January 17 2012 10:14AM
It has been quite the exciting week for the Calgary Flames. After an embarrassing 9-0 loss to the Bruins, the Flames started a four game home stand that was going to define who they were as a team and how far they were willing to go for each other. Were they going to just play out the season, or make a serious run at the playoffs? Were they going to play for their Captain, who was one goal away from his 500th? Or, were some, playing out their days until the season was over and they hit free agency?
As is usually the case with this team, questions surface faster than they can be answered. This past week defined that trend, at least temporarily. Instead of the typically expected rollercoaster of emotions, the fan base was treated to something they needed, and frankly, something the Flames really needed, if they are serious about what direction they want to pursue in the second half.
There could not have been a better way for Calgary to kick off their four game home stand then to see Iggy score his 500th goal in a win over a division rival. It may not have come in the typical fashion that we have come to see the captain score - in fact, earlier in the game Jarome came close and ripped one of his patented shots off the crossbar. So technically speaking, when Iggy finally got the goal, it was his first shot on net. As George Johnson of the Calgary Herald describes, it was mostly a frustrating night for Iginla; one that luckily ended in celebration, and a sigh of relief.
Sometimes you take them where you can get them and fortunately Iginla carried that into the next game against the Devils. In a game where the Flames were frankly lucky to win, the captain and his troops took full advantage of a team with struggling goaltending. Despite the fact that the Flames beat the Devils 6-3, they were massively outplayed and what Brodeur and Hedberg lacked inside the blue paint, Kiprusoff more than excelled at. Having your goalie stop 35 of 38 shots, while the team scores six goals on 14 shots is nothing short of luck, and by no means a recipe for success. But hey, don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth, and if nothing else it gave the fans something to talk about.
Does anyone even remember what happened during the Ducks game? Probably not, and with good reason. The true story of the night was what happened before the puck even dropped, and didn’t even happen in Calgary, it was in Boston. During the third period of the Canadiens/Bruins game, Mike Cammalleri was pulled from the line-up and told to go back to the hotel. Immediately the speculation was that he had been traded, but where? As the Flames were taking to the ice against the Ducks, many fans on twitter and on the live chat at FlamesNation were quickly scanning the ice during the pre-game warm-up. Was there anyone missing from the line-up that should be there? Everyone seemed to be there, but wouldn’t it be cool if Calgary could somehow find a way to retrieve Cammalleri after he slipped away from the club two years ago?
It was no surprise that Mike was being dealt after he publically ripped the Habs for being a bunch of “losers”. The fact that a deal for a player with a six million dollar cap hit for the next two years had closed so soon after incident had transpired, that caught a few people off-guard. With no information, everyone was scrambling to find out the destination of the now former Hab; one link on twitter even showed Cammalleri appearing on the roster of the LA Kings. That however was quickly put to rest when it was confirmed that Mike had indeed been traded to the Calgary Flames. The return, along with some other pieces, was Rene Bourque.
Cammalleri was pulled off the ice as to avoid any chance of injury, which would jeopardize the trade. The reason the deal wasn’t announced immediately was because they had to wait until the Flames game had gotten underway, thereby burning one of the suspended games Rene Bourque was serving.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Flame dealt Bourque either. He has been the topic of almost all prospective trade talks when it comes to Calgary. A few months ago there were rumours that he could be on the move, only to have him remain in the Flames line-up night-in and night-out. Apparently the deal with Montreal had been in the works for a while now. After being suspended twice since then, it may have been the deciding factor in Feaster pulling the trigger.
That’s fine with Cammalleri. Upon news of his destination and a phone call from Jay Feaster, it was obvious Mike was happy about returning to Calgary.
"When I called him and said who it was calling," said Feaster, "the first thing out of his mouth was, 'What are we? Four points back?' He said, 'Saturday night, it's the Kings, right? Hockey Night in Canada?' He told me, 'I can't wait to get there.' I'll tell you - there's an excited hockey player coming to Calgary and a guy that's anxious to jump into that playoff race."
That has to be a bonus for the Flames. On the surface it looks like Feaster traded one underachieving forward for another, but what is more attractive about this deal is that the Flames are shipping out a guy that just doesn’t have his head in the game and is going through the motions, collecting a pay check, and now suspensions. Cammalleri s bringing enthusiasm and sniping ability back this way. Am I saying that one guy instantly puts the Flames back into the playoff picture? No, but it certainly gives them a sporting chance in the hunt.
Let’s not forget the other player to come over in this deal with Mike either. Karri Ramo began his career as a back-up in Tampa Bay, playing 22 games before being sent down to the AHL. He was less than impressive and as a result, rather than remaining with the Norfolk Admirals, he left to play in the KHL. Ramo flourished with Avangard Omsk, and quickly became a fan favourite. Last year he posted a record of 33-6-4 and a 1.97 GAA. That’s some pretty impressive stats.
Upon hearing that his NHL rights had been dealt to the Flames Ramo immediately contacted his agent. He is apparently excited about the deal and looks forward to making his return to the NHL someday. However, knowing the situation in Montreal was what it was with Carey Price, Ramo figured his best option was to sign a two year extension with Omsk. So the Flames are going to have to wait until the end of next year before we can expect to see the Russian in a Flames uniform. The good news is he is still only 25.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?... GOOD!
There was much discussion when he arrived in Calgary as to what line Cammalleri was going to play on. Many people thought that the natural fit was to put him immediately on a line with Jarome Iginla and see how fast they could rekindle the magic of Mike's first tour of duty. Others were also emphatic about not breaking up the club’s top scoring line, and that Cammy should take Bourque’s spot on the second line. The result of course was Cammalleri started on the second line with Backlund and Stempniak.
For as long as Iginla has played with Glencross and Jokinen, our own Kent Wilson has said that despite the points the line continued to put up, they were constantly being dominated by the opposition at even strength, or as Kent puts it more eloquently, “they were getting their teeth kicked in.” Saturday night was a tale of so many stories with Cammalleri’s first game back, to him wearing #93, in pseudo homage to Doug Gilmour, to the Clash of the Sutters, that no one really paid too much attention to Cammalleri not playing with Iginla. Or was someone paying attention? By about the mid-point of the game, Iginla was moved to the line of Backlund and Cammalleri. The move was due to the Flames not being able to generate offense of any kind, so Brent went to the toss-the-dice method and started mixing up the lines.
Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald broke down the various combinations that the Flames deployed during the Kings’ game and explains why line juggling was inevitable for the Flames. Are we going to see Brent stick to what has been working, or are we going to see him try to move the Flames away from a one dimensional offense and move towards a more diversified top six unit that can both score and handle the heavy minutes against the opposition.
Brent Sutter now has the means to deploy his lines in a manner that Kent has been advocating for...well forever. Cammalleri is an offensive zone starter, so should be Iginla. Having Backlund center those two should complete that portion of the puzzle and get Iginla out of the situations of starting in the Flames own end.
We’ve all seen the numbers, it just doesn’t work. No one would advocate the splitting of Glencross and Olli, so don’t do it. Move Stempniak to their line, or as Steinberg even reported in practice, Blake Comeau. Why not? The Flames have gotten pretty good play out of Blake, he’s fast and has shown he can play the physical game. Now they want to see the elevation of his offensive production.
I like this move. Glennie and Olli got Iggy’s game in gear; it is plausible that the high tempo duo could fire up Comeau. He doesn’t have the scoring touch of Iginla by any means, but he is faster and can take more physical liberties than Jarome. He might just fit right in, and pick up some points along the way.