The round-up is back after a few days’ delay due to technical difficulties, so let’s get to it. This week, the Flames turn a good effort into actual points in the standings, the Oilers lose a game and a valuable man, and the Board of Governors meet Matthew Hulsizer.
The club played a pretty sound game last night, although their power play still looked a shambles, Iggy’s goal notwithstanding. The Herald’s chat this afternoon, predictably, had its fair share of concentration on the ongoing ineptitude of Olli Jokinen. He’s not getting anything to go in, but the absence of any sort of decent chances off his stick has to be a concern even to his strongest advocates. His line was the only one pinned in its own end for much of last night, and if Brent Sutter is serious about players earning ice time or even a roster spot on merit, it’s past time for Joker to either sit in the PB or be demoted to the 4th line.
It’s not all bad, of course. Adam Pardy looked like a NHL defenseman last night, albeit one that wasn’t asked to do much more than play against bottom-sixers, and if nothing else he’ll keep Mikkelson from acting as any more than a seventh D. He should also keep Staios in civvies when he gets healthy, but that’s another matter entirely. The Flames’ PK was also good, only giving Stamkos one shot from his favorite spot, and it was one Kipper diagnosed pretty handily.
On the farm, the Heat manged to outlast Lake Erie in a shoot out, and Leland Irving’s play has to be a relative bright spot on that injury riddled club. He’s currently sitting at a .916 SV%, and although we don’t have ready access to the special teams breakdowns to split off EV goaltending in the AHL, the Heat’s PK is running at 79.1%, so I’d guess his numbers aren’t being aided by a lofty PKSV%. It sounds like he’s taken his chance to be the number one guy and made something of it thus far, which is a nice change for your average Flame prospect.
The club is in Southern California for a brace this week, with the Kings on the docket for tomorrow evening. L.A. has cooled after a hot start, leaving them searching for another forward. If the Sturm trade really is just delayed, he’s a decent enough left winger, and the Kings are short on that side, so giving up a conditional pick for him isn’t bad, presuming that it wasn’t anything more than a second or third rounder.
I do wonder if a few teams are looking at the Western Conference standings and reconsidering whether to make a deal or not. There are exactly two points separating 3rd from 12th entering this evening’s play, so any team with a bit of cap space and gumption might be able to gain an edge if they move now. An extra week of good play might be the difference between a good seed and being out of the playoffs for any number of squads. I know several teams are holding off due to revenue sharing considerations, though. Teams like Phoenix and Nashville will always be careful to remain under the mid-point in order to maximize their return from the league’s redistribution, which is why it’s so hard to make a deal that unloads an expensive player for picks/prospects until the deadline. L.A. isn’t eligible for revenue sharing, so they do operate with more freedom, and the Sturm move is that sort of play on their part if it gets revisited.
The Ducks managed to scrape out a win last night in the shoot-out, with Cam Fowler launching the winner in the 10th round, but the news of interest came from the other locker room. Shawn Horcoff was on the bad end of a questionable play from Corey Perry, and the Oiler captain will apparently be lost for a couple of months. Horcoff has had a fine year, especially considering the fact that he’s played with kids against good competition, and the next two months will be a test for the likes of Hall and Eberle. My hunch is that they might find the going a bit more difficult without a grown-up having their back at EV.
The Pens host Toronto tonight as the Sid Crosby Experience continues. His shooting percentage is pretty high, but his underlying numbers are very good this year, and this is the first season since his rookie year where the club has needed him to do all the heavy lifting against good players, so I’d argue that he’s having his best season yet irrespective of the bounces. That tougher icetime’s not likely to go away, either, since Jordan Staal has no near-term date for a return. If Crosby continues this level of play, it’ll should be as lopsided a Hart vote as we’ve seen in years.
The Leafs are, of course, missing a player of interest themselves, but reports are that Dion Phaneuf is nearing a return, and there’s every chance we’ll see him against the Flames next Thursday. One thing that I did notice when I looked at the Leafs’ underlying numbers is how well Francois Beauchemin has been doing. He’s above water playing the toughs with some pretty rigorous ZoneStart numbers, which made me wonder about this from Bruce Garrioch:
No wonder Leafs GM Brian Burke can’t make a trade. Two names being thrown around the league: D Francois Beauchemin ($3.8-million cap hit) and D Mike Komisarek ($4.5-million cap hit). Both have strong character, but their contracts make them nearly impossible to move.
Komisarek isn’t any hell, but if a team is looking for a very solid top four D with a contract that expires before the next lockout (after 11/12), Beauchemin’s 3.8M a year isn’t exorbitant in the slightest. Let’s put it this way: Cory Sarich costs 200k less a year, and I certainly haven’t noticed Beauchemin being healthy scratched. Burke shouldn’t move him, IMO, but if he’s on the market, there are plenty of teams that could use him, and his ticket shouldn’t be a deterrent. The Flames don’t appear to be in the market, but I’d take him as Gio’s running buddy in a heartbeat if Calgary had any cap space at all.
Alexander Frolov has denied asking for a trade from the Rangers, but his interview with a Russian newspaper has raised questions about his status in the Apple. Tortorella isn’t wrong to have cut his ice time, though. Frolov is playing very poorly, sitting underwater despite easy competition and cushy Zone Starts, and the Rangers have to wonder what’s happened to a guy that spent years being a good player against top level comp. It should be noted Frolov was still OK last season with the Kings, but there were complaints from that organization about his productivity.
The Contrarian Goaltender has a couple of new posts in the last week, and in one of them he notes that the fact that Euro leagues don’t emphasize wins or goals against in their goalie stat packages, using SV% instead. I’d recommend that piece as well as his look at how GMs in the 90s really rated performance by the masked men.
The Board of Governors finished their December meetings this week, and the prospective Coyotes’ owner got a chance to meet his future partners. Matthew Hulsizer still has a bit of work to do in terms of a lease, but Glendale seems more than willing to do whatever he asks in order to keep a team in their building. The hints are that his lease will look like what Jerry Reinsdorf was requesting in terms of dollar support, so a city of 250,000 will likely be covering eight figure losses for the next several years. There are many days where I’m glad not to be a taxpayer in Glendale. Of course, my city might be on the verge of spending 200M for a CFL stadium, so I shouldn’t be too haughty, I suppose.
The next alleged basket case the owners might have to consider is Atlanta, and although Atlanta is renowned for poor attendance in several sports, I can’t really see them moving any time soon. The Board, for better or worse, is dominated by Americans in search of a major U.S. television deal, and I really can’t imagine a scenario where a U.S. team moves north. The Coyotes will have been wards of the league for roughly 2 1/2 years if/when Hulsizer takes over. I don’t doubt for one second that the league would do the same for Atlanta if need be. The general subject of relocation is covered off by Scott Burnside here, and Derek Zona looks at potential markets here.
That’s all for this time around. After these two matches in SoCal, the Flames play once in six days. If there’s a move afoot, we might see it next week.