December 15 News and Notes


TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 9: Dion Phaneuf  of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates off the ice after 4-1 loss during game action at the Air Canada Centre against the Philadelphia Flyers December 9, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)


The Flames are enjoying a last peaceful day before the onslaught of the blue-clad loons tomorrow evening, so it’s as good a time as any for a look at a few items of interest. In this installment of the roundup, the Dion returns, one of the NHL’s featured teams is in a ditch, and the City of Glendale decides financing a hockey team’s purchase is a civic priority.





The win over Columbus was one carrying a few tinges of good fortune about it, as Calgary snoozed through the second and third periods before the captain got it going in OT, but the heat is apparently still on the coach, if media reports can be believed. Reports this afternoon also suggest that Matt Stajan will be released from purgatory for tomorrow’s match, so now the guessing game as to who gets the short straw will resume in earnest. It should be Kostopoulos, for the reasons Kent mentioned yesterday, but I’m not handicapping this move. 


As far as activity on the ice itself goes, one of the continuing areas of concern really has to be the special teams. I’ve talked plenty in this space about the lack of shot generation when the Flames are a man to the good, and that hasn’t changed even as a few pucks went in the net over the last week or so. Calgary is currently 23rd in shots/60 when up a man at 47.0 shots/60, and I think most of us have noted that the team struggles at entering the zone and winning puck battles when they do manage to establish themselves.



Dec 9, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Trevor Lewis (22) shoots the puck as Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff (34) defends the goal and Flames players Cory Sarich (6) and Mikael Backlund (11) look on in the first period at the Staples Center. Photo via Newscom



For a team that was never going to set the world on fire offensively even under ideal conditions, maybe that’s no surprise. What should concern people is the inability of the team’s PK to limit shots. The Flames are 20th in the league by that measure, allowing 52.7 shots/60. Just by eye, the club doesn’t win many races to loose pucks. The team only has two plus-skaters on the backend (JB and Gio), and of the rest, only Regher seems able to outmuscle enough people to overcome his foot speed deficiencies. That’s led to other teams getting more shots just through puck retrieval, and shots against on the PK generally go in at a 25-30% higher rate than 5v5, so whatever decent work the club does at evens gets wiped out far too often. If you look at those two shot rates, the Flames are headed for a season where they give up about 50 more shots than they take when the game is played with one team down a man. That will cost them 6 or 7 goals net before percentages even enter the picture, which is worth about one win. The Flames don’t strike me as a team with a win to throw away.


Tomorrow, the club welcomes back our man Dion to the premises, and I’m certain those in the pews will give him a friendly greeting as a beloved former Flame 😉 In all seriousness, I do hope that people understand that Dion was a talented but flawed player that, through no particular fault of his own, was cast as some sort of savior early on in his time with Calgary. He might well have been an unloved figure in the room, but as a practical matter the terrible contract Darryl Sutter handed him was at the root of his departure last winter, and even had he been a bit more of a Boy Scout type he was always at risk to be moved. At any rate, I don’t hate him in the slightest, even if I wanted his ticket to be paid by another club, and I don’t wish him any more ill than any other Leaf. YMMV, of course.


The Heat are out East this week, and last night snuck a 1-0 win over Rochester, with no mention if Marcus Vinnerborg and Jacob Markstrom exchanged pleasantries afterwards. Leland Irving recorded his 3rd shutout and 15th win, and his SV% is above .915 overall, which is acceptable. As I mentioned in a previous installment, the Heat are killing penalties at a 79.1% rate, which really is a lousy performance in any decent league. Although we don’t have ready access to the AHL SV% breakdowns, I’d guess Irving is still doing well at EV, and with EVSV% normally being the most sensible way to assess goalie performance, it’s likely a good sign for him and the organization. As far as skaters go, Matt Pelech and Cam Cunning returned to the Heat roster in the last week, adding a couple of veterans to a lineup that has often had 8-10 regulars on the shelf since early November. 


