In for a penny, in for a pound: A love letter to Michael Ferland

Playoffs, baby.

Game 2 was not pretty.

But okay, look. Here’s the thing. I’m all for class in sports. I must say I prefer when guys do not hurt each other as opposed to when they consciously try to. After all, is just game. 

So why be mad? Because people play this game. In the exact same way you prefer guys don’t try to headshot one another because they have lives outside of sport, there’s something to be said for emotional blowups because human beings with feelings react based on what’s going on around them. Especially in a game as quick, chaotic, and physical as hockey.

Having pretty much lost a game just seven minutes in isn’t fun, and every additional minute that ticks on by without you doing anything about it only compounds it. 

That’s not to excuse tempers. That doesn’t mean you instigate, or run goalies, or punch people down on the ice, or be the third man into a fight. And it doesn’t mean when the series goes to Calgary for game 3, all of a sudden this mayhem from the end of the previous game is somehow going to give the Flames a new tactical advantage. It’s not. 

This did have a purpose, though. It wasn’t Brawl 1.0, in which idiots lined up against idiots before the game even started and just dropped the gloves because one coach decided to mess with another and the other bit, hard. 

It was Brawl 2.0, born of a team pissed at both themselves and the opposition. They had a bad start, fell behind early, and couldn’t recover; that’s on them. They saw their youngest player temporarily leave the game with possible injury, and their smallest get roughed around excessively and not called; that’s on the opposition. And when you’re clearly going to lose the game and have at least another three to go against these same guys… why not? Playoffs are an entirely different animal. Not just because of the chance of a Stanley Cup, but because a best of seven series against one opponent breeds familiarity. More importantly, it breeds hatred.

Matt Stajan being the first to throw down was pretty surprising, though. Matt Stajan had played all of four NHL playoff games before game 2. Guess he’s making up for lost time.

And then there’s the force of a rookie

In lieu of all that, go big, or go home. And Michael Ferland is a pretty big kid.

One single moment that really exemplified that attitude – along with the anger and frustration that eventually led to Brawl 2.0 – was his charging penalty against Chris Tanev. He went in hard, yes. And normally his hits have had greater purpose, have forced turnovers and led to scoring chances. The charging call didn’t exactly do that.

And neither did what he did after: running Eddie Lack as Lack looked to be exiting the net for the extra attacker. A little extra physicality, a little extra delay as his team tried to touch up on the puck. He only got the one penalty for it, so hey, why not? Nobody got hurt with the extra little shot, and it helped Ferland establish his budding identity.

We’re going from a tough, physical kid with scoring potential to a player other teams are absolutely going to hate. And they might just be right to do so. But he’s also going to be the kind of player whose own team absolutely adores, and that’s the only part that’s going to actually matter.

I’ve generally always liked Ferland, but when he suddenly turned things on to end the regular season – making plays, throwing hits, and generally being all over the ice – that general liking and “I’m pretty sure he’s gonna replace Brandon Bollig” feeling switched over to a lot of love and “okay you’re replacing Bollig pretty much right now, that’s awesome”.

He was a wrecking ball, in a good way, in game 1. He threw seven recorded hits, separating Canucks from the puck by sheer force and will of his body, forcing turnovers and even helping his team capitalize off of one. He did exactly what he did to end the regular season: be everywhere at once, stick on the ice and shoulders level, ready to either make plays or get the puck back.

But his youth shows, and it shows big time. He’s inexperienced; he’s very emotional out on the ice. From taking a stupid penalty by prematurely dropping the gloves against Derek Dorsett to his most recent actions, Ferland is someone who’s going to need to learn to pick his battles. As it is, that Dorsett moment in the first game was telling; he wanted to fight, and he wanted to fight then and there, and he didn’t get it.

He got it in game 2, though, and that’s where we saw he was capable enough in that department. He isn’t someone who’s ever going to shy away; the trick is learning to be someone who isn’t going to go looking for it. That should come with time.

