Flames Notes - Icebergs And Rising Tides

Kent Wilson
February 22 2013 12:10PM

 

 

The Flames opened the season with a rough first 10-games record-wise but I was encouraged by some of their performances, their underlying numbers and many of the decisions Bob Hartley was making. It seemed that if the club could weather the poor goaltending storm and continue to outshoot and outplay the bad guys, then they could emerge on the other side as playoff contenders.

Those sordid hopes have been utterly dashed since then. With the Kiprusoff and Backlund injuries, the potential for an immediate turn-around in net and continued high-level possession were both destroyed. I still suspect the team is still suffering from worse than average luck currently resulting in their awful record, but the processes and decisions that seemed so positive in the ealry going are starting to crumble.

Consider:

- Blair Jones waived and then demoted despite the total lack of natural centers in the line-up. Jone's results were fine considering his role on the team, so we can only assume it's something off-ice that caused the coach to take such a sudden dislike to the grinder.

- Akim Aliu recalled. There's lots of noise about the Flames being soft recently and I agree they aren't the meanest roster in the league. Let's establish something right now, though: a few more post-whistle face washes or fights after someone hits Calgary's goalie might feel cathartic at the time, but they aren't going to meaningfully improve Calgary's goals for or against rates. If hockey was that simple, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk and Steve MacIntyre could have ensured the Edmonton Oilers wouldn't still be terrible.

Akim Aliu is a nice story, but he's not an NHL level hockey player. He's barely an AHL player truth be told (a frequent healthy scratch for Abbotsford this year who was acquired for nothing from his previous team). So while he makes the Flames marginally bigger and tougher, he doesn't actually make them any better. When the decision makers stop trying to dress the best roster they can, you know it's panic time in the upper offices.

- Roman Cervenka a probable scratch. Word today is Calgary's aged rookie has joined Jones in the Hartley's bad books and was the odd-man out during rushes at practice this morning.

Cervenka has been okay in his NHL debut, ranging from dangerous and creative in spots, to somewhat invisible (especially recently). He has some more acclimating to do to North American ice and his underlying numbers are mediocre; but then the coach has saddled him with the 4th most difficult zone start ratio on the team amongst forwards so far (45.4%). Originally Hatley was giving the high ground to Hudler/Cervenka and Tanguay/Iginla as much as possible but without a third line/Mikael Backlund, the offensive zone draws have mostly fallen to the captain again.

Suffice to say, scratching Cervenka, demoting Horak/Jones and then dressing Aliu tomorrow night would make the Calgary roster significantly, uh, below par.

Of course, coaches and GM's engage in these little roster games every so often for what I assume are motivational and disciplinary purposes. Still, in a shortened 48-game season and with the team already significantly behind the 8-ball in the Western Conference, I'd say the smart bet is to dress the best collection of players you can every single night. When you stop doing that - and start hoping to stumble on secret formuals of toughness/chemistry/compete level, then it suggests you're more or less lost in the dark.

Things are getting ugly in Calgary fast. The team has one real center on the roster (and it's Matt Stajan), almost every high-priced player in the top-6 is now underwater in terms of possession, Backlund's gone for weeks, the goaltending is replacement level and the coaching staff is starting to make nearly indefensible personnel decisions.

Feels very much like furiously re-arranging deck furniture on a certain large, sinking vessel...

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Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#51 Jeff Lebowski
February 22 2013, 09:50PM
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Do people really think the management listen to casual hockey fans? Do you think they make moves that are defensible to fans and media (ie people without jobs at any level in pro hockey - where advanced stats are being used despite the public denials)?

That's a good one.

If fans disagree with your organizational plan, wgaf? Famous from "Moneyball" The fans don't run my ballclub.

No number of posts is going to change or affect any decision made by management. Regardless of how "stupid" you think management is.

There is an elitism in management and ownership because they are where they are and we are where we are. They think you are 'stupid' especially if you think they are not examining every possible way to evaluate their teams. The info they have is logarithmically more robust than fan innuendo. Since they won't divulge the info, they don't have to make any of their decisions "defensible" if only to ownership.

I realize I'm stating the obvious but people keep beating the same drum and expecting some different outcome. It's hilarious.

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#52 FireOnIce
February 22 2013, 09:53PM
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@schevvy

Why did Domebeers want to fire Loubardias?

