AGD: Stars Double Header


Time: 8:00pm

Location: Abbotsford Sport and Entertainment Centre


Tonight the Heat are back at home in Abbotsford where they’ll play the first of two games in two nights against the Texas Stars. The Heat remain the best team in the Western Conference despite losing four of their last five games. The Stars, in contrast, have steadily moved up the standings over the last month or so, collecting six wins and two OT losses in their last 10 games. They currently sit tied for 5th in the West with 27 points, seven back of Abbotsford.

Although the Heat’s luck has flipped a bit this month – injuries, goaltending and goal scoring have all played a part in their recent losing streak – they are still managing to grab point here and there. Two of their most recent losses were in extra time and they’ve been outshooting the bad guys more often than not to boot.

It’s possible the team will start getting some bodies back this weekend as well. The Heat sent Adam Estoclet, Micheal Ferland and David Eddy down to the ECHL today, while Troy Ward has recently suggested Sven Baertschi is nearing a return to action. Abbotsford’s goal scoring and PP in particular has been lackluster during their cold stretch, so getting Sven back sooner rather than later would be a big boost. 

The Line-up

The Heat’s recent struggles have coincided with Ben Street’s first sustained cold streak of the year. He has just once assist so far this month, although he’s still firing four shots on net per game.

  • Walter – Reinhart – Horak
  • Sylvester – Byron – Street
  • Bancks – Olson – Nemisz
  • Ruesegger – Laing – Kolanos
  • Brodie – Piskula
  • Breen – McCarthy
  • McKelvie – Lamb
  • Taylor

This is an assumed line-up given the personnel available, although if Baertschi is healthy expect him to get inserted into the top of the rotation somewhere. Brust lost the last game, so I expect Ward to go back to Taylor tonight.

Another guy who was supposed to be fighting for an NHL job this year is Paul Byron. The 23 year old has apparently looked good in a number of games since returning from injury, but the results just aren’t there yet (seven points in 15 games, 16 shots on net). At just 5’9" and 165 pounds and nearing his mid-20’s, Byron is a dude who has to rip the cover off the ball in order to convince the team he’s anything more than an injury call-up. There’ still time for that to happen, but I’d say a guy like Street, despite the recent cold snap, has jumped ahead of him in line.

The Opposition

The Stars are paced by former Washington draft pick and Max Reinhart teammate Cody Eakin (15 points). He has been one of the hotter Stars of late, scoring eight points in their last five games. AHL veteran Travis Morin is second on the team with 15 points.

  • Fraser – Eakin – Sceviour
  • Roussel – Morin – Vincour
  • Chiasson – Wathier – Smith
  • Heddon – Peterson – Gazdic
  • Oleksiak – Fortunas
  • Benn – Barker
  • Nemeth – Dillon
  • Nilstorp

Jamie Oleksiak and Jordie Benn (brother to Jamie Benn) are the big names on the back-end. And Cam Barker, I guess.

Jack Campbell is merely the back-up to Christopher Nilstorp at this point. His .883 SV% in 10 starts is good for 46th best in the league (or 4th worst), which is, uh, not ideal when it comes to former first round picks. Looks like the Stars will have to hope Campbell turns out to be one of those guys who spends a long time in the minors and then figures things out in his mid-20’s.

Sum it Up

Regression has seemingly kicked in for the Heat, but they aren’t playing bad hockey overall and still remain on top of the Western standings. They will need to start finding the back of the net bit more regularly going forward, however, if they are to avoid an unfortunate Wild-like plunge down the standings as things proceed here.

  • According to Pete Maher, Aliu will be in the line-up tonight. Been out with some kind of injury.

    This is Irving’s last season as a part of the Flames organization. 3rd string goalie on an AHL team. Make it three first round picks from 04-06 that were complete busts.

        • RexLibris

          What I wonder is why Tod Button doesn’t receive some share of the blame? I know that Sutter interfered a great deal, but it isn’t as though Button has been hitting it out of the park with his depth picks either.

          Is it just because Sutter is the easy target right now?

          • jeremywilhelm

            I would say that Sutter is definitely the easy target, given how he is no involved with the organization anymore. I guess also some people may feel that the 2011 draft shows what Button can do without Sutter watching over him.

