Five things: Last one


Before the break

few bits of housekeeping here in the final Flames-related Five
Thoughts for a few weeks: After this we’re on to the Olympics; there
are two games on as I type this but Sweden’s already pummeling the
Czechs and I couldn’t care about the Latvian team’s fortunes if I had
made the roster. And I was one of the last cuts.

first bit is about the fact that the Flames, perhaps predictably,
sputtered into the break, going 1-2 in their final three following
that five-game winning streak. The bigger problem, from their point
of view, is that while they only allowed two goals per in each of
those games, they also scored just five, and four were in that win
over the Islanders. If you’re getting shut out by the Canadiens and
held to one by the Flyers, that’s a serious point of concern for the
offense going forward, but then I guess a week and a half of scoring
between three and five a night will do that to you, especially when
your first line is as generally poor as Calgary’s.

is that there was — at long last — an update of sorts in the GM
hunt. I say of sorts because it was something we already knew: Joe
Nieuwendyk will 100 percent not be the Flames’ GM after all, because
he couldn’t commit to it as fully as would be needed. That makes
sense and is fine. He wasn’t all that successful in Dallas and one
can’t imagine he’d have any success in Calgary either. Maybe (big
maybe!) the Flames are smart enough to hire a guy who has at least
some background with analytics beyond looking at how tall he is, or
how much he weighs.

What about after it?

third and final bit of housekeeping is what the Flames, like all
other teams in the league, will have just nine days after the NHL
comes back to make their various trades before the March 5 deadline,
and certainly that’s going to be a time when you want Brian Burke to
be as busy as possible. By then we’ll probably have a good idea of
whether the team would be willing to re-sign Mike Cammalleri (still a
bad idea) and maybe a few other veterans, but if not, you have to
think all bets are off and everything must go.

other thing that’s worth mentioning along these same lines is that
Shane O’Brien is playing in Abbotsford but his heart is set on
getting back to the NHL, likely via a trade. While I’m sure that
Brian Burke is trying feverishly to get anyone to take on that
contract (another year at $2 million) for a player who is so bad he
can’t even play in the Flames’ defense corps, the idea that he has
anything to offer any NHL team at this point is beyond ludicrous.
Maybe if the Canadiens really do think they are that hard up for size
and toughness — and are still in a playoff race — they come
calling, but man would it take a sucker to pick up that contract.

Russell re-signed

guy who’s not moving, and it’s not really much of a surprise, is Kris
Russell, who was re-signed for two years at $2.6 million, which is
the right term, but more money than he’s probably worth. It ends up
not mattering, though. As with the new contract for Matt Stajan, the
Flames are overpaying to get these leadership-y veterans to stick
around through what are going to be some very very lean years, during
which time they’re going to have to deal with a salary cap that’s
going to skyrocket.

has been about as good as anyone could have reasonably expected from
him, and maybe a little better. He’s also one of Jay Feaster’s
savvier acquisitions because he cost basically nothing, and so for
him to not be a flaming disaster is a rather pleasant surprise for
all involved. He’s being rewarded for being a good soldier, and
that’s par for the course. They have to get to the salary floor
somehow, and he’s not much of a difference-maker in the grand scheme
of things insofar as he won’t win the Flames a whole lot of games.
This is a signing you have to be on board with.

More trouble for Gillies

originally thought about trekking down to Providence to see Jon
Gillies and the Friars take on UConn on Tuesday, but ended up
thinking better of it because you had to assume that they — the No.
9 team in the country — would pummel their opponents, who are a
mediocre team in one of the worst conferences in college hockey. Now
I’m kicking myself.

