Five things: Ummm

Ryan Lambert
February 22 2012 10:28AM

1. They're in the what-now?

Calgary has had a playoff spot?

If I had said that to you, say, a month ago, you would have laughed in my face and made me cry probably. But here we are, with Calgary having occupied the No. 8 spot for a few days and making everyone watching from the outside sprout large, floating question marks above their heads in abject confusion.

This Calgary team? With this many injuries? To those players? You wouldn't believe it. And rightly so.

But here we are nevertheless. I'm not counting on it holding, and neither should you, but with the way LA has been playing of late (i.e. scoring about a quarter of a goal per game), and Dallas seemingly in full-on seller mode, the number of teams who can seemingly compete with the Flames for the post-season seems to be dwindling, though that could all change by this time next week for obvious reasons. We know for sure that LA is going to be going for it since Dean Lombardi's fired as hell if they don't make the playoffs AND have a strong showing in the first round.

This has been one crazy season, and a crazier run. Calgary racked up 13 points in eight games to earn that spot, a full 20 percent of their season total to that point. An improbable run given the personnel missing for it, and one wonders what the team, surely bolstered by a deadline acquisiton (which we'll get to in a second), will be able to do with more healthy bodies going forward. 

2. Guess who rules...

It's Olli Jokinen.

Outside of Miikka Kiprusoff, Jokinen has been the best Flame this year. Believe it. For all the jokes about Big Macs and pumpkins and waffles, the guy has really been just a great complement to Jarome Iginla and has, in fact, had a better overall season.

Now look, I understand Jarome Iginla doesn't get the chance to play with a player of Jarome Iginla's caliber and therefore may not be in as good a position to look like an all-star, but You Can't Argue With Results.

I think most of us were probably pretty happy with him scoring 17-37-54 last season in 79 games, right? And that was with a shooting percentage of just 8.2. Not a bad value at all. This year, he's shooting a much more managable 10.8% percent and has justifiably reaped big-time results: 18-31-49 in just 60 games. You could make an argument, I guess, that him having more points and just five fewer goals than Iginla at the 60-game mark is not necessarily a good thing for the team, but for him? How can you not be happy.

Yes, yes, contract year and all that. But if not for Jokinen, this team isn't even close to the playoffs. 

3. The case for Kipper

To me, right now, the only candidates for the Hart are Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Lundqvist, and any other talk is absurd to the point of not being worthy of discussion.

However, let's say the Flames actually do make the playoffs: How much consideration do you have to give Kiprusoff?

Answer: A lot, obviously.

This is, we can agree, a team playing well above its head, regardless of how many points its picked up in the last however-many games. The only reason this season isn't a total wash starts and ends with No. 34. He is, again, completely being overshadowed by Lundqvist and to a lesser extent Jonathan Quick, who can't win if he doesn't get a shutout, but given the quality of the defense in front of him — CORY SARICH!!!!!!! — if Kiprusoff isn't at least a Vezina finalist, there should be a sensibly-sized riot.

There are probably too many players that will be in the Hart conversation at the end of the season (you can see Corey Perry and Claude Giroux easily being in the discussion) for Kiprusoff to get recognition, but he's right up there for anyone who's been paying attention.

4. And so

Now that Calgary is actually close to a playoff spot, I think we've all (even those of us screaming with our hair on fire about what a bad idea it is) resigned ourselves to there being no way out from the Flames selling off parts to acquire veteran help.

Remember, of course, that Mike Cammalleri was the biggest pickup the team will be making (oh dear god you should at least hope so), but given the prices guys like Kyle Quincey and Hal Gill are fetching these days, is that giving anyone else pause here?

It just seems like so, so much to give up for a guy of that caliber, whoever it ends up being, as to not make it worth the trouble. It's one thing if you can make like the Bruins and get a guy like Rich Peverley for a pair of promising but raw and young roster players, but the Flames aren't exactly overflowing with those. I can see the argument being made for trading the first-round pick (though I don't agree with it) to get some help... somewhere. But the team has a lot of needs to address and limited assets that don't actually hurt them to unload.

