Don't Panic - The Positives of the Flames Start

Kent Wilson
February 04 2013 10:56AM

 

 

After Calgary's gut punch shoot-out loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, the team sits last in the Western Conference with just four points in six games. Despite playing five of their six first games at home, Calgary has won just once in regulation and sports a goal differential of -8, good for second worst in the West ahead of only the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Flames early going struggles seem to validate fans worst fears heading into the season: that the summer additions were needless and the club is doomed to inexorably spiral into irrelevance and obsolesce before inevitably having to blow it all up and start anew.

The truth, however, is that there are some very clear signs lurking just beneath the surface that the team has improved greatly over the previous Sutter iterations. In fact, the differences in key stats are so stark that it's hard not to be truly excited about the team for the first time in many years.

The Good News

Although Calgary has given up eight more goals than they have scored, the Flames have nevertheless outshot the bad guys in aggregate 203-150 for a +53 shot differential. That's a lot in just six games. In fact, their per game shot rate is second in the league (behind the Carolina Hurricanes) at 33.3 and their shots against per game is second lowest in the league (25.0) behind St. Louis. At +8.3 shots/game the Flames sport the second highest average differential so far after those same St. Louis Blues.

That is a drastic improvement over the Flames last year under Brent Sutter. That team spent altogether too much time in their own zone and they ended up underwater to the tune of -3.3 shots/game. To put that in perspective, the Oilers were at -4.0 shots/game. 

To be fair to Sutter, we're only six games into Hartley's tenure. Still, I don't think I can recall any six game segment under Brent where the Flames put together this kind of dominance in terms of shots and possession. Certainly not last season anyways.

The Flames even strength possession rates have similarly improved. As things stand, only two regular skaters are currently underwater in terms of corsi: Jay Bouwmeester (-2.07/60) and Blake Comueau (-29.60/60), whereas half the team including many of its stars were plumbing the depths by this measure last season. Overall, Calgary is 9th in the league in terms of fenwick close (a stat that corrects for score effects) witha ratio of 52.98. That's better rate than such notable teams as Chicago, Vancouver, Philadelphia, New York Rangers and San Jose.

Why The Improvement?

Before we move on to warnings and caveats, let's discuss why the team seems to be much better at keeping the puck at the good end of the ice this year. The conversation begins with Mikael Backlund.

The third line

In spite of poor counting numbers last season, Backlund was one of the the Flames best possession and chance forwards last season. He has paired with Lee Stempniak to take another big step forward in this regard in 2013 however. The pair are currently leading the club in terms of corsi by a country mile (+35.14/60 and +33.95/60) even though Hartley is very smartly giving each guy more defensive zone than offensive zone face-offs at 5on5. That third line featuring Glencross on the wing humiliated the Hawks on Saturday night again and again and it's faintly astonishing they ended up with zeros across the board.

The Backlund unit is mostly facing other third liners right now, but like the Conroy/Moss/Glencross line from 2008-09, they are absolutely crushing their opponents so far, at least when it comes to dirving the play north.In fact, their play is so strong by this measure so far that it is skewing the rest of the team's relative corsi rating (calculated by subtracting a players on-ice corsi from the team's corsi rate when he is on the bench). So even though Jiri Hudler is +11.48/60 in absolute terms in three games, his relative ccorsi is still -12.9...because the team has been +24.41/60 with him on the bench over that period. Yeesh. 

A better blueline

Dennis Wideman instead of Scott Hannan is the first obvious step here, but the improvements on the back-end are deeper and more pronounced than that. Chris Butler has gone from facing the big boys with Jay Bouwmeester to playing on the third pairing (where he is much more comfortable), mostly because TJ Brodie has jumped into the top-4 rotation and made an immediate impact. The 22-year old sophomore has the second best possession rating on the team behind only Wideman (+15.30/60) and that's likely only because his zone start ratio is six ticks lower than the veterans (50% versus 56.9%).

The insertion of Wideman and Butler into the Flames top-4 as well as the move to finally re-unite Giordano and Bouwmeester on the top pairing has made the Flames a lot stronger in terms of moving the puck out of the zone and in transition. In contrast to guys like Sarich, Hannan and Robyn Regehr near the end where "up and out" was all too common a puck distribution tactic, Calgary is now able to effectively transition from defense to offense. A mobile defense corps also makes it tougher for the bad guys to consistently attack with speed.

The Czech Connection

It's hard not to be impressed with Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka in the early going. The pair has combined with Matt Stajan (!) to form an apparently deadly trio - or at least one that is creative and sneaky enough to be opportunitic and cause the opposition fits now and then. Hudler is also the only Flame forward sporting an above average on-ice SH% right now (23.53%!) so that is likely coloring our perception of him a tad.

Still, they have outshot their opponents and mostly faced other team's top-6 forwards. Which brings us to the final point.

Hartley's Rational Decision Making

The other thing the second line has going for them is zone starts. Hartley has rightly given Cervenka and Hudler the high ground so far - the pair boast the most favorable zone start ratio amongst Flames regular skaters at 57.1 and 57.7% respectively. Given what we know about Hudler and that this is Cervenka's first season on NA ice, it's the right strategy to employ.

