Five things: Cross one off the list

1. Well there goes that

The search for a guy who will be in charge of coaching this team rolls on and, even without anyone making hires yet in the offseason, the field is thinning.

The latest casualty, Elliotte Friedman reports, is the guy many tabbed as the most likely candidate: San Jose coach Todd McLellan, who’s staying put but likely getting a slew of new assistant coaches. That’s too bad. McLellan has, in the past, done a pretty good job of managing a roster that was often made up of a healthy mix of both young and veteran players (for every Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau, it seems, there’s a Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski). This makeup is, obviously, not unlike the Flames’.

The problem with the NHL coaching fraternity, if you want to call it that, is that your options for replacing someone you fire — who leaves of their own accord? Dale Hunter and nobody, that’s who — are often old retreads or NHL assistants who have quietly been making names for themselves for years. Not to say either is a bad choice, necessarily, but at some point you know what you’re getting with whoever you hire, before you hire them, and so the rumors about guys that might or might not come to the city are easy to suss out as being either good or bad for the team as it’s currently constituted.

Which is what makes the hire of Troy Ward to run the hockey club both intriguing and, apparently, more likely by the day. Puck Daddy had a big story earlier this week about Ward and the job he might do — very good? — with the team given its newfound and wise move toward a youth movement, relying heavily upon the guys Ward wrangled as an assistant last season and a head coach this year.

And I guess the more I think about it, the less jazzed I am to see the team bring aboard a guy like a Bob Hartley or Marc Crawford or whoever else’s name has been trotted out in the time since Brent Sutter’s ship was scuttled. I think I like Troy Ward for this job. Glowing testimonials aside, no one is going to have a better idea of how to handle the roster, and obviously the young guys, whose development is more important at this point than actually going somewhere in the standings, in particular. He’ll know who’s ready for such-and-such a role and when, and will be in a position to help them succeed.

People might say he’s not ready — and perhaps my support for his hiring is predicated upon 1) my desire to "blow it up," and 2) my associated belief that the team can therefore lose all it wants and still be a-okay in my eyes — but the concern I have is that, like a Kirk Muller or Guy Boucher before him, some team will come in and snatch Ward up while Larry Robinson or whoever is on the second of a three-year contract and performing dismally.

As the PD story noted, it’s not like players like Ward because he’s easy on them. He isn’t. He gets them to buy in with what is apparently disconcerting ease, and then gets them to play physically dominating and exciting hockey. Isn’t that, like, what everyone said the Flames’ problem was?

Look, I get that longtime NHL players like the Flames have on the roster aren’t the Abbotsford Heat’s mix of so-so rookies and AHL vets, but this is, at this point, their concerns shouldn’t be the team’s concerns. Don’t like how Ward (or anyone really) is coaching? There’s the door.

That went on far longer than I expected it to. I guess what I’m saying is Hire Troy Ward.

2. Sven Baertschi’s future

We can all pretty much agree he’s an NHL player at this point and will be with the big club to stay come October, right?

I was able to catch only the highlights of some of his games in the WHL Finals and he made the Oil Kings defenders look silly. FInishing these playoffs with 14-20-34 in 22 games doesn’t seem particularly fair, but he’s done playing against this soft competition. This time next year, he’ll have a full season of playing against men under his belt.

Or at least, he should.

3. Karri Ramo and the goaltending situation

Two weeks ago in this space I wondered about the future prospects for Leland Irving, who, mere hours after I posted the item, spectacularly flamed out (no pun intended) in his attempt to regain the Heat’s starting goaltender position in the playoffs. I found that curious but wasn’t necessarily discouraged — it didn’t, for certain, preclude him from being the backup with the big club after toiling in the minors for parts of two seasons.

But then there was word from the World Championships, carried over to this side of the globe by the Canadian Press and later, the Calgary Herald, that Karri Ramo would entertain thoughts of leaving the KHL to return to the NHL in a backup role. And now things are interesting.

On the one hand, Ramo was a bust of the highest order in his first try at North American hockey and has been hiding in the KHL, which is simultaneously the second-best pro league in the world and also a massive step down from the NHL. On the other hand, he has been a wall over in Russia.

In two seasons, he has a .925 save percentage and 1.96 GAA and that, I don’t need to tell you, is unbelievable, even in a relatively low-scoring league. Does that translate here? Who knows? But it has to be seen as bad news for poor Leland Irving, who might be stuck riding the bus for another season or perhaps more if Ramo comes over and acquits himself well.

4. The last thing I’m going to say about shot-blocking

I know it’s a new big thing to act like shot-blocking is ruining the NHL, but it is, of course, not doing that. In fact, I saw where the Hockey News said there were actually more shot blocks per game in last year’s playoffs, widely considered to be exciting and cool and great because guys also punched each other with regularity.