            Oddly enough though depth picks were some of the best during the Sutter era: Brodie, Bouma, Reinhart…. yikes that was a bad era of drafting. Also from 2004-2010 the Flames only made 1(!!) second round pick! One! “facepalm”

          • RexLibris

            On the 2nd round picks, while I’m critical of trading those too often, remember what some of those 2nd round picks returned. Cammalleri, the first time around, was one of those talents. At that age, and with the contract and season he had, that was a good move. The second time around? We’ll have to discuss that in a year or two.

            From where I sit, I see Button as in the same range as Kevin Prendergast. Someone who isn’t entirely horrible in his job, but the room for improvement is significant and his body of work hasn’t yet indicated that he can make that jump. Weisbrod, for all his faults, is perhaps responsible for the improvements noted in the last two June selections.

            If the team wants to avoid bottoming out they need to make some massive adjustments in the drafting department immediately.

          • RexLibris

            Which then begs the question, has Tod Button suddenly discovered a secret to scouting, improved his corps of bird dogs, or is this just a lucky streak?

            You’re right, Weisbrod can’t be credited with the 2011 selections. Then why is there such a favourable opinion of his work from one draft? I understand the feeling of having a breath of fresh air after years (was it only years?) of Sutter calling the shots in the 1st round, but ought one not still award credit based on a person’s track record?

            I know that the readership at ON waxes poetic about Stu MacGregor, and after years of Prendergast it makes sense. Hence my pathos for Flames fans. But even the most ardent of supporters (Lowetide and perhaps myself) have to admit that there are holes in the draft record that bear further scrutiny.

          • RexLibris

            luck absolutely plays a part. But it also played a part in the Flames’ horrible draft record under Sutter. It wasn’t all just bad picks. Bad injuries to guys like Negrin and Wahl, the running away of Juuso Puustinen, the death of Mickey Renaud, the jerked-prunes attitude of Erixon, the list is rather long and multi-coloured.

            Certainly one can attribute luck to the good returns on many of the recent selections (Gaudreau, Brossoit, and DeBlouw especially), but there’s also the fact that the apparent turn-around in the Flames’ drafting fortunes coincides EXACTLY with their decision to emphasize hockey sense over all other tools (I believe this decision came in for the 2010 draft, before Sutter left). There’s a stark difference between the 2009 and 2010 drafts. A clear emphasis on results for players like Ryan Howse (and no apparent reason for drafting Bjorklund), and a clear preference for smart players with good upside in picks like Reinhart, Arnold, and Holland. Sure, the strategy was definitely in its infancy then (why did they take Leach?), and it probably still is now (Jankowski?) but even experts note a MARKED improvement in the Flames’ drafting, just from looking at the players they take, and when they take them.

          • RexLibris

            Which leads to another question: what is hockey intelligence and how does one define and then identify it?

            I’m working on something right now that involves that idea.

            My rough definition is that it can be discerned from a player not only reacting to, but anticipating the motion of the puck and the other players on the ice. Hockey IQ is not contingent upon skill, but when the two combine they can contribute to a better player.

            I still believe, though, that identifying hockey IQ is highly subjective based on the skill and ability of the person making that determination.

          • RexLibris

            indeed, and it certainly can’t be the only thing one looks for. Given that it’s the main thing the Flames look at in evaluating players (allegedly), I imagine they have their own definition of it, and their own set of evaluation methods to determine or quantify it. There will undoubtedly be bumps in the road, bad picks, and bad trades because of this (no scouting strategy can eliminate those things entirely) but hopefully, the Flames are on to something that will allow them to sustain success to some degree (and enable them to not get caught in perpetual cycles of mediocrity in the future).

            The jury is certainly still out on whether their new drafting strategy is more successful than the old one (none of the players have yet reached the NHL), but the early signs look good, for now.

  • BurningSensation

    @Rex Libris

    Haven’t we seen that these ‘improvements’ have already been made?

    Baertschi, Brossoit, Wotherspoon, Gaudreau, Gillies, Sielof, etc, are already showing more promise than any picks made by DS.

    Wisebrod is becoming our own ‘Magnificent Bastard’.