Right behind them, however, are Alex Tanguay (56.3%) and Jarome Iginla (55.6%). As we discussed repeatedly around these parts last year, the Flames aging big guns need a bit of a nudge to stay above water in terms of shots and chances at ES and so far Hartley has obliged.

As mentioned, the top-6 is getting the high ground in favor of Stempniak and Backlund. Also seeing fewer offensive zone draws are Blair Jones (43.8%), Tim Jackman (40.0%) and Steve Begin (27.3%). The only guy who doesn't fit from a strategic perspective in the sub-50% category is Mike Cammalleri (48.9%), although there are only so many o-zone draws to go around.

Aside from face-off and match-up decisions, the Flames certainly seem less offensively bland and rigidly defensive than they did under Sutter. Defenders are much more active on the rush and the club seems freer to try things in the offensive zone without fear of a mistake resulting in an earful on the bench. This might be a compltely subjective, fanciful reading on things, however.

So Why are they Losing?

Two words: bad luck. Or, if you prefer, rotten goaltending and an inability to finish. The Flames have suffered through the very worst puck stopping in the league so far with Kipper's 87.5 ES SV%. That's lower than the average PK save percentage most years, so even if you think Kipper was in-line for step back after his big season last year (like I do), there is still almost no way that will continue indefinitely.

In addition, the Flames have only scored on 6.5% of their shots at 5on5 through six games, the sixth lowest rate in the NHL. Altogether, that sums to a PDO (SV% + SH%) of just 94, and as well all know, PDO aggressively regresses to the mean over time.

Warnings and Caveats

Even with a lot of arrows pointing the right way, let's keep in mind this is the first 10-games of the season and the results - even the "advanced ones" - should be taken with a pinch of salt. Calgary has mostly played at home and mostly against either lower tier teams (Edmonton, Colorado) or clubs on the second night of a B2B (Chicago, Colorado). Those factors have no doubt colluded to skew things in Calgary's favor somewhat, inflating their shot differentials to some degree. 

The other problem for Calgary is they have less time this year to wait for their luck to even out and reverse their fortunes. They have already played 12.5% of the regular season and their rotten luck has already put them 5-points back of the playoff picture and behind the 8-ball. Even with good shot totals the Flames won't have three or four months to turn the ship around a la the LA Kings if pucks continue to bounce off of posts or if Kipper continues allow beach balls behind him for much longer.

Finally, some of the organizations enduring issues still remain, although they've been papered over with strong performances from depth players and decent coaching so far. The Iginla, Tanguay pairing continues to play mostly against other club's top units and as a result they are rather "high event" (ie; giving up about as much as they generate). So even with a zone start of about 56% the pair are still barely breaking even possession-wise (+1.28/60 and +0.72/60) at 5on5.Ideally, a good team's best offensive forwards should spend more time in the offensive zone, either because someone else is taking on the tough minutes or because they are generally capable of outplaying the bad guys. That continues to be not quite the case in Calgary, even with the rest of the roster more or less beating up their counterparts.

Conclusion

The Flames 1-5 start is unnerving for a fanbase that has watched a team slide from contender to pretender over the course of 5 or 6 seasons. There is strong evidence that their current record is not a true indication of their performance or actual skill level, however, meaning there is a silver lining to an apparently ominous cloud. 

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 the-wolf
February 04 2013, 11:43AM
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Sorry Kent, but I don't think much has changed.

Glass-half empty view:

The Flames are deep in players that sometimes dominate the 2nd and 3rd lines on other teams, but still can't compete with other team's top lines.

I also see games where Calgary is looking like they dominate, but once the other team puts their foot on the gas, Calgary is outclassed. ie. Anaheim and SJ.

The Edmonton game - the Oilers looked like they had a Stanley Cup hangover after beating LA in OT.

The Avs - without their entire top line and 3 games in 4 nights

Chicago - not only 3 games in 4 nights, but the previous night against their most hated rival and arguably the most heated rivalry in the NHL. And Calgary with 5 of the last 6 nights off. At home.

Now, did the Flames 'deserve' to win a couple of those games? Sure, I suppose. But given the circumstances and the fact they still found a way to lose, I don't see much cause for optimism.

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#2 Parallex
February 04 2013, 11:49AM
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I don't know what's been more fustrating... watching the team get habitually outplayed and lose in years past or watching them outplay the competition and still lose.

One thing is for sure... I like Bob Hartley hockey. The team is exciting again. After 3 years of watching the Flames lose while playing dull as dirt Sutter hockey we're at least getting an entertaining (if as of yet unsuccessful) product.

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#3 the-wolf
February 04 2013, 11:54AM
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RE-POST (with some editing):

I've liked Hudler and Cervenka so far. I can live with Wideman too, like I've said before, he's as advertised and his contract is too long, but I can live with that.

Iginla, Cammi and Kipper are all worth more at the deadline though. All 3 of those pieces would net decent returns at the deadline. And I'd consider JBo, but the potential in the return would have to be really worth it.

