January 23 2013 02:19PM
Well, the past two games haven't gone as well as hoped.
However, two games is only two games. Sure, 48 is less than 82, but to make as much noise as has been made feels, to me, asinine.
Tonight the Flames play a team with only one more point than they have: the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have gotten off to an even shakier start than the Flames, giving up 7 goals on opening night to the Anaheim Ducks and losing in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday.
Last year, the Flames finished about even with Vancouver for the first time in years (3-2-1). With a Western Conference and division heavy schedule, Calgary will have to make hay against some of their closet rivals in order to make the post-season.
I'm already starting to question Hartley's decision-making when it comes to lines, although to be fair to the new bench boss he's still figuring out what he has with this roster.
That said, the existing set up above seems like it will get murdered if they try and go power versus power, but there's also no line that you can bury. To me, it looks like the Flames have the players for 3 second lines and a third line that you can feed to the wolves, but Hartley is going with 2 second lines, a generic third line and a 4th line. It is nice to see a natural center on the top unit in Backlund, however.
It seems Jones is getting bumped tonight in favor of Steve Begin, although with Hudler and Cervenka slated to return on Saturday, Roman Horak is the good bet to be sent down to Abbotsford given his waivers exepmt (and would be better served playing rather than watching from the pressbox as well).
The defense looks suspect to me as well - as much as I like Brodie, I'm not sure he's better suited to a top-4 role then Butler is, and given the line combos yesterday Butler could be a healthy scratch tonight, which is insane. Giordano had a terrible game one, Bouwmeester had a terrible game two, and Wideman just looks completely lost on the defending side of the red line. A shakeup is needed, for sure, but moving Butler out of the line-up altogether seems unncessarily harsh.
There's been a faux-controversy regarding the Canucks' goaltending situation since...well, pretty much since ever. In my opinion, the better goalie started the season on the bench, but the difference between the two of them is probably pretty small. It remains to be seen how Schneider will hold up throughout a whole season, so it's probably a good idea that Mike Gillis held on to Luongo.
Obviously the prominent name missing from the above roster is Ryan Kesler, who is currently rehabbing from both shoulder and wrist surgeries and still has no timetable to return. Kesler is likely the best single player on the team - or, rather, the player that effects the team the most with his consistent Selke-caliber play. David Booth is also out long-term, which means the Canucks highly adept second line has been completely hollowed-out to start the season. As a result, Vancouver is far more vulnerable in the middle of the rotation - to the degree the Flames arguably have the better depth after the top line up front.
Sum It Up
Even if the Flames lose this one, I wouldn't be too worked up about it. They'd have one basically "equal" loss against Anaheim, a loss against a top-5 Western Conference team and another against their most hated rival/top-5 Western Conference team. Point is, two losses to good teams and an even game against another playoff bubble team isn't a big deal. The issue, more than anything, is timing. It's just not good optics for the team to have a start like this after the past three seasons under Brent Sutter.
Saying that, it's always nice to see those pukes on the West Coast lose. Go Flames.
Enemy Perspective - Thom Drance sets things up from a Vancouver perspective at Canucks Army. Swing by and make sure to brink the smack talk.