February 13 2014 08:40AM
1. Before the break
A few bits of housekeeping here in the final Flames-related Five Thoughts for a few weeks: After this we're on to the Olympics; there are two games on as I type this but Sweden's already pummeling the Czechs and I couldn't care about the Latvian team's fortunes if I had made the roster. And I was one of the last cuts.
The first bit is about the fact that the Flames, perhaps predictably, sputtered into the break, going 1-2 in their final three following that five-game winning streak. The bigger problem, from their point of view, is that while they only allowed two goals per in each of those games, they also scored just five, and four were in that win over the Islanders. If you're getting shut out by the Canadiens and held to one by the Flyers, that's a serious point of concern for the offense going forward, but then I guess a week and a half of scoring between three and five a night will do that to you, especially when your first line is as generally poor as Calgary's.
Second is that there was — at long last — an update of sorts in the GM hunt. I say of sorts because it was something we already knew: Joe Nieuwendyk will 100 percent not be the Flames' GM after all, because he couldn't commit to it as fully as would be needed. That makes sense and is fine. He wasn't all that successful in Dallas and one can't imagine he'd have any success in Calgary either. Maybe (big maybe!) the Flames are smart enough to hire a guy who has at least some background with analytics beyond looking at how tall he is, or how much he weighs.
2. What about after it?
The third and final bit of housekeeping is what the Flames, like all other teams in the league, will have just nine days after the NHL comes back to make their various trades before the March 5 deadline, and certainly that's going to be a time when you want Brian Burke to be as busy as possible. By then we'll probably have a good idea of whether the team would be willing to re-sign Mike Cammalleri (still a bad idea) and maybe a few other veterans, but if not, you have to think all bets are off and everything must go.
One other thing that's worth mentioning along these same lines is that Shane O'Brien is playing in Abbotsford but his heart is set on getting back to the NHL, likely via a trade. While I'm sure that Brian Burke is trying feverishly to get anyone to take on that contract (another year at $2 million) for a player who is so bad he can't even play in the Flames' defense corps, the idea that he has anything to offer any NHL team at this point is beyond ludicrous. Maybe if the Canadiens really do think they are that hard up for size and toughness — and are still in a playoff race — they come calling, but man would it take a sucker to pick up that contract.
3. Russell re-signed
One guy who's not moving, and it's not really much of a surprise, is Kris Russell, who was re-signed for two years at $2.6 million, which is the right term, but more money than he's probably worth. It ends up not mattering, though. As with the new contract for Matt Stajan, the Flames are overpaying to get these leadership-y veterans to stick around through what are going to be some very very lean years, during which time they're going to have to deal with a salary cap that's going to skyrocket.
Russell has been about as good as anyone could have reasonably expected from him, and maybe a little better. He's also one of Jay Feaster's savvier acquisitions because he cost basically nothing, and so for him to not be a flaming disaster is a rather pleasant surprise for all involved. He's being rewarded for being a good soldier, and that's par for the course. They have to get to the salary floor somehow, and he's not much of a difference-maker in the grand scheme of things insofar as he won't win the Flames a whole lot of games. This is a signing you have to be on board with.
4. More trouble for Gillies
I originally thought about trekking down to Providence to see Jon Gillies and the Friars take on UConn on Tuesday, but ended up thinking better of it because you had to assume that they — the No. 9 team in the country — would pummel their opponents, who are a mediocre team in one of the worst conferences in college hockey. Now I'm kicking myself.
The Friars actually lost this game, their third defeat in a row and sixth in the last 10 (2-6-2), and it wasn't for lack of effort; they put 60 shots on UConn goaltender Matt Grogan and he stopped 58 of them, outdueling Gillies, who allowed three on 26. Those who were in attendance characterized Gillies' performance as having been quite poor, allegedly allowing goals on the only real chances the Huskies generated all game, as well as one more. This performance brings his save percentage in the last eight games to .892, and that's a real cause for concern; at the start of the new year, he was at .941, but that's dropped to just .926 in less than a month and a half. Very worrisome. You're not going to find out if there's something wrong with him, at least until the end of the season, but you have to think there's an issue.
A possible theory, advanced by another college hockey scribe: “He's checked out of college.” Let's not forget, he met with Brian Burke before that initial loss to Northeastern, and since then his game has been pretty poor overall. Even in one of the two games he won, he allowed four goals on 29 shots to Lowell. You really have to wonder if that has anything to do with it.
5. Gaudreau going?
Yesterday on Sportsnet 960, hockey analyst Al Morganti, who's in Philadelphia now but is originally from Boston, said that from everything he's hearing, Johnny Gaudreau is going to sign with the Flames at the end of this season because he feels he has nothing else to prove.
This is certainly the case. You can set your watch to him putting up two points a game, which he did again in the Beanpot final against Northeastern, to run his season total to 25-33-58 in 29 games, including 13-20-33 in his last 15. It just isn't fair any more. Not really. He has five regular-season games remaining, plus at least two (but more likely four or five) in the Hockey East playoffs before the NCAA tournament starts, where he could play four more.
That's 58 points from 29, with as many as 14 more to play. There's a very very real chance he gets to 80 points this season, which would be the first time that's happened in college hockey since Peter Sejna had 82 in 2002-03. If Gaudreau continues his current pace (two points per game!), he gets to 86.
Yeah, he has nothing left to prove, especially if BC wins the national title. And at 14-0-1 in their last 15, that seems fairly likely right this second.