Flames Through The First Month

Kent Wilson
October 31 2011 03:08PM

 

 

We're one month in and the Flames have failed to set the hockey world aflame (pun intended and preemptively apologized for). Rob sums up Calgary's underlying numbers in the post below, but here are some other thoughts about the club's first four weeks of action kicking around my head heading into November.

- Calgary is more or less who we thought they were. Although new seasons always come with their share of surprises and anticipation, I don't think a large section of the Flames fan base expected the team to turn into a contender given the low turn-over during the off-season (new executives excepted of course).

The team has been okay at even strength, more or less breaking even when the score is tied in terms of shots and scoring chances. As Bob explains in his recently N&N round-up, the big differential has come on special teams where Calgary has failed to both generate chances for and restrict chances against. The club is currently dead last in the league at putting pucks on net at 5on4 (34.5/60) and they are surrendering the third highest amount of shots while down a man to boot (62.4/60). That is nearly a 30 shot per hour difference between the PP and PK which is obviously just awful. The Flames were middling by both of these metrics last year, so hopefully they can figure out what the major malfunction is and correct things poste haste.

- Related: I had my first "swear at the TV" moment this season recently during a Calgary man advantage. Mark Giordano had the puck in the offensive zone near the sideboards and the four other Calgary Flames players stood stock still like rooted trees and watched him from their various positions on the ice. I made sure to rewind the sequence to make sure I wasn't seeing things. Nope - four guys with their sticks in the air and dumb looks on their faces. 

I usually have little time for bromides like "they have to keep their feet moving", but, when it comes to a PP being worth a damn...the players really need to keep their feet moving. Standing around like like statues in a Roman garden makes it incredibly easy to defend against.

- speaking of Roman, rookie center Horak has some dreadful underlying stats, but that comes from Brent Sutter's tendency to limit his offensive zone draws so far. By eye, the kid has played relatively well and has been rewarded with a pair of two-point games recently. I don't know how long he'll continue to be the toast of the town, nor even if he'll last on the big club with Backlund slated to return this month and expensive NHLers already finding their way to the pressbox, but it's a ride we should all enjoy. Not only because it's rare for a 20-year old forward to break the surface here in the big leagues with the Flames, but because Tim Erixon is having a terrible go of it in NY currently. The defector was recently sent back down to the Rangers farm team and his awful advanced stats support that decision by the club.

It's two years too early to declare victory when it comes to that certain trade, but soemtimes one must eschew the long view for the brief if fleeting pleasures of life. Stop and smell the roses and all that.

- Sutter is beginning to sort out his line matching and zone start decisions so we've seen Jarome climb up from the basement of the starting position ratio rankings that we saw a week or two ago. It looks for the world like the two top lines are going to continue to more or less trade off the harder match-ups and such up front.

That's not unexpected, but what is new is the bottom-enders like Kostopolous, Horak, Stajan and Jackman not getting the sheltered treatment, at least in terms of ZS. Last year, Jackman et al had some of the cushiest starting positions on the club, but through one month so far they're at the opposite end of things. 

I find this a more sensible route. Although it will suppress the "energy line's" output, it gives the more expensive forwards a bit of a leg up. The Canucks have sacrificed their pluggers before the zone start gods for years, to the enduring benefit of the glimmer twins. 

- Glencross, Jokinen and Stempniak have faced some tough lines but have also had the best of it face-off wise so far and they have more or less taken advantage. Glencross has been a possession and scoring chance machine for a long time on this club and he continues that quality of work even absent Moss (although they have been reunited recently).

The most pleasant surprise has perhaps been Stempniak, who has strong underlying numbers across the board. We can expect to see those results regress a little since he's never done that sort of heavy lifting in the past, but his good first month at least takes some of the sting out of the fact that Langkow is a healthy and back to being Daymond Langkow down in Phoenix.

