FGD: Parched in the Desert

In some ways, the Phoenix Coyotes are the anti-Flames: they have a terrible ownership position, lackluster fan support, a lousy budget and next to no expectations every year. And yet, despite those obstacles, the club manages to remain competitive under the steady guidance of Don Maloney and Dave Tippett, each year pressing for a playoff position with a motley crew of apparent has-beens and misfit toys.

The Flames, on the other hand, are well-heeled, supported by, strong fanatical fanbase and has, for the better part of two decades, managed to under perform expectations (with one or two notable exceptions).

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It’s somewhat unfair to compare the Coyotes to an Island of misfit toys. While their on-oing ownership uh, situation, means next to no budget, the team nevertheless boasts some pretty capable players. Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata have combined for years to form a very strong possession duo up front for Phoenix. Hanzal is the glue guy for the team up front, a strong, two-way center whose value far exceeds his counting stats each year.

On the back-end Keith Yandle tends to get the headlines because he puts up nice offensive numbers, but the true hero is probable youngster Oliver Ekmann Larsson. Although just 21-years old, he is already an NHL veteran and taking on the best the other team hs to offer every night. He already averages a team high 25:03 per game and is poised to be one of the game’s better blueliners for years to come.

The ‘Yotes are currently 8th in the west and definitely one of the teams the Flames will be jousting with for a playoff spot this year. A win tonight would go a long to way to making that possible.

The Line-up

After two periods of…well, not much, Bob Hartley mixed his lines up again and settled on these combinations in the third frame yesterday. It seemed to work too, as the Flames scored 3 goals and outchanced Dallas 7-1 in the process.

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  • Cammalleri – Tanguay – Iginla
  • Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
  • Hudler – Horak – Cervenka
  • Comeau – Begin – Jackman
  • Giordano – Bouwmeester
  • Wideman – Brodie
  • Butler – Sarich
  • Taylor

Danny Taylor gets his first NHL start with the Flames, an honor well earned by his strong play over the last two seasons in the AHL. It’s impossible to know if he will be able to transfer that success to the big leagues, but it’s nice to see him at least get a chance.

Anton Babchuk pulls the short straw on the back-end, and for good reason…he’s just not an NHL caliber defender at even strength.

The new top line featuring both Cammalleri and Iginla makes sense, although that trio wasn’t really part of the Flames come-back in Texas yesterday. Im not sure they even generated a single chance at 5on5 in the third period, in fact. It’s better than Jarome skating with Comeau at least and will make even more sense if Hartley can somehow give them the high ground.

The Opposition

 Like the Flames, the Coyotes kind of have two or three second/third lines rather than one true offensive or power unit.

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  • Doan – Vermette – Boedker
  • Korpikoski – Hanzal – Sullivan
  • Moss – Gordon – Chipchura
  • Bissonette – Torres – Vrbata
  • Michalek – Ekman-Larsson
  • Klesla – Yandle
  • Summers – Rundblad
  • Smith

Hanzal’s line will be the "erasure" unit, so expect Tanguay and Iginla to see a lot of them. I don’t know what vrabat is doing on a line with Bissonette, but I doubt that lasts. He’s the teams leading scorer after all.

Goaltending has been part of the Coyotes secret sauce for getting into the post-season the last few years, but this season Mike Smith has been below mediocre with an .897 SV%. He’s probably better than that, although I don’t expect him to match his glowing numbers from last year either.

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Sum it up

The Coyotes and Flames come from very different places as organizations, but end up jammed together in the middle of the western conference nonetheless. The come from behind victory against the Stars was a good step forward last night, but the Flames will need more of the same in Phoenix tonight if they are to climb out of the basement.


  • GermanFlame

    Personally, I like the look of these lines. Its miles better than the Comeau as third line center experiment. I think Horak can (at least) provide what Stajan provided while he was centering Hudler and Cervenka.

    And who is more happy that Butter is gone, Matty-Franchise or Jbo?

    This seems like a classic Flames let down game though, so my expectations are all relative

    Good luck Danny Taylor!

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I think that given the players currently available to Hartley, that is probably the best line up he can put on the ice. Lets hope it is good enough.

    Goaltending not included. We will know a little more about that after the game.

  • RKD

    Lots of former Flames with the Yotes: Moss, Langkow, Lombardi, and Morris.

    It’s somewhat mind boggling to me, I think the Flames have looked better on paper than Nashville and Phoenix but have underachieved. The Yotes and Preds aren’t full of stars, yet they somehow elevate their game and play consistently more often than Calgary can. This why both of those teams have made the playoffs and the Flames haven’t.

    Babs out is a good thing, he was standing still while Dallas scored.

  • jeremywilhelm

    IF Danny Taylor plays well, and catches fire stopping everything in sight… what then would happen to Kipper? is there potential for Taylor or MacDonald to take the number 1 spot? I wonder if this could be the start of a Luongo/ Schneider situation…

    I’m sure a problem any team would love to have!

    • schevvy

      Who knows with Taylor, I have no idea what to expect from him. Great AHL numbers but never played in the NHL. If he ends up playing great, that’s awesome.

      MacDonald is 33 and a career backup, at best for him he’d back up Kipper when Kipper comes back.

