Five things: All questions

Ryan Lambert
March 07 2012 09:16AM

1. Do you guys give up?

"Calgary's only TWO points out of a playoff spot!"

That's what people are telling themselves these days. I think about six different stories in the Herald and Sun this week have been about more or less that thing: The Flames are tantalizingly close to the playoffs, and yet so, so far away. With just 15 games remaining on the schedule, they're still on the outside looking in, but we're told that if they can just keep winning, they can still sneak in.

Now, I'm not sure where this "keep" winning stuff comes from, of course, since they haven't been able to do that on an even slightly consistent basis in some time. The fact of the matter remains, as always, that the Western Conference playoff drop dead level will likely be where it almost always is: 95 points. How do I know? Only twice since the lockout has it been below that level, and both times it was 91 points.

Can Calgary get to 95 points in 15 games? It would take some very, very serious doing.

They entered last night's game with 70 points and, fortunately for them, beat a very, very bad Habs team. So it's up to 72, and Calgary needs "just" 23 points from its remaining 15 games. The fewest wins Calgary could get from those games is eight, and they could afford no regulation losses in the other seven. (Theoretically, they could also go 9-1-5 and achieve the same result, however.)

But if the cutoff in the West is somehow closer to 91 points than 95, the Flames will still need to pull 19 points from these remaining 15 games, and suffering any more than just five regulation losses in that time would spell certain doom.

Now I guess the point is that you have to ask yourself if you really think Calgary is capable of winning or going to overtime in that time frame. If you do, I also have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

2. What to make of Glencross?

Remember last year when Curtis Glencross signed that pretty affordable four-year extension but people kind of wondered if he was more or less cashing in on a career year at the age of 28?

It turns out, at least so far, that it's not. Glencross has been revelatory all season, and particularly in the past few games since his return from injury. We worried to an extent that he'd never reach that 24-goal, 43-point ceiling again, but now he's got 23 goals in 53 games, including strikes in five consecutive games against St. Louis, Phoenix, Anaheim and Dallas and Montreal.

Now granted, a healthy portion of that is his shocking, unsustainable, league-leading shooting percentage playing havoc with the numbers (indeed, if his shooting percentage was in line with career totals, he'd have just 12 or so goals to his name this year), but still, he has indeed delivered and helped the team get points. In fact, Calgary is 10-7-3 when Glencross scores a goal, slightly better than the team's overall winning percentage.

So if you want the Flames to eke into the playoffs, you better hope Glencross keeps scoring. Specious reasoning? Sure. But you gotta hang onto something.

3. What does being "Iron Man" mean?

Last night was the eighth anniversary of Jay Bouwmeester beginning his now-league-leading consecutive games streak.

What does it mean, though?

Some people say it's a testament to durability: A player playing that many games in a row, particularly if he's eating the minutes Bouwmeester does, without getting injured is to be lauded. Given how rough and tumble the NHL is today — concussions and whatnot, right? — not picking up any kind of serious nick seems highly improbable.

But at the same time, others say that the 25-plus minutes a night Bouwmeester plays must be Downy soft. He must not hit anyone, he must not block shots, that kind of thing.

The answer, it turns out, lies somewhere in the middle. Certainly, Bouwmeester isn't the kind of sandpaper, battle-hardened defensive stalwart that, say, a Ryan Suter might be, but he does get a little physical. He's eighth on the team in hits and fourth in blocked shots, although critics can say what they want about how that plays out on a per-minute basis when Tim Jackman has nearly double his hits and Scott Hannan has about 15 percent more blocks despite playing considerably fewer minutes.

But that's not Bouwmeester's role, and never was, so in the end, who cares? He's overpaid, for sure, but y'know, Darryl Sutter and whatever.

Isn't it nice to have a fairly steady defenseman at the back every night? I think so.

4. Should we care that Bourque is back?

Speaking of overpaid, last night Rene Bourque returned to Calgary for the first time since he got traded, and I wondered why anyone thinks anyone else should care.

Oh man, he used to play for the Flames and they traded him! Yeah, he sucked when the deal went down and has continued to do so, vociferously, in Montreal. Bourque was, admittedly, never a player I liked very much. For all the flashes of greatness in the attacking zone he could occasionally display, he remained dumb as a brick and prone to horrible penalties and turnovers far more often than not.