- Perhaps the biggest disappointment of October and one of the reasons the Flames are pulling up the rear is in the Western Conference is how ineffective the team's "first line" had been. Like last year, Iginla and Tanguay aren't driving possession, but they also haven't gotten the benefit of high on-ice shooting percentage to compensate yet. The captain has been poor in just about every area of the ice outside of the slot and he boasts one of the worst scoring chance differentials on the team as a result.

More disconcerting is the fact that Iginla's shot rate is really mediocre through nine games. He has managed just 17 even strength shots despite a team high 153 minutes of 5on5 ice. To put that in perspective, David Moss has 19 ES shots so far in just 107 minutes of ice time.

Overall, Iggy has just 22 shots on net total. That projects to about 200 shots on net over 82 games - 89 less shots than he managed last year and more than 100 less than he was garnering during his most potent seasons. At that rate, we could expect him to score in the area of 26 goals this season.

As he begins to slow down, Jarome's enduring strength is his shot/release. There's been flashes of the old Iginla here and there this month where he's cut into the slot and snapped a quick shot, but his other deficiencies are making those moments rarer.

No doubt an elite center would help the cause, but that goes for just about any team in the league that doesn't currrently employ Kesler, Daystuk, Crosby or Getzlaf. At $7M/year, the captain should be driving things himself, particularly with a passer like Tanguay on the other wing. I think he'll improve because, well...damn, but this may be the season where the franchise has to take a very real look at moving Jarome.

The organization is poised to turn a corner this off-season with a bunch of money coming off the books and the club's fortunes have stalled the last couple of seasons with Iggy as the offensive cornerstone up front. The big guy isn't getting any better as the months roll by. At some point, the question has to be not what can the team do to help Iginla...but what can Iginla do to help the team...

- Finally, Calgary's ho-hum record in October came against little more than middle weights and lesser lights. The team has yet to skate against a heavy hitter aside from the opening match against the Crosby-less Penguins. I suspect November will really give us a better idea of where the team is at with DETX2, VAN and CHIX2 on the docket.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
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 Bob
October 31 2011, 03:20PM
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As you say at the beginning, this team is at .500 and I think a majority of people expect that's pretty close to how the season will end. They are what they are...there will be nights where they won't show and other nights where they look like they can beat anyone.

I have been a little surprised at how many people at the Dome are basically prepared to ride the year out with the hope that near trade deadline &/or July 1 that's when we'll see what type of future Feaster sees for this team.

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#2 schevvy
October 31 2011, 03:56PM
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I'm not too worried about Iggy, he always has a terrible October and it didn't help him to miss training camp. That being said he can't be left off the hook. He needs to be better and I think (hope) he knows that. Really impressed by Horak right now, if he keeps playing the way he is there is no way the team should send him down to Abby. Although Bourque leads the team in goals, I have not been that impressed with his performance. Seems way too casual out there, he needs to put in a far more consistent effort. Best players so far are Glencross and Jokinen, and I have been mildly impressed with Stempniak, he just needs to bury a few more of his chances, he's like the Olli Jokinen of last year.

November will be a big month for the team, remember last year November is what killed them and was the reason they missed the playoffs. In my opinion they should start the thing they did from December 23rd on last year: the goal of 4 points out of 6. I believe that helped the team play as well as they did during that stretch.

BTW: hopefully we get some help from the Canucks tomorrow by them starting Bobby Lou...

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#3 schevvy
October 31 2011, 03:56PM
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I'm not too worried about Iggy, he always has a terrible October and it didn't help him to miss training camp. That being said he can't be left off the hook. He needs to be better and I think (hope) he knows that. Really impressed by Horak right now, if he keeps playing the way he is there is no way the team should send him down to Abby. Although Bourque leads the team in goals, I have not been that impressed with his performance. Seems way too casual out there, he needs to put in a far more consistent effort. Best players so far are Glencross and Jokinen, and I have been mildly impressed with Stempniak, he just needs to bury a few more of his chances, he's like the Olli Jokinen of last year.

November will be a big month for the team, remember last year November is what killed them and was the reason they missed the playoffs. In my opinion they should start the thing they did from December 23rd on last year: the goal of 4 points out of 6. I believe that helped the team play as well as they did during that stretch.

