Five things: Fleetwood Mac



1. Rumors of the Flames’ strength?

A little more than a week after a series of wins against soft opponents prompted many to believe the team was primed for a run, a stretch of games against teams that are actually good has laid bare the teams’ real faults.

Namely, that there is no organization to this team. Everyone seems to play rather haphazardly on a night-to-night basis and that has led to wildly inconsistent performances that lead to consistent results: losses. Last week it was noted that the real quality of this team would begin to out when it got into this heavy part of the schedule. At Nashville, at Tampa (this was the most winnable), at Florida, at Chicago, hosting Minnesota.

With last night’s win — talk about underwhelming, by the way — Calgary successfully pulled four points from those games and looked like a team with a head on its shoulders for about eight total periods. That’s not to say four points from four road games and a home game is, like, bad or anything, but that’s kind of the Flames lot in life. They are the NHL’s definition of "like, not bad or anything."

Doesn’t get any easier coming up, either. Detroit and Vancouver back to back on Thursday and Friday should send the Flames into Christmas at 15-17-4. No one, not the reasonable pro-tank-job contingent nor the compete-for-the-playoffs crowd, should be happy with that.

2. Rumors of a good win?

The game last night, win though it may have been, can’t have been encouraging. Giving up 30 shots at home to a team without three of its four or five best forwards, which was playing the second game of an all-road back-to-back (the previous contest having been in Vancouver! Against the Canucks!) is not good at all.

I understand that perhaps the lengthy road trip tuckered the team out, and certainly winning points from a team that leads your division is a thing you want to do all the time, but the Wild are a team that gets worked by the Flames routinely and last night was anything but that.

Again, none of this is wholly unexpected or anything. Calgary continues to get production out of one line and one line only, which is fine if you’re Olli Jokinen, Jarome Iginla or Curtis Glencross, but really bad if you’re everyone else. It was more or less a fait accompli that whoever you put with Iginla around the time he started to get hot like he does every year would score a bunch of points and everyone would say "Gosh this is going great."

Maybe things would have been different with Bourque in the lineup. (I kid, I kid.)

3. Rumors of a questionable suspension?

I know a lot of Flames fans were puzzled by his getting a two-gamer but I don’t see where the confusion arises.

This is the NHL in 2011 and the thing that Brendan Shanahan has made his thing hitting guys between the numbers along the boards. And the fact that Brent Seabrook is Brent Seabrook (i.e. A Top Defenseman In This League), and got up looking like a newborn deer, is a no-brainer. Hit a player, especially a very good one, into the boards headfirst and you’re gonna get rung up for a game or two every day of the week. 

At the same time, I don’t think Bourque meant to plaster the guy like he did and certainly Stephane Auger’s presence muddles things even more, but it was a careless play by a generally careless player that resulted in a scary-looking situation. That’s a tap-in for Sheriff Shanny.

4. Rumors of a Mikael Backlund breakout?

Hey I know he had a handful of good shifts last night and he’s battled injuries and all that stuff, but wasn’t this supposed to be his breakout year? What happened?

I was racking my brain trying to think of any points he’s picked up off the top of my head and I couldn’t. Which seemed odd to me. So I looked it up and, well, yikes. In 19 games this season, Backlund has just two goals and an assist. As many points as Anton Babchuk has in eight games. As many goals as Paul Byron has in seven.

And it’s not like he’s got Tom Kostopulous and Tim Jackman riding shotgun for him either. He’s played the majority of his shifts with either Lee Stempniak and Blake Comeau or Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay. Granted, the latter was when Iginla was producing, well, about as efficiently as Backlund, but still.

Anyway, the original point was I couldn’t think of anything Backlund has done to pick up points, so I went and looked it up. His two goals came in the course of three games earlier this month against the titanous competition of Edmonton (in a 5-3 win, and his goal was actually a power play game-winner) and Carolina (which made it 6-3, though the goal was decent enough). The lone assist of the season came on a Lee Stempniak goal against Minnesota last month. All three of his points, in fact, came in a six-game stretch.

That’s just not good enough.

