Flames 2010-11 Quarter pole Roundtable



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(As usual, Robert Cleave and Pat Steinberg were good enough to provide some interesting answers to my rather un-interesting questions. It was tough to veer away from inquiries like "how many effigies have burned of Sutter so far?", but we managed – KW)

1.) The Flames are 14th in the WC through the first 21 games. Is there any positives team-wise so far?

Robert: Sure. It isn’t like they’re 0-21. They’re outshooting their opposition 5v5, and I suspect that they’re still out-chancing for the year as well. They aren’t last in scoring, either, and if the club’s PP was operating at a average level, the Flames would likely be in the upper half of the league in terms of offense.

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Pat: You can squint and find some individual positives…Curtis Glencross, minus a few brain farts, has been one of Calgary’s most consistent forwards while Jay Bouwmeester has really shown an ability over the last two weeks to elevate his game.  But overall, it’s tough to fall back on individual positives likes those when the team is not doing the job needed to win hockey games.

2.) Who was the Flames best player through the first quarter?

Robert: This might seem a bit odd, but if you consider the kind of competition and ZS numbers he’s had to confront, the fact that Niklas Hagman is in the Corsi black might suggest he’s been pretty good this year. He, David Moss and Alex Tanguay are the three players that have likely been the least troubling in terms of overall play.

Pat: I’ll go with the aforementioned Glencross…I like the job he’s done playing on either the second or third line, depending on how you look at it.  We all know he’s a valuable player, but I think this is the most consistent we’ve seen him in his time as a Flame.  He generates scoring chances, uses his speed to enter the zone, and has dominated depth opposition…sure, penalties like the one at MSG are infuriating, but I’ve been a big GlenX fan thus far.

(I’ll chime in here with nominations for Robyn Regehr,  Mark Giordano and, based on recent play, Jay Bouwmeester. David Moss might get a mention if he had played the whole time as well – ed.)

3.) Jarome Iginla has been scoring a lot recently. Does it persist or is this another November like last season?

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Robert: No, but he was due a correction just to get his SH% back within hailing distance of normal, and he’s had that correction. As long as he isn’t placed with Jokinen and the club doesn’t go PvP with him, he’ll likely end up with his normal 35-ish goals. He and Tanguay should really be playing against mid-level comp at this point, and if Stajan isn’t unserviceable for too long, I suspect Iggy will be OK.

Pat: I don’t know how confident you can be it’s going to continue. He’s been playing much better as of late, mostly because he’s been doing the things crucial to his success…but eventually doing those things will lead to a three or four game goal-less drought. How he reacts when that happens will be the true indicator.

4.) If you could make one significant on-ice change, what would it be?

Robert: Move Joker down to a semi-permanent third line wing spot alongside Backlund and maybe Hagman or Glencross. I don’t have the visceral dislike for Olli that many do, but it’s long past time for the club to admit the obvious. He’s not a top-six center, and he needs a bit easier circumstances tossed his way. He’s not a 4% shooter, either, but he’s not creating that much, and through no fault of his own he’s been miscast as a PvP or shutdown player. If the Flames went with Glencross-Moss-Bourque, Tanguay-Stajan-Iginla, Hagman-Backlund-Jokinen for their three main lines in the short term, that might be something that get the team a decent matchup every now and then.

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Pat: I don’t know how significant it would really be, but I think it’s time to bury a contract. I think Steve Staios would be the number one guy I’d want to see, but there are other candidates. There are enough bodies on the big team as it is, and if the team is going to remain in a "win now" state of mind, having a little more breathing room under the cap can’t be hurtful.

5.) What do you make of the Ian White trade?

Robert: They wanted to move an expensive contract for a player they had no intention of resigning. The return had to be a defenseman with Pardy still on IR, and I suspect that they thought that Babchuk’s shot could help the PP. Babchuk’s looked about as mediocre as one might have expected given his past performance, though. His career numbers indicate that he was a very average third paring defender with inflated offensive numbers gained through toiling in an inferior conference, so if the Flames are disappointed in his play, as we heard from Roger Millions the other day on Twitter, that’s a self-inflicted wound due to faulty player assessment.

Whether Ian White was worth significantly more than an iffy defenseman or not is another story, because as I noted in the round-up last week, players of his caliber that were pending UFAs last winter were mostly traded for second round draft picks, and anyone who expected a high level prospect or first round pick as a return was living in cloud-cuckoo land.

