Monday Random Thoughts – January 28 2013

 

 

The Flames convincing win over the Oilers on Saturday night seems to have washed the away any lingering sour notes from the club’s 0-2-1 start. Calgary certainly looked like a different team on HNIC relative to the prior three games. Their transition play was much smoother and they managed to more or less put together a full 60-minute effort, whereas they spent long portions of the other evenings being completely dominated to one degree or another.

Of course, it’s hard what to make of a single performance this early in the season. Especially against an opponent like the Oilers, whom, for all their young talent, still have very real issues throughout their roster. Certainly the insertion of Hudler and Cervenka as well as the sudden awakening of Bouwmeester seemed like things that should continue indefinitely, the truth is we really can’t be certain until we see similar efforts throughout the season. And against better teams to boot.

– Saturday night was also a perfect example of why the goon is an anachronism in the modern NHL. First, Don Cherry in all his bluster claimed the Toronto Maple Leafs were clearly a different team wtith "more swagger" in their play thanks to the insertion of guys like Brown and Orr into their line-up. This was after the first period in which the Leafs were outshot 14-3 but nevertheless led 2-0.

The rest of the story is predictable. Toronto ended up losing the game 5-2 and were outshot handily by New York, 41-17. Colton Orr played less than 4 minutes and had one fight, naturally spending more time in the box than on the ice.

– Darcy Hodichuk’s night was even more unproductive for the Oilers. He played three shifts (less than two minutes total), took a useless cross-checking penalty (a PP the Flames scored on) and was generally a liability. Calgary didn’t dress an enforcer type at all, opting for a 4th line of Baertschi, Jones and Comeau and mostly ran away with the game.

So much for swagger.

– Related: back in 2008 I wrote my first rant against the role of the goon called Ditch the Enforcer (hilariously pilfered in full by this random blog). In it, I noted one of the easiest and best ways to neuter the opposition’s tough guy is to simply not dress one of your own (since heavyweights only ever seem to fight other heavyweights). The counter-argument always seems to be that the bad guys will run rough shod over the home team physically if they don’t dress their own nuclear deterrent. 

The truth, however, is usually closer to what you saw in Calgary on Saturday: if the opposition is running a functional 4th line, it’s difficult for the tough guy’s coach to justify giving him any ice time at all since he’s bound to struggle at the actual hockey portion of things.

– Although Calgary still doesn’t have a true PvP line or Selke caliber player, there’s no doubt they have greater offensive depth than the last few seasons as evidenced by the fact they can ice two relative good PP units. This of course depends on just how well Cervenka adapats to NHL hockey (he looked fine Satruday night) and if Lee Stempniak can continue to play like an all-star, but it’s refreshing so far.

– I am surprised Bob Hartley decided to put Cervenka on the wing and stick with Tanguay at center. Everything obviously worked out fine versus the Oilers, but one wonders how well Alex is going to perform as a pivot in the long-term. My worries aren’t really face-offs, but the on-going demands of the position, particularly in the defensve zone. Tanguay has had some problems in the previous games getting the job done anywhere but the offensive areas, so with another center (or two if you count Hudler) in the line-up, it makes sense to me to move Tanguay back to LW. This would also help get Mikael Backlund (who had the best possession rate on the team on Saturday by the way). Something like this:

  • Tanguay-Backlund-Iginla
  • Cammalleri – Cervenka – Hudler
  • Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
  • Jackman/Baertschi – Jones – Comeau

– As for Baertschi, he looked fine on a line with Jones and that trio generated more than one 10-bell chance. That said, if this persists and they can’t get him on the ice for more than 5 or 6 minutes per night, Sven should probably go back to Abbotsford and play top-line minutes there.

– Also, with TJ Brodie usurping Chris Butler and guys like Babchuk and Carson waiting around as depth options, it might make sense for the Flames to start shopping the former Buffalo Sabre around. There seems to be a big appetite for depth defenders around the league so Calgary could get a nice return for a guy the coach doesn’t seem to have much time for. This isn’t something they have to do immediately, but should be seriously considered if Hartley sits Butler for another week or two.

– I know we’ve discussed this before, but if the Flames could get rid of Stajan and replace him with Ryan O’Reilly, their roster suddenly looks so much better. O’ Reilly remains unsigned and I imagine the Avs would listen to trade offers at this point as well. Of course, if their demands are unreasonable, there’s always the offer-sheet…

Either way, Calgary would obviously have to free up salary space to ink the kid. Moving Butler and Stajan (somehow) and demoting Baertschi would probably do the trick.

  • jakeryley

    I think O’Reilly would be the key piece that the Flames need to make them into a solid two way team, give them more compete against the likes of Chicago, or San Jose… to me it’s a no-brainer, but Feaster seems like he is reluctant to make too much change because even last year he believed Calgary was a playoff team…

    As far as enforcers go.. I think they still have a place, but if your going to add grit, they should also have some skill as well..

    I think its far more intimidating to opposing teams if they are afraid to cross a blue line because they might get leveled… then any Goon threatening to drop the gloves.

  • jakeryley

    Flames currently sit with almost 6M in allowable cap-space for this season – O’Reilly should absolutely be targeted. I’d love if Feaster and Flames ownership/management would should the “initiative” and land O’Reilly, either via trade or offer-sheet – although offer-sheet may be dangerous regardless of whether or not it’s matched, because I can’t count out the possibility of a top-5 draft pick this summer.

  • jakeryley

    Kent..as usual you have a nice read on things. The only thing I would add is placing Comeau on waivers and if unclaimed either demoting him or buyout (I guess only at end of season). He is taking up valuable development space.

    • Ehh. Im okay with Comeau on the 4th line. I don’t know how much development a kid can do in that position. Sven will almost assuredly jump over him at some point and it’s not like the Flames have an obviously superior option to Comeau either (Jackman and Begin being other options).

      Comeau has some tools – he can skate and bang bodies and put the puck in the net from time-to-time. his deficiency seems to be his head – not the smartest dude on the ice. Against other 4th lines he’s fine though.

      • jakeryley

        I must say I have wondered how he pulled off 24 goals and 22 assists in 77 games for the islander. I guess he must have has some great luck and been playing with some decent players.

        It’s too bad he hasn’t been able to return himself to former glory as of yet… if he could somehow get back to business he might really provide some 4th line depth.

        • Kevin R

          As an Islanders fan I can tell you this, the majority of Blake Comeau’s points in 10-11 actually came on the third line.

          Comeau’s attributes are most useful in the open ice. He has great speed from end to end and can lead a rush nicely. He’s also a really good penalty killer.

          His biggest drawback, like Kent said, is his head. He makes a lot of questionable decisions.

          For a guy who can lay a big hit from time to time, he’s not a grinder. Comeau hates physicaility when its not coming from him making a check. He doesn’t do well in the corners or in front of the net.

          I would say 20 of his 24 goals that year came from him shooting off the rush or him sitting between the faceoff circles in the open ice waiting for a pass to come off the boards.

          He’s the kind of guy that can flourish in the perfect situation, but ONLY in the perfect situation. I actually think he would benefit from more of a 4th line like the one against the Oilers with Baertschi and Jones. I know it’s not the best situation for Baertschi, but that style of line would suit Comeau.