The Weekly Ignition: December 2 2013



The month of November is now officially in the rear-view mirror, and we’re about to hit the fun part of the year: December. It’s a month full of Teddy Bear Tosses, the World Juniors and a lot of NHL hockey. Heck, Jarome Iginla makes his return to Calgary in a couple of weeks.

But before we can dive into December, let’s take a quick look back at the tail-end of November!


The Flames played three times over the past week. They had two good games and one bad game. They only won once.

On Wednesday, the Flames hosted the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite getting a 2-0 lead early in the third period, the game got away from the Flames and they ended up losing 3-2 and getting zero points. Matt Stajan and Sean Monahan scored, while Reto Berra was tagged with the loss in net. [Post-Game]

On Friday, the Flames began a quick two-game road trip in Anaheim. As usual, the Flames lost in Anaheim (by a 5-2 score). However, they were summarily out-worked by the Ducks, which is generally unusual for this year’s club. David Jones had both Flames goals. Reto Berra allowed five goals and was replaced after the last with Karri Ramo. [Post-Game]

On Saturday, the Flames jumped back into action with the LA Kings. Unlike their prior day’s effort, the Flames out-worked their opposition and skated away with a 2-1 win. Blair Jones and Mike Cammalleri scored for the Flames, with Cammalleri’s marker coming with 23 seconds left. Karri Ramo got the start and was generally quite good in the win. [Post-Game]

There was also quite a bit of roster movement this week as a result of a few injuries. T.J. Galiardi (back spasms), Sean Monahan (hairline foot fracture) and Dennis Wideman (broken hand) were put on the IR, while Max Reinhart and Paul Byron were summoned from the AHL.

But good news, everybody, as Mark Giordano has progressed (in the past week) from skating by himself (as he did on Tuesday) to skating with the team in practice. He’s tracking towards being back next week, perhaps, which would be great for the club.


First off, read Steve MacFarlane’s piece on Matt Stajan. Stajan’s gone from being a fourth liner during Brent Sutter’s tenure to being one of the key pieces for the Flames. A great resurgence for Matty Franchise.

Scott Cruickshank talked to a lot of Flames dads during the recent road trip. Thankfully the team won a game during the California trip, otherwise the Flames may have been grounded.

But hey, the Flames world isn’t all sunshine, lollipops and golfing with Dad in SoCal. The Flames are missing a ton of bodies – key bodies – due to injury. George Johnson has the details.

Speaking of injuries, Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun discusses the impending announcement of Team Canada’s 26-man selection camp roster for the World Juniors. Of note? Monahan’s injury may play a major part in the composition of the team.

Eric Francis talked with former Flame Mike Commodore, who’s currently in the KHL playing with the expansion club Admiral Vladivostok.

And finally, I had the chance to talk to Chris Breen and Craig Conroy about what the heck is happening in Abbotsford, as the Heat are presently the best team in the AHL. Coming later this week here at FlamesNation, a lengthy chat I had with Heat head coach Troy G. Ward.


A lot of losing all-around the Flames organization this week sadly, but two of three pro clubs managed to earn some points. The Flames went 1-2-0, with a win against the Kings on the road in the back-end of a back-to-back.

Elsewhere, the Abbotsford Heat hit a bit of a stumble this week, losing both of their games against the lowly Utica Comets. They lost 3-2 on Friday (Michael Ferland and Greg Nemisz scored in an aborted comeback) and then lost 4-3 in overtime on Saturday (with Turner Elson, Josh Jooris and Ben Street scoring). When you consider that the Heat are without regular defensemen Mark Cundari, Tyler Wotherspoon and Patrick Sieloff, and missing regulars Max Reinhart and Paul Byron, they’re hanging in their pretty well. Meanwhile, in the ECHL, the Alaska Aces lost both of their games this week against the Colorado Eagles.

Your unofficial prospect Three Stars this week: Gatineau forward Emile Poirier (eight points this week, including four helpers in a single game), Providence College goalie Jon Gillies (45 saves against Quinnipac, 32 saves against Brown) and Yale forward Kenny Agostino (one assist and a plus-3 in a 3-2 Yale win over Merrimack). Also of note: Swift Current forward Coda Gordon is reportedly out 4-6 weeks with a lower body injury, while Morgan Klimchuk suffered an undisclosed injury in the final Subway Super Series game and will be out an undetermined amount of time.