Up the road:



TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 2: Nikolai Kulemin  of the Toronto Maple Leafs misses the tip on Nikolai Khabibulin  of the Edmonton Oilers during game action at the Air Canada Centre December 2, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages / Getty Images)



The Oilers were throttled by the Leafs last evening, wasting a very nice outing from Taylor Hall. One thing that a few of the more perspicacious types following the neighbors have routinely noted is that Edmonton’s special teams are atrocious. I’ve just spent two paragraphs grousing about Calgary’s crapulence in that scenario, but the Oiler PP is poor and their PK is particularly atrocious. They give up the most shots/60 in the league 4v5, and I noticed that the spread in PK percentage between Edmonton and the 29th best team on the PK (TOR) is 6.1%. That’s exactly the same spread as between Toronto and Washington, who are the 10th best PK team by percentage. There are shooting percentage issues at work to be sure, but the Oiler PK looks like a elementary school recess most nights.





Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau watches a replay as the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers at the Verizon Center in Washington on November 7, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom



One of the league’s showcase events in the Winter Classic, and the HBO 24/7 special covering Washington and Pittsburgh gets it’s first airing tonight at 10MT. The Penguins were rolling until losing in Philly last night, a game where the only thing keeping the game close was a good Pens’ PP. The Penguins are playing pretty well in general, though. Their New Year’s guests, on the other hand, have a few issues at the moment, as the Capitals have lost 6 in a row. They still generate shots at EV, but it’s the goaltending that’s come under scrutiny again this week, especially after losing 7-0 to the Rangers with only 20 shots against in the team’s last outing. The news that Evgeni Nabokov might be on the market has caused a few folks to speculate that he might be a possible fit in DC, but he was a mediocre goalie in San Jose, and the Caps likely can do better with a bit of patience. There’s almost no chance of them missing the playoffs, so biding their time until the deadline makes more sense, at least to me.


That hasn’t stopped people from looking at other solutions that might end the winless skein, and Bruce Boudreau could be the scape goat when it all goes down. Brooks Laich offered a defence of his boss and the goalies to Pierre Lebrun, but the expectations around the Caps are pretty high, and they’ve made one significant trade already, so Boudreau might get walk if Ted Leonsis gets impatient. I’d still try for a goalie at some point if I were running things, and if Tomas Vokoun ever hits the market, they likely have the space and resources to get him.


The Canadian World Junior team took shape this morning. The Flames’ best junior prospect was on the outside looking in, and he was joined this morning by the rest of the cuts, including likely top three pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Tyler Seguin didn’t make last year’s team, though, and the WJC is a 19 year old tournament at it’s core, at least for Canada, so I’m not sure that Nugent-Hopkins will be downgraded on this occurrence alone. 





GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 10:  General view of the exterior of Arena before the NHL game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Phoenix Coyotes on October 10, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)



Interesting news over the weekend about goings on with the potential sale of the Dallas Stars, isn’t? Tom Gaglardi has allegedly dropped out of the bidding for the club after the league insisted on a higher price than he and the banks thought was fair. I really wonder about the league’s franchise values in some of their distressed markets. Dallas should bounce back at some point, and that area didn’t have the boom-bust housing issues that Phoenix or the state of Florida encountered, but really, what’s a franchise is worth in a place like Atlanta or Miami? 


I’ve noticed with some amusement that the league routinely craps all over Forbes’ numbers as part of its PR spin, but the fact remains that Carolina and Dallas are still on the market, and St. Louis, despite being in a good hockey market with a nice young team, hasn’t drawn any serious interest in the last year. If these teams are really worth owning, wouldn’t there be a lineup to acquire them? The truth of all this is that as a year to year investment on operating income alone, the overwhelming majority of NHL teams are nothing special. What encouraged new owners was the ever-growing valuations of the teams in general, so possessing a club for a few years, eating a loss every now and then while scrounging about for civic concessions to limit ownership exposure, and then dumping the team was potentially a profitable exercise. Craig Leopold’s ownership of the Predators would be exhibit A in that regard. The recession in the U.S. has killed of a lot of speculative investment, and owning NHL teams in several markets is nothing if not speculative in nature.


