We’re less than a week away from the trade deadline and it’s more than probable that Jarome Iginla will be elsewhere come April the 4th. Last night was a bittersweet moment for Flames fans, with the captain scoring the game winning goal and Miikka Kiprusoff putting together his first true "stolen game" performance of the season. Shades of 2004.
Of course, last night was also a stark illustration of how far back the team is of the true contenders in the conference. Despite being the rested team on home ice, the Flames were handily outshot and outchanced at even strength and it was only a drastic difference in goaltending that preserved the win. On a more general note, after a very strong first 10-games the Flames possession numbers have steadily eroded to the degree they are now in the red and just clear of the bottom third of the league.
– By the way, the Blues roster is about $12 million cheaper than the Flames in terms of cap space. Calgary’s perpetually underwhelming results aren’t the only reason things have to change around here – it’s the fact that the budget space is being used in a grossly inefficient manner. Naturally, having next to no kids (outside of Backlund and Brodie) providing value during their cheap seasons has something to do with this.
– Related: it’s remarkable the difference really good goaltending can make in the perception of a team’s global performance. According to Justin Azevedo’s chance count, Calgary gave up as many or more chances to the Blues as they did in each of their previous two losses to Columbus and Nashville, but they didn’t seem even half as incompetent because the puck didn’t end up in the net as often.
– Obviously the dominant topic this week is going to be whether or not Jarome is moved. Today fresh rumors and speculation are starting to crop up, saying Iginla has "other" teams on his list including Detroit, Anaheim and maybe the Rangers. Iginla’s going to be the big deadline story not only here but throughout the league, so we can all expect a lot of stuff to be thrown at the wall until something happens. The return most often being bandied about, though, is a first round pick, a roster player and a prospect.
Here at FN we’ll concentrate on the original 4 teams listed by Renaud and Dreger: Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and LA. It’s less likely Iginla ends up as a Penguin now that Pittsburgh has acquired Morrow from Dallas, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible: the Pens still have a lot of cap space, a spot beside Crosby on the first line and they didn’t surrender a first rounder to Dallas for Morrow, which is going to be one of the key pieces in any Jarome deal I imagine. If they decide Morrow isn’t enough or they want more firepower for the stretch, Pittsburgh still has a few assets to make it happen.
As for the other clubs, I am gathering intel from fans/writers in the know in each market. I will publish their thoughts on the manner in the next day or so.
– I’ve been asked who else I think the Flames should shop at the deadline. As most around here know, I’m not a proponent of simply liquidating the entire roster, so my list is probably shorter than expected…
I would shop marginal assets like Sarich, Babchuk, Butler and Comeau in the hopes of getting rid of at least one or two of them for picks. Roman Cervenka is another name I’d put up for auction, if only because the current coach doesn’t seem to like him too much and I find it unlikely he’ll choose to re-sign in Calgary given how little he’s been used here. I would imagine at least Dallas would be willing to move a pick or two to reunite Cervenka with Jagr, especially since they now have a Morrow-sized hole in their lineup.
– Sven Baertschi has started to put up points in Abbotsford again after a bit of a slow return (four in his last three games). He now has 22 in 27 games, for a point-per-game pace of 0.81. The closest behind him is Krys Kolanos (0.72) and team leading point getter Ben Walter, who has 38 points in 59 games (0.64 PPG). Things more or less fall off a cliff after that.
The Heat are struggling to remain in the playoff picture of late. Their league leading goaltending has come back down to earth, but their offense has never recovered after going in hibernation some time late in November. They currently sit in 11th place in the Western Conference with 69 points and every team behind them currently has at least one game in hand. Unless they hit a momentous hot streak to end the year, Abby will be golfing with the parent club in April.
– Probably the most ironic thing that can happen is the org deals Iginla but the goaltending finally recovers for the final 10 or so games and the club goes on its first extended winning streak. I don’t consider this likely, but it’s certainly possible – even though I expected Kipper to not be great this year, I’d be very surprised if he’s actually way below replacement level as his numbers currently indicate. If he recovers at all before the season ends (like he managed last night) the Flames will win a few more games, even if Iginla has been auctioned off.
Of course, if that indeed happens it will not be evidence that "Iginla was the problem" or some other such nonsense.
Other Stuff – New Sponsor Giveaway!
On the site news front, we’d like to announce WebSim Hockey as a new sponsor. You’ll see their banners popping up here and across the network for the next little while.
WebSim is kinda like the ultimate "Be a GM" mode – you get to make player and roster decisions, update coaching strategies and manage the business and financial aspects of running a team. They also include "player evolution" so rosters "develop" like real players rather than remain static.
Anyways, on top of buyng some banner ads here, WebSim also threw in 12 free one-season subscriptions for Nations readers. The first 12 folks to email [email protected] with "Nations promo" in the subject line or body of the email will claim a free season with WebSim. The give-away is first come, first-serve so don’t wait around to grab it.
– On a personal note, I will be contributing "Sunday Ramblings" to Dobber Hockey once a week going forward. I used to write from a fantasy hockey perspective back in the day, so this outlet gives me an opportunity to do that again. Stop by and check it out every Saturday night/Sunday morning will you?