Five Things: It’s been an interesting week


(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.

  • I’m willing to give Warrener the benefit of the doubt re: the Sarich trade request. As a dude who only dabbles in the media and isn’t really in it to make headlines or get ahead of other rumor mongers, he doesn’t have much incentive to be making things up. Also, it’s entirely reasonable for Sarich to approach the team and ask for a way out if at all possible. I mean, he’s being scratched in favor of Joe Piskula.

  • wawful

    Re: Sarich

    The impression I got on the Sarich affair was that the wording Warrener chose was inaccurate, but there is truth behind it.

    i.e. Sarich came to Feaster and discussed a trade as one possible way for him to play more hockey than he is. That’s not a demand. Sarich may want to be traded, but he can’t afford any talk about him *demanding* anything since that may turn off potential suitors. He needs to be the great-guy/everybody-loves-him/trouble-free veteran (TM).

    Re: Perception Problem

    Before Feaster there was Darryl Sutter, and the kindest thing anyone from the media would say about him was that he was tight-lipped. Feaster is almost the complete opposite, and now he’s to be scorned for acknowledging the existence of bloggers?

    Come on! The man is practically manufacturing page-hits for you. You can attack the man’s actions and words all you want, but don’t try to act like you’ve been done hard by him. He’s a blogger’s gold-mine!

  • xis10ce

    I really enjoy the points brought forth here in Five Things. If only the Flames mgmt read this article maybe they would get the wake-up call they so desperately need. I have no problem with the Flames sucking, I have a problem with them sucking and the mgmt trying to sell me the coolaid while telling me they are a playoff contender.

  • jeremywilhelm

    The Carolina game to me was terrible hockey. Almost unwatchable. And at tge end of the game i was more annoyed than the last loss against Columbus.

    WTF was that?!

  • jeremywilhelm

    re: Perecption – I have the feeling that once again management will overrate this team. This season it will be based on the addition of some youth which Feaster will hoard credit for. They’ll think that the youth will be top 6 material in 1 or 2 years and that Iginla and Tanguay will still be top 6 for at least 2 more years. Which, even if it were true (and it’s not), would still mean only a middling team for 2 more years. But by then they probably expect to add more youth and a couple of UFA. Wishful thinking IMO, I wish they’d just tank it already, but a run of wins was inevitable at some point.

    When is someone in Flames ownership/management going to look at Cliff Fletcher and ask how it was he managed to build the only successful era of Flames hockey ever? And then copy that.

  • jeremywilhelm

    I’ll side with Warrener on this one as well, if for no other reason than he seems very honest and doesn’t hold back opinions.

    Also, asking/demanding a trade is a pretty fine line. Reality is, he wants out.

    As for Feaster’s comments, I agree with the article. It’s of interest to fans obviously, that makes it news worthy. Feaster can say whatever he wants, that’s his right, but this article is just running with it as wawful suggested; more so than I think it’s whining about it.

    • T&A4Flames

      “Also, asking/demanding a trade is a pretty fine line. Reality is, he wants out.”

      I respectfully disagree, reality is, he wants to play… here or somewhere else. That’s why I love Sarich, he just wants to play. It seems more important than his paycheque.

      • Most hockey players are the same way – they want to play.

        That said, I’m a bit more cynical – this is the final year of Sarich’s contract and if he’s to have any leverage in getting another one after this he’ll need to play this year. It’s imperative to the continuance of his career that he start getting minutes. If not in Calgary, then elsewhere.

        • T&A4Flames

          Fair enough, Kent. That said, I have always felt that Sarich was a good character and works hard. I wouldn’t chalk up his request solely on that premise. He wants a new contract, despite the money being nice, because he wants to keep playing for the sake of playing. That is my belief.

      • That probably wasn’t clear. I meant ‘asking’ vs ‘demanding’ as being a fine line.

        I agree with you, he’d gladly play here, but that option seems off the table, ergo….

        “Play me or trade me” is “demanding” a trade in a sense.

