1. Whither the Canucks?
So they gave the ol’ heave-ho to poor Alain Vigneault today, who was victimized mainly by injury but also his own general manager’s inability to do his job properly. Isn’t that always the way?
Cory Schneider was and should have been the Canucks’ starter this season and he acquitted himself well enough when he was healthy. The problem was, when the Sharks swept the Canucks out of the first round after a fairly underwhelming run to the top of the Northwest Division for the last time, Schneider wasn’t healthy and Roberto Luongo didn’t steal the games he played in such a way that it made Vigneault look good.
The thing I always say when coaches get fired in situations like this is that the guy they choose to replace him needs to be better than the guy they let go. How many coaches out there are better than Vigneault? Canucks fans are breathing a little easier today because they for some reason found the old coach’s job to be somewhat underwhelming, but now they have to wait for Mike Gillis, who couldn’t even correctly read the trade market for a 30-plus-year-old goalie with a ponderous almost immovable contract. Obviously no GM is ever going to fire himself and one gets the feeling that if whoever they bring in next doesn’t work out — and barring a huge roster overhaul, he probably won’t, given the new divisional competition the Canucks will face next season — it’s gonna be Gillis packing up his office this time next spring.
2. What does this mean for the Flames?
Of course, the Canucks theoretically taking a step back, which could very well happen, might not have a massive impact on Calgary’s chances for making the postseason any time soon. The Canucks are, as things stand right now, maybe the third-best team in the division, which will still probably guarantee them a playoff spot most years (this assumes the Ducks regress to where they should have been this year, and that the Oilers don’t take a huge step forward under Craig MacTavish in his first year).
The Flames, meanwhile, remain indisputably the worst in the division if not the entire Western Conference, which is fine by me; one cannot imagine that they get anywhere near one of the two "wild card" spots for teams finishing outside the top three in their divisions. I’d put it LA, San Jose and Vancouver coming out of the Pacific and Chicago, St. Louis and Minnesota from the Central as locks, and two of Anaheim, Nashville, Edmonton and Dallas. Probably. Winnipeg is better than Calgary, so too is Phoenix, and I’d say it’s arguable that they’re worse or at least as bad as Colorado.
Basically what this means for the Flames is nothing. The Canucks will, unless they totally blow it up, which they won’t because Gillis wants to keep his job, still dominate the Flames both over the course of the season and in their head-to-head matchups. Oh well, I guess.
3. Other teams are doing it
One thing I’ve noticed in the last couple of days or so is that teams are doing a bit of housekeeping in re-signing guys who play marginal roles. Rob Klinkhammer and Eric Boulton and so forth. It occured to me today that the Flames have a guy like that on the roster as well, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and who could be someone they’re interested in re-signing.
That guy is obviously Brian McGrattan.
The Flames have made no secret of the fact that their goal this summer is to become "tougher to play against" because the fact that Mikael Backlund won’t fight anyone is the reason every team in the league ran them the hell over all season long. McGrattan, in their eyes, fits that bill: a guy who sucks at the hockey-playing aspects of playing hockey but who is all too happy to try to fight all comers in the eight seconds of ice time gets per shift before good players come over the boards and he does the closest thing he can to scurrying off so someone can take his place.
The same may be true of Steve Begin, too, but I don’t know I’m just spitballing here. Certainly, it seems well within the realm of possibility that both guys will at least garner consideration from Feaster et al this summer. Yuck.
4. A quick thing on Reto Berra
The US was ousted from gold medal contention at the World Championships over the weekend by the stalwart Swiss, who settled for silver. In goal for the Swiss was, oddly, Flames prospect Reto Berra, who came over in the Bouwmeester trade and will be on North American soil next season.
I thought he looked good. Not great or anything, but pretty good, behind a team that was undefeated until the gold medal game. It was actually a ballsy move by their coach, giving Berra the start. His other goaltender, Martin Gerber, had been phenomenal, but at roughly a trillion years old, had apparently been a little in danger of tiring out. So turning to the kid was a bit weird. Then again, he finished with the best save percentage in the tournament at .967, so I guess you can’t argue too much. I’m very interested to see what he does on a smaller surface next season; that’s usually a decent adjustment.
5. This was my favorite Flames-related thing this week
You knew who would be in the byline the second you read the headline. If you thought Roman Cervenka was going to be anything but a disappointment for Calgary, you haven’t been paying attention to everyone else who dominates the KHL then comes over here and does dick-all.