BTW: hopefully we get some help from the Canucks tomorrow by them starting Bobby Lou...

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#4 schevvy
October 31 2011, 03:57PM
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And the ugly double post strikes again, I should really work on that...

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#5 Chris
October 31 2011, 04:21PM
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Erixon sent down and replaced by ... Sean Avery?! :)

Gotta love it!

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#7 the-wolf
October 31 2011, 04:49PM
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@kw - this whole Erixon/Horak thing is fascinating me. Horak wasn't even listed in NYRs' prospect list in a lot of publications and Erixon was our top prospect and supposedly able to step into a team's top 4, or so the whole world kept telling me.

I think from the Erixon angle it may be a classic case of Flames fans overrating their own prospects, but this time, it's worked in our favor (see also the recently waived Fabian Brunnstrom for another, albeit quite a while ago, over-hyped Swede).

What I don't understand is how badly NYR and their media seem to have underrated Horak. As you said, we won't really know for 2 years, but is is interesting and a good lesson for me in the future to not place too much stock in sports publication magazines, even the usually relaible ones.

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#8 RexLibris
October 31 2011, 04:55PM
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So I'm guessing that this season fans are prepared to have it be a sort of "lost year" by the sounds of it. It almost sounds like fans are finding themselves in a sort of Purgatory where there is no perceivable upside, no rise to the top of the league nor a sinking down to begin drafting better prospects. With diminishing assets in Iginla and Kiprusoff I think that approach, if it is in fact one that Feaster takes, would be a waste for the organization.

Nice to see Horak giving the fans something to cheer about. It certainly helps salve the wound.

I wonder, any word about Flames' growing 'staches to honour Movember? Perhaps we should have a competition to see which team has the player with nicest lip-duster between the Oilers and Flames?

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#9 schevvy
October 31 2011, 07:41PM
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@RexLibris

I think half of the Oilers are too young to grow a half-decent 'stache haha

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#11 Kevin R
October 31 2011, 09:30PM
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Gee Kent, are you opening the trade/ dont trade Jerome debate already?:) You had to know Iggys notorious crappy starts is going to unglue a very skittish fanbase. Worst part about it, is how well the Oilers are out of the gate. Had to know Khabbi would give them 1 Vezina type season out of a 4 year contract. That kind of goaltending would make Babchuk & Sarich look like a decent 5-6 pairing. Ryan Smyth is playing for a retirement contract from the Oil as well. Good for the Oiler season ticket holders, they deserve to have some fun at some point at the games.

Rex: I dont think Kipper is a diminishing asset, in fact contrare, his value goes up at the end of this year especially if he plays the way he has been. His salary is lower than his cap hit. His NTC is done. He just turned 35 & compare that to your current #1 goalie who is making what most thought was the weakest defence core in the league look like one of the best. Iggy will have value, just a matter of maximizing that value if the decision is to trade him. That wont happen until 2012, any sooner will be waiving the white flag. Never happen under Kings watch.

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#12 RKD
October 31 2011, 10:44PM
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After one month, the Flames are sitting 14th in the Western Conference.

Some common themes carrying over from last season to this season. Jay-Bo is heavily criticized. Stajan and Hagman are doing nothing. We are only one month in, and both have already been healthy scratches! Iggy's off to his usual slow start. Bourque and Glencross seem to be doing their hot and cold dance. Moss and Stemp each have 1 goal. Chris Butler has struggled.

On the flip side, Horak looks great. Jokinen has probably been the most consistent Flame, and is second in team scoring. Another bonus, the Flames have only played 9 games. I remember last season they always had played more games than other teams. Hopefully, this season they will have games in hand on other teams.

No Reg and Langs, Langs has already put up 7 points after turning 35 and having already endured a near career ending injury.