  • Am i the only one that liked the win last night? Sure they let it too close for comfort last night. (I left just after the Iggy EN)I like the high scoring games, just be good enough. the goal (no pun intended) should be to outscore the opposition not let in less.

    As for Feast the beast. He’s so lucky he’s not in Toronto he’d be eaten alive (yes insert your own joke). He needs to grow a pair and accept that there are fans in the city, both critical and kool-aid drinkers. I know that in Tampa that they’d have maybe an intern with a pen and paper after a game and maybe some radio guy who walked by the rink and dropped in for a second. No one cared there so there was rarely hard questions. here, hockey is king (no pun intended) we’re going to nag so get use to it or leave.

    As for Iggy. Wait till he gets 500 before you even allow a thought of maybe one day trading him. I think any GM worth his salt would entertain offers for a star player no matter who it is. I just hope we dont run into the Sundin situation. Just need to have both sides come out, if the situation ever arises or is needed, that “for the good of the future of the team and as a courtesy for one of the greatest Flames ever. . . “

  • T&A4Flames

    Too much is being made of Warreners wording. I still think he was doing Cory a favor by getting a little media attention to hopefully other teams that Cory wants to play and not sit & would love a trade to get out. I hope a team like Philly, who are hurting on the blueline with Pronger constantly out give Feaster a 2nd or 3rd & call it a day. Cory is a class player, he actually delivered my Season Tickets to my house a couple years ago & took pictures with my son & we got a signed jersey & hat.
    I bleed Flames thru & thru but I have to side with many posters & Ryan that it is time to start fresh. What I like is that we have an opportunity to score multiple 1st round picks in an excellent deep draft and get a crop of good young hockey players to grow together into something potentially special. I think pieces are already there. I see urgency in contending teams that may be willing to offer us a package that will take light years off of a painful rebuild. I think these are exciting times for Flames & its fans & the fans, management, Owners & players need to embrace the moment. I cant imagine the excitement of opportunity in that Abbottsford dressing room these days.

  • RexLibris

    1. One of the first signs of insecurity in an administration is excessive message control. Just look at the Islanders and the many conflicts they’ve had with the Journalists’ Associations. I think Mr. King is trying to calm a rising storm, but he should remember what Princess Leia said to Moff Tarkin “the more you tighten your grip, the more planets will slip through your fingers”. Yes, I am embarassed that I know that line by heart.

    2. I remember in MacT’s last season coaching here he made a comment about not liking the way the Oilers were winning. He was blasted in the media, but I actually agreed. You have to be good to be lucky, sometimes, but other times when you’re lucky it can make you think you are good. If the Flames go on a run and end up with a jump in the standings because of some good fortune and decent play it might convince management that they are once again “seeing the real team” and they’ll stand pat. Again.

    3. I think any prayer for Flames fans should be amended to say “there but for the grace of Kiprusoff…”

    4. I didn’t necessarily believe that Sarich had requested a trade. And I don’t necessarily believe that Warrener was lying. I think the truth is betwixt and between. Either way, Sarich is not in a good position right now and his NMC is probably doing him more harm than the club. If the Flames could send him down to the AHL, if he would waive the NMC, I have to think they would, and going through waivers might be enough to send his career a lifeline.

    5. Iginla appears to be coming to life, at least on the statistical end of things, and that must be encouraging for fans, but I’m still left wondering if another race to the playoff cut line is the best thing for this team. Most people here probably know my opinion of this, but for the fan with both emotional and financial investment this is probably a relief.

  • re Karlsson injury, Leland Irving with the big club:

    My current disdain for management aside, this is good (not Karlsson’s injury, but the circumstances) because I’ve been waiting years for Irving to get an extended shot on the big club. Primarily because I want to see whether another first rounder will live up to his billing or not. The org has been patient with Irving and his progression has been slow but upward. Don’t know if that’s a good thing (re the progression) but the org letting him develop instead of rushing him into things (ie Backlund) is a good thing (especially with a goaltender).

