FGD: A Yale-ian vs. Predators

Taylor McKee
March 21 2014 02:06PM

In the final 12 games of the season or so, the Flames and Preds are battling it out for who can be more mediocre. The Predators' playoff hopes are completely extinguished while the Flames are still just those loveable little scamps who don't know when to quit or when to just stop throwing themselves in front of pucks with the devil-may-care attitude that only comes with nothing to live for. That may be an exaggeration but I am not convinced Lance Bouma is entirely sane. Just sayin.

Tonight, there will be two noteworthy additions to the respective rosters. Calgary is debuting Kenny Agostino, acquired in the trade that sent Jarome to Pittsburgh where he won a Stanley Cup and carried Crosby on his back into a rainbow sunset. The Preds also have a new addition tonight as they recalled Calle Jarnkrok yesterday after granting the freedom to trading David Legwand to Detroit. 

For that reason at least it will certainly be worth watching at least part of this one! RIght! C'mon guys! Lineups and preview after the jump

THE FIGHTIN' FLAMES


Let's remember Berra as he would have wanted, winning in a shootout.

There are quite a few switches in today's lineup with one new face and another familiar face returning to active duty. This roster looks surprisingly like one you would expect out of an actual NHL team. Here it is thanks to our buds at Daily Faceoff:

Glencross - Stajan - Hudler

Agostino - Monahan - Colborne

Cammalleri - Backlund - Byron

Bouma - Galiardi - McGrattan


Giordano-Brodie

Smid- Wotherspoon

Russell - Butler


Ortio

As you may have heard, the Flames are debuting one of the pieces of the Jarome Iginla trade tonight in Yale's Kenny Agostino. It is nice to see that they are going to give him some competent linemates in his first game with the big club, as that has not always been standard practice for the Flames in the past. I think I am like a lot of people when I fully admit that I have no idea what to expect from Agostino tonight. I saw him at Flames development camp this summer and thought he was pretty good but hell, in that camp Josh Jooris and Linden Penner were dominating the competition so I am not sure it's an indicator of much.

Agostino's numbers at Yale are pretty impressive, as he was essentially a point-per-game player in his final three seasons with the Bulldogs. Agostino was also a part of Yale's NCAA Championship winning team last season. What is perhaps Agostino's most impressive statistic from college is his shot production. When Agostino was signed, Darren Hayes tweeted out a striking stat of Agostino's:

Hopefully Agostino can continue to generate offense in the show, though it is pretty much impossible that he will continue at the clip he was at in college. Also, maybe his energy will rub off on Monahan and he can finally get that elusive number 20 on the season tonight. 

The Flames are also welcoming back Jiri Hudler to the lineup tonight and he will be playing one a line with the newly returned Matthew "Franchise" Stajan and the still reasonably rusty Curtis Glencross. Hudler has had a nice season for the Flames and prior to his injury was the most reliable Flames forward in terms of point production. Despite missing the last seven games with an ankle injury, Hudler is still the team leader in points with 44 and assists with 30.

Kent mentioned on twitter a few days ago that Tyler Wotherspoon might not be doing so well possesion wise during his brief stint with the club. I checked out his numbers and, yikes...they are not so great. His CF%rel is a cool -27.5 in his first seven games with the Flames. I know, I know, small sample size and all that, and I am sure that being paired with Smid isn't going to do wonders for his possession numbers, but hopefully he can improve his numbers over the final stretch of games as it looks as though Dennis Wideman is done for the season. With the injury to Wideman, it is entirely likely that Wotherspoon will be up for the rest of the year.

Ortio gets his ninth start of the season in net and has been pretty decent for the Flames so far with a 4-4 record and a .906 SV%. If nothing else, that is a vast improvement over Joey MacDonald's SV% in eight games as well, as Joey Mac boasts a .885. However, I know that I am not exactly setting the highest bar for Ortio in this comparison. 

EMPEROR TROTZ'S MEN


Here is the Pres lineup thanks to our dearest confidants, Daily Faceoff.com:

Hornqvist - Fisher - Spaling

Bourque - Jarnkrok - Smith

Nystrom - Cullen - Wilson

Clune - "Frank" Sissons - Eaves


Josi - Weber

Jones - Ekholm 

Del Zotto - Ellis


Rinne     

The Predators are ice cold. They have lost three-straight games, seven of their last ten, and are now within the sight of the bottom of the Western Conference. The Flames by comparison are 6-4 in their last ten and now only five points back of Nashville, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. 

