February 22 2012 10:28AM
1. They're in the what-now?
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.