Here’s what I love about Ferland, though.

He can play. He’s a legitimate player. He isn’t Bollig, who couldn’t even score at the junior level and had his penalty minutes talk for him instead. He’s someone who has actually been able to contribute at the WHL level and, following some soul searching and personal improvement, at the professional level. He goes beyond goon and into the territory of being a player who can both fight and score.

Is he going to be a top six guy? Probably not. Is he going to hurt his team when he’s out on the ice? Aside from the short fuse – which has, at present at least, rendered him a ticking time bomb – no. Not at all.

He’s going to help them, because he can get the puck, and he can do things with it when he has it. From weight loss to overcoming addiction, he’s someone who clearly has incredible drive in his day-to-day life, and that’s something that’s going to aid him as he continues to develop into a professional athlete. The physicality won’t disappear. The puck skills will remain. And maturity will take care of the rest.

In the mean time, Ferland is exactly the kind of player the Flames need. Big, physical, willing to get in your face and stick up for his team. Complimentary, with scoring potential and an impressive drive to will his team to victory.

When I watched the Flames flounder against the Canucks and then fail to properly recover, it was Ferland who got me back into the game. Call what he did goonery if you want, but he had purpose. And when he was ultimately ejected, he still had purpose. And that purpose is going to continue throughout the series, and for however long he ends up playing.

He’s not going to be Sam Bennett or Johnny Gaudreau. He’s not going to rack up those kinds of points, and he’s not going to have the skill to singlehandedly take over a game both on the ice and on the scoreboard.

We’re witnessing the beginning of an entirely different kind of threat here, and I am beyond excited to find out what Ferland can really do. This is the depth you want, physical and emotional, and it’s coming in the form of a former fifth rounder.

  • Craig

    I completely agree. That little 6′ saucer pass the color guy commented on was a beauty and he made a few more too. He can definitely play.

    That said, I like that he’s up and playing right now, but some more big minute seasoning in the A next season wouldn’t hurt. The last thing I want to see is Ferland forget his offensive abilities and be shoehorned into a 4th line role. Not saying that would necessarily happen, but another half season-ish of playing on the top line in the A would be very beneficial IMO. I fully expect he’s an NHL regular by the end of next season, though I wouldn’t complain if he sticks out of camp.

    Frankly, I think he has enough talent to have two or three career seasons as a 2nd liner.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I agree with you except isn’t Ferland subject to waivers next year? If so, he never sees the AHL again.

      Edit: Ferland endeared himself in the hearts of Flames fans everywhere last night. Love that kid!

  • Craig

    There’s been a lot of talk of stepping up this year, most of it debate able but Ferland has stepped up in lieu of Bouma, and is doing a damn fine job of it.

  • Poop

    His actions are not even close to “goonery.” If you want to talk about goonery, YouTube NHL fights between the 70s-90s. Hockey is getting so soft nowadays, that a scrap at the end of a game is considered outrageous or unacceptable (not by this site, but in the media in general).

    Gosh, I miss the days of real physical hockey with real rivalries. Don’t get me wrong, I love hockey, but it’s so Europeanized and soft.

    After all, it seems like the open ice body check has went the way of the dinosaur.

    • MonsterPod

      Dude, thank you.

      The reaction here to the scrum at the end of last night’s game is so lame.

      Stajan and Richardson chuck a few. Cool, two lightweights getting into the playoff spirit. Everything else was just scrumming.

      I’m thoroughly confused by Hamhuis jumping in between two legit scrappers, and the league can do whatever it wants, but Youtube bench clearing brawls between the Flames and Oilers in the 80s if you want to see strewn equipment.

      I really feel a rift here between the older commenters (I’m 36) and some of the teenagers who make such a big deal out of this stuff. I guess that’s what the league wants, to change the mindset of younger fans, but at the same time, try to grow a set and maybe put things in perspective.

