Flames 2011-2012 Goats and Stars

Kent Wilson
September 30 2011 08:58AM

 

 

With the unpleasant memories of last season finally fading and new hope springing up in their place, it's time to start publishing our predictions and previews. We'll begin by reviving an old Nations tradition - picking goats and stars for the upcoming year. Who do you think we'll become your fan favorite - his every play idolized, his every mistake forgiven? Alternatively, who will you curse every time he hits the ice?

There are some obvious candidates on both sides for the Flames - Giordano, Iginla, Tanguay, Glencross versus Stajan, Bouwmeester, Hagman Kiprusoff, etc. However, like most pre-season expectations, actual over-achievers and disappointments when the action starts can surprise. For proof, go back and read our stars and goats from September 2009. Make sure to have a good laugh at Ryan Lambert's picks in particular.

With that in mind, here are your FN writers choices for the upcoming season:

Kent Wilson's Star and Goat

Star: Mark Giordano

It seems an obvious choice, but Giordano is poised to improve on his career best season from last year. With Robyn Regehr out the door, Giordano becomes one of the two best defenders on the club and should be a minutes-leader for the team on a nightly basis. In addition, Gio was actually one of the unluckiest defenders on the team last year in terms of percentages. He was one of the best blueliners in terms of possession and scoring chance ratio, but his on-ice percentages (PDO) was the worst on the club - a combined 97.6 (including a save percentage of just .899!). 

If the bounces regress for Giordano, there's a good chance he will hit 50+ points and double digit +/-.

Goat: Anton Babchuk

Although I'm sure Brent Sutter is going to shelter Babchuk as much as possible again this year, I think he'll still end uo a goat for various reasons: first, because I doubt he'll be north of a 60% zone start again, meaning he won't start so many shifts in the offensive zone. That's a difficult ratio to sustain for any regular skater, let alone a defender. If, for instance, Cory Sarich starts the year on IR, Babchuk will have to take a few more minutes and defensive zone draws.

In addition, Babchuk was by far the luckiest Flames defender last year. Pucks went in at un uncanny rate when he was on the ice. If that falls away, his defensive short-comings will be much more apparent.

Vintage Flame's Star and Goat

Star: David Moss

Prior to his untimely injury last year, Moss was having the best year of his career. His play along side Jokinen and Glencross was nothing short of superb. The line dominated against opposition lines and Moss' play did not go without notice. When Brendan Morrison went down at center, Sutter moved David over and slotted him in that position on the top line. The move paid dividends, not only obviously increasing Moss' scoring chances but also elevating the chances for both Iginla and Tanguay. 

With the departure of Daymond Langkow, David will be leaned on heavily to fulfil the role as a #1 two-way center. Sutter likes Moss in the middle and by all indications in comments and interviews, David is going to be given every opportunity to make the position his. This year could mark the turning point in Moss' career, especially if he shows he can center the top line.

Goat: Brendan Morrison

Even though he was only re-signed for 1 more year, Morrison is 36 years old and coming off a devastating knee injury. It is going to be extremely difficult for the Flames to find a fit for Morrison and for Brendan to find his fit on this team. Last year he was a spark plug in scoring for the Flames while fans watched in dismay at the slow start plaguing Jarome Iginla. That will not be the case this year, with too many options already present for the Flames to ensure the captain has a better start.

Calgary has taken dramatic steps, trading core team members, to get younger and faster. The move of Moss to center, and the fact that the Flames have too much invested in Matt Stajan automatically pushes the damaged and aging Morrison down the pecking order. I see Morrison as a role player more this year, used mostly as line changes are made to spark the team or throw off the opposition. If Stajan bounces back in his play, and Jokinen continues his dominance as a 3rd line center, Morrison could find himself in the press box, with a bum knee that just didn't allow him to keep pace with this changing team dynamic.

Ryan Lambert's Star and Goat

Star: Alex Tanguay

I mean obviously this is going to be contingent on him and Jarome Iginla both being healthy and all that, but Tanguay was a big reason the Flames' offense finished fifth in the league last year (so too was the fact that every goalie in the Northwest Division not named Roberto Luongo was abysmal).