Oh yeah, so the Super Series provided a nice (televised) opportunity to view 2013 seventh round pick Rushan Rafikov against a high-level peer group. Rafikov played five of six games, missing only the first match against Team QMJHL. He had zero points and was a minus-4 in the series, which sadly is the only “counting stat” the CHL tracks during the series. That said, he generally seemed pretty solid. He’s a right-side defender (shooting left), with a good first pass out of the zone and some good mobility. He was often out there against the CHL’s top players and looked pretty decent, and actually got a lot of ice-time in the later games at the end of the game with the games close, indicating that he earned a bit of trust from the Russian coach.

Rafikov is one of the better players on one of the better teams in the MHL, but there’s a bit of debate about how the talent in the MHL stacks up against their Canadian counterparts. At the very least, Rafikov showed he can stand his own against the CHL. There’s no guarantee that his performance earns him a spot on Team Russia at the World Juniors, but he definitely gave Russia’s coaching and management something to think about.


The Flames have a couple days off and then gets back in the saddle on Wednesday at home against the Phoenix Coyotes. After that, it’s a back-to-back against some good young hockey clubs to close out the week: on Friday the Flames host the Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche, and on Saturday they head to Edmonton to face the Oilers.

In the AHL, the Heat host the San Antonio Rampage on Friday and Saturday. In the ECHL, the Aces head down to Salt Lake City to face Calgary’s old ECHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

After a rare “disappointing” effort for Boston College (via a 5-4 loss to Holy Cross), Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold get back into action with a home-and-home against New Hampshire. That’s probably the biggest highlight of the week for the kids, as it’ll be interesting to see how the BC kids react to that upset loss.

Finally, if you are curious about the Vancouver Giants and how Brett Kulak can be a point-per-game player as a blueliner (or want to see Sam Reinhart play), Kootenay and Vancouver play on Shaw TV on Wednesday night.

  • beloch

    I didn’t find Rafikov very good at all in the game in Lethbridge. He seems to have a good stick and is not afraid to get hit. The biggest thing I noticed was he is not good at skating backwards. He would often chrat back towards the center ice line while Russia had the puck in the offensive zone. He looked like he did everything possible to avoid skating backwards.

  • Craig

    Hey everyone! Poirier didn’t make team Canada juniors but Shinkaruk did!

    That’s &*$%#%$ ridiculous.

    Hope this energizes the kid a la Gaudreau two years ago.

    • McRib

      Hockey Canada clearly hasn’t watched Hunter Shinkaruk (5G, 11A,16P) at all this season, he has been awful!!! Game has completely regressed. Just made it on reputation, last night against the Hitmen the only time I noticed him was for horsecollaring Alex Roach in the Offensive Zone. Emile Poirier’s obmission is rediculous especially considering Felix Girard made it a guy who has 18 points this year, who at 5’10”-181 and medicore skating offers nothing outside offense.

      I highly doubt the Flames send Sean Monahan after Hockey Canada dissed Poirier (20G, 24A, 44P) & Klimchuk (12G, 12A, 29P) .

      • piscera.infada

        Maybe it’s just Sutter sticking it to us. I’m surprised neither Poirier of Klimchuk made the initial roster, although apparently that isn’t inclusive so who knows. Monahan will definitely be there if the Flames release him. They probably wont, but it would be for the best.

  • McRib

    Rushan Rafikov looked very medicore in the subway super series, but it is his first time playing on North American Ice. Still considering Greg Chase was on the board and worse of all Edmonton took him the next pick. This one stings a little I expected Greg Chase to be a 3rd rounder cannot believe the Flames weren’t aware of him last year slipping to the 7th (Hello he played in the ‘dome all season). We did a great job last year with our three first rounder then the brass just went widely off the board the rest of the draft (outside of Eric Roy). Done even pretending Kanzig, Harrison and Rafikov are ever going to pan out.

  • McRib

    Even as a Flames fan I am also very surprised Darnell Nurse was omitted from the selection camp roster. I don’t know what Hockey Canada thinks with Chris Bigras or Adam Pelech (might be biased because of older brother on this one), but Nurse is second in OHL defense scoring….

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Bob Hartley is the wrong coach for a rebuild. He will be responsible for pushing players away from Calgary. He will not make the rookies better players.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        At first I liked him … in his first interview he talked about an emphasis on communication… I thought he would be a guy who brings the team together… at first I didnt think much of the Backlund Baertshi thing as it was only a few games and who knows whats really going on behind the scenes… there could be injuries etc…

        When the Backlund trade rumours started I started to scratch my head. Dealing Backlund for peanuts does not fit in with tje context of Feasters other moves.

