Five things: Fallout

1. The Vancouver ugliness

So the big issue involving the Flames this week is obviously the whole Vancouver dust-up, which of course made John Tortorella look like a lunatic, but also brought a lot of shame on the Flames organization, which itself has had no shortage of such in the past several months (or more, if you like).

Yeah, you can goad Tortorella into behaving like an animal and reduce his team into an ineffectual revenge-seeker rather than letting them play hockey, but starting your fourth line — especially when your fourth line is as much a flaming pile of garbage as Kevin Westgarth, Brian McGrattan, and Blair Jones — in a game is a garbage, punk-ass thing to do. It says, “No, we have no interest in actually playing hockey,” which to some extent is understandable because of how bad the Flames are at doing that, in general.

As has been well-documented in the time since this incident, Hartley has a history of pissing off Tortorella and also of playing this kind of idiotic anti-hockey game, and so the chance to do both at the same time seemed too great a chance to pass up, especially given how wound up Vancouver has been in the last few weeks. He deserved the $25,000 fine and perhaps more, no matter what Brian Burke says about it. There’s no place in hockey for that kind of sideshow nonsense. Hartley’s a joke.

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2. The Stajan extension

Matt Stajan being locked up for four years at a reasonable price point was a surprise move, but it’s one that I think makes sense. He’s now your No. 1 center for two or three years while whoever is ready to take over that spot (Monahan? Someone drafted this summer? Or maybe next year?), and then he becomes a No. 2 or even No. 3. He’s probably not an ideal No. 1 even in these circumstances, but then this isn’t an ideal roster.

I was a little surprised at the pushback on the deal, because it was so vociferous, but then people have had it in for Stajan since he was essentially the mediocre return in the Dion Phaneuf trade and was awful for his first season-plus with the club. He’s just one of those guys who’s going to be unfairly maligned forever, and I get it. But still, who else is going to want to sign for any kind of term in Calgary, at this point? The shortlist is: No one. This gets the Flames a little closer to the cap floor for next season (they currently need to nearly double their expenditures) and gives a good soldier his due.

He’s not great, but he’s the best that was probably going to be available to Burke.

3. On the other hand…

There was that aforementioned bit of a surprise insofar as I figured Burke would put him on the market and see the price he fetched. Maybe he tried and got nowhere, but based on an interview he gave to the Calgary Sun late last week (which we’ll get to in a minute), it’s hard to say.

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Especially with Mike Cammalleri now out with a concussion — which is just an awful blow to the team’s chances of getting some good pieces for him — Stajan became even more important. Not that he would have pulled anywhere near what Cammalleri will, but something is better than nothing. Again, I get it. It makes total sense why the re-signing happened, but the timing of it is a bit curious, and seems antithetical to that whole thing about seeing what the market has in store for the period after the Olympic break.

The trade that went down yesterday between Nashville and New York (or indeed, the two that went down a week ago yesterday between Nashville and Edmonton, and then Edmonton and Los Angeles) shows that people are trying to make deals, but y’know, Dave Poile seems to largely be dealing with morons who want to take on problem contracts. Not sure the Flames have any of those to give up.

4. Has Burke learned something?

Eric Francis sat down with Burke last week and talked, more or less, about the organization’s direction, which has Burke looking for a permanent GM and trying to sell some parts off. However, he seems to actually be approaching the latter issue with caution; he’s not even considering trading the team’s No. 1 pick this year (something he might have done with glee just a few years ago; see also: the Kessel trade).

That’s reassuring for the team. There’s no need to hurry through this rebuild. In fact, they should take as long as is reasonable with it, be that two or four years, or more, depending on how things work out. Yeah it sucks, but it’s necessary. People point out — often, in fact — that rebuilds like the one the Flames seem to be attempting (i.e. tanking) don’t always work out, and then they point to Edmonton. It has demonstrably worked elsewhere, though (Chicago and Pittsburgh most obviously), and with a guy like Connor McDavid available No. 1 overall next year, you might wanna get used to a deeply awful Flames team.

There will be no rushing. That’s good.

