutter likes to add veteran players, often with no trade or no movement clauses, which tends to push the younger guys out of the lineup.

How many are we talking when it comes to these no movement or no trade clauses...Regehr, Bouwmeester, Jokinen, Tanguay, Iginla, Bourque, Stajan, Kiprusoff...is that it?

The Herlad (Cruickshank - July 6th) lists...

No Movement; Iginla, Kipper, Regehr, Langkow, Jokinen and Tanguay

No Trade; Kotalik, Bouwmeester,

Modified No Trade; Stajan, Bourque

Total: 10 (Highest in league, Average for the 30 team league 4.3)

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#45 Luc
July 07 2010, 12:33PM
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with the way the team is looking right now i dont think its the fourth line thats going to matter.

not going to play alot. we have a decent top nine and ivanans will be the 13th forward.

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