STOKING THE FIRE – DECEMBER 20TH

 

Needless to say it wasn’t a very productive or fortunate week for the Flames, and once again they find themselves a game under the .500 mark. After starting a gruelling December off with an impressive 4-2 record, Calgary then proceeded to lose the next four straight. Is this a surprise to the fans or even to the team for that matter? In a way it shouldn’t be; injuries have made the club’s depth at forward a lot shallower and it just might be that the expected grind is catching up with the players.

That or the club is merely reverting back to the one thing it does consistently; inconsistency.

DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR

The Flames offensive roll of scoring 13 goals in 3 games and posting a shutout against the Oilers might have been enough to give the boys a little swagger. The improvement of the power-play and success on the PK might have pushed them over the edge. The games against Nashville, Tampa and Florida were all very winnable games, yet the Flames were dramatically out-worked, to the point where they were lucky to come out of Florida with an overtime loss and a shoot-out loss. Two points in a three game stretch where they needed to play with grit and determination were wasted and Calgary both lost ground in the West and gave up games they couldn’t afford.

It doesn’t get any easier either. The Flames have three more games before the Christmas break and they are going to be hard pressed in all of them, starting with Minnesota tonight. The Wild, Detroit and Vancouver will round out the year; together they have a record of 49-29-8. I have said before that December may be a focused look on what the team can expect from the season as a whole, but we might even be able to narrow that down to these three games for the slumping Flames.

At 14-15-4, Calgary is one point ahead of last year’s pace. December 23rd is a very important date for them. It was last year on that date that the Flames beat Dallas, the game that was viewed as the spark that turned the club’s season around. The start of “the run”. This year, the Vancouver Canucks will be their dance partner, and little do we expect it to have the same meaning as last season. The Flames will need to win at least one of the next three to maintain that one point edge on 2010-2011, the last thing they want is to end 2011 in worse shape than the previous campaign

Or do they? I can’t imagine there are many out there that feel that Calgary can or will repeat it’s second half success that it showed the fan-base last year, but I also don’t think the team has it in them to spiral any more out of control than they currently have. I expect a surge, just not to the level or intensity that we previously witnessed.

Despite the similarities in results in the standings, this team is different from last year; the frustration boils over in that, if they are different then why is it the same old story? The fans fume about it and the players can’t explain it. Doubt creeps in the thoughts of everyone, even the captain. Yesterday marked the 16th anniversary of the day the Flames traded Joe Nieuwendyk for Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen. What is Iginla’s role with the Flames now? With each step towards a new milestone, Jarome is also one step closer to the twilight of his career. How does it affect his play and his philosophy?

“I don’t believe I’m done,” says the 34-year-old. “I’m definitely thankful that I’m close and, hopefully, will get there. I’m really enjoying the game. Still love it and want to play a lot longer. I still feel like I can score a lot more goals. I’d like to keep going.”

Scott Cruickshank took a look at what might have been, had Iginla decided to change his style of play when things weren’t quite working for him. While Iginla faces a lot of criticism for his lack of back-checking or his ineffective use as a defensive option, it just may be that Iginla is relying on the philosophy that got his to where he is; and some advice from an old teammate, Bill Lindsay.

“He encouraged me to keep believing I could (attack) and not just shift to dumping it in all the time.”

Great insight from Scott in that he took that to mean, “if you become a checker, you soon won’t believe you can do anything else.” So while we all might have varying thoughts on the captain’s play or where his season and career are headed, we don’t necessarily know that the grass is greener on the other side. Instead we might actually have to take the word of those who know him best and hope that he works his way through this mess; yet then again, isn’t that what we are waiting for this entire organization to do?

IT’S THE SAME OLD SONG…

Whether or not the Flames round out the year ahead or behind of last year’s pace, there is undoubtedly many of you reading this that think, “I don’t care VF, it’s the same story every year, with a different stench to it!” Well, you may be right, but there are just so many factors that go into shifting an entire organization in a new direction. It’s just not as easy as saying let’s blow this baby up! While I was looking around Flames-land, I came across this gem by none other than our own Pat Steinberg, and I have to say I think it’s one of his best pieces. For all the night’s Pat has had to endure taking the same question 20 times and still be able to deliver the same answer with a smile on his face (I know, I’ve seen him do it), this piece hits the nail right on the head; and no I’m not referring to Nail Yakupov. I don’t want to spoil the read, so I’ll only reference one of Pat’s points.