To me, this is like making a big deal out of, say, Matthew Lombardi coming back after he got traded. He's someone else's problem now.

It's even less relevant because of how well Mike Cammalleri has been playing lately (not that it's helped at all).

5. Problems at home?

Remember the last time the Flames won at home? No? That kind of makes sense, actually.

That's because Calgary was winless at home in its last five attempts headed into last night's contest. The last time they'd won at the 'Dome was Feb. 14, against Toronto. Between then and last night, they scored a whopping 13 goals in those five matchups and 22.

If you're trying to make the playoffs, getting smoked like that in your own building sure as hell isn't the way to do it.

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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 Caleb
March 07 2012, 09:29AM
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even with 95 points, it may not be enough.

There are 6 games that they can't loose if they are a playoff team.

Winnipeg Edmonton Columbus Minnesota X2 Anaheim

They need 12 points in those games.

To get to 95 points, in the other 9 games they need to go 4-2-3 or any other combination.

They play Colorado X2 Dallas X2 Vancouver X2 LA Phoenix San Jose

Its not impossible to think they can do it, but somehow it feels like even if they go 4-2-3, they won't make the playoffs/

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#2 Kent Wilson
March 07 2012, 09:38AM
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The other complication is that 4 or 5 other teams are in the same race with the same goal. Even if CGY manages to cross the finish line with X amount of points, it's possible they will be tied with at least one other hopeful. They have to hope they win the tie breaker in that instance.

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#3 Gange
March 07 2012, 10:17AM
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I will be extremely surprised if they can carry a 10-2-3 record into the playoffs.

Hey, we've come this far, play out the string and see what happens but this finish may not be helpful because it might disguise the changes that are truly needed.

That Glencross contract looks great! Wonder how many other GM's think that as well? ;) Might be worth exploring.

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#4 Kevin R
March 07 2012, 10:17AM
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At the rate of these injuries, will we have anyone left by April 1. Iggy looked great last night & we scored 5 goals & we actually won one in regulation time. But before I puff my chest out in civic Flames pride, I remind myself Montreal are truly a lottery picking team, last place in the Eastern Conference & if we had lost that one, well lets not think about that, too scary, but I'm sure Iggy would be calling a realtor this morning.

Winnipeg will be a better indication of whether this team can muster that impressive record required to getting close to that 95 points. Pavelec is playing way better than Price & Winnipeg is playing with urgency and push back. Iggy's line may have another solid game but I dont think his supporting lines of AHLers will probably come up shy. By the time some of our injuries start to return, it may be too little too late.

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#5 everton fc
March 07 2012, 10:31AM
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Having to play the Jets, who are looking to win their division and have a lot to play for... well, the timing stinks.

So Kevin R is spot on.

How did the "emergency players" fare last evening? Good to see Stajan pulling his weight. Perhaps an opportunity for him to resurrect his career these next 15 games...

Here's hoping.

And I am thinking we re-sign Moss and not Stempniak. Glencross/Jokinen/Moss is a line that should not be tampered with. Seems to be positive chemistry there.

Any news on Jackman?

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#6 T&A4Flames
March 07 2012, 12:02PM
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everton fc wrote:

Having to play the Jets, who are looking to win their division and have a lot to play for... well, the timing stinks.

So Kevin R is spot on.

How did the "emergency players" fare last evening? Good to see Stajan pulling his weight. Perhaps an opportunity for him to resurrect his career these next 15 games...

Here's hoping.

And I am thinking we re-sign Moss and not Stempniak. Glencross/Jokinen/Moss is a line that should not be tampered with. Seems to be positive chemistry there.

Any news on Jackman?

I don't disagree with re-signing Moss but I would suggest a re-up on Stempniak as well. Considering the poor F.A market this summer, he could be a decent option for a top 6 role with Iggy, Tangs, Cammi & Backs. If this relegates OMG to the 3rd line option, our top 9 looks pretty good & balanced; our 3rd line would destroy all other bottom 6 line ups. Still leaves a top line center position open. Of course, it all comes down to who is willing to give the biggest bargain in both dollars & term (term may be even more important).