  • RexLibris

    1. Team has a huge perception problem. If they beat Colorado and Edmonton this week they will be promoting the fact that they have turned it around and are serious playoff contenders. Not recognizing the fact that we are simply going through a soft section of the schedule and beating weak teams. When the games count and we go up against real competition we will be out of the playoffs. 10th or 11th spot again this year. Slightly below average.

    3. While I understand the premise that Kiprusoff’s value might go up between now and the trade deadline, you always have to be concerned about two events. First that the player gets injured. Second, that the window of opportunity closes on a team that might be looking to make a trade.

    Case in point is Tampa Bay. Doing a deal now while they are desperate gives them time to get back in the playoff hunt. Waiting until the end of January could mean they are out of the playoff picture and no longer willing to make a trade. I think that right now Tampa Bay is so desperate for an elite goaltender that we might be able to get Carter Ashton and their 2012 first round pick from them, in part because we would also be bring back salary in the form of Roloson. Worst case scenario is their 2012 second round pick.

    4. The whole Sarich-Warrener thing is a matter of semantics and politics. I dont believe for a second that Sarich went in to Feaster and demanded a trade. And if you listen to what Sarich denied in his quote he said that he did not demand a trade. I do believe 100% that in a conversation with Feaster Sarich said that if Calgary is going to continue to play younger players ahead of him that he would be open to getting traded / would even like to get traded and if there is an opportunity that works for the team for Feaster to pursue it. Which is how Warrener suggested it when he said it; that it was more of a request than anything. The politics part comes in because no player wants to have it known that they want to be traded, and teams dont want it to be public knowledge that they have players wanting to be traded. Ruins their trade value. By denying everything it allows Feaster to listen to things and to still turn down anything that does not benefit the Flames. Fact is that the best time to move Sarich is going to be the week before the trade deadline when is salary going back is the lowest, and the demand for last minute depth and experience on defense is at its highest.

    • RexLibris

      To your 4th point, it really shouldnt insult any fans that an experienced player with a Stanley Cup ring who has been healthy scratched for 1/2 the games this year wants to get traded to a place where he can play every game. With his NMC, I’m sure the conversation wasnt, geez Jay maybe you should trade me if I dont fit into the plans here but more, hey Jay! How’s the trade front coming along & I just want to be clear that there is no team I would be opposed to go to so I can play, including Edmonton or Islanders.

      • Kent…that’s a little bit like the org promoting these wins against the Oil and the Canes as “righting the ship”…it’s perception vs reality. I think TFM’s point is that there is a clear difference in Backlund’s play as of late (pretty much this season); and in young developing players that is more indicative of an unhealthy digression in development than a slump. With that said, I get your point…he has showed up on the scoresheet…thus he is not “missing” (per se).

        • the forgotten man

          I don’t think many people have been watching him much more closely than I have, and he’s been the Flames’ best forward on many (almost all) nights by the eye, and it’s backed up in the scoring chance ratios. My one minor beef with what he’s done lately is that he tends to go directly to the front of the net on the cycle. I think he’s a better choice for an area with more mobility and passing options, given his linemates.

          The only way I can fathom someone claiming that he’s “fallen off a cliff” is if they’re going entirely by the scoresheet.

          • It’s not fair to just judge him by the scoresheet. True. I just think our impatience as Flames fans comes with the fact that we are waiting for a 1st round pick forward to be a stud (since such a thing has pretty much never happened). Backlund appeared to possibly be that; but the hard truth is he might not be more than a 3rd liner when all is said and done. My biggest grip with Backlund is that I feel the team rushed him onto the big squad way too soon and he probably could have used a few seasons on the farm. He’s a fairly smart player, I just don’t think he’ll ever develop into this player we all expect him to be. Maybe a little more success in the Flames draft record may lower our expectations for Backlunds that come around later.

          • RexLibris

            I don’t think he was rushed so much as underutilized last season. He got almost no PP time and ended up averaging like 8 minutes per game for 2/3 of the season, when I think he should’ve gotten at least 50% more icetime (especially including PP time) than that. I can see where the “he was rushed” argument comes in, since it could be considered that he might have had an easier time coming into his own offensively if he hadn’t been brought up to play against the big boys when some might think he wasn’t ready, but it was primarily against 3rd/4th liners and he did wreck them in terms of possession.

