1. Trading for Westgarth
I don’t know that I’ll ever understand how Brian Burke puts together a hockey team.
Late in November the team traded Tim Jackman because who really needs Tim Jackman on your team? This was, presumably, a deal that Brian Burke approved for Jay Feaster, because as President of Hockey Operations it would certainly have been under his purview to sign off on any transactions, even one as inconsequential as a largely-useless fighter for a sixth-round pick.
Jackman this season has a 47.3 percent corsi share, which is remarkably bad, and actually even worse than the 48 percent he posted last season. Getting anything at all for him was a minor coup for the dearly departed Mr. Feaster. You just don’t need guys like that on your NHL team.
Or at least, you don’t if you’re someone not named Brian Burke. Sure, he only traded Greg Nemisz for Kevin Westgarth on Tuesday, and Nemisz was never going to amount to anything at the NHL level, but neither is Westgarth, who’s now on his third team in as many seasons, and flat-out sucks. This is the very definition of shuffling deck chairs around on the Titanic, if the crew had been ordered to do it with the deck listing at about 85 degrees and descending with alarming speed into the icy black North Atlantic.
In much the same way as the Flames would do well to call up any old AHLer, probably including Nemisz, to relieve Sean Monahan following his return from injury, almost any guy they could have recalled from Abbotsford was going to have a more positive impact than Westgarth, who’s only marginally better in terms of possession than Jackman, largely because of situational use.
Of course, that’s not to say the Flames aren’t hard-up, because they certainly are. How bad are things up front these days? Westgarth was enlisted to play more than 10 minutes against the Flyers on New Year’s Eve. It was just the fourth time he’s done it in his entire career. Yikes.
2. The offense, or lack thereof
With that loss to the Flyers, the Flames have now scored a whopping one goal in the last three games, none of which were against particularly staunch competition. This was, I think, something we all figured had to be coming at some point, but what’s interesting is that it’s not because of injury, as only Curtis Glencross and Blair Jones are on the shelf among forwards.
And it’s also because of regression on a team-wide basis, because the team is only shooting 8.7 percent for the season, which doesn’t strike one as being particularly low. In fact, league average is currently 8.9 percent, so they’re probably about where they should be given the lack of quality the team generally has up front.
However, you might say it’s regression on an individual basis, because among the team’s top five scorers this season (Jiri Hudler, Mike Cammalleri, Monahan, Mark Giordano, and Matt Stajan), only Giordano has a shooting percentage of less than 10 percent. And his is 9.4 percent. This is, it seems, just one of those things, and there’s no one on the roster to pick up the slack.
The problem is that they’re already one of just eight teams in the league to not break triple digits in terms of goals, and only one ahead of Nashville with an extra game played for 29th. Again, it makes perfect sense. And this is what we all signed up for when we mentally agreed to watch this team this year. Sad but true.
3. Breen on waivers
4. USA Hockey and the Calgary Flames
I’m going to write a whole lot more words on this subject for Puck Daddy tomorrow (TUNE IN THEN!) but in reading Scott Burnside’s remarkable piece on the selection process for the U.S. Olympic roster, I think we got a window into why the Flames are doomed to be bad for years, perhaps more than a decade, to come.
The USA Hockey “brain”trust decided to leave Bobby Ryan off the roster for reasons that are positively baffling. They don’t begin to make sense. One board member called him a “sleepy skater” and Peter Laviolette expressed concern that his low percentage of power play points (four out of his 22 at the time, and eight of 36 now) was somehow a negative.
Okay, sure, you don’t trust a guy’s skating on international ice. An argument could be made. But they think it’s bad that he scores the vast majority of his points at even strength? Am I missing something?
More pertinent to the Flames, though, was Brian Burke’s repeated and mystifying condemnations of Ryan’s game, which has allowed him to score at least 31 goals in four straight NHL seasons, and gotten him to 18 in 41 games so far this season. “He’s not intense enough” and “I should have taken Jack Johnson instead of him in 2005” are among the idiotic concerns voiced by Burke vis a vis an elite goalscorer who by the way already played in an Olympics for the U.S.
If this is the way Burke still thinks, then this is how the Flames are going to be built until he loses his job, which could be what, five, six, seven years from now? How many GMs will he get to go through before that day? How many high first-round picks? It’s gonna be a tough go of things, one suspects.
5. Poirier signed
At least there’s this nice little bit of housekeeping to fall back on. You’d have thought he’d be the guy they locked up before Morgan Klimchuk, but you can’t argue with the logic. He’s carving up the Q, as you might expect, to the tune of now 53 points in 36 games, and leading Gatineau in scoring by a wide, wide margin.
Really, it was the only thing to do. He’ll be playing pro hockey by the postseason, and deservedly so.