        Now I am not sure what is going on at all… Burke… Feaster … Hartley… Are Burke and Hartley taking over the show here….

        Not saying Backlund will ever reach his potential but with his current performance and injury history I cant see the return being all that much. Cant figure this… unless Feaster is fishing for a Del Zotto or someone like that.

        While I do like the Flames approach to the rebuild… not tanking… no excuse for not winning etc… there has to be some realism here… the roster is not a winning roster and with young players patience is required… to develop the skills of a centerman quality wingers and ice time are necessary.

        • RexLibris

          “While I do like the Flames approach to the rebuild… not tanking…”

          The Flames are currently the 5th worst team in the league and the latest statistics suggest (in spite of what I myself argued recently) that the worst is yet to come.

          Repeatedly playing Berra, benching Baertschi and Backlund, odd line combinations and roster decisions.

          They are tanking.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            Benching Baertschi and Backlund can’t be viewed as a taking strategy. No one here puts either player in the Cammalieri or Hudler level, at this point in their careers. And as far as goaltending goes, no one has established themselves as a true #1, so no the Flames are not tanking. This season bad player selection is solely a function of bad coaching decisions.

          • DoubleDIon

            Sometimes we have different perspectives, but for an Oiler fan you actually seem to understand the game. Usually Oiler fans only see the game from the offensive blueline in. Our roster decisions have been shocking to say the least, but I don’t think we’re tanking. We’re just missing our best forward, best defenseman and are starting AHL goaltenders. We’re also horribly mismanaging Backlund. Bartschi is skilled, but he needs to round out his game consistently. There are nights when he forechecks and brings the back-pressure, but with his speed that should be an every night thing like it is with Backlund.

            Offensive inconsistencies are fine in my book. It happens with young players. Heck, it happens with vets too. Glencross and Stempniak go through long offensive boom/bust periods. But they always forecheck and come back hard. Backlund does this too, Bartschi doesn’t yet. We want him to be Perron, not Eberle.

          • RexLibris

            You mean this Jordan Eberle


            Because here is Perron


            and truth be told there is little difference between the two aside from Eberle showing that he is the more complete player at this point.

            Neither are case studies in defensive hockey, but Eberle has been the the more defensively-minded winger of the top four (including Hall, Perron, and Hemsky).

          • DoubleDIon

            I mean how Eberle is completely sheltered in terms of both QoC and ZS% year after year and still gets his lunch handed to him. Anyone who thinks Eberle is a more complete player than Perron is completely out to lunch. I withdraw my earlier comment about you seeing more than the 90 feet of the offensive zone.

          • T&A4Flames

            I disagree. Unlike the Oilers, they play hard most nights and want the puck more thsn the other team. We nust lack the skill and team experience to close out games. So no, we aren’t tanking, we’re nust being beat.

          • RexLibris

            Why do we wear “not tanking” like a badge of honour? I see no purpose in “not tanking”.

            Do you guys want to get another 7-10th overall pick?

            Not tanking is how you perpetually suck. Its what we did for 10+ years. Everyone wants a mini rebuild. Look at Ottawa & Toronto. They did it quick, and as expected they turned it around quick and got right back to being playoff bubble teams forever.

            What is the purpose of “not tanking”??

            I know the Oilers haven’t got results yet because their mgmt is incompetent and they are STILL icing a team of kids with incompetent D and a lack of veterans. BUT if you take your Oiler hate glasses off you have to see their “tank” got them 4 or 5 players that you cannot get ANY OTHER WAY. With competent mgmt, trades and coaching they wont’ be able to help themselves but be an elite team for many, many years.

            But people on here want to “not tank” and quickly get back to being a middling playoff bubble team like the Sens/Leafs etc etc…

            LA tanked. Chicago tanked. Pittsburgh tanked.

            More Kings, Hawks & Pens. Less Senators ‘mini no tank rebuild’.

          • T&A4Flames

            The purpose of not tanking is to prevent a comfort or exceptance for a losing culture. IMO this may prove to be more important than drafting a bunch of 1st overalls. If you can’t understand that then perhaps you should cheer for the high talent, no drive Oilers.

            Its not a “badge of honor” its part of rebuilding a culture as well as personnel.

          • T&A4Flames

            I guess I just want us to be a powerhouse. I have no interest in becoming the Ottawa Senators, quickly making the playoffs then perpetually fighting for 8th place. Haven’t we done that already??

