Five things: And we’re back

1. The World Junior decision and what it means

So the Flames aren’t allowing Sean Monahan to go to World Junior, and it’s something about which I am of two minds.

On the one hand it’s probably nice for a 19-year-old kid to get a crack at playing in a tournament like that. But moreover I think it gets back to that whole argument of what’s best for a player’s development; at this point we know what he’s going to get in Calgary: 16 minutes a night and power play time.

The argument against sending him back to Ottawa for another season of major junior is one thing, and I get the argument that he’s better off playing against third-line NHLers on a bad team than first-line OHLers on a worse team, to an extent. But with respect to World Junior, where he’d be going against the best 18- to 20-year-old kids in the world, and probably getting top-line duty, you wonder how much better it is for his development to not take the month or so off and just go have fun in Sweden, and probably put up a ton of points.

The Flames, of course, talked about what’s best for the organization and what the fans want and so on, which was summarized thusly (and hilariously) in the Calgary Sun by Randy Sportak: “In Monahan’s case, it would mean missing a bunch of games — around a dozen — and the Flames do have a duty to their ticket-buying fans to ice the best possible team night-in, night-out while chasing a playoff spot.”

Sportak later acknowledged that the team’s playoff chances are a “pipe-dream,” but nonetheless this seems to be the club’s thinking in real life. If you’re paying for Flames tickets just to see Monahan play 16 minutes a night, you deserve to be parted from that money. You’re as delusional as the Flames.

It’s only a few weeks. What’s the difference?

2. Calling out Hartley

Saw where Scott Parker felt he was being disrespected by Bob Hartley because he wasn’t fighting to Hartley’s credit. Thought that was interesting.

Mainly because — and I’m not sure Parker’s use of the term “bully” really applies in this situation — you see that a lot with how Hartley handles the Flames. He has his favorites and lets them do more or less whatever they want, while the guys he clearly doesn’t like very much get short shrift no matter how well they play. For example, he clearly loves Reto Berra despite the fact that Berra is a dumpster fire in the crease. He’s awful, and yet he was getting so many starts before he was injured that you’d have thought Karri Ramo dropped off the face of the earth. The same is true of scratching Sven Baertschi or Mikael Backlund for not scoring, but also not putting them in a position to score.

Again, I don’t think that Parker can go around saying that Hartley’s the reason he had 25 concussions or whatever, and I think probably this is all a little bit overblown. But with that having been said, I think it’s pretty clear that he has His Guys and if you’re not one of His Guys, you’re going to pay for it.

3. Giordano almost back?

Mark Giordano has been cleared for contact for a little more than a week now. By the time you read this, they might have even put him into the lineup for last night’s Phoenix game (yup, they did – ed.).

That’s good news for anyone hoping to see a little bit more aesthetically pleasing hockey, because Giordano was playing 25ish minutes a night before he got hurt in late October. When the Flames’ defense is as thin as this, and especially with Dennis Wideman now out for as long as two months, things could have gotten very bad indeed in terms of the kind of discombobulated own-zone play one might have been able to expect from the Flames.

Let’s be honest here, only giving up 22 shots on goal and winning in Los Angeles without either of their top two defensemen in the lineup was sheer and blind and screaming luck, and you can praise TJ Brodie up and down forever, but he’s not a guy you want playing nearly 30 minutes a night. This is also true of Kris Russell playing 26:32.

This comes none too soon for Ramo and Berra. Can you imagine what four or five games like that would have ended up looking like?

4. Something I’ve been wondering about with Gaudreau

I suppose on some level every team’s fans get way too geared up about the chances that some of their top prospects become high-quality NHLers. Of course they do. But with that having been said, I wonder if the furor over Johnny Gaudreau, transcendent and game-breaking in a way I’ve rarely seen at the college level, might be getting to be just a bit too much.

The Calgary Herald recently dispatched George Johnson to Boston to see Gaudreau play and talk to him about how much he’d like to be a Flame and all that. And look, again, the kid is phenomenal, but there’s a big difference between being phenomenal in college and an even marginally effective player in the professional ranks. You can ask approximately one million former NCAA All-Americans about it.

