STOKING THE FIRE - April 7th

Vintage Flame
April 07 2012 09:04AM

 

So here it is, the final game day of the Calgary Flames season, and for the third year in a row it will end on the final day of the NHL regular season. That’s just too soon for Flames fans, as we are left to now search for a team that has the best chance to defeat the Vancouver Canucks. Kind of an odd turn of events if you ask me since it wasn’t too long ago that we chastised Shelbyville for considering their back-to-back wins over the Flames as their “Stanley Cup victory”. That’s neither here nor there I guess - water under the bridge, as now Alberta unites to Embrace the Hate.

PRIDE & PREJUDICE

We’ve heard all the players say it; we’ve heard the coaches say it as well. Even though the 2011-12 campaign will be viewed as a colossal disappointment, going into the books as their worst since 2003, the players still want to end the season on a high note. Playing for pride for these players is all they have at this point, and they still feel they owe something to the fans.

Beating the Canucks in front of a home crowd might take the sting out of the end a little, but for the most part, regardless of whether they win or lose to the Ducks this afternoon, the home team should expect to feel the full prejudice of the fan base with a chorus of boos and hisses from many of those who even bother to show up. Alex Tanguay realizes its coming.

“At times, they’re entitled to the boos, to get upset. They’re not happy and they want us to hear it, they’re entitled. Not meaning anything for playoffs, this is a difficult game for us. We know it’s a difficult game for them, too.”

How the team chooses to acknowledge the fans reactions will be unique to each player. Everyone saw the reaction of Tom Kostopoulus when a disgruntled fan through his jersey onto the ice in an attempt to show the players and the organization just how he felt about the team’s performance. In case you missed it...

 

 

I’m sure that Kostopoulus bears no ill will on the fan and was reacting purely on emotion and frustration, but it may not be an isolated event. It may be a sentiment that extends into the beginning of next season, until the fans see some measure of change or promise. After all, Feaster said it best himself with the “Fool me once, fool me twice” bit on Sportsnet. The fans are sure to heed those words well.

Matt Stajan is trying to see the bright side of the disconnected support from the fans. “I’ve said it before: That’s the best thing about playing in Canada. The fans care. Whether it’s Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, here, Vancouver or Edmonton, they care. When you’re winning, it’s the greatest place to be. And obviously when you’re not, it’s no fun. But that’s on us. We played the games and fell short.”

That will be a cross to bear for each player as there will be plenty of comments coming from the fans and the media over the next few months about who is ultimately to blame for everything, who should stay and who the team needs to get rid of. You’re even going to see suggestions as to who should be brought in to help this team avoid slipping into the doldrums with the likes of the Oilers, the Maple Leafs and Islanders.

The players know this too, as you are already seeing guys shoulder blame and come to the defense of other specific teammates. Mark Giordano was one that almost every fan assumed was going to be the lynch-pin on defense for the Flames. He was even touted as being the team’s next captain, as he already had the support of the fans, but more importantly the respect of his teammates. The first half of the season wasn’t a strong showing for #5 and to make matters worse, he then missed twenty games due to injury when he ruptured a tendon in November.

The level of respect grew for Gio when not only did he come back much sooner than was anticipated, he came back playing much better and was key cog in the Flames late mid to late season run. To his colleagues there was little doubt that Gio’s heart stood out down the stretch.

“Gio, he does it all,” raved forward Tom Kostopoulus. “He leaves everything on the ice every night. He’ll do anything for the team to win. He’ll put his whole body in front of a shot many times a night. He’s great for us offensively, defensively — any situation. And he’s a great leader too. He’s the type of guy everyone wants on their team. The type of guy everyone wants to build their team around.”

There is little doubt that Giordano is indeed included in any Flames plan to re-tool or rebuild, whatever they choose to call it; there is also little doubt that next season he will be thrust further into the fans spotlight, for both those that expected better out of him this season, and those that want the Flames to shift the role of leader upon his shoulders.

Another player on defense may not be afforded the same tolerance from fans, but hopefully the team is more clearly headed when it comes to evaluations and thoughts of the future. Jay Bouwmeester’s playoff drought keeps getting longer, and now sits at 715 games without so much as a cameo in the post-season. The fans opinions on “J-Bo” are probably more divided than any player not named Iginla or Kiprusoff. From the over-paid contract and the criticisms on the lack of a physical presence to the other side’s staunch defense of ice time and quality of competition, Bouwmester is going to garner a lot of talk as to whether he should remain with the team as they move forward or if he was a busted experiment that left Feaster with just another problem he will be unlikely to resolve.

There is little to discuss according to Chris Butler (who was also viewed as one of the Flames bright spots this year). “When Gio went down, we kind of got down to using three defencemen on the penalty kill sometimes,” Butler said. “Jay would stay out there for two minutes, and the other couple of guys would change.”