Since Pekka Rinne's return, he might have some rust to shake off. Rinne has allowed nine goals in his last two starts. Yikes. Carter Hutton played decently during Rinne's injury, going 15-11-4 with a .904 Sv% which is not horrible but certainly not horrendous. Rinne gets the start tonight for the Preds so hopefully (or not depending on your postion vis-a-vis tanking) he is still playing like Alex Auld and not the Pekka Rinne of last season.

Every time that one looks at the back end for the Predators they think, wow, this team should be better. That is a damn good group of D men and they look to be only getting better. With young studs like Jones, Ekholm, and Josi only just starting to come into their own, Nashville is pretty much set for life on defence. 

Their forward group is a little more sketchy. Now without David Legwand, the Predators have Calle Jarnkrok making his NHL debut tonight after being acquired from the Red Wings at the deadline. There is a fair bit of buzz surrounding the 22 year old Swedish centre who has amassed 36 points in 57 AHL games. At the deadline, many were surprised that Nashville was able to leverage a prospect of Jarnkrok's calibre from the notoriously prospect stingy wings, especially given the bargain-bin prices league wide on deadline day. 

PLAYOFF LOTTERY IMPLICATIONS

Lottery

The cushion that used to exist between the fifth and sixth spots in the draft lottery is shrinking very fast, though that has been because of Flames victories so it's not all bad news. The Preds are falling like a rock and could easily be caught by the Flames in the next two weeks if they don't start to win a few games. 

Elsewhere tonight, there are no other games that have any impact on the Flames current spot in the standings outside of Carolina, and that might be a stretch for the Flames. 

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, BASIL?

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It seems as though tonight, as with many nights this season, is a can't miss for Flames fans. Well, aside from the fact that it's a Flames/Predators game which I know doesn't rate highly on the list of ways to occupy one's evening for a lot of fans. No matter what the outcome, Flames fans will get a peak at Kenny Agostino tonight and he'll be playing on a line with some interesting pieces so there's that to look forward to. If the Flames continue their stretch of good play and beat the Preds? Great. Suck it Rich Clune. If not, well, that's not the worst thing either. Ahh, to be a Flames fan..

Also, the last Flames Preds game was pretty awesome. The Flames won 5-4 in a shootout even though this happened:

Puck drops at 7pm MT on SNET West.       

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Taylor splits time between UVIC and Calgary studying history. Taylor likes the Flames, the Cannons, Buckshot, and the Oxford comma. Taylor scored on his own net on dome ice when he was 8. Twitter: @TaylorMcKee_
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#51 Parallex
March 21 2014, 09:40PM
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@Jeff In Lethbridge

4th liner. They were never 3rd line guys.

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#52 Big Ell
March 21 2014, 09:45PM
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Chambers wrote:

When James, Bosh, Wade signed with the Heat they did not turn the franchise around until a year or so later but they had to make further changes?

Prior to Crosby the Penguins were a pathetic franchise.

I don't believe other first rounders like Taylor Hall and Nathan McKinnon have had or will have the same impact that Crosby has had with the Penguins.

Wade, Bosh and James made it to the finals the first year they played together. Wade lost to the Celtics in the 1st round the year before.

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#53 Cccsberg
March 21 2014, 09:45PM
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BurningSensation wrote:

I think its very possible that a Crosby-less Penguins would still have won the cup (Malkin was the Conn Smythe winner afterall).

Just getting Crosby was never going to guarantee them anything (see: Islanders/Tavares), which isn't to say he didn't help, just that one guy really isn't enough.

The NBA is a much more star driven product in terms of success. Having a couple of All-Star talents pretty much guarantees you a playoff berth (presuming the rest of the team isn't way below replacement level). If the Heat can play Wade, LeBron and Bosh for between 32-40 minutes a night that only leaves 10-2 minutes for their backups to have to play, and only two other spots on the floor to find tall human beings for.

In the NHL, just having a superstar or two isn't enough. Even a pairing like Crosby and Malkin leaves 12-20 minutes a night for the rest of the teams C's to split up. That doesn't even factor in the greater importance of defense in the NHL or the position of goaltender.

