-via paul.hadsall

Tonight, in the first meeting of the year between these two clubs, the Calgary Flames (21-28-7) face-off against the nearly identical (in overall record only) New York Islanders (22-28-8) at the lowly Nassau Coliseum.  It’s an early one as the puck drops at 5 pm MT on Sportsnet West.

The New York Islanders were once a great and storied franchise.  The team entered the league as an expansion team in 1972 and it took them only eight years to become a powerhouse. They won four consecutive Stanley Cups, a feat that is probably impossible in today’s parity-filled NHL, from 1980 to 1983.  However, things haven’t been the same since.

The Islanders have not won a division title since 1987-88 and have only qualified for the playoffs a handful of times since then (only qualifying twice since the 2005 lockout), never making any hay when they did make the playoffs.  The problems with the organization have been rampant, stemming from ownership problems and terrible decisions from the folks overseeing hockey operations (they’re still paying Yashin $2 million + for another year after this season!).

More recently, after drafting superstar John Tavares a few years ago and putting some pieces around him, they seemed to finally be making some headway last year when they qualified for the playoffs and did quite well against the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins.  However, this year the problems persisted.  The New York Islanders got off to a slow start and made a trade to put them back in the playoff conversation.  They traded a 1st rounder, a 2nd rounder and Matt Moulson, John Tavares’ linemate and one of his closest friends, to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek.

They gave up a boat-load for Vanek in the hopes he would mesh well with Tavares and create a one-two punch to get them over the top.  What’s interesting about the deal is that although Thomas Vanek is a great player, Matt Moulson is also a pretty good player.  Over the past four seasons Moulson has scored 214 points where as Vanek has scored 228; Moulson scored at about 94% the rate that Vanek did.  The story gets better as the NYI had hoped to sign the set to be unrestricted free agent Vanek to a long-term deal after this year.  However, Vanek recently turned down a $50 million 7 year deal to test the market.  The Islanders have not been any better after acquiring Vanek for a king’s ransom and now they will likely need to trade him before the trade deadline to try and get something back.

How does this all relate to the Flames?  It’s exactly these types of decisions that can kill a rebuild.  It’s great to go after a guy like Vanek, he is a fantastic talent.  But I don’t know about trading a very good complimentary player like Moulson as well as high draft picks to do it.  Even before hindsight kicks in, it seems like that’s a lateral move at best. The Islanders are now worse off after that deal and further away from becoming good again. Let’s hope for some better decision making from the Flames’ brass over the next few years.

Ok … now to this game.


The line-ups, coming in hot, by way of www.dailyfaceoffs.com 

  • Hudler – Backlund – Stempniak
  • Cammalleri – Monahan – Colborne
  • Bouma – Stajan – D. Jones
  • Galiardi – Byron – McGrattan
  • Brodie – Giordano
  • Russell – Butler
  • Smid – Wideman
  • Berra

Byron is expected to draw-back into the line-up tonight.  Amazingly, it will be Westgarth sitting out and not Galiardi and the fourth line will be formidable!

Cammalleri has not looked himself since coming back from injury, as he’s been pretty non-existent out there.  Perhaps he’s having some lingering effects from the mild concussion he suffered a few weeks ago.  This couldn’t come at a worse time as Cammalleri will likely be traded in the next few weeks and his current play could affect the return the Flames receive.

Joni Ortio is up with the Flames as Ramo went down with an injury over the weekend.  He won’t start tonight, however, as Hartley is running with Berra again tonight.


  • Vanek – Tavares – Okposo
  • Grabner – Nielsen – Clutterbuck
  • Bailey – Nelson -McDonald
  • Martin – Cizikas – Boulton
  • Straight – MacDonald
  • Visnovsky – Hickey
  • De Haan – Donovan
  • Nabokov

The Islanders team struggles aside, that is one deadly first line.  Tavares has turned into a top 5 guy in this league, Vanek is usually good for 70 points and Okposo has been lights-out good since last year’s playoff series against the Pens.  That’ll be a tough line to contain for sure.

Could this be the last game we ever see Vanek in a NYI jersey?  There are rumors that he could get traded in the next 24 hours, before the Olympic break trade freeze kicks in.  If not, he will most certainly be dealt by the trade deadline in about a month.

I’m excited to see Frans Nielsen tonight.  He’s been used as a comparable for Mikael Backlund for years as many around the Nation see him as a player that Backlund could become, a great two-way player that puts up 40-50 points.  I haven’t seen Nielsen play much and I’m interested to see if his playing style mirrors Backlund’s.


Tonight features a match-up of two teams that sit in a similar position in the standings (near the bottom).  However, the Islanders are several years into a rebuild and are showing the new rebuild Flames exactly what not to do to become great again.  The Islanders’ first line has some significant fire power and if the Flames can contain that line they could be sitting pretty.  A win in regulation tonight would make the Flames 6-1-0 in their last seven and, consequently, only one point behind the Islanders in the standings.

  • WaIter White

    That is definitely one of the ugliest buildings I’ve ever seen.

    The Vanek trade would have been much better if he was still under contract. Or if he had agreed to re-sign. Still weird, but better.

    Also ORTIO!!!!!! Start him on Saturday please.

  • WaIter White

    Flames need to take a look at a Cammy for Vanek swap. We already know Vanek won’t re-sign in NY, but Cammy just might. Vanek would bring us back more skill and size, maybe throw in a conditional 2nd rounder if Vanek re-signs here. He’ll help us reach the cap floor for sure, and definitely accelerates the rebuild. I’d rather have our young players mentored by a real player than Matt Stajan or Craig Conroy.


