Optimistic Approach

CALGARY, CANADA - APRIL 6: Rene Bourque (C) of the Calgary Flames celebrates his goal with teammates Jarome Iginla #12 and Matt Stajan #18 against the San Jose Sharks in the third period of NHL action on April 6, 2010 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

As the Calgary Flames prepare for training camp, there seems to be one common theme we’re hearing from the team as they’ve all now arrived in the city.  Whether it be individuals looking to bounce back from down years or whether guys are looking at it from a team standpoint, everyone is looking at the 2010-11 campgain as a chance at redemption.  That optimistic approach will be the theme around the Flames to start the season, but eventually it has to turn into results.

It started Wednesday morning as Flames players filed into the Saddledome to check in ahead of their annual golf tournament the next day.  We heard from new players, or new old players, like Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen.  And we heard from returning players like David Moss and Curtis Glencross and Steve Staios.  It continued into the next morning when the Flames teed off, as we heard from Jarome Iginla, Craig Conroy and Rene Bourqe.  To a man, everyone seems motivated to erase what was a disappointing season last year.  For the sake of Flames fans, we hope that words and sentiment turn into results on the ice.

I’m all for a feel good story, and in some ways the Flames would be this season.  The expecations are lower than they’ve been since, well, 2003-04.  After five straight trips to the postseason, Calgary missed out on the dance, and did so with a fairly disappointing span of about four months.  But I have a feeling hearing Olli Jokinen talk about getting back to being a point-per game player and listening to Jarome Iginla talk about how much better the team is may get tiring throughout a three week training camp.  People want to see results, and the Flames know that.

So, as glad as I am that we’re hearing this talk right now, I’m more excited to get down to training camp and the preseason.  The fact that Flames players are showing a good level of positivity is good for the fans that follow them, especially knowing there is also a certain level of cynicsym out there right now.  So, as this storyline plays out prior to the regular season starts, we’ll all get excited for another year of hockey at the Dome.  But you can’t blame Flames fans for having that excitement dry up fairly quickly if things don’t start in some sort of positive manner.  After what happened last year, even the most positive fan may wear thin on patience if the team starts poorly.

NOTES

  • I’m back from holiday on the West Coast of the United States.  Went to see the Dave Matthews Band at The Gorge in Washington…too many Canucks fans.  Can’t they just stay concentrated in their one pocket of the country?  In all seriousness though, that team scares the hell out of me.  FML.
  • Kent is working on a stats primer for the coming season, to really try and explain some of the "advanced" numbers we can sometimes throw out on the site.  I think it’s a great idea, because it took me a good three or four months to completey wrap my head around Corsi and zone start numbers…a primer like this can really be helpful.
  • As we move closer to the start of the regular season, I’ll be compiliing a division-by-division breakdown to preview the coming year.  For the four other Northwest Division teams, we’ll go team-by-team.  Expect that over the month of September.
  • PrairieStew

    Pat,
    I’m surprised that you’re not talking about how excited you’re going to be for next year’s off season.
    As for the Corsi-stats, come on, a glorified plus/minus for tracking shots. Goals plus assists equal points, the only stats that matter.

    • Difference being that there is less chance involved in shots for/against than there is in goals for/against. Yes, ultimately, in terms of where your team will be at the end of the year, the points they get are what decide it, but in terms of helping show who is a good player and who isn’t long term, Corsi is a good tool to have.

  • Good to be optimistic. But show me the goods. I can tell my wife all I want I’ll organize the garage and I have every intention of doing it and feel comfortable in my ability to do it but it doesnt mean it will get done. I dont see much optimism this year. I think Iginla is on his down side of his career (as it hurts me to say). I just read the The Sporting New’s picks and wow, just 1 forward in the top 40 and no D-men in their top 60. Is it possible we here in cow-town think too highly on these guys? What if they are what we think they are, mediocre players? What if Kipper has a fall back season or is hurt? I dont’ see where the goals will come from and dont’ see Joker and Tangs being the saviours of this team. Four years ago maybe but any team who thinks 2 guys who have had been going down hill for the past couple of seasons and were ecentially run out of town will all of a sudden be these 1st team All-Stars is smokin stuff from BC.