    • the forgotten man

      Really, he’s actually starting to come alive, he was injured to start, slow to come back from injury, but with his new linemates is starting to contribute, he’s got 3 or 4 points the last 4 games or so.

  • the forgotten man

    (Sarc off) Toning down the satirical hyperbole, my concern with Backlund, injury acknowledged, is that I don’t see overall progression over the last 2 years – he is a first round pick.

    Maybe his new linemates will do the trick – hopefully because I etch him in as an important cog in this team’s future. The swipe was not at Backlund, but the Org in general…they have a highly questionable past of developing forward talent.

    Let’s hope for the best for both Backlund and the Flames.

    That said, he had the 1 goal/assist v. Oilers and one goal v. Hurricanes…
    (Sarc on) I think Harvey the Hound got 2 assists last night too 🙂

  • RexLibris

    I actually liked Backlund’s goal last night. It was a skill move in tight and, if I recall, he went up high on Ward. Smart move and good hands, that’s what I’d want to see from a prospect.

    I watched the second and third period last night and found myself confused. I looked at the score and then thought “but, I’m bored. That shouldn’t be!”. It was, at least for a non-Flame fan, a brutal game to watch.

    By the way, has no one said the obvious from the penalty shot last night? Jiri Tlusty “undressed” Kirpusoff. Sorry, I think I’ve spent too long listening to Gene Principe.

  • RKD

    I think it’s tough for Feaster to see the team for what it is.

    I bet around trade deadline, the Flames are sitting anywhere from 8-12th place. This puts Feaster in a bind because he won’t see the team as a seller.

    He will probably be in minor buyer mode with the belief the team will go on a run and squeak into the playoffs.

    Sutter definitely was way out touch when he kept telling us the Flames were one player away from being an elite team.

    If this team finishes 14th or 15th in the West maybe the eyes open more than finishing in 10th place.

  • Franko J

    Copy the Red Wings blueprint. They haven’t missed the playoffs in nearly 20 seasons.

    After the lockout the Flames were considered an elite team with the potential to win a Stanley Cup.
    Since the 2006 season this team along with the “core” has declined and each season the management / ownership believes this team can make the playoffs. However, again this year as the curtain unfolds for the Stanley Cup playoffs most of the Flames players ( the players who are not traded by 2012 trade deadline) will be booking vacation time.
    I like the fact that the players in the locker room believe they are contenders, yet with their performance against the Hurricanes I’m lead to believe they are more on the side of the pretenders.

  • jeremywilhelm

    @King Jafi – Backlund should’ve been in the AHL last year and Horak should be there this year. Personally I think Backlund can develop into a solid #2 center in the NHL, but the Flames continually take players with great pedigrees and force them into being 3rd/4th liners. Either let the guy develop at his own pace at a lower level or live with his mistakes in a top 6 role in the NHL.

    • I’m with you 100% there. It is strange that the org consistently wants to turn these prospects into 3rd/4th liners as opposed to letting them develop. That can be said about Nystrom and Boyd…to name a few in recent years. It probably is a depth issue though. Their farm is so poor that they just rush them into NHL minutes. There’s nothing wrong with spending time in the AHL, I think the middle of the line Euro games should definitely play at least two years especially if they are young…some of those Euro leagues are borderline shinny games. Right on about Horak too…he shouldn’t be on the big squad. Oh well…we can’t say we haven’t seen it before.

  • Franko J

    Nystrom and Boyd are both pretty bad players for various reasons that have little to do with the organization itself. They could’ve been brought up in the Wings and still ended up where they are today.

  • xis10ce

    someone mentioned modeling ourselves after Detroit, while that is a good idea there are some serious things to consider regarding Detroit

    1) they’ve made the playoffs for 20 yrs straight, they have also had a Franchise Defenceman in Lidstrom for 19 of those 20 years.

    2) like people are talking about in regards to player development, Detroit has done it right, keeping some of their players in the AHL/EuroLeagues/etc… till the age of 24.