FGD: Choose Your Own Path

Even I, among the most optimistic of fans, am starting to see the ground approaching fast for this edition of the Calgary Flames. I figure the absolute minimum to make the playoffs in the Western Confrence is going to be 55 points – meaning the Flames can only let 11 of a possible 40 points slip away before they’re done.

It’s odd to be counting the season down so far out from the trade deadline. Usually, they’re right in the mix until the bitter end; but barring a huge run like that of March/April 2004, that wont be the case this year.

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They’ll finish up their nightmare of a roadtrip tonight in Columbus. The Blue Jackets are on quite the roll – 7-0-3 in their last 10. That may be inexplicable to some, but all one has to do is take a look at their goaltending stats to see why they’re winning games despite being last in the league in goals scored and goals per game (as well as some frightful shot differentials). While some might be buying into the narriitve that “this team just loves to play” (*cough 960 morning show cough*), the reality is their record is built on a house of cards.

The Lineup


  • Alex Tanguay-Mike Cammalleri-Jarome Iginla
  • Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-Lee Stempniak
  • Jiri Hudler-Roman Cervenka-Blake Comeau
  • Brian McGrattan-Steve Begin-Tim Jackman
  • Jay Bouwmeester-T.J. Brodie
  • Mark Giordano-Dennis Wideman
  • Cory Sarich-Derek Smith
  • Miikka Kiprusoff

Last night was probably the worst game Chris butler’s ever played in a Flames uniform – including that -7 effort last year in Boston. I was a big Butler booster coming out of last year, but it’s pretty clear from what we’ve seen this year that any defencies he has were simply covered by Jay Bouwmeester – which just makes me even more impressed with what Bouwmeester can do, as he made a replacement-level defenseman look like a top-4 guy for an entire season.

Mikael Backlund will sit tonight, likely due to his foot injury. He’s got a small fracture in his foot from blocking that shot against Nashville last week, and he’s been trying to play through it, but it’s likely just too much to go on a back-to-back with the amount of pain an injury like that causes. I feel really bad for Backlund – he’s had horrible luck with injuries and he’s been one of the Flames’ best forwards this season to boot.

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Mark Giordano and Blake Comeau have started to look like they might be NHL-level players again, which is nice. Comeau has 3 goals in the last four games and Giordano had his best game since January last night, tallying a goal and assist. It would be nice if both guys could contunie to play to their believed skill level from here on out, maybe build up some trade value or something.

The Enemy

  • Vaclav Prospal-Derick Brassard-Mark Letestu
  • Derek MacKenzie-Artem Anisimov-Jared Boll
  • R.J. Umberger-Ryan Johansen-Nick Foligno
  • Matt Calvert-Colton Gillies-Cam Atkinson
  • Nikita Nikitin-Dalton Prout
  • Fedor Tyutin-Jack Johnson
  • Tim Erixon-Adrian Aucoin
  • Sergei Bobrovsky

The Prospal-Brassard-Letestu line has been Columbus’ best line by far this season. They’re currently 1-2-3 in scoring for the Blue Jackets and even though they’ve been playing 3rd line competiton they are driving play forward with two of them having ZS% in the low 40s. That might not sound impressive, but keep in mind that one is a guy in his late 30s and the other two aren’t exactly household names.

Fedor Tyutin is a pretty good defenseman. Like, really good. Despite playing top comp, a 46.1% ZS and having to carry Jack Johnson around (a big name guy who has been a black hole at ES forever), his relative Corsi is only -3.9. He’s also tied for 3rd on the team in scoring and he’s still on the right side of 30. He’s probably the team’s best all around skater and he’s been performing like it. Tim Erixon hasn’t been too bad either, with an even ZS% and a +4.3 relative Corsi rating. Sure, he’s been playing bottom-6 comp, but that’s still pretty good for a rookie.

That house of cards I talked about above has another name: Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s 4th in the league in EVSV% (.935), 5th in the league in PKSV% (.900) and he’s sporting a shiny 2.05 GAA. Those numbers are well above his career averages, but it is only his 3rd season in the league, so it’s entirely possible that they’re actually close to his true talent level. I’m not convinced, though – pretty much all goaltending stats from this season will be thrown away due to the randomness of a 48-game schedule. His back-up, Steve Mason, is the epitome of how even marginal puck stoppers can get really hot for brief stretches now and then.

Sum It Up

I don’t really know what I have to say here – time is running out for the Flames, if it hasn’t already. If they lose this one in regulation it’ll be pretty hard not to pronoounce them dead on arrival when they reach Calgary early Saturday morning.

I didn’t talk about Jarome Iginla above, but it’s obvious that whatever is going on behind closed doors is weighing on him. For his sake, more than anything – I hope his situation gets resolved soon. I don’t think it’s fair to him to drag this out any more than is needed, and the guy deserves to win a cup – not end his career Cup-less with the hell we’re going to endure over the next 3-5 years.