Pat: Dislike it. Not because I was a huge Ian White fan, that has nothing to do with it. White was a guy who was inflated by high offensive zone start numbers in Toronto, and was put in roles that weren’t conducive to his success in Calgary.  But, he was counting just under $3 million on the cap, and that money could have dropped off the cap come July 1. Instead, Calgary brought in another blueliner who hasn’t looked great to say the least, and a 31 year old forward with a contract carrying over to next season.

6.) What would you like to see the organization do if they aren’t in a position to realistically battle for a playoff spot come January?

Robert: Start with an assessment of who they’d actually like to keep for next season, and that includes the GM and coaching staff. I would hope that whoever would be tasked with that assignment might manage to review matters with alacrity, or at a minimum slightly more alacrity than Steve Tambellini. Once the ownership decides who is going to pilot the ship, see they can unload some of the deadwood, and I do hope that people understand that they won’t get rid of all of it via trade. As long as Daz is in charge, I don’t expect that much change, but one can hope.

The Flames aren’t quite in the situation that a lot of teams are in terms of unloading salary just to make ends meet, since they’re a big money organization that’s collected virtually all of the likely regular season revenue at this juncture, so falling crowds and major revenue fall-offs with a bad team aren’t this year’s issue. That suggests to me that they might be able to wait until teams are willing to to take on a few expensive players for short-term reasons, and that’s traditionally been at the deadline.

I suppose that the main issue that they’ll have to confront is that every single player that the club could easily unload this winter is the sort of player a sensible organization would hang on to. Almost any club would take Bourque, Moss, Glencross or Tanguay. Plenty would take Regher, Iginla, Giordano and even Bouwmeester at his price. Those are exactly the players that shouldn’t be going anywhere unless Jarome or Reggie ask the club to cut them loose. The other players that everyone would dump are precisely the sort that very few teams would want to pay over the next year or two. If I were to guess, the Flames will finally go for a major re-tooling after the next CBA kicks in.

Pat: Make significant change. If that’s the case, why bother waiting to make changes until the off season? I know there are plenty of contracts carrying over to next season, and it’s the following off season when a lot of big money drops off the cap…the summer of 2012 could concievably be an important one for the team as such. But it doesn’t mean you have to wait to make changes.

7.) Pick your first quarter scapegoat.

Robert: There is no one guy. The GM has done a pretty scratchy job of squad construction, the coach has made several questionable choices in terms of player deployment, and several players are operating at a sub-par level, including, but not limited to, Kipper, Jokinen, Sarich and Iginla to a degree. I don’t blame any one of them more than anyone else, because it takes a lot of crap work from a lot of people to put a team in the spot Calgary currently finds itself in.

Pat: I’ll say Olli Jokinen, because that’s the only one that won’t rock the boat…but honestly, it’s almost impossible to choose one goat on this team. Every player has had dismal showings, and every player has impressed…and no one player is significanlty more responsible for this slow start than any other. It’s kind of a systemic thing right now.


  • SmellOfVictory

    “They’re outshooting their opposition 5v5”

    @ RC

    Is that because of the “Toronto Effect,” where the Flames are outshooting 5v5 since they are behind so much? I’d be interested to see the numbers 5v5 when the score is tied but don’t know where to find them.

    It would also be interesting to see where the Flames rank in terms of outshooting when behind by X goals and ahead by X goals.

    Also, great article guys!

    P.S. Kent, you need to chime in with answers for the next one too.

    • SmellOfVictory

      A number of their losses occurred after they scored first, though. They’ve also had a lot of stronger 1st/2nd periods, followed by terrible 3rd periods where they blow the game.

      Anecdotal hearsay and all that, but I don’t think playing to the score is a major factor in the Flames’ outshooting.

    • Very astute MF.

      JLikens has the Flames 15th overall with the score tied and with strength of schedule taken into account.

      They’re a hair over 50%. That’s about where I’d place this team mentally – right in the middle of the pack. As for chiming in, I always kinda feel silly answering my own questions. Maybe we’ll get someone else to ask the questions next time. Commenters perhaps?

  • SmellOfVictory

    Good takes overall but I have to object to this RCleave:

    it takes a lot of crap work from a lot of people to put a team in the spot Calgary currently finds itself in.

    In the situation the Flames find themselves in, a lot of people have done a lot of crap work. Still, they’re a pretty good team.

    But in general bad luck within the range of reasonable expectations will always put out one or two good teams by this time of year. Like clockwork.

