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.