Friars actually lost this game, their third defeat in a row and sixth
in the last 10 (2-6-2), and it wasn’t for lack of effort; they put 60
shots on UConn goaltender Matt Grogan and he stopped 58 of them,
outdueling Gillies, who allowed three on 26. Those who were in
attendance characterized Gillies’ performance as having been quite
poor, allegedly allowing goals on the only real chances the Huskies
generated all game, as well as one more. This performance brings his
save percentage in the last eight games to .892, and that’s a real
cause for concern; at the start of the new year, he was at .941, but
that’s dropped to just .926 in less than a month and a half. Very
worrisome. You’re not going to find out if there’s something wrong
with him, at least until the end of the season, but you have to think
there’s an issue.

possible theory, advanced by another college hockey scribe: “He’s
checked out of college.” Let’s not forget, he met with Brian Burke
before that initial loss to Northeastern, and since then his game has
been pretty poor overall. Even in one of the two games he won, he
allowed four goals on 29 shots to Lowell. You really have to wonder
if that has anything to do with it.

Gaudreau going?

on Sportsnet 960, hockey analyst Al Morganti, who’s in Philadelphia
now but is originally from Boston, said that from everything he’s
hearing, Johnny Gaudreau is going to sign with the Flames at the end
of this season because he feels he has nothing else to prove.

is certainly the case. You can set your watch to him putting up two
points a game, which he did again in the Beanpot final against
Northeastern, to run his season total to 25-33-58 in 29 games,
including 13-20-33 in his last 15. It just isn’t fair any more. Not
really. He has five regular-season games remaining, plus at least two
(but more likely four or five) in the Hockey East playoffs before the
NCAA tournament starts, where he could play four more.

58 points from 29, with as many as 14 more to play. There’s a very
very real chance he gets to 80 points this season, which would be the
first time that’s happened in college hockey since Peter Sejna had 82
in 2002-03. If Gaudreau continues his current pace (two points per
game!), he gets to 86.

he has nothing left to prove, especially if BC wins the national
title. And at 14-0-1 in their last 15, that seems fairly likely right
this second.

  • Parallex

    I’ve enjoyed the tone of your articles of late but I gotta say you have no clue what you are talking about in regards to Russell.

    He has a huge impact on our team and greatly affects the win column.

    We are not the same team without him in the lineup.

    Other than that good article..

    • Colin.S

      I agree somewhat with this, Russell is easily worth the 2.6 million. I don’t say that his impact is ‘huge’ but it is noticeable. Most noticeably is that he is a legit 4/5 guy and keeps guys like Butler, SoB, Smith, Breen and to an extent Smid out of the top 4 and usually kept to the bottom pairing where they belong.

  • Colin.S

    Occasionally these NCAA statistical comparions to Gaudreau jump out to me and seem to reinforce the idea that he may not be able to translate to the NHL. Whether it’s the number of Hobey Baker winners who have faded into obscurity, or point comparisons such as the one to Peter Sejna above. That being said, I find that almost every time when you delve deeper, you realize that Johnny is doing something truly special.

    Take Peter Sejna for example. A quick look shows that he only managed 49 games in the NHL with St. Louis. But also consider that he was 23 when her put up 82 points. And it was done in 42 games (

  • T&A4Flames

    Ugh. My last post was at least 5 times longer than what appeared.

    Anyways, the just of it was that everytime you try to compare Gaudreau to past performances, there is always an asterix such as the previous player being older, scoring being much higher during that time etc.

    While I’m not arguing that he’s the best player to come out of the NCAA, considering most of the better player tend to leave before their junior year. It’s just becoming more and more difficult to put this individual season into context.

  • Parallex

    “the idea that he has anything to offer any NHL team at this point is beyond ludicrous”

    Meh, I dunno… he offers us $2,000,000.00 towards the cap floor?

    I’m already mentally preparing myself for the Flames to sign Dany Heatley for far more then he’s worth on a one year deal. Makes too much sense… Flames get a RW (which they lack), that they can sell to the fans as he’s a “hometown” boy and was at one time a “name” in the NHL, that they can feed some soft minutes and PP time to pump his superficial stats with, and then flip at the deadline, he’ll replace Cammy’s hefty ticket towards reaching the cap floor, oh yes and he fit’s nicely into Burke’s “BIGBIGBIGBEEFBEEFBEEF!” spankbank. On the flipside Heatley get’s to make more money then he’s due at this point in his career, knows that he’ll get flipped to a contender so he’ll sniff some playoffs, get’s to play more then he would elewhere, and maybe up his value for the season after.