Ramo steps in next year. Sure, it's a gamble, but one worth taking.

Backlund, Baertschi, Glencross, Stempniak, Hudler, Cervenka and Tanguay - I can live with all those guys. They can all skate, they all work hard and they can all contribute offensively or at least on possession.

The team doesn't tank into oblivion, but they also potentially receive some picks and/or prospects who start filling in the holes. Another first rounder or two could be huge for the Flames.

No team wins the Cup without 3 or 4 superstars in their 20's and frankly, I only care about winning the Cup and not 9th or 10th.

And while fans here are once again fawning over the current group of prospects as though we were the Oilers circa 1979, they'd best be advised to go back and read the press clippings and fan hype over the previous few generations of prospects. Not nearly as many make it to the NHL work out as well once in the NHL as people speculate.

We have improved in that area, but some fans here act as though Baertschi is good for 40 this year and Gaudreau is a lock for a p/pg next season.

Point is this: Calgary needs more young top end talent and the draft is the only way to do that and in order to get it quickly, they need to acquire more picks. Which means moving vets and Iginla, Cammi and Kipper are the best returns with the least damage to the team IMO.

2013 is both high end in talent and the deepest in years, so the team had better not blow their last good chance at real change.

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#4 Michael
February 04 2013, 11:55AM
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'There is strong evidence that their current record is not a true indication of their performance or actual skill level'

I think they are better than their current record, but to be honest, a true indication of their performance puts them in 8 - 10th place, and likely out of the playoffs.

I've really come to believe that this team needs a really really bad year before upper management wake up from their kool aid induced coma, and finally addresses what has become a long term mediocre organization.

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#5 Newsk9
February 04 2013, 12:45PM
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This is gonna be a leap for some of you, but the best thing that could happen to this team this season would be for it to finish dead last in the loop, and draft real high next summer, in all rounds. The fact that this is the likely direction for the team shouldn't keep us from hoping that this happens, and that doesn't make us bad fans, just honest ones. It really is time to look at the big picture, in an honest, unsentimental way. It is just too bad that team management is so hooked up on beating Edmonton in the new arena sweepstakes that they aren't doing their part to push the renovation process along. Enough with the improved offensive defense stats, already. To contend seriously, the team needs more real talent in all positions and the only way to get that is a teardown, and the passage of time.

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#6 backburner
February 04 2013, 01:03PM
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This is hard to figure out...

In particular in the Edmonton and Chicago games, the Flames definitely outworked their opponents, but there was that feeling that Chicago and Edmonton are dangerous enough that one small mistake by the Flames and they are back to square one.

I just don't see that "dangerous edge" by the Flames... Hustle, yes. Determination and discipline, yes. But they clearly don't have that difference maker aka Kane, Yakupov skill level to steal a game in the dying minutes.

Flames have had the open nets, breakaways, shootouts and sure have hit a few posts... but the "bad luck" scenario is on its last legs...

Lot's of positives on this team, but I still think they are a Ryan O'Reilly from being a legit threat.

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#7 Kurt
February 04 2013, 01:22PM
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So this team plays great and loses every game. Imagine when we have some bad games or play on the road. Is there anything worse than losing every game?

Seth Jones! Nate McKinnon!

10 more losses in a row and we should be good.

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#8 suba steve
February 04 2013, 02:02PM
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FireOnIce wrote:

No no Kent, you've got this whole article wrong. You wrote about 1000 more words than you needed.

What is the only real positive that emerges from the Flames' horrific start?

Two words: Seth. Jones.

For real though, it's hard to be positive when your team just can't get the results. We're not a Flyers team that just does horribly one season and then drafts Claude Giroux. We're not an Oilers team that drafts top three for a decade. The Flames are a middling team that can't bury pucks (SHOOT TOP SHELF FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY) and Kipper is toasted. Just look at him - one cigarette over the line.

IF we did draft first, would it be wise to pass over the best C in the draft to take a D-man? Just askin, cause it seems first line C-men are the toughest asset to aquire. Any other oninions on this scenario?

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#9 Kurt
February 04 2013, 02:14PM
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seve927 wrote:

FHEAD, read the post. Idiot

Wow, whats with the angst...

I did read your post. You said Anaheim had a young energetic kid line of non top-10 picks built around a veteran core. I pointed out their veteran core was all hall of fame. Our is not. And that its laughable to compare their kid line of non top-10 picks to ours. If you think Sven and Backlund are comparable to Getzlaf and Perry you are smokin some good stuff. Sorry, they aren't.

I don't understand the "lets see how the chips fall" crowd. People say they are happy to lose if that's how it plays out. But that's just having no plan and sucking by accident. Getting 9th or 10th is a disaster for this team right now. The absolute worst case. Nothing is worse than getting 9th. Nothing. The goal should be to win the cup this year OR get 30th. Nothing in between. They aren't winning the cup, so I guess you know where my vote is. Just playing the games and seeing what happens and being happy with it is a recipe for another 10 years of suckery.