Do I think he can be of a fairly high quality in the NHL? Sure I do. I think that’s the potential he has. Everyone I’ve talked to says the exact same thing. But this is a kid who’s probably two years away at a minimum, and everyone is losing their minds over him.

Be excited all you want, but keep your expectations in check. He’s undersized even for the NHL standard for “undersized,” and honestly, we don’t know how he’ll be able to respond to physical play because no one in college has been able to effectively check him more than once or twice in a game. That obviously speaks to how good he is, but players in the NHL are bigger and meaner and stronger and better than those in the NCAA, obviously, and they’re not going to be quite so easily evaded.

There’s a reason I can’t stop raving about seeing him, every time I do it. And I’m making a point to go do it again on Friday, as a matter of fact. But nonetheless, everyone might want to chill out just a little bit. Give him even one game as a professional player before we go making any major proclamations about him being The Next (Anyone). He’s almost certainly going to leave school after this season. You can talk about it then.

5. Sorry

  • please cancel acct

    Every week you pump up Calgary fans with the latest J Gaudreau updates and highlight reel moves. And now you’re saying don’t get to excited about it?

    Must have been your feminine side writing this blog.

    • Parallex

      His “feminine” side… oh I get it you’re insinuating that he’s like a woman and by tone that women are somehow inferior. How delightfully neanderthalish. Not cool dude.

    • Sexism aside, your comment seems strange to me. I once again affirm that I love watching him play in this column but point out, as I have in the past, that I’m not totally sure that his game translates to professional hockey. There’s a difference between being excited and frothing at the mouth. Grow up.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        ” I’m not sure Parker’s use of the term “bully” really applies in this situation”

        Did you read the article, or do you consider Parkers quotes as an except-able way to motivate a human being?

        “He was always just degrading me. Not to be a (P^55+), but he was a bully,” Parker told the Denver Post. “And he could be because he was in a position of authority. What was I supposed to do as a rookie? Go tell him ‘(F^(&) you’?

        “I did that stuff at the end of my career, but at the beginning of my career, I was just a chess piece to him.”

  • Colin.S

    I’m really don’t agree with the tone of your first point. If Monohan went there’s no guarantee he gets first line top center minutes. You can argue that he deserves it, or he’s the best possible center on Team Canada, but that doesn’t change the fact the coach could be a giant idiot and plays his favorites(like some other coach we know around here), or prefers to use him in some sort of defensive specialty role.

    As well your argument he’s going against the best 18-20 year olds in the world. Canada’s first game is against Germany, next game Czech and then Slovakia. It’s not till they play the US and then some playoff games till he plays any teams that you could argue would be worth his time in a development sense. So almost half the tournament games would provide less value than a regular OHL game.

    As well I agree with the Flames that missing a significant portion of NHL games is detrimental to him (the ticket buying aspect is just stupid though). Between learning the Flames(NHL) systems, his conditioning and Injury risk. I don’t see how it’s good for the kid learning an NHL system and playing in the NHL and then interrupting that for 3 or maybe 4 quality games instead of 12 NHL games. As well while he is off in Sweden, does he keep up his NHL routine, or what happens if the Flames loan him out and he gets a significant injury? That would look incredibly stupid.

    • piscera.infada

      Well put.

      I agree with Lambert regarding Gaudreau. It’s also part of the reason he’s likely not to play four years and flee – his NHL future is anything but a certainty. Here, he gets his best shot as an undersized youngster. Let’s remember Gaudreau isn’t going to come out of college as a nearly fully-formed man like Justin Schultz did. I really like his game, and I hope he can translate it, but as with any prospect it’s all about patience. He’s likely to need adjustment time in the AHL, let alone the NHL.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        So let’s see if I get this straight. We (fans) need to chill and not get excited about how well Gaudreau is doing, but Lambert can gush every time his name comes up.

        • piscera.infada

          I’m not saying don’t get excited about him (and as far as I can tell neither is Lambert). It’s simply a matter of being unsure how his game translates to the NHL. I’m excited, everyone’s excited. He still has the same impediment (for lack of a better term) he’s had all along though – size, no one’s doubting his skill. It’s more the people saying “he’s the next Kessel, Toews, or anyone else who had success in the NCAA”. It’s entirely reasonable to cool your jets on those kinds of expectations.

