Five Things: Quite a turnaround

Ryan Lambert
December 28 2011 06:36AM

 

 

1. Maybe they can beat good teams

Last week I was roundly criticized for being too hard on the team by saying they weren't that good and maybe, as it turns out, those critics were right. I wrote of how underwhelming the Flames' performance against the Wild — a team with 45 points at the time — had been and lamented that the Red Wings and Canucks, teams who had won a boatload of games in the previous two weeks, almost all by terribly convincing scores, would likely kill the Flames where they stood.

That didn't happen.

Instead, Calgary went out and turned in a pair of strong defensive efforts, then scored enough goals to win. That's probably all you can ask from a team like Calgary, certainly when they're playing teams the caliber of Detroit and Vancouver. One of the commenters said that taking two points from those games had to be considered a success and I would agree with that. Taking four points, especially given that the games were played on back-to-back nights, was a dream we only dared imagine.

And to do so with Leland Irving between the pipes against the mighty Vancouver Canucks is even better. What a great way for a kid to pick up his first NHL win. Olli Jokinen, I thought, played very well both nights and got the points to show for it. Hey, Mikael Backlund even scored in that one!

That was a strong way to enter the brief Christmas break.

2. But don't get it twisted

With all that having been said, let's not misconstrue the situation. It's certainly not that I think this suddenly vaults Calgary into the position of home ice contender or anything like that, but it sure is nice to see this team actually go out and win games against teams they theoretically should not.

However, my fear is that this will embolden management to start dipping a toe in the water to see if they can acquire someone to improve the team. Certainly, having a string of games against the Blue Jackets, Islanders, and Senators is only likely to lead to more winning and more belief that the team is capable of whatever it is people who want it to succeed this season see in it.

That, I think understandably, has me worried. I'm very firmly in the "blow it up" camp and perhaps because of my distance from Calgary itself I'm more willing to sit through four, five, six bad seasons if it means the team becomes competitive in the way that the Oilers soon will be (if they ever get goaltending). I'm not buying the tickets 41 times a year. And while it's perfectly nice to see the Flames win, especially over the Red Wings, I also think the result of those W's could be negative going forward.

3. About last night

One concern I've had especially is that the Iginla line seems to be the only one scoring on a consistent basis. Obviously he had the only Calgary goal in regulation and then the only goal in the shootout, but I was wondering just how many goals someone who wasn't Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen or Curtis Glencross had during this winning streak.

The answer, it probably won't surprise you to learn, is two. Backlund scored the game-winner against Vancouver and Blake Comeau scored the second goal against Detroit. Two goals out of nine. That's really bad. I was going to start listing people who need to start scoring more but it's easier to list those who are scoring an appropriate or even excessive amount: Iginla, Jokinen, Glencross. That's it.

Obviously it's working right now but how long does that line continue to score enough goals to keep Calgary competitive? It wouldn't have worked last night if the team they were playing had been any good at all.

4. Arnold is looking like a keeper

Flames prospect Bill Arnold may not have scored four points in the United States' WJC-opening win over Denmark like Charlie Coyle or Jason Zucker, but he was strong in all areas of the game throughout, then picked up a goal and an assist within the space of 30 seconds as the US pushed the game out of reach.

I've seen Arnold live more than a few times now because, living in Boston and being a college hockey fan as I am, it's pretty hard to avoid his Boston College Eagles. He's a really strong player who's playing well against the best competition his team's opponents have to offer.

His 11 goals and nine assists in 18 games so far this season may sound a little underwhelming for a World Juniors player, but you have to keep in mind two things. First, he's only a sophomore and obviously still under 20, playing against guys who are as old as 24. And second, he's doing most of his damage in conference play, which is important. Hockey East is probably the second-best top-to-bottom league in the NCAA and his 10 goals in 13 games there is second only to Isles prospect Corey Trivino's 12 in 12 for rival Boston University. (Trivino, by the way, won't be adding to that total, since he was kicked off the team earlier this month following an arrest.)

If you all remind me, I'll try to update you on the exploits of Arnold and fellow Eagle-and-Flames-Prospect Johnny Gaudreau for the rest of the season.

5. And because I promised it last week

Here is a picture I drew of Jarome Iginla on a pretty pony that you can print out and look at whenever I'm bummin' you out.

