FGD: Stem the Tide

While most in Flamesland are now busily fabricating semi-plausible deadline trade scenarios or hunting down top-10 prospect lists for the draft in June, the reality is the team still has a bunch of games to play this season before any of that stuff matters. The second half begins tonight versus the Detroit Red Wings.

They aren’t the overpowering juggernaut of yesteryear, but the Wings are still decent. Datsyuk and Zetterberg have taken real steps back in terms of their ability to control play this season (the latter in particular) and they aren’t girded by the sort of depth that would help soften the blow of that decline. Still, going from "incredibly dominant even strength players " to "pretty good" isn’t quite the death knell for Hockeytown’s unending playoff streak. Yet.

The Wings have suffered through injuries, too, on top of the massive loss of Lidstrom to retirement in the off-season. The club has some quality players coming up through the system in Gustav Nyquist (who should play tonight), Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson while import Damien Brunner has filled in well in the top-6. That said, replacing Datsyuk/Zetterberg once they finally do fall off the horse is going to be a tall order.

So Detroit is merely "good" and their top-end still needs to be respected, but they’re no longer unbeatable demi-gods. They currently sit 7th in the Western Conference and it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s more or less where they stay for the rest of the year.

The Flames still have the faintest of faint chances of making the dance. No doubt some portion of the fanbase wants the club to throw in the towel now in order to improve their chances at a lottery pick, but the players have pride and future contracts to play for, so expect Calgary to go down swinging. If there’s to be any sort of meaningful run at the post-season, though, it has to start right away: the boys need roughly a 65% win% through the rest of the year to even have a shot.

If, on the other hand, the true goal is the chance to draft Drouin, Barkov, Jones or MacKinnnon well…just pray that Kipper continues to channel his buddy Vesa Toskala. 

The Lineup

Glencross skated this morning but will be a gametime decision. Cammalleri missed the practice, though it’s possible that was only for maintenance purposes. For now we’ll assume they are both in.

  • Tanguay – Backlund – Iginla
  • Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
  • Cervenka/Comeau – Cammalleri – Hudler
  • Comeau/Cervenka – Begin – Jackman
  • Bouwmeester – Brodie
  • Wideman – Butler
  • Sarich – Giordano
  • Kipper

Backlund ended up playing with Iginla and Tanguay at the end of the Kings game. He scored the Calgary’s only goal in that role so it would surprise me if he didn’t at least start there tonight.

And just because I haven’t advocated enough for Backs the last year or two, Hartley needs to start thinking about given Mikael more PP time – not only does the team generate more shots at ES with him on the ice, they do so on the man advantage as well. There’s small sample concerns with that latter number, but it’s intuitive to assume he’ll have the same effect at 5on4 as he does at 5on5.

Brodie slid up to the top pairing to replace Mark Giordano (who spent a week or two serving up platters to the team’s best skaters) and didn’t look out of place. I’ll be stunned if he persists there long term given how tough that assignment is and his youth, but it’s impressive he managed even a single game in that role without looking hopelessly overwhelmed.

The Opposition

Word is the Wings could get Filppula back tonight, adding a bit more punch to their top-6. Nyquist is the AHL’s leading scorer with 60 points in 57 games, so he should land in a scoring role as well.

  • Nyquist – Datsyuk – Franzen
  • Brunner – Zetterberg – Filppula
  • Cleary – Abdelkader – Andersson
  • Miller – Emmerton – Tootoo
  • Kronwall – Ericsson
  • Quincey – Smith
  • Lashoff – Kindl
  • Gustavsson

The depressed state of the Wings blueline post-Lidstrom is obvious. Smith, Kindl and Lashoff are all kids, each with less than two full seasons under their respective belts. Kindl and Smith are walking on their own, but Lashoff is getting beat up, even on the third pairing. Incredibly, Ian White has gone from Lidstrom’s frequent partner last year to a current healthy scratch (despite Detroit’s needs on the back-end). None of his numbers are overly terrible, so I’m not sure what is motivating Babcock to give the former Flame the stink-eye.

Nik Kronwall has tried to fill Lidstrom’s clown sized shoes and has managed to keep his head above water as the club’s number one defender. He’s not Lidstrom, obviously, but at least he’s not completely out of his depth. That said, you can see why the Wings are rumored to be interested in Jay Bouwmeester.

Sum it Up

Detroit is battling their slow slide from annual contenders to a middle-tier Western Conference club. The Flames, on the other hand, are battling the inevitable. Calgary can still make the post-season with an incredible turn-around (starting tonight) while the Wings will want to climb back up the ladder as much as possible.

Game time is 7:30 on TSN tonight. I will be attending, so Justin will be counting chances. Tune in to cheer for or against the Flames, depending on your sensibilities. 

  • jeremywilhelm

    Red Wings are where the Flames were a few years ago. Losing some pieces and getting old in key personnel areas. In my opinion they are facing the same dilemma that the Flames did.

    Do they keep trying to add pieces and stay competitive or do they move some older key pieces and jump start the next incarnation of the team.

    Calgary decided to stay with Iginla and Kiprusoff and have had below average to poor results with the plan. What will Detroit do in the summer with Datsyuk and Zetterberg?

    Trade them for young players in their early 20’s and add them to players like Nyquist and Tatar or give up some of these young players for stop gap measures like Bouwmeester.

    Free agents used to go to Detroit because they knew there was a chance to win. I dont think that is the case any more. Good case study to go back in time and analyze the Flames decisions.

    • schevvy

      “Red Wings are where the Flames were a few years ago”

      Are you drunk?

      The Red Wings will NEVER get to where the Flames are.

      Dude, Detroit has missed the playoffs just twice in the last 29 years and have been at the postseason party the last 21 straight seasons (not counting the season lost in ’85).

      You Sir, like so many in the FlickeringNation do, are spewing verbal diarrhea. Must be something in the water…..

  • jeremywilhelm

    outside of zetts and dats the wings are relatively porous. I bet kenny Holland and jimmy d find a new mother lode in some far away land, first they mined the russian talent, then struck gold with team sweden, who’s next a plethora of tajiki superstars lol.

    great just was informed by the fan and patty”yo know patty” steinberg that bob artley and crew think they are do for due for a string of dubyas. yikes. so much for intellectual honesty.

    • Jano

      Hearing comments like Hartley’s makes me question their hockey intellect. Sure they could string a few together, but they aren’t due. They were outmatched badly over the last weekend, and have to show some level of consistant compete if they have a chance to do this. Hoping so, just not counting on it.

      • s_yav14

        Agreed but they sure as hell aren’t going to come out and say “Yeah we are F’ed we likely wont win more then 2 back to back games the rest of the year”

        • T&A4Flames

          they cant continue to make these moronic comments to the masses, they lose all crediblity. guaranteed playoffs,best player in the draft, we will go to court etc etc say vague things such as we feel we are coming together or are turning the corner. not hey we are going to pull off 5 in a row type statements. all this ship o fools is doin is alienating the fanbase by insulting the intelligence of the fans.

      • schevvy

        the flames management group must suffer from the same dillusional thinking as those nascar small budget race teams that fill the field every weekend. yep ya could win bubba but we ain’t got nuff gas fer da five hunerd miles boy. so inless the in tire field crashes out go ride round in circls boy.