All you need to know about what the "THIS IS AN OUTRAGE" crowd wants out of the league was tweeted a couple weeks ago by Kevin Paul Dupont, the Boston Globe columnist and Hockey Hall of Famer whose work got me into hockey writing in the first place when I was a way little tyke.

Tweet 1: Not unreasonable. 

That is, I think, something everyone can get behind.

Tweet 2: A head-scratcher.

This, at least, addresses the actual problem seen in the postseason: Goaltending is realllllllllly good. Everyone is good at it. If you want more offense, you have to restrict goaltenders’ ability to make saves, probably by shrinking their equipment. But dreams of an .800 league-average save percentage? Based on the number of shots being taken in the league these days, doesn’t that put us on pace for games to end 7-6 every night? Isn’t that obscene and bad? Seems like it to me.

Tweet 3: Outrageous. 

This is perhaps even more unlikely than the save percentage demand, because in the modern era, the only teams that ever finished with 30-something save percentages were the 1970s Habs. Y’know, the best hockey teams ever assembled. And this is something he wants for the league average? Keep dreaming.

Tweet 4: Laughable.

So in the end, what they want is physically impossible. Just so we’re all clear and on the same page here.

5. One last quick question…

Is anyone else surprised that the Flames haven’t come to terms with Mikael Backlund on a new deal yet? Just wondering.

  • supra steve

    @ seancharles:
    I am probably a big advocate of a minny blow up where I consider the trading of kipper & Iggy as Flames version & about as close to what I see this Management & Ownership ever coming to a blow up. I dont get into the in house politics that obviously happens with every hockey club & most private corporations. From what I hear, it sounds like there is some basis to some of Iggy’s critics but there is also conjecture and narrow minded innuendo. For me, I have both Kipper & Iggy jersey’s. I love both players & am proud both players have been Flames for as long as they have, they have given us a lot to cheer about over the years. But hey! I wear my jersey’s to games & support this team thru being a Season Ticket Holder, & I want a winning team. If they made the same salary I make, maybe a little loyalty should be extended over wanting to win. But these guys are going to have life styles most of us can only dream of. So now, the debate really should be what value & potential pieces can they bring back from another team via trade scenarios to can help our City of Calgary hockey franchise become a contender to try & winning a Stanley Cup again. Surely, even yourself must admit that the prospect of us winning a cup is no where near the radar anymore.

    I know when we talk about trade scenarios, it can get a little cold & people sound like horse traders instead of discussing the employment & relocation of human beings and their families. Like Donnie Darko, its a cruel cruel world.

  • supra steve

    @sean charles & colin s.

    First off, the classiest Flame to ever play is Lanny. Period. Full stop.

    Iginla has a ton of talent. He scores a lot of goals, even big ones.

    However, he’s on the ice for more goals than he scores. He refuses to play any of the coach’s systems. He doesn’t backcheck to save his life. He rarely even practices according to Playfair and the Mike Rogers.

    If you’ve ever had a job or played team sports and I’ve had many and in a wide variety of fields, other workers/players find these attitudes resentful. Don’t kid yourself that it’s different because they play pro hockey. Special treatment is picked up on instantly and not well-received.

    Darryl made comments about them being a tough group to coach. Playfair and Keenan made their recent comments. Brent made his. Iginla himself has stated his job here is to score goals.

    No objective observer can watch Iginla play and state that he plays the system. He does what he wants. Spends half of his time on the wrong side of the ice on a team that plays a north/south game. Rarely crosses into his own end and when he does he’s never blocking shots or taking away passes or picking pockets. Just lazy circles at the top of the circles waiting for the breakout pass.

    The team has gone through how many coaches? Must be because they’re all bad coaches.

    Iginla is the Captain and face of the franchise. So when someone in that position believes that the system doesn’t apply to him, insists on playing his own way, doesn’t practice, doesn’t ever go to WC when asked and is in a roundabout way bad-mouthed by his past few coaches it makes me take notice.

    Again, any unbiased observer can also watch him take off huge strecthes of shifts, periods and even games. Where was he in game 7 against the Ducks in 2006? Invisible. Or the Olympic year when only started to score after Yzerman announced the roster was not set and past performance was no guarantee of being on the team. Why did he stop scoring after the roster was announced? Where are the goals during the stretch runs? Read between the lines a little. Iginla has the run of the team and is lazy and selfish. Just becuase he’s always smiling and willing to do interviews doesn’t make him a great leader.

