FGD: A Slumbering Monarch



If you think the Calgary Flames start to the season is disappointing, imagine being an LA Kings fan. Fresh off their Cinderella (sort of) Stanely Cup win, you endure 3 1/2 of months of lock-out, only to see your club stumble out of the gates and land at 12th in the Conference through the first 14 games.

Of course, the Kings struggled though much of last season only to squeak in under the wire and then win the whole thing, so it’s possible LA’s issues aren’t causing as much consternation amongst their faithful as the Flames are here. Nor should they, frankly, because the Kings still boast some of the league’s best underlying numbers, including the top close-fenwick (corsi) ratio in the league (58.29). Meaning, Sutter’s boys still control the flow of the game better than anyone else in the NHL, the puck just isn’t going in for them enough for it to matter. Yet.

In addition, Jonathan Quick had off-season back surgery and has gone from stud to dud. His even strength SV% is just .905 right now (roughly about replacement level) which is a huge step back from his elite .933 last year. It was Quick and the defense that held the Kings in the running during the clubs long offensive dry spell in 2011-12, so now the team will either need him to re-discover his form or actually start converting all that zone time to goal scoring earlier rather than later this time around.

The Flames can’t really count on a goaltending turn around, at least not right now. With Kipper still out and the pairing of MacDonald and Taylor probable to guard the net for another few games at least, Calgary will either have to hope one of them plays over his head for a bit or they can outscore their issues in net. A nice run of percentages would really help things out right now.

Like the Blues, the Kings are an excellent team at dictating play, so Calgary will have another stiff challenge on their hands this evening. St. Louis kind of toyed with the Flames through the first half of that game, so without Backlund and the first liners looking a bit lost south of the red line these days, the team will have to have their foot to the floor from minute one in order to have a chance tonight.

The Line-up

The Flames first line was mostly a non-entity against the Coyotes and didn’t really show up in the Dallas game either despite the club’s notable come back in the third period. Tanguay and Iginla are some of the only forwards with an o-zone ratio above 50% at this point, but both are back to hovering are break even in terms of possession.

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

The Stajan line has probably been the best one through the last two games. Matt’s semi-resurrection under Hartley probably has less to do with the player and more to do with the coach and opportunity. Stajan was never good enough to be tabbed as "Iginla’s next center", but he was also never as bad as Brent Sutter seemed to think. Centering a line with guys like Glencross and Stempniak, who are generally at the bad end of the ice and can contribute offensively, is ideal for a guy of Stajan’s skillset. If that was Calgary’s third line (and if they had a true PvP option) they’d be in good position.                                   

MacDonald goes again tonight after Taylor’s loss in Phoenix. I thought Taylor generally looked more solid and was better at absorbing rebounds than the former Red Wing, but it’s hard to argue too hard given how lousy a couple of the rookies goals against were.

The Opposition

Unlike the Flames, the Kings have three first/second lines, although Sutter seems to have inserted at least one third/fourth liner on each of them

  • Clifford – Kopitar – Brown
  • King – Richards – Carter
  • Penner – Stoll – Williams
  • Lewis – Fraser – Nolan
  • Ellerby – Doughty
  • Scuderi – Voynov
  • Muzzin – Drewiske
  • Bernier

It is somewhat obscene, as a Flames fan given the clubs center depth, to see the Kings using Jeff Carter as a winger.

Aside from scoring troubles and lackluster goaltending, the Kings are also battling injuries on the blueline, which is why you see youngster (and up until now first round disappointment) Keaton Ellerby skating on the first pairing with Drew Doughty. Scuderi and Voynov are a more than capable second pairing though, so it’s not like the Kings have a severe depth problem there.

In net will be Jonathan Bernier, who in contrast to Quick has a sterling.950 ES SV% in three games played so far. Bernier was disgruntled in the summer and asked the Kings organization for a trade, which never happened. If Quick continues to struggle for any length of time, he might just have a chance to usurp the incumbent (which was unthinkable just a few months ago).

Sum it Up

Both teams are looking to climb out of the Western basement and sooner rather than later. The Kings have a better roster, better underlying numbers and a better reason to expect a sharp turn around at some point. The Flames, on the other hand, are simply trying to turn back the tide and prove to everyone – especially themselves – they can be an-going concern.

  • Franko J


    Simply remarkable. I never thought I see the day where the Flames were the absolute worst outfit in the league. It appears on all accounts this team has rolled over, given up and withered away. Tonight was another example how soft this team is. No pride and no passion.

    • RKD

      I remember games like that last season especially in March against Colorado and twice against the Oilers. Had they won those games they would have been in the eight spot by a point at 96. They were literally gliding around in the Colorado game, no push back is disturbing.

  • yomamen

    now seriously. waking up at 1am – 4am to see this? I did it for last couple of years but started do be tired (and not because a lack of sleep) When I can wake up, players can wake up and start to play too I think. Bye guys. Must go to work. ………. Oh crap, see you next match anyway :o)

  • Chris Fairfield

    I know, but I never wanted to believe, but now I see that for all of these years, since he was brought over by Sutter, that Kiprusoff was always that saving grace, always masking deeper development issues with the goaltending, it is now being exposed. I know it has been discussed plenty, but tonight, it just seems that much more magnified how bad this team really is and not a damn thing will be done to help. Sloppy passes, constant, ineffective line juggling, and yes, the players have tuned out Hartley. The same old garbage is spewed after a loss, “we need to be better.”, “there are no excuses.” , “we need to develop consistency.” blah blah, freakin’ blah. I never give up on the Flames, and I will never stop cheering for them, but changes have to be coming as I am sick and tired of seeing that look of bewilderment on Feaster’s face at every home game, after every loss, and nothing being done, with the same old crappy product that is supposed to resemble a quality hockey team. The fans should not be subject to this BS, but as long as King is in power, nothing will. I can take no positives out of this game tonight and like I have said after every loss, let’s do better next game. I just have that gut feeling that some players are almost trying to play their way out, “conspiracy theorists are wonderful, right Jay”

  • Chris Fairfield

    I lost count on how many times passes were behind the forwards on the rush, players fell down on the rush, defencemen fell down at the blueline after they had puck possession in LA’s zone. Does anyone else want to make a pitch for ROR? Oh yeah, nevermind, same ol’ same ol’ from Feaster and Co. Nope, no way, the fans don’t mind waiting around another year, do you?

    • Chris Fairfield

      I don’t know what else it will take. A few more losses, injuries, more patchwork, no thank you. I agree that I would love to see some changes and a few more quality signings, without mortgaging the future. I would say that the risk of going after someone like O’Reilly is what it is going to take. A shakeup, overhaul, do whatever!! No more plodding along with the crew that we have now, as it is frustrating to watch this same group, make the same mistakes that was supposed to have been corrected in practice, that’s why they call it practice. I saw so many times, LA make short, tape to tape passes to get out if their zone and it worked effectively all game, when they were on the breakout. Feaster, either pull the plug on the season and let the fans know that you are tanking or make some changes…Please!!!