Nate McKinnon could single handedly turn this entire organization around for the next 15 years. Is that worth a short 42 more games of suck? I think it is. All you have to do is trade Kipper and its a done deal.

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#10 shutout
February 04 2013, 02:16PM
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This is a team that has two and almost three second lines and a fourth line. They are able to generate pressure and offense but at the end of the day they are not the difference makers that a team needs. Calgary is no longer a team with a superstar player. While teams can muddle along and be competative without a star player, they dont tend to win very often.

In the case of Saturdays game I would rank Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, and Keith ahead of anybody on the Flames. That kind of swing in talent is the difference between outshoot your opponent 3 to 1 and having a late one goal lead, and needing a goal in the last minute and being able to get it.

The only way that Calgary had any chance of getting into the playoffs was for Kiprusoff to play all 48 games, to play those games at the level of 48 of his best games from last year, and to be far and away the best player on the team. While the first one may happen, I dont see the other two happening or this team making the playoffs.

This is a team that is tied for dead last and are not in the same class as the teams that they need to beat. I like the more offensive, fast paced hockey that Hartley has the team playing; but I think that Brent had tired to do the same thing when he showed up. Difference is that this years team has more talent; second line talent, but more talent.

The punch-line for the start of the season is "Don't Panic!" and yet I believe that the Flames have been preaching this message for the last three years. The fact of the matter is that unless this organization shows some form of panicing and tries to cut some of the older and higher priced waste from the team this organization is only going to keep getting worse.

For me the worst part of your optimism Kent will probably become reality. The team is competative and will continue to get better. They will have dug themselves such a deep hole by the end of February that all they will succeed in doing is finishing in 10th or 11th this year and screwing themselves out of a great draft pick. This organization is the epitomy of Saturday's game. Almost there, but just not good enough. So close but when it counts they come up losers.

Finish the season with the horses in place. Sell off assets at the trade deadline, and look at a new face, and a fresh approach for next year.

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#11 Section205
February 04 2013, 05:00PM
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Iginla and Kipper will never be traded unless they ask to be traded. Period. There is very limited value in discussing something that is extremely unlikely to occur.

IMO those two individuals have earned the right to NMCs and can leave or retire on their own terms. The Flames are not "entitled" to any draft picks or prospects. Either of them could have walked away after their last contract for nothing in return.

The fact that they were not presented with the Stanley Cup after game 6 of the 2004 SCF is a crying shame.

As far as ownership is concerned, those boys won the cup and they are identified as champions.

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#12 Jonathan Happy
February 04 2013, 08:47PM
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the-wolf wrote:

I get that argument, but it does when the Flames seem to get scored on whenever it counts and continually lose games.

It's obviously subjective, and it's not the Flames haven't played well at all, ever, but from what I saw, Anaheim's and SJ's best hockey was better than our best hockey.

Maybe their best hockey was better than the Flames best hockey, maybe it wasn't, but the Flames were superior for longer. It was luck and bad goaltending that sunk them. In my books, dominating possession and outshooting your opponent is playing good hockey, and that's exactly what the Flames did.

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#13 BurningSensation
February 04 2013, 11:14AM
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Agree with everything said above, but wanted to add that Feaster's changes seem to be working.

Hudler has arguably been the best Flame's forward so far, Czervenka has looked the part of top 6 scoring forward, Wideman is carrying the mail playing more minutes than Bouwmeester (!?!), and the coach he picked has at least demonstrated the ability to make rational decisions regarding lineups and zone starts.

Add to it that our prospect depth is better than any time since the late 80's and you have a GM pulling his weight.

That all said, a lot of what has been right with the Flames of late has to do with the healthy play of Backlund. Which raises the question, is he becoming our Kesler/Backes/Bergeron guy? The hard minutes, tough zone starts, PK, and 2nd unit powerplay guy?

I have to say, in my wildest dreams, I did not see that coming when he was drafted.

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#14 Luc
February 04 2013, 11:14AM
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I love how the team is playing right now. Probably the best we could expect without any heavy hitters on the team. However still hard to debate the nay-sayers when they point to the record. Looking forward to when things start to turn around so I can use the ol' I told you so!

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#16 seve927
February 04 2013, 11:43AM
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I think the most encouraging thing is how the early season returns on the new additions point to an ability to recognize hockey sense as an attribute. Wideman has shown a great ability to hold on to the puck until the right play is available, or get rid of it quickly. Hudler as well.

I think it bodes well for the organization as a whole. Whether you're in the blow up camp or tinker here and there, any approach can succeed if you're getting quality players and addressing the team deficiencies on a consistent basis. You're not going to nail it every time, but these look like some really good acquisitions so far.

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#17 Ryan Pike
February 04 2013, 11:54AM
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Kent's stealing my optimism gimmick. If he starts doing prospect rundowns, I'm gonna get worried.

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#18 FireOnIce
February 04 2013, 12:44PM
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No no Kent, you've got this whole article wrong. You wrote about 1000 more words than you needed.

What is the only real positive that emerges from the Flames' horrific start?