Drafting first overall isn’t rocket science on most occasions, and drafting in the top end of the draft gives you a good chance of getting a solid player down the road. But it isn’t without good fortune involved, and a little luck helped the Penguins and Hawks along their noticeable ascension. The main point is, regardless of where you draft, there’s always a crap shoot element to it, which is why it’s folly to bank on high picks solely to rebuild your team.

IN THE SYSTEM

Patrick Holland was named the WHL Player of the Week with three goals and three assists, for six points in two games for the Tri-City Americans. It’s good to see Holland getting some attention again, as it seems his play had dropped off from the start of the season. That’s not to say he isn’t performing well this season though. Holland sits 17th in WHL scoring with 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 34 games; and is part of the reason why Tri-City sits in first place in the WHL with 54 points.

The Heat set a franchise mark with their 6th straight win, doing so without their number one goaltender, Leland Irving, who was called up to Calgary when Henrik Karlsson went down with a high grade MCL tear. Irving’s replacement, Danny Taylor, has performed very well, going 4-1 in 5 games with 1 shutout. On the offensive side, Krys Kolanos continues to play well, leading the team in scoring with 13 goals, 12 assists for 25 pts in just 20 games.

On the international front, all eyes turn to the World Juniors Tournament that starts on Boxing Day. Flames fans will watch closely the likes of Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund, to see just how bright the future looks. While we are able to keep quite up-to-date on Baertschi and all his SVENsational early accomplishments with Portland, we don’t get to see too much of Granlund. Markus made his debut in the Saddledome last night, not as a Flame, but as a member of Team Finland, and had this to say about the experience.

“It was a lot of fun. It was really exciting in front of the Calgary crowd with a great organization like Calgary,”

It will be fun to see what he can do over the length of the tournament. I’m sure we all hope to see some magic there.

  • RexLibris

    I remember reading some comments from TSN Insiders that the Flames were taking a big risk in draftin Granlund so high and that perhaps they were drafting on name, more than reliable scouting reports. I wouldn’t put too much stock in international performances, though.

    • Vintage Flame

      I’ve heard that as well Rex.

      Judging rookies in international play is a crap shoot I think, especially for someone as young as Markus. His role could change several times throughout the tournament and given that he is in essence playing on an All-Star team, it’s tough to gauge.

      Even after this WJHC.. I doubt I would have a concrete opinion of what his future holds with the Flames. That’s just me though. 😉

      • RexLibris

        If any Flames fans are concerned about Granlund’s, or any prospect’s, development I think worrying about performances at this stage is kind of like worrying about how quickly the sun will rise tomorrow: what are you going to do about it? Yeah, it would suck, given the team’s desperate need to begin developing in-house talent, for a 2nd round pick to stagnate and be a bust, but until he enters the Flames system there really isn’t a lot you can do about it. I’d focus my attention, and by extension criticism, on the Flames internal development system. Abbotsford is having a good year thus far, but has anyone looked at the makeup of the roster and the role of veterans or late-blooming picks who may be reaching their top potential at the AHL level? If a player like Gaudreau or Ferland does well in junior under a certain system, are the teaching systems and people in place within the Heat organization for those players to take the next step? With the recent track record of Flames prospects the cursory answer would be “no”, but then I’m not privy to any personnel or system changes that may have been put in over the past year.

        This touches a bit on your article’s comment about all drafting being a crap shoot. While on the surface that is true, any kind of hiring process (which is kind of comparable to the draft) is a crap shoot. People lie, they change, they flat out are mistaken about their abilities and potential. But any management staff will tell you that you put a rigorous mechanism into place to ensure that when you hire someone you’ve got the best candidate, and the best fit, for your organization. So while I agree that building through the draft is a gamble, any acquisition of a player is a gamble. Olli Jokinen’s first time around in Calgary was a bet that Darryl Sutter lost, flat out. The second time around it has paid off because the price was more in line with real value and the expectations of both parties had been adjusted. Anyway, my point is that, while you don’t absolutely have to draft in the top 5 to become a good team, you absolutely have to draft well regardless of your position. And the lower the position the better, and more fortunate, you have to be. Everybody holds up the Detroit model and says “let’s be like them”, well if it were that easy to do, no GM would ever be fired again. If the Flames aren’t going to rebuild by accumulating draft picks and selling off veteran assets then they’d better make a very, very concerted effort to improve their draft record to be on par with the signature franchise of the NHL for the past 15 years. Just saying.

        Good luck over the next couple of games, it’ll be a tough slog, but I think they can manage.