The current poster child franchise for all of this sort of stuff would be the Coyotes, obviously, and the good burghers of Glendale decided last night that the old cliche of not throwing good money after bad wasn’t going to influence them. It’s pretty clear that Matthew Hulsizer doesn’t have the money to complete this sale on his own, and no one with the ability to do so would buy the team just to keep it in Glendale, so here we are, with a 250,000 person city adding roughly 200 million to its various stadia and sports debts. The COG still has to issue bonds for the 100M they’ll front Hulsizer in return for parking rights, and the 97M over 5 and a half years of operating money will, as best anyone can tell, come straight from the taxpayer all the while dreaming of future revenue generation from the Westgate shopping and commercial area as an offset.


No matter how this is presented it’s as direct a subsidy as anyone could imagine for a sports franchise, and Glendale has certainly gone all in to keep the Coyotes and MLB spring training in town. Whether there’s any chance of this working out for them is another matter, but in the case of the Coyotes, as I’ve mentioned before, the NHL needed a sucker and Glendale’s mayor and council fit the bill, IMO. 


That’s all for this week. Add ’em if you got ’em in comments.



  • icedawg_42

    re: Oilers special teams – I dont watch a lot of Oilers games, so I do not know if this is chronic, but on their PP, (come to think of it at EV as well) I saw a LOT of turnovers coming out of their zone with just bad passes up the middle, or late, or soft. The one PP it took them 1:45 to control the puck in TO’s zone. Then they failed to muster a shot.

  • Year in and year out the Flames have had a terrible go at the PP. During Keenan’s last season, we went something like 0-62 on the PP at some point and yet he refused to practice it. Yeah, not practicing the PP is the way to get it going…

    If we are going to fire Sutter, might as well fire the PP coach too.

  • the flames leafs matchup tomorrow, is perhaps the biggest game in darryll sutter’s post cup run era. not only are two critical points up for grabs, the spotlight is on the dion trade. a leafs win and the flames playoff chances take another shot to the gut. dion playing an outstanding game, and darryll feels the kick to the gonads.

  • everton fc

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Iggy and Dion dropped the gloves and Iggy pounded him good?!

    I’d settle for Jackman pounding Dion, though. Never liked Phaneuf. Over-rated, and will continue to be, until he lands in a market like Carolina, or Miami.

    I feel good about tomorrow evening. GO FLAMES!!

    • Gange

      I’m sure you were saying that when Dion was a Norris candidate.
      “That Phaneuf, what an overrated player!”

      Gimme a break. Even I can say that his last couple years were less than stellar but his first couple were exciting with all the possibilities.

      Never liked him, just shaking my head.

  • D_mac15

    This is going to be a game where the dome is charged up, you’ll have go flames go and go leafs go all night, the flames obviously need this one badly as they do every game, but there is definetley a little more on the line in this one. Im happy ill get to be in attendance at this one as booing dion is one of my top priorities, i still think something happened in that room last year to spark the trade. Anyways Go Flames Go it would be great to see them get two in a row finally!

  • BobB

    “Whether there’s any chance of this working out for them is another matter, but in the case of the Coyotes, as I’ve mentioned before, the NHL needed a sucker and Glendale’s mayor and council fit the bill, IMO.”

    What bothers me about this is that Phoenix, with their discounted tickets and concessions, receives money from the Canadian and Northern US franchises through revenue sharing.

    A $162 seat at the Saddledome is $45 at Jobing.

    With the Salary cap going up next year I have no doubt that ticket prices will go up again.

    Sometimes I wonder, is the NHL one giant Ponzi scheme with the owners on top and the fans at the bottom?

  • icedawg_42

    Dont worry, Dutter would do it all over again. You know, it’s just a salary dump. A salary dummp where the only prospects involved were outgoing. *sigh* why does Dutter hate exciting young players so much?

    • D_mac15

      salary dump? or appeasing one of the core. sounds more like a deal based on keeping one dman happy. the same dman would also didn’t approve of mike keenan. ollie may have a rep of being a cancer in the room with other clubs but i think a certain core guy in calgary fits that role as well.

