Don’t Panic

 

 

Okay. So the first couple of games have been, uh, underwhelming. The Flames have been outscored 10-5, have the worst shot differential in the league and have looked for all the world like a hopelessly outclassed collection of overpaid stiffs.

Coming into the season, FlamesNation detailed some noteworthy concerns with the club: Kipper’s poor season(s), the lack of truly elite forwards, the club’s bad record against high-end teams in the etc. I think those are still realistic anxieties and ones the Flames organization will have to continue to assess and address.

All that said, let us all take a collective breath here. Any team in the league can stink for two games. Human performance is variable. I once saw the Red Wings lose to the Blue Jacket by 6+ goals (and they were fill value for the suckitude that night). Sometimes performance doesn’t equal ability.There are games when the bounces go against you. There are others where you just play well below your ceiling. It happens.

We can safely say the Flames first two losses probably aren’t accurate reflections of the team we have. Whatever faults there are on the roster – and there are a few – the Flames simply aren’t this bad. They’ve come out of the gate rusty and snoozing for whatever reason. I’m not sure how long it will take for them to get back on the horse be it another few games or another month, but things will turn around.

I’m not usually one to play pollyanna and I certainly think fans are certainly entitled to be skeptical of the Flames given the last couple of non-playoff seasons. That said, I think there’s been a few bright spots:

– Curtis Glencross is having a decent strart to the year. I think he’s been one of the more dangerous Flames forwards thus far.

– Mark Giordano looks like he’ll be able to carry Hannan or whoever he skates with. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him get an all-star nod this year.

– As evidenced by the Babchuk scratch, Brent Sutter is obviously not intimidated by contract status. Clearly the upper office isn’t dictating coaching strategies anymore.

That’s a few dim bright spots in the murk for now. Feel free to chime in with your own.

As regular readers know, I’m not an apologist for this club (quite the opposite) and I will certainly be unflinching in my criticism should the Flames continue to flounder as the season moves along. Right now, though, we’re just two games in – less than 3% of the season as a whole. And just as no one would be etching the Flames name on the cup if they dominated the first two contests of the season, no one should be writing their obituary quite yet either.

It’ll get better folks.

  • Super_Gio

    I know its a lot to ask from a Rookie to play on the first line and that scenario is unlikely at best but what the heck do we have to loose slotting Horak up front? Stajan is not an option – he has looked terrible. But Staj isn’t the only one who has looked bad.

  • xis10ce

    Stajan has sucked, but would putting him on the top line boost his confidence an dallow him to play well enough that we could move him?

    Doubtful, especially when this team can’t afford to throw games away on experiments, but worth maybe a game or two and it it works you keep rolling.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Am I the only one who doesn’t think Stajan has sucked? I mean, he’s playing with crap, he’s gonna look like crap. But he hasn’t actually been bad and has the ability to put up 50+ points.

    But being in a Sutters dog house is a near impossible thing to remedy.

    • icedawg_42

      yeah – surprisingly enough, Stajan hasnt been among the worst (read: most apathetic) Flames so far, but good luck moving up the rotation, as Kent noted. Last night, I was bored and flipped to the Sens/Wild game. Watching Chris Neil last night, 1G, 1A, 0PIM but beat the hell out of Heatley all over the ice repeatedly: There’s a guy who wants to win, the Flames really need that.

      • jeremywilhelm

        Neil is a prototypical 4th liner. His job it to be an asshole and run around and play against middling competition.

        I just don’t understand Sutter. Either use your assets properly or not at all. Terrible coaching.

  • icedawg_42

    I gotta agree with the sentiment about Moss on the first line. The Flames big problem right now isn’t goals for, it’s goals against. Last season when the Flames were at their best, the OMG line was playing shutdown minutes, and keeping the GA’s down, while potting a few of their own. Frankly I think Stajan IS a better option between Tanguay and Iginla at the moment. Stajan is bad, but he wont unduly stop Iggy and Tangs from getting points, whereas putting Moss back where he belongs would be of greater benefit to the team as a whole.

    • jeremywilhelm

      amen brother, sutter is making house league coaching errors. move moss back with the omg unit,matt cottonelle to the first unit, and have hartsburgh address a brutal backend exception being gio. i aint no stajan fan but god butter its time to use him to the clubs advantage,put aside the childish grudge.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Good, I’m glad we’er all agreed then. Stajan to go between Tanguay and Iginla and Moss back with Jokinen and Glencross.

