Yesterday there was an article about Brian Burke on Sportsnet, about how he really isn’t doing much besides reporting to work every day and doing his job. And I hadn’t really thought about that, but I guess it’s true. Haven’t seen much of Burke all summer, and even now you get the feeling that he wouldn’t have come out and done any press or interviews unless Sportsnet hadn’t specifically called and asked for him.
Which is interesting, really.
When he came aboard, you knew what was going to happen: He was a safety net for Jay Feaster. His arrival in Calgary set the clock ticking for Feaster’s dismissal, and Burke was nothing if not conspicuous pretty much that entire time. But once that interminable period in which he had the reins as de facto/interim GM — although I guess I’m not sure he ever officially hold that title? — was over, he said Brad Treliving was the guy making the decisions, and you wouldn’t have Brian Burke to kick around much any more.
I don’t think it’s reasonable to say we had much basis for believing him. “Brian Burke” and “omnipresent in the media” go together like “Brian Burke” and “facepunchers,” but here we are with him rightly pointing out that he hasn’t done much of anything to draw attention to himself since Treliving came aboard. (Though one has to scoff at the, “I’ve never craved the spotlight,” quote which is clearly a laughable assertion.)
But if that has come to pass, then maybe I really should start to believe him that he’s not hovering over Treliving’s shoulder every day, quietly picking up the other end of the line on every incoming and outgoing call with another team’s GM. Maybe all that, “Brad’s the GM, not me,” stuff is actually true.
Here’s more evidence of that: The Flames have made good personnel decisions this summer — for the most part anyway; there’s still the Deryk Engelland and Brandon Bollig acquisitions, which scream “Burke’s idea” — and that’s not something I associate with Brian Burke either. Maybe, just maybe, this is a hands-off approach for once. Unless, or perhaps until, things get really bad.
I guess that’s reason to be cautiously optimistic that the club can turn it around within the next few years.
2. The Diaz situation
(Please note I am writing this ahead of Hockeyville, so I don’t know how Raphael Diaz did there.)
One thing that stood out to me in reading the reactions to the exhibitions against Edmonton was that everyone fawned all over Raphael Diaz. Now, I did not have access to the game itself, of course, and thus the reactions are all I have to go on, but that says to me two things:
A) Diaz was actually pretty good. He got more ice time than anyone on the club, and was second only behind someone called Brad Hunt (a high-octane points producing D at the AHL level) for the game. The stats say he also put a game-high five shots on net, blocked four shots, and so on. That’s about all you can ask of a defenseman playing opposite Taylor Hall et al.
B) He was being closely scrutinized. He is clearly the defenseman most likely to make this club outside the guys already on one-way contracts, and the numbers from his career suggest he can be a very positive player in certain roles. You wouldn’t want him playing 23-plus minutes a night for 82, but this is a nice chance to audition for a job and he seems to be making the most of it.
I really hope he makes the team, because he’s good and youngish and everything like that. People want to see the kids make it instead, but this is essentially a free and low-cost asset the team could control to some extent going forward. Even if he’s on a one-year deal, if Diaz plays well in a low second- or high third-pairing role, he can be traded for something at the deadline. Maybe you even end up re-signing him.
And if he sucks after a little while? Well, you should be trying to tank anyway.
Can’t go wrong with him.
3. Injuries aplenty
Wednesday was a bad day for injury news, as major players for a number of teams (the Hurricanes, Rangers, and Red Wings) all came down with serious knocks that will hold them out of the lineup indefinitely. In the case of Carolina and New York, star centers who would have been asked to carry heavy loads at both ends of the ice — Jordan Staal and Derek Stepan, respectively — broke their legs and are out indefinitely. In Detroit, another star center who would have been asked to carry heavy loads at both ends of the ice — Pavel Datsyuk — is out at least a month with a separated shoulder.
Why does this matter to the Flames? Well, for one thing it shows how important it is to properly protect your best players from injury in meaningless preseason games and warmups. That’s why I’d be a little concerned about how hard certain coaches (like say oh I don’t know Bob Hartley or someone maybe) push their teams in practice. That said, you obviously can’t hold guys out of exhibitions forever, but if you’re at home you at least have the benefit of line-matching so you’re not putting your stars out there to get themselves roughed up by some no-neck idiot looking to make a name for himself by crushing an actual good player away from the play or something.
It also matters to the Flames because the race to the bottom of the league is going to be a little more crowded this year (Buffalo can’t be as historically and hilariously bad as it was last season, just based on the math, and a bunch of other bad teams improved as well). Now, with Carolina losing Jordan Staal for what could be a number of months, that’s a lot more games in which they’re going to be downright awful, making the draft lottery area — which, by the way, we need to come up with a better name for that since everyone who doesn’t make the playoffs is in the lottery now; the Futile Five or some such — a little less comfortable.
Speaking of protecting your centers from injury…
4. Mikael Backlund’s abs
Saw something in the Herald the other day about how things with Mikael Backlund’s abdominal strain aren’t necessarily progressing all that well. Day-to-day and all that, but no real progress. Bob Hartley said he’s actually “worried” about the fact that Backlund isn’t even skating.
Again, this is both good and bad. Backlund was supposed to be the No. 1 guy this year, and he was going to really drive the bus with Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie. They could have ground up their opponents pretty convincingly. But if he’s out, things might get pretty dire pretty quickly, even if this isn’t a major injury, a setback in camp could hold back performance for a little while longer.
Of course, if you’re in the “tanking is good” camp, then guess what, bud: Backlund being out is a blessing in disguise. You sure wouldn’t wish for something like that, but maybe it’s not so bad from that point of view.
5. Karri Ramo’s hip
Finally, another guy who hasn’t done much in a while is backup goaltender Karri Ramo, who’s still recovering from his bad hip. Doesn’t really matter, of course, because the only thing he was pushing with respect to his job was the bench door, closing it after he opened it for a defensive line change.
Jonas Hiller is still the No. 1, and was always going to be this season, regardless of Ramo’s injury status. Oh well, that’s life. I don’t know how much of a difference there is, really, between Ramo and Joni Ortio to begin with. Oh well.