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.
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.
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.
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.