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.
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.
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