  • icedawg_42

    dutter states he would do the dion deal again. amazing, he still can’t see the forest from the trees. he now sites the reasons for the deal being risking losing gio, and rainy bourk to free agency in a cap sensitive world. hey derwood, ollie and kotalik? how can you explain those two flattires. the timing of the dion deal was in no way a deadline deal, so patience may have gotten a better return. dion is just another example of bad asset management,a huge long term deal on the heels of an entery level contract caused some flak in the room. a certain veteran dman wasn’t particularily happy with the young dog being the new lead dog back of the blueline.jbo,dion,gio and aulie would have been a very nice big four corp with brodie apprenticing in the show. oh well gotta keep the core happy.

    • dutter states he would do the dion deal again.

      If he says it to the media, there’s only a passing chance it might actually be true.

      As for Glendale, it stuns me the city would double down on what has already proven to be a disastrous “investment” (that’s a loose term when politicians are spending public dollars of course).

      • i realy enjoyed hearing dutter site the rational as a cap move to sign gio and rainy. the flattires that he brought in since diongate somehow speak to the contrary.for a gm that can’t manage the cap. to site it as the primary driving force is mel brooks comedy writing.

      • icedawg_42

        It’s all about Bourque and Gio – sounds to me like he’s trying to shape current events to his past thinking, for our benefit of course. He’s just scrambling to save face. Like I said, if it was a salary dump, and he had an iota of management sense, he would have done “SOMETHING” for the future of this team, and get a prospect/pick instead of packaging one in.

  • icedawg_42

    Another article on the Sun – an “anonymous” Flame said “Phaneuf was all about Phaneuf and wouldnt buy in”…could mr. Anonymous’ name rhyme with “Begehr”??

  • why does Dutter hate exciting young players so much?

    This is where I actually defend Darryl. Well, sorta.

    The truth is, a lot of exciting young players don’t amount to much (especially if they’ve been drafted by this org…ZING!). Sutter has actually been pretty aggressive in giving chances to kids he believes in in this franchise…the issue is, it’s only be TWO over the course of the last 7 years (Phaneuf and Backlund).

    Given his goal was always to “win now”, he operated on the “one in the hand is worth two in the bush principle”, which has been frequently worthwhile. So he’s dealt away draft picks and filled gaps with established players as often as possible.

    Over the long run, it’s cost him cap-wise and futures-wise to a degree that the team is now crippled. He took the strategy to the nth degree when, in moderation, it’s actually fairly rational. Unfortunately, you don’t win in this capped environment without high caliber youngsters outplaying their EL contracts.

    • SmellOfVictory

      bang on kent, however you overlooked one youngster he figured was nhl calibre, the gloden brett.not being a flexible gm has buried the organization. good gm’s dont rebuild, they reload. look at the montreal canadiens of years past, they always have a young gun to pass the torch to.yes, i know it was a different era however any successful sports franchise, yankees,steelers,man u. all have had the mentor and student model to success.honestly for iggy to pass the torch to rainy buys you 2 years maybe less. rainy and gio are 29 and 27 ish. no nhl for old men.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Not just the contract thing, but also you have little chance of signing any worthwhile ‘bus driving’ players in free agency these days, and theyre expensive as hell to trade for. You have to take chances on prospects or not-totally-proven young players at some point.

  • BobB

    Another great read as always, Robert.

    “YMMV, of course.”

    What the hell does that mean? Both Kent and yourself are articulate and write well. Maybe I’m demode, but do we have to use the net-speak?

    “but as a practical matter the terrible contract Darryl Sutter handed him was at the root of his departure last winter

    Agree completely. However, good strategies and visions are built with flexibility and adaptability within them. Sutter signed Dion to a terrible contract, but he is equally flawed for not making the connection to Sarich’s.

    Car rusty because it’s in a leaky garage? 1. Buy new car. 2. Fix garage.