This thing that I hate is going to happen, is going to happen. For what reason, well...

5. What this team is counting on

It should be pretty clear by now that Calgary is looking to make the playoffs by hook or by crook and then pray Kiprusoff goes on some kind of insane run of unbeatability to advance. That is the only plan here.

If the team gets into the playoffs, it has certainly done its job in the owners' eyes, and then everyone's just going to turn to Kiprusoff and say, "Well, now what?" The benefit here is that no one will care if or, more likely, when, Calgary gets drilled in the first round by Detroit or Vancouver. Making the playoffs is meeting the owners' mandate. That's good enough for everyone, apparently.

Especially, I'm guessing, Jay Bouwmeester. He won't know what to do with himself.

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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 jeremywilhelm
February 22 2012, 02:53PM
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I would bet, has the Flames won last night, both Smith and Glencross wouldnt be playing tommorrow

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#2 Quicksilver ballet
February 22 2012, 10:56AM
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Why was there no Burn'in Ring of Fire last evening. Was so looking forward to singing along with that tune.

Maybe they don't play it when the season appears to be going down in Flames?

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#3 Kent Wilson
February 22 2012, 11:00AM
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They only play it after wins I believe.

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#4 Robert Vollman
February 22 2012, 11:15AM
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If Downie can get a first-rounder, Calgary should sell some of their UFAs and spare parts.

Any of Sarich, Hannan, Babchuk, Jackman, Kostopoulos and Stajan that can get a 2nd rounder or decent prospect should be moved.

Calgary is 27th in close-game possession stats. They're not a strong team, and can they seriously count on Kipper to single-handedly drag them into the post-season?

If anything they should have their ears open for any trade offers they get for Kipper. There could be some desperate teams out there, and the Flames can sell high. (Or would Ryan organize a sensibly-sized riot?)

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#5 Gange
February 22 2012, 11:41AM
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With Butler down, do they sell off Sarich?

The good news is that GlenX and Smith are skating with the regulars today. Not a moment too soon as PHX just picked up Vermette for a song (Oh and McElhinney).

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#6 Kent Wilson
February 22 2012, 11:42AM
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@Robert Vollman

and Stajan

Hahaha. I like how you slipped him in there.

Flames should be open to all offers. We all know they aren't a legit contender for a playoff spot at this point. I mean, they may slip in if Kipper continues to be great and all the injured guys return, but Feaster should at least be entertaining any meaningful offers that could improve he club long term.

That won't be happening though. I'm sure he'll listen to anything for marginal pieces like Sarich or Babchuk, but any one considered integral to the team right now won't be moved I'm sure.

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#7 Gange
February 22 2012, 11:42AM
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Robert Vollman wrote:

If Downie can get a first-rounder, Calgary should sell some of their UFAs and spare parts.

Any of Sarich, Hannan, Babchuk, Jackman, Kostopoulos and Stajan that can get a 2nd rounder or decent prospect should be moved.

Calgary is 27th in close-game possession stats. They're not a strong team, and can they seriously count on Kipper to single-handedly drag them into the post-season?

If anything they should have their ears open for any trade offers they get for Kipper. There could be some desperate teams out there, and the Flames can sell high. (Or would Ryan organize a sensibly-sized riot?)

I don't hate Stajan right now but I hate his contract. Here's a list of players not going anywhere due to contract:

Matt Stajan

Anton Babchuk

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#8 schevvy
February 22 2012, 11:47AM
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Well..Antoine Vermette has just been dealt to Phoenix for Curtis McBackup (that'll solve Columbus' goaltending issues!), a 2nd round pick this year and a conditional 5th next year. Who would Vermette compare to on the Flames?

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#9 Kent Wilson
February 22 2012, 11:51AM
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@schevvy

He's a Glencross/Moss type of guy who is really good in the middle of the rotation, can play both special teams and sub into your top-6 in a pinch.