5. Rumors of a Kipper trade?

Not sure how many of you caught it on Twitter this week but there seems to be a little talk — whispers, if you will — about a trade of Miikka Kiprusoff. I don’t believe it, personally, since the man has a no-movement clause (but really, who doesn’t?) through the end of the season. That means the only way he goes is if he wants to go, and I can’t imagine that happening.

More than that, though, who trades for him? He’s playing well enough, but he’s also old and signed for two more seasons. And frankly, the bad years heavily outweigh the good recently. The only way the organization should be looking to move Kiprusoff is if it plans on blowing the whole thing up, which it clearly does not, perhaps as a consequence of most of the veterans currently having rather low trade values.

And while I’d be more than happy to help him pack his bags for picks, prospects, and the hope for a precipitous drop in the standings, I’m also not holding my breath.

    • jeremywilhelm

      We have a bunch of extra defenders already, and well a few of the forwards could sit a game IMO, and when I went to watch him, Neimsz was easily the best forward on the ice(well ahead of Byron IMO), he was just unlucky not to get 2-3 goals that night, he deserves his chances. As well, its probably just for the night as Bourque only has the one game left on his suspension. Neimsz gets the Thursday game and then is sent down when Bourque gets back, although Byron could get sent down to…..

      And sucks to be Baclund, we were all so into the Hype and well, he’s really disapointed, I’d like to blame the injury, but its been close to 20 games, can’t do that anymore, he’s gotta produce, I remember seeing he’s been killing possesion wise, but doesn’t seem to be producing some actual goals/assists.

      Also the losing train starts now, with the Detroit/Van games this weekend and not gonna get better. I would like to see Irving get the Detroit game, though I can see them actually trying in the Detroit game, so Kipper, but that means throwing Iriving to the wolves in the Van game, typical flames, they don’t show up in the second half of back to backs anyways.

      • icedawg_42

        more possession -> more shots -> more goals -> more wins

        his sh% is 4.7-if it was his career average he’d have 5 goals. his pdo is a also stupid low 935 (read: extremely unlucky), which is 2nd lowest on the team among players who have played 10 or more games.

        things normalize over the long run. if his teammates converted his possession more he’d probably have 5 and 5 or more and no one would be complaining.

    • I think Nemisz can be a player, but not next year. IMO he’s one of those guys who won’t crack the NHL as an effective player until he’s about 23-25. Which is fien by me. However, the Flames will most likely develop him into a 4th liner starting next year.

      Does this team ever learn from its mistakes?

  • If the Flames can win one of these upcoming two games, that would be a success in my opinion. Detroit is the most winnable game, simply because they’re coming off a game in Vancouver tonight. Still, a tough task to beat the Wings. And really, there is about a 3% chance they win in Vancouver, so my expectations are not too high for that game. Also, why the Nemisz call-up? Where does he fit in the line-up?

  • Wow. Talk about depressing. I think most of us know all this but it might be good to have something positive to say (at least 1 of 5). It’s not all bad.

    I am not against a good critical analysis of the state of affairs but I am just about done with Lambert. Things are bad enough with this team without posts like this bringing us further down.

    • Yeah this really was the cup is 3/4 empty analysis. Ive been in the camp of trades irregardless & trading major assets to kick start a rebuild. The organization is just at that stage in the current cores life cycle. This analysis sounds like we should just fold this franchise & move it to Phoenix after they move to Quebec City.
      I think Lambert should go read a few Buffalo blogs. Its hockey armeggedan in that town. I’m hearing Miller sucks, Roy sucks, Stafford sucks, Gragani sucks & thats just the tip. A team with barrels of cash to spend & ability to bury Kotalik type of contracts. Then move over to LA King posts. Sheesh, they make Lambert sound positive. Carolina are just about ready to light the match & while you’re out East, whip over to Montreal & talk hockey in a few pubs out there. It would be like a reunion for Lambert. Moral of this is, we are not alone. Other teams are sucking too. There is a lot of PANIK out there & Mr Lambert, I beg to differ with you about potential returns on some of our players including Kipper. Thank Christ you are not our GM.