        P.S. So, is that post a large double double, or are we talking a whole pot of coffee?

  • Vintage Flame

    “Well this is exactly what they are doing, isn’t it? They have a ton of money coming off the books and have not jumped in feet first by any means.”

    @VF – I think a lot of fans, like myself, want to see more sooner. True, one has to be patient for the deadline and then this summer, but I think there’s an uneasy dread in a lot of fans that the organization will screw up the opportunities presented.

    Fear will cause them to stand pat. The team will go a run and they’ll cling to false hope again. Worse, ownership will refuse to move certain assets, regardless of return (barring the beyond stupid)and young assets will be moved to patch holes. Temporary success will again follow (ie. Button and Sutter), but then taper again after a time. No ‘real’ ground will have been made. The cycle of being a 6th – 12th place team will go on endlessly.

    Groundhog day as I often refer to it. There’s a lot of angst hoping the club goes a different route, but not being sure if they will.

    • Vintage Flame

      I think a lot of fans, like myself, want to see more sooner. True, one has to be patient for the deadline and then this summer, but I think there’s an uneasy dread in a lot of fans that the organization will screw up the opportunities presented.

      Absolutely.. I wish I could see what is going to happen in the off-season too. Hell, part of me wants it all to happen now. At least then we know if it’s good or bad and there is no agony.

      They say the anticipation of death is worse than death itself. There are so many people that assume the Flames are going to screw everything up, because well history has shown us that right?

      Fear will cause them to stand pat. The team will go a run and they’ll cling to false hope again. Worse, ownership will refuse to move certain assets, regardless of return (barring the beyond stupid)and young assets will be moved to patch holes.

      I really don’t see this happening again. I have NO evidence to support my argument but I just don’t see another run in the cards, and I don’t see them being able to stand pat, even if they wanted to.

  • Looking forward to seeing the Flames prospects at the World Juniors. I expect strong performances from Baertschi and I believe there are Flames prospects on team U.S.A as well (??) that can have strong performances. The most exciting part for me is being able to see the projected #1 overall pick Nail Yakupov live in action on Thursday. Looking forward to seeing if he is really that great.

    Oh, and Go Flames Go!

  • Thing is VW, Dutter didnt believe in the keeping/persuing/developing blue chip prospects on the farm team. He prefered to have less star player power & spend his $$$ on roster NHLers as his way of addressing depth. We all know how thats turning out. We all love how our 4th line kicks the crap out of most of the 4th lines in the NHL. Wow, a whole 6 minutes per game where we out cycle the opposition. This mess needs to start from the changing of philosophy with Owners/Management on the the $$$ and how they are spent and start to value the life stream of propspects into the franchise. Once that has occured, this organization will get back to a consistent competitive attitude toward being a perenial playoff contending team. Yes, I do believe Jerome has lots of goals and hockey left in him, which is why I have always stuck with my guns that a return on any potential trade must be huge or just dont do it.It’s the ole Captain Kirk-Spock debate, is the needs for the one greater than the needs of the many? \_/ Life long & prosper 🙂

    • Vintage Flame

      Thing is VW

      I don’t get this reference.. Going to have to explain it to me.

      This mess needs to start from the changing of philosophy with Owners/Management on the the $$$ and how they are spent and start to value the life stream of propspects into the franchise. Once that has occured, this organization will get back to a consistent competitive attitude toward being a perenial playoff contending team.

      Well this is exactly what they are doing, isn’t it? They have a ton of money coming off the books and have not jumped in feet first by any means.
      As for the prospects, they have started to move in the right direction, but I think many are waiting to see what they do in the next draft, especially in a target rich environment.