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#10 schevvy
February 22 2012, 12:11PM
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BTW, Butler out 3 weeks due to a thigh laceration. That's a big injury, as I believe Butler has played very nicely this season. Time to see if Brodie can step up to the plate I guess.

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#11 Gange
February 22 2012, 12:13PM
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I'm not sure who you put in that spot really. I think it'd be a stretch for Brodie.

Perhaps Hannan, then have Sarich and Gio as the second pairing?

Not too sure.

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#12 T&A4Flames
February 22 2012, 12:14PM
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I think regardless of how the teams around us do in the next week, if we lose both games to PHX & PHI then we should be looking to capitalize on the insane prices teams are paying to 'sellers'. I still think we should look at moving what ever surplus pieces we can because if we make the playoffs it won;t be because of any of the pieces we may trade. We make the playoffs for 1 reason only, Kipper. We have been icing an AHL & expansion team for the last month and are doing ok. Personally, assuming we get at least 2nd and/or 3rd round picks for them, we move Sarich or Hannan and Babs for just about anything. Then, call up some of the AHL D-men.. why not. Bouw, Gio, TJ & Smith will carry the heavy mail with the AHLers filling in. Like I said, if we get in, we get in from Kipper playing lights out and that won't matter who plays the bottom rotation. I would also consider Jokinen; for a 1st +, yep, have to consider it.

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#13 Gange
February 22 2012, 12:21PM
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Babchuk

Stajan

Not going anywhere, although I wish they could.

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#14 Bob in the Abbey
February 22 2012, 12:35PM
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Gange wrote:

I'm not sure who you put in that spot really. I think it'd be a stretch for Brodie.

Perhaps Hannan, then have Sarich and Gio as the second pairing?

Not too sure.

Hannan spent the most time with J-Bo last night after Butler left.

I shudder to think that Sutter would consider pairing Sarich with Babchuk. Watching Sarich last night have the Oilers skate circles around him (and by him, and through him and over him etc...) I don't know if it would be wise to have him on the 2nd pairing and facing tougher competition, but I agree it might not work having Brodie in that spot either.

I'm hearing Smith might be back for Monday's game against St' Louis.

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#15 RKD
February 22 2012, 12:41PM
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TSN's Jermain Franklin tweeted that it took 30 stitches to close up the laceration on Butler's thigh.

If Babchuck comes back in, does our first pair become Jay-Bo/Gio?

Can't believe I am saying this but it was smart for Feaster not to trade Babchuck or Stajan with all the injuries.

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#16 Kent Wilson
February 22 2012, 12:53PM
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@RKD

Babchuk is replacement level. He can replaced by Carson or Wilson.

If someone wants Babchuk, Flames have to trade him to get that contract out of the org.

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#17 RKD
February 22 2012, 01:17PM
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Just heard from Pat, Glencross and Smith could return tomorrow night. Both game-time decisions. That's a big shock but hope it's true as we need the help!

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#18 T&A4Flames
February 22 2012, 01:48PM
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RKD wrote:

Just heard from Pat, Glencross and Smith could return tomorrow night. Both game-time decisions. That's a big shock but hope it's true as we need the help!

Please don't be rushing them!!!!

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#19 RKD
February 22 2012, 01:58PM
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T&A4Flames wrote:

Please don't be rushing them!!!!

I don't think they are, they must have been medically cleared. It's probably more on how they feel. I would like to have them play a game as opposed to going in head first against the Flyers.

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#20 Franko J
February 22 2012, 02:31PM
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Flames are team in playoff limbo.

Right now this team ( when healthy) can get into the playoffs and meet the owners mandate. While the Flames strive for higher than eighth place in the conference, the reality is this team is only as good as an eighth or seventh seed at best. IMO if you can pick up prospects and some early round picks in this draft I would make any trade in a heartbeat that will help the team in the future. The argument can be made: What have these players done for the Flames lately?

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#21 Gange
February 22 2012, 02:54PM
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Isn't this just like last year except we're in the position that the Ducks were in and they're in the position we were in?

