FGD: Salvage Time

After three games of their season high six game home stand, the Calgary Flames have had very average results.  They sit 1-1-1 on the trip after opening with a comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers last Tuesday night.  Now, looking to snap a two game losing skid, the Flames welcome the Northwest Division leading Colorado Avalanche to the Saddledome for their first meeting of the season, looking to get this home stretch back on a positive track (8 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).

Calgary’s last game came Saturday afternoon, when they fell 2-0 at the hands of the Nashville Predators in a game that was frustrating for those playing as much for those watching.  After playing two fairly decent games overall, the Flames have just one point to show for it, coming in their overtime loss to the Rangers last week.  The worry now is that frustration taking hold and leading to play outside of what is desired, which we know can be a very bad thing for this group. 

The one thing I will say, however, is how impressed I’ve been with the demeanor of the team since Saturday’s loss.  It’s still an upbeat group with a good perspective on what needs to happen, and comparing it to one year ago, I’d say there’s a whole lot more of a chance of this Flames group getting back on track.  We’ll see if it starts tonight.

The Lineup

With an optional skate, it’s not certain who exactly who is playing tonight, but it’s a good bet Anton Babchuk will return to the Flames lineup after missing the last three contests as a healthy scratch.  He’ll enter in place of Derek Smith it looks like, who’s done a fairly decent job himself on the third pairing.  The one thing about Babchuk we all know is he can help the powerplay, but so far this season he hasn’t done much of anything there.  He saw some second unit time at practice yesterday, so we’ll see if he’s able to do anything tonight.

Curtis Glencross took morning skate after missing most of Monday’s practice and all of yesterday with what the team is calling "lower body soreness".  He’ll be a gametime decision tonight, but all signs point to him remaining in the lineup, which is good news as he’s been one of Calgary’s best forwards thus far.  He’ll be reunited with Olli Jokinen and David Moss, arguably the most effective Flames line during their second half surge last year.

Because of optional skate, we’ll go with the lines Calgary went with on Monday morning, the last time the full compliment was on the ice.

Alex Tanguay-Brendan Morrison-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-David Moss
Rene Bourque-Matt Stajan-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-Roman Horak-Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Cory Sarich-Anton Babchuk

That’d make Niklas Hagman the odd man out, and the current crop of Flames forwards makes for some interesting coaching decisions.  Right now Hagman is the guy who will sit, but I wonder if we see that end up being rotation with a few of the other bottom six forwards.  Or there’s always all those rumours out there about a potential trade…

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net tonight.

The Opponent

Here’s a question we’ve asked far too many times over the past few seasons: just who are the Colorado Avalanche?  Looking back at the past two seasons, we can now formulate a pretty good response.  The Avs were not a very good team who rode some very favourable percentages to a playoff berth two seasons ago, and continued to ride those bounces for the first half of last year.  Then the wheels came off and things balanced out in a large, and somewhat cruel way.  But that’s for the last two seasons; this rendition of the team makes it difficult to answer the question once again.

First and foremost, Colorado General Manager Greg Sherman has improved his team in the last eight months or so.  The trade that netted the team Erik Johnson and Jay McClement was a good one, and I still firmly believe they were the winning side on the deal.  Johnson still has the chops to be a top pairing defenceman and McClement is one of the most unheralded tough minutes centres in the NHL.

Sherman also made it his mission to upgrade his blueline this summer, signing Jan Hejda to a lucrative contract while also brining Shane O’Brien into the fold to join what was already there.  Add in the return of Kyle Quincey, who missed a large majority of last season, and the Avalanche blueline is a whole lot better than it was last year.  Compare it to the group that we saw for most of last year, and it’s far and away superior.

David Jones-Paul Stastny-Milan Hejduk
Gabriel Landeskog-Ryan O’Reilly-Daniel Winnik
Joakim Lindstrom-Matt Duchene-Chuck Kobasew
Cody McLeod-T.J. Galiardi-Jay McClement

Jan Hejda-Erik Johnson
Shane O’Brien-Kyle Quincey
Ryan Wilson-Ryan O’Byrne

Up front, it’s been Duchene in the doghouse early on, having been demoted to the fourth line for a game before being bumped up to third unit yesterday in practice.  His points haven’t been there and he’s still very suspect in his own end, something he continues to work on.  The two guys that really stick out to me, however, are O’Reilly and Winnik.  They’ve both been put in a lot of defensive spots, and Winnik especially has a history of doing a decent job with slanted minutes in a third line role.  They’re a big reason for the great start for second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog, who has four goals already this season.

