1. Injuries are bad
It’s getting to the point where it might be easier to name Flames who aren’t injured. Mikael Backlund, Blair Jones, Lee Stempniak, Curtis Glencross, David Moss, Derek Smith. I feel like I must be missing a few guys who, like, died or something too.
And while there’s the old adage that all teams deal with injuries, for all of them to come at this point in the season, for a team like the Flames, is bad bad bad. Calgary is, I’m sure we can all agree, not exactly a sure-thing playoff club even when the roster as it’s currently constituted is at full strength. But to have six players out injured, all but one of them forwards, will almost certainly prove disastrous.
And the worst part is that it throws everything out of whack. Given that Feaster has stated the owner-mandated Going For It™ is going to take place regardless of the team’s spot in the standings, this is likely to become even greater of a wild goose chase than before.
Maybe this is the universe’s way of saying, "No! Stop! Turn back!" but Calgary is now dealing with a mind-blowing number of injuries to several pretty important guys, which is a weird thing to say about Blair Jones and Lee Stempniak, but here we are.
2. Missing Backlund is worse
I really feel the worst for Mikael Backlund, though. Not only is he arguably the most important to the team among the injured players (I’d listen to talk in favor of Glencross, but that’s about it), but he also was just starting to come into his own.
I made a note of his lack of production a month or two ago when he only had five points on the season or something like that, understanding that his contribution went beyond just the point totals, and that he was just getting terribly unlucky a lot of the time. Since then, he’s more than doubled his total, which, while still not great, is at least encouraging.
Hopefully this injury doesn’t get him down, because while he’s going to be out a good long while, having him back at any point for the stretch run will be very important. That is, if Calgary hasn’t faded by then.
3. Well if ever there was a reason they acquired Cammalleri
Of course, the lynchpin to any of Calgary’s success going forward will be the guy they just traded for a while back: Mike Cammalleri. His first dozen back in a Flames uniform haven’t exactly been evocative of pre-Montreal Cammy, but it’s at least starting to look like we’re getting there.
If Calgary wants to stay in contention (haha), Cammalleri will have to step up his contribution big-time. No excuse for still needing time to re-acclimate to the team or anything like that. He’s going to be the team’s big acquisition for this season, and he needs to start playing like it now, when the team needs him most.
And if he doesn’t step it up again, hey, there’s only signed for two more years with a $6 million cap hit.
4. A Boston-based prospect update
Moving on to more cheerful news, I promised earlier to provide some updates on Calgary’s two Boston-based prospects when I had occasion to do so.
I have occasion to do so.
Boston College recently won the Beanpot (which is an unwatchable college hockey tournament for the four teams based in Boston, BC, archrival Boston University, Northeastern and Harvard). Flames prospects Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold had one hell of a Beanpot.
Both players, you may or may not remember, started out the year white-hot. Arnold, a sophomore, had 14 points in his first nine games. Gaudreau, a teeny-tiny little freshman, had 10 in that time. Then they both trailed off considerably. Arnold added only eight points to his season total over his next 14 games, Gaudreau just five, and the shine seemed to wear off considerably, particularly from the latter, who looked for all the world like the next Hockey East Rookie of the Year.
For Gaudreau, that all changed a month or so ago, when he caught fire again and has, since Jan. 20, scored 6-4-10 in his last seven games, including 2-1-3 in back-to-back contests against Northeastern (in the first round of the Beanpot, a 7-1 foregone conclusion that’s played wholly out of formality) and Vermont. He also added an assist in BC’s 3-2 overtime win against BU in the Beanpot final. He was named the tourny’s MVP.
Arnold, meanwhile, hasn’t hit that kind of offensive groove. He has just four points in those same seven games, but scored the overtime game-winner in the Beanpot final. Given the gravity lent to that tournament by the participating schools (and, it’s important to stress, ONLY the participating schools), that’s just about the same thing as scoring the OT GWG in the final of a league championship game. Hopefully, then, that gets Arnold moving in the right direction production-wise.
Combined with the sheer ridiculousness of Sven Baertschi’s season so far and Reinhart looking like a keeper, maybe the cupboard isn’t so bare after all?
5. Why I hate Hugh Jessiman
Abbotsford signed Hugh Jessiman, the biggest bust of the 2003 draft class, and I hate them for it. Let me tell you why.
My old college’s hockey team was having a not-great season in 2002-03, but they had, immediately prior to the Christmas break, cobbled together a modest three-game winning streak. In college hockey, it’s traditional to play in four-team holiday tournaments the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and my school, UMass Lowell, was playing at Dartmouth’s annual affair.
They bolstered that winning streak by clobbering Vermont 5-0 in the opening round of this relatively unimportant tournament, but hey, four wins in a row is four wins in a row. And so, being on break as I was, I took the three hour drive to Hannover, N.H., and hoped my team could beat Dartmouth, which snuck by an only-okay Notre Dame the night before, 6-4. Things, suffice it to say, did not go as planned.
Not only did Dartmouth — which by the way, also had Lee Stempniak on the team at that time — win, but they DEMOLISHED Lowell. The final score was 10-2. Jessiman had four goals and an assist (Stempniak had five helpers). Lowell pulled its goalie, then pulled its backup in favor of the starter who had already been pulled. Dartmouth, incidentally, was outshot 36-30. I remember all this vividly. I didn’t have to look up any of it.
So it has always given me a considerable amount of joy to see Jessiman repeatedly fail to meet any of the enormous expectations laid upon him.
One bit of trivia, by the way, is that Jessiman’s new teammate in Abbotsford is a decent AHL point-producer by the name of Ben Walter. Walter was on the Lowell team for that 10-2 beatdown. His dad, Ryan, who won a Cup with the Habs, is the team president.
In summary, Hugh Jessiman sucks.