    • I haven’t seen this list, but having one top-40 fwd is about par for the course for most teams, statistically-speaking. Especially when certain teams have 2+ (Washington, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Detroit, etc).

      As to the d-men, I’d say JBo and Regehr would both be top pairing d-men on most teams, and I even think White is a 2.5th d-man. Calgary’s issue is that its best forwards (aside from Bourque) are all essentially over the hill and the franchise has maybe a handful of guys who are outperforming their contracts, and only Giordano is outperforming his by any large amount.

      • As much as it hurts me to say, is an Iginla trade in the future? I don’t mean this year, or even the next depending on how the seasons both turn out, but once Jokinen’s and Tanguay’s contracts run out, would there be another big move in Calgary’s future???

        • I personally doubt it. He’s at the stage where he means more to the Flames than he would to any other team, and once his current contract runs out he’ll probably just be signed to a more reasonable one that properly reflects his age and decreased abilities.

          • Ya, and hopefully by then some of our prospects will have actually made it into the top 6. I don’t know, how many years do you think it’ll take Wahl Backlund and Nemisz to crack the top 6?

  • I’m terrible at prospects and such, but I’m going to throw out: Backlund will be ready by next season (there’s even a chance he’ll be ready this season for lighter top-6 duty), Wahl will be ready for 2nd or 3rd line NHL duty in roughly two seasons, and the same for Nemisz if his skating improves enough.

  • But I have a feeling hearing Olli Jokinen talk about getting back to being a point-per game player and listening to Jarome Iginla talk about how much better the team is may get tiring throughout a three week training camp.

    i’m already sick of it, frankly. here’s my take:

    what is the difference between olli jokinen, today, saying he wants to get back to being a point per game player, and olli jokinen in january (presumably) wanting to get back to being a point per game player. 2.5 million dollars ??? well, if he can’t do it for 5 million, who the hell in their right minds thinks he can do it for 3 ?

    ps: if i’m wrong and the sex panther lights it up, i’ll be the happiest girl in a ladies’ cut flames’ third jersey.

    uh.
    wait…
    😉

    • I agree. I dont think he can do it. Listening to him he’s all talk. As to the d-men from TSN I was surprised no Flame was in the top 60. No Flame in top 40 Centres, 1 (Iginla at #9) in the top 60 wingers, no d-men (I dont understand) and Kipper was #13 in goalies bedhing Jonus Hiller and Marty Turco?
      Phaneuf was #23, there were some D-men on there i’d never heard of. The magazine did have Toronto finishing higher than Ottawa, so go fiture. They gave Calgary a 2/5 for Offense, 4/5 for Defence, 5/5 for Goal, 3/5 for special teams and a 2/5 for coaching/management. Their top line was Iggy, Langkow and Bourque, I can’t argue with that.

    • what is the difference between olli jokinen, today, saying he wants to get back to being a point per game player, and olli jokinen in january (presumably) wanting to get back to being a point per game player. 2.5 million dollars ??? well, if he can’t do it for 5 million, who the hell in their right minds thinks he can do it for 3 ?

      That’s kind of what I’m wondering…but maybe an entire offseason motivates him. Who knows. I’m not confident his wish comes true.

  • Talk is cheap. I get it. I believe it. But there are four basic things that are keeping me optimistic about the upcoming season.

    1) A better roster

    LW is much improved. Last season they had Glencross, Dawes, and the mythical top LW (Moss, Boyd, Nystrom, Bob’s Uncle). This season they have Glencross, Hagman, and Tanguay. They have added Stajan and Backlund to Centre and have only lost Boyd. They have added Kotalik at RW as an option.