Two words: Seth. Jones.

For real though, it's hard to be positive when your team just can't get the results. We're not a Flyers team that just does horribly one season and then drafts Claude Giroux. We're not an Oilers team that drafts top three for a decade. The Flames are a middling team that can't bury pucks (SHOOT TOP SHELF FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY) and Kipper is toasted. Just look at him - one cigarette over the line.

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#19 SmellOfVictory
February 04 2013, 01:03PM
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One minor thing: under the defence section, first sentence of the second paragraph, I believe "Butler" should be "Brodie".

Otherwise, I loved the read.

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#20 seve927
February 04 2013, 01:30PM
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@the-wolf

Not that I disagree with you because I don't for the most part, but how about the Ducks championship team. Definitely built around an older core (Pronger, Niedermeier, Selanne, McDonald), and complemented with an energetic kid line of no top 10 picks.

As long as the definition of "Going for it" doesn't change from playoffs to Seth Jones I'm ok with whatever goes down. Get more picks, but don't start trying to win a race for #1 because I don't think it has a very good chance of working for too many reasons to even get into. If it happens, it happens, but I'm not cheering for any team with a "At least we're not trying anymore" banner hanging over their logo.

I'm very intrigued to see what happens over the next month or two. I've heard Feaster say that this is the year that it's important to have draft picks. Just makes me wonder if that isn't part of the reasons this team is so laden with serviceable veterans. Or did it just mean he won't trade our first rounder for another 30 year old.

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#21 Kurt
February 04 2013, 01:32PM
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Newsk9 wrote:

This is gonna be a leap for some of you, but the best thing that could happen to this team this season would be for it to finish dead last in the loop, and draft real high next summer, in all rounds. The fact that this is the likely direction for the team shouldn't keep us from hoping that this happens, and that doesn't make us bad fans, just honest ones. It really is time to look at the big picture, in an honest, unsentimental way. It is just too bad that team management is so hooked up on beating Edmonton in the new arena sweepstakes that they aren't doing their part to push the renovation process along. Enough with the improved offensive defense stats, already. To contend seriously, the team needs more real talent in all positions and the only way to get that is a teardown, and the passage of time.

Couldn't have been said any better.

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#22 Kurt
February 04 2013, 01:42PM
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seve927 wrote:

Not that I disagree with you because I don't for the most part, but how about the Ducks championship team. Definitely built around an older core (Pronger, Niedermeier, Selanne, McDonald), and complemented with an energetic kid line of no top 10 picks.

As long as the definition of "Going for it" doesn't change from playoffs to Seth Jones I'm ok with whatever goes down. Get more picks, but don't start trying to win a race for #1 because I don't think it has a very good chance of working for too many reasons to even get into. If it happens, it happens, but I'm not cheering for any team with a "At least we're not trying anymore" banner hanging over their logo.

I'm very intrigued to see what happens over the next month or two. I've heard Feaster say that this is the year that it's important to have draft picks. Just makes me wonder if that isn't part of the reasons this team is so laden with serviceable veterans. Or did it just mean he won't trade our first rounder for another 30 year old.

Comparing this Flames team to anaheims cup team is crazy.

Pronger was the undisputed Norris trophy 30+ minute all star d man. Neidermeyer was/is a hall of famer, arguably in the conversation for best d man of our generation (ok that's lidstrom but he is in the conversation) Selane is another hall of fame player and has proven himself to be ageless.

Even if you can pretend this flames team compare to those three above their team included a few superstar 20 year olds named Corey perry and Ryan getzlaf.

And that is what everyone is saying. Even IF we have a great veteran core, we lack the young superstars in their 20s. We have none, none coming and baring a bottom 3 finish, no hope of getting any.

Sven looks promising to be a solid complentary top 6 for years to come. But he is no Corey perry. Sorry. Your comparison is the type of hopeful thinking that keeps this team middling in mediocrity forever.

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#23 seve927
February 04 2013, 01:46PM
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Kurt wrote:

Comparing this Flames team to anaheims cup team is crazy.

Pronger was the undisputed Norris trophy 30+ minute all star d man. Neidermeyer was/is a hall of famer, arguably in the conversation for best d man of our generation (ok that's lidstrom but he is in the conversation) Selane is another hall of fame player and has proven himself to be ageless.

Even if you can pretend this flames team compare to those three above their team included a few superstar 20 year olds named Corey perry and Ryan getzlaf.

And that is what everyone is saying. Even IF we have a great veteran core, we lack the young superstars in their 20s. We have none, none coming and baring a bottom 3 finish, no hope of getting any.

Sven looks promising to be a solid complentary top 6 for years to come. But he is no Corey perry. Sorry. Your comparison is the type of hopeful thinking that keeps this team middling in mediocrity forever.

