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.