I'm just blaming who I can. Gelinas gets my heat because he was signed on to be an assistant coach only because he scored those crucial GWG in 2004. Why did he not remain on the Flames after that season? He either didn't want to be here, or they didn't want him back. The reasoning for this seems to be negative.

Either way, his signing was all about name recognition and was something to appease the fans.

"You all remember 2004, when the Flames were a POS team but still made it to the Finals? Well, we hired Martin Gelinas as our AC, praise be to Dutter"

It's not like we have Yzerman or Bowman behind the bench; we have the Eliminator.

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#53 FireOnIce
February 22 2013, 09:55PM
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TL;DR Gelinas looks like a greaser behind the bench and it wasn't his qualifications that got him hired, it was his reputation. Meritocracy, not "I-scored-3-GWG-for-you-a-decade-ago-tocracy".

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#54 Cowtown 1989
February 22 2013, 10:18PM
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Jeff Lebowski wrote:

Do people really think the management listen to casual hockey fans? Do you think they make moves that are defensible to fans and media (ie people without jobs at any level in pro hockey - where advanced stats are being used despite the public denials)?

That's a good one.

If fans disagree with your organizational plan, wgaf? Famous from "Moneyball" The fans don't run my ballclub.

No number of posts is going to change or affect any decision made by management. Regardless of how "stupid" you think management is.

There is an elitism in management and ownership because they are where they are and we are where we are. They think you are 'stupid' especially if you think they are not examining every possible way to evaluate their teams. The info they have is logarithmically more robust than fan innuendo. Since they won't divulge the info, they don't have to make any of their decisions "defensible" if only to ownership.

I realize I'm stating the obvious but people keep beating the same drum and expecting some different outcome. It's hilarious.

In no way do I think posts here will change management decisions. Opinions expressed here are based on observations. Have you ever commented on a bad driver on the road with you? You weren't likely trying to get behind the wheel of THEIR car. We post here because we are passionate but frustrated about the Flames. It's just good to vent. BTW, we hired Weisbrod who had NBA experience, is Billy Bean available?

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#55 negrilcowboy
February 22 2013, 10:34PM
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wow all we are missing is rick dipeitro to be claimed off waivers. amazing the flames are now as dysfunctional as the islanders. intellectual honesty, guaranteed playoffs,janko being the best of show, cervenka's true position, man this organization is fastly becoming a laughing stock. why would quality ufa's want to play here. i am beginning to believe feaster could screw up a one car funeral. jones sent down for a lack of truculence and hockey's answer to sideshow bob akim aliu is going to turn the fortunes yikes. somewhere harold ballard is grinnin like the butcher's dog.

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#56 HongKongHockeyFan
February 22 2013, 11:27PM
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I think if we all sit back and reflect, the current record of the Flames reflects the overall talent level of the club. If anything, we should be happy that guys like Backlund and Bartschi have been injured, so Flames management can understand that sticking with old guns is simply pointless. The team needs players to fight for playing time rather than assume it is automatic.

Well it is fair to assume that all the players and management think the team is good enough to challenge for a playoff spot and the cup (why wouldn't you), the reality is that the Flames do not have any elite talent. There are least 20 if 25 teams in the NHL with either better high-end talent or better prospects in their system. Although it may still be early, the shortened season provides management a great opportunity to reassess and remould the the future of the Flames. So I think Flames fans should be excite with the prospect of trades coming in the near future.

Speaking of trades, I really think the Flames should make a play for Ryan O'Reilly. I'm not sure what is up with Colorado management but they have made some terrible trades recently. Sending a first rounder for Semyon Varlamov. Trading Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and a first rounder for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a second rounder is looking pretty bad. Once again money was the problem that triggered that trade. Maybe Feaster can fleece Lacroix and Sherman as I think these guys look keen on destroying the Avalanche's future.