FHEAD, read the post. Idiot

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#24 gussey
February 04 2013, 01:47PM
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I agree with kent. I've watched almost every game and have to say I've been impressed despite the score. It seems to me the flames are playing hard and bought in to Hartly, but lack the confidence to finish. You could see it in the chicago game. They were taking it to them, over and over, but just seemed to lack that belief that "we are winning this game." I think if they get some good bounces soon and some better than average goaltending, this team will take off. Not like 10 to 8 spot in the west, but more like 6 to 4.. This team reminds me of phoenix over the past few years.

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#25 mattyc
February 04 2013, 01:57PM
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@Kent Wilson

Nah, we need more clutch players with heart... I mean, c'mon, only one fight so far this year!?! Do they even want to win?!

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#26 loudogYYC
February 04 2013, 02:07PM
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So far the Hartley effect seems positive to me. Iginla's playing hard and Tanguay is doing well at C.

Tomorrow night is a big test for those 2 though, they will likely play against Detroit's best and even if we win, I can't see our top 3 outperforming their top 3.

I still have my fingers crossed for an O'Reilly trade/offer sheet. That would make Cammalleri expendable, so he better start getting his s##t together.

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#27 the-wolf
February 04 2013, 02:13PM
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seve927 wrote:

Not that I disagree with you because I don't for the most part, but how about the Ducks championship team. Definitely built around an older core (Pronger, Niedermeier, Selanne, McDonald), and complemented with an energetic kid line of no top 10 picks.

As long as the definition of "Going for it" doesn't change from playoffs to Seth Jones I'm ok with whatever goes down. Get more picks, but don't start trying to win a race for #1 because I don't think it has a very good chance of working for too many reasons to even get into. If it happens, it happens, but I'm not cheering for any team with a "At least we're not trying anymore" banner hanging over their logo.

I'm very intrigued to see what happens over the next month or two. I've heard Feaster say that this is the year that it's important to have draft picks. Just makes me wonder if that isn't part of the reasons this team is so laden with serviceable veterans. Or did it just mean he won't trade our first rounder for another 30 year old.

Not top 10 picks and there were older players to compliment, but still a few guys who were legit top line players in their 20's.

Last time Detroit won Datsyuk and Zetterbg were still a hair under 30, for example.

It's why I think the Canucks will never get there again. The playoffs are jsut so grueling and another notch higher in intensity that the legs seem to wear down.

Point is we're at least 2 more Sven (and that's assuming he meets his potential) caliber players from even being close to being in the conversation. And one of those needs to be a big center and the other a #1 stud D.

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#28 Jeff In Lethbridge
February 04 2013, 02:18PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

Kent's stealing my optimism gimmick. If he starts doing prospect rundowns, I'm gonna get worried.

can we be sure it really is Kent??? ;-)

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#29 Jeff In Lethbridge
February 04 2013, 02:22PM
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can I get some free flames tickets please?

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#30 the-wolf
February 04 2013, 02:29PM
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shutout wrote:

This is a team that has two and almost three second lines and a fourth line. They are able to generate pressure and offense but at the end of the day they are not the difference makers that a team needs. Calgary is no longer a team with a superstar player. While teams can muddle along and be competative without a star player, they dont tend to win very often.

In the case of Saturdays game I would rank Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, and Keith ahead of anybody on the Flames. That kind of swing in talent is the difference between outshoot your opponent 3 to 1 and having a late one goal lead, and needing a goal in the last minute and being able to get it.

The only way that Calgary had any chance of getting into the playoffs was for Kiprusoff to play all 48 games, to play those games at the level of 48 of his best games from last year, and to be far and away the best player on the team. While the first one may happen, I dont see the other two happening or this team making the playoffs.

This is a team that is tied for dead last and are not in the same class as the teams that they need to beat. I like the more offensive, fast paced hockey that Hartley has the team playing; but I think that Brent had tired to do the same thing when he showed up. Difference is that this years team has more talent; second line talent, but more talent.

The punch-line for the start of the season is "Don't Panic!" and yet I believe that the Flames have been preaching this message for the last three years. The fact of the matter is that unless this organization shows some form of panicing and tries to cut some of the older and higher priced waste from the team this organization is only going to keep getting worse.

For me the worst part of your optimism Kent will probably become reality. The team is competative and will continue to get better. They will have dug themselves such a deep hole by the end of February that all they will succeed in doing is finishing in 10th or 11th this year and screwing themselves out of a great draft pick. This organization is the epitomy of Saturday's game. Almost there, but just not good enough. So close but when it counts they come up losers.

Finish the season with the horses in place. Sell off assets at the trade deadline, and look at a new face, and a fresh approach for next year.

Totally agree with this.

Which is why I think moving Iginla, Kipper, Cammi and maybe JBo if it's a 'can't refuse it' offer is the way to go. And Philly or Detroit may just provide that.

The team wouldn't even miss Iginla or Cammi.

We receive extra picks in the deepest draft in years.

We tank enough that our pick should be fairly high.

As for Kipper, Ramo comes in next year and fills the goalie void (at this stage Ramo can either bring the goods or he can't, might as well find out now).

The other vets keep the team from totally sucking for 5 years.

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#31 Subversive
February 04 2013, 03:09PM
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@the-wolf

"The Flames are deep in players that sometimes dominate the 2nd and 3rd lines on other teams, but still can't compete with other team's top lines.