    • Robert Cleave

      Sure, and luck can turn on a dime, as we saw from last year’s team. The Flames haven’t been that unlucky, though, at least at EV, and their PP failings are as much based on the fact that they don’t generate enough shots as any percentage woes. I will say that the poor overall results in the standings to this point might not perfectly represent the club’s overall play or ability, and if they went on a run to get themselves back in it, I would likely be less surprised than most. That’s the primary reason why I’m still hesitant to take a torch to the whole apparatus.

  • thymebalm

    If you can’t pick a scape goat for the team because every player is up and down, doesn’t that naturally lean towards the coach as being the problem? He’s the person most responsible for getting the most out of his players every match.

    The fan boards have been on about Darryl and Brent for a long time, and I’ve tried my best to ignore it, but eventually, it is true that Brent should be held accountable.

    post lock out coaching stats..

    D. Sutter – 2006 – 45-26-11 (46-37)
    Playfair – 2007 – 43-29-10 (43-39)
    Keenan 2008-09 – 88-60-16 (88-76)
    B. Sutter 2010-11 – 48-43-12 (48-55)

    We’ve got great players, we just need a good coach. Every other coach took their squad to the playoffs, and was fired. He misses the playoffs and is given another year. He has a losing record with a cap heavy club with 10 decent scoring forwards.

    I think I see where the shake up needs to be. I like our players, I like our depth, but Brent isn’t getting the job done. I thought Darryl was preparing to fire Brent when he traded his son… if they return from this road trip without wins, shouldn’t the coach be the one to fall?

  • I ‘m surprised you didn’t ask me Kent 🙂 but here it is.

    1- Offense hasn’t been terrible and over the last 3 weeks or so it seems like our defense is coming around…not much else.

    2- Glencross and Jackman. Not because they are world beaters but because they come to work everyday. Gio has kept up mostly with his play last year. Tanguay has done pretty well especially for his cap hit.

    3-I bet he stays on pace to get 30+. Not much else but depends on what situations Butter puts him in.

    4- Agree with Robert completely. Keep those lines and we have a (small) chance.

    5- A little bit of a head shaker. White wasn’t a great chip but at least he was one. I am willing to bet there were more teams looking for someone like him at the deadline. Heck even Rutherford mentioned how they had been targeting him for a while. Don’t get why we get to pick up another crappy forward for another year. I suppose he could be buried easily enough but besides a little cap relief, not sure what positives can be taken.

    6- With the current management I wouldn’t expect much change. Probably change a few people and hope for the best. They will probably chalk up this year to bad luck, bad bounces, injuries and being in the big bad the west.

    7-One of the Sutters. Either Daryl filling a team full of spare parts (even if they are pretty good by themselves) that don’t work that well together.

    Brent for not finding something that works and sticking with it.

  • Always good to see the gratuitous shot at Oilers, Tambellini certainly has reputation for being indecisive. … On the other hand, after 21 games played by both the Flames and Oilers, the Oilers with 5 rookies on their roster and not very good goaltending, they’re only two points behind a Flames team that supposed to be good enough to win the cup. At least according to Sutter’s delusions.

  • @thymebalm

    More than not, the coach is where it starts and stops, even if it shouldn’t.

    Since the lock-out, how many coaches has this team had, yet each year we have the exact same conversations about inconsistenty from the players and questionable decisions made by the coach during the games?

    So which is problem, the coach, the GM, the players or equal amounts from each option?

    As for the question about why the coaches that led the team to the play-offs were fired and yet Brent stays after missing the post season? I think we can look at Ken and Darryl’s expectations for the team. It’s been a point I’ve made a few times. After the lock-out Darryl believed he was putting out a “contending” team, and a first round play-off exit was not acceptable. I think since Keenan’s last year Darryl has been scrambling just to put out a “competitive” team. There is a big difference in those 2 distinctions and if you think I’m just voicing my opinions, try and find some of Darryl’s radio interviews from the past few years and you’ll hear it straight from him as he goes from talking about having a “Contender” to having a team that’s “Competitive”.

  • Somebody, somewhere, did something, and now the Hockey Gods are angry.

    For like half of last season and all of this one.

    This is too trivial for a human, but bigger than a penguin. I’m thinking it’s going to take a… buffalo?

  • thymebalm

    @ R O

    The coach’s job is to win. He doesn’t seem to be able to get players motivated, as everyone has commented on player’s being there one night and gone the next.

