Five Things: Strength of schedule



This week consider the Flames aspirations for the playoffs, Brendan Morrison’s refusal to go away and I have become a hesistant fan of Blake Comeau.

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1. Ready for a run?

Saw in the Herald the other day that Iginla thinks the Flames are primed to go on a run and reestablish their contention for a Western Conference playoff spot.

This was based on his belief that the team is really rounding into form in the last few games, as they had skated past their last few opponents with relative ease. And certainly, it’s hard to argue with 13 points from the last eight games (not including last night). But shockingly, the cynic in me says, "so what?"

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These haven’t exactly been the world’s greatest wins, wins though they may be. Minnesota, Nashville, Edmonton (twice), Colorado and Carolina ain’t exactly the Boston Bruins, and in that period they’ve also looked pancake-flat against Columbus and, especially, Vancouver.

So the real question, I guess, is whether the Flames have enough bad games left on the schedule that they can put together a good enough case for their playoff contention. So far, 14 of their points have come against Colorado and Edmonton. That doesn’t tell me a whole lot, quite frankly.

2. Then there’s this other thing…

And really the issue isn’t and shouldn’t be beating bad teams more often than not, but beating good teams about half the time or so.

Calgary has demonstrated next to no ability to do that. The Flames have beaten Detroit and Chicago and (if we’re really stretching the definition) Minnesota, all fairly convincingly at the time, but in most other games against "Western Conference Playoff Contenders," they’ve lost and looked bad doing it.

The teams that are Top-8 in the Western Conference as of Wednesday morning have played the Flames 14 times (though to be fair they’ve not played the Sharks) and Calgary has taken just 10 points from those games. That’s not good enough, obviously, and it’s also bad news given that the stretch from this Friday to next goes Florida, Chicago, Minnesota, Detroit and Vancouver. It’s entirely possible that Calgary goes 0-5 in that stretch given that it’s five games in seven days on both sides of the continent, with three of those games on the road.

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If Calgary wants to have any pretentions of making or even competing for a playoff spot, they’re going to want to win at least three of those games. The issue is that there’s potentially a big difference between "can they?" and "will they?" these days. This loss to Nashville can’t have been encouraging.

3. So what’s the deal with Brendan Morrison?

Since December started, Brendan Morrsion has more or less been a house of fire. Last night was his first game without a point, and in the three games before that, he had two goals and five assists. Strong days at the office, but why is it happening?

And okay, yes. It’s almost certainly tied to the scoring surge from Jarome Iginla, and he’s been getting a bit more looks on the power play these days, but the real question I think the team has to start asking itself is whether Morrison can continue producing at anything approaching this level. Obviously he’s not a seven-points-in-four-games player, but what’s a reasonable expectation for him going forward? And more to the point, the team must at least be kicking around the idea of bringing him back if he puts up another 40 points like he did last year (as long as he’ll take another cut-rate deal).

Certainly, he seems to work well enough with Iginla — who you’ll remember is officially Part Of The Solution — and that has to count for something, since so few other guys do. How much does that count for when you’re like 58 years old? Right now I’d bet a good amount of money we find out this summer since Jay Feaster is bad at his job and stuff.

4. I’ve become a reluctant Blake Comeau fan

You know me, I look for any opportunity at all to be skeptical.

Perhaps this folds a bit into the previous entry, but even though he’s not setting the world on fire production-wise, I think he’s been a pretty good player for what he cost (nothing. Not anything.). Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s not a coincidence that his arrival with the team coincides with the reemergence of Jarome Iginla as an offensive force.

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Yes, I’m well aware that they play together approximately never, but his presence as a minor goalscoring threat certainly must affect how teams game-plan around Iginla. Before Comeau, the depth chart of Guys Who Could Theoretically Put the Puck in Net was as deep as a shot glass, but at least now there’s the vaguest of guys who could at least make it appear like he’ll do that once in a while.

Obviously the scoring has to start soon or other teams are going to go back to not caring and quintuple-covering Iginla with their best defensive players on every shift, but for now, he’s had a fairly positive influence, don’t you think?

5. Hey when does David Moss come back?

Because, like, any time would be pretty great in my estimation.

  • Vintage Flame

    Good stuff, and good to have you back Ryan.

    I have liked Comeau as well. with 4 pts in his first 10 games with the Flames, I wonder if the Isles are sitting back saying WTF??

    I like the speed he has and I think he adds another physical component. Not sure if it’s too late in his career, he is only 25, but I wonder if this kid could be turned into a Gary Roberts type player. That would be quite the addition for the Flames indeed.

  • MC Hockey

    Calgary is completely in the heads of Colorado and Edmonton. Soft teams = Iginla putting up points = Morrison getting points = wins. Nothing more to it than that.

    The five game stretch alluded to in the article will show what this team is really capable of (hint: a middling club that can beat up the lesser lights of the league, but has no business making the playoffs).

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I really believe the Flames are going to start beating tougher opponents. I think their games have improved through the increased confidence to make plays.

    Early in the season it was chip the puck along the boards and that was pretty much it. Now you see a deliberate build up starting from the back end. Even when the Flames are cycling down low they got there by controlling and possessing the puck, entering the offensive zone and starting the cycle. Early on they had to dump it in, win a race and a battle and hopefully start a cycle (which they rarely did).

    In the first period against Vancouver they did control the puck and make plays. They can do it against good teams.