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#57 Captain Ron
February 23 2013, 12:21AM
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ChinookArch wrote:

@ Rex Libris

Re: Cervenka and intellectual honesty

No offense to either of you, I understand you points of view, but do you really beileve any NHL team is completely honest with their fan base and media? Look at the Oilers owner last fall, when he attempted to manipulate the Edmonton fan base, media and municipal council for a new area deal. Really Mr. Katz, your threatening to move the team? How stupid do you think everyone else is? I expect pro sports dishonestly is worse, the closer a pro team is to the 'basement', and even moreso when the fan base cares. Yes, it's more annoying when Feaster speaks about intellectual honesty, but you didn't really expect total honesty from a NHL GM? In fairness, you are both cherry picking a bit. The intellectual honesty comments were made in context to the Flames being in 'cap jail'. I get it, it speaks to intellectual arrogance, but reading your comments over the last 2 years, tells me neither of you ever expected anything close to honesty from this team or any other.

It would have been nice if Cervenka was a true centerman, but I'm not disappointed to see a highly talented forward on this team, regardless of where he plays. It was not a homerun, but hardly a swing and a miss, where Cervenka is concerned.

Very well said. I believe that honesty has many different levels relative to each situation.

We will need to see a lot more of Cervenka before we can pass judgement on him. It is hardly unusual for a player early in his NHL career to be a healthy scratch. Especially considering the issues he had to deal with at the start of the season.

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#58 Captain Ron
February 23 2013, 12:40AM
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Jeff Lebowski wrote:

Do people really think the management listen to casual hockey fans? Do you think they make moves that are defensible to fans and media (ie people without jobs at any level in pro hockey - where advanced stats are being used despite the public denials)?

That's a good one.

If fans disagree with your organizational plan, wgaf? Famous from "Moneyball" The fans don't run my ballclub.

No number of posts is going to change or affect any decision made by management. Regardless of how "stupid" you think management is.

There is an elitism in management and ownership because they are where they are and we are where we are. They think you are 'stupid' especially if you think they are not examining every possible way to evaluate their teams. The info they have is logarithmically more robust than fan innuendo. Since they won't divulge the info, they don't have to make any of their decisions "defensible" if only to ownership.

I realize I'm stating the obvious but people keep beating the same drum and expecting some different outcome. It's hilarious.

You are absolutely right Jeff. Some people are too thick headed to get it though so they continue to beat their drums.

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#59 theartfuldodger
February 23 2013, 01:34AM
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That was totally depressing :( But altogether correct..sooo...totally depressing.

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#60 Kevin R
February 23 2013, 02:30AM
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Captain Ron wrote:

You are absolutely right Jeff. Some people are too thick headed to get it though so they continue to beat their drums.

Well these sites are for venting and imposing our GM skills from our hockey pools on the internet. Reality is, Feaster may have wanted to do some of the proposals that have been suggested but perception of our players is not the perception other GM's have of our players. Every team has weak spots in their lineup they want to shore up & what the return would be required probably just creates another hole in their lineup. Thats why trade rumours far exceed actual trades by some rediculous amount. We pretty well have to work with motley crew that suits up for the Flames now. No one will give us a franchise player that is going to make all our woes go away. It has to be done via drafting. And stats show you can get impact players in the top 5. We can offer sheet ROR all we want but Colorado will just match & definitely trade to someone else. Feaster has to make a decision on how he intends to replace our core with truly future elite young hockey players. Pretty tough decision whether Feaster has that ability to make that major of changes or not.

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#61 ChinookArch
February 23 2013, 08:15AM
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@Kevin R

"We can offer sheet ROR all we want but Colorado will just match & definitely trade to someone else. Feaster has to make a decision on how he intends to replace our core with truly future elite young hockey players."

This Colorado's management team has earned a reputation for consistently refusing to pay big dollars to anyone. If any team were to give an offer sheet to ROR, I'd expect Colorado would accept the picks and restock again. The alternative would be to try and trade an overpaid ROR to another buyer, and therefore trade from a position of weakness.

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#62 Brent G.
February 23 2013, 10:47AM
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Kent (and everyone for that matter),

I'm not trolling or anything just purely curious about the level Of support and everything within the fan base.

Is anyone else finding they simply don't care anymore? I'm just finding myself hoping they lose. Not necessarily for a good draft pick, I just purely would like to see Feaster and the flames simply fail now. I just can't get behind a team anymore so directionless. At least if you suck but are improving through youth I can appreciate that potential. Fact is they aren't even doing that. They stumbled across Gadreau and Sven but royally screwed up on Jankp when you look at who they traded down to avoid. Wtf? Then having the audacity to claim he is going to be some super stud. Too early to write him off but he's going about 0.5 ppg in NCAA. We're lucky if he turns that into a functional third line role.