    Kent, fire this off to the brass, will you?

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Does anyone see the irony here? The collective “we” at FN have been all over Stajan, and he ranked dead last in the on-line, who should center the 1st line poll, and now we want to put him right there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in the same camp, that said, if Sutter actually does put Stajan on # 1, then he’ll need to given the trio some very cushy minutes, and give the heavy lifting to OMG.

      @ Kent Wilson
      please add my comments to the email from the Flames brass.

      @ Kevin R
      P3L really? Crazy talk.

      • icedawg_42

        yeah – thats pretty much what we’re saying – bury OMG and shelter Tangs Iggy and Stajafail. ugh. Such sad times are these. Its amazing how 2 injuries can turn the world upside down. Sportak was saying in the Sun today that the Flames have “forward depth” – it’s evident that’s not entirely true

        • jeremywilhelm

          He prob meant Winger depth. Which they definitely do. Probably one of the better wing depth teams in the west.

          Unfortunately this means dick all with craptastic center depth

        • ChinookArchYYC

          “Sportak was saying in the Sun today that the Flames have “forward depth” – it’s evident that’s not entirely true”.

          I think he’s right in terms of Flames wingers, they are definitely deep on both sides, but there have been a lot of posts on this article alone that talk about the weakness at center ice. Depth at center is definately a Flames weakness (Oh no! I’m pretty sure Doug McLean said exactly this last week. Should I be embarrassed?)

      • I know but hey, he’s here, lets see if this tree trunk can create a little energy, make some big legitimate hits, play within the rules and maybe inspire some grttier play from some of these other guys we are whinig about. Hell, win a fight so at least we win something. I still like fighting in the game. That 4th line only plays about 6-7 minutes a game, how bad can it be?

    • rrg

      Need more from top line. Move Tangs to center (Iggy can take draws) with Bourque moving up on wing with Iggy. Put OMG line back together, Horak-Stempniak-Hagman, Staj-Jackman-Kosto

      Might get Bourque going, not a fit with Horak who isn’t ready to play top end role. When Morrison back Horak to 4th line, see ya Staj.

  • xis10ce

    It’s lovely that Stajan (sad as it might be) is probably the best choice for Center of the #1 line, and Moss most likely should be back at OMG on line #2, but who then fills the gap as the fourth line center? Do you call up Paul Byron for a bit or what?

    • everton fc

      This post (not a bad one) goes back to my earlier commentary around the Flames having the look of an expansion franchise.

      Stajan may be our best option between Tanguay and Iginla. Think about this… Stajan would be the type of player you’d give up in an expansion draft. So would Hagman. Perhaps Sarich (who I actually like)… And Hannan… Babchuk… Smith… Kostopoulos…

      Calling up Paul Byron (again, an option)… He’d be a starting centre on an expansion team.

      Not drilling you on the post. Just confirming how far off the Flames may really be.

  • icedawg_42

    Totally agree that OMG line needs to be reunited. 3rd or 2nd(whatever) line should be Bourque, Horak & Stempniak. I would initially put Stajfail with Iggy & Tangs. We basically have nothing to lose & Stajfail has to know he has a window period to prove Butter he belongs.
    The 4th line needs to crash, cause havoc, maybe get a few aggression penalties, change the flow of the games. Sorry, I know few will agree with me but I would put Jackman Bouma & PL3. Feaster needs to part with Hagman & TK or watch 4.3 mill sit in the pressbox for some games. Not saying these guys are playing that badly but we just have too many of these kind of players.

  • RexLibris

    Hey VF, thanks for the shoutout.

    I’m going to disagree that the Oilers haven’t had guys since ’92 that have played for the crest more than the namebar. But then I’d disagree with anyone who said the same about the Flames, too.

    Every team, even Phoenix when it was a country club team, had guys that were playing for the team. We’ve had guys like Weight, Marchant, Brown, Ferguson, Smyth, Pisani, and so on that have put in that kind of effort. All of them left, but that’s part of the game now. Has anyone questioned Craig Conroy’s devotion to the Flames given that he left the organization?

