1. The best laugh you’re going to have all week
I really don’t know what about this Calgary Sun story is funnier: The headline, the first sentence, or the premise.
Headline: “Calgary Flames still haven’t ruled out making playoffs.”
First sentence: “The mountain is steep, but not necessarily insurmountable.”
Premise: “Come on down to the Saddledome because we’re only neck deep in this quicksand!”
The idea that the Flames could make the playoffs at this point is of course ludicrous. Of the 24 games they have remaining, Sports Club Stats they would mathematically be eliminated from contention upon suffering their sixth regulation loss; that is, they can give away no more than 12 points of the 48 still available to them. That’s a .750 winning percentage the rest of the way, obviously, and it’s up not inconsiderably from the team’s .440 winning percentage over the first 58 games of the season. Based on that figure, the average number of games the Flames have needed to lose 12 points in the standings is a little less than 14 games, or slightly more than half of those remaining.
That expectation of winning at least 18 of the remaining games further fails to take into account injuries (of which the Flames have several right now) or the inevitable sell-off of the team’s few decent players for futures.
Another bit of comedy from the Sun: “If the Flames do fall out of contention and become sellers on the market before the March 5 trade deadline…” If indeed. I will never understand how reporters let coaches get away with stuff like this.
2. Injuries still plentiful
So Karri Ramo is still out, which actually may not be that much of a bad thing, given what we know about the play he’s turned in so far this season. So too is Brian McGrattan (potentially, for tonight’s game at least) and that likewise would not be a terrible thing overall.
The most meaningful of these injuries, though, remains the one that’s keeping Curtis Glencross on the sidelines, and much of the chatter indicates that while he’s making progress — skating in a no-contact jersey, and that’s it — he’s still a ways away. His absence is not going to help the Flames in any appreciable way, but that the same time, perhaps the team’s most exciting two call-ups of the season…
3. That means
The Flames have officially recalled — and will presumably use — both Joni Ortio and Markus Granlund over the next little while, and in doing so give fans an eyeful of two of the team’s most promising prospects.
Ortio of course has spent most of the season preventing the entire AHL from scoring, which is something to which one cannot be accustomed from Flames goaltenders having seen them over the last three or four years. While the average viewer might be reticent to proclaim him the next coming of mid-2000s Miikka Kiprusoff for obvious reasons (chief among them his never having gotten a second in the NHL), he’s spent the last two seasons being pretty damn solid or even great, and if he can produce at anything resembling an average goaltending line in the NHL for the Flames they should be falling all over themselves for joy; let’s not forget, this season’s team save percentage of .900 is actually nine points higher than it was in 48 last year.
Then there’s Granlund, who’s on 44 points in 50 games for Abbotsford in what is his first taste of North American hockey for any prolonged period of time. That’s good for 13th in the AHL behind a lot of guys who have gotten more games than him (and a few that haven’t, like Ryan Strome, who has 49 in 37!), and he’s also just 20 years old. This is the Flames’ most exciting and promising forward prospect in terms of those actually playing professional hockey right now — with apologies to Ben Hanowski — and to see him get a shot already, regardless of the reason for it, is good for all involved.
4. Stop it, Brian
The Flames now say that they’re actively trying to work on an extension for Mike Cammalleri while also leaving open the possibility of a trade. The logic behind extending him escapes me fully.
It’s unclear exactly how much his leadership means to the youngest guys on the team, but if this is a team with designs on rebuilding comprehensively (Crater for Connor, etc.), then keeping around a guy like Cammalleri, who’s a very serviceable top-six forward and certainly makes pretty much any team he could play on better, is counterintuitive for two reasons.
First, trading him necessarily nets the team assets — prospects, picks, or both — that help to build for the future in some way. Second, keeping him makes the team better which is what they don’t or should not want to do to begin with. Maybe it’s in pursuit of the cap floor, I don’t know.
There’s also this: If the team intends to keep him it’s because they don’t have designs on bottoming out, which is a perfectly understandable tactic from a pride perspective (but not so much from one of realism). But at that point, the question becomes one of how many guys from a team that sucks, and has sucked for years, do you really want to keep around at the end of the day? By my count the Flames have nine veterans under contract for next year who have missed the playoffs with this team at least this season and last. That doesn’t include Cammalleri, Lee Stempniak, or Chris Butler. Re-signing any one of those guys bumps you to 10, which is half your game-day roster. What’s the point in keeping them all around?
5. The MacDermid retirement
So there was some initial confusion as to why the Flames’ somewhat-newly-acquired enforcer Lane MacDermid refused to report when recalled after the Olympic break. Turns out it’s because he filed retirement papers and doesn’t want to play hockey any more. To echo the comments of Justin Bourne yesterday morning, I think it’s very admirable to see a guy at 24 years old, and with several games of NHL experience under his belt, to say, “Thanks but no thanks” to a game which has historically asked a little too much of him for his liking.
Really great to see that kind of thing in a sport in which you often see guys hang around too long because the money is good. Especially when they do what MacDermid did for a living: Suffer head injuries. Get out while you can. Good going.