      Did anybody watch game one MTL and OTT? Anybody else love the Pitt/Flyers series from a few years back? It’s called playoff hockey people. Quit whimpering and get into it.

      • Captain Ron

        Exactly my man. I’m a bit older than you and concur 100%. This is playoff hockey and it is going to get nasty at times. Big deal it is a men’s league at the highest level playing for one of the most prestigious prizes possible in sports.

        So a few fights break out. Oh well. Let’s get it on!

        I don’t ever want the game to evolve to the point where this never happens. Last nights incident was a tea party compared to some past series I’ve watched in the NHL. That’s part of what makes it so much fun to watch and I hope it never goes away.

        • Captain Ron

          Remember that bench clearing brawl with the Leafs & Rangers & Jacque Plante’s face mask was thrown into the crowd. :-}

          Those were the days my friend. I think its guys like us that realize the value of the Bollig’s & Engellend’s. Hockey may have evolved during the regular season but come playoff time, the animal nastiness & brawling instincts come out in these games & the meek do not move on. Arii would be in that category of the meek.

    • SoCalFlamesFan

      Lack initiated the play looking for another penalty.

      Speaking of Lack, how bloody annoying is it having to look at his dad’s mug every 5-10 minutes? Man, ever since Walter Gretzky, this has been some idiotic tradition to pick one player and show his dad every time the player is involved I. a play. Who enjoys this? Who’s asking, “please, show us so-and-so’s dad again for the fiftieth time!” It’s like one camera guys’ full time gig to just locate and film Lack’s dad. Damn annoying and I could care less if it was Gaudreau’s or another Flames’ dad either, it drives me crazy. Nobody cares!!!!!

      • The GREAT Walter White

        That and the Canuck homer announcers are enough to drive a person insane…….I’m watching the Punjabi feed from now on; seems like those guys know their hockey….

        WW

      • Captain Ron

        This is so truly annoying while watching a professional sport. We we really don’t care to see the parents of any player continually trotted out in front of us during a game like they are some sort of celebrity.

        Between game interviews with their kids sure but seriously the producers need to quit this habit of forcing this nonsense on us DURING a game.

        I pray we can somehow lose Hughson and Gord Miller gets assigned out west.

        I had a really good conversation about Ferland with someone in Brandon MB a little over a year ago. He knew him very well during his playing days there and had nothing but glowing things to say about the kid. He pretty much guaranteed me that Flames fans will learn to love him in due course. I can see what he meant now.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Big day today: Connor McDavid finds out where he is going to spend the next 20 years of his life……

    Will it be some southern US team where he can walk to streets without being recognized?

    Will it be the centre of the world Leafs where he won’t have a life?

    Will it be the Oilers ruining a really promising career?

    Bruins? Flyers?

    Could you imagine a lottery deciding where you are going to spend the next 20 years of your life?

    Jack E. Is the happiest kid in the world as it is near impossible he ends up a Leaf or an Oiler…….barring a BIG trade.

    WW

    • prendrefeu

      10 years with his first team, tops. Then he gets traded somewhere – but that’s too far into the future for anyone to guess at.

      He’ll maybe win one (1) Stanley Cup with his first team, who knows if he’ll win a second.

      Generational players are awesome, fun to watch for sure. But how often does a generational player hold up the Cup? Not often. The game has changed significantly since the days of Gretzky both in how it is played, how teams are managed, the agreements of salaries/caps, the rules, and so on.

      Also: thanks for the article Arii, well written again.

  • Poop

    Flames punched above their weight class all season. For that, they earned the respect of the league. But come on. Look at the names on that roster – it’s a sub par to crappy team.

    Half that squad couldn’t crack the Hawk’s or any other elite team’s roster

    It’s going to end and then Burke may have time to put a knot in his tie.

    • It was one loss partner.

      The sky isn’t falling. If you think Hartley isn’t going to have his guys ready for the next game, you’re nuts.