    Sarich’s contract is a burden today….STILL. He’s not playing regularly, and his hit is 3.6 vs depth (5th-7th). This meant if Sutter dealt Dion (3rd-4th) either 1. Sarich moves up the depth chart and plays at value (unlikely) or 2. Darryl fills the hole Dion leaves (or Leafs).

    Well, to get any savings on the cap and a 4th d-man, with Dion gone, Darryl would have to find someone for 1-2 million. How many 4th defenseman exist for 1-2 mil. that can provide what Dion could? Few that I know of, and no one is giving them away. Sarich + 1mil=4.6, +2mil=5.6, +3mil=6.6…I’d rather have Dion than “Sarich + X defender”

    Therefore, it would have been better to eat Dion’s undervalue (because he’s young with more potential), than Sarich’s (older, trending down). AND finding a 500k-1mil 6th or 7th defender (net savings 2.5-3million on Sarich) IS easy (we have three right now, and 5 or 6 through the org.).

    Finding a 4th defender that fills the Dion void AND saves 3 million isn’t easy(right Ian White?). AND it opens the opportunity for over spending on more depth and losing the cap space gained. (Right Steve Staios?)

    Worst of all, now….we STILL deal with the leaky garage that is Sarich’s contract this year, and it’s half the time in the press box.

    I like Cory Sarich. I hate his contract. Darryl should have been given himself 2 months, LAST year, to find a solution to Cory’s contract. Waiver, Buy-out, Trade, AHL whatever. Get him off the CAP books. When things went bad, we should have already had help up front with that cap space. Darryl STILL hasn’t done it THIS year.

    I don’t hold the Dion deal against Darryl, but I sure hold his mismanagement of Sarich/Staios against him.

    • Robert Cleave

      YMMV = Your mileage may vary, sir. You sound like you want the job as my editor, Lawrence 😉

      As for the Dion-Sarich link, if the Flames had been able to run off Sarich after 08/09, that might well have worked, and lord knows Sutter has made a hash of things with Staios, Kotalik, etc., but I always try to assess Dion’s contract, or anyone else’s for that matter, relative to his effectiveness for the dollars and independent of a team’s specific financial state.

      I’m also mindful of Gabe Desjardins’ point that RFAs normally sign at a 25-30% discount relative to their UFA value, which means that an equivalent open market deal for Dion would have been in the 8M a year range. His underlying numbers didn’t justify that sort of deal even if he was an excellent PP producer, and the three seasons he’s played since bear that out. As I’ve said, I don’t hate the guy, and he would have been a very nice second pairing guy with Gio for the next few years.

  • icedawg_42

    the current gm has destroyed the organizational intregrity of the calgary flames. if he wanted his son to succeed, he should have bought a tim horton’s franchise instead of pulling every string necessary to have the youngster play in the nhl.

  • icedawg_42

    Just curious, Robert: can you point me towards a link about Nabokov’s “mediocre” play last year in San Jose?

    I thought he was decent, but that is just an opinion based on not too much research.

    • Robert Cleave

      He was pretty good last year, but here are his his EVSV% numbers since the lockout:

      05/06: .906

      06/07: .924

      07/08: .918

      08/09: .920

      09/10: .928

      .920 is a pretty average number for EVSV%, and he’s been at or below that figure 3 times in 5 years. In 08/09, when he posted that exact number, he was 19th amongst goalies that played in at least 41 games, so really, he’s just been OK and nothing more. If he’s cheap and the Caps continue to struggle, he might be an option, but there will be better goalies available if Washington doesn’t panic.

    • BobB

      If I may…..(edit:AND Bob beat me to it..)

      Nabakov is a polarizing goalie because of his link to a dominant team. In a similar way Brodeur is.

      In Nabby’s last 6 playing years (since 03-04) he’s running a .922 ev sv%.

      It’s not M-A Fleury mediocrity (.917), but it’s not Brodeur (.925) or better Vokoun, Luongo, Thomas, Kipper (.927+) kinda good.

      Nabakov falls into that Turco (.919) range. We never really feel we know how good they actually are, and their playoff lack of success will be held against them until their team wins it all.