Murray Edwards, ken king, Feaster. Whoever a fault it is I just want them to suffer and watch it crumble to the ground before them. They have done nothing positive with this team. It's funny, Iggy truly is the saviour and biggest hindrance of this team.

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#63 Chris Fairfield
February 23 2013, 10:49AM
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Take a look at Friday's practice lines.

Tanguay - Stajan - Iginla Glencross - Cammalleri - Stempniak Hudler - Comeau - Baertschi Aliu/Cervenka - Begin - Jackman

Why is Comeau centering Hudler and Baertschi? Why is Cervenka on the 4th line? Why is Stajan on the 1st line?

I realize that these are practice lines, but how does this make any sense, whatsoever?

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#64 Ryan Pike
February 23 2013, 10:56AM
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As media, all I'm cheering for is the most interesting story.

The fan part of me wishes the team had a more obvious and concrete direction.

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#65 meat1
February 23 2013, 11:51AM
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I have always been, and will always remain, a fan of this team. I do not want it to crumble to the ground. I do wish, however, that I had a better feeling about the way this ownership/management group is steering the team.

I heard someone in the Flames ranks say what great veteran leadership Steve Begin has brought. If there is a team in the NHL which should have enough of that, it would be us. That scares me a little. As does having to recall Aliu to get some grit, energy, etc to the line-up. I'm afraid we're in a heap of trouble here, FN friends.

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#66 negrilcowboy
February 23 2013, 11:53AM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

As media, all I'm cheering for is the most interesting story.

The fan part of me wishes the team had a more obvious and concrete direction.

Direction? Appears that there is no apparent direction, that agenda should have been realisticaly been set a couple of years ago. When feaster first took the reins he had a choice, status quo or intectual honesty. Status quo prevailed, the Country Club won out. i guess Flames fans can now fully identify with what the long suffering leafs fans have endured. The business model is asses in the seats at the expense of quality product. As consumers the hockey fan has been served up an inferior product akin to buying footwear at the dollar store.

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#67 FireOnIce
February 23 2013, 12:06PM
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Baertschi confirmed to play tonight, Cervenka sitting (likely). What in the hell.

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#68 RexLibris
February 23 2013, 12:17PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

As media, all I'm cheering for is the most interesting story.

The fan part of me wishes the team had a more obvious and concrete direction.

When you say "obvious and concrete direction", why is it that the only image I can muster is of sinking to the bottom of the Hudson river?

;-)

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#69 RexLibris
February 23 2013, 12:21PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

"We can offer sheet ROR all we want but Colorado will just match & definitely trade to someone else. Feaster has to make a decision on how he intends to replace our core with truly future elite young hockey players."

This Colorado's management team has earned a reputation for consistently refusing to pay big dollars to anyone. If any team were to give an offer sheet to ROR, I'd expect Colorado would accept the picks and restock again. The alternative would be to try and trade an overpaid ROR to another buyer, and therefore trade from a position of weakness.

Once matched on an offer sheet, a player's contract cannot be traded for the remainder of the season.

They would likely take the compensation, and be wise in doing it.

Plus they are cheap and Sherman is kind of, well...

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#70 RexLibris
February 23 2013, 12:32PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

@ Rex Libris

Re: Cervenka and intellectual honesty

No offense to either of you, I understand you points of view, but do you really beileve any NHL team is completely honest with their fan base and media? Look at the Oilers owner last fall, when he attempted to manipulate the Edmonton fan base, media and municipal council for a new area deal. Really Mr. Katz, your threatening to move the team? How stupid do you think everyone else is? I expect pro sports dishonestly is worse, the closer a pro team is to the 'basement', and even moreso when the fan base cares. Yes, it's more annoying when Feaster speaks about intellectual honesty, but you didn't really expect total honesty from a NHL GM? In fairness, you are both cherry picking a bit. The intellectual honesty comments were made in context to the Flames being in 'cap jail'. I get it, it speaks to intellectual arrogance, but reading your comments over the last 2 years, tells me neither of you ever expected anything close to honesty from this team or any other.