Getting a superstar is enough to make a bad team mediocre (see: Edmonton/Taylor Hall), but not enough to make them elite (see: Boston or St Louis, two elite teams that weren't built by doing a firesale-teardown).

The point of the article remains, tanking is a terrible strategy in the NBA (where a single great player can have a much bigger effect), and if its terrible in the NBA, it is something far stupider in the NHL.

I was with you until your last line... Hall a "superstar" and Edmonton "mediocre"? PLEASE, not even close on either count. You been drinking that Oiler kool-aid?

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#54 Parallex
March 21 2014, 09:46PM
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@BurningSensation

I'm more hoping for Connor McDavid but I'll take one of those guys in a heartbeat... but yes I imagine Backs settling in as a dominant 3rd line center who whamps the oppo in PvP play once the rebuild is complete and the team marches into it's next window of contention. Kinda like Staal did with the Penguins.

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#55 RKD
March 21 2014, 09:51PM
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Wow, 11 goals didn't see that one coming. Funny how you think a game is going to be low-scoring then turns into a barn burner and other nights when you expect offensive powerhouses to light it up the score ends up being 1-0. Must have been highly entertaining for the fans tonight.

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#56 beloch
March 21 2014, 09:52PM
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I am so desperately sick of seeing the name "Connor McDavid" on every bloody hockey blog that I will laugh myself halfway dead if, shortly after being drafted #1 overall, he flames out in a cloud of hookers and blow.

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#57 BurningSensation
March 21 2014, 10:09PM
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Cccsberg wrote:

I was with you until your last line... Hall a "superstar" and Edmonton "mediocre"? PLEASE, not even close on either count. You been drinking that Oiler kool-aid?

'Mediocre' was me being kind to Oilers nation, cuz the Oilers have to look way, way, way up just to see 'terrible'.

I will argue about Hall though. Of the three #1 overalls, he is clearly far and away the best of them, and (with Ovechkin now at RW) there just isn't a better LW in the game.

He is having an off year with the Corgis though (I suspect it has to do with zone entry strategies being screwed up by Eakins, but I'm not certain).

Overall though my point is still that even with an elite player (or two), an NHL team is simply not guaranteed to become 'elite'.

Dionne and Hawerchuk were marvellous talents, but never got even a sniff of the cup.

Meanwhile Andrew Ferrence - a guy who hasn't been elite since he was in the OHL - has a ring from his time in Boston.

That's just how it goes.

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#58 BurningSensation
March 21 2014, 10:17PM
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Parallex wrote:

I'm more hoping for Connor McDavid but I'll take one of those guys in a heartbeat... but yes I imagine Backs settling in as a dominant 3rd line center who whamps the oppo in PvP play once the rebuild is complete and the team marches into it's next window of contention. Kinda like Staal did with the Penguins.

Personally I'm hoping we get either Draisatl or Bennett (or Reinhart, but I think he will certainly be gone before we pick), as either could eventually fill the role of #1C.

I don't think the chances of the Flames getting McDavid are very high. At all.

First, we have to really, really, really suck - and the Flames just aren't that bad (barring a trade of Gio and Backs to Edm for their #1 and Yakupov - a dream trade scenario that lands us #1RW, and gives us two picks in the top 5 this year to fill holes in the prospect depth chart).

Second, the other teams are currently worse than us have to get appreciably better. Bufffalo isn't going to be any good for a few more years, Florida is still remaking their new core, Edmonton is a laughing stock from the owner on down, and teams like the Islanders and Nashville are only one injury (Tavares, Rinne) from not being able to tie their own shoes.

I think the only way we ever get McDavid is by winning the lottery - and any team that is hoping to win the lottery in order to have success is thinking as clearly as the couple investing in lottery tickets as a retirement strategy.

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#59 exsanguinator
March 21 2014, 10:19PM
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BurningSensation wrote:

That assumes somebody else is going to be our #1C, who did you have in mind? Reinhart? Bennett? Draisatl?

Toews, Jonathan Matthias, Shawn Acton, Will Wellman, Casey Krejci, David Desjardins, Andrew Klinkhammer, Rob Lapierre, Maxim Beagle, Jay

Above is a list of UFA centers for the end of the 2015 season on the right side of 30. Only 1 number C on there and we ain't getting him.

