Flames Post-Christmas Potpourri

The halls have been decked and the turkey’s eaten. Now is the time to fearfully step on bathroom scales and brave the malls to return that sweater your well meaning aunt bought for you. Oh, and actually enjoy ome hockey for a change.

– First order of business – most of the Gaudreau shirts have either been delivered or are in the mail. I only have a handful left in my possession, but they should be out the door by the end of the weekend at the latest. Thanks to everyone who ordered a shirt and I hope you’re happy with it (or them if you got more than one).

– The Abbotsford Heat have really struggled to score goals and win games this month. Their downturn after a red hot start reinforces the lesson that there is no special magic to scoring goals at the pro level and that success dependent on high percentages is always volatile and subject to reversal over time.

I re-iterate that just as the Heat weren’t as good as they seemed in October/November when everything was going in, they likely aren’t as bad as they seem now though. At some point, the puck will start going in a bit more frequently for them.

– Related, the Heat recalled David Eddy yesterday. What’s surprising is they have yet to give Mitch Wahl a shot, despite the fact he is leading his ECHL team in scoring by a wide margin (30 points in 23 games). It’s taken Wahl a long time to get back on his feet after being concussed in his rookie pro season, but he was a quality junior player and given his performance in Utah (and the team’s struggles in the offensive zone) it would be interesting to see how he would do at the next level. 

– I have taken in as much of the WJC as possible so far, in particular the US games since John Gaudreau is a major part of the team. I came away suitably impressed by his hands and creativity, but there’s still obvious areas where Johnny G will need to improve before he can move up to the pro game. He’s small, of course, so he’s very careful to stay out fo corner battles and the physical stuff. That’s a matter of survival for a guy his size, but it’s something that just doesn’t fly beyond the minor leagues. Which isn’t to say Gaudreau is going to have to start throwing his body around and cracking skulls, but more strength and more engagement in tough areas is required to move up.

That said, he’s very crafty at sneaking inside of the oppositions reach and snaking the puck away before the other guy knows what’s going on.

Other guys stood out for my on Team USA: Galchenyuk, of course, because he’s already dominant. If there’s NHL hockey this year, he’ll be on the Canadiens roster (although buring a year of a cheap ELC on a half/third season probably isn’t all that wise). The probable top-5 pick Seth Jones, on the other hand, didn’t impress me in the first game. Dude has a lot of tools, no question, but his puck handling and decision making seemed…awkward for a guy with such a high profile. That, he’s young and it was only one game.

JT Miller centers Gaudreau’s line and he hasn’t impressed me at all. He’s big and can skate, but the play died on his stick in the offensive zone more than once. A 15th overall pick by the Rangers in 2011 and an AHL player this season, I expected Miller to run things in this tournament, but he was thoroughly "meh" on Thursday against the Germans.  

Jon Gillies, in contrast, looked pretty good in his period of work yesterday. Calm, controlled in a few tough situations including a 5on3 PP for the Germans. He’s only 18 and years away from challenging for a pro spot, but the early returns on that third rounder couldn’t be much better for the Flames.

Finally, Pat Sieloff was officially added to the American roster today. I have yet to see their game against the Russians, so I have no observations on him yet.

– Finally, of course, some labor news. The players haven’t officially made the move to disclaim interest, although the union was given "permission" to do so by a player vote prior to the Holidays. They have until January 2nd to get things under way.

The league had been quiet for a couple of weeks until proffering a new offer today. Apparently, this proposal extends the player contract limit to six years and allows teams to buy-out a player without a cap penalty (although the dollars would still count against the players share of hockey related revenues). In addition, the $300 million "mak whole" provision is back on the table

I doubt those few "concessions" get things done on their own, but it does prove the league is willing to move a bit on things they previously declared sacrosanct.

The union is holding a conference call this afternoon to discuss this latest offer. I still expect some give-and-take over the next few weeks as we hurtle towards a supposed deadline to save the season, so the real hope now isn’t that this ends the lock-out but that it actually spurs meaningful talks.

  • The Flames seem high on Wotherspoon merely because he does nothing poorly and everything fairly well. He doesn’t seem to have any particularly glaring strengths or weaknesses, aside from him not having an amazing first few steps when he skates.

    He’ll be useful organizationally because he can probably play with everybody, depending on who else is on the team.

  • Deaner_

    I hate to say this to all of Johnny G’s fans but he has play poorly and still looks like a long-term project. It looks like he is simply not strong or big enough to compete when the going gets tough. Much the same can be said of Rocco Grimaldi, albeit it looks like his speed can make up for his lack of size.

    • Deaner_

      Hate to say it, but I think Grimaldi has looked better than Gaudreau. But it’s two games – I do expect to see more from Johnny G before this thing’s over.

  • Deaner_

    The line of Gaudreau, Grimaldi and Miller needs to be shook up, they look like 3 pieces to 3 different puzzle’s out there, not much flow or chemistry at all. I feel like on entry’s into the zone it’s pure guess work by these guys…love to see Johnny play with Galchenyuk.

  • Captain Ron

    Just had a look at the latest CBA proposal by the NHL. It looks good to me. Surely you would think they can get something done pretty quickly based on that.

  • Captain Ron

    Kent,
    Thanks for dropping off the T shirts. Too bad I missed the chance to say hello. I was there when you stopped by but by the time I came up to the front you were already gone. The shirts are great BTW.

  • BurningSensation

    Is a comparable of Brent Seabrook fair for a guy like Wotherspoon? Similar; size, strong skating, above average two-way play, and a decent if not spectacular powerplay option?

    I’d have to go back and dig through Seabrook’s junior stats to see how the comparable holds, but if it’s even close, we could win the Erixon trade going away.

    • BurningSensation

      He’s more like Josh Gorges. There’s a reason Wotherspoon hasn’t seen 1 second of powerplay time with team Canada.

      I used to compare him to Jim Vandermeer, but since this tournament started I really haven’t seen the stylistic match at all. Wotherspoon has mellowed out his game quite a bit since he was drafted, and seems to be more concerned with smart positional play than gritty punishing play nowadays.

      He probably still won’t be more than a 3rd pair dman in the NHL, but from watching this tournament, I’m starting to think there might be more upside to him than I originally thought.

  • Captain Ron

    Finally some reasoning come from the NHL.The reasonable owners must have had enough of Bettman Jacobs and Edwards,and are vetoing there hard ass agenda

    I thought JG was better in the Russia game but also noticed he,s getting pushed around.Why is Galechucyk not getting more ice time? Seth Jones needs to step up his game,he looks slow.Russians definetly got away with some blatant penalties as well

  • I watched the US game against Russia this morning. Sieloff looked good in his 2 shifts he was given ;). Johnny G is playing just fine, he’ll get some points before this is over, but I agree he needs to get more involved. I also agree that Jones is not what one might have expected for a potential first overall. Where I would disagree is on Galchenyuk. He has done nothing of note. He picked up garbage points against Germany (one nice shot, but just about anyone can score from the middle of the slot when everyone just backs away and lets you shoot), and did absolutely nothing against the Russians.

    I haven’t watched the Canadian game yet from this morning, but sounds like Wotherspoon is doing well.

    I’m only interested in results from the important games, so there’s only been one of those so far – not much to base an opinion on. That means I’ve got to hope Johnny G cranks it up against Canada 🙁

    At any rate, we’ve got some interesting hockey to watch for the first time in months!

  • Kent,

    I recently moved, so potentially the PayPal address was incorrect.

    I looked at my PayPal history, and our transaction has the new address. But if the shirt is returned to you I will keep you whole on postage (but not 300M)