FGD: Rookies and Liabilities All the Way Down

 

 

There were Great Expectations in Minnesota after their hot start last year and big free agent additions this summer. The stats-inclined amongst us remained skeptical and indeed with a .500 start through the early going and bottom of the league possession numbers, the Wild remain one of the least intimidating opponents in the league currently.

The Flames aren’t exactly imposing either, of course. Without Cammalleri and Backlund once again, they will be dressing two rookies on their second line. Not to mention the rookie in net who is playing with the knowledge he will probably be waived and demoted almost as soon as the final buzzer sounds.

Calgary was noticeably exposed against the Canucks on Saturday night in light of these issues, so they can’t exactly take anyone lightly at this point. Particularly since they have to start collecting points soon before the early season hole becomes too deep to dig out of. With just 8 points in 9 games and currently sitting 12th in the Western Conference, the Flames are in danger of falling too far behind the pack out of the gate if they continue to lose for much longer.

The bad news for the Wild is their spending spree has only marginally improved the club over last year’s Cinderella edition. Ryan Suter is playing in the top-4, has a respectably easy zone start (54%) and is getting absolutely buried in terms of possession (-11.95/60). In fact, his corsi is the worst amongst regular Wild blueliners, which should be especially alarming for Minny’s decision makers given how much money they invested in him. It’s early so it’s possible Suter will reel things in, but those are poor early returns. 

Zach Parise has been better and is one of the few Wild forwards above water. He hasn’t turned them into instant contenders or anything, but there’s no question the Wild’s top line is much more dangerous now and will be the primary concern for the Flames this evening.

The Line-up

Nothing changes from the Canucks game aside from Sarich drawing in for Derek Smith. And for good reason – Smith had a dreadful night in Vancouver. Babchuk remains a healthy scratch (FOR NOW).

  • Glencross – Tanguay – Iginla
  • Cervenka – Street – Hudler
  • Comeau – Stajan – Stempniak
  • Begin – Jones – Jackman
  • Bouwmeester – Giordano
  • Brodie – Wideman
  • Sarich – Butler
  • Irving

Stempniak continues to be good on the third line, generating another goal and a few chances on Saturday night, but that unit wasn’t as noticable sans Backlund. The second line was also very quiet with Ben Street in the middle. He has had a good few years in the AHL but Street struggled to do anything of note in his first NHL contest for the Flames. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to translate things at this level.

The Opposition

Parise and Koivu are the big guns here. Cal Clutterbuck is a really good middle-tier, shut-down player (although he’s known more as a hitter/agitator) and Kyle Brodziak is a capable 3rd line type center.

  • Parise – Koivu – Coyle
  • Heatley – Granlund – Setoguchi
  • Cullen – Brodziak – Clutterbuck
  • Bouchard – Konopka – Rupp
  • Suter – Brodin
  • Stoner – Gilbert
  • Falk – Prosser
  • Backstrom

The Wild’s second line is probably a lot more famous than it is effective. Mikael Granlund made hay in Finland the last couple years and is generally considered a high level prospect, but he has been beat up so far in the early going of his NHL career. Granlund’s possession numbers are terrible (worst on the team in fact) and he has just 3 points in 10 games played and 14 shots on net. He’s a guy finding his legs and shouldn’t be in a top-6 position at this point in his career. 

Dany Heatley’s fall from grace is well established at this point. He’s a guy you don’t want firing on your goalie from the slot, but the rest of his game has fallen away over the years. Devin Setoguchi has the second worst possession rate on the team ahead of only the aforemention Granlund, which is not unsual for the erstwhile Shark. I suspect it’s part of the reason San Jose had no problem moving him.

The Wild’s other roster holes are obvious on their back-end. Suter is paired with rookie Jonas Brodin on the first pairing. Brodin is another pretty decent looking prospect, but again he’s hardly being delpoyed in ideal fashion, assuming the Wild want to win more than a few games this year.

Also, I don’t know what PM Bouchard is doing on a 4th line with two ruffians.

Sum It Up

Minnesota remains a flawed club despite their Wild (pun!) spending this past off-season. They have a first line the Flames need to be concerned with and few other decent pieces peppered throughout their line-up, otherwise it’s rookies and liabilities all the way down. At some point all of this may coalesce into a contender, but it won’t be this season for sure.

That said, they could be a club battling for that final playoff position in the West come game 48, which is probably where the Flames will find themselves as well. If Calgary intends to make the dance, then Minnesota is a key team to grab points from.

TIlted Kilt Ticket Giveaway

Good News Everyone! The Tilted Kilt is giving away two tickets to a lucky patron this evening. Simply stop by before the game and you could win the chance to walk down the street and watch the action at the dome as well.

Otherwise you could just stick around TK and enjoy the game on their various big screens. Win-win!

