1. Odd about the Flames
When last I spoke to you about the plans of various Flames to play in Europe, I mentioned that to that point, only two had signed up to do so. And now, all this time later, the number of Calgary players plying their trade overseas has stayed exactly the same, not grown.
Isn’t that curious? While Anton Babchuk did hop over to play in his native Russia, the rest of the roster has stayed away from those foreign leagues, even as scads of players from other teams have made the move en masse. Near as I can tell, only a few teams have that few guys playing overseas. Most of them, oddly, aren’t very good.
So that got me to thinking: Will it be a good or bad thing to have had the vast, vast majority of your players sitting at home for however long this lockout lasts? Of course, that comes with the caveat that guys can jump at any time and will likely do so if it begins to become apparent that the lockout will go for more than just a few weeks’ worth of games.
On the one hand, for a team like the Flames, where old guys are old and therefore more likely to bea worn down over the course of an eight-month season, this could help them stay fresh and be competitive for longer portions of the season. On the other hand, there has to be some amount of rust that forms when you haven’t played a competitive, physical game since the beginning of April, and that’s something that needs to be addressed. This is especially true because the Flames are currently (relatively) healthy — we’ll get to Jiri Hudler in a second — squad that won’t need much time to be fully ready for the season.
Again, this is all "theoretically."
If this season lasts somewhere between 40 and 60 games, I can easily see Calgary making the playoffs. But the longer it goes, the less likely I am to believe in their postseason-qualifying capacity. So maybe, I dunno, maybe Flames fans should be rooting for at least part of the regular season to get wiped out. The downside is less hockey. The potential upside is you have to pay less money to see a team that actually might make the playoffs.
Do you take that tradeoff?
2. Hudler hurt
So, this is an investment that has started off very, very well. Just a few months after signing a four-year, $16 million deal with Calgary, Jiri Hudler went to the KHL and, four games later, came back to Calgary with one measly assist in his account and an abdominal injury.
Reports out of the Russian media — and you know how reliable those can be — say that he could be out a month. Well, let’s just say it’s good for Jay Feaster and the Flames that there won’t be NHL hockey any time soon.
It’s also good news that Hudler has, generally, been a fairly durable player in his NHL career. The fewest games he’s played in a season in the last five years, during which time he’s been a full-time NHLer, is 73, and three of them have been 81 games or more.
But this is, umm, not the best start.
3. The Heat on the outs?
Given that the Vancouver media doesn’t have the Luongo/Schneider goaltending controversy to obsessively complain about this season, they are turning their attention to the next-best well-worn gripe of theirs: Why isn’t the Abbotsford Heat the Cancucks farm team?
"IT JUST MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!!!!!" they seem to collectively scream.
Abbotsford execs, on the other hand, don’t really seem to see it. No one has talked to them, or the city’s mayor, about the prospect of swapping the Flames out for the Canucks, and the only reason any of this latest round of rumors has taken place is that, again, some hockey writers just don’t have anything going on right now and it does make geographic sense.
The Flames’ farm club doesn’t draw, presumably because that’s Canucks Country, and so why not do The Logical Thing here? Frankly, I kind of hope it happens at some point because this is all getting too annoying. Even if the Flames have a great deal in Abbotsford, surely this isn’t worth the annual questions, is it?
Oh it is? Fair enough.
4. Speaking of the Heat, no love for Sven
While the Flames’ prospects are stuck inexorably in southern British Columbia, we might as well talk about the most intriguing player who is also stuck there.
Sven Baertschi will play his first full pro season in Abbotsford and comes in as the most anticipated Flames prospect since Dion Phaneuf. And so many may be wondering how willing the Heat’s coaching staff will be to help usher him along as much as possible?
Here’s Troy Ward on the subject: "Let’s let Sven do what he’s supposed to do. Let him earn everything he gets. We’re not going to throw out the red roses here because he’s coming."
Now it should be noted that this isn’t to say the kid will spend time on the third line or anything like that, but if they’re gonna get in his face and challenge him to actually perform, that’s a good thing. I’m of the opinion that being hard on a rookie is likely to be a good thing, particularly if he’s a hard-working kid by nature, which Baertschi seems to be.
Even if he excels at the AHL level like he did in junior or even his brief NHL time, which doesn’t seem especially likely but is possible, getting on him for things you’d get on anyone else for could help to prepare him for when he actually runs into adversity with the big club, as all players regardless of age or status inevitably do.
Ward continues to impress in the way he handles things, and though there could be a gap between what he says and what he does in actual practice, that seems fairly unlikely.
5. The good news is Pat Sieloff hasn’t killed anyone today
In case you missed it over last weekend, I’d just like to direct you to this video of Pat Sieloff lighting up some head-down kid (at 1:29 in the vid above) in the OHL.
You’d love to see more of that from Flames defensemen in general, hey?