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#7 T&A4Flames
March 07 2012, 12:07PM
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Overall I think we look ok if we are healthy for next year should the Flames choose to resign all our FA's excluding Sarich (I'll miss him) & Hannan.

The only problem is, there would be no room for guys like Horak & Bouma. That's why I wouldn't want to sign guys like Moss, Jokinen & Stempniak to more than 2 years, maybe 3. But, this would extend the life of the team with it's current core for a bit while the organization tries to build it's youth a bit more. I don't think it would be a bad idea for Horak etc to have time in the AHL with call-ups.

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#8 everton fc
March 07 2012, 01:32PM
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T&A4Flames wrote:

Overall I think we look ok if we are healthy for next year should the Flames choose to resign all our FA's excluding Sarich (I'll miss him) & Hannan.

The only problem is, there would be no room for guys like Horak & Bouma. That's why I wouldn't want to sign guys like Moss, Jokinen & Stempniak to more than 2 years, maybe 3. But, this would extend the life of the team with it's current core for a bit while the organization tries to build it's youth a bit more. I don't think it would be a bad idea for Horak etc to have time in the AHL with call-ups.

I am in agreement w/Moss and Stempniak being signed if we can. Jones, too.

Bouma, to me, is ready. Even if he gets 4th line minutes.

Comeau goes.

Would anyone take Sarich at a reduced price, 1 year, as a 5-6 man? What about Hannan?? We are certainly not deep on the backend, regardless of how many d-men we have...

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#9 RexLibris
March 07 2012, 01:46PM
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So Price vs Kiprusoff = 9 goals. Who would've thought?

The Habs seemed to push back fairly strongly against the Flames, but I don't think that necessarily reflect well on the Canadiens nor poorly on the Flames but rather that a middling team that is underachieving and injured ran into another middling team that is managing an average season and also suffering depth injuries met each other.

Had the Flames lost it probably would be viewed as Montreal "stealing" two points, but they aren't really as bad as their record indicates. They aren't really all that good, either, though.

The funny part was that before the Flames won they were sitting around 11th place, I think, and even after the win they were still sitting in 11th. It may only be two points right now, but when there are that many teams between you and the playoffs, it could just as easily be twenty.

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#10 PrairieStew
March 07 2012, 04:59PM
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@everton fc

I think the whole free agent strategy revolves around Jokinen, especially in the last 2 weeks with Hemsky and Grabovski getting 5+.

First priority though is RFA's Backlund and Jones. You can't qualify Comeau at $2.5, so you let him walk as a UFA , but would not be opposed to him coming back at same price as Jones - between $750k and a $1m. Then you need to get Irving, Byron and new d man Connelly signed to new deals as RFA's. No other pending RFA's have a future.

Then you asses what you have before dealing with the UFA's. With Jackman signed, I think you see Kostopolous go. If you can get Jokinen at say 4.5, your strategy is probably him and a decent right shooting defenceman to play with Gio. If, after that you have cap room for both Moss and Stempniak then you go with both on 2 year deals, if not, then one of them gets a 3 year deal for slightly less ($1.66).

The very real possibility is that Jokinen asks for 4 - 5 years at 5+, then you have to walk away from that. In that case you actually have more room to take a run at one of the big fish ( Parise or Suter), though those chances are slim.

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#11 PrairieStew
March 07 2012, 05:03PM
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@PrairieStew

Oh - and Sarich and Hannan, anything more than league minimum is unwise in the extremis.

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#12 RKD
March 07 2012, 10:31PM
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Well right now the San Jose sharks sit in the eight seed with 74 points in 65 games. Phoenix has 75 points in 67 games. San Jose is on pace for roughly 93 points and Phoenix is on pace for 92 points.

Currently, the Flames have 72 points in 67 games which puts them on pace for 88 points and out of the playoffs.

They will need probably at the bare minimum 22 points for 94, 23 for 95, and 24 to hit 96.

For 22 points they could go 10-3-2, 9-2-4, 8-1-6, or 7-0-8. Their chances are slim for sure, they've got to get on a win streak and really minimize losses in regulation. If it comes down to a tiebreaker chances are they would lose it. Right now they have the least number of wins with 30, compared to all the teams ahead of them.

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