  • @44stampede

    Dude it’s Lambert…..what else do you expect? Really? The guy lives and breathes negatives! I’ve never come across a guy who spurts out so much negative verbal diarrea then this character. He thrives on it…it’s his fix, his crack, can’t survive with out it. He plans his little negative “Write ups” and when he sees that a team is down, he comes in with his boots kicking and his fingers typing! That’s Lambert!

    Just scroll on by and don’t look back!

    Sorry, I’ve been dying to say that for years.

    Nothing Personal!!

  • I’m reading a lot of vague criticisms of Lambert’s article. To me, he’s got strong arguments, backed up by numbers.
    It seems like people would rather his tone was lighter or something. I don’t get it.

    • He may have strong opinions, but he is way outta line. For example, Backlunds play has been pretty darn good, and like Jazzy V said, his luck has been dreadful. Backlund plays against extremely high competition, almost as high as Iggys in fact, and his zone start sits at 50%. His scoring chance and corsi numbers are good aswell. Goals and points arent as reliable as advanced stats, at least IMO.

    • Hmmmm. Let me see if I can get this one.

      1) “With last night’s win — talk about underwhelming, by the way —” This is one game I watched where I could say that the Flames beat the crap out of the bad guys. Sure they got shots on net but not many real dangerous.

      2) I guess it would have been nice to see a 5 -1 score but shots were not going in for us on pretty decent chances. It happens. I can’t figure out who the 3-4/5 best forwards that were missing were for the Wild. I count one in Koivu. Harding is playing pretty well and goaltending wasn’t the issue for them in this game.

      3) Can’t really argue except for the part of him being a reckless player in general. Do you mean reckless towards his own body? I would agree with that but I don’t see evidence that he is a dirty player (which seems to be what you are suggesting though I could be wrong).

      4)Backlund is doing pretty well againt good competition. Goals will come with possession numbers like his. What’s your suggestion? Waive him? Trade him for nothing (cause that’s obviuosly what he’s worth)

      5) The way Kipper is playing and the way some goalie situations are like right now (Tampa, Islanders now that Montoya is injured, Columbus, maybe even Phoenix) who knows? He has value.

      Again, critical analysis is fine. I am not happy with the state of things in Flames land but this take is inaccurate.

      • I’m not often one to answer criticism but you all seem so appalled that I continue to have a low opinion of this team and didn’t get out the pom-poms after a BIG W AGAINST THE WILD that I’ll address yer points and we can go from there:

        1) Ok well they should have leveled them and instead barely snuck by them on the scoresheet. If your main quibble with this point is that Calgary did slightly better against the Wild than I thought, then okay fine. Doesn’t change the overall performance against good teams having been for the most part poor.

        2) I was counting Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi and Guillaume Latendresse as among the team’s best forwards, and all of them were out. I’d put Heatley and Cullen as also being in the top 5. Is this not accurate?

        3) I didn’t say Bourque was dirty I said he was reckless. I think he’s made a decent amount of borderline hits and things of that nature because he plays fairly hard. Plays like this happen. Whatever.

        4) I don’t know that you would, could, or should do anything differently with Backlund. It’s just been a little frustrating to watch.

        5) I’m not sure how “I don’t think Kiprusoff gets traded despite these rumors” has been conflated to “THEY CAN’T GET ANYONE FOR KIPRUSOFF SO DON’T BOTHER.” And yet here we are.

        To the fellow who said I should write something positive, I will do that when I see something to be positive about. To the guy who said I should wait to criticize until the team is officially eliminated from the playoffs, I think you need to reconsider what you’re making out to be a reasonable position.

        To everyone else, next week I’ll just draw a picture of Jarome Iginla on a pretty pony that you can print out and look at whenever I’m bummin’ you out.

        We cool now?

        • Vintage Flame

          To everyone else, next week I’ll just draw a picture of Jarome Iginla on a pretty pony that you can print out and look at whenever I’m bummin’ you out.

          I would like the pony to look like a miniature version of The Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver.