    • BurningSensation

      Your thoughts on Heatley really made me laugh. ‘BigBeef’ are the size of his hamburgers and ‘Flip side’ is when he cooks them in abundance!

      He would be a good example to our young guys on how not to commit yourself to fitness in professional sports! Enough already……

  • Colin.S

    Gillies rebound control was awful at world juniors, maybe it’s plaguing him in NCAA. He was hurt earlier in the year maybe he is playing with an injury.

    A little trivia question- what current Flame shares the record for worst plus minus in a single NHL game?

  • BurningSensation

    Nieuwendyk’s tenure as GM in Dallas was hardly a disaster.

    He pilfered a #1 goaltender in Kari Lehtonen for spare parts, traded for Cody Eakins to help rebuild the teams youth (getting rid of Ribeiro), and made some good FA signings (Whitney, Jagr).

    He’s lost the Neal for Goligoski swap, but if Goligoski returns to previous form its not as horrible.

    • BurningSensation

      I agree. In addition he did not have the support/mentorship needed for a first time GM in Dallas. In Calgary he would have that with Burke. This guy is so bright I’m afraid his major concern would be too much involvement from Burke.

      Regardless as a fan he is my no. 1 choice. Perhaps moments after we celebrate his jersey moment at the Saddledome Murray Edwards would have pen and paper in hand and have him sign right on Saddledome ice..ha!

      • BurningSensation

        I didn’t say he was Scotty Bowman, just not a disaster.

        One of the biggest problems in assessing GMs is that they aren’t all operating on a level playing field. Niewuendyk’s job was to field the cheapest team possible, while also being a contender – the kind of situation that can be very tension filled for a GM.

        Ownership changes, Jim Nill comes on board and he is given green light to spend, and IMMEDIATELY trades for Horcoff’s awful contract and Rich Peverley’s slight overpay – shoring up the center ice spot in a way Nieuwendyk never was allowed to.

  • BurningSensation

    Niuewy was a mixed bag. Some good, some bad, typical of a 1st time GM. Very *meh.* Blaming ownership is lame, he still made the moves. The Neal trade was a bonafide disaster.

    End of the day, he’s not terrible, he’d do better in a 2nd stint, but there’s nothing there to give reason for over-selling him either.

  • McRib

    I remember watching Jamie Benn his rookie year and I couldn’t get over how much chemestry he seemed to have with James Neal.

    Benn a silky smooth setup man with soft hands and Neal a goal scorer with a lightning quick finish and more impressively it seemed both could also switch roles anytime it was necessary, that pair would have been special (i.e Perry/Getzlaf Special).

    Then Joe Nieuwendyk made that trade which was very bad in its own right (Pittsburgh got the best player in Neal, as well as the best defender in Matt Niskanen), but worse when you consider that the pair had incredible potential to offer down the road. Tyler Seguin has been good with Jamie Benn this season, but I just don’t think it will ever come close to what Jamie Benn & James Neal could have done. Two silky smooth big forwards both of which were dual threats that could reverse roles, always complimenting each other.

    As a Hockey Fan I have always felt cheated by Joe Nieuwendyk for making that trade as the pair of Benn/Neal would have been incredible for Hockey in general. I understand Joe was pressured by Ownership because the franchise was bleeding money, but still that trade was one of the worst trades for me in the past ten years as he completely neglected the future chemistry of two rising stars. Glad he doesn’t want to be our GM. Not to mention in the four drafts he was GM he drafted three of the biggest first round busts in that time period (Radek Faksa, Jack Campbell, Scott Glennie) and Jamie Oleksiak could very well be as well. If he took the next pick in those draft he would have had Zemgus Girgensons, Cam Fowler, J.T. Miller & Jared Cowen, worse of all those picks were all within the Top. 15.