Five things: Oh boy


1. A bad start

I don’t think anyone went out there wanting to see the Flames start the season 0-2 in two home games, having allowed an horrific nine goals and scoring just five. Getting tuned up by either San Jose or Anaheim isn’t in and of itself a big deal; they’re two talented teams that have very good forwards who can score goals in bunches, and they sure did it to Calgary on Saturday and Monday nights (admittedly I’m writing this ahead of the Vancouver game, for which I doubt any of us had high expectations of success).

Frankly, I’m not sure why anyone would be especially surprised by either result: San Jose was among the class of the Western Conference not so long ago and I personally felt like the Ducks underachieved last season in light of the amount of talent they have overall. More to the point, the Flames were in the Anaheim game even when they looked like they should have been out of it, and were a couple of unlucky bounces away from leaving that first period against the Sharks up by multiple goals, not just one. That certainly would have changed the complexion of the game, but it obviously didn’t. And plus, with the Sharks positively rampaging out of the gate to start the season, there’s very little in the way of evidence that they’ll stop any time soon.

2. What it could portend

All of that obviously could obviously confirm our worst fears about this team though. Many worried that the Flames would be who we thought they would be based on the last three seasons: A rotten team rotting still further. Too old to keep up, and simultaneously to inexperienced to pose a real threat to anyone. A team that would bleed goals. A team that wouldn’t score many. A team from a bygone era unfit for the rigors of the modern NHL with its scads of young stars.

Even in a soft division and with a shortened season, this could be a long, trying year for Flames fans who have been promised over and again that this is a playoff team despite all evidence standing to the contrary. "If they were only a little better at shootouts," "If they only got two or three more bounces over the course of the season," "If they could only get hotter than hell in this 48-game stretch," then they might actually prove the doubters wrong.

But that hasn’t been the case. When your team’s best forward through two games is Lee Stempniak, why not just throw in the towel on the entire season? But even beyond that, giving up four and a half goals a night to anyone, regardless of how good their offense is, comes off as one hell of a bad number, and one that will lose you way more hockey games than not. If this continues even another, oh I don’t know, three or four games, and even if they mix in a win, this looks like it could very well be the rocks on which the Flames’ own Ship Called Hope was dashed for good. Maybe then they bring on the full-scale rebuild at long last.

3. An optimist’s point of view

On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to argue this is a hiccup, the result of a confluence of issues rather than being symptomatic of the team being the type of hot garbage the cynics say.

The first is that two guys who were set to be key cogs in the offense, which is really what’s been lacking here — can’t score if you can’t hold on to the puck, but the other team sure can — have been in absentia for the first week of the season. No Jiri Hudler, who was supposed to make the second line a little more threatening. No Roman Cervenka, who could actually be the No. 1 center Calgary fans have long wanted for Jarome Iginla.

Second, they’re all dealing with a new coach, and on a shortened training camp schedule. Teams with longstanding coaches and few personnel changes (the New York Rangers being the prime example of this) have had so many defensive breakdowns and ineffectual offensive forways that one can hardly fault Calgary, with a new coach and completely overhauled systems, as well as a complement of several new players, for tripping all over their own feet in the first 120 minutes of the season. The players can like Bob Hartley all they want, and vice versa, but they don’t yet know much about each other or what each will require of the other to make things work.

And hey, small sample size, right? The aforementioned Rangers started out 0-2 as well (though against stiffer competition) and no one is sitting here writing off their chances to win the Stanley Cup, which they almost certainly will. It’s a shortened season, sure, but but two games isn’t thaaaaaat much.

4. Kipper could be trouble

Regardless of either of the above two viewpoints, I think it’s pretty fair to already start wondering whether Miikka Kiprusoff is really in serious trouble again this year. We’ve all grown accustomed to his slow starts (did you know his career stats in October are 2/86/.900? Yuckaroo.) and this might be more of the same but he hasn’t even looked good for the bad, early-season Kiprusoff of old.