  • MichaelD

    I do really wish the flames let Monahan go to the juniors. I can’t see how it would be bad for development, letting him led a team to most likely a medal on the international stage. Also I really wanna see a flames prospect be the centre of attention at the world juniors. Oh well I can understand the team wanting to keep him to sell seats, and it won’t hurt him either way

  • The Last Big Bear

    I don’t expect Monahan is losing any sleep over not going to the world juniors.

    Ask every single kid at that tournament if they’d rather be there, or playing big minutes in the NHL?

    I’m sure you’ll find some doofus who says he’d “rather be representing his country”, and that kid should get a smack in the head.

    On a related note:
    How does the salary thing work when an NHL player leaves the roster to play elsewhere? He’d be in line for about $150,000 if he’s missing a dozen games or so. Seems odd that the Flames would pay him that kind of money to play for a different team.

    • SmellOfVictory

      You get paid if you’re on the NHL roster (I believe it’s by the game, but it might be on a daily basis). If Monahan went to WJC he would be out a substantial chunk of money.

  • supra steve

    Ryan, Flames are in business to win hockey games, end of story. We Season Ticket holders pay good money to support our local hockey team & to want to be entertained with some of the best hockey from the best hockey league in the world. These forums fans like you can criticize & second guess every decision that Management & coaches make. We all do it, it’s fun. I do disagree you calling the Flames management stupid for making a selfish decision for their organization, in case you hadn’t noticed from the lockout, this is big business. I do resent you calling Season Ticket fans stupid & deserving to be parted from our $$$ for wanting to see Monahan play instead of the likes of Byron. At least I was smart enough to have the $$$ to spend on the tickets.

    As for Gaudreau, I don’t think too many have been proclaiming he is a bonafide star. Most of us are very excited & very hopeful, like we are for Monahan. I could care less if you don’t like that fans like me visibly show our hopeful excitement, maybe try it some time.

  • supra steve

    Sending Monahan to the WJC is a wash – valid points on either side. Kid seems pretty level-headed, so I don’t think anyone needs to worry about him forgetting systems after a couple of weeks spent toe-dragging random Germans. Sportak’s point holds, though: suck as we may, when a guy’s your second-leading scorer it’s tough to justify loaning him out.

    Fully agreed that Hartley’s favouritism borders on lunacy much of the time. I’ve certainly got no insight into what goes on in the room, but his use of Backlund and Baertschi remains baffling, and “dumpster fire” is one of the more accurate descriptions of Berra’s play I’ve read since his first win in Chicago.

  • Derzie

    Why are reporters afraid to ask Hartley real questions? Every Flames follower wants to know why he favours Ern, Joe, Reto when by all accounts they do not deserve the ice they get. And his disdain for Sven (think Mattingly’s sideburns), Backlund & Ramo are palpable. No one wants to know how glad he is that Gio is back or how proud he is of Stajan. We know the answer. Ask him questions we don’t know the answer to. And keep asking until he answers or stops doing dumb things.

    • supra steve

      Dude, how are you holding up? Is your squad going to keep winning some games as they have been recently? Hope so, we don’t need both AB squads picking in the top 10 again next summer. As a Flame fan it would be nice to see the Oil making strides in their rebuild, would give us some hope that this won’t last forever.

    • Truculence

      Funny, I constantly find myself doing the same, or, alternatively, laughing hysterically whenever the Oilers highlights are on (cuz, seriously, who the hell would want to watch them live. I find the channel where they throw up a live feed of a fireplace more entertaining).

      • Very clever.

        I suppose watching your squad muck around before the puck bounces in off someone’s a$$ is more entertaining? I was at the Flames game last night. BOOORING.

        My boys stink but you have to say that their turnover laden brand of hockey at least creates some interesting stuff to watch.

        Of course the Oilers still make me cry.

  • Derzie

    Monahan not going to the WJC isn’t worth getting worked up about, but I thought Loubo made a good point on the Fan yesterday.