But he could be even better this year because his shooting percentage last year was a little below his historical average, which itself is dragged down by two or three rather poor seasons that are well outside the rate of about 20-21 percent he usually puts up.

He's a wonderful complementary player to Iginla and was so in each of his previous three seasons with Calgary.

Goat: Miikka Kiprusoff

There was a time when I was fully prepared to patiently wait for him to round back into Vezina-Winning Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. That time was two years ago, but after three sub-.910-save-percentage seasons out of the last four, I'm finally done. Oh they're gonna decrease his workload this year? Perfect. They've said that each of the last two or three and it's changed nothing.

He just hasn't been good and once again is gonna shoulder the load because we all remember how great he was in 2006. We might end up forgetting around mid-December.

Robert Cleave's Star and Goat

Star: Jay Bouwmeester

There are more than a few Flames' fans that have given up on JB ever amounting to more than an overpaid, if solid, rearguard, but I have a feeling that this will be a season that shows his true value.

It's an odd thing, but virtually every player that worked with Robyn Regehr seemed utterly uncomfortable in that role. That wasn't Reggie's fault per se, and it's certainly true that the level of competition he routinely faced was daunting, but watching Bouwmeester last year left me with the impression that they were a bit ill-matched. I don't expect Jay Bouwmeester to be a great offensive producer, but I do expect him to have a sound season in his own end and a better, more aggressive one when the Flames have the puck. He's the undisputed shutdown guy now, and I might be going out on a limb here, but I just have the sense that he needed a change of partner to get him to take more of a leading role.

Goat: Matt Stajan

The Flames are in a bit of a pickle with Matt Stajan. He's really not much more than a tweener second-third line center on his best days, but the club is paying him more than anyone else that might play in the middle this season, and given that paycheque the management has every right to expect him to be a productive 55-60 point player. Anyone counting on that happening?

I suppose there's the chance that Gary Roberts could have turned him into a madman this summer, but absent that, his ceiling is about one line below where the club requires him. As an aside, his contract isn't his fault, because any of us would take the dough if it were offered, but even with Langkow elsewhere, he'll need to be a lot better than last year to prevent being on the third line or worse. If he's usurped yet again by Brendan Morrison, well, the Flames might have to hope for an amnesty buyout clause in the next CBA.

Robert Vollman's Star and Goat

Star: Miikka Kiprusoff

Calgary is not an easy team behind which to play, but nobody does it better than Kiprusoff. The long list of Calgary's back-ups since the lock-out season have all been bested by Kiprusoff, and by a far wider margin than most any other NHL goalie. Granted none of these alternatives were much better than replacement-level, but they all did far better wearing other jerseys than they did the Flaming C. No, he won't be the Vezina-level, top-ten star he once was, but he can return to 2009-10's .920 level, which will probably be enough for a post-season berth.

Goat: Alex Tanguay

In a time when Calgary was shedding as many of the bad contracts as possible, they offered Alex Tanguay a bizarrely risky long-term deal that requires him to sustain his current production level until age 36. Tanguay's exceptional talent, especially when paired with Jarome Iginla, is obvious to anyone, but may not be sustainable for even one year without taking a dip - not all the way down to 2009-10's 37 points, but somewhere in the 40-60 range. After all, Iginla himself can continue to defy Father Time for much longer, and what hope would Tanguay have without him?

Even when a guy is playing reasonably well, fans can turn on a player in the salary cap era simply because his agent got him a great deal, because they know that contract prevents the team from getting the extra pieces they need. Alex Tanguay could find himself in that boat (The HMCS Stajan?) by year's end.

Pat Steinberg's Star and Goat

TBA

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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 Colin
September 30 2011, 09:13AM
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Star, Backlund. He has played great in the preseason and was showing a lot of that skill he was drafted for, should he be given the chance on the top line I think he has a HUGE breakout year. Will easily set career highs in goals/assists/points if he's on the #1.