Where Gio is viewed to be the next leader of this team by the respect he has earned and the example he displays, Bouwmeester’s leadership may not be apparent to the everyday fan, but is not missed by the guys in the locker room. Butler went on to say, “He’s got a lot of strong opinions about lots of things and he wants to do well.” It goes to show you that, as fans, we think we are quite observant of our team because we see them so much, when actually we don’t really know that much about them, because what we see on the ice is only a fraction of what is really there.

THE CORE

Has Kiprusoff played his last game as a Flame? This may be the million dollar question on the minds of all fans between now and July first, when Kipper’s no-movement clause expires. There are those that believe if management is serious about rebuilding this team then it starts with the dealing of its most valuable asset. Others contend that if not for the heroics of #34 this season, that this team is no better than Edmonton... maybe worse.

Neither side is incorrect in this case; Miikka was the reason that the Flames even had a sniff at the playoffs this year. Despite being told, once again, that the organization had to find a way to play him less as to avoid wearing him out towards the end, once again, he played his 70th game. It was also his 35th win of the season, which is great for him, but will also fuel those who would like to see him moved on. Their argument is that Kiprusoff will be 36 years old next year, a valid point all on its own, and though Miikka was the MVP of the Flames this season, that’s not necessarily something that bodes well for the organization in the long run. The fact that he has a 50% winning percentage only strengthens their point that he is no longer of an ‘elite’ class.

What is not going to make advocates of blowing things up any happier is that management seems to be content with the elderly core. This may be the root of the problems faced by Brent Sutter in his role as head coach, and may ultimately be his undoing as well:

Of his players' inconsistent commitment to team ideals, Sutter said: "It's a mindset that still has to be broke here. There's nights and there's times when you play really, really well for four or five games in a row. And you think, 'Okay, we're getting through it.' And then we seem to crash and go back to our old methods. And then you start all over again."

Simple case of ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. What does this say though about management and their unwillingness to remove the blinders? Many fans believe that ownership doesn’t even care if the team makes the playoffs and won’t trade Iginla or Kiprusoff because they are one-two in jersey sales and it’s these two guys that are still putting fans in the seats. I don’t necessarily subscribe to this theory if only for the fact that the Flames have the third highest payroll in the NHL, and if the owners really felt that way, they wouldn’t be paying out all that money for nothing.

That being said, Mr. Edwards might want to take a closer look at the seats in the game this afternoon, if the guys still there wearing jerseys with #12 or 34 are the few minority seats that are being filled; he might want to rethink his market strategy. It’s all about supply and demand Murray!

 

 

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Vintage Flame is a Calgary based sports junkie that prefers to call hockey a "religion" rather than an addiction. He believes there are two types of hockey fans. Those who cheer for the Flames, and those who don't understand the sport yet. Follow Vintage_Flame on Twitter
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#1 bookofloob
April 07 2012, 09:28AM
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You know how bad the season was for the Flames when Chris Butler is considered a "bright spot"

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#2 hark65
April 07 2012, 10:29AM
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I won't be visiting this website as long as it is a sounding board for a small number of people with small brains personally criticizing people such as Hall of Famer Charlie Simmer. The comments during last game against Vancouver were very derogatory and offensive toward him. You guys might know hockey, but you certainly don't know about respect. The only people sounding drunk were you people making the "drinking game" comments. Talk about pathetic.

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#3 Kent Wilson
April 07 2012, 10:48AM
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@hark65

Peter: As we all know, Christmas is that mystical time of year when the ghost of Jesus rises from the grave to feast on the flesh of the living! So we all sing Christmas Carols to lull him back to sleep.

Bob: Outrageous, How dare he say such blasphemy. I've got to do something.

Man #1: Bob, there's nothing you can do.

Bob: Well, I guess I'll just have to develop a sense of humor.

Source

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#4 Bean-counting cowboy
April 07 2012, 11:04AM
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On a lighter note.... Baertschi is # 2 in WHL playoff scoring behind linemate Ty Rattie!

He's 5th in CHL scoring, as there are a few players with 1 more point than him - some of which have played less games however.

He was the 1st star last night!

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#5 Bean-counting cowboy
April 07 2012, 11:06AM
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How about Rattie's 12 goals - unbelievable, nobody even comes close. Must have a good set up man!

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#7 Clay
April 07 2012, 11:15AM
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Who is excited for the Flames rookie tournament this year? I can't wait to see some of these guys

Baertschi Reinhart Ferland gaudreau Arnold

This doesn't even include this year's picks or free agent college skaters. There is a dim light at the end of the tunnel.