You're welcome, everyone.

686dfac3780611cb7acad6ce5166c6c1
Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 Kent Wilson
December 28 2011, 06:37AM
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I like smiling Jay Feaster-Sun.

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#2 OilFan
December 28 2011, 08:52AM
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Congrats to Iginla on passing Glenn Anderson. Where is all the Flames fans that wanted him traded ? I'm not trying to take anything away from Bill Arnold but Denmark isn't exactly high end competion.

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#3 KingJafi
December 28 2011, 09:17AM
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I can't stand the inconsistency. Lose a bunch in a row, win a bunch a row. That's not good for business. Beating Vancouver was great, but this win streak is a false positive...this is the lull period for teams during the season...so most of them are ripe for the picking. Anyways, I'll take the points wherever they can get them.

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#4 Subversive
December 28 2011, 09:40AM
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There's no need to suck for 4,5, or 6 seasons. Everyone talks about the Oilers like they had this great plan then went out and executed it. Does anyone even remember that they were a cap team every year? That's not good planning, it's poor execution!

By my rough math, the Flames have over $20 million coming off the books in contracts next season, if they have a chance to add a piece, as long as it is a young player on the upward slope of his career (Jeff Carter, anyone?), I say go for it!

If some of the Flames prospects continue to progress (they haven't had this many promising pieces in the chute since...ever...), they can re-tool without a long stretch of suckitude.

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#5 KingJafi
December 28 2011, 10:20AM
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The key though is to not resign those contracts coming off the books. In recent years, the organization has shown that they tend to resign guys already on their roster for more than market value. It will be really interesting to see if Feaster can convince King to buck that trend.

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#6 Jeff Lebowski
December 28 2011, 10:24AM
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I'm of the current opinion that Feaster will NOT trade his picks or prospects unless he gets those in return.

At forward Feaster has added guys in that 18-23 prospect age. Calgary needs to find the 24-29 guys who are established and entering or just entered their prime years. It's well documented that Calgary has an abundance of the 30-35+ guys.

This is the gap in the roster. Only Comeau, Glencross, Stempniak and Stajan at forward are in that middle tranche.

This is the effect of the Chucko's, Pelech's (he's a D man)etc draft picks not panning out. To be fair to Darryl Sutter injuries really hurt those two.

I think Feaster looks at Stajan (contract), Moss, Bourque, Morrison, Kostopolus and Jackman as guys he tries to convert into younger assets (18-23 and 24-29 guys).

I also think guys like Tanguay, Glencross and Jokinen are his "seller" option to be used to pry that coveted player from another team. Those guys are signed to relatively good contracts and still have at least 4-5 years left in the league.

The D crops is tougher with injuries but Bouwmeester, Butler, Brodie and Smith seem like locks. Also I'd throw Karlsson into the expendable mix. So in total I think there are 14 guys available to trade but he just needs to get younger and better at really 6 spots (4 forward, 2 D) while continuing to draft as he has (If Bartschi, Arnold and Gaudreau pan out that would be huge to have 3 guys/draft turn into NHL players).

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#7 Subversive
December 28 2011, 10:53AM
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KingJafi wrote:

The key though is to not resign those contracts coming off the books. In recent years, the organization has shown that they tend to resign guys already on their roster for more than market value. It will be really interesting to see if Feaster can convince King to buck that trend.

Agreed. I'm not completely convinced Feaster is the guy to turn this thing around, yet, but he hasn't been completely incompetent thus far. The team is *starting* to turn me into a believe that it can be salvaged, but a losing streak would certainly turn me the other way again in short order.

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#8 Kevin R
December 28 2011, 11:59AM
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Atta boy Ryan. This must have been a tough piece to write. Tough crowd, Feaster & King must really shake their heads, win games & are technically tied for 8th place & the critics are still disecting everything. January is going to be last years March, it will put hairs on this team. But after last week, I quit making the predictions of the playoff elimination countdown.

Quite an interesting dilemma. Sitting where we do now, do we move pieces that dont rock the foundation or is it time sell when things look good. With Montreal playing the way they are, the rumblings Ive read, fans are down on Cammeleri, 6.0mill cap hit, do we launch Bourque & Babchuk for a player like Cammi or do we go with non roster picks & prospects. If you were offered a late 1st rounder for Joker, do you take it? Decisions decisions.

