It’s become a tradition: every year at FlamesNation (and at our sister sites OilersNation and CanucksArmy), our writers and commenters pick their stars — that one player who they will praise without end no matter what — and their goats — their yearly whipping-boy; he who can do no good for the season.
And this season is no exception.
Your group of Flames specialists, Two-Line Pass, Kent Wilson and Jean Lefebvre, have submitted their goats and stars for the 2009-10 Flames hockey season. Who will you pick?
Jean Lefebvre’s Star and Goat
Star: Jarome Iginla
There are several very popular members of the Flames, but no one – not Dion Phaneuf, not Miikka Kiprusoff, not Robyn Regehr, not even David Van Der Gulik – is as beloved as Jarome Iginla. It’s not even worth going over the reasons why No. 12 has a special place in so many fans’ hearts – just check out the franchise record books and if it’s not obvious to you after that, you’re excused to resume your scoring at home for America’s Got Talent.
Long forgotten is Iginla’s holdout from camp 10 years ago that negative memory washed away by consistent goal production and persistent smiling and a beleaguered hockey team’s rise from the ashes to respectability.
Funny thing, though – a growing number of Flames-watchers were whispering about Iginla’s defensive laxness a season ago. Most of them kept the criticism at library volume levels to avoid the wrath of the scores of Iggy-lovers in this city, but the voice of dissent was there nevertheless. Sometimes, those voices belonged to his own teammates.
However, word is Brent Sutter will be much more insistent on defensive vigilance than was his predecessor and wearing a “C” will not spare Iginla from that mandate. If Sutter gets his way and Iginla rediscovers the joys of being a two-way player, the critics will be silent and the Iggy-aholics can continue on with their unconditional love.
Goat: Olli Jokinen
This, ladies and gentleman and boys and girls, is a wide-open category. A couple of years ago, there were goats as far as the eye could see and fans took turns hating on Anders Eriksson, Kristian Huselius and Alex Tanguay.
A winter ago, the most convenient target for fan abuse was Todd Bertuzzi, who admittedly put himself in harm’s way with a dizzying array of ill-advised passes and fancy-pants skating of dubious purpose.
Well, all four of those guys are gone now so disgruntled patrons will have to find another man to kick around. There aren’t many candidates waiting on deck – and anyone who nominates someone like Cory Sarich, Daymond Langkow, Curtis Glencross, Rene Bourque or Eric Nystrom just doesn’t understand this game at all – and there seems to exist enough good will and fond memories to keep Miikka Kiprusoff in most fans’ good books one more season.
So in the absence of a lead-pipe cinch to be the perpetual target of boobirds, we nominate Olli Jokinen as the most likely to regularly incur the wrath of Flames faithful. Jokinen took a running start at the job by going scoreless in his final 13 regular-season games in 2008-09 and turning in a playoff performance that featured one really good name and several stinkers. Plus, fans will have at the ready the remark, “Maybe Matthew Barnaby was right about this guy after all,” should things go sour for Jokinen and the club.
Kent Wilson’s Star and Goat
Star: Jay Bouwmeester
There’s a couple of reasons Bouwmeester hasn’t been nominated for a Norris already:
He played in the hockey neverland down south
He was ice-skating uphill against the wind – often single-handedly – resulting in suppressed results.
This year, Bouwmeester will play behind capable forwards and likely with one of the best shut-down defenders in the league in one Robyn Regehr. With such a drastic improvement in his circumstances, there’s a good chance his stats across the board are in line for marked improvement. Expectations will be high given his fat pay-cheque, but his pedigree and performance in the league to date suggest he’s a good bet to meet them.
Goat: Olli Jokinen
The Big Fin made a huge impact his first couple weeks as a Flame. Then he stunk. As in, 16 straight games without a goal. By coincidence (or not), the Flames PP went scoreless in the final 10 games of the regular season, the club lost it’s grip on first in the conference and limped into the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks (and inevitable defeat). During that run of ineptitude, Keenan tried vainly to fit Jokinen and Iginla together. It didn’t work. The pair weren’t compatible, despite Olli’s big body presence.
Gone are Matthew Lombardi, next summer’s first rounder and, thanks to a lack of cap space, Mike Cammalleri. Acquiring Jokinen cost Calgary a pretty penny and I haven’t even mentioned the end of the season no-cap-space-lots-of-injuries debacle. He fell below the 60 point mark last season, has never been much of player in his own zone and is terrible at winning face-offs. On top of all that, Calgary lacks established top 6 players, boasting only three in Iginla, Langkow and Jokinen himself. So let’s just say, a lot rests on the former Panther making an impact this season – and, for the first time in his career, he’ll feel the pressure of having to perform in a hockey mad town. If he gets off to a rough start, not only will fans start to burn effigies of Jokinen in the stands, Brent Sutter will probably not be as forgiving of his short-comings as Mike Keenan was. He could be a punching bag by Christmas.
Two Line Pass’ Star and Goat
Star: Olli Jokinen
I don’t feel like Jokinen deserved all that talk last year about how he never played in the playoffs, and how he was a problem in the dressing room, and how Sutter trading for him was what forced the Flames into cap hell and ultimately cost them the division (okay, so that last one is true).
I did not, however, just choose him because it would really be ultra-helpful to the team if he rounded back into 35-goal scorer form either. He seems as though he’s a likable enough fellow, oddly-shaped head or not. Granted, he’s playing for a contract, so he should have a little bit of an extra oomph behind his play every night, but we all saw what a motivated Olli Jokinen could do.
I want him to succeed because he’s the long-lusted-after No. 1 center every Flames fan on the planet seemed so insistent upon acquiring and then when he was acquired, no one seemed that enthusiastic about it. Maybe it’s because he had been playing in Phoenix and no one saw him doing yeoman’s work on a team that the term “doomed” doesn’t even begin to accurately describe. Perhaps it’s because he was having a season that was off from his typical production. Perhaps it’s because he has a head that brings to mind large orange gourds.
I really hope he proves them wrong. And gets a nice candle now and then.
Goat: Mark Giordano
There was a time when I actively liked Mark Giordano and considered him a viable and valuable part of the Flames’ future. This isn’t that time any more.
He split his time between Omaha (remember those days?) and Calgary in 2005-06, playing extremely well down in the bus league and admirably with the big club. And he was fine for part of a season the following year. But then he didn’t get the contract he wanted, so he did the en vogue thing at the time: said, “Screw the organization, I’m headed to Russia.” Then he came back in from the cold a short time later, not unlike Lee Harvey Oswald, and everyone in the organization acted as though everything was fine.
Well it wasn’t fine with me. You’re on the list, Gio. And you’re not especially needed either.
You can also read about the competition’s goats and stars: