STOKING THE FIRE – OCTOBER 4

 

 

Pre-season has come to an end for the Calgary Flames. With quite a few of the veterans nursing the odd injury here and there, it gave the rookies some good playing time and the coaching staff a good look at who might be ready for the NHL and who still needed… a little work. After two weeks of routine cuts the Flames announced on Friday that Lance Bouma and Paul Byron would be assigned to Abbotsford, leaving Jordan Henry, Derek Smith and pre-season standout Roman Horak still with the parent club. An interesting end to training camp because despite a 3-3 record for the Flames, a lot of fans are rejoicing in the news out of New York, where the Rangers demoted Tim Erixon… Oh yeah! THAT guy! 

With the Flames now off until the season opener on October 8th, the team headed out to Banff for some team building and as Alex Tanguay said, a chance to incorporate the new players on the club, in an attempt to recreate that "atmosphere that was around here from Christmas on last year." Pretty good thinking on the part of the team, as it will be imperative that they get off to a good start in October. There have been a lot of changes and some players are going to be taking on different roles than they are used to, important roles. Others are going to be asked to maintain the role they served last season, the focus for them, will be consistency.

 

 

Olli Jokinen is one of those embracing a new role in his career. Often referred to as ‘swooper’, Olli was asked (in a way that more resembled being told, by Brent Sutter) that he needed to change, literally, the direction of his game. Not known for being the most open to change, the 32 year old Jokinen responded to the challenge quite well. The ‘OMG’ line was one of the most productive shut down lines in the NHL. Jokinen believes he can be even better. He now spends time studying the styles of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and even Ryan Kesler.

"They play a really good two-way game, and they’re still productive," he said. "They still put up numbers. That’s the way I want to play as well."

 

And it’s not just Olli that is going to have to demonstrate consistency. The captain, despite having not played a single pre-season game, is going to have to step into the line up in mid-season form. Not exactly the fastest of starters, if this team is going to make headway in the division, especially against Vancouver, they are going to need Iginla to do what he does best, only sooner. On a good note, Jarome returned to the ice last week, and by all accounts, is good to go for the start of the season. 

 

 

However, there may be one player that isn’t quite ready for the regular season to get under way just yet. What would a day be like without some sort of opinion being tossed around about Matt Stajan? Lord knows enough has been said back and forth about the 27 year old centre, but the only opinion that really means anything is that of the head coach. So what did Brent have to say? 

"He had an OK camp, OK exhibition (games). Staje has been fine."

 

Ummm.. So what the Hell is that supposed to mean? I suppose it means that Sutter has been impressed enough not to send Stajan out on a bus to Abbotsford – which would pretty much ending any chance of him playing for the Flames ever again – but not enough to really declare Matt a functioning member of the 2011-12 edition of the team. I’ve been watching Matt, because I really thought he was going to have a bounce back year, especially with his summer training program with Gary Roberts. However, I just can’t see it, and the interview he did during the intermission in the Coyotes game pretty much told me all what I needed to know. The guy still looks like he has zero confidence in his game. Like if he took his jersey off to cool down during intermission, they just might not give it back. He’s not exactly inspiring confidence on the ice either. He’s often out of position and seems late on the play a lot. Matt… It’s still pre-season, and it already looks like you’re going through the motions.

On the business side of Flames hockey, the team has found themselves in unfamiliar territory by not being a cap strapped team to start the season. Checking in over at Flames Jambalaya, Randy gets together a panel to discuss what, if anything, should be done with the $3.6 Million cap space the Flames find themselves with. Will Feaster be like a kid in a candy store, or take the position of Ebeneezer Scrooge, until the ghost of seasons past come a haunting? 

It’s my opinion that Feaster should by no means be in any rush to spend this money. We all saw what happened at free agency this summer; Jay should be in the position to spend a lot of money next season. The 3.6M , if kept until needed, might serve as a nice down payment on what many think will be a re-tooling.

On the flipside to the business coin, the decision might already be made for Feaster and company. Matchsticks and Gasoline’s (now of the UofC Gauntlet) Justin Azevedo delves into the issue of the Flames close proximity to the NHL’s 50 Standard Player Contract Limit. Does Calgary even have the ability to spend that 3.6 Mil? Jazzy will give you all the details.