It would have been nice if Cervenka was a true centerman, but I'm not disappointed to see a highly talented forward on this team, regardless of where he plays. It was not a homerun, but hardly a swing and a miss, where Cervenka is concerned.

Good points, and I agree that no management group is going to sit at the draft desk and say to the kid's face and the nation "well, he was the best of the rest, soooo". And Katz and his group were doing some very undignified posturing in the media, however the city was hardly blameless during these negotiations. Honesty is for children and spouses (and maybe not even then), not necessarily management.

However, in the case of the Flames, there appears to be a little more dodging and blurring of lines than ought to otherwise be acceptable to a fan base. I don't like Brian Burke, but I will give him credit for being very honest and frank with the media and the fans.

I don't have any problem with the Flames getting Cervenka and he looks every bit the playmaking skilled forward that his stats suggest. My disapproval stems from the fact that, were I a player in his position, I would be extremely frustrated, angry even, at my manager selling me as something I am not.

When Mike Peca came to the Oilers he was sold as a particular type of player, and expected to perform as such. He wasn't that kind of guy and his play struggled. Fans booed and turned on him, and virtually none of it was his fault. It was management setting up unrealistic expectations knowing that the blame would fall on the player. I find this most galling in the treatment of Jankowski who is being set up to be either a saviour or a goat for a passionate fan base when the young man (still a teenager) is still struggling to develop.

I'll leave off intellectual honesty for awhile, and instead suggest that what I see coming through in the Flames is a lack of responsibility. And perhaps that isn't entirely Feaster but Ken King, because some of these issues predate his arrival.

Look at me? An Oilers fan fired up over the treatment of Flames fans by their own franchise. This isn't right! ;-)

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#71 Chris Fairfield
February 23 2013, 01:01PM
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FireOnIce wrote:

Baertschi confirmed to play tonight, Cervenka sitting (likely). What in the hell.

That's great that Baertschi's back in, but Cervenka is out??? and the floating piece of debris, otherwise known as Blake Comeau is still in, yet again!! It would have been nice to see a Hudler Cervenka and Baertschi line, which I am sure would have clicked, a tremendous amount of skill and some youth.

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#72 Kevin R
February 23 2013, 02:05PM
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How sad that the coach had to come out & call out the whole team for not standing up for each other? That the team had to send down a skilled centre, sit another skilled forward & bring up a pugilist. Even though we supposedly had this grit on the 4th line that did nothing back to this player & in fact let him score a big goal against us as well. That the players get interviewed after, all saying "we have to be a team that stand up for each other & have each others back" after the coach called them out. This is a veteran team? The culture of this team needs to be changed. There is no leadership. Time for the C to be sown on another jersey. Hartley knows it, which means Feaster knows what has to be done. We'll see who is calling the shots soon enough.

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#73 Chris
February 23 2013, 03:10PM
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Ottawa lost their two best forwards, two of their top four defencemen (including the Norris trophy winner), and now their league-leading goalie.

They're almost a team of nobodies now.

Yet they keep winning. Even when Anderson went down and they gave up the lead, they battled back and won in a shootout, with the nobodies playing leading roles.

Granted the Western Conference is tougher to play in. But the Flames have a lot of skilled, experienced "name" players, and it isn't translating to success. And, when they lose, you can't blame the goalies -- most of the time the skaters cause the problems.

So what do the Sens have that the Flames don't?

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#74 RexLibris
February 23 2013, 03:39PM
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@Chris

Depth.

They have a draft record that leaves that of the Flames in the dust. They have also had some decent luck, even in the face of their injury-related bad luck.

Did that make any sense?

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#75 MC Hockey
February 24 2013, 04:46PM
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Hey Kent..."then it suggests you're more or less lost in the dark"....was that intentionally similar to Feaster's "lost in the wilderness" quote about the Oilers?It is funny in any event and I agree about the weirdness of decisions Flames have made after a good-but-unlucky first dozen games! Let's hope calmer heads take over re: Cervenka and Jones and even Horak.

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#76 Jonathan Happy
February 24 2013, 04:58PM
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If Backlund hadn't been injured, I think this team would be in a playoff spot right now. Without him, Hartley has to change his utilization of every player on the Flames, especially Iginla. Backlund is the most valauble forward this team has, and arguably it's most valuable player after JBOUW.

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