We all pretty much agreed that for the team to be successful, it would have to be Kiprusoff carrying the water. He hasn’t in any way. Even if you want to fault the defense in front of him, which would be perfectly fair because boy has it been bad, nonetheless he’s given up a few stinkers and that’s no good for anyone. Small sample size aside, it might already be time to ask whether he’s got it this year. If not, well, that’s gotta be the end of this. See ya in 15th place (hopefully).

That said, he had good bounce back in vancouver last night so maybe he’s on the upswing.

5. It’s still early

With all the above having been said I can’t sit here and pass judgment. If we’re still seeing the Flames drop winnable games (Anaheim), or dominate for stretches then crash and burn in horrific fashion (San Jose), then yeah let’s call it a year. I’m skeptical that Hartley can coach this roster to the playoffs but I also think he couldn’t do worse than what we’ve seen in the last few years.

  • everton fc

    Seems the lockout hurts the older players. Especially those who choose to sit back and “train”, versus those who go and play somewhere (see Backlund).

    Me thinks Iginla, Cammy, Kipper, Sarich, others, may suffer this same fate. Age cathcing up to some of these guys. Perhaps.

    Without Hudler and Cervenka, our current state shows how shallow we are, in the depth-department. I’ll say it again; we have the look of an expansion team. In many ways.

    • T&A4Flames

      I agree. Although his finish has been terrible, he is generating shots and opportunities.

      Off topic, Kent or anyone with the knowledge. I’ve been thinking about this since your last NHLE article. Is there any hope for Wahl? Do you have NHLE for the ECHL? Wahl has been leading his team in Utah and was named to the all-star game. Perhaps his confidence is coming back. Is it possible to see some NHLE’s on Wahl and maybe anyone else of interest; Howse?

      • I dont think there is since so few players of interest come from the ECHL. Might check into it at some point though.

        Howse isn’t of interest BTW. He ahs just 7 points in 16 games in the ECHL this year and has been injured otherwise.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I’m kind of wondering if putting him on the PK is helping that. It’s forcing him to actually put consideration toward the defensive aspect of the game, which is something he’s been somewhat loathe to do for multiple seasons.

      • loudogYYC

        Keenan tried the same thing with him once, it could make a difference. I think Baertschi has lit a fire under his ass though, kid has serious skill and confidence.

      • Eh, Im still completely underwhelmed by Jarome south of the red line. He’s been fine in the offensive zone, though, whereas previously he has gone through long stretches over the last few years where he gives the puck away too easily, loses board battles, fumbles cycles, etc.

        So far though he’s actually been consistently dangerous and has mostly avoided that terrible habit of skating into the shallow end of the zone, pulling up and giving the puck away. He’s still relatively strong down low and in the slot and that’s where he has spent a lot of his time. He’s been unlucky not to have at least a couple of goals already.

        • saddly that will be jaromes game as he ages, cheat on the defensive side of the game to pad the offensive numbers. many a casual fan still hold iglatowski in high regard as an all around power forward. reality is iggie has been on the downward slide for years. park him in the slot aka phil esposito and dave andreychuck style. anyone think the leafs would move a high pick for cammy seein that dion took out lupul for 2 months?

          • Kevin R

            Knowing Toronto & Nonis we would be lucky to get a 3rd from Toronto. They think they are doing people a favour by trading with them. but a 3rd & Franson may not be too bad of a deal.

  • Vintage Flame

    I’m really hoping that as soon as Iggy gets one, that it kinda jump starts him and he goes on a roll.

    As disappointed as I am through three, I am looking forward to see what Hudler and Cervenka bring to this lineup.

    Bring in those two and sit Begin and Comeau (who has just looked terrible!!) and then maybe we can gauge where this team is going.

  • Vintage Flame

    This is about as good as Iggy will ever be defensively.

    He does seem to have a spring in his step this year, but I do have to say that the Canucks were miserable last night.

  • Vintage Flame

    Stajan, Comeau have both been bad. No physical game at all, terrible play reads.