Many gasped when Colorado gave up what they did to acquire goaltender Semyon Varlamov on July 1st, but he’s done the job so far, posting respectable numbers in his six starts thus far.  There’s no word who starts in net for the Avs tonight, as Varlamov was off the ice first, but some are pointing to Jean-Sebastien Giguere getting the start.

The Story

This six game stint at home needs to be used as an opportunity to make hay in the Western Conference, and so far, it hasn’t been used as such.  That said with three games remaining on it, it still can, and there’s still a chance for four wins out of six.  The Avalanche are a division opponent riding high, but they’re beatable if their opponent wears them down.

  • “he’s done the job so far, posting respectable numbers in his six starts thus far; he’ll get the start tonight. However, it looks like it might be Jean-Sebastien Giguere starting in net tonight.”

    … I don’t think they can ice two goaltenders at the same time.

    we’ll have to agree to disagree on the Johnson/Stewart & Shattenkirk deal. I think the Blues won that one… never been all that impressed with Johnson.

  • 6 comments. 1 Iggy can’t lead. 2 the cupboard is bare except reinhart and baertschi, no on to call up pathetic. 3 fire King. 4 as far as free agency goes next year .You can’t rely on just free agency to build a team .First you over pay ,more bad contracts. You have to draft and develop. 5 By the end of November they will be in last place over all. and 6 They will lose by at least three goals tonight. amen

  • It can’t be said enough that it is still very, very early. The Dallas Stars are second in the NHL. Heck, Edmonton is 6th in the west. These results are not indicative of their true talent levels and things will change.

    Im not saying people can’t be frustrated with the Flames – that was inevitable and I think it’s warranted. But we’re nowhere near knowing how this is all going to play out.

  • Agree, way too soon, but next 6 games are tough tough games. I can confidently say this Flames team is quite capable of being 4-2 & back to .500 & everyone will relax on any major trade happening now. However, we can easily be 2-4 & the vultures will be circling & Feaster is going to need to hire a few more sport psychologists for this fragile team. Still, Feaster must resist the major trade until later. We need to win the next few major trades in term of overpayment in high end prospects & high draft picks. Our cupboards may be pretty baron on the farm now but once we trade the likes of Iggy & Kipper & Bourque & JBO, the fridge is going to be pretty bare in the Saddledome too. & there aint no stopping that locomotive on that track. We need more teams to potentially trade with that are as urgent as we are. Now is not the time. I would only trade Bourque for Turris if Phoenix throws their #1 pick in it. Then thats trade deadline value.

  • Jarom

    I know it’s too early for doom and gloom. However the same old discussion year in and year out is getting old. “it’s a long season” “We will be better.” etc.

    There’s no doubt that players like Hagman, and Stajan are better than they have been playing. Im starting to doubt that this group will get it together in time….

  • Jarom

    I really don’t like the comments that our “Cupboards are Bare”, maybe it is not as sexy as others but there are guys that maybe we can look forward to. We have Baertschi and Reinhart. But there are a bunch of people that are over looked. Brodie is still a prospect, James Martin is a prospect and both of them are doing really well as defenders in Abbotsford. Ferland may not be a high end prospect, neither Holland, but both could very well make a bottom six impact. And lets not forget baby face Neimsz, he may finally have figured it out, he’s using his size and is still leading the Heat in scoring, if he has improved his skating and is finally using his size, he may develop to that top 6 role.

    Lets not forget about our College prospects either, we currently have one Bill Arnold leading the Boston College team in scoring(5g,5a), and Gaudreau is not far behing with 7 points. Ramage is also there, though its hard to judge his contributions as its hard to find a lot on a defensive defensemen, but he had good size.

    Maybe we don’t have the best prospects, but we do have few that could have roles in the NHL. Theres a couple of darkhorses, IE Mitch Wahl and Chris Breen. Wahl trying to rebound from a bad injury and Chris Breen trying to prove last year wasn’t a fluke(though currently failing at it).

  • icedawg_42

    I’m not sure what everyone seems to be waiting for. When teams talk about “a different bounce here or a different bounce there, and our record would be totally different” – does that instill any confidence that they can win games outright? We’ve watched this same roster play for over a year now, and every game looks the same. Slow, Boring, tentative to the point where a single error costs them the game. Feaster is right to take his time and weigh his options – but he HAS to start trying to get some assets in return for the rights to talk to some of these UFA’s (as if anyone is interested in most of them). And if trading Bork is what it takes to get a first round pick or a solid young top 6 forward, then I say you go for it.