From now until the Draft is when we'll find out if Feaster learned any lessons. 2 huge camps whether to trade Iggy or not. Feaster & Owners seem to be in the no way we trade him camp. Ive been in the trade him camp but I can be convinced to keep him for a youth movement after seeing what the Oilers are doing. Even the Halls, Nugents & Eberles need veteran leadership in their ELC'c. Iggy can give Barschte, Reinhart, our 2012 1sr rounder that. Iggy can back up his public commitment to Calgary by signing a cap friendly extension this June. Boy Jan & Feb are going to be fun. Winning has just thickened the plot.:):)

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#9 jeremywilhelm
December 28 2011, 12:46PM
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Nice write up Lambert. Eating crow isn't fun but it goes to showing your a reasonable guy. Even if you are an incessant US trollfan. :)

Also agree that secondsry scoring is none existant and this is scary to me. The bottom nine have been pretty weak in the offensive zone for about a month. If they don't pick it up, its gonna be an ugly month.

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#10 Captain Ron
December 28 2011, 04:56PM
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Props to you Mr Lambert. Liked your article much better this time around and had a good laugh at your Jarome pony n' Feaster show. You answered your critics in the best way you could have. I know I was hard on you last week in a humorous sort of way. You have had a tendancy in the past to swing a little too far in one direction for my liking. I'm not necessarily against a certain amount of "blow it up" and have said so on this forum in the past but an all out meltdown scares the crap out of me. I would have to rethink my four hundred plus dollars a month commitment for the families two season tickets if that were to happen. There are a good number of teams that have gone that route without garnering the success that they would have liked so that is in no way a guarantee of a future contender. Some recent exceptions being Chicago and Pittsburg of course.

As for your comment about secondary scoring your bang on about that. If that doesn't improve asap January could be ugly rendering December all for not. But for now they are knocking on the post season door for the first time in a while so I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.

@Kevin R thats an intersting proposition you make regarding Cammalleri. The guy has shown he can be a top performer in the playoffs too if I dare even mention the word.

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#11 beloch
December 28 2011, 06:48PM
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Before you keep ragging on the Flames organization to "blow it up good and rebuild", let's consider the consequences.

Take the Oilers as an example.

After that Cinderella run in 05-06 the Oilers were a team in a similar position to where the Flames will be after this season. They were a borderline playoff team that had a lot of contracts come off the books all at once. It was an exodus. Not only did good free agents leave, Chris Pronger asked for a trade. The team was literally gutted. Oilers management failed to bring quality players back in return and a borderline playoff club was transformed into a bottom-feeder that hasn't made the playoffs in five seasons, and looks sure to miss them for a sixth! They've picked up some great prospects thanks to all those high draft picks, but the cost for the club has been very high.

The problem with being perennial losers is that winning players don't want to play for you. The Oilers worked out a trade for Dany Heatley in 09, but he refused to be traded to Edmonton and went to San Jose instead. Quite frankly, no NHL player is going to go to Edmonton unless Edmonton pays them more than almost any other team in the league would. That's part of the reason why the Oilers are a cap team with bugger-all for talent beyond their rookies. Teams that find ways to win every year without rebuilding, like Detroit, are teams that winning NHL players might take a lower salary to play for, just because they want to win. However, even the Oilers' rookies are going to be hard to hang onto if they don't manage to turn things around. Hall, Eberly and the Nuge are going to demand top dollar salaries to stay in Edmonton once they become RFA's. They are not lucky to be playing for Edmonton, but rather, Edmonton is lucky to have them, and they know it. They may not have a lot of leverage until they become UFA's, but players who want to leave often give their clubs few options.

This is Edmonton's conundrum. They suck because they can't attract good free agents at reasonable prices. They have great rookies, but that's it. When the rookies have the option to leave, many of them will and the Oilers will continue to suck. I'm not claiming there's no possible escape for the Oilers, but this is the hole they have dug for themselves and it's going to take some doing to get out of it. People keep saying that Edmonton has this glowing bright future in front of it, but it's actually quite uncertain. They have one uber-rookie line that is fearsome now and will be unbelievable in a few years, but just one line does not make a good team. They've had little success building a team around those rookies and failure in the NHL is self-perpetuating.

