FGD: Blues Travelers

After splitting the first two games of their four-game trip through the Central Division, the Calgary Flames (6-7-2) try to get back to .500 tonight. They face a tough test in the St. Louis Blues (9-2-2). The Blues have been strong of late, winning four of their last five – including their last outing on Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens. The Flames are in a bit of a slide, having lost three of their last four games – their only victory being Sunday in Chicago.

The Blues have been one of the NHL’s best teams this year, bolstered by a strong offensive attack led by Alex Steen. With the Blues’ size and speed, the Flames may have their hands full. The puck drops at 6pm MT on Sportsnet Flames and the Fan 960.

THE LINE-UP

Deep breaths everyone. Here are the projected lines via DailyFaceoff.

Bouma – Stajan – Jones
Cammalleri – Colborne – Galiardi
Jackman – Monahan – Hudler
Reinhart – Backlund – McGrattan

Butler – Brodie
Russell – Wideman
Billins – O’Brien

Berra
Ramo

So, no Sven Baertschi. In addition, Tim Jackman and Brian McGrattan slot in, with the “grit” players sprinkled throughout the line-up. Baertschi’s parked in the press box for the third straight game. Calgary lost the first two games he sat by identical 5-1 scores. And it’s a bit odd considering that Reinhart/Backlund/Baertschi would be a decent line, albeit not a checking line.

The Flames announced earlier today that Curtis Glencross is out with an MCL injury for six weeks, so the Flames are without Breen, Giordano, Stempniak and Glencross. As a result, the lines look a bit lean. The Cammalleri/Colborne/Galiardi line is probably the top line by default and will get leaned on heavily.

Reto Berra starts after giving up five goals in Minnesota. He was drafted by the Blues and they traded him to Calgary, so he may be motivated. After the loss on Tuesday, Bob Hartley noted that the team wasn’t that good, so it makes sense to throw Berra back in there. I’d guess Karri Ramo starts in Denver on Friday.

THE OPPOSITION

Via our best pals at DailyFaceoff:

Steen – Backes – Stewart
Roy – Sobotka – Oshie
Schwartz – Berglund – Tarasenko
Cracknell – Lapierre – Reaves

Bouwmeester – Pietrangelo
Jackman – Shattenkirk
Leopold – Polak

Elliott
Halak

St. Louis’ top six is really great, full-stop. Alex Steen is the hottest thing in hockey right now, boasting 13 goals and a disgustingly strong 30.2 shooting percentage. The top line has 45 points between the three of them. The third line is also fairly strong, and it’s not until the friggin’ fourth line that you find some rough spots. This is a blueprint on how to build a hockey team in 2013, gang.

Tons of ex-Flames here. Aside from Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold, Adam Cracknell was a late, late round pick that worked his tail off and made it to the NHL on a regular basis. I’m resisting the urge to call him an everyday NHLer, but he’s close.

SUM IT UP

The Flames need a win tonight to guarantee a .500 record on this road trip. They’ll be in tough against the Blues, who have two regulation losses this season and play a very structured game. That said, the Flames have the tools to win, as they showed in Chicago. The key to their success will be out-working the Blues and beating them to loose pucks, something they utterly failed to do in the third period against Minnesota.

  • Stunner

    I’ve always been a Hartley supporter since the day he’s arrived. Even last year, I thought the team competed better under his reign, and I continue to see it this year. It’s been refreshing to not have to watch dump and chase, night after night. I give him major credit for getting these guys to buy in, and compete every night. It’s been exciting as a fan to watch, and that’s all you can really ask for, especially from a team that is just starting to rebuild.

    Now that being said, the way he has been handing both Baertschi and Backlund leaves me scratching my head. I’m not sure either of these players are being utilized correctly at all. It hurts to watch Baertschi in the presser and Backlund with Jackman and McGrattan. I understand the whole “play well, and you play on the top lines” sort of thing, but I can’t help but look at Backlund and his effort, and think he should be rewarded with something better than the fourth line. It’s like the expectations of Backlund and Baertschi continue to waiver every day.

