Five things: 'Tis the season

Ryan Lambert
September 06 2012 06:43AM

1. Get ready

In the last week, we got the first two official stops on the "Sorry I was So Bad Last Season" Calgary Flames Apology Tour.

The first came after press time of this here space last week, with Mike Cammalleri golly-geeing his way through an explanation of how he only put up 20 goals and 41 points in 66 games last season. Hey look, Mike, we get it. Montreal was a crap team that didn't give you that much of a chance to succeed despite your silly-ass contract. Of course, you can't blame it all on that — your shooting percentage after the trade was sky-high but you finished the season at just 11.4 percent, more or less in line with your career average. The issue was you weren't shooting the puck anywhere near as often as you were before you left the Flames as a free agent in the first place.

I know it seems reductive to say "Maybe Cammalleri should shoot the puck more," but man, he really should. If you're shooting 17 percent for more than a quarter of a season and only have 11 goals to show for it, sorry, that's not enough. What's interesting is that he placed the blame squarely on the mental side of things: to hear him tell it, he didn't have his head on straight at any point in Montreal, hence the low goal totals.

If Cammalleri underperforms again this season, then he has no one to blame but himself, but at least there's only one year left on the deal after that. 

The facts with Cammalleri are actually pretty simple: His greatest success came in Calgary and more or less always has. Yeah, there's the 39-goal season. But in the 109 games he's played for this team, he's put up 50-51-101, and that's, well, at least something.

2. Stop No. 2

The same, I'm afraid, cannot be said for "Sorry I was So Bad Last Season" Calgary Flames Apology Tour participant Blake Comeau, who went 5-10-15 for the Flames in 58 games after scoring 24-22-46 in 77. He, at least, had the very-good excuse of posting a 4.3 shooting percentage, which I don't have to tell you is very bad indeed.

Comeau, too, said it was a more or less mental thing with him, noting that last season it "wasn't clicking" for him, and that he learned more about what it takes to be a player in the NHL. Which seems odd to me given that prior to last year, he played almost 250 career games. But sure, he's gotta get his head on straight too.

I wonder what it is that caused so many players had bad seasons because of problems with their mental approach. That seems like a bad thing to me. Someone check on Jay Bouwmeester and see if he's having this issue as well. If so, Bob Hartley's got a 20-goal defenseman on his hands!

3. A brief response

Reading Book of Loob's excellent first post here at Flames Nation yesterday, I thought there was a very, very excellent point buried somewhere in the middle, and it'll be interesting to track over the course of whatever season we have upcoming, should we get there.

A lot has been made in recent weeks of the fact that the team is now trying to acquire guys who aren't necessarily the fastest, strongest or most skilled, but who think the game at a higher level than their peers. That's not a bad approach, all things considered (obviously I have my qualms with certain aspects of that philosophy), but it will be interesting to see how things are approached when it comes to, say, lineup construction.

By saying they're moving toward hockey-smarts as a general roster-building philosophy, the implication is that this is not how the roster is currently built, which sure makes it odd, to me at least, to see them sticking with so many guys who've been wearing red and black for years. Maybe Cory Sarich, as a for-instance, thinks the game at a level we can't comprehend, but that doesn't necessarily mesh with what we've seen on the ice — lots of bad decisions — and certainly doesn't do enough to make up for what is obviously his declining skill and ability to "keep up" with the pace of the National Hockey League in 2012. The same is true of Iginla, whom the team flatly refuses to trade for what seems to be entirely financial and sentimental reasons, rather than those related to putting the best possible team on the ice.

But what will be terribly interesting will be seeing which guys Bob Hartley rolls out for the biggest minutes: The new-era Feaster guys — your Roman Cervenkas and Dennis Widemans and Jiri Hudlers — versus the old guard. Iginla, as discussed last week, will likely not see his role reduced because of who he is and what he means to (pick one: ownership, fans, the team). But what does that mean for, say, Jay Bouwmeester, whose name has persisted in trade rumors all summer and whose contract we're repeatedly told far outstrips his on-ice performance? What does it mean for Matt Stajan, who sticks to this roster like stubborn gum to a shoe's sole? What, for that matter, does it mean for Mike Cammalleri, who is ostensibly Feaster's guy — since he brought him again in last winter — but whose performance is, like Bouwmeester's, not quite commensurate with his contract?

