FGD: The Tallest Order

To this point, the Calgary Flames sit 2-3-1 on their season-long seven game absence from the Scotiabank Saddledome, with their latest setback coming Tuesday night at the hands of the Washington Capitals.  We all knew the trip was going to finish with a bang, seeing the Flames take on the defending Stanley Cup champions.  I think many were hoping the Flames wouldn’t need a win over the Boston Bruins just to salvage a .500 trip (5 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).

Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Capitals wasn’t what you’d call a terrible Flames performance, with the team actually coming away with more scoring chances in a rather low event game.  That said, when they trailed for all of about 71 seconds, there’s a playing the score affect that comes into it, but I still thought Calgary had a pretty decent effort.  Knowing that, and also knowing Washington didn’t really ever seem to sweat, I worry a loss like that might be a little deflating.  Problem is, against this opponent tonight, you can play another strong game and still lose handily.

The Lineup

The Flames will play yet another game without a suspended Rene Bourque tonight, with the much maligned forward serving the first of a five game suspension for the above elbow delivered to Nicklas Backstrom Tuesday night.  While the team didn’t like the two gamer Bourque received for his hit from behind on Brent Seabrook last month.  Bourque went straight bonehead on this play, adding to a rap sheet that included a holding penalty in the first period leading to an Alexander Ovechkin laser beam.  Here’s are some statements on the matter:

"We fully understand the decision rendered by Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety in this matter.  Both the club and the player understand and appreciate the basis for the ruling, and intend to abide by the decision.  We will have no further comment." – Flames GM Jay Feaster

"I acknowledge my mistake, regret my action and take full responsibility. I accept the decision rendered by Brendan Shanahan on behalf of the League. I apologize to my teammates, the Flames organization and to Niklas Backstrom. I am embarrassed for what I did. These are exactly the type of plays that need to be eliminated from hockey.” – Flames forward Rene Bourque

That wasn’t the only piece of Calgary roster news from Wednesday, as the team also announced they’d recalled Raitis Ivanans from the American Hockey League.  Why?  I really can’t tell you.  I have zero problem with fighting in hockey, but my objection to one dimensional goons in this league grows larger by the day.  It has nothing to do with the hidden pacifisit within, but more to do with the fan of well played hockey.  The Flames aren’t a deep team right now thanks to injuries, so I don’t see how having a guy who can’t play more than six minutes a game is a good roster addition.

Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Paul Byron-Roman Horak-Tim Jackman
Raitis Ivanans-Brendan Morrison-Tom Kostopoulos

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Anton Babchuk-Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich

The team also assigned Greg Nemisz and Brett Carson to Abbotsford yesterday, a move that surprised a few.  It wasn’t surprising because it was thought to be a quesitonable move; moreso because it seems everyone had forgotten Nemisz was still with the big club.  I know I certainly had.  As for Carson, he’s back to the Heat on his second conditioning stint of the season, seemingly having issue returning from a serious offseason back injury.

Leland Irving gets the start in net, his fourth of the season.  I think it has less to do with "he played well against Vancouver, so play him against Boston" and more to do with Calgary’s travel.  The Flames go from Boston to Calgary, a flight just south of six hours in duration, and then play on Saturday night.  You need to rest your number one, and you’ve got a division game at the Saddledome coming up, so this isn’t an awful move.

The Opponent

The Bruins have risen to second in the Eastern Conference, just a point back of the New York Rangers, thanks to a 6-1 thumping of the improved New Jersey Devils.  Boston now has wins in 22 of 25, a span that makes many simply nod their heads and say "yep, those are the Cup champs".  The scary part, however, is this might be a better group right now than the team that made us all squeel in delight in June.

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid

Burying his fourth line along the way, Head Coach Claude Julien has used his top three centers in tough spots, seemingly confident using any of them in a defensive situation.  Bergeron is still the driving force of this forward group, however, seeing the toughest matchups every single night and still crushing fools along the way.  With a couple sophomores riding his coat tails, Bergeron continues to be one of the most effective centers in this league.  And now he has a Cup.

There isn’t one player on this Boston team in the top 30 of NHL scorers, yet they have nine players up above 20 points.  To compare, the Flames have four players above that same mark.  This may be the deepest group of forwards in the Eastern Conference, and is right up there with Vancouver and St. Louis for tops league wide.  For a team like Calgary, they have exactly zero favorable matchups to exploit.

Oh, and it’s not like their goaltending has taken a step back.  After a season that will go down as one of the best ever put together by an NHL goaltender, Tim Thomas is only slightly behind pace from a year ago.  For a guy who turns 38 in April, seeing him stop over 94% of his shots at even strength is astounding, but it’s no fluke; he’s at .943 this year after finishing last year at .947.  Backup Tuukka Rask has taken a large step from one year ago, however, clicking at .953 in 13 games to this point.  It’ll be Rask going tonight.