  • Captain Ron

    Jeezuz Lambert you got scars on your wrists or something. I almost need professional help after reading your articles. Hide the razor blades already. I’m not drinking any spiked punch but we’re less than half way into this marathon and 5 points out of the dance. Hardly insurmountable I’d say so until the patient starts gasping for air and stops breathing in say early March lets happy up for a while there sport. Lots of time left to criticise, condemn, and complain about them after that.

  • On Backlund: numbers aside, when he’s on the ice it’s pretty clear that he’s the guy driving possession. He just happens not to have been one of the last 3 people to touch the puck when a goal is scored. However, he still gets the puck into the zone, back/forechecks very well, and does a good job of opening space for his teammates. Points or not, he’s one of the most valuable players on the team. The cliche “makes his linemates better” absolutely applies to him, although it would be better put as “makes his teammates’ lives easier.”

  • Captain Ron

    re: Kipper – TB may be very interested. We could always take Roloson back as part of the deal for salary purposes. I don’t think Roloson is signed past this year, but correct me please if I’m wrong.

    re: Backlund – send him down for a 20 game ‘conditioning stint.’ Seriously, he needs to get his confidence back.

    Yup, the flames are right on track to kill both Horak and Backlund as scoring prospects. And the tradition continues..

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I agree that the Flames are not playing well right now. However, I think there is one crucial area that if improved will get them back to winning. The D-corps.

    Bouwmeester, Butler and Hannan play the most minutes. Of that three only Bouwmeester has been consistent especially in terms of moving the puck.

    In terms of NHL depth, the D is a weak spot on the team and it’s due to injuries.

    When you watch Calgary or any team for that matter try to take notice of the first pass from the D. Notice how many times that good first pass allows a team to gain speed through the neutal zone, back the opposing team off the blueline and carry/possess the puck entering the offensive zone. Compare that to how much possession a team has if instead of a tape to tape pass from their end they have to rim it around the boards, chip it out of their end or have a d man skate it to centre and immediatley have to dump it in.

    How many scoring chances does a team generate when the first pass out of the zone is good compared to when it’s chipped or dumped in from centre?

    When you look back at Calgary’s play during that 6-1-1 stretch and you focus on how the Flames D was moving the puck up ice with great passes compared to any other point in the season it becomes quite obvious.

    Brodie, Bouwmeester and sometimes Smith are the only guys making those good first plays right now.

    Brodie and Bouwmeester should be consistently playing the most minutes and so far it’s only Bouwmeester. Give Brodie 18-19 EV minutes a game (22+ total minutes).

    Just watch what TJ does with puck, watch the great first pass he makes, watch how he skates out of trouble and jumps up and leads rushes. He just doesn’t make many bad plays. See how dangerous Calgary is when he’s on the ice (sometimes you can have good possession, good plays, buzz around in the offensive zone and ultimately don’t get a shot on net.)

    Tonight with Detroit in town you will see a display with the Wings pretty much entering the Calgary zone at will and rarely dumping it from centre. You’ll see a high % of passes completed by their defence. You will see Detroit start breakouts with 4 guys across skating up ice together passing the puck past any trap or clogged neutral zone defence and waltzing into the offensive zone to attack.

    This will be a prime example of how puck possession teams always start by that tape to tape first pass.

  • re: criticism to Lambert – I don’t get it.

    1) Entirely true and no different than the last several years. We beat the bottom feeders, can’t beat the elite and are inconsistent. We may only be 5 points out of the playoffs, but to what end?

    2) Lots of folks on here commented on FN that the win was not very decisive, though the flames were the better team, no doubt. IT was not a ‘lucky’ win, but were the Flames really impressive? No.

    3) I could care less.

    4) 100& agree with KW’s anaylsis on the guy, but at some point he has to make good and I think he’s playing well, but has no confidence in his offenmsive abilities. Not sure if my suggestion posted earlier (short AHL stint) is really the best idea or not, but the club needs to something to develop the offense in this guy. Maybe just give him 20 game son the #1 line and stop bouncing him all over. I don’t know, but something and soon, before he’s ruined for good.