5. As a public service…

In the past few weeks, presumably as the Flames have turned a deeper shade of awful, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the play of Johnny Gaudreau, who has gone from merely dominant to absolute video game-level absurd in the past few weeks. Since the start of January, he has played six games and gone 6-9-15 in them, including a five(!)-assist effort against usually-stingy Maine last Saturday.

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With this in mind, I’ll spend the rest of the day checking in on the comments here and answering whatever queries you have about Gaudreau, Billy Arnold (who’s “only” 4-6-10 in those six games), Mark Jankowski (three points in his last three games), Jon Gillies (an uncharacteristically poor .915 and 2.46 since returning from World Junior), or John Gilmour. Have at it.

    • Parallex

      That’s again another question I was going to ask… mostly because notable small hockey player (also at one time Flames property which shall haunt us forever) Martin St. Louis put up crazy numbers (1993-1997) in the NCAA. And I was wondering if the goal environment was different then or if St. Louis was just that freakish.

      • Environment was different. We looked at that this year (reader sent in the research) and the league was higher scoring when St. Louis put up his numbers. Apparently Gaudreau’s season is comparable when we correct for the scoring rates.

    • Every time he comes over the boards you’re very likely to see something special. I saw his most ordinary game of perhaps the entire season (at least of the 10 or so times I’ve seen him) on Tuesday and he still had a gorgeous breakout pass that went for a primary assist on Hayes’ goal like 1:30 into the contest.

      For reference, the leading scorer last season had 53 points in 41 games. Gaudreau is on 48 in 24 right now. The last time anyone was even broke two points a game was when Jason Krog went 34-51-85 in 41 games in 1998-99, when there was a whole hell of a lot more scoring in general; that season 22 guys had 50 points, which is almost unheard of now.

    • beloch

      In November I posted a table[1] comparing Gaudreau to Marty St. Louis, including a column where St. Louis’s points are adjusted by the ratio of goals in the modern Hockey-East conference (5.832/game since Johnny joined the league) to the average in the ECAC while St. Louis was in the college (7.246/game)[1]. Just finding a scoring summary for the mid-nineties ECAC conference[2] was hard enough, but if anyone comes across a NCAA-wide set of stats from back then (perhaps even with assists listed!) I could calculate a NCAA-wide ratio instead of one that is conference specific.

      Anyways, here’s an updated version of the table:

      College Year | MSL (raw) | MSL (adj) | Gaudreau

      ░░░░3░░░░░░2.43░░░░░1.95░░░░░2.00 (so far)

      (all units are points per game)

      Gaudreau started his NCAA career well behind MSL, but he’s pulled out in front of him in his third season. Yes, if the 1995-1996 version of MSL were sucked through a wormhole and deposited in today’s Hockey-East, he might well be behind Gaudreau on the scoring charts! I’ve also heard reports that Gaudreau’s line get’s benched a lot when the Eagles are up a few goals, which is just plain scary.

      Gaudreau has nothing left to prove in the NCAA. He’s giving the league an epic spanking the likes of which hasn’t been seen in quite a while. The only reason for him to stay for a fourth season is if he wants to finish his degree. It certainly makes one wonder if Boston College’s program is flexible enough to allow a student to complete his fourth year of studies in two summers instead of one winter!

      [1] I think I had a divide by 2 error in the league goals per game in Novermber, but it cancelled itself out when taking the ratio of goals then vs. now, so that table is still good, but the league goals/game stated are wrong.


  • BurningSensation

    I have to disagree with you about the ‘mess’ in Vancouver. Hartley did nothing wrong by dressing his 4th line (they are afterall, hockey players, and this was a hockey game). It’s like the ‘right hand lead’ in boxing. Yeah, it pisses people off, but if you don’t like it, you are free to do something about it.

    In Tortorella’s case he could have;

    – sent out the Sedin’s and dared the Flames to take a penalty whilst generating a likely strong scoring chance


    – sent out any other line and dared the Flames to take a penalty

    ….but no. Hartley knew Tortorella would take the bait. And did he ever.

    And it was magical.

    • Lordmork

      Problém is there never seemed, on the Flames side to “play” but beat. That’s the problem, puck dropped and westgarth went after Bieksa. I hate those kind of fights. Love it when 2 power horses battle all night then 10 min into 3rd the last straw is broken. One of my fav fights is Iginla and someone from Dallas (morrow I think), the play stopped as those 2 skated to center, dropped helmets, gloves and pads. That’s a fight. Not too goons who play 2 min a game but sit 10 in the box.