    He hasn’t made any decent use of time outs this season.
    He has been questionable in his use of his back up goaltender.
    He hasn’t been able to get a reign on Glencross, who desperately needs guidance.
    He has to be somewhat responsible for Jokinen becoming the laughing stock of the NHL, by forcing him into a checking role, and not getting enough shots out of him. He was fine before we got him…

    Coaches get fired all the time, I liked Playfair, and I liked D. Sutter (even though his defence first system was a little boring..) Keenan wasn’t the motivator we brought him in to be, and B. Sutter certainly isn’t that man either.

    The bottom line is the Brent has a good team, good goaltending, and isn’t winning. I’d rather give someone else a shot.

  • thymebalm

    Ok, let’s look at some numbers:

    The Flames have the 3rd highest cap hit in the NHL, we have the second oldest team (partly because we traded good draft picks in the past), we missed the play-offs last year and we are 2 points away from being deadlast in our conference and far away from making the play-offs…

    How much more does it need for a GM to lose his job???

    I can’t hear the comments “1 goal game”, “we were close”, “it’s still early” anymore.
    I was close on winning 649 a couple times, still I missed every number by like 4 or 5…

    We can’t win – we even lost against teams like Edmonton, Florida (didn’t even score at all) and now New Jersey which plays horrible hockey this season.

    Sorry, but I can’t see any positives for this season anymore. We hit rock bottom.

    I guess the good thing is it can’t get much worse anymore. Once we’re last, we can’t fall deeper…

  • For those interested, I scraped data on the number of posts that each team has hit off the NHL.com play-by-play sheets last week, and the Flames, up to that point in the season, had hit 13 posts, with their opponents only having hit 7.

    That tends to support the idea that the Flames have been a somewhat unlucky team so far.

  • PrairieStew

    I am not buying in to the unlucky argument. That was used as an excuse last year as well. By definition, it is just chance and if you have bad luck in one game or even one shift, then it is just as likely you will have good luck next time out. There is no way you can blame luck for any extended period of time. When you score 2 on 40 shots and seemingly outchance a team that may be what it looks like, but I think this squad specializes in making goalies look good. . It’s the hands that go first, not the legs. We have some guys that are in that territory, great effort, no finish. We have some guys that never have been great around the net – it is what it is.

    Blaming the coach is getting old. Darryl needed to concentrate on GM duties, Playfair couldn’t handle the veterans, Keenan mishandled Kipper and was a shell of his former self. Now after having success everywhere else he has coached, suddenly Brent Sutter is the problem too ? Sorry the horses are not there.
    I said on another thread that this team has all of the disadvantages of being the second oldest team in the league ( high cap number, lack of speed, lack of offensive finish) but very few of the advantages. You should see consistent effort game in game out, smart play and adaptability to every situation, but so often you are frustrated by the lack of a 60 minute effort.

  • Backburner


    I agree with barrying Staios’ contract. I realize Daz has his hands tied with Pardy’s injury, but… Sarich and Staios are a combined $6.3 million cap hit! That’s crazy!

  • the-wolf

    I never wanted to see Brent hired as coach in the first place. And I still say that not even interviewing Dave Tippett (a dumb move any way you look at it)is the biggest indicator that the fix was in on the whole Brent leaving NJ thing.

    But….anyone who thinks removing him is going to have a positive long term effect on this team is just out to lunch. How many coaches do we have to go through before people realize that this team just isn’t as good as people in this city think it is. And that Iginla isn’t the vaunted leader so many people think he is. Real leaders don’t take 20 games a year to “get comfortable,” real leaders back the coach by playing his system, thus forcing everyone else to play it and real leaders lead in the hard work dept. Let’s see where Iggy stands on those: nope, nope and nope!

    Wake up, it’s not a “good team” coached by a bad coach. It’s a mediocre, old, poorly captained team. When are people going to realize that 2004 was lightning in a bottle, a Cinderella run on the back of a hot goalie. Iginla/Regehr are not enough to get it done and we’ve no room to bring in anything else. And next year, when we’re another year older?

    If this team was really serious about winning now they would’ve done whatever it took (1st rounder, anything) to get the Spezza deal done and have a true first line. Instead, lets not go for broke and lets not rebuild, lets just keep hoping we scratch into 8th and hope that “anything can happen in the playoffs.”

  • the-wolf

    This from the guy attributes the Flames season to “bad luck.”

    He’s a legit first line centre and a playmaker who has had past success with floating right winger sharp shooters. And he’s under 40 years of age.

    GP: 481 G: 177 A: 312 P: 489 +/-: 76