    Comeau and Backlund have some good chemistry. I think both could be a little more direct in their play to get some consistent production. Of late, you see real good possession and passing but it’s not turning into shots on net. This is indicative of the team’s problems sometimes, they can get too cute. Possessing the puck is great, controlling the puck in order to get good looks is great but you have to have it end up as a shot on goal.

  • RKD

    The reality is last week, they beat the teams they needed to beat.

    You never know which team will show up, they still looked like world-beaters against Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota. However, they need to beat the teams below and above them in the standings.

    I don’t expect them to beat Vancouver, but I did expect them to win one out of two games against St. Louis. They shouldn’t have lost that Columbus game but they did.

    I still see David Moss as trade bait, he was injured last season and injured again this season. I don’t think he’s lived up to expectations production wise and I lump him into the same category as Lombardi and Kobasew.

    I wonder how long Cory Sarich will stay out of the lineup, he may have to wait until the new year to get traded at this rate.

  • I think by the New Year, we’ll still see a team sitting around .500. It’s not meant as a knock on the team, as I’m sure they’ll try to win at a rate of around .650, which is what tehy’ll likley need to make the play-offs. They’ve just been so inconsistent for so long, I don’t see things changing. It’s still not known how long Gio will be out, and while J-Bo is playing 30 minutes a game, his main role is shutting down the other teams top forwards, not being the offensive threat everyone has been waiting 2 years to see.

    On a side note…I now officially would love to see the Flames trade for David Bolland. Based on recent comments he is now my favorite player not on the Flames roster.

  • Captain Ron

    Bolland would be a fantastic addition to the Flames. I just heard the interview and comments he made about the Sedins in particular. This is exactly the kind of guy I want especially as a center on the Flames. I would pay LARGE for this guy in a trade scenario.

  • xis10ce

    Question about NTC/NMC’s, lets look at Cory Sarich. His contract expires this year, as of April … say 7th he is not longer playing for Calgary on contract (assuming no playoffs which is fair at the moment), does he retain his NTC/NMC till July 1st when he would become a Unres FA, or does the NTC/NMC end Apr7th and Calgary could in theory get some ‘value’ for him before July1st?

    • xis10ce

      July 31 is the usual expiration date for most NHL contracts…I think 8:00 am EST but someone smarter than me should know better (Kent, Pat, Rob, VF…Yoda?) Sarich retains his NTC until that time, unless there is a clause in his contract that allows a window of time for the team to trade him without his needed consent. While slim, if Calgary tells Sarich before July 1 that they will not bring him back, there are 2 options.

      1: Sarich lets his contract run out and he becomes a UFA and Calgary gets nothing.

      2: Calgary finds a willing team interested in Sarich’s services for next year and are willing to give a late pick so they can claim the rights to him and sign him before July 1.

      3: The is also a chance of a 3rd option. Sarich says he wants to stay in Calgary for a reduced salary and Feaster agrees to it (I just got a full body shiver from that thought).

      I’ll lay $50 on option #1.

  • xis10ce

    Comeau will never be like Gary Roberts.

    The Flames have zero chance of getting Bolland.

    Calgary lost against Nashville so need to win the next two. 2/3 for the rest of the season should get them 8th. Whee.

  • xis10ce

    The Tampa game should be a win(:)) Then we got Florida, Chic, Minny, Detroit & Vanc. Who truly thinks we’ll be 3-2 after those 5? Maybe 1-4 & then the last 3 games of Dec are on the road against 3 beatable teams. Best case scenario is .500 going into 2012 & then Jan uary’s schedule is just freaking nasty. We will be officially a seller come February. Just my prediction & the fun begins.

    Sarich, I say let him sit until someone bucks up at least a 3rd rounder, the longer we wait, the better the return, until then, he’ll be more of an insurance policy in case of a run of injuries. Moss should be traded as well. i wish I was more positive about the immediate future of our team but inconsistency has become the teams identity. It is what it is,
    If we thought we could push for 8th, I know I’ll get barbecued, but with San Jose struggling, I wonder what the asking price for a Joe Thornton would be, I think he has a couple years left on his contract & would interesting to see if him & Iggy could connect & get some interesting chemistry. I know, what a retarded suggestion. I’m just thinking the we wont trade Iggy party line from Feaster. I dont think this is what we should do. Just thinking out loud.

  • MC Hockey

    Well I have real trouble pegging these Flames but based on what I’ve seen the last 2 years, I think being more on the negative side is safe. So 5-game trip results in 4-5 points (likely one OT/SO loss), win 2 of 3 at end of Dec and enter Jan just over .500.

    As for PLAYER moves?

    I agree the often-injured Moss – who is not missed and has a low salary should be part of a trade…how about him AND Sarich for a younger 6-8th defenceman with upside or even a junior-age goalie prospect to round out that area? Or maybe Moss, Sarich, and inconsistent Bourque for a couple decent skaters?

  • xis10ce

    We will not get prospects for our detritus.

    The best we can hope for is that some of our prospects actually pan out, and that one of them turns out to be elite level.

  • MC Hockey

    hmmm, i think every team is poised to make a run at any given time lol

    iginla’s comments allude to the fact that he has absolutely no clue about how bad his team actually is.

    when your team isn’t pulling through, you have to blame your goalie… seemed to work for vancouver, anyway