RFA centers are an even worse crop. The names that pop out to me are Mikael Granlund (who I'd love on this team, he's already pretty good and will make Markus better) and Nazem Kadri. Other than that I don't see anyone that would help this team all that much other what we already have.

So it's either try to buy these guys at the end of next season when, ideally, the Flames should be looking to be buyers for 2015-2016 season or develop someone in the system.

The problem with the Flames, and it plagues a lot of teams, is that there is an abundance of 2/3/4 centers but no number 1s.

What a guy would have to do I would think is load up on 2way possession forwards and score by committee. In my opinion it would easier to collect a lot of medium fish rather than go for the one big one.

Giving up assets to chase a pipedream was a disaster for Sutter and I don't want to go through that crap again any time soon.

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#60 Tony
March 21 2014, 10:22PM
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@NHLFlames The #Flames have assigned Joni Ortio to the #AHLHeat.

9:51pm - 21 Mar 14

I guess Ramo is ready.

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#61 Tony
March 21 2014, 10:24PM
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@NHLFlames Joni Ortio was required to be assigned to the #AHLHeat as he was an emergency recall for Karri Ramo, who returns tomorrow.

10:18pm - 21 Mar 14

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#62 Parallex
March 21 2014, 10:36PM
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Oh yeah, it's entirely just praying on a lotto win... our odds are likely really low to get either McDavid or Eichel. The Flames are likely to be about as good next year as we are this year (we lose Cammy but per the cap floor we basically have to re-spend his salary so what we lose with him we'll gain much of it back).

I'm just going to lovingly stare at pictures of Hanifin & Barzal to set slightly more realistic expectations.

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#63 McRib
March 21 2014, 10:46PM
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Not sure why people like TSN are hyping Eichel so much everything I have read has Hanifin second and most think he may even Challenge McDavid for first not Eichel. He looked ridiculously good at the U17 in Cape Breton this Christmas he is 16 and looks like he is a mobile Robyn Regehr in his prime with a boatload of offense. Regardless next years Top.10 is loaded with talent. If we draft a Draisitl or Dal Colle this year and even a Barzal next year we will be well on our way to a respectable rebuild without having to firesale for a first rounder as I would rather rebuild like Detroit has for years or how St. Louis and Boston have done currently rather than get lucky on two franchise guys like Pittsburgh or Chicago. As Edmonton has shown all Top. 3 Picks are not the end all and be all it depends year to year and who you take would rather build a strong dressing room and more well rounded prospects by not quitting.

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#64 BurningSensation
March 21 2014, 11:04PM
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@exsanguinator

"What a guy would have to do I would think is load up on 2way possession forwards and score by committee. In my opinion it would easier to collect a lot of medium fish rather than go for the one big one."

This is essentially a description of how both St Louis and Boston are built.

Who is the #1C in St Louis? Backes? Berglund?

And who is the #1C in Boston? Kreijci? Bergeron?

In both cases the teams have depth at C, without having a true #1 stud point per game guy.

However, in both cases the team has an elite #2 (Backes, Bergeron) capable of winning the Selke.

If we assume (and right now it is only an assumption) that Monahan could be that guy for us, then building around Monahan (and Backlund) without finding a 'true' #1 isn't a bad plan at all.

That all said, if you can find a #1 C at the draft, you draft him.

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#65 Cccsberg
March 21 2014, 11:19PM
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BurningSensation wrote:

'Mediocre' was me being kind to Oilers nation, cuz the Oilers have to look way, way, way up just to see 'terrible'.

I will argue about Hall though. Of the three #1 overalls, he is clearly far and away the best of them, and (with Ovechkin now at RW) there just isn't a better LW in the game.

He is having an off year with the Corgis though (I suspect it has to do with zone entry strategies being screwed up by Eakins, but I'm not certain).

Overall though my point is still that even with an elite player (or two), an NHL team is simply not guaranteed to become 'elite'.

Dionne and Hawerchuk were marvellous talents, but never got even a sniff of the cup.

Meanwhile Andrew Ferrence - a guy who hasn't been elite since he was in the OHL - has a ring from his time in Boston.

That's just how it goes.

Props & Trash. Agree Hall is by far the best of the first-overalls, disagree with him the best LW in the league. What a JOKE! However not that atypical a thought. Most analysts and people focus way too much on points, while ignoring other keys to the game like defense, turn-overs and etc. Offense isn't everything, but most people don't see it that way...