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#13 Emir
October 31 2011, 11:33PM
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I feel the same way as this teams record. Not sure if I'm excited for a lucrative season or do I have to accept its time to make big changes. Horak has been a pleasant surprise, and I'm really enjoying it. I hope things get better, if not in the win coloum at least with the direction of the team if we aren't a playoff contender.

but I know its a tight league so nothing will be clear at all. Just lots of blogging for us!

on another note, what the hell is going on with the oilers defense???

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#14 everton fc
October 31 2011, 11:45PM
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On a potentially related tangent... How about Walter and Kolanos down on the farm? Would love to see some of the guys on the farm get at look. But where?

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#15 xis10ce
November 01 2011, 07:51AM
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I love the fact that last night when NYR sat Erixson the team goes on to win against no slouch of a team (SJ) by a solid 5-2 final score. Tim just got the equivalent of being Matt Stajan'd by Roman Horak.

I know that the numbers tell a slightly different story with Roman Horak getting lucky etc etc, but still, it just feels good to watch Tim fail so epically.

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#16 Jeff In Lethbridge
November 01 2011, 08:48AM
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what would it take to get three first round picks... iginla, kipper and borque? do it... seems there is a strong draft year on the horizon. then, when Iggy has finished his contract and won a cup, her can come back as a depth forward and character leader for 1.5-2.0 mil

as for Horak, look here ( ) to read the glowing prospect predictions... and here ( ) to read my own insightful rookie of the year preditions

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#17 Colin
November 01 2011, 09:04AM
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Hopefully Iginla won't pull a Sundin if the time comes to trade him.

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#18 Dave
November 01 2011, 09:31AM
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Boston needs a goal scoring forward. They have lots of prospects and talent. Any Ideas what we could get for bourque from them? or maybe iggy if it came to it.?

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#19 Jay
November 01 2011, 09:42AM
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Jeff In Lethbridge wrote:

what would it take to get three first round picks... iginla, kipper and borque? do it... seems there is a strong draft year on the horizon. then, when Iggy has finished his contract and won a cup, her can come back as a depth forward and character leader for 1.5-2.0 mil

as for Horak, look here ( ) to read the glowing prospect predictions... and here ( ) to read my own insightful rookie of the year preditions

This is exactly what the Flames need to do. Feaster and King at some point, have to realize that a semi-rebuild is required.

Iggy and Kipper easily get you a 1st round pick + some good young prospects. Not sure that Bourque gets you a 1st rounder. Maybe a late one, but most likely a 2nd and maybe an average prospect.

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#20 xis10ce
November 01 2011, 09:43AM
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Maybe we could work into the contract that if the team we trade Iginla to wins the cup we get something on top of their first round draft pick? I've heard of this ammendment to a trade clause. That way you are not trading your best player for the 30th draft pick only.

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#21 Dave
November 01 2011, 09:49AM
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@xis10ce

Lots of teams have variations to this. I remember Thomas Kaberle's deal had something like this. If boston made it past the 2nd round then toronto got another pick or a higher pick or something I don't remember exactly.

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#22 Rain Dogs
November 01 2011, 10:04AM
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7 games in, an ultra small sample size, and Kiprusoff is certainly one of the teams top contributors... sporting a .930sv% (.933ev)

Slow starter? So far, so good, hopefully he/they keep it up.

There are two reasons to be happy no matter where you stand on the polarizing Kipper.

There are those who certainly love him, grasping to every save hoping he regains the form of when he first got here. It's so great to see him as a elite Flame again! Whatever. That's not one reason.

And there are those who actively dislike him, pandering the idea he's a "brutal", washed up goalie. Wishing the teams success in spite of him, to gain satisfaction from their statistical prophecy. Whatever. That's not either.

What is important is that his NMC ends this year. His Cap hit over his final two years is a hefty 5.83 million whereas his actual pay is reasonably slight: 6.5million over 2 years (avg. 3.25/year (5.0+1.5)

Many people wanted him traded years ago to a Philly, Washington or other. I said it both wouldn't happen, and would be a mistake. The number of highly appealing UFA goalies over the last two years + Kippers age, cap hit and contract duration would have made him worth about a 7th round pick, and that's only if Vokoun, Giguere, Bryz and others didn't fill the holes.... which they did.