      • BurningSensation

        It’s not rocket science. If the Tortorella puts out ANY OTHER LINE than his 4th unit, and the Flames go off half-cocked (or even fully cocked as it turned out), then it is the Flames who face an early powerplay situation and lots of guys in the bin. Elliotte Friedman made a similar point in his recent CBC column, when he referenced how Ottawa faced a similar ‘threat’ and countered the 4th line goons with Spezza’s line (Spezza-Michalek-Conacher) and hemmed the opposition in their own zone for the start of the game.

        But by sending out his own ‘goon squad’ Tortorella all but guaranteed that some dancing bears would dance.

        Seriously though, Hartley proved he has Tort’s number – in a big way.

        Was dressing the 4th line a bad idea? I normally think so.

        Was it a mind game he was playing with Torts? No question.

        Think about it, Hartley managed to pull Tort’s chain to the point that Torts LOST HIS MIND and got himself suspended.

        All of which is just. Pure. Win.

  • Lordmork

    What are the chances that Gaudreau continues his meteoric rise to the point where he is scoring every goal and point in the NHL, even the ones in games he’s not playing in?

    I guess maybe I have high hopes for him!

  • MonsterPod

    When I saw Jankowski in the summer development camp I saw flashes of potential. He is a decent skater, has good vision and can make things happen with his size. I was optimistic that there just might be something there..

    I am disappointed that he isn’t showing more this year. I am starting to doubt that he has much of a future.

    Have you seen anything in his play that is encouraging? Is there hope that he’ll become an NHL player? (not best in draft 8 years from now, but at this point I’d take pretty good) Thoughts…

  • RedMan

    Regarding Hartley, I guess he should have just played Vancouver’s game, and ignored his own team’s “strengths”, pun intended

    As long as the league allows goons and fighters, as long as they are allowed to dress and collect a paycheque, it is hypocrisy for the league to say they can’t start. ridiculous.

    I am not a big fan of fighting at all, but this is stupid. Sending goons out to fight at 15:42 of the second is perfectly acceptable, but not at the start of the game… blah

    • gotommygo

      “As long as the league allows goons and fighters, as long as they are allowed to dress and collect a paycheque, it is hypocrisy for the league to say they can’t start. ridiculous.”

      This exactly. By giving Hartley a fine for starting the goon line, the NHL is basically admitting that these players aren’t NHL calibre.

  • I still don’t buy the whole Torts nonsense. If he couldn’t start the Sedins in good conscience fine. But the only reason he didn’t start Burrows and Kessler or Kassian’s line is because he knows they’re all a bunch of mouthy cheating jerks. And they’d probably incite the fights themselves. IT’s a total joke that Hartley gets 25K for starting his 4th line. Especially when the other coach admits he can’t star any of his other 7 players because he can’t risk them fighting even if he tells them not to. like come on. That should say everything there.

    Put Sestito with Kassian and Lane. Tell Sestito to go fight McGrattan. Bieksa steps up to Westgarth and fights Westgarth. Lane and Kassian could have just backed off and watched.. Jones clearly didn’t want to fight but probably got goated into it and seeing as everyone else was well he’d better too. Butler wouldn’t have fought either if the Canucks players hadn’t opened their mouths. I am certain of it.

  • gotommygo

    Has the CBA been changed to allow Gaudreau to finish playing college hockey while still having his rights retained without him reverting back to free agent status as was the case with Schultz and the Ducks ? It would really suck to watch JG bide his time and sign elsewhere as a free agent.

  • The Otter

    I truly hope the next time we play Vancouver that Hartley sends out his fourth line to start, centres Westgarth, and instructs the whole line to act like they are going to go again but when the puck drops, skate away without dropping the gloves. More than likely the Canucks players will have dropped their gloves and we can all then laugh at Torts raging again.

  • Parallex

    I saw through the TSN Friday trade rumours, via the Washington Post, that Mike Green may be made available for a veteran tough guy. I would think that this would be a decent option to explore,and he is also from Calgary. Given that he stays healthy, he would be great PP quarterback. Opinions? Yes or No?