    He basically said that 9 games in the NHL isn’t going to mean anything for his development. Not when all is said and done. It’s 2 weeks. He can get those 2 weeks and 9 NHL games and the benefits they offer back.

    What he can’t get back is another opportunity to ever play at the WJC and the benefits it offers.

    Well said Loubo. Some kind of insight.

  • RedMan

    My BOLD prediction: Kari Ramo gets most of the starts and plays above average for the month of December, Reto is sent to Abby to “adjust” and Joni Ortio gets the call up to see if he can translate his .922 to the big show and fight it out against Ramo.

  • By the way, did anyone else hear Loubo talking about Colbourne making a play while “lying on his tummy” in the radio pre-game last night? Sounds like something I might say about my two year old but kudos to Loubo for raising the bar a notch.

  • beloch

    A little while back I made a post that compared Gaudreau’s NCAA stats to those of Martin St. Louis, with MSL’s scoring adjusted to modern day rates.

    Gaudreau is still tracking MSL almost bang-on. MSL took a few years to make an impact in the NHL, but there may have been some issues that delayed his development that will hopefully not apply to Gaudreau. Still, Flames fans legitimately have cause to be very excited about this kid, even if he could be a few years from being an impact NHL’er.

    Gaudreau might have a tough time transitioning to the NHL or he might simply rise to the challenge immediately. This we cannot know in advance. However, any Flames fan who is old enough to remember has to feel a little mad about how MSL slipped through the team’s cracks. Hold onto that anger and remind Feaster and Burke to be patient with Gaudreau every chance you get! This is not a kid we should trade for a bag of pucks if he doesn’t immediately dazzle the moment he’s brought up!

  • RedMan

    I think most commenters just start bashing a Lambert column as a habit these days (and I can’t say that’s a bad habit!). But I have to say this was the most agreeable Lambert column I’ve ever read.

    Yikes, I must need sleep…

    • beloch

      Well, it’s probably because he didn’t really say much of anything in this post.

      1. Monahan is not going to WJC. Why? Playing in the NHL is good. Yay!
      2. Scott Parker says Hartley is a bully. Hey, let’s discuss some other obvious failings of Hartley, like playing Reto too much! Then we can equivocate about Parker and say he might not be the most reliable guy, but let’s not back it up with facts or anything of the sort.
      3. Giordano is almost back… A game ago. Everybody probably skipped over this, like I did.
      4. Gaudreau is great, but small, and great NCAA prospects don’t always make great NHL’ers. Well hellooooo captain obvious!

      Usually people get upset when Lambert makes an argument that is both demeaning to the Flames and not based on sound logic. He didn’t include anything like that in this post, so I guess that’s progress. Kudo’s to Lambert, I think. Then again, in sports media being entertainingly, infuriatingly wrong is sometimes better than being vacuously right (see Don Cherry). The comments on this post will probably never get to page 2 because nobody is pissed off.

  • McRib

    “If you don’t fight Hershey would be his next stop, where he’d be ‘smelling chocolate fumes all day long.” What Bob Hartley said about Scott Parker, is not only kind of funny, but also very true.

    Scott Parker was a lousy hockey player and only in the NHL to fight … If he wasn’t a fighter he likely would never even have stuck in the WHL long enough to score a whopping 52 points as a 20 year old, let alone ever play pro… Outside of fighting Scott Parker seems to be as skilled as most Jr. B players I know. Calling a Stanely Cup winning Coach a Jr. B Goalie is Mickey Mouse. I know guys who made it and guys who didn’t and outside of getting a couple timely breaks in Bantam / Midget there really isn’t much of a deference between Bottom. 6 NHLers and average Major Junior Players or Jr. A players. Outside of getting enough ice time from the ages of 14-20.

    Never thought I would say this as a kid, but as I have grown up I have become extremely tired of fighting and its reasons like Scott Parker that I support eliminating it from the game. A fourth line should be for bringing in skilled young players that deserve a callup, giving them a chance rather than burring them in the AHL for their entire careers and only ever giving “Top Prospects” a chance at making the NHL. Ben Street should be coming up to play tonight rather than the face puncher (who’s name I don’t care to learn) #GRITCHART