(Ryan Lambert makes his triumphant return to FlamesNation today with his new weekly column "five things")
Here are five things I’ve been thinking about the Flames this week:
1. This team has a real perception problem
That much should be obvious to anyone at this point. The issue is not (or at least no longer just) that they believe that this is a team that can compete for a playoff spot, or even that they think simply being able to compete for a playoff spot is an acceptable level for a franchise making this type of financial commitment to the team.
The real problem is that the organization cares what people think about it. The fact that Jay Feaster is going out and accusing bloggers of making up the Jarome Iginla trade rumors, presumably in an attempt to quell some unrest (which should have existed months ago) about the team’s frankly poor start.
Say what you want about the team’s play to this point, but is this really the kind of thing a general manager whose team is flailing and often looks disjointed should be worried about? People starting rumors? Particularly people on the internet? It’s one thing to have the kind of state-controlled media the Leafs are pushing these days — openly being contentious with the media is, in my view, a perfectly acceptable way of doing business for a franchise, though maybe they’d do well to dial it back just a bit — but saying that questions about whether the most popular player in franchise history will continue to be with the organization following a sluggish start, rumors of unease between he and his coach, and the like are "unfair to the organization?" That’s absurd.
"The organization" would do much better if it wasn’t so concerned about who says what about whom and more focused on putting together a passable imitation of a legitimate contender sometimes in the next five years. One step at a time I guess, though.
2. Not so sure about these wins
Speaking of Carolina, I’m not sure I’ve seen a more hollow victory out of any team in the last two years than Calgary’s 7-6 W at home over Carolina last night.
Two points is two points, you only get to play the teams on your schedule, I get it. But Calgary led 3-0 through 20:42 to the worst team in the Eastern Conference (worse, even, than the Islanders, which seems like it should be impossible), and ended up needing an empty-net game-winning goal to scratch out a narrow home victory. Calgary improves to 26 points and stays 13th in the West. What a time to be alive.
And the more I think about it, the more I have to wonder just how many convincing wins or even performances Calgary has turned in against even passably good teams. There’s the Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit wins, but any reasoned observer would certainly have to posit that those were the aberrations this season, not the other way around. Inconsistently cobbling together a decent win every two or three weeks is certainly no way to achieve anything of note in the NHL, certainly not if you want to stay as low in the standings as you can (and Calgary should).
If the team wants to continue deluding itself that it’s a few lucky bounces away from a season turnaround, that’s fine. But it’s going to have a hell of a hard time convincing people when it sweats out what should be tap-in Ws against garbage teams like Carolina.
3. Kiprusoff playing well?
Well, at least until last night. Numbers right in line with his career averages, which is more than I think most people reasonably could have expected out of him this year and the trade talk has more or less dried up, which is surprising. I’m glad for him, frankly. Good soldier and all that. I think in the grand scheme of things he’s been good for Calgary in his time here, so I’m happy to see him do well even if the team defense in front of him is a) spotty and b) hanging him out to dry.
Plus another month or two of strong-ish play makes him way more tradable.
4. Poor Cory Sarich
For all the Jarome Iginla trade talk that ruffled the organization’s feathers, a mainstream media guy you’d think would have connections (Rhett Warrener) apparently flat-out made up a report that Cory Sarich demanded a trade.
And no one cared. Not one person. Not even a little bit. Jay Feaster certainly didn’t come out to grant unsolicited admonitions. Sarich issued the standard, "Hey whoa I didn’t demand a trade, and in fact I’m just looking forward to being able to contribute to the team again" statement, and everyone nodded politely. That’s it though. Number of games for Sarich since the report: zero.
Everyone has, I think, more or less accepted that he’s not going to get out of the press box now — if ever he had the chance, it was when Giordano went down — and the chances of him getting out of town are next to nil.
5. Hey it’s Jarome Iginla
Even counting that gong show in Vancouver, for which the whole team didn’t show up as is its wont, Jarome Iginla now has two goals and four assists in his last three games. Pretty sure you take that, no matter how ugly it comes.