Something I’ve been thinking about
don’t know why this occurred to me the other day, but it did and I
thought it was interesting vis a vis Brian Burke and his role with
apologize, by the way, for bringing up something along these lines
again, but there’s very little else to talk about with regard to this
team of late. Anyway, this is also pretty front-of-mind for me right
now for another reason I’ll get to in a minute.)
Burke was first brought aboard and Jay Feaster was inexplicably still
in his role, we were told that the general manager/president of
hockey operations dynamic they wanted to lean on — i.e. that the GM
had autonomy but the president of hockey ops had final say and would
certainly lean in there with his opinions whenever he felt like it —
was relatively new to hockey and one that would give the Flames
something of a rare opportunity to approach the player and team
evaluation process with the new partnership.
wonder, I guess, about its efficacy, because we saw Feaster get
canned, predictable though it may have been, pretty early on this
season, and Brian Burke take over from him as the de facto GM until
such time as a new one can be hired, which is to say after the
season, which is to say that he’d keep the job in which he stated
repeatedly that he had no interest for at least a few months. Then
there’s the fact that another of these partnerships existed in
Buffalo, and there the new GM seems to have effectively run his
direct superior out of town in some way; I don’t know if we’ve ever
gotten the real explanation behind Pat LaFontaine’s decision to step
down as the Sabres president of hockey ops but those reports about
him not wanting to trade Ryan Miller ring true enough for me that I
buy them no matter how much it’s refuted in public.
it’s interesting to me that two of the bigger dumpster fires in the
league adopted this new and revolutionary dynamic this year (if I’m
not mistaken, the Oilers have had a similar one as well with Kevin
Lowe technically overseeing Craig MacTavish, so that’s another for
the pile), and both had them blow up more or less immediately on the
launchpad. Maybe, probably, it was unavoidable in both cases, given
the states of the teams.
So what does that mean?
it a coincidence, then, that three of the worst teams in the league
have perhaps the most conspicuous of these dynamics (as a
counterpoint the Boston Bruins also kind of have one, with Cam Neely
technically, I think, being Peter Chiarelli’s boss, but he’s just
“President,” not “President of Hockey Operations: the Bruins
site says he “oversees
all of the club’s hockey and business operations”) and that most
agree they haven’t worked especially well.
also wonder whether this has had any kind of impact on the ways in
which the GM hiring process went or is going. After all, we heard in
the immediate wake of Feaster’s firing that Calgary had a few
candidates in mind and wanted to hire soon. Then it was changed to,
“They’re waiting until the end of the season.” That was curious.
Maybe the initial reports were wrong, and maybe a few candidates said
“Thanks but no thanks.” One of those candidates was apparently
Joe Nieuwendyk, who said he would pass on the chance to run the team
because he wanted to focus on his family.
at the end of the day, you have to be concerned about how well this
kind of thing can work, and maybe the fact that it’s not prevalent in
hockey (yet, maybe?) is for a reason. Maybe it can’t work, or maybe
you need the right people involved at all levels. After all, it seems
to me that Jeremy Jacobs has little to nothing to do with the hockey
decisions being made by the Bruins, as long as the money is coming
in, while owners in Calgary, Buffalo, and Edmonton seem to be, shall
we say, far more conspicuous.
have no evidence yet that this can work in Calgary, at any rate, and
as such it’s important to consider that kind of thing when thinking
about who’s going to be the next GM. We’ve heard it said he’s going
to have to subscribe to the kind of hockey that Burke espouses
(fight-y, losing hockey, apparently), but there’s a legitimate
question at this point whether the autonomy he’s supposed to have
will actually exist.
The Nieuwendyk ceremony
I was prompted to think about all the above by the Nieuwendyk
non-retirement ceremony, at which they really should have just
retired his stupid number anyway. I’ve never really been clear on the
difference between retiring them, as the Flames have with Lanny
McDonald and Mike Vernon, and simply “honoring” them, as they
have with Al MacInnis and now Nieuwendyk. I understand what it means,
but I don’t understand why you make the distinction; is someone
really any more worthy of wearing No. 2 than they are of wearing No.
that ceremony was nice. Very enjoyable. Occasionally moving. It’s
weird how sports can do that to you.
that we’ve gotten a decently long look at the contributions Markus
Granlund and Joni Ortio have made (seven and five games,
respectively, as of this writing), I think it’s fair to begin to look
at how they’ve done in their admittedly limited roles.
has, understandably, gotten a little bit sheltered early on, but it
should be noted his zone starts have actually been a little bit
tougher than Sean Monahan’s: 54.2 for the new kid, 59 for the
less-new kid. And while he’s not driving play in any appreciable way
at 45.2 percent corsi, that’s to be expected because only four guys
on the whole team drive possession north of 50 to begin with (Mark
Giordano, TJ Galiardi, TJ Brodie, Mikael Backlund). Maybe, though,
you’d like to see more than eight SOG total in seven games, even
given the limited minutes.
a “watch the games!!!” perspective, though, I think he’s actually
looked less out of place than Monahan did at the beginning of the
season, even if the numbers obviously don’t bear that out.
Then there’s Ortio
to judge any goaltender on five starts, sure, but in that time one
has to think we’ve seen some building blocks that weren’t there with
the other potential saviors in net. Having a .907 save percentage is
still, obviously, not good enough for anyone, but those games haven’t
exactly been against the easiest competition, and that’s obviously
going to be exacerbated by the fact that the Flames are awful.
your Reto Berras or Karri Ramos, both hailed at different points as
being guys who can play this position at the NHL level, Ortio has
dominated an actual good lower league where success there translates
to the NHL. Even if they don’t make him the starter next year (they
shouldn’t), you can tell he’s going to have a better shot to be be
strong against North American competition because he has done it in
the AHL. The Swiss A-League and the KHL remain mysteries in many
ways, because success there, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to
translate as well to the NHL game.
also the fact that Ortio is 22, rather than the 27 of Berra and Ramo.
Lots more to build on there, and reason to hope that .907 isn’t the
ceiling, but the floor. Tough to be sure either of the older fellas
aren’t already exactly what they’re going to be.