 

 

Probably the most significant change the Flames have undertaken this year came off the ice. In an effort Feaster to competely redifine the organization’s ideology, Feaster has shifted from Sutter’s concetrated autocracy to a "participatory democracy". How does one go about doing this? Hire John Weisbrod away from the Stanley Cup Champions, that’s how. Allan Maki’s article in the Globe and Mail gives an insight into what is entailed in this directional change for not just the team, but the organization as a whole.

“The [Flames] organization was like Boston’s six years ago,” Weisbrod said. “The Bruins were 28th in the league and had a lot of bad contracts. I enjoyed the way we broke it down and redefined what we wanted a Boston Bruin to be. That’s what Jay’s doing here.”

Seemed to work out okay for the Bruins… Many of us at Flames nation, myself included, have claimed, predicted and emphatically stated that this team is on the cusp of looking dramatically different after this season. Maki’s article on Mr. Weisbrod seems to verify? Confirm?… Paint the picture of what we all have thought, if not hoped, was to come in the near future.

… DON’T SCREW THIS ONE UP KEN KING!

  • icedawg_42

    “Unfortunately for Weisbrod, he got off to a bad start with Magic fans. Instead of drafting Emeka Okafor, he went for Dwight Howard fresh out of high school. The result was garbage bags filled with hate mail, a sampling of the hostility that followed when Weisbrod traded Tracy McGrady to the Houston Rockets. For that, Weisbrod received hand-delivered death threats at his home.

    “[McGrady] was one of the most talented players in the league, very popular, but I came to the conclusion he didn’t have the internal fortitude to win a championship,” Weisbrod said. “I went to the ownership and said, ‘He can be Robin, not Batman.’ The FBI moved me out of my house to a hotel under an alias [because of the public’s anger].””

    So does this mean Iginla will soon be traded?

  • RexLibris

    First off, I take my hat off to you for the Jokinen photo. Love that one. If I saw Joker’s head on a goose I’d probably scream like a little girl too.

    I think the hiring of Weisbrod is a step in the right direction if you’re a Flames fan. One of the first things I said here about the Flames and their fans’ comments about drafting and scouting was to be better. Be better at drafting and evaluating, for fans demand that your team be better at it. It is a difficult but straighforward step in the process of improvement and one that the franchise, like many others, had long ago decided to put off.

    I’m not sure that Weisbrod is going to be like some sort of witch doctor who will bring the Bruin juju over to the Flames organization, and his time at the Magic appears to have been noted for his making hard decisions, though not necessarily in making the team drastically better. All that aside, even if all he can do is prevent another Phaneuf-style trade debacle then his presence will have served it’s purpose for your team and fans.

    By the way, if you guys are looking for a centre with Backlund out for awhile I think we have a spare Brule hanging around out back. Do you want me to check the inventory? How about a slightly used Horcoff? Lots of highway miles and still under warranty and all original vinyl upholstery.

    • MC Hockey

      RexLibris: A big yes! The Joki photo is classic. I also have said before here and really agree that Flames need to get into advanced statistics and improved wider-scope evaluation of potential draft choices to catch up to other teams. In fact, in the spring contest about My Plan for The Calgary Flames or Be the GM or whatever it was called…as run by Rob Kerr (back in his radio days)…I put the advanced stats part in my plan which I was fortunate to read on the radio as a finalist (also happened to call most of the Flames re-signings very accurately but I digress). But Feaster did even better by getting Weisbrod to evaluate character and other harder-to-measure factors of a player than many like me have proposed. Flames are goint the right way, Oilers are stuck in the 1980s strategy of “lose and finish last to get a top prospect”. So let’s see who wins from now until 2020…I bet on the Flames!!

    • Vintage Flame

      “I’m not sure that Weisbrod is going to be like some sort of witch doctor who will bring the Bruin juju over to the Flames organization, and his time at the Magic appears to have been noted for his making hard decisions, though not necessarily in making the team drastically better. All that aside, even if all he can do is prevent another Phaneuf-style trade debacle then his presence will have served it’s purpose for your team and fans”

      I’m pretty sure there is a “juju” clause in his contract, so yeah, that’s the plan. I think he brings the character evaluation into the equation. You see it in Feaster’s words about playing players, not contracts, and I think Weisbrod will have an influence in that regard. He talked about that in the Maki article in respects to situations like Tracy McGrady.

      “By the way, if you guys are looking for a centre with Backlund out for awhile I think we have a spare Brule hanging around out back. Do you want me to check the inventory? How about a slightly used Horcoff?”

      Umm pass.. But thanks though.

