Five things: Winding down now


– pic via


1. I hate summer

The good news is that this is the very last Five Things I will have to write in the month of August, when absolutely nothing happens and everyone just complains, mainly about how there is absolutely nothing happening. The better news is that hockey is just over the horizon, with the Flames set to participate in the Young Stars Classic in Penticton once again this season, starting at the end of next week.

In fact, after having a look at the roster the Flames put together for this thing, it’s actually pretty respectable including — and this is something I almost couldn’t believe — up the middle. Calgary’s going with Sean Monahan, Corban Knight, Max Reinhart, Markus Granlund, Josh Jooris and someone called Linden Penner up the middle, and that looks very solid for a prospect camp at the very least. Not that that means anything at all, really, but that was something else.

Here’s something else that stood out to me: The complete lack of depth on the right side. What I mean by that is, Emile Poirier and Ben Hanowski are the only right wings listed on the roster. The other six wings are all naturally suited to the left side, which is something I feel like you almost never see.

The defense is a little underwhelming and top-heavy, which is, perhaps, to be expected, and I think the goaltending is looking pretty good. No one is disagreeing — at least I don’t think so — that Laurent Brossoit shouldn’t at least get a good solid shot at the No. 1 job in Abbotsford, and Joni Ortio has played pretty respectably in the last two seasons in Finland for someone who just turned 22. I’m pretty interested to see what both can do.

That camp, by the way, starts next Wednesday. So that’s something to look forward if you’re especially starved for hockey. Which you should be.

2. Those AHL signings 

Speaking of Abbotsford as I just was, the Heat signed both Carter Bancks and Steve Begin yesterday, which I thought was an interesting thing to have happened. (Incidentally, I understand that I’m using the word "interesting" a lot so far but unlike most of the things the Flames have done lately, these have been interesting for interesting reasons, not interesting for horrifying reasons, and there is a qualitative difference there.)

These signings in and of themselves weren’t all that notable for reasons that should be obvious – Bancks is a career AHLer who got a shot with the big club last season only because of the paucity of warm bodies lying around toward the very end of the season, and Begin has almost no tread left on the tires – but what this says to me, and maybe I’m wrong, is that they’re ready to give a bunch of the rookies the chance to make the team in the fall.

That gives me pause for reasons I’ve gone over before, especially if it relates to a kid whose name rhymes with "John Jonahan".

3. Olympic camp snubs

Both the US and Canada held their Olympic orientation camps this week and there was some talk about who had and had not been snubbed through the lack of invitation from USA Hockey and Hockey Canada, respectively. 

The most notable of these was Jamie Benn, who for some reason thought he should have gotten the invite to the Canadian camp and made a whole bunch of crybaby noise about it. But here’s the thing with the perceived "snubs" where these camps are concerned: They don’t matter at all.

I think both organizations, but Hockey Canada especially, selected younger guys that went on deep playoff runs and generally had good seasons. Thus Milan Lucic. Thus Corey Crawford. Thus Patrick Sharp. Thus Brad freaking Marchand. I’d be absolutely shocked if one of those guys made the team. I mean, honestly, can you imagine Lucic trying to huff and puff his way up and down an Olympic sheet? He barely makes it in the NHL.

There’s this whole idea now, too, that somehow Jarome Iginla and some of Canada’s other Old Guard who have a couple gold medals in their back pockets (and p.s. let’s forget all about that unfortunate 2006 thing) might also make it if they work hard but that’s just a nice way of saying "You’re too old for this but not completely useless in the NHL." If they make it, somehow, the guys they beat out better spend the entire tournament either injured or thoroughly embarrassed or, preferably, both.

As to Benn, well, sorry, but this isn’t that far a cry from Vinny Lecavalier complaining about a snub any more, and at least the latter has his seniority to fall back on (albeit from the Voldemort of modern Canadian Olympic hockey performances, insofar as it must not be named). Boo hoo.

4. A weird what-if

Most Fridays I do a couple minutes on Ryan Pinder’s show on the FAN960 and last week he noted something that I hadn’t even really thought of, but boy was it ever funny. Miikka Kiprusoff still hasn’t filed his official retirement papers with the NHL, meaning that as far as the league is concerned his $5.83 million cap hit is still on the books with the Flames.

The suggestion that he might show up to camp is the funny part. He saunters into the room with his gear bag, everyone starts trying real hard to avoid eye contact until someone with a little bit of authority comes along and says, "Uhh hey Miikka here’s the thing we already have a bunch of goalies and umm, y’know, we all kinda thought… well, uh how do I put this? You were bad and gonna quit. That kinda thing…"

That’s obviously not going to happen but I wonder how this kind of thing works. If he doesn’t show up like, say, Tim Thomas last season, then maybe they just carry the cap hit, which won’t matter anyway since this team is getting nowhere near the ceiling, so intent as they seem to be on staying deep in the basement. But in thinking about it the last few days, I got to wondering: Has this kind of thing ever happened before?