    • RedMan

      I would hardly look at that as being a problem (if Taylor played into the #1 spot with lights out performance) because Kipper doesn’t have a hundred year, hundred million dollar contract…

      Kipper is all but free next year at what, 1.5 M? I think the team would consider themselves lucky and very happy if Taylor came in and provided NHL Starter level tending that would let them start someone other then Kipper for 45 games next year.

      The question I have about Kipper is whether he wants to, in a “contract year” (“2013/2014), prove himself worthy of another 2-3 year contract as a 1A/1B goalie, or whether he wants to retire back to the north pole and smoke fish the rest of his life?

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I predict Taylor has a strong game. 1st games for tenders seem to quite often go well whether its adrenalin, etc. I think Calgary will be on their heels a bit but will stay in it with good goaltending. But I’m guessing it’ll be a tight game that could go either way.

  • Scary Gary

    Jeremywilhelm

    If you choose 5 yes, if you choose 7 it’s 4 times; it’s tough to have league average numbers when you’re averaging 73 games.

    What I’m saying is it’s no surprise to me that Bryzgalov had his two best years, which were somewhat average, with Tippett. While Smith looked like he was a career backup only later to be a Vezna candidate with Phoenix.

    • jeremywilhelm

      Yes, but it has been 4+ years since the Flames missed the playoffs, not 7. Kipper hasn’t been good, blaming the rest of the team for his failures is silly, he has failed the team as much as he has been failed by the team.

      • Scary Gary

        So you’re saying it’s Kiprusoff’s fault the flames haven’t made the playoffs the last three years (tied for 9th, 10th and 9th), even though there were teams that had given more goals up on few shots that had made the playoffs?

  • Scary Gary

    I’m curious how Taylor’s nerves hold up. Having played last night It’ll also be interesting to see if the flames come out, are content on winning one of their two road games and lose 4-2, or if they can manage to out chance Pheonix on the road while playing their 4th string goalie; the ladder would make for a good story/game.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Projected lines 3 weeks from now in my dream world:

    Tanguay/O’reilly/Cammy

    Hudler/Backlund/Cervenka

    Glencross/Sutter/Stempniak (shutdown)

    Comeau/Begin/Jackman

    Defense:

    Myers/Giordano

    Wideman/Brodie

    Smith/Martin

    Kipper

    This comes about as follows:

    To Pittsburgh: Iggy,Stajan,Butler
    To Calgary: Sutter, Martin (salary dump), 2013 1st, Pouliot

    To Colorado: 1st, 2nd, 3rd (Offer sheet)
    To Calgary: O’reilly

    To Buffalo: Bouwmeester
    To CGY: Myers + late pick

    We are instantly a much younger and deeper team at center. Any injury to top 6 and Baertschi moves in. We also maintain a (late) 1st in the 2013 draft. C’mon Feaster, make it happen!!

  • beloch

    Irving was the Flames’ backup only because the club has so much invested in him and nobody really expected Kipper to even need a backup. Like a bank or auto company, Irving was deemed “too big to fail” until the team actually had to rely on him and he, well… failed. MacDonald is a proven mediocrity. If Kipper were out for the rest of the season and Irving started filling his water bottle with Drano(TM), at least MacDonald could be relied upon to backstop the team to something resembling a mediocre finish in the standings. Basically, he’s Feaster’s security blankie.

    Danny Taylor is the only hope for better-than-mediocre goal-tending the Flames have left in the short-term. Taylor might not have what it takes in the NHL, or he might transition to the big league well. Make no mistake, tonight is his “BIG CHANCE” and he knows it. All he has to do is be better than mediocre (i.e. MacDonald) and the starting position is his until Kipper is back. It’s a tremendous second chance for a goalie people say “figured it out” late. If he blows it, it’s Macdonald and mediocrity for the foreseeable future!

    P.S. If Taylor and Macdonald both wind up hitting the ol’ Drano, Barry Brust is also a possibility. However, I don’t even want to contemplate how much ugly stuff would have to happen before they’d give Brust a contract. Things would have to be *dire*.

  • RKD

    @jeremywilhelm @scary gary.

    Last 3 seasons:

    Rinne- 2.39,.923 2.15,.930 2.53, .911
    Smith -2.21,.930 Byrz – .248,.921, .229, .920
    Kipper – .235,.921,263,.906.231,.920

    The numbers are pretty close, outside of two seasons ago yes the goaltending was not as good. However the last time the Flames made the playoffs Kipper has a GAA of 2.48 and .903. So I’m not sure I totally buy that Phoenix and Nashville had better goaltending.

  • RedMan

    Big game tonight Flames…will be cheering you on from work as always. Let us have a good effort tonight in front of Taylor.

    I can live with this lineup, but man would it look good seeing the names Backlund and Sven.

    Go Flames!

  • redricardo

    On Sportsnet right now there’s an article by Spector about how O’Reilly holding out is ridiculous, there’s no way he’s entitled to $5 million, and he’s letting down his whole team.

    Me thinks Spector has given up on legitimate writing. He tries to put down something controversial and make people talk. I remember an article a couple weeks ago about how any Flames fan would trade rosters with Edmonton in a second.

    Check it out, it’s good for a laugh. I’d post a link… Bit that’s a lot of work on an iPhone. I assume. Too lazy to check for real.

    • Pass. I don’t bite on troll bait anymore. I try to give my attention and traffic to material that is worth it as much as possible.

      There’s an argument to be made that $5M/year for ROR is an overpay. But it doesn’t sound like Spector is making it.