    • BurningSensation

      ‘Decent’ option? I think it is a FANTASTIC option.

      He may not be the elite offensive producer he was his first few years, but he; has buckets of talent, is the right age to develop with a new core, can play big minutes, and would be a local boy come home. Add in that we have gobs of cap space to eat up just to be spending at league average, and he is a perfect fit.

      And they want a veteran goon for him? I have to believe we could get something done there!

      • piscera.infada

        It would make Wideman expendable if ownership was willing to eat cap space. That said, I’m skeptical of that move – I’m just not a huge Green fan, and I don’t see him being a ‘Burke defenceman’. But as I’ve said many times, you have to be open to pretty much anyone and everything at this point.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          What is a “Burke defenseman”? He traded for both John-Michael Liles and Jake Gardiner, and drafted Morgan Rielly.

          Come to think of it, he also drafted Gardiner.

        • BurningSensation

          I don’t see any downside (outside of career ending injury) to trading for Green at that asking price.

          I like your point about it making Wideman expendable, but I don’t think that is necessarily true. Wideman has played further down the roster for both Boston and Washington, and getting bumped to 2nd unit PP QB might even be a benefit.

          He would give us a good core of puckmovers; Brodie, Green, Wideman, Russell, can all lug the mail when needed.

  • piscera.infada

    Hartley’s move was classless, plain and simple. End of the day, what was the point? What was gained? Driving Torts crazy? Ok, congratulations. It just highlighted how poor our club is. Which is great, because we’re rebuilding and I’m all in favor of that. But it was bush league, nothing more.

      • BurningSensation

        That is sort of my point, the roles aren’t reversed! It wasn’t our coach who got punked on live tv and then doubled down on it by roid raging in the opposing players hallway!

        I for one am thrilled that we are on the winning side of these ‘mind games’!

        • piscera.infada

          Exactly. Roles reversed, I don’t see Hartley going all machismo-hulkish. In fact, I see him just readily sending out his fourth line guys, and Torts doing the exact same thing he did. Face it, fighting or not, anything gained or not, it was damn entertaining, and it was against a division rival, with a bunch of skwak-boxes – I quite enjoyed it, as I’ve wanted something like that to happen against the Canucks (specifically) for years.

  • MonsterPod

    Phew! Visceral thrashing of Hartley. Methinks you don’t care much for Burkie either. To put it in perspective, the Flames had lost seven at home, the Canucks had just been shut out 1-0 by both the Kings and Coyotes and got wasted 9-1 in Anaheim. Everyone — coaches, players, fans — was pissed off. So they had a line brawl. It’s not ideal but it’s also not apocalyptic. None of the fights were epic and no one was seriously injured.

    It’s also interesting to note that since that skirmish both teams have been playing much better hockey and the rivalry has been re-ignited.

    I would love to get giddy about Gaudreau, but if you look up Nathan Gerbe, who nows plays for the Canes, he is also itty bitty, and also put up big numbers at Boston College. While he’s done well to stay in the NHL, he’s no Pat Kane.

    I’m a Flames fan4life and I would love Johnny Hockey to be amazing, but I’m not holding my breath simply because it is a big boy league. I’m more interested in the July draft and the Flames picking at their highest position in franchise history.

    • Purple Hazze

      Nathan Gerbe is just one example, but there are also examples of other players who are itty bitty yet put up good numbers.

      St. Louis, Fleury, and Gionta are 3 I can think of off the top of my head.

      • mk

        Gerbe put up 18, 47 and 68 pts in his 3 years at BC (total 133 pts).
        Gaudreau has put up 44, 51 and 48 pts so far (143 pts) with ~24 games remaining. If he continues at his current pace, he’ll have 191 points in the same time frame. Plus, for those who like the “international stage” (WJC for US) argument, Gaudreau put up 9 pts in 7 games. Gerbe? 6 pts in 14 games.

        Gaudreau > Gerbe so far – plus he is taller (probably will fill out his frame to be bigger). I’m choosing to be excited about his kid.

        Historical note: I went back as far back as the USCHO has hockey stats – only 1 player since 97-98 has finished the season at more than 2 pts/game (Jason Krog in 98-99). Interesting.