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#66 exsanguinator
March 21 2014, 11:36PM
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BurningSensation wrote:

"What a guy would have to do I would think is load up on 2way possession forwards and score by committee. In my opinion it would easier to collect a lot of medium fish rather than go for the one big one."

This is essentially a description of how both St Louis and Boston are built.

Who is the #1C in St Louis? Backes? Berglund?

And who is the #1C in Boston? Kreijci? Bergeron?

In both cases the teams have depth at C, without having a true #1 stud point per game guy.

However, in both cases the team has an elite #2 (Backes, Bergeron) capable of winning the Selke.

If we assume (and right now it is only an assumption) that Monahan could be that guy for us, then building around Monahan (and Backlund) without finding a 'true' #1 isn't a bad plan at all.

That all said, if you can find a #1 C at the draft, you draft him.

I agree, if he's there in the draft then you take him, without question. But this team right now has potentially 4 20 goal scorers (depending on Backlund, Monahan, and hopefully Hudler if he gets hot) You ad 2 more 20 goal scorers to that mix and you have a fringe team.

Granted there are a few other problems with the team ie 3/4 defenseman and solid goaltending. If in the first 3 months goaltending was even league average we'd be talking about a play off push right now. If you have the right cast then goaltending can take a bit of a back seat (for example MA Fleury has been putting up Grant Fuhr numbers forever but he has a cup ring) but I don't think the Flames are the team to do that.

I look to the Nashville Predators a couple years ago where they had a solid defensive game, great goaltending, and no know goal scorers. If memory servers they had like 6 or 7 20 goal scorers but no one that really stood out. I think the Flames can be that kind of team and be successful with it. It's gonna take a couple seasons but Hartley has these guys working in the right direction.

The way this season has gone I would even go out on a limb and say that Smid fits more into the Calgary mold for defense than Wideman does. Russell was a huge surprise but for defensive depth I would say:

Gio/Brodie ?/? Russell/Smid/Wideman

Ramo is league average and Ortio has proven he can play with a bit more seasoning. In the next 2-3 seasons I expect a tandem of Ortio and Gilles with Ramo on the tradeblock. But that's just me.

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#67 EugeneV
March 22 2014, 12:47AM
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McRib wrote:

Dear Pekka Rinne please stand on your head the rest of this season so we can draft ahead of your team in June.... Thanks because we know your teams offense is almost non existant. Edmonton and Nashville should combine there teams (Edmonton's Offense and Nashville Defense) now that would be a playoff team.

Nashville GP 71 GF 171 GA 213

Calgary GP 70 GF 173 GA 209

Edmonton GP 71 GF 177 GA 228

So, nah.

Of course Rinne will be an upgrade, but even still Nashville goalies combined for league average or so goaltending.

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#68 suba steve
March 22 2014, 10:48AM
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McRib wrote:

Not sure why people like TSN are hyping Eichel so much everything I have read has Hanifin second and most think he may even Challenge McDavid for first not Eichel. He looked ridiculously good at the U17 in Cape Breton this Christmas he is 16 and looks like he is a mobile Robyn Regehr in his prime with a boatload of offense. Regardless next years Top.10 is loaded with talent. If we draft a Draisitl or Dal Colle this year and even a Barzal next year we will be well on our way to a respectable rebuild without having to firesale for a first rounder as I would rather rebuild like Detroit has for years or how St. Louis and Boston have done currently rather than get lucky on two franchise guys like Pittsburgh or Chicago. As Edmonton has shown all Top. 3 Picks are not the end all and be all it depends year to year and who you take would rather build a strong dressing room and more well rounded prospects by not quitting.

"on our way to a respectable rebuild without having to firesale for a first rounder as I would rather rebuild like Detroit has for years or how St. Louis and Boston have done currently "

You might want to look at where these squads (StL/Bos specifically) drafted over the last 10 years. They didn't do it exclusively by picking mid to late first rounders, as you seem to have indicated. They bottomed out and picked in the top 5, and or added to these picks with trades that ended up yielding high picks/good players.

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#69 Jeff In Lethbridge
March 22 2014, 01:05PM
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Parallex wrote:

4th liner. They were never 3rd line guys.

:-)

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