      The Flames were pushed around all game, the whistles were in the pockets most of the night, so Hartley sent a message at the end of the game by putting Ferland et al out there.

      They’ll be ready for next game, trust me. That crowd at the Dome is going to sounds like 19,000 all stubbed their toes at once. It’s going to be loud.

  • Poop

    @suck, no it’s too bad that everything is about “drawing a penalty” instead of just playing a physical game. Anytime you knock someone on their behind it’s a penalty.

    All the rule changes, mandatory visors, etc are turning a once upon a time man’s sport into a hockey/figure skating event.

  • Craig

    I wonder if Hartley is going to start shaking up his lines like he did in the third period of yesterdays game. there are a few players that are playing really well in my opinion:

    Stajan is forechecking very well, which has been effective since the Canucks have been limiting the Flames meaningful zone entries.

    Ferland for all of the reasons stated in the article.

    Jooris is playing an effective role on the fourth line.

    the common denominator for these three are that they are engaging in the play physically and creating chances through good forechecking.

    I’d like to see Hartley spread these guys out to throw off the Canucks game plan.

    I think Jooris should replace Colborne next to Backlund (or from the team entirely).

    Give Stajan a shot with Johnny and Jones.

    Put Ferland with Monahan and Hudler.

    This series is going to get rough and the way the Flames were playing before doesn’t seem to be all that effective. in this revamped scenario each line now has a guy to get in quick and get the puck so that the other two can initiate a strong cycle. For the Flames to properly activate their Dmen they need to gain some control down low to draw traffic before getting it back for a point shot.

    Maybe the top line bounces back but let’s spread some energy around and see what happens.

  • piscera.infada

    Ferland is awesome. Exactly what you need in a playoff series. Keep playing the way you are kid, they will continue to hunt you and take them off their game.

    As for Bieksa’s comments he tough in front of a camera, Ferland would clean his clock.

    You know what I found strange when Ferland ran Lack no Canucks came to his aid. This may something about the type of team the Canucks have.

    I cant wait for game 3!

    • Poop

      Yeah, this is playoff hockey. I know Flame fans don’t know what that really is but the Canucks fans do.

      The Flames did an excellent job trying to get the Canucks off their game and it didn’t work. Flame were getting desperate – Bollig jumping on Lack; Fertilizer taking cheap shots on smaller players like Tanev and Hamhuis (trying to injure them for game 3, no doubt). It’s sad, pathetic, cheap hockey. You can’t beat the team so just try and take out key players.

      Karma is a biotch and the Flames will get theirs. Go Canucks go!

      • piscera.infada

        You can’t beat the team[…]

        Yep, I forgot about how they haven’t beaten the Canucks at all this year… Right…

        On a different note. Has Burrows ever stood up for himself? He’s taken plenty of cheap shots at players he’s played against, loves to chirp, loves to throw gloves into players faces, loves to take a nice big chomp out of other players… Oh, and he loves to go hide behind the ref the minute an opposing player’s had enough… Pinnacle of sportsmanship right there, bud.

        • Burnward

          For some reason I am really hoping to see Mr Wolf get slotted in the line up tomorrow & elevate the nastiness of this series. Start Ferlund Wolf & Bollig. You think Hartley would get fined by the league if he did that? 🙂

        • Ari Yanover

          Yep. He has fought lots. Youtube is your friend. Burr has had more key playoff moments than the Flames entire roster. That’s right, you have to be in the playoffs to have big playoff moments.

          What I did not see was ANY Canuck falling on a Flame goalie and then try to choke him. I did see a Flaming Bowlig do it. I saw Fertilizer charge Tanev in hopes of hurting him. I saw England try and fight a guy who isn’t a fighter. I also saw a P.O.S. coach try and get his Flames to resort to dirty tactics in order to take the Canucks off their game (and gets to lose $50K for doing so).

      • Ari Yanover

        I edited your comment to take “Flamers” out of there.