However, this year, should he put up solid numbers, combined with few elite UFAs and with his NMC ending and actual pay lowering (making him appealing even to budget teams) I'd say there is a greater than 50/50 chance that this is that last year in the flaming "C".

If we want good return (like a worth-while pick/prospect), we better hope for the unlikely: a unbelievably fabulous year from Miikka on a not very good Flames team, and that teams back the bank truck up for Pekka Rinne and Vokoun is re-signed before open season.

The cap hit is still going to be a stumbling block, so will the fan-connection and possible "Iggy-treatment". We shouldn't give him away for nothing but cap space... but we should give him away if we can find a cheaper #1 (which we don't have) and a good return for the future.

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#23 T&A4Flames
November 01 2011, 10:05AM
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Bourque, Moss and Karlsson to LA for Bernier and a 1st and we'll take Penner off your hands.

Kipper + to CLB for Johansen, Mason and a 1st.

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#24 Dave
November 01 2011, 10:13AM
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@T&A4Flames

not a bad idea to try to get johansen.. he played with sven right? there might be some chemistry there. I'm not sure Columbus would be willing to trade him though.

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#25 the-wolf
November 01 2011, 10:19AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Actually, most independent sources I read regarded Erixon as near NHL ready and the best prospect in the Flames system. The dude played major minutes in one of the best pro leagues in the world as a teenager, so that strikes me as a reasonable stance.

As I said in the article, We are nowhere near knowing how things will shake out in the future with these two players, so it's way, way too early to declare Horak the superior player and the Flames the winners of the deal.

Yes, that's what I mean - it's odd how much Erixon has struggled, considering. Horak, on the other hand never made NYR top 10 THN Future Watch list 2 years in a row and The Score doesn't even have him listed, period.

But agree, it is too early.

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#26 Dave
November 01 2011, 10:30AM
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It wouldn't be the first time that a late round draft pick comes out of nowhere and succeeds in the NHL. The most encouraging thing about Horak right now is his work ethic. You can tell that he isn't coasting. Every shift he is working his but off and he's getting results. I'd rather have a player like that on my team than one who feels entitled to ice time.

I obviously agree with what everyone is saying though. Of course we have to wait and see how this turns out. But so far he's been the most interesting flames story. It's nice that its a positive one too.

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#27 Rain Dogs
November 01 2011, 10:42AM
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@T&A4Flames

1. Even if Bernier is rotting in LA, they have no reason to rid of him until seeing what $$$ Quick (a UFA) demands.

2. Karlsson, right now, is worthless (as a trade asset). He may someday be a decent goalie, but I've yet to see a single arrow point that direction. He may have more value as a basketball player... and goaltending is a foul in that game.

3. Mason is brutal, albeit he's on a brutal team, but he's pretty bad. I think he's even worse than Craig Anderson (career .912evsv%). He's so bad I don't even track his stats.... like Osgood. EDIT: Sorry, Steve isn't Anderson-bad... due to the the strength of his Jim Carey-like rookie season. but he's still pretty bad (career .915evsv%)

4. We'd be lucky to get a high 1st for Kipper...even if he has a "Thomas-esque" year. More??? very doubtful.

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#28 T&A4Flames
November 01 2011, 10:47AM
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the-wolf wrote:

Yes, that's what I mean - it's odd how much Erixon has struggled, considering. Horak, on the other hand never made NYR top 10 THN Future Watch list 2 years in a row and The Score doesn't even have him listed, period.

But agree, it is too early.

I'm just happy that we seemed to get a player that should be a bonafide NHL'r out of that trade, not to mention 2 more picks that 'may' work out. Horak has been a pleasant surprise. Erixon may and probably will go on to be a better player, but I feel better about the return.