Maybe that's the most interesting part of all of this, and one that's not often discussed: What on Earth will Bob Hartley do with this roster? He is very much a Feaster Guy, obviously, and one has to imagine that whatever style the team plays under him will be the preferred one for as long as Feaster is running things. This season will give us a tremendous amount of insight into how all that goes moving forward, and which players — and which KINDS of players — will be able to sink or swim under it.

One suspects that, just based on past performance, there's going to be a whole lot more sinking than swimming until Feaster gets to retool the entire roster in his own image. And even then, based on this summer's signings, I don't know how much success he's going to have.

4. A crazy stat

For fairly obvious reasons, there isn't much in the way of content kicking around the internet these days, but I did stumble across one particularly interesting statistic that's Flames-related, posted by the CBC.

Miikka Kiprusoff is only six shutouts away from 50 in his career, and that would put him in the top-25 of all time. Now, that's not the best stat for evaluating a goaltender, obviously, but wow, 50 shutouts. That's a ton. All but three of those, by the way, have been with Calgary. The most he ever put up was 10, not surprisingly in his Vezina year, but he's only broken six three times. Despite a sterling performance last season, he only had four.

The real question, perhaps best saved for another day, is whether this is a Hall of Fame career. He's currently 22nd in career GAA, 13th in save percentage, 23rd in wins, and perhaps soon 25th in shutouts. Much of that is with him having played behind some pretty bad teams; his even strength save percentage in the seven years since the lockout have been .941 (exceptional), .932 (great), .919 (average), .907 (hideous), .928 (very good), .916 (slightly below average), and .928 (very good).

Anyway, of course he won't get into the Hall of Fame, but we're seeing a top-25 goaltending career ever, which I guess is pretty good.

5. I'm out of things to say

The owners suck.

 

686dfac3780611cb7acad6ce5166c6c1
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 The Last Big Bear
September 06 2012, 09:27AM
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@ThatLambertCharacter

"Montreal was a crap team that didn't give you that much of a chance to succeed despite your silly-ass contract. Of course, you can't blame it all on that... The issue was you weren't shooting the puck anywhere near as often as you were before you left the Flames as a free agent in the first place."

Yeah, Cammalleri has been a real disappointment since leaving Calgary, and not lived up to his contract... oh wait... hold on, is that a phone ringing?

Oh, why it's the 2010 and 2011 playoffs calling! Good to hear from you 2010 playoffs, I haven't seen much of you since Mike Cammalleri kicked the living poop out of you, scored 13 goals in 19 games, and threw your body off a bridge. And 2011 playoffs, I can't help but note that Cammalleri scored 10 points in 7 games (that's 1.4 ppg for all you stats guys out there) the last time you were around.

But listen to me go on and on. I believe you were about to share your opinions with us? Yes, about how a guy with 32 pts in 32 playoff games isn't worth his contract?

Ah yes, I see, you think that a guy who was able to drag a crappy team kicking and screaming to the conference finals, and who is clearly a big game player, is probably worth something to a perpetual-loser club like the Flames, who doesn't seem to even remember what winning looks like.

Well, thanks for calling, 2010 and 2011 playoffs. Yes, I'll make sure to pass your message on Ryan. Yeah, I know you were sad not to get to meet the Flames, we were too. Anyways, ta-ta for now.

Sorry about that Mr Lambert, I believe you were saying something?

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#2 Michael
September 06 2012, 12:58PM
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It will be interesting to see if 'thinking the game at a higher level' translates into 'playing the game at a higher level'.

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#3 FLAAMMMEEESSS
September 06 2012, 08:15AM
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very well written! i enjoyed reading this! and the owners do suck

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#4 Monaertchi
September 06 2012, 08:38AM
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It sure would be nice if guys on the Flames could get their heads together for a full season. Did either of those guys mention if they were doing anything about it? Or should we just assume that they just assume that it will all magically be better next season?

I rather enjoyed BoL's article, too. However, the thought that we're drafting and trading for guys based on "hockey smarts" scares me a bit. What if the guys doing the evaluating don't know what the hell they're doing? Are they evaluating just by watching them play, or are they giving them a comprehensive eHarmony-for-hockey exam? Are they qualified to make those kinds of judgements?

So, I think that a top 25 all time goalie (arguably) should probably get into the hall of fame. If we'd won in '04 I think he'd be a lock.

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#5 Bean-counting cowboy
September 06 2012, 09:44AM
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Much rather have Camalleri contract for two years than Bourque's for 4. I will never dis that Feaster trade unless Patrick Holland becomes a superstar.

