1. Cammalleri back tonight*
This was some very good news to come out yesterday morning: The Flames’ most tradeable asset is back and ready to go tonight against San Jose.
This is good for a few reasons:
a) It’s always great to see someone recover from a concussion because, damn, those are scary.
b) This once again gives the Flames a chance to showcase him as a means of boosting his asking price; tell Hartley to take it easy on those defensive- and neutral-zone starts, and try to mix in a few matchups against the Sharks’ fourth-line guys (who sadly have better possession numbers than the Flames’ No. 1 guys).
c) It won’t actually improve the Flames’ chances of winning all that much, thus helping to ensure that the team won’t go on any run. Three games in a row is already too many for a team that should — and will soon be — trying to tank as hard as possible.
The offensive explosion of those last three games, by the way, will only be aided by Cammalleri’s return, but you can’t imagine that it does too much to help the defense in any appreciable way. We’re all supposed to be happy about these non-regulation wins, despite the fact that they’re covering up disastrous goaltending performances, right?
*-(Editor’s Note: after coach Hartley announced that Cammalleri would play on Wednesday, he did a 180 and said he wouldn’t play the next day. He’ll likely be back on Saturday now against Minnesota.)
2. To that point…
Obviously Karri Ramo is still going to be with the team next season because he’s signed for it, but the question of what you do with Reto Berra, who has been unequivocally awful this season. The “NHL backup” role is one for which is is simply not suited. An .893 save percentage and he’s still worked 23 appearances out of this season? That says a lot, doesn’t it? Hockey-Reference says a league-average goalie would have allowed about a quarter fewer goals, which is to say 17 fewer.
His contract is up at the end of the year, and you have to wonder if the Flames go goalie shopping this summer to get someone who can actually platoon effectively. Literally any career backup has to be better than this. The more time he gets in the bigs, the worse he seems to look; his save percentage in January (so far) is .845.
On the other hand, if you really are looking to tank, you can do a lot worse than Reto Berra as your No. 1b.
3. Waiving O’Brien
Yeah, more of that kind of thing, please. Of course, the hope is that Brian Burke will have learned something about how size does not always equal quality, but we know that he obviously did not. Gotta have beef.
On the other hand, when you’re sending him down only to call up Chris Breen, well, that is also bad.
4. Backlund on the “All-Hipster” team
I thought it was pretty funny to read our own Nations Network’s All-Hipster team (an examination of players who seem poised, statistically, to break out at some point in the near future), because we at Flames Nation have been banging the drum for Mikael Backlund long and hard, and he was the very first person who came up.
What’s interesting about that, though, is that if he does become a productive player sometime in the next few years, I’m increasingly convinced it won’t be with Calgary. I’ve heard and read way too much in the last few months to think that he’s going to be renewed when his deal expires after next season, even if he is an RFA. I’m far more convinced he’ll go somewhere in a trade. He’s still youngish at 24, but he doesn’t seem like a guy who’s ever going to fit into the plans of Bob Hartley, Brian Burke, or whoever Burke brings in to coach and run the team next season.
It’s frustrating because he’s just so good at driving possession, and you’d think someone in a position to make decisions might have noticed that at some point, this kind of thing — that he gets tough zone starts against some of the best competition on the other team and doesn’t drown — but then this is Flames management we’re talking about.
5. Gillies struggling
It was perhaps inevitable that the best goaltending prospect in perhaps all of amateur hockey would eventually struggle, and so here we are with Jon Gillies.
Let’s be perfectly honest here: There has to be something wrong with him. I was in the building on Saturday night when he gave up five goals on just 19 shots, and generally looked awful doing it; these weren’t shots that should have beaten a goalie of his quality. It led to his being pulled for performance reasons for the first time in his college career (the first two times were in a blowout, and for an injury, the latter of which I’ll get to in a second). But okay, maybe you say it’s an isolated incident. But the fact of the matter is he also gave up four on 29 the night before. And that, too, was against one of the better teams in the country, so you can perhaps write that off as well.
But if you want to go back over the last eight games, his save percentage is .894, and this all seems to date back to when he hurt his groin against UNH on Nov. 22. Prior to that point, his save percentage was .949 and he looked very much the goaltender everyone thought. In the 11 games since, he’s dropped to .927, and won just four times (a silly stat, I know, but illustrative of how reliant upon him Providence truly is). I never in my life thought I would see Gillies give up nine goals in a single weekend, let alone on 38 shots. With the playoffs just over a month away, and a date with BC on Friday, you wonder just how much he’s going to be able to rest. This is a serious point of concern.