Goat, Theres a few to pick from(Sarich, any Goon, Bouwmeester, Kiprusoff), but the #1 Goat in Calgary will be Stajan. He's already been annointed the Goat before the season. And his Whipping Boy interview only helped to solidify it. He could theoretically play himself out of it, but with his contract and playing on no higher than the third or fourth line means that task is near impossible.

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#2 xis10ce
September 30 2011, 09:29AM
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I like Bouwm as a star, they are (from what I've seen recently) really trying to get him injected into the offence. He's been stepping into the play to be that forth man, I have no doubt this will pay off for him, what concerns me is having Butler as the one guy covering his back when he does step up.

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#4 Colin
September 30 2011, 10:02AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I considered picking Backlund for star, but the uncertain center situation in CGY made me hesitate. It's even money he'll end up on the 3rd or 4th line as the first.

I'm still sticking with it, I think Backlund forces the issue and won't give a reason for Sutter to demote him. If Backlund is having his breakout season and still gets demonted, well then maybe the Flames haven't fired quite enough Sutters.

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#5 Vintage Flame
September 30 2011, 10:42AM
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Let's be honest.. Stajan and Hagman would have been just too easy to pick in the goat role. Would have made for a pretty boring read?

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#8 Monaertchi
September 30 2011, 11:09AM
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I can see Babs as a big goat this year. He has only 1 job that he's particularly good at - PP. Since he'll have to play in non-PP situations, and since he's very likely to look really bad doing it, I don't think he can finish this year smelling rosey.

I don't think BMo has enough expectation on him to be eligible for goatdom. He's cheap, old, slow, and broken. Getting out of the press box is almost best case scenario.

Using the description for star, "his every play idolized, his every mistake forgiven", I can't see any player on this team fitting that description more than Gio. He's a fan and media darling and I think it would take an awful lot to change that.

Lamberts picks for '09 are pretty hilarious in hindsight. I must say that picking a player as goat for an upcoming season because you didn't like his contract squabbles seems misguided.

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#9 Monaertchi
September 30 2011, 11:12AM
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I like that Vollmans picks are the opposite of Lamberts.

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#10 Vintage Flame
September 30 2011, 11:28AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

They are pretty obvious. I actually didn't pick them, though, because I expect at least modest bounce back seasons from both of them.

Definitely have seen signs of it early from Hagman. I'm honest to God surprised. If I had to pick one, I would have chosen Stajan... But that guy just looks done to me. I hope he turns it around, but I won't hold my breath.

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#11 marcus
September 30 2011, 01:01PM
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Star: Jarome. Simple. Leading scorer for years and should continue hitting home runs.

Goat#2 Kipper: The discussion finally turns to whom should be entitled to premium minutes as Karlsson elevates his play.

Jarome is the only untouchable so if it's not this season Kipper's gone next year.

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#12 Reidja
September 30 2011, 01:42PM
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Star: Moss. Looked great in the pre-season and is poised to make the jump to be a team leader-by-example in my opinion. I think his great all-around game will win hearts and minds with the fanbase. He's starting to fill the void left by Langkow for me anyway.

Goat: Bourque. Weight of expectations and pressure of potential unrealized will make this a season where the frustration of fans builds on last season's disinterested effort. I'd like to see him score enough for us to get good value in return come deadline time though.

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#13 Kevin R
September 30 2011, 02:11PM
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Love the read & agree with a lot of choices. If we are looking of who Flames really really need to emerge as a star this year, the coin flip will be between Backlund & Karlsson. We need one or both of those kids to catch the NHL eye as emmerging stars. The goats are several, pick em, Morrison or Stajan or Bourque or Babchuk or Hagman or Jackman or TKO.One or more will probably be sharing the goat horns. The status quo guys that I see will deliver what we would expect, no over achieving/no under achieving are : Iggy Kipper Tanguay Moss JBO GIO Hannan Stempniak Jokinen Sarich Butler

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#14 icedawg_42
September 30 2011, 02:26PM
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I liked Robert Cleave's picks...I could easily see that happening...everyone on this board knows that Stajan would have a hard time digging himself out of my goat category, but as Vintage pointed out though, having him there by default is just...boring. I think Stempniak will have higher expectations than he probably warrants, simply because as an ex-Leaf, he will draw comparisons to the rest of that crew and the already sour taste in our mouths how that's turned out.