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#7 Kent Wilson
September 06 2012, 10:42AM
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The Cammalleri trade is a still a win in my eyes too.

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#8 Stockley
September 06 2012, 11:08AM
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If Karri Ramo crosses the Atlantic again next season and becomes a legitimate NHL goalie the trade is a landslide victory for the Flames.

Bourque is inconsistent at best and every time he sneezes management has to live with the fear he'll break a rib. 2nd round draft picks are hit and miss. Patrick Holland had a monster year in the WHL, but so have a lot of guys. Even if he becomes a top 6 forward I can live with losing out on him.

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#9 suba steve
September 06 2012, 11:22AM
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Ryan Lambert wrote:

Yeah I agree Jaro Halak had very little indeed to do with the Habs' playoff success. Oh and by the way playoff success is definitely something Calgary is going to have to worry about in the near future.

WAIT EVERYONE THE PHONE IS RINGING

They said you're an...

(Hey! - don't personally insult the readers. Even if you really wan to. - ed.)

Halak was great that spring, but I'm not sure how that diminishes Cammi's playoff performance, as he was also very strong. Full value for his money for his playoff performance that year. You are correct though, his playoff strength is unlikely to help the Flames in the next 2 years of his contract.

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#10 RexLibris
September 06 2012, 12:51PM
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For me the value of the Cammalleri trade will depend on whether this team can make it to the playoffs.

If they do, then the likely contributions of a Cammalleri, both in the postseason and the hunt for, ought to be worth the cost of a 2nd round selection.

If not, then the Flames will either have forfeit a high second round selection or a middling one that, if bundled with their first round pick, might have allowed them to move up in the draft order.

Either way, for a system as starved of prospects as this, that is still a costly exchange, in my opinion.

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#11 beloch
September 06 2012, 02:41PM
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One thing I won't miss about Borque is all the penalties he took. He averaged 2-3 times more penalty minutes per 60 minutes of play-time than Cammalleri did, and they were frequently really dumb penalties. e.g. How many times did he take an avoidable penalty in the offensive zone during one-goal games with 2-3 minutes left to go? Bourque was a frustrating player to watch because he clearly had the tools but he just didn't use them well. In terms of Hockey IQ he was a dumb as a post! Bourque wasn't delivering good value for his cap-hit and his contract is entirely too long. Montreal fans are going to be kicking themselves for years to come over that trade.

As for drafting... The schtick about drafting players with "high hockey IQ" is all well and good, but what's really new is that they've also been drafting high-risk players. Under Sutter, there's no way the Flames would have passed up a guaranteed mediocrity in the first round and picked a player like Jankowski. No way at all! Even blowing a 4th round pick on a long-shot-shrimp like Gaudreau is not something Sutter would have permitted when there were plenty of big husky meatbag enforcers still available. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that consistently drafting guaranteed mediocrities guarantees, well, mediocrity. High-risk, high-reward is the way you have to go if you don't want to spend half a decade collecting lottery picks. Doing something different took balls, and I salute Feaster for that even if Jankowski and Gaudreau turn out to be total busts.

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#12 purple haaze
September 06 2012, 04:00PM
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RexLibris wrote:

For me the value of the Cammalleri trade will depend on whether this team can make it to the playoffs.

If they do, then the likely contributions of a Cammalleri, both in the postseason and the hunt for, ought to be worth the cost of a 2nd round selection.

If not, then the Flames will either have forfeit a high second round selection or a middling one that, if bundled with their first round pick, might have allowed them to move up in the draft order.

Either way, for a system as starved of prospects as this, that is still a costly exchange, in my opinion.

Hey Rex, the way I see it they spent that 2nd round pick to get an NHL ready goaltender in Ramo. If they had kept that 2nd pick and used it on a goaltender at that position it would take a few years until we saw him crack the lineup in the NHL. So in looking at it that way I was more than happy to give up the 2nd round pick. No guarantees that Ramo pans out but that goes the same for player x that would have been chosen next year.

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#13 The Last Big Bear
September 06 2012, 04:03PM
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Michael wrote:

It will be interesting to see if 'thinking the game at a higher level' translates into 'playing the game at a higher level'.

My worry is that 'thinking the game at a higher level' will translate into 'getting manhandled by agressive and physical teams, because your defence are smaller than the other teams forwards, and your forwards are smaller than the other teams equipment staff'.

I like to see a team have an identity, but I also like to see a little bit of balance.