    Jackman and McGrattan are not our long term solutions. Let the kids play and further develop!

  • Stunner

    The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that Sven is sitting because the Flames are doing better than expected in standings. So that’s why they must play two knuckle-punchers over one of there more offensively gifted players. We need to be tanking better.

    It might be best to send him down to Abby and call-up Blair Jones. He’s scored 4g in 3gp.

    Atleast he’s used to sitting in the press box in Calgary.

    #FreeSven

  • Southern_Point

    Does anybody else only remember that David Jones not only plays hockey with us but is allegedly a top 6 winger only when they look at the game day lineups?

    Seriously I’m not sure what Hartley wants out of Backlund and Sven. That ‘first’ line is an Abyss, and I’m not sure how the organization can Justify not playing those two when Stajan, Jones, and Bouma, are worse players putting up less points.

  • beloch

    I have and continue to be a Hartley supporter. thus far he has the team working hard and focused on a total team game. (He also has won a Stanley Cup and that earns him some respect in my books) Having said that this lineup is puzzling. With two of our scorers out in Stemp and Glencross it would seem to make sense to have Baertchi in the lineup. Play him top PP minutes and give him heaps of ice time. See how he responds.
    But the sky is not falling and we need to be tempered in our opinions. Strange decision that makes no sense to me! Coach is seeing something that clearly I am not…. Gritchart?

    Think the next month will be tough with our three top players out. Expect to see lots of Heat playes coming and going. Focus on development and effort. Get the B’s back in the lineup and contributing serious minutes. Honestly what is it that McGratton has done to earn his ice time? Oh well… Go Flames Go…(he says rather sheepishly)

    • everton fc

      Never EVER give a coach the benefit of the doubt just because he won a Stanely cup once, especially since he has done pretty much nothing of note since then. I’d lump Hartley into the Marc Crawford/Mike Keenan category of coaches who have won the stanely cup but what else of note have they ever done after that win? After their cup wins, Hartely/Crawford/Keenan all have more years outside the playoffs than having teams in the playoffs.

      That being said, I still don’t mind Hartley as a coach, for the most part he seems to run an effective team. However the choices he seems to be making as of late seems to give reason as to why it wasn’t till his buddy Feaster gave him job that he was out of the NHL for a long period of time.

      He seems to have a lot of time and patience for guys that don’t lend well to the success of a team. Having both Jackman and McGratton play in the same game, while at the same time giving guys like David Jones or Galiardi top 6 minutes. And then at the same giving guys like Backlund and Baertchi the press box or fouth line duties and expecting the to be PPG players or some other fantasy expectation.

      With an injury to a guy like Glenncross, it should have been a window for Hartley to insert a Baertschi or move Backlund to the wing for a game and give them a new oppurtunity to do whatever it is he is trying to do. Instead, they call up a guy from Abby and will have him playing more minutes than what Baertschi and Backlund will be playing combined. No offense to Reinhart, he may be a good player and all, but nothing that was shown last year says he is a better player than either guy he’s going to be getting more minutes than. And if they believe that Reinharts time in Abby this year shows that they can rely on him and can trust him in the role they have for him tonight, why the hell hasn’t Baertschi been sent down? Playing top 6 minutes down there is a heck of a lot better for his development than being made a healthy scratch. He showed that last year after being sent down, he came back a lot better player than before he was sent down.

      A healthy scratch is not a development technique, it’s a lazy move from a coach who can’t think of a better way to teach his players. It screams to me that Baertschi and Hartley have a disconnect some where, and instead of fixing it, Hartley is throwing his hands in the air and saying “If he won’t do it my way, he can sit in time out till he does”. A healthy scratch to me should be used when you have two similar 4th line players in Jackman and McGratton and you should only play one but you want to keep two guys like that on the roster. Otherwise if you are working with rookies that are not 100% there, the minors and the AHL are there for a reason.

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        The Stanley Cup is the ultimate accomplishment in the sport. I will always have respect for those that have won it. It means that yours was the only team that started with a goal and accomplished it. It means that you were more successful than every other team in the league and it means that you have been a Champion. I agree that a coach needs to be evaluated based on his most recent performance but to suggest that one hasn’t earned some measure of respect for winning the Stanley Cup is absurd.