I also see games where Calgary is looking like they dominate, but once the other team puts their foot on the gas, Calgary is outclassed. ie. Anaheim and SJ."

I don't think this is accurate. Calgary dominated Anaheim and San Jose for stretches just as much as they were dominated. The difference in those games was goaltending. Acting like the times where Calgary dominates doesn't count makes no sense.

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#32 the-wolf
February 04 2013, 03:21PM
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Subversive wrote:

"The Flames are deep in players that sometimes dominate the 2nd and 3rd lines on other teams, but still can't compete with other team's top lines.

I also see games where Calgary is looking like they dominate, but once the other team puts their foot on the gas, Calgary is outclassed. ie. Anaheim and SJ."

I don't think this is accurate. Calgary dominated Anaheim and San Jose for stretches just as much as they were dominated. The difference in those games was goaltending. Acting like the times where Calgary dominates doesn't count makes no sense.

I get that argument, but it does when the Flames seem to get scored on whenever it counts and continually lose games.

It's obviously subjective, and it's not the Flames haven't played well at all, ever, but from what I saw, Anaheim's and SJ's best hockey was better than our best hockey.

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#33 Kevin R
February 04 2013, 03:38PM
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I like what I see from what appears as true legit 2nd line scoring & 3rd line possession. I like Hartley as a coach. Lets see how Feb goes. I hope Irving gets some starts. I do agree, the underlying story does sound the same, our high paid 1st line is not coming thru with the clutch goals & the key momentum changing shifts. If this persists by the end of Feb, I hope Flames management make the needed changes.

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#34 Willi P
February 04 2013, 04:28PM
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@the-wolf

"Which is why I think moving Iginla, Kipper, Cammi and maybe JBo if it's a 'can't refuse it' offer is the way to go. And Philly or Detroit may just provide that."

1. Can't move Iginla unless he wants to move

2. Reported that Kipper will retire and go back to Finland if traded

3. Cammi gets small return based on his salary. Maybe a second round unless you take salary back

4. Only way you trade J'Bo is for a 1C (or future 1C) and a servicable D man, probably not going to happen

What's your plan B?

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#35 Baalzamon
February 04 2013, 05:07PM
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How badly did Backlund and company embarass the 'Hawks? That trio had more shots (20) than the Blackhawks did (19). The Flames' 3rd line outshot the entire other team.

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#36 the-wolf
February 04 2013, 05:14PM
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Willi P wrote:

@the-wolf

"Which is why I think moving Iginla, Kipper, Cammi and maybe JBo if it's a 'can't refuse it' offer is the way to go. And Philly or Detroit may just provide that."

1. Can't move Iginla unless he wants to move

2. Reported that Kipper will retire and go back to Finland if traded

3. Cammi gets small return based on his salary. Maybe a second round unless you take salary back

4. Only way you trade J'Bo is for a 1C (or future 1C) and a servicable D man, probably not going to happen

What's your plan B?

1) Yeah, thanks for that, he has a NMC, I get it. And most players waive them when asked too.

Why do people bring this up as though it's a startling revelation that no one is aware of?

2) Source please.

But if that's what Kipper would do, just pack up his bat and ball and go home than fine, get lost. He obviously wouldn't be coming back for 1.5 million next season anyways.

Personally though, I don't think the man is a whiny little quitter as you suggest who will only play for one city or bust.

3) Yes please! I'd be delighted with a 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft for Cammi.

4) You think very highly of JBo if you think he can get you both those things. You're wong too, you can't.

I also said, "maybe JBo if it's a 'can't refuse it' offer is the way to go. And Philly or Detroit may just provide that."

You're also not taking into account losing JBo's contract off the books.

That is my plan B.

My plan A is to nuke the entire team (excepting Backlund, Brodie and Baertschi).

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#37 the-wolf
February 04 2013, 05:25PM
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Section205 wrote:

Iginla and Kipper will never be traded unless they ask to be traded. Period. There is very limited value in discussing something that is extremely unlikely to occur.

IMO those two individuals have earned the right to NMCs and can leave or retire on their own terms. The Flames are not "entitled" to any draft picks or prospects. Either of them could have walked away after their last contract for nothing in return.

The fact that they were not presented with the Stanley Cup after game 6 of the 2004 SCF is a crying shame.

As far as ownership is concerned, those boys won the cup and they are identified as champions.

It's a fan forum. It exists to discuss things. In this case, for one example, it gauges what the opinions of other reader's is. It allows me to give my opinion. If you have no interest in the topic, fine, move on.

That said, sadly, you're right. Management is too stupid to move them. Better to live in the past and count the $$$ from jersey sales than to even try and build an actual contending team. And when both players leave of their own accord and we get nothing back, won't that just be peachy-keen?

"IMO those two individuals have earned the right to NMCs and can leave or retire on their own terms. The Flames are not "entitled" to any draft picks or prospects. Either of them could have walked away after their last contract for nothing in return."