The Flames philosophy of looking for players who 'think the game at a higher level' seems to give them an over-reliance on small, soft, finesse forwards, and smooth-skating, puck moving, non-physical defencemen. This seems to not only be the 'identity' for the team, but almost everyone who sees more than about 12:00 of ice time seems to come from this mould.

Tanguay, Hudler, Cammalleri, Cervenka, and Baertschi could conceivably be 5 of the team's top-6. Alex Tanguay is the biggest, and probably most physical player in that group, and also the only one to crack 6 feet. All small, soft, finesse, forwards.

Butler, Bouwmeester, Wideman, Brodie, and Giordano will be probably be be the top-5 in minutes. Giordano is not a particularly physical defenceman, but he is still the one of that group who is in the most danger of landing a solid hit, or who is particularly good at, well, you know playing defensively. Smooth-skating, puck moving, non-physical defencemen.

Every impact player on the team except Giordano, Glencross, and Iginla fit this mould.

I certainly agree that the people Feaster has kept or brought in seem to think the game very well. This includes, in my unpopular opinion, Cory Sarich, who has managed to survive and thrive at the NHL level, because his hockey smarts and expert timing are able to overcome his poor speed and not-particularly nimble hands.

But my point is that this philosophy seems to be turning the Flames into a very 1-dimensional team, which I don't think is a good idea regardless of what that dimension is.

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#14 the-wolf
September 06 2012, 04:51PM
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Regarding high IQ draft strategy - I love players with high hockey IQ, I find them very enjoyable to watch. My only issue would be in how much they value it over skating, size, shot, etc.

It's nice to say a player can develop those other attributes, but that's not always the case. Don't get me wrong, I actually think you can get draft day steals on guys who fall because they have a certain 'defect' to their game.

That said, there has to be a baseline in which the team won't go under. In other words, player X has incredible hockey IQ, but you pass on him because no amount of work will ever bring his skating up to par.

I'm sure the team does have these baselines, but it'll be interesting to see how it's applied in years to come.

My preference is to rank skating, size, IQ, etc. as equivalent and then based on the rankings you get an overall picture of the player and whether or not you feel he can make it. Because, frankly, if any one of those (or combo of those) is too lacking, the player will never make it.

Teams have erred before by placing one ingredient above all others: size, speed, etc.

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#15 the-wolf
September 06 2012, 04:55PM
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As far as Sutter era draft-bashing goes: Sutter failed to change with the times. His bad. However, he also began to implement changes before Feaster ever came into the picture. That's why guys like Howse and Wahl were drafted. 2 guys who will likely never make it (but who were talked up by fans just like the current group of prospects are), but the point is that Sutter did begin to make some philosophical adjustments to the drafting. ie. Backlund, Brodie

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#16 Captain Ron
September 06 2012, 05:28PM
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beloch wrote:

One thing I won't miss about Borque is all the penalties he took. He averaged 2-3 times more penalty minutes per 60 minutes of play-time than Cammalleri did, and they were frequently really dumb penalties. e.g. How many times did he take an avoidable penalty in the offensive zone during one-goal games with 2-3 minutes left to go? Bourque was a frustrating player to watch because he clearly had the tools but he just didn't use them well. In terms of Hockey IQ he was a dumb as a post! Bourque wasn't delivering good value for his cap-hit and his contract is entirely too long. Montreal fans are going to be kicking themselves for years to come over that trade.

As for drafting... The schtick about drafting players with "high hockey IQ" is all well and good, but what's really new is that they've also been drafting high-risk players. Under Sutter, there's no way the Flames would have passed up a guaranteed mediocrity in the first round and picked a player like Jankowski. No way at all! Even blowing a 4th round pick on a long-shot-shrimp like Gaudreau is not something Sutter would have permitted when there were plenty of big husky meatbag enforcers still available. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that consistently drafting guaranteed mediocrities guarantees, well, mediocrity. High-risk, high-reward is the way you have to go if you don't want to spend half a decade collecting lottery picks. Doing something different took balls, and I salute Feaster for that even if Jankowski and Gaudreau turn out to be total busts.

Excellent comments. The Bourque frustration was sometimes unbearable to watch as a fan. I can only imagine how frustrating it would have been for a coach or team mate.

It definately took balls for the Flames management group to draft Jankowski.

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#17 Captain Ron
September 06 2012, 05:49PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

@ThatLambertCharacter

"Montreal was a crap team that didn't give you that much of a chance to succeed despite your silly-ass contract. Of course, you can't blame it all on that... The issue was you weren't shooting the puck anywhere near as often as you were before you left the Flames as a free agent in the first place."