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#8 RexLibris
April 07 2012, 11:43AM
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I watched Reinhart in the Oil Kings game last night. He's certainly one of the bigger bodies out there and his positioning was good in that he seemed to consistently be around the lower part of the offensive zone and pushing towards the net. He didn't have the best game, from what I saw, and was pretty invisible in the defensive zone.

I know it's just one game, but for positives I would say that he is a big body with a sense of where on the ice he needs to be to effect offensive play. The rest I wouldn't comment on until I could see a larger sample size.

Everton asked me about Eric Roy so I kept an eye out for him last night as well. I believe he's draft eligible next season. For better or worse I really didn't notice him either way, especially as the game wore on.

If the Flames win tonight there is a very real possibility they draft 14th overall. If this team combines their worst season since 03 with a last-from-the-playoffs draft position that would just be salt in the wound.

On the topic of veterans and changing captaincy, I though I'd pass along this comment from Renney to offer some intra-provincial comparisons. Renney mentioned the other day that the younger players had set the tone for the team these past few months and that veterans coming into the dressing room now might have to accept their leadership as "the new normal".

VF, your comments on Giordano and the respect he appears to have earned in the dressing room made me think that, while I don't see Iginla relinquishing or being stripped of the captaincy, I wonder if the Flames dressing room is preparing for a shift to a "new normal" in the next season or two.

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#9 T&A4Flames
April 07 2012, 11:46AM
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If the ownership isn't worried about making the playoffs as long as they sell jerseys with #12 and #34, maybe they should fire the marketing group for the Flames!

One way or another, those 2 guys are going to be gone at some point and you will have to promote another jersey # or 2. Make the playoffs and give new guys a chance to become heroes.

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#10 Clay
April 07 2012, 11:53AM
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@RexLibris

Not noticing Reinhart in the dzone is probably a good thing. Kootenay uses him as their elite offensive threat but also in a shutdown role. How high they finished in the standings is probably a testament to his game.

If his offense doesn't translate to the NHL he has those defensive instincts to fall back on. If it does translate, you have a #1 or #2 center. I'm not to confident of the latter but time will tell.

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#11 suba steve
April 07 2012, 12:02PM
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hark65 wrote:

I won't be visiting this website as long as it is a sounding board for a small number of people with small brains personally criticizing people such as Hall of Famer Charlie Simmer. The comments during last game against Vancouver were very derogatory and offensive toward him. You guys might know hockey, but you certainly don't know about respect. The only people sounding drunk were you people making the "drinking game" comments. Talk about pathetic.

I am not the final word on the HHOF, but I'm doubting that Charlie Simmer has been inducted. I have no knowledge of the comments you mentioned, so I won't comment on them. However, I have found that comments meant to be funny are sometimes taken the wrong way on a venue such as this...often by "a small number of people with small brains". I like this site, find it entertaining and somewhat cathartic to post my thoughts and frustrations with this team. I do realize however, that it is just a game and there are differing opinions out there, and I enjoy reading them.

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#12 RexLibris
April 07 2012, 12:02PM
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Clay wrote:

Not noticing Reinhart in the dzone is probably a good thing. Kootenay uses him as their elite offensive threat but also in a shutdown role. How high they finished in the standings is probably a testament to his game.

If his offense doesn't translate to the NHL he has those defensive instincts to fall back on. If it does translate, you have a #1 or #2 center. I'm not to confident of the latter but time will tell.

* correction, I meant Michael Ferland. Sorry, I need some more coffee.

I was watching for his defensive zone play, though. Brandon did clog the centre of the ice well, and the Oil Kings had trouble in the second opening up the slot, but by the third they had adjusted and were getting more opportunities in that area.

I think how high Brandon finished in the standings has a lot to do with Cory Clouston's coaching, the physical play of the team as a whole, and the

Realistically at this point, I would target him as a third line winger. In time I think he could climb to a second-line, playing with playmakers and using his body to create space and go to the front of the net. He's an interesting prospect, but he has a lot of work to do (as most juniors do) before he can succeed in the NHL.

As for Reinhart, I would target him as a second or third line centre. Playing him above that, or even starting him at second might be beyond his abilities at this point and would indicate that the team is too thin at the centre position. Ideally I think the Flames should want to get to the point where they have the depth to play him as a third line centre.

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#13 Clay
April 07 2012, 12:13PM
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@RexLibris

Agree on your assessment of Reinhart.

I also think Ferland is intriguing. I think he goes as far as his violence will take him. Look at Lucic's and Kassian's junior numbers. By all accounts and purposes Ferland has been the better junior.

Ferland has said on many of occasions he models his game after Lucic. If he can use size and strength to his advantage and put the odd dman through the boards he'll be okay.