    I’ll use Todd Marchant as an example for any similarly-placed player on a team: he had a career year that coincided with a contract year. Everyone knew that a new CBA was coming and a work stoppage along with a revamped financial landscape was very likely. He took the opportunity that he had to ensure that he signed a contract which provided financial security to his family for his lifetime. If anyone has a problem with that then they are either a blind romantic or an ignorant fool. If you can move a player to another city without so much as a by-your-leave then should we be surprised when a player (who is a human being, after all) decides to take some control and go elsewhere of their own choosing? The players that really love an organization or city will often find their way back to it: Conroy, Smyth, Fuhr, Buchberger, and so on.

    As for the Flames’ play thus far, from what little I’ve seen and more so what I have read from fand and in post-game analysis it seems that the team’s attitude and competitive spirit can be summed up with this quote:
    Pvt. Joe Bowers: Why me? Every time Metsler says, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way,” I get out of the way.
    Sgt. Keller: Yeah, when he says that, you’re not supposed to choose “get out of the way.” It’s supposed to embarrass you into leading – or at least following.
    Pvt. Joe Bowers: That doesn’t embarrass me.

    • Vintage Flame

      “Hey VF, thanks for the shoutout.

      Anytime. Sometimes I need a coffee to get through your posts, but they’re still good! [JK!!]

      I agree that every player.. and I mean every player should first and foremost look out for his family. But I’m going to have to disagree on your view of loyalty to the copper and blue. The guys you mentioned excluding Smyth, served their time in Edmonton well. However, when it was over, it was over.. and let’s be honest, you will NEVER hear the conversation that says, “Hey, remember when Pisani and Marchant played in Edmonton.. Man those sure were the days.”

      As for Smyth? You will NEVER convince me that he puts the Oil ahead of his career. As I stated before.. He left for a paycheck and did not return. He toiled around in NY and Colorado before coming back to Edmonton. And don’t discount the fact that he was almost a Flame [heaven help us.]

      If you argue that he plays for the jersey when it’s the red and white, and a big maple leaf on the front.. brother I’m with you all day on that. But as an Oiler?? He wanted back in Alberta, didn’t care if it was Calgary or Edmonton.. No matter how much that city loves him or is glad he’s back, take it for what it’s worth.

      As for Conroy, yeah he did the exact same thing, he left for the security of his family in a larger paycheck. BUT, he immediately returned to Calgary and emphatically said it’s where he wanted to be, and admitted he made the WRONG choice in leaving in the first place.

      Iginla gets the big ticket paydays, but he is here for the city and this team. He could play on ANY team he wants to, but stays here. That’s what I’m talking about. Glencross taking the home town discount to stay here. Tanguay, the same deal because this team means something to these guys as well as the city.

      • icedawg_42

        Dude, every team has players who love their city, and would jump at the chance to play with their closest friends. Connie came back here to play with Iginla – plain and simple. As much as I am not a fan of his toothless grin, or his awful hair, you’ll have a hard time convincing me that Smyth’s heart isnt as an Oiler. That’s one Oiler whose heart I wont question.

      • I think in the discussions of player loyalty and integrity it should be noted that this is also these guys’ job and profession. Not to mention the relationship between organization and player is a two-way street. While fans internalize teams as symbols of personal pride and identity, they are also for-profit brands so there’s a lot of cold, calculating business that goes on behind the scenes and beneath the facade of community and civic pride.

        All of which is to say, guys can leave teams for entirely personal reasons which may very well be legitimate and not a reflection of a lack of integrity or a slight against the city or fans of the club. In the case of Ryan Smyth, I have no doubt he loves the Edmonton (for some reason) and and the Oilers jersey. I also have no doubt he left for financial reasons and they were no doubt informed by prior negotiations with the team/Kevin Lowe.

        • Vintage Flame

          I totally get that it is a business and that this is a job that they have a significant less amount of time to earn whatever they can for their families. I would never begrudge any player, regardless of team, for that.

          I’m sure Ryan Smyth does love Edmonton, but I just don’t buy into the whole, ‘he came back to Edmonton, because it’s where his heart belonged.’

          He never said it had to be Edmonton as a destination, only that he wanted to move his family back to Alberta. If it were otherwise, there never would have even been a discussion let alone a possibility of him ending up here.

          I’m sure he is happy as anything that he is back in an Oilers jersey now, and it’s easy to say that now that he IS back in the ‘copper and blue’ I’m just sure the tone wouldn’t have been all that different if he would up in Calgary.

          • RexLibris

            Yeah, my posts have been scientifically formulated to lull any opposition into slumber. I like to call it the Diefenbaker Approach. Or the Lemaire Gambit, whichever works.

