Dark Days are ahead, friends. They say that most business ventures fail in their first year. The Calgary Flames, the NEW Calgary Flames, can thusly be looked upon as a business venture, and it is going to hurt. The Young Guns, or as friend of the blog Duncan Clark has dubbed them (and I’m concurrently stealing) the #Young2uns, are back. We all remember how that went last time. AND THEY HAD JAROME IGINLA.
It’s been brought to my attention that chasing the data is going to lead to some, er, daunting content in the weeks and months ahead here on your favourite Flames blog, and I don’t think anyone is necessarily surprised by that. Don’t shoot the messenger (the messenger being me – ol’ Looby! – and not FlamesNation, which is also a messenger. Figure it out, you’re all smart people, maybe), it’s just what I’ve been told.
But that doesn’t mean all is lost. For long term success, sacrifices have to be made, we know that. And we know that a long term plan is still in place. Tangible, WATCHABLE, decent things are going to happen in the next (hopefully less than) 5 seasons (gulp), and it’s important that we keep tabs on these budding paragons. After all, even the finest flowers still rise upwards from common dirt.
So that’s why throughout this offseason (and into the season as well if you cynics haven’t chased me out of town yet) I’ll be periodically checking in to provide some much needed optimism in what is surely to be some trying times. Now everyone take a deep breath, exhale, and find serenity. Or drink! Actually just drink, it’ll be a lot easier.
There’s a lot of small stones that need to be upturned here. We can find positives in several different areas surrounding this team. I’m not going to speak to all of them today, but it’s a broad scope, so I’m creating a checklist for us to discuss so that we can all keep focused over the course of the coming year(s). Consider it a guide to Flames related tranquility.
- The Continued Development of Sven Baertschi
- The Future Looks Good With Svean Monahan
- TJ Brodie: Number One Defenseman?
- Jon Gillies: Can He Be Awesome?
- The Farm Hands Get A Shot At Being The Farmers
- The Team Is Younger; The Savings By Buying Less Prune Juice Are Through The Roof
- Cory Sarich Is Not A Calgary Flame
- Anton Babchuk Is Certainly Not A Calgary Flame
- Brian McGrattan Is A Nice Guy And Has Earned Nice Press Box Seats
- You Can Still Buy Beer At The Saddledome
- Randy Carlyle Is Not The Coach
- If Things Go Really Bad, Jay Feaster Will Probably Get Fired
And I’ll add other things to the list as they develop. Feel free to add your own.
Today though, we’ll focus on the first two.
He’s still the best. Not only is he named Sven, which is adorable, he’s trending upwards in a really nice Swiss arc (not a thing, but go with me on this).
The inner beauty that comes with being an ugly looking team is that the guys that you project to be your GUYS in the future get to use the present to really come into their own. We all expect the Flames to be a bad team, largely devoid of elite talent. That’s because they are. Which sucks in the mean time, but damn, what an opportunity for Sven and friends.
When I was younger, just a pamphletofloob, growing up wanting to be an NHL goaltender, I read a book called In The Crease written by the legendary Dick Irvin. Dick took his tape recorder and interviewed goalies who have played the game from pretty much every decade leading up to the 1990’s (it was an older book, for sure. As an example, he interviewed Chris Terreri, because no one knew who Marty Brodeur was yet).
There were some compelling stories, some, uh, not so compelling stories, but there was an interesting trend that came through the recollections of this masked commonwealth: Many of them developed the skills to be good by playing on bad teams and facing a lot of shots.
Obviously, this makes all the sense in the world. You can’t get better at stopping pucks if you don’t have any of them slung your way. This philosophy can easily be adapted to forwards and defensemen as well, and in the case of Baertschi (and maybe a few other young Flames as well), it’s a pretty apt scenario.
I think it’s pretty obvious that Sven is going to earn himself some Top 6 minutes this year, if not 1st line time. This is going to equate to taking on tougher defense and higher volumes of tough minutes against quality opponents. Now, naturally, this is going to lead to some growing pains. There will certainly be times where he’s going to look exposed, but he’s at a point in his career where that’s okay. He needs to learn to play with and adapt to that level of competition, and really, there’s not a lot of pressure on him this season if he falls on his face from time to time figuring out how it all works at that level.
Ideally, he just thrives anyway, plays well with, oh, let’s say Mikael Backlund, and both players enjoy a bit of a renaissance, and we have a couple of Forever a Flame candidates well on their way to winning our hearts for eternity. But more likely, he’ll get there (and he WILL get there) after another season or two getting his feet wet.
I think it’ll be exciting to watch.
(This is the first picture that came up when I did a flickr search for Sean Monahan. It makes no sense, but I like it, so we’re rolling with it)
(Also yes, I’m going to call Sean Monahan Svean. It’s a nice uniformity)
Anyway, Lambert was on the Fan the other day talking to Ryan Pinder about Sean Monahan (I can’t find the audio for it anywhere, so I’ll just summarize), and he crushed it so hard like he was Tim Jackman’s cement forehead cracking a walnut shell.
The gist of it, and I couldn’t agree more, is that the best way to get really excited about Monahan is if he doesn’t make the Flames at all this year (the nine game tryout would be fine, but ONLY THE NINE GAME TRYOUT PLEASE).
With Sven, he’s in the position now where he’s beyond dipping a toe into the water, and just needs to be grabbed by the waist and tossed right into the cold lake. With Svean, it’s not that time yet.
Really, AT BEST, Monahan would start the year on the Flames as a 3C (probably 4th, really. Hello Corban Knight or Roman Horak or someone), earning goon minutes and then planting his ass on the bench for 55 minutes a game. They did this with Sven for a portion of the season last year, and it was a terrible idea until they traded everyone away, brought him back from Abbotsford and gave him real minutes.
It would be a terrible thing for Monahan, too. There’s a school of thought out there that suggests he’s outgrown the ranks of the OHL and needs to go up a rung on the ladder to get better, which is a theory that has a modicum of truth to it. But, as Lambert attested to on the radio, quite often for an 18 year old to make it into the NHL and fit in, it just really doesn’t happen unless you’re a really special 18 year old (Crosbys of the world unite). No one’s suggesting Monahan isn’t a great hockey player at 18 years old, but is he one of those INSANELY RARE NHL READY 18 year olds? Probably not.
You also avoid the messy contract scenarios that arise when you burn the first year of a prospect’s ELC on a player that is probably not ready to start honouring that contract yet. Just look up north to Edmonton to see what potentially ugly jams you could find yourself in (Sam Gagner got PAID, y’all!)
So give him another year of junior. The thing that will make him a positive point for Flames fans in this scenario is that he immediately becomes a strong contender to lace up for Team Canada at the World Juniors. Albeit a small sample, that level of competition is going to be the best thing for a guy in SVEAN’s position to experience.
Sure beats sitting next to Steve Begin on the bench watching hockey happen instead of creating his own.
(we can admit we won’t be surprised if somehow Steve Begin comes back, yes?)
Training Camp is a little over 2 months away. If I can’t make you all at least a little bit happy before it begins I’m personally coming over to your houses and forece feeding you all healthy doses of Zoloft.