Yeah, Cammalleri has been a real disappointment since leaving Calgary, and not lived up to his contract... oh wait... hold on, is that a phone ringing?

Oh, why it's the 2010 and 2011 playoffs calling! Good to hear from you 2010 playoffs, I haven't seen much of you since Mike Cammalleri kicked the living poop out of you, scored 13 goals in 19 games, and threw your body off a bridge. And 2011 playoffs, I can't help but note that Cammalleri scored 10 points in 7 games (that's 1.4 ppg for all you stats guys out there) the last time you were around.

But listen to me go on and on. I believe you were about to share your opinions with us? Yes, about how a guy with 32 pts in 32 playoff games isn't worth his contract?

Ah yes, I see, you think that a guy who was able to drag a crappy team kicking and screaming to the conference finals, and who is clearly a big game player, is probably worth something to a perpetual-loser club like the Flames, who doesn't seem to even remember what winning looks like.

Well, thanks for calling, 2010 and 2011 playoffs. Yes, I'll make sure to pass your message on Ryan. Yeah, I know you were sad not to get to meet the Flames, we were too. Anyways, ta-ta for now.

Sorry about that Mr Lambert, I believe you were saying something?

I agree with you 100% on Cammalleri. I think his playoff performance gets overlooked at times. The Flames win this trade hands down. He is a player that never should have been allowed to walk away from the team.

I think it is safe to say that he will perform just fine for the Flames in the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs may be a much bigger worry though.

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#18 Captain Ron
September 06 2012, 05:57PM
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Ryan Lambert wrote:

Yeah I agree Jaro Halak had very little indeed to do with the Habs' playoff success. Oh and by the way playoff success is definitely something Calgary is going to have to worry about in the near future.

WAIT EVERYONE THE PHONE IS RINGING

They said you're an...

(Hey! - don't personally insult the readers. Even if you really wan to. - ed.)

Every successful team in the playoffs has great goaltending. But you still have to score to win. Cammalleri proved that he could perform very well in clutch situations. I'd rather have him on my team over Halak hands down.

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#19 drewski
September 06 2012, 06:35PM
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@The Last Big Bear

Cory Sarich thrives in the NHL level....uh huh....guy gets beat wide twice a game and has to be sheltered from any forward line with speed (sidenote: NW has a few of those). I don't disagree with your Cammy comment, but this is just ridiculous. If you think Sarich is thriving I have a horse i'd like to sell you

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#20 beloch
September 06 2012, 10:33PM
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@drewski

It always pays to use the right tool for the right job. I think one litmus test to decide if Hartley is worth his scratch will be how he uses (or doesn't use) Sarich. If Hartley does his job well and the Flames don't have too many injuries, Sarich should probably wind up sitting quite a bit. It's a bit of a waste, but I really hope Hartley doesn't feel like he has to use Sarich just because he's there.

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#21 the-wolf
September 07 2012, 10:15AM
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Captain Ron wrote:

Excellent comments. The Bourque frustration was sometimes unbearable to watch as a fan. I can only imagine how frustrating it would have been for a coach or team mate.

It definately took balls for the Flames management group to draft Jankowski.

RE: Jankowski - completely disregarding what anyone thinks of his talent or ability, I ask you, did it take balls? Or was it just the opposite? We're talking about a player who the teamitself said could take 4-5 years to develop. Will Feaster be here in 4-5 years? Sort of a 'safe' pick if you look at it that way.

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#22 Danger
September 07 2012, 12:06PM
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@Ryan Lambert

Re: 4. I think there is a chance for Kipper to make it into the hall. All he has to do is get traded to the Leafs and carry them to a brief playoff appearance or two. Instant first-ballot material.

Failing that, he could get traded to the Red Wings and win a cup with them, that'd probably do it too.

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#23 Captain Ron
September 09 2012, 12:54AM
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the-wolf wrote:

RE: Jankowski - completely disregarding what anyone thinks of his talent or ability, I ask you, did it take balls? Or was it just the opposite? We're talking about a player who the teamitself said could take 4-5 years to develop. Will Feaster be here in 4-5 years? Sort of a 'safe' pick if you look at it that way.

I though it was ballsy considering some of the other more "popular consensus" choices that were available when our turn came up at the draft. The big J will probably play in the show one day but the question is what level of impact will he make on the team.

I think I understand the point your making though.

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