  • Parallex

    Hope it’s true (Mickis going to the OG)… we here (many of us anyways) can all embrace our inner hipster and declare “we liked Mickis before it was…”.

  • McRib

    I’m excited to see Frans Nielsen tonight. He’s been used as a comparable for Mikael Backlund for years as many around the Nation see him as a player that Backlund could become….”

    Nice point even despite going cold Nielsen is still on pace for 60 points. If Backlund continues to plays like he has lately 50-60 is easily within range down the road.

    As for Thomas Vanek it is highly likely that he is going to sign with Minnesota in the offseason, everyone knows he loved playing for the U of M (wife also influencing decision she is a local).

    Any team that trades for him looses him this summer, so doubt they get much. What a bad trade for the Islanders no one is going to give them value outside of the Wild if they can’t get that done it’s a disaster they also gave two high picks. Especially considering how much their franchise player (Tavares) loved playing with Matt Moulson, how Garth Snow still has a GM job or ever had one to begin with is beyond me.

    • Byron Bader

      I had a look at Nielsen’s totals these year as well and was pretty surprised that he was on pace for the 60 points. He goes very unnoticed. Much like Backs.

      I don’t even think Minny will offer anything worth while. What’s the point of offering higher than a 2nd when there’s a high likelihood you’re going to get him gratis (other than large ufa money) in 5 months from now.

      Garth Snow is extremely horrible at most things hockey. Even as a goaltender he was only ok.

  • McRib

    I was at Nassau Coliseum last year what a disaster it makes the Rexall Centre look like a shrine to Hockey (a rink with springs coming out of the seats in the second tier and six foot wide corridors). It is also out in the middle of nowhere in a mall parking lot. If it was a WHL rink it would easily be in the bottom five worst (only Tri-Citys & Swift Current come to mind as being significantly worse).

  • beloch


    Not quite official, but getting there.

    Sweden’s coaching Staff probably tuned into a recent Canucks game and noticed how Henrik was keeping his “iron man” streak alive by robbing his team of a useful roster spot on a nightly basis. (Seriously, why hasn’t he just taken some time off ro heal?) Henrik was likely ready to do the same thing at Sochi, but the Swedes finally wised up and told him to bow out so they could bring a useful player.

    Anyways, if the rumors are true, congratulations to Backs! He deserves it!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    If this is true it just goes to show how much depth team Canada has. Sweden loses Henrik and replace him with Backlund (no dig here, love Backlund).

    Canada loses Stamkos and replaces him with last year’s Art Ross trophy winner.


  • SmellOfVictory

    This tweet

    Calgary Flames News: “Calgary Flames sniper Mikael Backlund reportedly heading to Sochi…”

    Lol. I mean, I love Mickis, but “sniper”? Really? The guy has like a 7.5 sh% in his career.

  • Aussie Flame

    Cammy for Vanek? That would never happen, the Isles don’t want to add a guy who wants to go to a contender. New York needs a lot better defence and goaltending. Vanek is a highly skilled player, but that doesn’t mean he would be the right fit for a rebuild. Also, Bobby Mac has said the Flames are talking to Cammy about a contract. Would be very happy if Backs gets to play for Sweden in Sochi. It could do wonders for his confidence.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Looking at the standings, I’m happy if the Flames win some games down the stretch. Improves a young groups confidence going into next year and helps them to know that this group can win games.

    As far as I can see, it would be hard to fall out of the bottom five and catch Washington who is currently 10 points ahead of us in the standings. Top 5 draft eligible players (Mackenzie ranking) are Ekblad, Reinhart (1.58 ppg), Bennett (1.65 ppg), Dal Colle (1.47 ppg) and Draisatl (1.47 ppg). It’s after the top 5 that it gets fuzzy for me (Mackenzie’s next pick is a defenceman – Fleury at no. 6)

    Draisatl is 30 lbs heavier than Reinhart and Dal Colle is an inch taller (Burkie Likey).

    I see no issue getting the 5th overall pick and giving the boys some confidence to close out the season.

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        Agreed on Bennett & Draisaitl and I would definitely take Draisaitl over Dall Colle. Disagree on Fleury. Defencemen are more difficult to project IMO. This can be witnessed by many later picked D-man becoming elite in the league. My understanding is Dal Colle is a sniper with a howitzer of a shot. Something that is missing to some extent in our system.

        What is your issue with Dal Colle?

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that he’s being floated by his center (Scott Laughton).

          He’s still a top ten guy (I guess) but I tend to be skeptical of power forwards because they’re overrated at the drop of a hat. Aside from size, a heavy shot is all Dal Colle seems to have. He has no hands and skates like a giraffe on rollerblades.

          For the record, Snipers are just about the only thing that ISN’T lacking in the Flames system. Really, the only kind of forward the Flames don’t have is a playmaking center. Markus Granlund, Sean Monahan, Morgan Klimchuk, Max Reinhart, and Corban Knight are all above average or better shooters.

          • Bean-counting cowboy

            Good to know. I hadn’t heard much about his skating. I see his stats, being one of the top goal scorers in the CHL right now (for this draft class) with a big shot, it is hard not to salivate at the thought of Mohahan setting him up for one-timers. Still not sure if I would take a D-man of this draft over him though (besides Ekblad obviously)

            Would love to pick up another 1st round pick somehow (Cammi?) Would be interested in Mckeown, or taking a chance on Goldobin – could be an elite scorer some day. I wonder if anyone knows much about Alex Tuch (6’4″ 213 lbs). Seems like a Burke type player and is a RW which the system needs.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    That’s six wins in their last seven games, picked up twelve points out of a possible fourteen. Backs is still on fire and still ahead of the Oilers.