The Story

Roll the dice boys.  That’s really all the Flames can do on this night, knowing who they’re playing and how well they’re playing heading in.  Maybe Calgary can catch a break playing a Bruins team on the second night of a back-to-back, or maybe that doesn’t happen.  All the Flames can do is try and put a decent effort on the table, one similar to Tuesday even, and see if good things happen.  They aren’t going to find any chinks in the armour that haven’t been found already..

  • Well, the Rock is a nice improvement over the boy band pics. 🙂

    I don’t think anyone has high expectations for the Flames with this game. The thing I’m most interested in is to see how Irving plays against the B’s, and how the team in front of him reacts as well.

    I’m also interested to get the Nation’s voices take on the noise from Anaheim about Ryan Getzlaf’s future with the Ducks. I have felt for some time that if there are to be changes with the “Faces” of the Franchise here, then Getz is a perfect guy to bring in as the next leader and captain. He still has strong Calgary ties and would look damned good in a Flames jersey. The question, what should the team be willing to do to get him?

    • Bob, what on Earth do the Flames have to give up that would net Getlzaf? Ducks GM Bob Murray said yesterday basically everyone is on the table, but that if he’s going to give up a star he wants a core guy back in return.

      • RexLibris

        For Getzlaf I think the price the Ducks would ask would start with Baertschi, move on to Giordano, then mention two first round picks, before finishing up with some later round draft picks for dessert.

        As you’ve said, the Flames don’t have anyone to offer in a young stud fashion for that trade and so would have to part with their top prospects and a fair number of draft picks of significant value in order to remain in the discussions. Frankly, though, when Getzlaf moves I’d expect Burke to be the most aggressive and he has some better pieces to offer in Kadri, Aulie, and Franson. And we all know how much he loves to trade away 1st rounders.

        Perhaps, given their recent history, trading players to Burke for 1st round picks is what the Flames should do? 2008 – with Anaheim’s first round pick from the Chris Pronger trade, 22nd overall, the Oilers pick Jordan Eberle. 2010 – 2nd overall, Seguin and Jared Knight from the Leafs’ Kessel deal. 2011 – 9th overall, Doug Hamilton. I’m just saying, the man has coughed up some pretty good picks.

        • Graham

          Agreed, the Flames have little of note on their current roster, and few prospects to dangle in exchange for Getzlaf.

          But isn’t it freshening to see a GM who accepts that his club isn’t good enough, and is willing to listen to offers for key players like Getzlaf.

          Honestly, its pure asset management. You have to move a Nieuwendyk for an Iggy, and an 31 – 32 year old Iggy for the next piece….

          • RexLibris

            Yeah, I have only heard through the grapevine that Anaheim is open for business (to use the colloquialism) but I’m not sure what pieces are off the table but one would have to assume Fowler and perhaps Ryan, unless the price is astronomical. If they were to move all three pieces of Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan for picks and prospects (which is what I would hope they would do), then arguably the Ducks would be at the same time the worst team in the league (could they give the ’74 Caps a run for their money?) and the best-positioned in terms of recouping talent through the draft.

            I have my own reasons for hoping they really tank it for next year. The Oilers have their 2nd round pick for 2013 from the Cogliano trade (which is looking better and better every day).

        • Vintage Flame

          Frankly, though, when Getzlaf moves I’d expect Burke to be the most aggressive and he has some better pieces to offer in Kadri, Aulie, and Franson. And we all know how much he loves to trade away 1st rounders.

          Sounds about right for Burke, except for the fact that Anaheim doesn’t want picks and prospects for Getzlaf if they move him. They are more interested in pieces that could step in immediately and add to the current core.

          • RexLibris

            Has Murray said that he is looking for immediate returns (roster players, presumably under 25)? Because if he is looking to “add to his core” by trading away his “core” then he is worse at math than I am (addition by subtraction is meant more metaphorically than literally).

            What I believe would be in Anaheim’s best interests as a franchise, though perhaps not for the ownership, would be to hang on to Ryan and Fowler, then move Getzlaf and Perry both between now and the trade deadline, draft either Yakupov or Galchenyuk (assuming that they finish in the bottom two and retain either of those picks through the lottery) then focus on letting those players develop in junior while positioning the franchise to move veterans for picks and prospects and await another bottom five finish the following year (CBA negotiations permitting) and look at drafting one of Lazar, Sam Reinhart, Nathan McKinnon, Max Domi or whatever contender appears in the meantime. The team has a combined worst-overall winning percentage between their NHL and AHL club, and as the Oilers have demonstrated recently, that takes a lot of work and commitment to rectify.

            Here’s hoping Burke trades a bundle of picks and young players for Getzlaf and then the Leafs get squeezed out of the playoff picture by the Sens and Jets. Oh, the misery that would ensue in Hogtown.