            If someone could point me to one example in the last 25 years of teams who have completed a rebuild without several years of absolute pure TANK please show me. I’m honestly asking??

            I’m not debating there is risk in getting stuck in a rut of losing (Isles, Panthers, Thrashers etc). Thats not the purpose here.

            But when I look at the league powerhouse teams I see a group of teams who went all-in and fully committed to an absolute tank job.

            The Hawks TANKED for 7 years. Kings 5+ years. Penguins 5+ years. I mean TANK HARD, Coiler style. Going back further, the Nordiques/Avs did it and created a powerhouse for a decade.

            I just feel like fans are so against a fully committed tank job that we are happy to just be the next Senators/Leafs quick turn around and back to mediocrity story.

            No thanks. We’ve come this far…. Lets do it right.

          • T&A4Flames

            I can’t speak of the culture of those teams prior to them becoming powerhouses. I do know that they were bad teams for a long time. The Oilers are showing currently that the highest possible draft pick for a few years guarantees nothing.

            I think the Flames management are trying to “do it right.” Try desperately to maintain a culture bent on winning and instill in the players that losing is in no way exceptable. Hartley has expressed in some interviews this year that despite losing the game he was happy with the effort; they didn’t lose per se, they were beat…by a better, more experienced team.

            Our losses will come I have little doubt. We may not pick 1st overall in any of the next few years but we will pick high for at least the next couple. And Monahan is showing a top 10 pick can be a solid pick. I have gained some faith in our teams drafting and I am confident we will get the right personnel for a strong contending team.

            I look at he Kings, no reL allstars just a lot of hard working players with decent skill.

          • T&A4Flames

            I don’t think the Oilers are showing much besides poor mgmt. They are stacked and nobody can take that away from them. With a bit of mgmt they will be a powerhouse for the next 5-6 years at least.

            Everyone loves to point to the Coilers as a fail. This year is clearly a flop, but hardly signs of a fail in rebuild strategy. Failed mgmt yes. Failing to plan for this phase etc. But they did the tank part right.

            The Penguins got 29th place overall WITH Crosby, Malkin & Fleury playing. People seem to forget the 4th full year of 100% TANK they did to get Jordon Stall before they turned it around.

          • T&A4Flames

            A proper rebuild isn’t just about acquiring a top 2 pick for 5 years. Without proper management and coaching any rebuild could be doomed to fail.

            The coach needs to be able to develop those top picks and that means making the hard decisions at times. The GM needs to look for opportunities to improve the team beyond just accepting losing and claiming your reward of 1st overall in the summer. Have you worked in jobs where the management was inept and lazy and seemingly and apathetic towards results but all the staff worked at full capacity and potential?

            The Oilers are loaded with potential. But will all that potential ever be realized? How many wasted years have there been already and to come because EDM, according to you, did it right?

          • piscera.infada

            While I agree with you that this team needs to be bad for some years in order to break the cycle of middling, I think you need to broaden your view of how bad they need to be in order to attain game breaking players. You seem to assume that picking first overall is the only way – which I fervently deny.

            You can point to Pittsburgh and Chicago, but you also leave out how much luck actually plays into this. You kind of have to “tank” at the right time in order to truly be elite. Just because you pick a player first overall doesn’t mean you’re getting a bona fide star. Remember, Pittsburgh won the lottery to pick Crosby. Without that pick, maybe they end up with Malkin-Staal as their top two centres in the end (which is no slouch, although hardly comparable to Crosby-Malkin), and instead pick a Bobby Ryan or Jack Johnson. Sure, they could have then taken Toews over Staal (but let’s assume that plays out the way it did, and they take Staal over Toews – as it could have happened that way anyway).

            I guess the long and short of it is, when tanking you need to hope against hope that everything still works out – much like it needs to when picking 6th overall. If you get a Couture at 9th in 2007, that’s pretty damn good. Sure, it’s no Kane, but it’s better than Karl Alzner… Likewise, maybe from 3-6 in 2006 you get a Toews, Backstrom, or Kessel instead of Erik Johnson.

          • T&A4Flames

            you never really played sports did you?

            oh and by the way, columbus tanked, islanders tanked, tampa bay tanked, florida tanked….any of these look like they are going to win the cup??

            Smart drafting and UFA management wins cups. Tanking is for idiots who don’t understand winning

          • T&A4Flames

            I played in the AJHL for 2.5 years in the 90s including a trip to game 7 of the Doyle Cup.