The Flames are starting to dig themselves a hole, but it's not as deep as that pit in Edmonton yet. If you ask a RFA who he'd play for, given the same money, Calgary would win pretty decisively over Edmonton even though Detroit would beat us both.

Calgary is now in contention for a playoff spot. That is a fundamentally good thing. If the Flames can stay in the race their players will be worth much more at the trade-deadline than if the team were to tank. Likewise, in the summer, free agents will be inked for less if the Flames made the playoffs. The only potential bad that can come from performing well is that Feaster might continue in Darryl Sutter's footsteps and trade away the teams future for short-term success. Quite frankly, that's an idiotic reason to hope the flames tank. Bad management is a different issue than rebuild philosophy, and it's unfortunate that they have become linked in so many peoples' minds.

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#12 Marcus
December 28 2011, 10:52PM
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Nice crow eating excercise. You're cool man. Probably the last writer that needed to cause you're not in Flames land but you were the first that did. Good on ya.

The oilers example gets old and goes nowhere fast (Use Chicago or Pittsburgh from now on for the tear it down manifestos) with anyone that knows WTF thye're talking about. It wasn't a strategy or purpose, it was all out failure that pushed them in the blow it up direction. Darryl Sutter got shewed out of dodge but Klowe got the Presidency. What a sham.

1) A perennial cap team 2) How many picks did they give for Penner? 3) How many more picks would they have given for Vanek.

EDM played their cards right = HOAX

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#13 Karasu89
December 28 2011, 11:05PM
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at least this guy has been consistent in his articles (btw the oilers are mostly going to head in the direction of the islanders than penguins or blackhawks)

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#14 Kevin R
December 29 2011, 12:14AM
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Beloch-Problem is, if we are in 7th-8th place come Feb 20th, I dont see us being much of a seller & another missed opportunity to be one of a short list of sellers in a frenzy trade seession. If we sucked, its easy, decisions are made & "BIG" changes will come. Right now, the only silver lining is that we have played rookies over Sarich, Babchuk, Hagman, Stajan (2.5 to 3.6 million/year players) and way cheaper options have not only played as well but have palyed even better. This is the beginning of the healing. We are getting the same performance at a significantly cheaper cost that will not only allow youth on out team but way more $$$ to get some star power. So if we are there by Feb 20th, expect only the interchangeable players to move for whatever can be had, the likes of Moss(get healed quick), Bourque, Sarich, Babchuk. What Feaster gets for these assets & if he can achieve overpayments will start his legacy.

Capt Ron- Yeah, a few of us had a debate. Do you go after a guy like Cammi, he played great with Iggy & imagine Iggy, Cammi & Tanguay, I think whoever you put with GlenX & Jokinen will do fine. I think its tempting if we are in a playoff position & the price is right, like a Bourque & Babchuk who i think would be a great fit in Montreal. The other really intriguing option is if Leiland continues to impress, Kipper to Anaheim for Bobby Ryan I think would be a great trade that helps both clubs. Hillier doesnt seem to be the same guy since that Vertigo. Not sure whats up there. I wouldnt object to getting Ryan here. Imagine him with a Barschte & Backlund line. Either way, such trades would not be considered blowing things up & I truly think this is what we can expect from Feaster unless January winds up being a complete disaster. Something tells me it wont be.

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#15 beloch
December 29 2011, 05:27PM
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Kevin:

You're assuming that Feaster will make short-term trades if the Flames look likely to make the playoffs, just like Darryl Sutter did. That doesn't have to be true. Teams that are run with the next playoffs as their only goal are a lot like businesses that live only for the next quarterly report. A good manager should look at moves that will provide the best increase in performance not just this year, but next year, and several years into the future. That means the Flames should still be sellers at the trade deadline. We need prospects more than we need a minor boost for this season's playoffs. They'll come cheaper if the team is performing well and our players look good. Does Feaster have what it takes to trade someone like Bourque (assuming he heats up) for picks when the flames are neck-and-neck for 8th? I can't answer that, but I honestly hope so.

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