  • icedawg_42

    Also fuelling the Avs success and likely unsustainable? 4 of 8 games into extra time and 4-0 in extra time/shootout. That can’t last. (ht to milehighhockey.com for that info) So that 6-2 mark is really 2-2-4 in regulation. They are a .500 team.

    Also, their number 1 goal scorer is David Jones who is shooting 27%. I am sure that will last.

    • Yeah, lots of bubbles will burst eventually.

      Real success was one mentioned by Pat: the Winnik, O’Reilly coupling. They could be the Avs version of the Moss/Glencross/Conroy line awhile back. Except probably better since the Flames trio didn’t have a ZS of 40%.

  • amaninvan

    Three Flame prospects sit in the WHL’s top 20:
    Sven Baertschi (Portland) 17 points in 8 games
    Michael Ferland (Brandon) 17 points in 13 games
    Max Reinhart (Kootenay) 16 points in 12 games

    Bartschi was named WHL player of the week
    (three goals and four assists in two games)

    The Utah Grizzlies (ECHL)are 4-1-0 and Justin Dowling has six points, while Mitch Wahl has three goals so far.

    Its worth noting also that Leland Irving has played every game so far for the Heat, posting a 4-2-0 record with a 1.82 GGA

    • I’m not as high on Irving, he may be putting up some really good numbers but I’d venture a guess he probably has the best AHL defence in front of him as well. Brodie, Piskula, Wilson, Martin, Mikkelson, Henry, Breen(though he’s had a down year). Some of those guys have already had a try at the NHL level, both Piskula and Mikkelson are both talked about as guys who can fill NHL roles, Henry looked that way in the pre-season, Brodie is on the cusp and Wilson has a one-way deal next year as well. Breen is the weakest one of the bunch and last year he was on a #1 pairing. So as good as his numbers have been, I’m still not sold.

  • icedawg_42

    For the Flames to succeed, they need to break the games into small increments like they did during their run last year. Start the 2 wins out of 3/ 4 points out of 6 now, it would be better starting sooner than later. That seemed to work for them last year, so why not do it now?

    Also, if the Flames can win these next 3 home games I think it will briefly calm the anger. If they do that’s 5-4-1 and that is somewhat respectable. Gotta take it one game at a time though.

    • Schevvy, youre sounding like me & this talk sure sounds like last January. When will this team ever make life easier on themselves.

      Colin, I think we have a few diamond prospects as well, we just dont have any that are NHL ready & on other teams would be playing in the NHL yet. Most of ours are playing WHL. WHL to AHL to NHL is a long & winding road(my Beatles moment). If we trade any of our major assets, it would be imperative we get top NHL ready & high draft picks back, especially if we dont want to have to finish last 2 years in a row like the Oilers did. Would love to pry that Kassian kid out of Buffalo, & Gragani would be a huge addition as well. As much as I think its blasphomy to trade with the Leafs, I would part with Bourque to get a Franson + a 2nd rounder.

      • WHOA WHOA WHOA! Bourque for Franson and a 2nd, more like Franson and 1st+2nd, right now Franson is sitting in favour of KOMISERAK, you heard that right. The best part of that deal was Lombardi. Thanks to Kent for showing me advanced stats I now know why the Preds part with Franson seemingly so easily. He had the least amount of Even strength time on the preds, getting less than Shane O’Brien, now think about that for a minute, Franson also got the highest zone starts, what does that tell you. He is Babchuk, just with a different last name and we already have one of those and probably MORE than enough 5/6 dmen.

        I’d rather Bourque for Turris+, than Franson+.

  • Don maloney will not trade Turris for a lazy over paid bum . Turris is a good hockey player. And maloney is a good gm [ Brandon Gormley] he will get at least a first rounder for him hopefuly Calgarys. He’ll trade rape somebody and you better hope its not Calgary.If he won’t give Turris the big contract why would he take bourque?

    • Bourque is not overpaid, 3.3 million for a guy who scored 27 goals the past two seasons is not overpaid. Stajan is making 4.5million(3.5cap hit), now THAT is an overpayment. I wouldn’t call him a bum either, now lazy, that is probably more accurate, a more accurate would be “unmotivated”.

  • kbignell

    As much as I hate to see bourque get traded, the flames could get a good return for him. his salary is good for what he brings. There are alot of teams out there with salary cap issues or just budget teams. If they added something with bourque they could get the top line centre they have been looking for. what if this team made a crazy trade of sending both bourque and glencross out the return would be great.the trade would probably get an elite player or great draft picks. but we all know bourque and glencross are to valueable to risk to get one great player.