    Ah well. I didn’t expect the team to do all that well this year and I wasn’t going to be surprised if they started off 1-5.

      • I agree. Pleasantly surprised about Stajan so far. We’ll see if it lasts. I also though Iginla was winning a few more puck battles than the last couple years. Even Jabo has been decent. Widerman has been pretty good controlling the point so far.

        Should be a matter of time before they click a little better. Same goes for the other teams too I imagine.

  • beloch

    -Iginla has been pretty good. He’s rung at least a couple of posts and I was really impressed by his pass to Backlund last night.
    -Wideman is as advertised: he *really* likes to shoot the puck. I think he’ll start generating points soon.
    -I also noticed Comeau, but in a bad way. He likes to skate in circles instead of getting into the slot like a certain center we know used to know.

    A couple of general comments:

    1. The Flames have been marginally out-shooting their competition, and were dead even with the Canucks last night in spite of the horrible first half of the second period. That’s surprisingly good considering two of their supposed top 6 haven’t even showed up yet.

    2. If Kiprusoff’s sv% goes back up towards his career average the Flames are going to start winning games. If it doesn’t… Well, somebody goose the fat lady so she can wake up and get to work.

    3. While Hudler and Cervenka may or may not be over-hyped, I honestly doubt that adding both of them to the lineup will have zero impact. They might be a little rough on Saturday though…

  • Kevin R

    Jarome will be fine..he get kickstarted this Saturday when Edmonton hits town. They always are the tonic to feed his mojo or at least kickstart it.

    Cammalleri is more of a concern for me. Between his whining (Sven and Mikael dont see me) and relative ineffectiveness (1A in 3 games) he is a bigger concern.

    Cant believe Ryan didnt solve the problem — Obviously its Johnny Gaudreau; Why isnt Feaster opening the bank???

  • In general I find the d-men shooting towards the net, and forwards actually standing in front. Amazing. They’re not scoring but at least it’s fun to watch versus last year’s “wait until the perfect opportunity exists!” method.

  • I thought by the end of the game last night, Vancouver looked tired, while Calgary looked like they have more to give.

    Shootouts, man, shootouts. Don’t really reward energy all that well.

    That said, it’s a good sign. Getting the Czech mates in the lineup will be interesting. I haven’t been this intrigued by a Flames team in a few seasons here

  • icedawg_42

    From the second period on last night was the first hockey i’ve actually been able to watch this season. I’ll say this, I found myself thinking “this is a helluva good game”. I’m not used to actually being entertained by watching a Flames game. For that I’m happy. If they to 5 games below .500 and are still fun to watch, then it’ll be an improvement over last season. I, like everyone else am completely baffled as to the choices for the shootout, but whatever. Hartley’s still trying to figure out what exactly he has. Jarome looked good, and so did Backs and Tangs. Wideman on the backend looked good too…wtf has happened to Gio’s game? Wow. Hope he shapes up soon. JBo looked ok to me, not great, not horrible.

  • icedawg_42

    We’re three games into a 48 game season, but according to some people the ship has sailed on this team already.

    Lets look at these things in about ten or so games.

    We also have a pretty light schedule over the next week compared to other teams. Loads of time to get this team righted.

    Only thing that has disappointed me so far was Hartley’s shoot out choices last night.

    lets let these guys get their feet under them and the go from there.

  • Stajan can’t pass worth a damn. Sorry. He had some opportunities in all three games and flubbed up big time.

    He has this thing I call the “Stajan maneuver” where he brings the puck in along the boards and when the defenders come, he shoves the puck up blindly up and then backs up, never to be seen again. He did this in Toronto and still does it here.

  • Bottom line: Flames are drowing in 2nd and 3rd liners. No true 1st liners. Your best have to play the other team’s best at some point and Calgary just doesn’t match up.

    Keep the 3B’s: Baertschi, Backlund & Brodie. Everyone else can go.

    Team is worth more as spare parts to be sold off than they are as the sum of their total.