      • Vintage Flame

        🙂 Multi tasking buddy, sorry, was supposed to be VF not Volkswagon(VW). My bad, I type with 5 thumbs & my brain going in 8 directions.
        To your 2nd point, are they doing it? Maybe. I’ve been in the court of giving Feaster this year to see what kind of direction he is skewing to. If we by chance did win the Brad Richards sweepstakes, that would be jumping feet first wouldnt it? I think Feaster was just shackled by all these untradeable big contracts, so he really doesnt have a choice, nor would anyone that stepped into the job.
        Does it look like he was dumping salary to go this route? Perhaps. The Langkow deal would say yes, I just thought it was a very good move on different levels. The Regehr/Kotalik deal. I dont know man. Granted, it’s not my 3.0million on the table but to package a 2nd pick in a strong draft of a prospect depleted organization because we didnt want to bury Kotaliks contract in Abbottsford or KHL? To take less of a return on a marketable shutdown dman as a result? Lot of other teams including the Oilers(Souray) have taken the hard hit due to a poor signing for the benefit of the team. Based on Feasters statements regarding any possible trade talk of Jerome, I quite frankly dont know where he stands as of this moment. I have no idea what to expect if we are out of the playoffs come February. Here’s the biggest question that would tell me volumes where Feasters head is at but I know we will not get that answer.
        “Whose choice is it to not discuss possible trade opportunities with Iginla, his or Ownership?”
        That answer will basically tell us 2 things, is Feaster the right guy & it wouldnt matter who the GM was if this is the stand from Ownership. Again, this question for obvious reasons, doesnt & wont get answered. Sadly, trading Iggy is one of our few short term solutions because of the previous years management of D Sutter. So is Feaster a change of philosophy we need to go as mentioned above? The lipstick says yes, but then its just lipstick.

        • Vintage Flame

          If we by chance did win the Brad Richards sweepstakes, that would be jumping feet first wouldnt it?

          Yup.. But I think it was a different tune at the start of the year. Landing Richards would have maybe been a short-term win, but in my view would have been a long-term failure.

          Does it look like he was dumping salary to go this route? Perhaps. The Langkow deal would say yes, I just thought it was a very good move on different levels. The Regehr/Kotalik deal. I don’t know man. Granted, it’s not my 3.0million on the table but to package a 2nd pick in a strong draft of a prospect depleted organization because we didn’t want to bury Kotaliks contract in Abbottsford or KHL?

          I agree with you on the Langkow deal. As far as the Reggie deal, I don’t think you can put that on Jay. If it’s true that Buffalo had been trying to get Regehr for the last 5 years, then that’s on D. Sutter. I loved Reggie, but he should have been dealt at least 2 years ago, if not sooner. Waiting this long to trade a diminishing asset.. I think Jay did what he could.
          Regarding Kotalik.. Yes it sucks giving up a 2nd just to be able to dump him. If the Flames aren’t able to re-coup that pick, then it won’t be forgotten and Feaster will take heat over it. I’m still up in the air about them leaving him in the AHL until his contract expired, but as you said, it’s not us losing the 3.0 Mil right? That was a business decision, not a hockey one.

          is Feaster the right guy & it wouldnt matter who the GM was if this is the stand from Ownership. Again, this question for obvious reasons, doesnt & wont get answered. Sadly, trading Iggy is one of our few short term solutions because of the previous years management of D Sutter.

          Trading Iggy has nothing to do with who the GM is. That’s a Murray Edwards decision and so it can’t be heaped on Feaster cause he won’t trade Iggy. It’s just not his call. i don’t think trading Iginla is a short-term solution, that has to be part of the foundation of a long-term plan. IMO

          • Vintage Flame

            Yes again my bad. I shouldnt have worded it as short term solution because trading Iggy certainly wont get us back to the playoffs any sooner. It just gets us the type of bluechip prospects we should have had if we had a very proactive prudent GM & then maybe we wouldnt face having to trade Iggy & Kipper.

            Get ready for Iggy rumours to LA now that Darryl was hired. Would Iggy even want to go play for him again? I would think he is pretty Suttered out over his career, but Darryl always had his backside. Voynov/Bernier & a 1st would be a helluva package back I must say.

  • I got to see Granlund last night. Unfortunately, I thought he was pretty awful. Doesn’t engage physically, shies away from battles and traffic, would swipe at opposition players (or the puck if any one was close to it) with his stick halfheartedly. He played like a guy who didn’t want the puck at all.

    And his team mates didn’t pass to him very often in fact. There was a number of break outs where a defender would look up, see Markus open on the wing…and then make a different choice.

    It’s just one game, but he looked in way over his head to me.

    • Vintage Flame

      I caught the game as well Kent, and though I agree Granlund looked sub-par at best, I think there are some other things to consider.

      He said that he was pretty nervous, so I’m sure that had something to do with it and also that it was a pre-tourney game may have something to do with it.

      I’m not really ready to make a judgement on him yet, especially given his age, but it’s something I’d like to watch over the course of the whole tournament to be sure.

    • icedawg_42

      Yeah – gotta agree with you there. It was pretty clear that his brother drives pretty much everything for that line (and that team for that matter). Markus sure stays high on the breakout (read: cheats) – looks like a capable passer, but not much else. Oh well – I never had really high expectations as a 4th rounder.