    You’re sick of anti-Iginla comments. Good for you, I’m sick of pro-Iginla comments. I’m really sick of this whole “he’s owed” crap. $7 million/year is a lot of compensation. Good for him, but this city or team does not owe him anything. He doesn’t wear a cape and stop bank robbers or rescue cats from trees or anything else on his multitude of days off. And there are scores of other players on this team and around the league that do tons of charity work. Phaneuf is somewhat reviled around these parts, but I have it on very good authority that he would regularly show up, on his own time, alone, and visit kids at the Children’s Hospital.

    Yes, he was great in 2004. But Kipper was what really carried the team, Darryl was the true leader and Gelinas was the hero.

    And that’s it. One run. In his entire career here Iginla the 7 million dollar superstar who is supposed to be able to make those around him better and should supposedly have his jersey retired and be in the HOF has gotten the Flames past the first round once.

    I owe him nothing. He’s an asset. A 2nd line 30 goal, 1-dimensional aging scorer who couldn’t get this team anywhere in his 20’s and certainly won’t in his 30’s. Trade him for whatever you can get and move on.

    Leaders lead by example. I just don’t see it from Iginla. Overrated and if he a European last name he would be compared to Gaborik and Kovalchuk. Except they play a better 2 way game. Hero worship and nostalgia do not win championships.

    My opinion, but that’s what these forums are for.

    • First Name Unidentified

      One of the best posts I’ve read on this forum!

      I wonder what kind of hard evidence guys like sean charles are looking for. Are we waiting for a team mate to call the media over (a la Avery in the “sloppy seconds episode) and start bashing Iginla? Or we are waiting for the Management to come out and say “we think Iginla is the problem in the locker room but can’t do anything about it because the owners might can our @sses out of here”?

      What kind of evidence? Isn’t it pretty obvious to those who actually follow the Flames very closely? Can we even compare Iginla’s leadership to that of someone like Toews?

      • Colin.S

        I follow the flames more than u think my friend, borderline obsessively… So that’s out the window. My point is there are still no facts to back these claims just speculation. How much better off would this franchise be if we traded Phanuef and Aulie for younger assets or to fill a need, this team has been built in a flawed fashion for too many years. Building around a winger and a goalie and a lot of expensive dmen is not a recipe for success. Most of the best teams in recent history has had more than one offensive star on the team. Iggy has been playing here for years playing the boring defensive system that has resulted in one good playoff run in a decade, and he has done it with the only closest thing to a star on the team being cammy, and that was one of the flames best years and iggy and cammys best years, if 3 of our top 6 dmen had not got hurt maybe we woulda done something, but well never kno. Sutter realized his mistake in investing too much in his back end and traded Phaneuf for depth, instead of young cheap talent or more importantly a top centerman. Mismanagement has plagued this teams for years not Jarome Iginla.

        • First Name Unidentified

          Fair enough, mismanagement has been an issue with the Flames.

          But if you read the-wolf’s post again, he has addressed almost every issue that needs to be addressed regarding Iginla. And those are not a result of mismanagement.

          If a leader of a team prides himself in having career year in scoring whereas the team is 24th (or so) in team defense and barely manages to squeak into the playoffs because another team lost and then gets punted in 6 games in the first round, then yes, that is a great leader. It’s just that I don’t want that leader to lead my team.

          I don’t want a guy who doesn’t listen to the coaches, plays when he feels like, floats the rest of the way set an example to the youngsters. Bad culture, and this, I blame on Iginla – which ultimately results in the team being mismanaged because everyone is appeasing this guy. If you follow the Flames that closely I’m surprised you haven’t noticed all these things.

          Take it for what it’s worth, it’s just my opinion and I’m entitled to one.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    @ SeanCharles

    I am in full favour of trading Iginla & have openly criticized him on this forum.

    Before I explain further I’ll have you know that I did not grow up a hockey fan. My dad never watched hockey – it was basketball and football. In 2002 I got together with friends to watch the gold medal game between Canada vs. the US. As I watched the game & watched Iginla take over with that amazing performance, I was converted to being a hockey fan that day – even moreso, I was an Iggy fan.

    I actually stopped watching basketball altogether – I started watching the Flames – to see Iginla. Then when the Flames went on the run, it cemented me as a devout fan who has very closely followed the Flames ever since.

    When I first came on this forum I was skeptical of some of the negative Iggy comments I was hearing. This guy made me a fan of not only the Flames, but hockey! Then I happened to run into a Sutter brother at a convenience store one day and talked to him for more than half an hour. I didn’t like what I heard, but having followed the team closer since, those comments combined with comments by former coaches & even player comments & rumoured locker-room rifts (plus Iggy’s play on the ice) have led me to the opinion I hold now.

    I don’t know what kind of hard evidence you are looking for. I doubt TSN is going to have an article with the headline “Iggy maybe not so great a leader – will not buy into coaches system”.

    But all I want to see is the Flames hoist the cup & I don’t believe it will happen as long as he is on the team.

