1. I can’t believe I’m saying this
The Montreal Canadiens yesterday placed Scott Gomez on waivers for the purposes of buying him out, and if the Calgary Flames aren’t the first team to call him, Jay Feaster should be fired. Into the sun.
I know what you’re going to say: "Scott Gomez? Really? I knew Lambert was a hack and an idiot but this is sinking to new lows even for a troll moron like him." Well I don’t know if anyone has looked at the Flames’ depth down the middle lately, but you could stand in it with your pants rolled up only a little bit.
The first center on the Flames’ depth chart is currently on blood thinners and who knows when he’ll be ready to go. The second is Alex Tanguay, and he’s not a center. The third is Mikael Backlund, who’s perfectly fine. The fourth is Matt Stajan, and he’s Matt Stajan. The fifth is Blair Jones, who has his uses but "doing stuff offensively" surely isn’t one of them.
So the Flames need a center. Clearly. And they probably won’t find one that’s as much a combination of useful and probably-pretty-cheap as a freshly bought-out Scott Gomez. He can be had for nothing but money and, thanks to the big-time payday the Canadiens just gave him, as well as his generally poor stats last season and overall reputation, that asking price probably won’t be too, too much.
Now, there will likely be some competition for him. The Canucks, for instance, need centers as well. Hell, everyone needs centers. Can’t have enough, as the axiom goes. I understand the Flames don’t have much in the way of cap space, but Gomez on a one-year deal sounds like an ideal temporary solution to the center depth problem, doesn’t it?
Miikka Kiprusoff has apprently been playing well in camp to this point, which gives me a lot of pause, to be honest with you.
On the one hand, you definitely want to hear about how your No. 1 goalie is going into the season looking very, very good. That’s going to be especially important for two reasons: 1) The Flames are generally slow starters, particularly in attack, and having stability at the back could help keep them afloat if that trend continues in the shortened season, and 2) points matter more in a shortened season.
But at the same time, don’t you have to be concerned about what that means for Kiprusoff’s usage this year? We all went in knowing he’d play a lot of games regardless of performance and we all went in knowing that an Irving/Karlsson battle for the backup position would not leave the coaching staff with many options regardless of who won out. Still, though, if Kiprusoff comes out of the gates on fire, as it appears he might, then is it really a good idea to use him as much as I fear they might throughout the season? Sure it’s only 48 games (of which I figure he’ll play 40 or more) but they’re awful close together and he’s no spring chicken at this point.
Regardless of the quality of his performances, I’d like to think they’ll be smart enough to know they can’t run him out there every night. On the other hand, I’m preparing myself for the possibility that they do anyway, because they are the Calgary Flames, and reason doesn’t always enter into personnel decisions.
3. Interesting stuff on Hartley
Eric Duhatschek’s piece on Bob Hartley’s reasons for coming back to the NHL after so much time in exile was pretty interesting, but what caught my attention most is that he seems to have been so attracted to the job because he likes the idea of being the guy to bring the Flames back from the murky depths of their mediocrity.
Isn’t that interesting? That’s what would bring him back, but that this wasn’t contingent on making major changes to the makeup of a team that has been decidedly mediocre and largely static in each of the last three years, during which it missed the playoffs every time? Seems very strange to me, honestly. Sure he’s going to overhaul the system and indeed everything about the way the team on the ice does business, and the players seem engaged in helping him to do that.
But if I were the kind of guy that Hartley describes himself as being: endlessly ambitious and never content to rest on his laurels in a comfortable situation, then why Calgary of all teams to take over? I don’t know how big of an accomplishment it will be to take this team from ninth to seventh or eighth or even sixth this year or going forward. There are competent pieces in place and if everything works out great for the team over the course of a season (particularly more likely with a 48-game slate) or three then sure, you can easily see Calgary as a playoff team.
However, I keep coming back to the question – "To what end?" The goal should be to have an elite team, right? Gun for the Stanley Cup? It’s not reasonable to expect that now or in the near future, and if Hartley and Feaster are busying themselves with overhauling "the culture" and getting creamed in the playoffs, then why bother?
4. Here’s a video you’re going to want to check out
As you probably saw Pike’s update the other day, Johnny Gaudreau returned to action for the Boston College Eagles after winning a gold medal for Team USA in Ufa at the World Juniors. Seem to remember him lighting up Canada like Times Square in the semifinal too.
ANYWAY, you likely saw that Gaudreau had a nice little return engagement, going 1-2-3 in a 5-2 win over highly-ranked UNH, and having fellow Flames pick Billy Arnold figure into the scoring on BC’s other two goals, as he went 1-1-2.
But what you may not have seen was this highlight video here:
Those passes on the two goals are just mouth-watering. They’re ridiculous. They’re not fair. Especially the backhand one on BC’s second goal. Nope, I can’t consider that reasonable in any way. And speaking of the backhand, oh y’know, that goal of his to make it 3-1, wow. Speaking as someone who watches a lot of NCAA hockey, you never see anyone that good with the puck on his backhand, and Gaudreau makes it all look so effortless. I swear I almost cried at that pass. I swear I did.
And yeah, I guess both of Billy Arnold’s points were pretty good too. But man, Johnny Gaudreau. What a college player.
5. On the prospects of an offer sheet
Saw Kent’s article the other day about signing Ryan O’Reilly to an offer sheet, and I’m all for it, obviously. Same for Jamie Benn. Same for PK Subban. These are all excellent young players who would help the franchise as it attempts to rebuild on the fly, for the cost of a first-round pick (which will be middling) and probably a third as well. Small price to pay for players of that quality.
Of course, I’m also resigning myself to the idea that this will never happen — for any team, not just Calgary — for a number of reasons.
The first is that obviously the Flames have no cap space to give O’Reilly or Benn or Subban the kind of money they apparently want. The second is that no one ever signs anyone to offer sheets unless they’re the Flyers, and even then it apparently has to be for a guy like Shea Weber, who is widely considered to be a top-3 defenseman in the league; none of these guys fit that mold. The third is that unless you blow one of these guys’ doors off with an offer, their team is likely to match anyway, and we all know that no one in the NHL wants to get into that kind of salary-escalating shoving match.
But with regard to that last point, I would note that the Flames are likely uniquely positioned to avoid that kind of issue. There is one positive to take from the team’s years of bad drafting: there is no one other teams would be able to justify signing to big-money RFA offer sheets. With the exception of Sven Baertschi, who’s a ways off from getting another contract, can you see Colorado or Montreal or Dallas throwing out a revenge offer sheet the Flames wouldn’t just take the picks and laugh about later?
I say go for it, but in saying that I also acknowledge it will definitely not happen.