      • RexLibris

        I agree with you about the “character” aspect, and placing some emphasis on that aspect of a player’s profile. I don’t think NHL 12 has that yet, but when they bring it in what would Heatley score? And would it be possible for Avery to get a negative rating on his “character”?

        @ VF and @icedawg

        Just thought I’d ask.

        So it sounds like it will be a retooling down there rather than a rebuild which begs the question: retooling around whom? Iginla I get, and I suppose Kiprusoff might still have some tread on the tires, but do you get the impression that it will be largely done through free agency or are there assets that you feel Feaster will be attempting to move in an effort to bring in serviceable youth?

        I may be going out on a limb here, but I think I can read between the lines of Feaster’s on-air comments the other day that he isn’t such a big fan of the rebuild a la Oilers.

        • Vintage Flame

          “I don’t think NHL 12 has that yet, but when they bring it in what would Heatley score? And would it be possible for Avery to get a negative rating on his “character”?”

          All kidding aside, that would be a pretty addition to NHL game. Maybe NHL15 or 20?

          “So it sounds like it will be a retooling down there rather than a rebuild which begs the question: retooling around whom?”

          That’s a great question! Coming from an Oiler fan, I’m suspect if you write your own stuff now?? I kid I kid 😉
          Retooling could still be around Iggy to a degree. I don’t think they build around one player at the moment. It’s not just the team being re-tooled, but also the organization, so I don’t think one player becomes the focal point.

          Now this totally changes if the Flames go out next off-season and say sign Zach Parise. Then he becomes your focal point and the team is built around him.

          I think Feaster is definietly going to have a look at free agency. We all saw what he tried to do with Richards. I think we can assume the same aggressiveness if not more for guys like Parise and I think Ryan Suter.

          “I may be going out on a limb here, but I think I can read between the lines of Feaster’s on-air comments the other day that he isn’t such a big fan of the rebuild a la Oilers.”

          Ya think? Yeah, he hasn’t pulled any punches in that area. I think the Flames management team has heard about enough of the need to rebuild and look what the Oilers have done, why aren’t you doing that.. You know, I agree with his comments. You NEVER WANT your team to finish last, just for a draft pick.

          You risk losing your fanbase and there is NO guarantee that the first overall pick becomes Gretzky, Lemieux or Crosby. Hello Patrik Stefan!! No matter how bad things got for the Flames.. I would never want them to tank a season.

          Feaster may have sounded like an a$$, but he was right about the Oilers, they drafted 1st overall twice in a row and where has it gotten them.. On the right path, yes! Any closer to the playoffs? No.

          • RexLibris

            I agree with you that it seems like Feaster’s attention will be to land the big FA and then use that to attract and acquire more pieces. I’m not sure it will work, but then nobody was sure that the Roll Up the Rim tool at Lee Valley would sell.

            I actually understand where Feaster is coming from in getting so defensive about the rebuild questions. He’s got a star in his mid 30s and has been criticized about having a shallow prospect pool and it is likely that every media type he runs into drops the Oilers example on him. And yes, the draft isn’t the only way to build a team, but it’s like pitching in baseball, it isn’t everything, but if you don’t have it you’ve got nothing.

            The common misconception out there is that the Oilers deliberately tanked last year and the year before. No, actually, the team thought they could compete in ’09-’10, that’s how sad it was (seriously, there were people excited about Nilsson and O’Sullivan). And last year, if we hadn’t lost our top d-man and had a(nother) ridiculous run of injuries, we would probably have finished 27th overall and be talking about Huberdeau or Larsson. So it’s not like it’s intentional (we’re not the 90s Senators), it’s just that the team was that bad and that unlucky, respectively, for those two years. This year we aren’t even at the season opener and we’ve got 3 starters and a depth defenceman on the IR.

            We’ve got a weak team with lots of assets tied up in developing prospects. Those roster spots have to be taken by someone who can do the job and there aren’t many top-flight free improvements available, but at the same time it would be stupid to send away those same developing assets only to improve your team marginally and still be miles away from a playoff position. The goal amongst the management isn’t about where we’ll be drafting in June, that will take care of itself, but instead to focus on developing players and making sure they learn what it takes to win and how to challenge themselves to be better when they lose. It takes time and I expect we’ll find ourselves anywhere from 30th to 22nd at various points in the season.

            @mchockey

            But what happens if we’re both at 0 apiece at the end of 2020?