  • RexLibris

    @the-wolf

    That’s a pretty verbose post there. Might want to tighten it up a little.

    signed – the pot

    😉

    @bean-counting cowboy

    I’m not going to agree or disagree about your assessment of Iginla, but I will say that if this is even a moderately shared opinion amongst Flames fans then what might the opinion, or worse observed analysis, be of pro scouts and GMs around the league of Iginla’s overall hockey abilities be?

    For a $7 million cap hit, even if only for six weeks after the deadline, I have to ask if a GM might want more of a complete player for their roster and the oft-mentioned return in a trade.

    Maybe those who still feel that Iginla is one of the best RWs in the entire league are right and that he needs only a better team to become the clinching talent that wins a city a championship.

    We may find out this February what the real market value for this player really is.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    @ Rex

    I often wonder the same thing. As time wears on I’m concerned less & less about the return. By all means Feaster, maximize the return but the return will be the return. We can speculate, but for me – I just want to move on from this phase in Flames history.

    My current opinion of Jarome is not meant to diminish the good things he has done for the City & the team. Would the team have survived those tough years without him? – I’m not sure it would have.

    I still cheer & pump my fist every time he puts the puck in the net. I will always be his fan. I would love to see him raise the cup. I just know it won’t happen in Calgary, thus the sooner we move him, the more we likely get in return & the sooner we can start preparing for our next run at Lord Stanley’s mug.

  • RexLibris

    @ BCB

    Which raises the question: if the return for Iginla was a late 1st round pick and a middling prospect (something akin to Ferland) would you rather see him traded or would it be less of an insult to have him walk as a free agent on his b’day?

    The best thing for the team is obviously to trade him. But the fans may have more anger at the organization if the return isn’t what they had expected.

  • First Name Unidentified

    @seancharles – I can totally agree with that. Mismanagement is, by far, the #1 problem for the Flames. It’s not Iginla’s fault that the team couldn’t find and/or develop better players for him to play with. And up until game 6 of 2007 I was a huge fan. To me, and again, just my opinion, but he’s a changed man/player from what he was pre-lockout.

    However, I also blame ownership and mismanagement for allowing Iginla to gain such free reign and sense of self-entitlement. They gave him too much and failed to snap him back into place at an early stage. Ego took over.

    @Rex – fortunately, in this league, there’s always and I do mean ALWAYS, a GM who thinks his side of the grass is greener.

  • First Name Unidentified

    @wolf: Totally agree. It gets tiresome arguing about what the return will be for players like Iginla & Kipper. Trade deadlines usually fertize & green up those pastures even more. So I would say Kipper should be the focus this draft. Accomplishes the following:

    -It signifies the beginning of the major shift(rebuild) of the organization & sends that message to Jerome.

    -It will hopefully get us a badly needed 1st rounder & top prospect to throw into a youth mix in the near future & give Leiland the message to train hard this summer, his number has been called

    -It will allow Iggy to decide on whether he wants to embrace the mentor role & spark his legs playing with the likes of Baerschte & Cervesa & raise his game in many different ways consistently.

    -It could also let him decide he wants a cup now & wants to move to a contender at the trade deadline & allow Feaster to try and max out the return for him, possibly even start a bidding war.

    Got my invite today for the King session, I think it may be interesting to attend this one.

    Last question, is everyone else having trouble with the reply to a post that you click on it & nothing happens, you have to manually type in who you are responding to?

  • First Name Unidentified

    I wonder if there’s any coach that can coach Iginla? They have to resolve the issues with him before hiring anyone. Either trade him or if they’re not going to do that, then sit him down and say “look, this is our guy. He’s not going anywhere so we expect you to either get in line and lead by example or move on.”

    You know, what they should’ve done about 5 or 6 years ago.

    It’s almost as though they need to sign the next coach for 5 years. Make a statement as to who is in charge by giving him a long term contract. Besides, the team could use that kind of stability anyways.

    GJ had a great article in the Herald about Mike Sullivan. Great candidate.

  • supra steve

    @KevinR

    I have same problem in using “Reply”, just doesn’t work anymore. Ongoing for at least a few weeks. Also deletes option of including a quote from previous post.

  • First Name Unidentified

    @ the-wolf

    “I wonder if there’s any coach that can coach Iginla?”

    I’m sure once he is out of Calgary he’ll clean up his act. The new team won’t be his so he will have to be compliant. However, in Calgary, he is definitely uncoachable.

    I just don’t see the management interested in trading him, he will just walk on Jul 1st, 2013.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Xan’t disagree with the trade Iggy comments, but I only hope nobody in the League outside of Cowtown reads these posts or we’ll be lucky to get a bag ‘o pucks for him!