As we await the completion of the Sochi opening ceremonies – the Russian anthem is amazing – and the last game of the pre-Olympic portion of the season, here’s some news and notes from the Flames-related hockey world.
The final Olympic roster deadline is Monday. After the disappointment of Mikael Backlund not going – he wasn’t on Sweden’s long list – don’t forget that both Jiri Hudler of the Czech Republic and Mark Giordano of Canada are apparently on their nations’ long lists. If anybody drops out in the next day or two, they both might head over. (Disclosure: it’s not looking likely, though.)
The Flames will play game #57 tomorrow morning in Philadelphia. If somebody told you that the team would win 22 of their first 56, I’m pretty sure you’d take it. Despite being, on-paper, almost an expansion team, the Flames coaching staff have gotten the absolute most lemonade out of these lemons. The emergence of Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, Lance Bouma and T.J. Brodie as solid NHL level players has been particularly impressive. They’ll be key pieces moving forward.
Calgary’s biggest problem this season? The same as their problem last season – they constantly get out-scored 5-on-5. The second-biggest problem? Goaltending. Reto Berra has been inconsistent, while Karri Ramo was getting stronger before he tweaked his MCL. Hopefully we get a chance to see what Joni Ortio can do before the end of the season. Expect Ortio to get shipped back to Abbotsford after tomorrow’s game.
Down on the farm, the Heat play tomorrow and Saturday against the visiting Texas Stars, the celebrate the Olympics with a lengthy road trip. They’ll play in Raleigh (against the Charlotte Checkers), Milwaukee and Chicago during the break. Other than Ortio, everybody that would be considered to be sent to the AHL need to clear waivers, so don’t expect much movement otherwise.
Rumours out of Germany are saying that Hamburg Freezers winger David Wolf has signed a deal with the Flames. I’ve heard that he has a long-term deal with the Freezers, so I’m not sure what’s up. Wolf is 6’2” and 215 pounds and is just under a point-per-game in Germany. He’s also attended past Leafs development camps, so Brian Burke knows who he is. He’s 24.
And the Flames organization could be very youthful next season. Players that will (or could be) in the first two years of their pro hockey careers next season include defensemen Tyler Wotherspoon, John Ramage, Patrick Sieloff, Ryan Culkin and Brett Kulak, and forwards Sean Monahan, Emile Poirer, Josh Jooris, Ben Hanowski, Corban Knight, Markus Granlund, Michael Ferland, Turner Elson, Kenny Agostino, Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau. That’s also presuming Jon Gillies doesn’t go pro, too, nor does this year’s first round pick. As you can see, the Flames system will be full of young guys. The important thing for the team’s pro scouts will be to find the right veterans to anchor things and teach these guys how to be effective pros on and off the ice. The organization has many, many UFAs and RFAs, and it’ll be very interesting to see how Brian Burke’s staff manages the transition.
And an absolute metric-ton of cap space for the NHL roster.
We’ll have a ton of prospect and Olympic hockey coverage for you over the next couple of weeks. Sing along at home if you know the words and enjoy the games, everyone.