    5) This I disagree on. Most GM’s in the NHL still trade on rep and Kipper has oen in spades. Also, the NHL has a “what have you done for me lately” mentality and Kipper is having a strong season. He’s worth a solid return. I’d like to see Ashton Carter out of TB.

  • Vintage Flame

    Many people say a good player makes his own luck; I don’t necessarily think that is the case with Backlund though.

    Yes we know he is the guy that drives possession and the team generates more shots on net [10+] when he’s on the ice, but I think he does suffer from a lot of bad luck. It might just be me, but it looks like Backlund plays a lot of his game at half tempo. That’s not to say that he gives it half effort but I think when he’s constantly put out on the ice with less skilled players and is playing that defensive role, it just limits his potential.

    I know junior hockey is a universe apart from the NHL, but Mik played a highly skilled game and was very good with the finesse part of the play. He’s more suited to a higher tempo where he is generating more quality opportunities for his line mates and where they have the speed to open the ice up.

    Even when he does play with Iginla and Tanguay, it’s just not the same. They have a different… older style and I think that holds Backlund back. Do things change when more youth is brought into the organization, maybe. How many people wonder what Backlund could do on a line with say, Baertschi and Holland? Youth, speed, tempo?

    • Vintage Flame

      The way Iginla is playing lately, Backlund might be a good fit with him and Glencross. Outside of the top line, I think Stempniak/Comeau might be the best linemates for Backlund. They’re both fast, they’re both aggressive, and they’re pretty good on the boards. The idea linemates would be the equivalent of those two with higher finishing ability, but since the Flames don’t have that on the roster, they’re probably the best bet.

    • Vintage Flame

      I’d really like to see Calgary find a way to get that Colorado pick. It may not result in Yakupov though, unless they get the pick and win the lottery or something.

      Regardless to have 2 picks in the 1st round would be huge.

  • RexLibris

    I actually appreciated Ryan’s points. But then again, I’m from Edmonton and up here we’re all about guys named Ryan.

    Seriously, these are fair observations written sincerely, and I think Lambert would like to write something positive about the team but while they have had success lately, it is a false success. Like empty calories that come from eating junk food, you think you’re full but really there isn’t much there of any substance to keep you going. The Flames have put together a good run of points against the so-called “lesser” teams, and have faltered against those teams that are ahead of them in the standings. While it probably feels like he is dumping on fans and the team, from where I sit, he’s calling a spade a spade and he’s doing it at a time when it isn’t common trade to do so.

    I watched a good part of the Minnesota game, and once I heard that they were without Koivu, Setoguchi and Latendresse I was expecting a more dominant performance from Calgary. What I saw made me believe that there are structural problems with the way the Flames are playing right now. Perhaps it is Brent Sutter, maybe its a cultural problem, or maybe its just too close to Christmas and players are anxious for a break. Whatever, I’m reminded of watching other teams play, and win, with poor performances and lucky bounces. It usually results in a team achieving more than they ought to. Then if the team makes it to the playoffs they almost always get bounced in the first round and face the questions of “what can we fix right now to get just a little bit better”. And it often goes downhill from there. Flames fans know this because this is what Darryl Sutter did year after year.

    Backlund might come around, but remember, he’s what? 22? and he’s playing centre, which is not an easy one to learn. Think of all the flack that Sam Gagner (same draft year as Backlund) is getting and he has the second most points in that draft year behind Patrick Kane. Give Backlund some time.

    Kiprusoff would probably get a good return (maybe not Ashton Carter) but some of it would be immediate return, not futures, because of salary. Best bet would be imagine your ideal return and cut that in half.

    I don’t think either the Detroit game or the Vancouver game can be said to be definitively either easy or hard. You could win both, or neither. The league is that close and it depends on which Flames team shows up on both nights and which Canucks team shows up on the 23rd. Detroit is almost always the same.

    While I don’t have Iginla riding a unicorn pony over a rainbow of skulls of his opponents to cheer you up, how about this:

    And have an Olli Jolli Christmas!