            If you even read my post I clearly stated there is a risk to losing and that is not the purpose of this discussion.

            My point is that nobody has ever shown me an example of a powerhouse, perpetual cup contending team that rebuilt without a serious commitment to tank.

            I admit there are plenty of examples of failed tanks. Thats beside the point.

            Do you have an example of a team that did a ‘retool’, or mini non tank rebuild and became a top 3 team in the NHL for 5+ consecutive years?

            I DO NOT want to get back to being a bubble team. I’d rather get 30th for a decade than get 9th place 1 more time.

          • RexLibris

            The team is working hard most nights. Okay, but is that the extent to which you measure whether a team is “tanking”?

            Did the Penguins, Blackhawks or Kings not work hard on many of the nights when they had already lost the game before they’d finished singing the anthem?

            Of course they did. But as you say, they lacked the talent to translate that effort into success.

            But the players aren’t the only ones involved in the process. Management has to wear this also.

            Flames management is rumoured to be preparing to sell off veteran assets, they are running a depleted lineup (no fault of their own), and there appears to be some disconnect between results and playing time rewards.

            I know Flames fans avidly despise the Oilers, but this irrational desperation to define whatever the Flames are experiencing now and are likely to experience over the next few months (and perhaps years) as anything other than tanking is shortsighted and delusional.

            It isn’t inherently a bad thing, it is merely a term to describe a team that is facing a very difficult task and falling to defeat more often than not. Finding ways of turning that defeat to one’s advantage are signs of intelligence and adaptability.

          • T&A4Flames

            Ok, well if this is your definition of “tanking” then I guess any and all teams going through a self professed rebuild is tanking.

            To me its a mindset and yes, I agree with you that it goes through all levels of the organization. Hartley, Feaster and all the way up to Edwards the message has been “losing is not acceptable.” Now, I haven’t paid that close of attention to the Oilers rebuild but I live in Edmonton and I don’t recall ever hearing that message except from the 4 or 5 coaches that have ben fired in that time. for too long Tambi sat on his hands and allowed a losing attitude to creep back into the dressing room. No consequences for players not giving proper effort. The coach was fired at the end of the season.

            There is a balance that needs to be found between showing your players you’re commited to winning by making moves and acquiring players to help the team accomplish winning and not going over board.

            What I believe we ate seeing with CGY right now is a commitment a winning culture and a commitment to the youth to accomplishthat goal. They have already said that any player not commited tk that and hard work, efforts will be made to find them a new home.

          • Alsker

            Yes… as fans this has been great… they are still trying to win games… the point i am making is this is a different strategy than that employed by other teams….
            we will get a high pick but we still have entertaining hockey to watch…

            On the Berra thing… Hartley has a history with him thats all it is.

  • McRib

    No Poirier = HUGE mistake. The kid can fly, especially on the big ice surface. Also isn’t one dimensional – brings ALOT more to his game then some other players on this list… Plays both ends of the ice, hits, is gritty. I honestly don’t understand why he isn’t even getting a tryout. He had an unreal training camp with the flames, has been putting up points in the Q, and I heard from a couple scouts I follow on twitter that he looked good at the super series. What am I missing?

  • McRib

    Not sure if not selecting either Poirier or Klimchuk is Brent’s way of sticking it to Calgary or not. But I believe he has a history of not wanting to many players from the Q. Also neither of them lit it up in the subway series. Personally I’m not concerned that he did not pick them although it would have given me even more reason to watch the WJC. His mistake is not taking Poirier could cost Canada the gold as the kid can play either wing and play any role.

    • DoubleDIon

      Poirier deserves it. Klimchuk doesn’t. I think there are definitely 14 forwards who are better than Klimchuk right now in the CHL. The same can’t be said about Poirier in any regard. He’d be perfect for this tournament. Speed to burn, plays a 200 foot game, physical and gifted offensively.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    If I had to guess I’d say Poirier may have the propensity for reckless play (and penalties) at times.

    It comes from a compete level so you kind of love it but countries have potent power play. However his Gatineau coach is an assitant on TC I think.

    Harsh but at least he will get a ton of feedback. Hopefully it motivates him.

  • Alsker

    So why exactly does your management refuse to allow Monahan to go to WJC’s? Like it’s going to affect your season,lol…Is Burke trying to help team USA or is learning what a winning atmosphere and real game pressure NOT important to them? Sorry I just can’t believe they said NO to letting him go…Epic Fail!!!!