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#22 Jerconjake
February 22 2012, 03:09PM
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The Flames lack a point per game player, they're 26th in GF/G, 27th in S/G, 21st in SA/G, 30th in faceoff percentage, 17th on the PP, and 24th in 5x5 GF/A Ratio. Only Kiprusoff is keeping the GA/G respectable at 12th and the PK decent (10th).

Teams with numbers like that would get eaten alive in a series against the top teams in the west. If management was serious about winning they would sell high right now and start fresh.

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#23 Kevin R
February 22 2012, 04:08PM
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T&A4Flames wrote:

I think regardless of how the teams around us do in the next week, if we lose both games to PHX & PHI then we should be looking to capitalize on the insane prices teams are paying to 'sellers'. I still think we should look at moving what ever surplus pieces we can because if we make the playoffs it won;t be because of any of the pieces we may trade. We make the playoffs for 1 reason only, Kipper. We have been icing an AHL & expansion team for the last month and are doing ok. Personally, assuming we get at least 2nd and/or 3rd round picks for them, we move Sarich or Hannan and Babs for just about anything. Then, call up some of the AHL D-men.. why not. Bouw, Gio, TJ & Smith will carry the heavy mail with the AHLers filling in. Like I said, if we get in, we get in from Kipper playing lights out and that won't matter who plays the bottom rotation. I would also consider Jokinen; for a 1st +, yep, have to consider it.

This!!!!!!! Except Jokinen wont get traded especially because he wont waive his no trade. I see Rutherford gave Ruutu a 4 year deal with a No Trade for the 1st 3 years. What a great idea, that way a player wont screw you on potential rental values if the situation called for selling a UFA for some value. Hope Feaster took note of that. Kipper is going to dictate if we make the playoffs. With Smith back & I liked Wilson when he was called up, I say sell sell sell!!! The prices are right. Even if we undercut the competition, the prices are great!

That Oiler game was a joke & painful to be at. If I witness another bath like that tomorrow, I would be selling even more assets. We cant afford a 3-4 game slump. If we do, we'll be in 12th place by the trade deadline.

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#24 DieHard
February 22 2012, 06:09PM
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I think everybody (well almost) saw this coming at the beginning of the season. Trade deadline approaching and the Flames in "buy" mode (that is: playoff contention). Lots of UFA's to dump but you can't/won't. You could use an extra couple of 1st and 2nd rounders but that won't happen. What you saw last night against the Oilers is just the beginning of your future.

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#25 joey joe joe jr shabadoo
February 23 2012, 12:49AM
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I don't see the Flames doing much at all at the deadline. That said, if they have a chance to regain the 2nd rounder they gave up to Buffalo for them swallowing the Kotalik contract, they should take it. (ie: Sarich/Hannan)

the big moves will have to wait for the draft. Seems very unlikely that Jarome's going anywhere, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least if the Flames try to sell high on Kiprusoff.

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#26 Rain Dogs
February 23 2012, 08:23AM
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Kipper shouldn't be a Vezina or Hart finalist, or consideration, at this point.

Certainly, he's Calgary's "Hart", and he's played very, very well this year and is close to being a vezina trophy candidate.

However, every argument you could use for Kipper, you could use for Quick and Quick's stats are better or equal (SA) on all points.

Lundqvist is on another level alone. To me, he's the Hart and Vezina winner, hands down.

And then you have good arguments for Mike Smith, Pekka Rinne and Jimmy Howard.

What's a shame is that almost certainly Tim Thomas will be nominated again. He's like Martin Brodeur 2.0. Good Goalie, Great Team and a tremendous reputation.

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#27 druds
February 23 2012, 01:13PM
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I love to be a I-told-you-so I seem to remember FN regulars waxing poetically about Mr.Babchuk and what a great deal that was...and how is that going for you? I was a lone voice of reason back many mths ago saying that it was a typical sutter type deal...throw money at somebody and hope they live up to it.

Feaster just cannot bring himself to pull the plug and its looking pretty apparent that these Flames are just grinding into dust before our eyes...for gods sakes Jay...shoot them in the head! put them out of their misery!

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