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#29 T&A4Flames
November 01 2011, 10:53AM
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Rain Dogs wrote:

1. Even if Bernier is rotting in LA, they have no reason to rid of him until seeing what $$$ Quick (a UFA) demands.

2. Karlsson, right now, is worthless (as a trade asset). He may someday be a decent goalie, but I've yet to see a single arrow point that direction. He may have more value as a basketball player... and goaltending is a foul in that game.

3. Mason is brutal, albeit he's on a brutal team, but he's pretty bad. I think he's even worse than Craig Anderson (career .912evsv%). He's so bad I don't even track his stats.... like Osgood. EDIT: Sorry, Steve isn't Anderson-bad... due to the the strength of his Jim Carey-like rookie season. but he's still pretty bad (career .915evsv%)

4. We'd be lucky to get a high 1st for Kipper...even if he has a "Thomas-esque" year. More??? very doubtful.

I realize I may be dreaming a bit. But I don't think Mason has been as bad as you are saying. I was hearing comments on the radio yesterday saying he has been decent. part of the problem has been that he has played with so many different D-men over the last couple of years. Besides, getting Bernier would most likely relegate him to a back up role.

As for Karlsson, if LA is going with Quick, they are looking for a back up and nothing more. Yea, your not getting a 1sr for Karlsson, but if he can fill the role.....

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#30 Kevin R
November 01 2011, 11:10AM
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Dave wrote:

Boston needs a goal scoring forward. They have lots of prospects and talent. Any Ideas what we could get for bourque from them? or maybe iggy if it came to it.?

Wonder if we could get Marchand, Hamilton & a 1st for Iggy. That might be tempting.

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#31 Rain Dogs
November 01 2011, 11:11AM
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@T&A4Flames

"But I don't think Mason has been as bad as you are saying. I was hearing comments on the radio yesterday saying he has been decent."

I haven't looked at it very closely, but even for me it's hard to believe.

Kipper and Mason both play on pretty crappy teams, but Columbus has probably been a little worse.

Think of all the heat Kiprusoff gets around here. There are people who legitimately think he is much worse than average, if not bottom of the league.

if you cherry-pick Kipper's three worst years (07-08, 08-09, 10-11) he is: 4300/4703=.914 ev sv%

compare that to Mason's career including his stellar .925ev rookie season: 3682/4024=.915ev.

At Kipper's worst he's basically as good as Mason, that excludes his .941, .941, .932 and .928 seasons over 5500SA, and look at the grief he gets from Flames fans. Mason's best (lucky?) year is what Kipper averages in Calgary (.925).

Mason is pretty bad, because he doesn't really have any of the good years.

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#33 Derzie
November 01 2011, 12:13PM
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If you just tuned into the NHL today and had a peek at the standings (without any backing data on trends or reasons) the Flames are in a real bad spot. 14th in the west. Yuck. So, as a fan is this a surprise (No). Is it a happy place (No). Is there a silver lining (Yes). This is symbolically the last year of the dismantling of Daryl Sutter pre-lockout hockey. Next year is full of promise with contract money raining from the trees. Will Feaster do the right thing? Who knows, but the promise and hope is there just the same. I'm in the 'Acceptance' phase as a fan. Every win this year gives a little shot of joy and every loss adds to the kitty for next years retooling (better draft position). Win-win if you embrace the reality. The only thing I look at with disdain is any talk of getting high priced free agents to fill gaps for us. We are NOT a buying team. Save our pennies and take lessons from the Detroit's and Pittsburgh's of the world on how to build a post-lockout winner. One thing is certain after this start, Brent Sutter's dump and chase hockey is not the way to go. It is if you are geriatric possibly but not for a young fast team (like we should be in the future).

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#34 the-wolf
November 01 2011, 01:17PM
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The dump-and-chase is largely a result of a system built around the available talent. But, I agree, it would be so nice to get into the 21st century and play some sort of puck possession game. Howver, that requires talent we don't have.

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#35 SmellOfVictory
November 01 2011, 01:35PM
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I think it would be positively delicious if the Flames managed to swap Kiprusoff to Phoenix for their 1st this year. Seems to be the team that he'd most benefit.

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