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#15 icedawg_42
September 30 2011, 02:33PM
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As far as Vollman's picks...I could see Tangs contract turning him into a goat, simply because of the term, but I dont think that would happen this year. Iggy will decline over the next couple years (I hate to say it)..and with him will slide Tanguay. 2-3 years from now, that contract is not going to look very good.

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#16 schevvy
September 30 2011, 02:49PM
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Star- Mikael Backlund, I think this is a breakout year for him. I think he will be given opportunities to acheive and I think that he will do that very well.

Goat- Anton Babchuk, I agree with Kent on this one, Babchuk is useful for one thing and one thing only, his shot. He is useless on defence and I don't think that his luck that was happening last year will carry over. Unless of course he gets some 75% or higher offensive zone starts. (Also, NHL 12 calls Babchuk a defensive defenceman, they obviously have never seen him play.)

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#17 wawful
September 30 2011, 04:50PM
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Disclaimer: My picks reflect the philosophy that it's better to be interesting than it is to be right.

Star: Hagman ----

It's not that I think he's the most likely star, he's just somebody noone else has picked who has shown a huge improvement in the off-season. There are a couple of scenarios in which Hagman could wind up with his old Olympic buddy Jokinen. Those two had a little bit of chemistry even when both of them were in the dog house. Jokinen is actually looking like a real playmaker center this year, and Hagman has a chip on his shoulder the size of Wisconsin. Bottom line, if the OMG line gets broken up or starts faltering, I'd love to see Hagman in there. He won't be the best player on the team, but he could be the biggest positive surprise of the year.

Runner Up Star: Stajan --------------

Again, I'm going for picks nobody else has made yet. Nobody is expecting Stajan to perform well this year and he knows he's finished with the Flames and possibly with the NHL if he doesn't turn things around fast. He's been a 50 point man before and he's definitely not over the hill. He hasn't racked up a lot of points in the pre-season, but he's shown definite signs of improvement. Confidence is his big issue now I think (and that whipping-boy complex, which isn't entirely in his head). If the media lets up on him a little and he has some luck in October, he could find himself on the road to recovery and possibly on something other than the fourth line.

Goat: Stajan ----

The pendulum swings both ways. We have a lot of potential minor goats, but nobody has the potential to be a bigger goat than Stajan. I just can't go against the flow here. Stajan may wind up not being a goat at all (fingers crossed), but he's the one guy who currently has all the hate and is poised to become an albatross contract if he doesn't have a good October/November. Put simply, if he continues to suck he will out-goat all the other goats.

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#19 wawful
September 30 2011, 07:03PM
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I agree that Borque could swing both ways as well, but I don't think he can really swing far enough to become the team's biggest goat. If he continues on as he did last year he'll probably just wind up on the third or fourth lines facing easier competition that he ought to dominate. A return to his previous form could easily put him on a very productive second line.

Bourque has the biggest potential upside of any of the flames LW's aside from Tanguay. What I'd really like is for Bourque to challenge Tanguay for that #1 LW position. I don't think he'll win it, but I think he has the potential to make it a tough choice for Sutter.

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#20 funkyjaman
September 30 2011, 07:37PM
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Star: Stempniak - New blood in a hockey mad market, and most likely some talent to play with.

Goat: Scoreface - I'm not sure exactly why but...I just have that feeling!

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#22 Subversive
September 30 2011, 08:24PM
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Star: Moss - I think he makes the leap to true star and 60-70 points (maybe only for a year or two) this season.

Goat: Kipper - I think this is the year the fanbase at large realizes he's just not that good anymore.

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#23 Derzie
September 30 2011, 11:26PM
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Star: The Calgary Flames and their real fans

Goat: The so called fans here hacking every player the Flames have before the first puck is dropped. Once you start calling out Kipper and other players that have given so much for this city you've lost your status as fan.