        • MichaelD

          Respect is one thing, any degree of trust with regards to how he handles the flames based on the fact the he won a cup twelve years ago and since then is quite unacomplished, is another. I don’t care that he’s won a cup, it won’t change my opinion what he’s doing with this roster. I respect the fact he won the cup, don’t see any relevance in giving him any benefit of the doubt in regards to the Flames because of it though.

          To me its the same thing as giving those guys who are naturally 3rd/4th line players massive contracts because they played great that one time in the playoffs(Hi Joel Ward, though this year he’s off to a good start). It’s a great accomplishment on Hartley’s part, but at this point in time it means not much.

          Also, Backlund got PP time, is it the return of Backlund??? As well Brodie may end up with as much TOI as Reinhart, Billins, McGratton and Jackman combined, that is some seriously good use of roster spots right there…..

    • Derzie

      Never EVER give a coach the benefit of the doubt just because he won a Stanely cup once, especially since he has done pretty much nothing of note since then. I’d lump Hartley into the Marc Crawford/Mike Keenan category of coaches who have won the stanely cup but what else of note have they ever done after that win? After their cup wins, Hartely/Crawford/Keenan all have more years outside the playoffs than having teams in the playoffs.

      That being said, I still don’t mind Hartley as a coach, for the most part he seems to run an effective team. However the choices he seems to be making as of late seems to give reason as to why it wasn’t till his buddy Feaster gave him job that he was out of the NHL for a long period of time.

      He seems to have a lot of time and patience for guys that don’t lend well to the success of a team. Having both Jackman and McGratton play in the same game, while at the same time giving guys like David Jones or Galiardi top 6 minutes. And then at the same giving guys like Backlund and Baertchi the press box or fouth line duties and expecting the to be PPG players or some other fantasy expectation.

      With an injury to a guy like Glenncross, it should have been a window for Hartley to insert a Baertschi or move Backlund to the wing for a game and give them a new oppurtunity to do whatever it is he is trying to do. Instead, they call up a guy from Abby and will have him playing more minutes than what Baertschi and Backlund will be playing combined. No offense to Reinhart, he may be a good player and all, but nothing that was shown last year says he is a better player than either guy he’s going to be getting more minutes than. And if they believe that Reinharts time in Abby this year shows that they can rely on him and can trust him in the role they have for him tonight, why the hell hasn’t Baertschi been sent down? Playing top 6 minutes down there is a heck of a lot better for his development than being made a healthy scratch. He showed that last year after being sent down, he came back a lot better player than before he was sent down.

      A healthy scratch is not a development technique, it’s a lazy move from a coach who can’t think of a better way to teach his players. It screams to me that Baertschi and Hartley have a disconnect some where, and instead of fixing it, Hartley is throwing his hands in the air and saying “If he won’t do it my way, he can sit in time out till he does”. A healthy scratch to me should be used when you have two similar 4th line players in Jackman and McGratton and you should only play one but you want to keep two guys like that on the roster. Otherwise if you are working with rookies that are not 100% there, the minors and the AHL are there for a reason.

  • The most common reason I see cited for why Sven should be playing is his development. Guess why the coaching staff is holding Sven out: his development.

    The idea that his development will be irreparably derailed by not playing two games in a row the 2nd year into his career is hysterical nonsense and a load of hot bs.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      The Flames as an organization have drafted and developed a grand total of 1 top six forward since 1990, Cory Stillman that is it that is the whole list. So anything and everything that they are doing to develop top skilled forwards should be questioned. What the organization has been doing has not been working.

      Sven is either a top six forward or bust. If teaching him defense play or a higher compete level at the NHL level comes at the cost of his offensive flair/confidence it isn’t worth doing. You can teach defensive play latter in a career see Brett Hall and Stevie Yzerman.

      Not sure that this tough love really gets the best out of offensive players. They need to play in offensive situations and put up points so that they keep the flair and confidence needed to make those instinctual offensive plays and not be worried about every mistake that they make is going to wind up with them being benched or watching from the press box. You can’t teach touch but you can destroy offensive instincts and doing that with Sven will result in a player that isn’t good enough for the NHL.

