1. Just the thing they do now
Monday night, you’ll recall, was arguably the worst Flames performance of the season, and that’s saying something special given the stinkers they’ve mailed in already in their first 14 games. That shootout loss to Minnesota springs to mind as a pretty bad one, as does the loss to Colorado, as does the loss to St. Louis.
But at least there’s a pattern beginning to develop, and we can start to draw something from that. Ludicrously small sample size aside, one thing I’ve noticed in a lot of these games is that when the Flames play poorly (which is obviously "often"), Bob Hartley goes on some little rant and rave about how some guys on this team take the night off — the postgame scrum in Phoenix stands are evidence enough of this phenomenon — and then as if by magic, Calgary goes out and plays extremely well in the next game. And so forth.
The Colorado loss gave way to the utterly dominant and unlucky shootout loss to Chicago. The Minnesota shootout loss was followed by the 7-4 blowout of Dallas. The humbling from the Blues was answered by that amazing third-period comeback over Dallas (those guys again!).
Of course, this serves two purposes, neither of which are particularly beneficial to Calgary. The first is that it keeps them firmly and deeply near-.500 all season long, in the familiar position of just barely out of the playoff hunt. That’s obviously nothing new, and not going to change any time soon. The second is that it gives everyone a chance to ruminate on the various "what-ifs" that these win necessarily create. If the Flames can go out and push around Chicago, for example (though still ultimately only settle for the loser point), then they can’t be so far away from being actually competitive. All they need to do is put it all together every night for the entire season and boy howdy it’ll all go great then.
Even the dimmest observers of the sport, on the other hand, will tacitly acknowledge that there’s no way in hell any team, let alone Calgary, can play at the level to which the Flames occasionally climb for all or even most of a season. The push they’d need to clamber back into the playoff picture at this point is gargantuan, made all the tougher by the intraconference schedule. As of Wednesday afternoon, they were the a smaller distance from last in the league as they were a Western Conference playoff spot (four out from Dallas’ eighth-place in the West but three up on Columbus’ 30th in the NHL).
Which way do you think they break the rest of the way? I have my own theories on it.
2. What I don’t understand
Blair Jones was waived the other day, and there was significant consternation among the Calgary fanbase about it. Which is a thing I will never understand.
Okay, Jones was useful in his role. Maybe slightly — SLIGHTLY — more than useful, but not so much that anyone would ever mistake him for anything more than a servicable fourth-line center. And people were ready to storm the Saddledome with pitchforks and torches because Blair Frickin Jones got waived. Roger Millions, meanwhile, said he totally understood the outrage.
Meanwhile, this team has gotten older and older and older, continued to deteriorate in quality despite assurances that they were rebuilding on the fly — i.e. half-committing to two things at once, and we all know where half-measures get you — and the breathless defenses of such a plan by the fanbase have continued any time I’ve said one bad word about the job Jay Feaster is doing. I wonder if it’s that crap about the importance of Blair Jones’ presence in the lineup that arose last season because the Flames were winning at a far better clip with him, totally by accident I’m sure, than without.
I understand the most popular and/or unassailable guys on teams are usually defensive forwards and backup goalies, for whatever dumbass reason, but if the biggest problem you have with Flames transactions in the last few seasons is that they tried to send Blair Jones down, then it’s time to reassess what you want from this sport.
3. Take it behind the barn
Speaking of guys getting sent down: Leland Irving. Man, that kid can’t catch a break, and you gotta think that the idea of having him ready to take over as a No. 1 NHL goaltender at any point in the future is now deader than Calgary’s playoff chances this year.
It was never an easy route for Irving to begin with, given that he was likely going to have Miikka Kiprusoff standing in his way for most of the early part of his career. But he’s been a pro now for four seasons, and there has never been any point at which you could say his numbers even approached being above average. His best single-season stats came in 2010-11 as a 22-year-old, when he went 2.30/.913, which aren’t bad but certainly aren’t enough to encourage one to foresee any great NHL seasons at this point in his career.
Yeah, maybe I’m saying this all a little too soon, given that he’s not turning 25 until April and only has 13 NHL games under his belt, but you gotta think that when we’re looking at a Kiprusoff-shaped hole in the side of the Saddledome at some point in the relatively near future, they’re not going to turn to Irving to fill it. Unless they’re dumb. Which I haven’t ruled out, obviously.
4. Iginla vis a vis Alfredsson
Earlier this week, Pierre LeBrun had an item about the Boston Bruins (and presumably 18 or 19 other teams with playoff aspirations league-wide) would be very interested in acquiring the services of Daniel Alfredsson. The Senators, by the way, are obviously done for the year given that Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson are both on the shelf more or less for the remainder of the year.
Of course, it’s up to Alfredsson. The Sens wouldn’t trade Alfredsson unless he was cool with it. This paragraph in particular, though, caught my attention:
"What if he wants to come back and play another season? That’s another possibility you can’t discount. If he does play another season, would he want to try to win a Cup elsewhere and return to Ottawa for a final year? All things to consider."
Right up until that part where it says Ottawa, it could very easily also be about Jarome Iginla. In fact, all the particulars of the article could be. Iginla’s done as much, if not more, for Calgary as Alfredsson has for Ottawa. He’s an institution. He’s a highly-valued player. He’s going to garner significant interest at the deadline when Calgary is ultimately out of the playoff chase. His GM is going to be reluctant to trade him.
I’d imagine that Iginla would generate more sniffing from opposing GMs, given that he’s younger and probably seen as a far better option, particularly on the power play (hint hint, Boston). You gotta think there will be a significant market for both, though. I have no doubt that Bryan Murray is wise enough to at least consider his options here. I am less certain about Feaster doing the same.
5. Holding a hand out…
You might remember a few months ago I participated in a fundraiser for a youth tutoring and writing center in my home city of Boston at which kids from underserved schools get homework help and a little bit of coaching when it comes to creative writing. For more information on that, you can go here.
Well, that nonprofit, 826 Boston, is once again holding a fundraiser, and would like to raise a total of $20,000. Last time out, I raised a little less than $4,000. This time around, I would like to approach that figure once again.
I’m not exactly sure what the story is with the fundraiser, except to say that all proceeds go to help players in a spelling bee to cheat — thus, "Spelling Bee for Cheaters." Anyway, you can donate to my page by clicking here.
And once again, in an effort to encourage people who like my writing (see also: dummies) to make contributions, I will once again take to my own dumb blog that I never update, and write daily posts that make fun of all kinds of hockey things which are stupid. In my experience, it’s a pretty rich vein in general.
You don’t have to give a ton of money or anything like that. Every little bit helps, as I’m sure you know about nonprofits in general. If you have the resources to donate, I would really love it if you did.