1. Mixed results
So the Flames nearly put together a winning streak for themselves there, just for a second. It was a strange thing to read about the last few days, and the Nashville Predators put that talk to rest with a fairly comprehensive performance.
However, it’s worth noting that the Flames were okay against the Penguins, which is I think better than anyone had any right to expect, and almost good against the Hurricanes, and that latter game was a win. The team is of course not going to lose every game from here on out, nor is it going to go through the scoring futility seen in the last few weeks.
But on the balance, results like the one in Nashville are going to become the norm. The Flames will run into even mediocre teams (and I’m not sure the Predators meet even that mark overall) and generally get pushed around. Corsi percentage in the game was 54.5 in favor of the hosts, and that sounds just about right. The problem isn’t and never was the Flames’ top group; Jiri Hudler and Co. were on the ice for the majority of corsi events for and no goals against, but the rest of the team is just abysmal. Imagine how things look when they sell the free agents. It’s 30th or bust.
2. If it’s not one thing…
So the offense returns (albeit marginally) and the goaltending goes straight to hell. That makes sense to me. Allowing two goals in 120 minutes doesn’t seem the style of Karri Ramo or Reto Berra, and the kind of frequent hiccup we’ve come to expect has once again returned even as they’ve scored five in the last three.
Make no mistake: They still have just 10 goals in their last 10 games, and that’s nowhere near good enough, but that again goes back to the depth issue. Especially because the Flames simply aren’t going to be able to outscore their opponents given the number of shots they allow, and the quality of goaltending behind them. Unless you expect this team to magically start winning games 4-3, this isn’t negativity, but rather
3. Not a good comparison
The thing with the Flames going forward is that you’re going to have to keep in mind how Brian Burke likes to construct teams: Around size. There is nothing inherently wrong with having big players, of course, but when you’re doing it to the detriment of your ability to actually play with the puck, that’s the problem.
But is there, in fact, something to it? Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal’s Cult of Hockey blog recently broke down the sizes of each team in the Pacific’s top nine players in terms of overall ice time. Calgary was second-to-last ahead of only Edmonton, which I guess comes as no surprise.
4. What does that mean?
One thing that’s worth noting though is that Burke’s additions of size, in both Toronto and Calgary, have largely been through low-skill guys who wouldn’t ping the radar on top-9 TOI, because of how bad they are. Toronto’s best player is probably Phil Kessel, who’s hardly big, and doesn’t exactly succeed because of the size on his line. Tyler Bozak, his most common partner since coming to the Leafs, is only 6-foot-1. James van Riemsdyk is obviously a big boy, but he’s hardly the mover and shaker on that line.
The Flames are likely to get bigger this summer, because that’s what Burke’s going to target, but how many guys north of, say, 6-foot-2 and 210 (what McCurdy described as “big” by NHL standards) are going to be on the market and able to contribute top-nine minutes? How many of them are going to draw enough interest from Calgary that they’ll actually come aboard for a rebuild?
You’d expect the number of players who fall into that category to be slim or non-existent, so there’s only two ways in which Burke can acquire that kind of guy: Through the draft or via trade, or perhaps both in terms of acquiring first-round picks when the season sell-off begins in the next few weeks.
Go back to the above stats: Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Phoenix. Very few of those teams got big via free agency, and very few of those teams try to play “heavy hockey,” or whatever you want to call giving your team a lower chance to win by dressing fighters, which again is Burke’s preferred method at least for the time being.
Thus, any improvement in this area the Flames enjoy in the coming months will likely be inconsequential or even detrimental to winning. But at least people will get up out of their seats to cheer on another Brian McGrattan fight, and that’s all we really care about, right?
5. Injuries piling up
And finally, as if things weren’t bad enough around the Saddledome, David Jones has an eye infection (yucky) and Mike Cammalleri has a concussion. As far as Jones goes, the team isn’t likely to miss him a whole lot, but boy does that Cammalleri issue sting.
If he misses any significant kind of time, that puts the Flames in tough to showcase him for a trade (say, with favorable zone starts and deployment in all home games), and might even diminish his value because of how tricky a thing concussions now are in this league. A true shame, because he’s definitely getting traded, and the Flames need to get a max return for him to keep this rebuilding process moving in anything resembling the right direction.