      Either dress Sven and play him on the second power play unit and adjust his 5 on 5 ice time to reflect the rest of his game or send him to the AHL to play lots of minutes.

    • the forgotten man

      Pretty myopic or clueless comment…Baertschi has been on a yo-yo string since he came to this Club – today’s benching is just one of many bizarre comments and moves with this guy to date.

      On a bigger note, my displeasure with the Org and Hartley is what I perceive to be a cognitive dissonance between where they perceive the Franchise is and where many of the FN commenters perceive where the Flames are. This Club is in a rebuild and is nowhere near competing legitimately in the playoffs for a Stanley Cup. If this Club was in the thick of challenging for a top divisional berth and considered a favorite for the Stanley Cup, then you bench Baertschi or just sent him to Abby. Since we are light-years from that reality, then play the guys who may be the ones to lead you to Glory in 3-4 years. The only way to learn is to play…you can watch video, talk to the Team Shrink and hang out in the press box all you want, but you only learn by playing. Lost in our current society, but you actually learn the most from failure and losing, but Hartley obviously doesn’t buy into that theory.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        When Sven has been in the lineup has he been good? I understand PP time but Monahan produced with no PP time and Monahan’s icetime has mirrored Sven’s until maybe 5 games ago.

        So what I understand the play Sven fire Hartley crowd asking for is:

        Sven should play because he has talent. What does that remind you of?

        Hartley and the team have fostered a team approach since the beginning. Comments were widespread about how hardworking camp was. With the new season came the team being turned over to the vets, who were going take on tough minutes. The focus was now everything is earned.

        A major point that upset many people during the end of Jarome era was how he and Tangs (of which Sven was exposed to during his call up – He loved Tangs too) played to their own beat. There were two sets of rules.

        I don’t think Sven has played that well. He hasn’t really produced and quite frankly he kills plays. It comes from him being lackadaisical.

        Sven thinks, thanks to fans and hype, that his talent is long sought after and precious here. He’s right but talent – work is garbage. His numbers should be better.

        In fact it’s been this way with him since the summer. Why didn’t he dominate prospects camp?

        Sven is being reprogrammed. He needs to get rid of the idea that he is everything the fans and media tell him. A great talent. He has add hard work all the time. That is the culture. Reinhart is another option for the team. Despite his obvious talent, Sven needs to understand he is no different and not special.

        Making Sven seperate from that culture because of talent is going back to the Iggy country club people raged about. Don’t have to earn it cause you got talent.

        To a different degree Backlund, Brodie, Horak, all the Sutter era (Darryl and Brent)have to be reprogrammed.

        More in terms of playing less safe, afraid of mistakes hockey and into Hartley’s aggressive system. Not attitude with them.

        • loudogYYC

          I fully agree.

          Baertschi is a talented and accomplished junior player but that’s about it. He has yet to show that he’s a top 6 player in the NHL

          The shi**y attitude is what worries me, not what we see or read during interviews, but when he goes to a prospect tournament where he’s expected to be the best of 50+ forwards there and he chooses to coast.

          I understand why everyone’s pissed, he’s a likeable kid and has some really nice skill, but it takes a lot more than being cute to be a top 6 winger in the NHL.

  • the forgotten man

    With a gun to my head while being hung by my “frank & beans”, I could not come up with a worse lineup sheet…is this a joke, and I ask this in my serious tone??

  • the forgotten man

    My prediction: The Stajan line will get murdered, badly, until Backlund replaces Bouma on the LW (which will happen, probably before the midpoint of the 2nd period). Then they’ll only get a little murdered.

    At some point, Bouma will slot in on Monahan’s line, and Jackman will flank Reinhart alongside McGrattan, and the three will get virtually no icetime at all from then on.

  • KelownaFlames

    I always read these articles but never comment. But Hartley dressing McGrattan AND Jackman over Sven, with top 6 Glencross and Stempniak out, drives me insane.