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.