1. The less said about Boston, the better
Tuesday night featured yet another loss to the Bruins this season, this time on the other side of the continent. But what’s interesting about that is the fact that it was in fact the third straight shutout suffered by the Flames at TD Garden.
That’s 180 straight minutes without a single goal, but the goalless streak is actually a little longer than that because the last goal scored by Calgary in Boston was Alex Tanguay from Chuck Kobasew and Matthew Lombardi at 10:24 of the third in a 3-2 loss on — get this — Oct. 19, 2006. Since then, the Flames have been outscored 16-0 in three games on the road against the Bruins, 5-0, 9-0, and now 2-0. There are second-grade children alive right this second who have never seen the Flames score a goal in Boston. That is mind-blowing.
What’s interesting though is that the last time the Flames won in Boston was the 2003-04 season, in which they won 5-0 behind a Jamie McLennan shutout. Hockey is definitively weird.
2. More stuff on Feaster’s firing
I’ve already written at length (and I mean serious length) about the Flames’ direction in the wake of the Feaster firing over at Puck Daddy, but I’ve now had more time than a few hours to think about it, and a few more things have crystalized, there’s some good news after some initial concerns.
Again (and again and again and again) this was a decision that should have been made years ago and again one must acknowledge that Feaster’s hands were, to some extent, tied by ownership’s idiotic and doomed insistence on “going for it” every year. However, that’s not to say he didn’t bungle things left and right. The fact of the matter is that he was never the right man for the job, and one can only hope — against all evidence, obviously — that whoever’s brought in will be able to be less of a bumbler. Avoiding huge offer sheets for which the player is subject to waivers would, for example, be a good place to start.
3. The replacement
The Flames are, for one thing, definitely not going to hire Joe Nieuwendyk, which would have been a bad and huge mistake (although they’re only not-doing it because he reportedly said he wasn’t interested in the job), which is a good jumping-off point. However, there should still be some concern about the autonomy anyone they hire at this point will be able to carry with Burke ducking into his office every hour on the hour and screaming “SIZE!” “GRIT!” “HARD TO PLAY AGAINST!”
There was a discussion on Marek vs. Wyshynski last week about which situation, Calgary or Buffalo, would be more desirable for a new GM to come into, and I don’t know how the answer is anything but, “Oh god Buffalo times 100.” The Sabres are starting from a much better position in terms of the quality of prospects (given that they’ve been at the rebuild a bit longer), and there won’t be anyone telling you how you should build your hockey team to the extent that Burke certainly will.
Jim Benning or Paul Fenton or whoever else is on the interview list — though one imagines those are the two guys who eventually get hired by the teams in question — seem like very, very smart guys (Benning’s insistence on why Boston had to trade Tyler Seguin notwithstanding), and being told that building a team which is “hard to play against” is vital seems like something smart hockey people won’t go for. Of course, one also doesn’t turn down the pay, responsibility, and stature that a GM job necessarily carries, either.
Someone’s going to take the job, and you just have to keep your fingers crossed for the organization’s sake that they have a differing philosophy from the one currently carried on an organizational basis.
4. The Klimchuk contract
Was very interested to see that even without a GM the Flames signed Morgan Klimchuk to his ELC, which as Ryan Pike pointed out yesterday seems more like housekeeping than any statement of intent with regard to his ability to play pro hockey next season.
While his points per game is on the rise (though not by a particularly large amount at 0.06 P/gm), his goals are down even more slightly (minus-0.04), and thus it’s safe to say that of the Flames’ three first-round picks in last year’s draft, he’s performing the worst. With Sean Monahan in the NHL and Emile Poirier ripping the QMJHL apart, the team is likely going to turn its attention to getting the latter of these kids locked up soon-ish.
This also makes me wonder about the Flames’ aggression in trying to sign their underclassmen in the NCAA, Jon Gillies and Johnny Gaudreau. I’ve said all along that I wouldn’t be surprised to see either stay in college, nor would I be shocked to see either sign when the NCAA season is over. I’ve been hearing more and more that Gillies is probably going to be leaving Providence this summer, because what more does he have to prove? That same logic could be extended to Gaudreau, but he’s more a guy you hear both things about. If I had to bet, I’d guess they’re both pro next season, but again, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if neither were. Still a lot of time left, and you’d think what Gillies does at World Junior starting next week is going to play a big role too.
5. Not so fast, Sven
Finally, I saw in the Vancouver Province the other day that Sven Baertschi is working hard to get back to Calgary’s roster, and the answer why is obvious. But one wonders if things are going to be like they were before when he claws his way back into the big club’s lineup. Bob Hartley seems to delight in misusing him, then scapegoating him when things predictably go wrong, and thus it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever get a fair shake with this coach.
The way things are starting to look with regard to player deployment in Calgary are not dissimilar to the issues in Toronto right now: The coach has His Guys who can do no wrong, and things are very much the opposite for those who are Not His Guys. Randy Carlyle recently benched Jake Gardiner for almost the entire second period because of one or two turnovers in a game in which the entire Leafs team was turning the puck over consistently. Mark Fraser, meanwhile, got torched on just about every shift and didn’t see his ice time drop at all.
Maybe Hartley will have changed his mind about the kid once he finally gets back to the big club, but I am not counting on it. The good news on that front is that Hartley doesn’t really seem long for his job, given that his contract only has one year left after this one and the new GM will probably want “his guy,” as Feaster did when hiring Hartley in the first place.
You have to let your best players succeed, and put them in a position to do so, especially when they’re young. If I’m Baertschi, I’m not counting on that kind of opportunity in Calgary from this coach.