        If the best you can do is spew off homophobic insults, go home. Be as angry at a hockey team and/or fanbase as you want. Do not use slurs.

  • prendrefeu

    Ferlund DID NOT run Lack…not even close..incidental contact initiated by Lack. Overall terrible game on lousy ice with our first line injured from the LA game (Regher smash!)

  • piscera.infada

    Bah aha Ferland is a goof. Guy gets no points and he is your hero. Your whole team had the floor wiped with them in ever category. I hope you can get it together cause if this keeps up you are done for.

    • MonsterPod

      We hate you here, but you’re right.

      I was amazed watching my poor Flames get obliterated yesterday. I felt sorry for them the whole first period.

      It looked like we were completely solved, like the Nucks knew exactly what we were going to do.

      That said, Chicago got crushed yesterday too so it happens to the best of them.

      Don’t believe the hype, pal. Game 3 is a fresh slate. Watch game tape of last Thursday Flames/LA if you want to see how we can unstitch you.

      GFG

  • everton fc

    Ferland needs no more seasoning in the “A”. And he’s not, nor ever has been a “Bollig”. He is a legitimate power forward who had to work out some kinks in his life, and is succeeding in that department. He’s a leader – even the kids at Penticton mentioned him as a leader, a guy to look up to. And who did Ferland say he looked up to?

    Lance Bouma.

    Ferland is a character guy who plays with heart and an edge. My ideal hockey player. He can skate, play both ends of the ice well, and will score in this league. He simply needs to find his niche on the big club, or rather, the staff needs to find a place for Ferland to produce. It will happen. Sooner than later.

    Ferland was all of this in junior, but had the rough edges, the personal issues… He’s only been playing the game regularly since he was 12. His physical size and natural athletic ability, forged with his determination and general “edginess”… What an ideal Flame player to build around. Like Bouma. Even Jooris, to some extent. All three highly conditioned athletes. You can really see this change, in Ferland, if you’ve followed his career. He is fit. Amazingly so. And he will never accept a 4th line role because he’s not a 4th liner. In the modern era, guys like Byron, and maybe Colborne, are 4th liners… My opinion, of course…

    Our first line is being neutralized by bigger Canucks willing to rough them up a bit. Smart strategy. It’s working. So we need a default solution. Here’s mine:

    Ferland/Bennett/Jones

    Bennett has been pretty feisty out there in a different way. He’s willing to go to the net. Loves it. He is hyper-confident without being arrogant. Our 3rd line has been our best line, but Bennett is a substantial elevation from Stajan, and if deployed as pivot for Ferland and Jones, may generate a scoring line the Canucks will find difficult to contain.

    But that’s me, and I’m no expert. And I trust Hartley. Always have. I even see why Potter only gets 3-4 minutes if ice time. Makes sense, in difficult circumstances. You do what you think will give you the best chance to win

  • Burnward

    Bollig had a real solid game last night and Engelland has been noticeably better of late handling additional minutes…the author should in turn at least recognize this rather than continue to take shots at both. We’ve had to listen to it all year and people Are tired of it just like they’re tired of Lambert’s constant belittling of the same things over and over week after week, it was a broken record months ago. Bollig and Engelland are important guys to have at playoff time whether you want to admit it or not, these guys do bring a lot to the table

  • Ari Yanover

    Ferdinand Flame tried to get the mighty Canucks off their game with cheap tactics. He failed. Look for more of this crap next game which is typical of a Hartlee coached team. Where’s Torts when you need him! 🙂

    Go Canucks go!

  • Im afraid the attention the brawl gained this series and the subsequent fine levied against Hartley may well neuter Ferdaddy.
    No doubt the refs will be told to clamp down and that looks to bode poorly for young Ferland.
    Of note….. he stays mad A VERY LONG TIME.
    Given the bunch of chirp artists the Nucks have… that may be a lethal combination going forward… in one way or another.