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In saying that – Go Flames. Game time is 5PM. Watch it on SNET West or listen to the Legend that is Peter Maher on SNET 960 the FAN.

BONUS! Death Clock

11 points until the clock strikes midnight.

  • icedawg_42

    Ok …a natural center picks up the high slot. There’s a big problem with this team playing out of position. Your postgame would have been shallow and pedantic anyway

  • beloch

    In an ideal world, several teams would get into a bidding war to rent Iginla, offer Feaster a deal he can’t refuse, and Iginla, with his shiny new cup ring, will resign with the Flames in the summer for home-town discount cheap.

    In the real world, Feaster is likely going to get some pretty stingy offers and Iginla’s camp is going to want $$$$ to resign, possibly more than the team can really afford. In this world, Feaster needs to know his walkaway options. That means that, by now, he should have come to terms with the Iginla camp about what the next contract should look like.

    If Iginla’s next contract looks like it’s going to be too rich for the team, then Feaster *has* to trade Iginla, even if the return isn’t that great. If he doesn’t trade Iginla and instead allows him to walk in the post-season, Feaster’s head is going to roll. (This assumes the owners won’t simply override Feaster and resign Iggy no matter the cost, just to keep shirt sales up.)

    If what Iginla’s expecting to receive is more reasonable, Feaster has more room to be fussy about trades. In this situation, making sure that Iginla *wants* to come back is probably more important than brow-beating him into accepting a trade to a team that isn’t likely to go deep but was willing to pay the most.

    • Brent G.

      Trying to figure out why so many fans want Iginla to come back over the summer. I understand wishing him well, go win a Cup, etc., but why bring him back?

      His entire era (16 years?) has produced but one playoff run. All his fault? No, but he can take his fair share too.

      Personal records, but no playoff success while being the Captain and supposed leader for that many years, to me = failure.

      His leadership qualities vanished years ago along with his work ethic. For every goal he scores, he basically causes one to go in. If he comes back, he’ll be a grossly overpaid 3rd liner. He’s the leader in the country club this team has become. No urgency, no heart, no consistency.

      Seriously, does bringing him back make the team any better? At all? Hasn’t everyone had enough of recycling players to begin with?

      This team needs a fresh start and new leaders who care about winning vs the location of their summer home.

      Not intended as any sort of attack on you, it’s just, can’t we trade the man and move on already?

  • Derzie

    I’ll get home right around the beginning or middle of the 3rd, probably right around the time the goal starved Blue Jackets get their 7th goal…….

    Pretty sure if we lose this game there is now hope for even those hopeful people. Having to get at least 29 of the last 40 points would have to have us on a Columbus/Anaheim/Chicago like tear for us to make the playoffs.

    At least the Flames are the most interesting team going into the deadline, you have to think that Jaybo has put in a trade request, Iginla’s camp has probably put in a list of teams they’d be willing to work with(however he would request management demand he be traded so he looks like the good guy leaving town, can’t hurt that rep) Cammellari has got to be on the way out, he’s built himself some decent value for the year, with Comeau’s recent play he might have earned himself a trade for a very late round pick.

    I don’t see a giant sell off from the likes of Colorado, Florida is so injured that all the tradable assests can’t be traded while injured I believe, Washington might sell a bit, but I don’t see the likes of Philly selling anything off. Maybe Phoenix or Nashville in the west. But the Flames and maybe Buffalo are the only true teams that are in fire sale mode going into the deadline and boy could it get interesting cause there still might be a ton of teams interested.

  • Captain Ron

    Dear God,

    Please don’t allow Tim Erixon score on us, ever. A simple loss to them tonight, and what will most likely be many times in the near future will be a sufficient load for all of us to bear.

  • The cervenka experiment is a joke, especially with the rediculous cap hit! Set him loose in the summer please. He is soft and you’d think he’d be wanting to make a name for himself with effort. I don’t mind bringing back iggy but he’s getting between 5-6 so that’s a problem. Doans contract was over 5 right? So maybe iggy gets a base of 6! Uggh!

      • thymebalm

        I’m afraid you are right kent. How do you preach no blow up no blow up and then blow it up?! They have painted themselves so far into a corner now with their version of intellectual honesty that I can’t see them even being able to re-sign iggy or trade for him. Essentially all the changes we made are “sixes” . We went from a hard nosed, low scoring team 5 five yrs ago 3-5 points out to a higher scoring team 3-5 out to a completely soft (all be it faster) and old team maybe 8-12 out by the time this short seasons done! What gives?

  • Brent G.

    You know, I do want the flames to lose because I would like to see them make real changes. That being said I just wish they were exciting. Their games put me to sleep…