          • RexLibris

            If a rebuild takes 3-5 years and a retool takes 2-3 years then the Oilers and Flames are likely, as I see it, on about the same timetable. As such, any success could be measured by the two teams directly in competition for playoff positions and positioning. Be that as it may, I’m still picking my team to win more this decade.

            Also, we’d need to define playoff success. Is it making the playoffs or the number of rounds won?

          • Vintage Flame

            “The common misconception out there is that the Oilers deliberately tanked last year and the year before.”

            No.. not deliberately.. We know they were that bad.

            “And last year, if we hadn’t lost our top d-man and had a(nother) ridiculous run of injuries, we would probably have finished 27th overall and be talking about Huberdeau or Larsson.”

            That’s a fair assessment. you were plagued with a lot of key injuries.. Though I don’t think not losing Whitney would have helped you any bit.

            “The goal amongst the management isn’t about where we’ll be drafting in June, that will take care of itself, but instead to focus on developing players and making sure they learn what it takes to win and how to challenge themselves to be better when they lose. It takes time and I expect we’ll find ourselves anywhere from 30th to 22nd at various points in the season.”

            No that will be determined by the players that management chooses to develop. It’s sort of a vicious circle that way. one of the main problems is because Edmonton drafts so high, their prospects aren’t exactly used to losing. when you get a large group of young successful kids that start their pro career in a losing fashion… year after year, it can have an adverse effect on their ‘potential’ development.

            Of course, I have NO scientific proof to back up my hypothesis.. but I sound really smart eh?

          • RexLibris

            Yeah, I know you guys probably are aware of how bad we were. You swept the season series that year. But there is some criticism from eastern fans and media that, as usual, is out of touch with what actually happened. To them I would say if you aren’t willing to stay up and watch the games, or at least do a little homework on the team perhaps you should temper your assessments.

            As for Whitney being injured, I agree it’s pointless to play the what if game. His point totals for the first 35 games were on pace to have him finish alongside Yandle and Lidstrom. Doesn’t mean squat though because it’s all extrapolation and assumption. Same with the Flames being one of the top scoring teams in the NHL during the second half of the season. So what, they couldn’t do it in the first half and then couldn’t against the top-tier teams they needed to beat to make the playoffs. The numbers look nice, but don’t really prove anything. Unless your a Canucks fan, then it really does matter that you win every award because maybe, just maybe, you can trade in a Jennings, a Vezina, and two Harts for a Stanley.

            Yes, the danger is there that you will create a losing environment, but we had plenty of that before with the route we chose, so in the end we took another path because we literally had nothing to lose. I think you try to insure yourself against that losing environment by finding character veterans and having a positive, supportive, and competitive atmosphere where no job is taken for granted and everyone is held accountable for their on-ice performance. Names like Guerin, Weight, and Andreychuk have been mentioned here lately as the kind of player that the organization will need going into next year.

            I don’t think you need any proof, there are plenty of case studies in numerous leagues to back that up.

  • icedawg_42

    I think you could do worse than 1.5 mil for 2 yrs for CHUD. He’s still worth that. As far as Stajan/Iginla/Tanguay combination, you and I discussed this before, Iggy and Tangs should be getting sheltered somewhat anyway, if you want top line type numbers out of them. Leave the OMG line to play against the tough competition. The Flames have the type of depth (or glut of middling forwards) that they can and should afford to shelter their top line.

    • Vintage Flame

      “I think you could do worse than 1.5 mil for 2 yrs for CHUD. He’s still worth that.”

      I think so too. I’m cautious on the 2 years just because like you and I discussed, I think his value changes depending on what the roster looks like after the Flames shed all these contracts at the end of the season. But even at 2 yrs and 1.5 M, he retains value.

      “Iggy and Tangs should be getting sheltered somewhat anyway, if you want top line type numbers out of them. Leave the OMG line to play against the tough competition.”

      And that’s my one, and only argument for not putting Moss on the top line. The OMG line works well together and I wouldn’t want to see a disruption in their chemistry to start trying to find chem on the top line. And with Backs out of the line up.. that might further lead to Stajan jumping up… A much as I know you would LOVE to see that!

  • Vintage Flame

    Just to add more news.. Reports are Jordan Henry put on waivers this morning.

    Also, Iginla and Morrison skating with the main group in practice. Neither of them wearing caution jerseys. Moss skating on the top line with Iggy and Tangs.

