February 14 2011 08:19AM
It’s time again for a collection of the news of the week, both Flames-related and otherwise. In this instalment, Calgary hits a slight rough patch, the first worthwhile trades are made, and Mario Lemieux has an attack of the vapours.
Calgary lost a pretty competitive game in Vancouver Saturday night, but the flaws that afflict the current iteration of the local heroes should be pretty plain for anyone to see by this point. Primary amongst them at the moment is that the special teams aren’t really top-quality despite a brief spell of PK competence before Saturday's affair.
There’s plenty to be said about the PP, and it certainly needs to be better, but watching the Flames’ collection of leadfooted defenders fruitlessly chase the Canuck powerplay around was a bit much for me. This is exactly the same state the club found itself in a few years ago, and I keep reminding myself that the Flames met their end against a PP-fuelled Shark team that spring. The Flames have been excellent at limiting shots when playing 5v5 this year, but it's a slightly different story when they've been down a man, and I'm of the opinion only having two decent skaters out of six on defence is at the heart of it.
Slow defencemen can be sheltered somewhat when playing 5v5 because there’s less room to cover, but when those same players have to cover more ice, especially side to side while working 4v5, their slowness is showcased, and not in a nice way. The Flames D, even when the PK is going well, don’t win many races to pucks once the opposition has a chance to set up. If I were to make one potentially realistic to the roster at the deadline, it would be a good skating D that isn't lost in his own end. If they can pass the puck without always using the boards, that would be a nice bonus. Those players are tough to find for cheap, of course.
The on-ice grind resumes tonight in Colorado against the slumping Avalanche. Injuries and the return of their team PDO to mortal levels have left the Avs in 14th and sliding to the point where they really should be considering unloading a few guys, including Craig Anderson. Goalies come and go, so losing him wouldn’t be the end of the world, and he might still have a bit of cachet among GMs despite a poor season.
The return to normal levels of luck has people wondering if Joe Sacco has lost his touch, as if he’s got bugger all to do with what’s happened. His team rode a bolt of lightning for about 60 games last year before hitting the wall, and without killer goaltending, they were always due for a drop-off. It’s still the players that determine whether a team is any good, and his are either hurt or not over-achieving this year. It happens. He’s likely about as smart as he ever was, and that team was never so good that it was immune to having a bunch of useful players on IR.
We’ve finally seen player movement of note, as a few deals were consummated during the week. Mike Fisher is a nice enough player and a famous guy for more than his ability, but I’m not quite seeing why everyone feels that Nashville got a world-beater. I don’t mind ignoring his numbers from this year given the cluster that Ottawa’s season has turned into, but last year’s Senators were a slight out-shooting team and Fisher was in the red, even with ZoneStart numbers just over 50%. He’s not terrible at all, but he’s not a slam-dunk to make the Preds dramatically better than a 4-7 seed in the West, or exactly where they are today.
Francois Beauchemin escaped the purgatory that is Toronto for the gentler climes of Orange County, and unless Jake Gardiner is a lights-out prospect, the Ducks won by the simple measure of dispensing with Joffrey Lupul’s dreadful contract. Add in the fact that Beauchemin has actually had a good year in lousy circumstances, and this is certainly a short term win for the Ducks. That hasn't stopped Ducks' fans from hating on their GM, though.
Chicago added a solid young forward as well, although they haven’t exactly reaped any benefit to this point as the Hawks are in the midst of another poor stretch. Michael Frolik is likely a better player now than Jack Skille will ever be, but that move was clearly a case of Dale Tallon wanting what he wanted, and the cost, which included a pretty decent goalie prospect going Chicago’s way, was less important than the end result. When Frolik's sooting percentage comes around, and it will, this deal might not look very good for the Panthers.
When last we saw the Kings, they were headed out on a mother of a roady that included theoretically difficult stops in Washington and Philly as part of a B2B. Two games, two wins, and if the Kings don’t end up in the post-season, I’ll be surprised. They’re a solid team that just doesn’t allow very much in their own end. I watched some of their game against the Capitals Saturday afternoon, and although Washington is in a bit of a ditch at the moment, L.A. gave them nothing at all in the third. Kopitar teamed with Handzus and Simmonds to form a very physical line, over-powering the Cap D on the cycle, and they worked with Drew Doughty for the winner yesterday afternoon.
Motes, Planks, etc.
Mario Lemieux unburdened himself Sunday, blasting what he perceived to be the NHL’s soft treatment of the Islanders in the wake of the rumble at Nassau Friday evening. His Upstairs does employ a dirtbag of the first order, of course, as more than a few folks mentioned on Twitter, and he was never too wordy about having Ulf Samuelsson take people’s knees for fun if memory serves, so the cry of hypocrisy has some merit.
I don’t for a minute condone what happened on the Island. New York had a few grievances from their last meeting that they decided to air, with the dirty hit by Max Talbot on Blake Comeau and the one-punch KO of Rick DiPietro at front of mind, but there are better ways to clear up these matters, and the 9-3 licking they put on the Pens Friday night should have sufficed.
That said, if anyone is under the impression that Mario Lemieux is some pure hearted virgin speaking out to save the NHL from itself, spare me. He’s quite a lot more hard-nosed than he’d like to let on, and keep in mind that he had no qualms about playing cities off of each other in order to secure a new building for his club. That's part of the reason why I don't take any bleatings on his part about leaving the game seriously. He's been willing in the past to say whatever he had to in order to get an edge, and I don't perceive this latest from him in any different light.
There’s nothing all that wrong with a bit of gamesmanship, either, although I doubt we’d get this sort of reaction from Ken King or Murray Edwards. I do suspect, however, if they did offer up any statement in the wake of an analogous event, it’s unlikely that they’d have the gall to dress it up as some sort of Sir Galahad BS.
That’s all for this week.