    They lost Phaneuf at D but have Bouwmeester and Regher as 1/2 guys, White and Gio as 3/4 guys, and have Staois, Sarich, Pelech, Pardy, and Kronwall fighting for 5/6/7. Pretty solid. And with the way things now slot better, with the way Phaneuf was playing, and his reported attitude, I think we have a slight improvement on D.

    In net they have Karlson playing back-up. Time will tell how that plays out. However, its the first time I have been optimistic about the Flames back-up situation since the lock-out.

    2) A second season under B Sutter

    He brought the team from ~240 GA to ~200 last season. He got them buying into a system giving them something to build on. Pretty significant accomplishments.

    In his first season with NJ they scored around 200 times. In his second season they scored 240 times. With pretty much the same roster.

    I think we will see more offense from the Flames this season.

    3) A better attitude

    Complacency has been a bane of the Flames over the past three seasons. I am sure the “Jobs are on the line” slogan is a marketing scheme more then anything else. However, missing the playoffs, seeing the shake-up in player personnel and management, and knowing the tolerance this season is low will hopefully change the complacency issue. The article above shows they have at least started on the right foot.

    4) They can’t be that bad … again

    How many of the players had career low seasons last season? Shooting percentages were collectively very low. Bouwmeester never found his comfort level. Regher wasn’t Regher. Etc.

    At least some of Moss, Iginla, Bouwmeester, Regher, Kotalik, Langkow, Conroy, and Staois should rebound. At least to some extent.

    Do I think we are a favorite to win the cup? Not at all. The division? No. However, with an improved version of a roster everyone was so hyped about last season (and one that challenged for top spot for the first half of the year) I think they will at least make the playoffs and give them a chance to battle from there.

    • Talk is cheap, but smoke another on bra. The roster is not better, it is older, slower, same ole, same ole.
      A second season under another dictator, same ole, same ole. New Jersey had young fast players who could play in today’s NHL. We’ll be seeing alot of 2-1, 3-2 boring games under the “defence ONLY” Sutter system.
      Better attitutude: everyone has one they have to put a smile up for the cameras. Just because they have a good attitude doesnt mean they’ll win. I’m sure the players in Edmonton have a great attitude this year but will they win?
      Fourth point, ok I’ll grant you that, but you never know. These guys are a year older, and there is no cap space if someone is injured or not playing well.

    • You have the most level headed opinion of this team. It truly is an improved roster compared to a year ago when the media had Calgary as the NW favorite.

      I’ve been forecasting a return to the post season also but the most intriguing thing to me is your proof of how Butter improved the flames defensively by 40 goals, and if he can add 40 goals for thats an 80 goal spread in 2 years.

      If the flames add 40 goals that’s a NW title.

      With improved attitude its not impossible its actually somethong to get excited about.

      Go flames go

    • You make some really good points regarding optimism for next season. The one that intrigues me most is the second season under Brent Sutter, because it’s something I thought about as well.

      Nolan makes good points though…there was some high end skill on that team, mostly in the part of Parise. There’s no player like that on Calgary’s team.

      However, you might be able to make the argument that Calgary’s offensive depth is stronger than that year in NJ.

      It’s an interesting thing to watch.

  • PrairieStew

    @sincity

    That observation of the Devils improving offence under the 2nd year of Brent Sutter is encouraging. What is also encouraging is the improvement of Elias and Langenbrunner in those years – both over 30 and bouncing back. The improvement of young players such as Zajac and Clarksons also a factor – but the biggest factor was the emergence of a 24 year old Parise as a dominant player. What we don’t have is that guy.

    Someone asked here the other day – who is going to replace Iginla in a couple of years – when the question should be who is going to replace Iginla now as the team’s best player.

    As far as them being a better roster – you may recall that the team did pretty well before Christmas – and it was up to and after the Olympic break(with pretty much this roster) that that they faded badly. Re-adding Jokinen and Tanguay may mean more skill than the loss of Nystrom and Higgins, but they won’t be tougher mentally or physically. Dawes and Boyd out to be substitued for Thing One and Thing Two pretty much cancels the skill upgrade on Joker and Tangs.