    • icedawg_42

      Jordan Henry was golfing with P3l and 2 “staffers” yesterday. He had to know the writing was on the wall. Agreed – Mosser is the best option left for top line center. Sure you can give Stajafail a chance, but he has proven over and over again he’s not that guy.

      • Vintage Flame

        Haha.. Yeah, that would be a good indication then for him.

        If they did move Stajan up to that line, I would hope that they are playing some pretty easy minutes. I just don’t like the idea of him playing with Iginla when the Flames need a lot of energy to get him going early.

        Backlund was their best player in the pre-season and Moss was playing with some good determination in going to the net. That aspect alone might help Iggy’s start.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Wouldn’t mind if the Flames picked up Dale Weise from
    The Rangers on waivers. He’s like Prust only bigger with better hands and better hockey sense. Prefect replacement for Kostopolous at half the price.

  • xis10ce

    I still love that Erixon got bumped back to the minors by NYR. Everyone knows that his reason for not wanting to sign with Cal was BS. That aside I find it to be beautiful poetic justice that he probably would have had a better chance at starting position here in Calgary this year. Even better, the icing on the cake is that one of the players from that trade does have a starting position.

    • Vintage Flame

      Yeah.. It is poetic justice to a degree. If his reasons were BS, then it is anyways. If the real reason he left was something different *cough* tampering… then I doubt it leaves a bitter taste in his mouth too much, being demoted in NY.

      No question he would have been a starter here. Even after the Flames acquired Butler and Hannan.. I think Erixon would have been AT LEAST a 5-6 D-man here.

  • On Jokinen, it’s funny the team decided he was terrible in his own end so let’s convert him to a shut-down centerman! I’m not sure the decision-making process there, aside from, I guess, necessity.

    Jokinen’s PP production and his time with a red hot Glencross probably saved him from the figurative gallows last season. If he ends up between Glencross and Moss all year they may be able to float him again.

    I think the big guy made some decent alterations to his game. He doesn’t seem to take those ridiculous circuits all over the ice anymore for instance. But let’s not kid ourselves here – he’s not an ideal two-way player and, at 31, never will be.

    • icedawg_42

      Interesting thing is no one is really talking about the fact this is the last year of his contract & a huge year for him. Personally, even if we got what we did last year out of him, which was better than most people thought he would do, I wouldnt resign him for more than a 2 year deal at no more than 1.5 per. I really would rather give our kids a shot next year anyway & let someone like Bouma embrace that role.

      • Vintage Flame

        “Personally, even if we got what we did last year out of him, which was better than most people thought he would do, I wouldnt resign him for more than a 2 year deal at no more than 1.5 per.”

        At first I thought you said you would sign him longer than 2 years… But no I agree, if the Flames could get him in the 1.5 M range they should at least have a look at it. At 32 I don’t know if you even look at 2 years.. Depending on his play this year, you might be looking at a year by year basis. Or maybe 1 yr plus an option.

  • “They play a really good two-way game, and they’re still productive,” he said. “They still put up numbers. That’s the way I want to play as well.”

    Olli has been in the league for what, over a decade, and he is just now discovering how he wants to play? What a Jokinen.

    • Vintage Flame

      I remember reading in the off-season that he was never used in that manner before he came to Calgary. They were saying that when Sutter started drawing up all these defensive forward plays, Jokinen was lost and had no idea.

      He’s definitely used a lot differently now than his days in Florida and such. Personally I like the idea that he is embracing the change in style and striving to become better in his role.

    • Vintage Flame

      I gotta think Moss is moved to the top line. They probably don’t want to split up the OMG line, but I think Moss is their best option.

      That being said it would NOT surprise me at all if it is Stajan on the 1st line, unless by some … miracle [bad word] Morrison is ready to go Oct 8th.

      Horak just isn’t ready yet.

    • This is just terrible, terrible news, we must find the individual that slashed him in PRACTICE and demand justice. I bet it was Stajan, you know it had to be him, jealous little……

      I kid, I kid, those freak accidents are crap, thats what happened to us to start the year last year two, but of small injuries to a bunch of players and it ruined the mojo coming out of preseason. So who takes the #1 center role now if Backlund is out and Morrison is still Injured? Would they really give it to Stajan or Horak, I can’t see anyone else even slotting in.

      That also gets us down to 25 players with only 2 more cuts to make(Backlund and Carson both likely to go to LTIR with this news), so who are the unlucky two, PLEASE BE IVANANS HE IS USELESS.