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#24 Kevin R
September 30 2011, 11:37PM
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Derzie wrote:

Star: The Calgary Flames and their real fans

Goat: The so called fans here hacking every player the Flames have before the first puck is dropped. Once you start calling out Kipper and other players that have given so much for this city you've lost your status as fan.

Dont totally agree with you buddy. Fans have a right to cheer & a right to get ticked at players earning millions per year not performing. I shell out $15K each year + another $15K for playoffs & have been for the last 14 years. I am their biggest fan but I also put money where my mouth is & feel I have the right to critique and armchair manage this team as well. Most people dont listen to me but so what, my opinion is out there and if you take offense, sorry, but just deal with the fact you are no more of a fan than myself.

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#25 CitizenFlame
October 01 2011, 12:22AM
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Star: Jokinen- he is slowly turning people's opinion of him and I think is starting to get comfortable. Combined with good linemates (OMG) and a contract year, look out for the big finn. Runner-up: Backlund- because I think he will have a break out 50+ point season. Also, because I believe he has to for the Flames to be successful this season.

Goat: GlenX- new contract, new expectations. I don't think it will be a horrible season, but I think he fails to achieve the same level of success. Runner-up: Bourque- I'm afraid that he has too many "nagging" injuries and plays the periphery game again. Hopefully not, but I think Flames fans will be quick to jump all over him if he starts out slow.

Overall I think that there will be a number of breakout seasons this year, Backlund, Karlsson (in a back-up 20 game role), and Butler will pleasantly surprise. I also think that there will be a few good rebound seasons from JBo, Kipper, Jokinen. For a change, I think the rest perform to expectations or close enough that this team makes it to the playoffs in seventh.

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#26 Domebeers.com
October 01 2011, 09:24AM
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Pat had to check with Rogers media first, or what?

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#28 Kevin R
October 01 2011, 11:06AM
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CitizenFlame wrote:

Star: Jokinen- he is slowly turning people's opinion of him and I think is starting to get comfortable. Combined with good linemates (OMG) and a contract year, look out for the big finn. Runner-up: Backlund- because I think he will have a break out 50+ point season. Also, because I believe he has to for the Flames to be successful this season.

Goat: GlenX- new contract, new expectations. I don't think it will be a horrible season, but I think he fails to achieve the same level of success. Runner-up: Bourque- I'm afraid that he has too many "nagging" injuries and plays the periphery game again. Hopefully not, but I think Flames fans will be quick to jump all over him if he starts out slow.

Overall I think that there will be a number of breakout seasons this year, Backlund, Karlsson (in a back-up 20 game role), and Butler will pleasantly surprise. I also think that there will be a few good rebound seasons from JBo, Kipper, Jokinen. For a change, I think the rest perform to expectations or close enough that this team makes it to the playoffs in seventh.

Kipper actually looked pretty solid in the Phoenix game. He may not be consistently unconscious like he used to be, but he is and always will be a top flight goaltender capable of winning a cup on the right team.

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#29 marty
October 02 2011, 09:20AM
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Derzie wrote:

Star: The Calgary Flames and their real fans

Goat: The so called fans here hacking every player the Flames have before the first puck is dropped. Once you start calling out Kipper and other players that have given so much for this city you've lost your status as fan.

Can i see your badge that says your the "real" fan police? man all flame fans that either write for this site or visit the site are flame fans. whether they are putting positive or negative comments it doesn't matter. some people are more vocal, some are less, some people are sheep, some know tonnes about hockey some little. the peeps here at the nation do a fantastic job of giving us the people a plethora of information from all angles both positive and negative and allow us "fans" the option to comment on these articles. Everyone has the right to comment and you have expressed what you think i can just say unlike the articles here you are missing one thing.... backing whether it be stats, fact or otherwise the "im a real fan cause i'm a sheep" err i mean positive follower of everything argument weaker than cloutier's five hole. I have the opinion that from a hockey sense you probably could hang with most of the readers hear let alone r.cleave and k. wilson but who wants to waste time with a pissing match. so go flames go (positive, keep on rockin' in the free world and stajan you bus leaves for abby this afternoon.

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