      • Let’s be serious about this then. Assume that Feaster convinces ownership that Iginla and Kipper can not be part of this teams future (I know at this point it’s not likely to happen). But let’s assume Feaster can read my mind and feels that Getzlaf can be the leader of this team for the next 3 – 5 years. You don’t move Iggy to Anaheim, I think the Habs are prime to make mulitple moves and you consider Jarome for a package from them.

        But you start with Getz as part of your next “core”. It’s a deep draft and you want to keep your picks. Offer up Kipper and you know what, even Baertschi who I think may be allergic to the Dome (I question his ability to stay healthy based on the past 4 months). You ask for Getzlaf, a prospect and this year’s 2nd rounder (plus others depending on Murray’s interest in Kipper) I know it’s not as easy as that and there would be lots of negotiating, but let’s start there.

        Now, what do we do without Kipper…well, that’s where Jarome comes in. But that’s for another day.

  • ville de champignons

    Wow, outside of the 1st line for the Flames, the 2nd to 4th lines look some kind of brutal. If the Flames could stay within 5 goals that would be a win.

    But of course Pat probably thinks this is an easy win for the Flames.

    • Did you even read the post or listen to the show this week? The Flames aren’t good enough to beat teams like this unless good fortune smiled upon them. Even healthy they’re an average team; injured and suspended, they’re below. Get so sick of people taking pot shots on here without reading. Beat it.

  • Reidja

    I light of Kent’s “follow the money article”, I am officially registering my intent to purposefully not watch this hockey game. Ha!

    It doesnt hurt that the Flames will likely be castrated by Boston (a market where you have to win to get noticed) and that there will be an infinitely more entertaining game going on at the dome.

    Good luck Leland!

  • Pat, given that points are a premium requirement for the fast fading Flames, dont you think its od that Kipper is being played. Last year when Kipper was struggling & Karlsson was actually playing great & salvaging points, Kipper was in pretty well every game. Whats changed? If Karlsson was back up, do we think he would get this game tonight? I’m not sure about that. There may be more to Leiland getting way more starts than what I think Karlsson would have at this critical point. Then again I like to read into lots of things that arent there 🙂

    What would a Getzlaff be worth? Bartsche, Kipper, JBO for Getz & Hillier? With Hillier struggling this year, could be that vertigo issue isnt totally a thing of the past, would this combo peak enough interest in both teams needing core changes?

    • I don’t mind the decision actually. Kipper hasn’t been the difference in wins or losses lately, but more importantly, you have to take schedule and travel into account. The Flames have a division opponent up next on Saturday and have a massive flight between this game and then. Miikka was going to start against Minnesota, do give him a rest here in a game you might lose regardless of your best effort.

      • RexLibris

        No, I agree this is a great decision & makes total sense in every way. My point is, they are pretty well at the same point as last year, the travel wasnt really an issue last year(or ever) even when he was not playing that great for whatever reason this time last year. B Sutter played Kipper in almost every game because every game & point was critical. I dont see how that has changed & theoretically, Kipper is the goalie that gives us our best chance for the critical 2 points. We pay him 6.0Mill this year, isnt this when you play your money players against the toughest biggest games? Karlsson would never have gotten this chance.
        So, probably reading into this more than what should be:
        -Coach & GM already know this is probably a loss & play the kid & rest Kipper
        -Coach & GM realize Leiland has more than the low confidence they have in Karlsson & now want to see what this kid can do when games & playoffs are on the line to determine future goaltending decisions?
        -due to injuries & brain dead suspensions, this team doesnt have what it takes to mount the type of comeback that we saw last year & the points arent as critical as they were last year, so what ever, no one is expecting a win anyway.
        I guess, I’m just trying to read into signs that Management has waived the white flag on playoffs this year & let the fire sale begin.

        I would have more resilience in hoping for a playoff push if Tanguay & Gio werent injured & Bourque wasnt playing like such a bonehead.

  • RKD

    The Flames should attack early because Boston is coming off a back to back.

    I think the only reason Ivanans is in is because Sutter/Feaster don’t want Marchand, Lucic, Thornton, etc. taking liberties on guys like Horak, Backlund, Byron.

    Let’s hope the boys can end the roadtrip on a good note. At least we know Bourque won’t be taking bad penalties.

    Rene is very toxic, he should be the first guy to be traded. He’s going through the motions, I don’t think he even cares that he got suspended. His 27 goal seasons don’t help the Flames, they only pad his stats.

  • Franko J

    If memory serves me correctly, the last time Bourque was suspended and not in the lineup this team actually played well.

    Tonight playing the Stanley Cup Chanpions, if the Flames are not motivated and geared to give a solid 60 minutes of hockey then I don’t know what to think of this team. Win or lose I just want to see this team compete.

    It doesn’t matter that this team can’t implement the coaches system or lack the skill, speed of the opposition, the one thing that team has been missing especially in the past four games is two things:

    Focus and grit.