A player retiring without officially retiring, with no injuries to speak of (so the team can’t put him on LTIR), and that cap hit just happening and no one really caring? That would be very strange, I should think. Very uncommon at the very least.

5. And finally…

In lieu of anything substantive to talk about, I thought I’d leave you with this quote from Brian Burke about the big deal everyone is making about the size of the ice in Sochi.

Said Burke on the alleged big deal about the ice size: " These guys have all played international, OK? It’s pretty simple: The rink’s 15 feet wider. If you think about it, you can’t chase the puck in any of the zones like you do in our rinks. It’s elementary."

I love Brian Burke.

Around the Nation

Graphic Comments returns from his off-season hiatus to talk about Luongo the "Diva". Check it out:


  • I think the Flames forward depth is enough that the team shouldn’t be “compelled” to keep Monahan around. Right now they have Backlund, Stajan, Knight, Bouma, Horak, Reinhart, Granlund down the middle.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I’m eagerly anticipating the hockey season as well. Penticton will give us fans some much needed perspective with regards to the prospects. I’m wondering/hoping the tourney will allow me to dream even further…

    Monahan = the next Kopitar? haha.

    Did anyone else read that Lucic has quite the analytical mind (that might be relative but he could also be like a Craig Breslow of hockey). Listening to Lucic speak, I feel he is very calm and thoughtful. I wonder if his love of stats has piqued his interest in corsi etc?

    This may be old news, but has anyone watched this interview with Chris Snow:

    Snow makes many, many comments that are ‘very interesting’. Too many to go into but I wonder if he videos an overhead of the entire ice (video game style) and is able to track every player on the ice. Then with corsi for example you can see exactly what a good corsi game for a player looks like. Can you have a good corsi game but actually be ineffectual? Does something else like passes completed give a better representation of driving the play?

    For the Olympic team, I think there are only 7 starting spots up for grabs (14 locks). Those 7 are:


  • I am not sure what the point of the diagram at the end is about in labeling Luongo a diva. There was a time when I wasn’t his biggest booster, but he has been railroaded in Vancouver, and has been nothing but class the whole time.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I like the subdued nature of this article. It was the literary equivalent of a gentle float down a stream, for the most part.

    Regarding Olympic snubs: I kind of thought Backlund not being invited to the Swedish camp was snubbish. Not to say he’d necessarily end up on the team (if he did it would be in the bottom six given the existence of Zetterberg, Backstrom, Sedin), but I saw a couple of dudes there whose places he could’ve taken at camp.

    • beloch

      Besides having good possession stats, what has Backs done to get noticed? Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a great player with a ton of potential, but he’s still only Olympic-great in the future-tense. Besides, Sweden could still call him up if, later in the season, Backlund has lit things up and actually stayed healthy.

      • SmellOfVictory

        Just comparing him to dudes like Marcus Kruger, Niklas Persson, Joel Lundqvist, and Gustav Nyquist, all of whom Backs has essentially outscored of late. And beyond the counting stats I’d wager he’s certainly better than all of them, as well. Remember, most countries can’t put together a ridiculous team (or two ridiculous teams) like Canada can; a possession-driving mid-tier NHLer is an Olympic talent for most countries. Sweden is still one of the deeper countries, but it does surprise me that Backlund got no invite to the camp.

        • beloch

          Kruger, Persson, and Lundqvist all played in the SEL/SHL, which is probably the league most of the Swedish team’s staff and players are connected to. Backs only played in Allsvenskan, which is Sweden’s second-tier league. For the Swedish Olympic team to go after Backlund would be a bit similar to the Canadian team going after a guy who never played in the NHL but tore up the AHL and did well in the KHL. Of course, the NHL is a better league than the KHL, so it’s a little less unlikely for the Swedes to take Backs.

          Besides being known to the team staff, the guys you mention are older and possibly fill “leadership” roles. They might even be big with the fans, but I have no idea since I don’t follow the SHL.

          Right now, Backlund is a guy who has 0.36 ppg game career average in the NHL. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not a number that says, “OMG, this guy who is a total unknown to us is clearly a *GOD* and must be on the team right away!”. As I said before though, if Backs has a good season (and stays healthy) I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get a call. He’s coming off his best season as a Flame yet, so hopefully this is just one more reason for him to keep pushing fowards (without breaking any fingers).