Given how late he started competitive hockey and how far he has come, I don't think we should be placing a ceiling on his potential. Likewise, we should not be placing too many expectations on his shoulders.

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#14 Clay
April 07 2012, 12:13PM
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@RexLibris

Agree on your assessment of Reinhart.

I also think Ferland is intriguing. I think he goes as far as his violence will take him. Look at Lucic's and Kassian's junior numbers. By all accounts and purposes Ferland has been the better junior.

Ferland has said on many of occasions he models his game after Lucic. If he can use size and strength to his advantage and put the odd dman through the boards he'll be okay.

Given how late he started competitive hockey and how far he has come, I don't think we should be placing a ceiling on his potential. Likewise, we should not be placing too many expectations on his shoulders.

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#16 Captain Ron
April 07 2012, 01:26PM
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Relevant to us as fans and commenters:

"It goes to show you that, as fans, we think we are quite observant of our team because we see them so much, when actually we don’t really know that much about them, because what we see on the ice is only a fraction of what is really there."

Thats good stuff VF. One of the statements of the year, or understatements of the year. I'm not sure which is more appropriate.

Go to a few of the team golf tournaments or other functions when you can have some one on one time with a player in a social setting for more than just a minute or two. It will probably have an effect on your perception of them as individuals, and the team as a whole.

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#17 RexLibris
April 07 2012, 01:28PM
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@Vintage Flame

Except Conroy's position in the Flames pantheon is distinctly inferior to that of Iginla and I don't see anyone with the huevos to ask him to relinquish it. Nor do I imagine that Iginla will willingly part with the C until he feels that his time in the club is definitely at an end (ie trade) in which case the point will be moot.

Perhaps in two years' time if he re-signs and there are newer faces and a younger core.

In Edmonton Horcoff became the captain on account of his work ethic and his having gone from a fourth-line marginal player to the first line (as contentious as his time there was). I believe that he also realizes that in all likelihood he is holding the position until the new captain emerges from this young squad.

The same may happen in Calgary, but Iginla is a very different creature in the eyes of the Flames organization than Horcoff is here and so there are more eggshells upon which to walk.

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#18 RexLibris
April 07 2012, 01:45PM
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@Clay

"...Likewise, we should not be placing too many expectations on his shoulders."

That is the key statement, in my opinion.

Here is where I'm coming from on the Flames forward prospect group: this season has probably sucked pretty badly, the team has been mismanaged with perpetual promises of a brighter tomorrow for years now, there is very little in the way of hope for improvement and the teams around the Flames are all being hyped for various reasons.

The Flames have four, maybe five, interesting prospects at the forward position right now. Ferland, Reinhart, Gaudreau, and Baertschi. Maybe Granlund, time will tell. The chances of even two of those four, or five, making an impact in the NHL are slim given their draft pedigree and the average rate of development. One in four is more likely.

I understand the need for hope and optimism, believe me I do. I have spent years looking down the road, thinking about what prospect A's ceiling could be, or if prospect B will finally turn their game around.

But as Captain Ron has stated in an comment here, these are people and as such to put expectations on any of them as high as someone like Lucic is fraught with risk of disappointment. Yeah, I know, the irony of an Oilers fan warning someone against too much hope on young shoulders isn't lost on me.

But if the Flames organization starts to sell Reinhart, Ferland, Gaudreau and Baertschi as the saviours of this franchise and heap all sorts of expectations on them, then fans should chastise management and cut the kids some slack.

Ferland has said he likes to model his game on Lucic and that's a good goal for a young player - recognize his strengths and play to them. But Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has said he models his game on Datsyuk and Sakic, but fans here are certainly trying not to equate him with either of those two players.

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#19 Reidja
April 07 2012, 03:21PM
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Vintage Flame wrote:
VF, your comments on Giordano and the respect he appears to have earned in the dressing room made me think that, while I don't see Iginla relinquishing or being stripped of the captaincy, I wonder if the Flames dressing room is preparing for a shift to a "new normal" in the next season or two.

That very well could be Rex, then again players might be thinking it to themselves without actually voicing it. Sort of like respect for the old bull while he still wanders the yard every so often.

While I agree that Gio would probably never accept a stripped "C". Nor would the flames do that to Iggy, i see the transition being something along the lines as when Conroy gave up the captaincy to Iggy in the first place.

God have mercy. Who the hell cares what Iginla thinks? This logic is why we're in this position in the first place.

What is best for the team? Wait... please don't answer that VF. Please.

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#20 RexLibris
April 07 2012, 03:54PM
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@Reidja

Unfortunately I think that Murray Edwards and Ken King really care what Iginla thinks.

And in the end, perhaps what Iginla thinks becomes what they think. And that may not be what is best for the team.

Sorry, didn't mean to answer for VF, but I thought I'd weigh in.

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