  • CDB

    Reimer is hurt. Maybe feaster has a crystal ball and saw it coming!?!? Flip one of the 4 goalies for something. I literally don’t care which at this point.

    Kidding

    Kinda

  • Brent G.

    “Dany Heatley’s fall from grace is well established at this point. He’s a guy you don’t want firing on your goalie from the slot, but the rest of his game has fallen away over the years.”

    Personally, I think Heatley has always been a howitzer with a jersey stapled to it.

    The only difference I’ve noticed in Heatley’s game over the years is the fact he isn’t playing with superstars for literally the first time ever. In Atlanta, he was on a line with Kovalchuk. In Ottawa, it was Alfredsson and Spezza when they were both 100 point players. In San Jose, it was Thornton and Marleau.

    Was Heatley’s shot an asset to those stars? yes. But he didn’t contribute directly to any line’s success at any point in his career.

    Well… any excuse to badmouth Heatley I guess. Go Flames.

  • schevvy

    you cannot pitch an offer to oreily, all the other gms would then refuse to deal with you, in a sense slitting your own throat. secondly i blame schevvy if the flames come up short. sarich sarich yikes should have taken a rider on other d men and set sarich,and smith free. horak as i stated previously would have fit better with chedda n huds.

  • schevvy

    Off to the Dome to watch this one. This is a team the Flames will be battling for a playoff spot and need to beat. Of course, seems like every time I venture up for a game they lose, so if the Flames lose, I’ll take the blame.

    • supra steve

      Best case scenario (for me). Taylor starts, stands on his head, Flames lose 1-0, Feaster regains consciousness and starts looking seriously at trade opportunities for his ageing core, we owe it all to Schevvy.

  • RKD

    I thought Minnesota would be better given the additions of Parise and Suter, but look at NY they struggled despite adding Nash to Richards, Gaborik, Callahan, etc.

    The Flames seem to do pretty well against the Wild, they have taken 4 out the past 5 meetings, it could be different without Kipper in the net.

    I think Cory Sarich is being auditioned for a trade, there are a lot teams looking a veteran d-man for depth. What kind of return is Feaster going to get for Sarich?

    • I think Minny is better, but they were starting from a long way back. Their improvement would be a bit more marked if they weren’t playing Setoguchi and Granlund in a top-6 role as well I think.

      As for Sarich, he probably has limited trade value given his last few seasons, age, contract, etc. Im guessing he’s only in because Smith struggled so much last game.

  • Parallex

    From the Vancouver post game article: “Calgary’s top line couldn’t get much going against the Sedin twins and the lack of a guy like Backlund in the roster was painfully obvious.”

    It makes sense that we will miss Backs (our best possession forward) who was just finding a consistent scoring touch. It is the one set back the Flames can’t afford at this stage. It is particularly bad because it sets back his development much like last year.

    Sven is also missed as he would likely be getting 2nd line time with the current injuries.

    It looks like Sven and Backs could both be injury prone and so risky long term propects (if that is the case). Hopefully I am wrong as many are excited about both of these guys into the future.

    A Ryan O offer sheet looks better every passing hour doesn’t it?

      • schevvy

        “No to O’Reilly via an offer sheet. He is not worth giving up the opportunity to draft Mckinnon or Jones.”

        I just think with Ryan O you get a young, proven, ready to contribute 2 way player now. However Jones and McKinnon are players you can build around.

        In an ideal world we get both. I just hope we land something of strong value to be really excited about in the months ahead. We are due.

        • Avalain

          I was excited for a while about the idea of getting O’Reilly with an offer sheet, but at this point in time I can’t imagine Feister doing it. There’s just no way he’s going to be willing to give up the first when we’re currently so low in the standings. Sure, all signs point to the Flames having at least a little bit of a bounce back. But a couple more injuries and a bit of bad luck and we could be drafting in the bottom 3.

  • Parallex

    Other thing to note the third line was also without Glencross… Stajan and Comeau just can’t hold a candle to Glencross and Backlund.

    Why does Street get 2nd line duty anyways? You figure it would have made more sense for Stajan to slide back-up between the Czech’s rather then have the AHL guy do it. He (Street) was really unimpressive, way to much of a perimeter guy. It’d be nice to get a few forwards back Sven and Cammy can’t be far away and I’d feel soooo much better with a Line-up that looked like…

    Cammy-Tanguay-Iggy, Sven-Cervenka-Hudler, Glencross-Stajan-Stempniak, Comeau-Jones-Jackman

    … then the current line-up. I’ve thought all along that if this version of the Flames was to have any success then they needed the depth to stand-out since the top line is hard-pressed to play PvP… injuries are killing the depth and we’re starting to see the predictable result.

      • Parallex

        Maybe… personally I’d rather have just one hodgepog line then two. Also if they were going to slot the call-up between Hudler and Cervenka I think I’d rather they called up Horak… at least they’d all speak the same language (and based on last game I think Horak is just plain better).