            How did I know you’d disagree with me on Smyth? Am I a mind-reader?

            Yeah, Smyth left here over the paltry sum (only in professional sports) of $100,000. And he didn’t come back when he was a UFA because he was offered a tonne of money to play with a good friend (Sakic). The management team that designated him as expendable was still here and the team was going through what is generously referred to as a “transitional phase” (between being mediocre and being a lot less than mediocre).

            I think you’re confusing his “pursuit of a paycheque” with his passion for playing. He got paid, and still is getting paid, extremely well for someone with his diminishing skills, but when people here, or those in Colorado or LA, say that he bled the team colours it’s because Smyth plays that way. He has always approached every shift with every ounce of himself he can muster. Had he gone to the Flames I think Smyth would have been a consummate Flamer (okay, wrong choice of words there).

            All that aside I’m not going to get into a p___ing match about who’s team has the most loyal players. As Kent already said, these are people and, to some extent, brands and that at the end of the day they have to be loyal to themselves and their families first and foremost. Fuhr and Steve Smith both played for the Flames, as examples, and have moved back and forth around the league finding jobs where they could. As for Pisani and Marchant, those are two players who have actually worked their way into the lore of the franchise. Marchant for the goal in ’98 and Pisani for the spring of ’06. Those weren’t the halcyon days of yore, but you still see a lot of #34 and #26 jerseys around and every Oiler fan knows where they were when Marchant scored.

            So, how many cups of coffee are you at now?

          • Vintage Flame

            “I think you’re confusing his “pursuit of a paycheque” with his passion for playing. He got paid, and still is getting paid, extremely well for someone with his diminishing skills, but when people here, or those in Colorado or LA, say that he bled the team colours it’s because Smyth plays that way. He has always approached every shift with every ounce of himself he can muster. Had he gone to the Flames I think Smyth would have been a consummate Flamer (okay, wrong choice of words there).”

            Completely agree with you there. Maybe blended the pursuit and passion more than I should have..Especially when it comes to Smytty. Definitely did not confuse it though. 😉

            Not even half a cup.. We’re all good!

          • OilFan

            I don’t recall Smyth requesting a trade ? Oh wait he requested a trade back! He would have stayed in LA before going to Calgary. Now back to talking about the plugs on your team minus Iginla whom I respect a great deal.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Gosh Rex, if I didn’t know better, I would thinking you’re hanging around FN to rub it in? Good for Reggie, I hope he does enjoy his time in Buffalo, and I hope Butler and Byran thrive here as well.

      • RexLibris

        No not rubbing it in. Just happened to scan HB and saw that and thought I’d pass it along.

        Trust me, I’m an Oilers fan, it would be incredibly hypocritical of me to try to rub in the pain of having a former player talk about their old team struggling. I empathized with fans in Ottawa when Heatley demanded out and if the same thing ever happened with Iginla in Calgary you’d have my sympathy. The other side of that is that I have no tolerance for people who use those situations to insult a team’s fans or the city. There was a lot of that coming from Toronto and Vancouver, and Calgary too, when Pronger demanded a trade.

        I know the Regehr trade probably still has a lot of resonance with Flames fans so I wanted to pass it along (see Timmy, rover likes his new home here on the farm!).

        As for Iginla and his relationship with Calgary, I’m not going to comment too much there because I just don’t know that much about his ties there. I know his family is here in Edmonton (or at least adjacent to it) and that he is largely at home in the province. And I’d agree that he has attained cult status in Calgary despite never having won a cup (nobody can do that on their own).

        So you beat the Habs. Less panic now or do you stay out on the ledge ready to jump until after the Leafs game just to be sure. No offense guys but it’d be kind of fun to watch the histrionics if Phaneuf were to score 2 or 3 against you.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    To be fair, Smyth openly stated Edmonton was his prefered destination.

    @VF:

    “Iginla gets the big ticket paydays, but he is here for the city and this team. He could play on ANY team he wants to, but stays here. That’s what I’m talking about. Glencross taking the home town discount to stay here. Tanguay, the same deal because this team means something to these guys as well as the city.”

    Iginla is here because it’s close to family (Sherwood Park) and his home (Kelowna). Also because he’s been given cult status here despite never winning a damn thing for this city. Those are the ONLY reasons he’s here.

    Glencross likes horses.

    Tanguay thinks he can only have success playing with Jarome (he may be right)
    or Sakic (retired). He also got a 5 year deal.