Not even sure what this means. How eaxctly could Iginla and Kipper have walked away for nothing after their last contracts were up?

It's them who are not entitled to anything. Both received something called "pay checques" for their service. And the dollar figures on those pay cheques was more thanmost people on this forum will make in a lifetime put together.

They didn't win the Cup, TB did.

Maybe Iggy should've potted a clean goal in game 6 or Kipper made one more save. And ownership only cares about $$$, don't kid yourself.

Hero woship and nostalgia have no place in building a team.

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#38 RKD
February 04 2013, 05:32PM
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I think they still need another shut-down d-man in the top 4. Offensively they have been out-shooting opponents which is a good sign but there appears to be a lack of finishers.

If Iggy and Cammy were scoring we wouldn't be last in the West. If guys like Marleau and Thornton both in their 30s, got off to a blazing start there's no reason why our guys can't start fast. I hope the Red Wings game can ignite Iggy.

Hudler has been probably the best Flame so far, so has Stempniak. Cervenka I would like to give more time because he's played less games and want to see what he can do.

Right now Turris is outperforming Backlund, but let's see what Backs can do. Hartley may be able to roll four lines. The Flames are just missing some more talented forwards, recycling players is just a band-aid solution.

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#39 the-wolf
February 04 2013, 05:43PM
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RKD wrote:

I think they still need another shut-down d-man in the top 4. Offensively they have been out-shooting opponents which is a good sign but there appears to be a lack of finishers.

If Iggy and Cammy were scoring we wouldn't be last in the West. If guys like Marleau and Thornton both in their 30s, got off to a blazing start there's no reason why our guys can't start fast. I hope the Red Wings game can ignite Iggy.

Hudler has been probably the best Flame so far, so has Stempniak. Cervenka I would like to give more time because he's played less games and want to see what he can do.

Right now Turris is outperforming Backlund, but let's see what Backs can do. Hartley may be able to roll four lines. The Flames are just missing some more talented forwards, recycling players is just a band-aid solution.

Interesting point. How many would trade Backlund for Turris now?

I said no at the time, makes me wonder if I was guilty of overvaluing him.

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#40 Kevin R
February 04 2013, 05:55PM
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Section205 wrote:

Iginla and Kipper will never be traded unless they ask to be traded. Period. There is very limited value in discussing something that is extremely unlikely to occur.

IMO those two individuals have earned the right to NMCs and can leave or retire on their own terms. The Flames are not "entitled" to any draft picks or prospects. Either of them could have walked away after their last contract for nothing in return.

The fact that they were not presented with the Stanley Cup after game 6 of the 2004 SCF is a crying shame.

As far as ownership is concerned, those boys won the cup and they are identified as champions.

Just to play devils advocate, Fleury, Maccinnis, Suter, Vernon, Nieuy, Roberts all finished their careers with different teams & they ranked as some of my most favorite Flames players right with Kipper & Iggy. Why were they not Flames for life, heck they won the Cup. Kipper does not have a NMC any more, it expired last year. How will you feel if Iggy turns down Flames offers & we get nothing, are you going to blame Feaster after?

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#41 Willi P
February 04 2013, 06:41PM
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the-wolf wrote:

1) Yeah, thanks for that, he has a NMC, I get it. And most players waive them when asked too.

Why do people bring this up as though it's a startling revelation that no one is aware of?

2) Source please.

But if that's what Kipper would do, just pack up his bat and ball and go home than fine, get lost. He obviously wouldn't be coming back for 1.5 million next season anyways.

Personally though, I don't think the man is a whiny little quitter as you suggest who will only play for one city or bust.

3) Yes please! I'd be delighted with a 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft for Cammi.

4) You think very highly of JBo if you think he can get you both those things. You're wong too, you can't.

I also said, "maybe JBo if it's a 'can't refuse it' offer is the way to go. And Philly or Detroit may just provide that."

You're also not taking into account losing JBo's contract off the books.

That is my plan B.

My plan A is to nuke the entire team (excepting Backlund, Brodie and Baertschi).

1. Didn't mean just the NMC. Perhaps ownership and for sure many fans want him to stay so its just not the NMC. And the reason it keeps getting brought up is because of the apposing people keep saying trade him for this or that. It's not a video game or fantasy league, it's real life and there are other circumstances.

2. Kipper (and the Koivu brothers) own TPS Turku of the SM-liiga. During a radio show I was listening to durng the lockout, the source reported that Kipper would like to play for the team upon retirement. The source said that if he were to be traded, he would likely retire early to go home and play on his team. I have been searching for the interview but have not found it yet. And, the whiny little quitter remarks are yours not mine.

As per the Iginla comment #1 above, this is real life and people may have reasons for not wanting to move their family to a location not of their chosing. Further becuase of the last few lockouts, I don't think I would be as accomodating either, but before you say it, I was not on either the player or owners side.

3. Good for you, I would not be happy with that return.

4. I didn't say we would get that return. I said the only way you trade him is IF you get that return. I am ok with the contract as well, slight overpay when you make recent comparisons. At least they got rid of Dion's.

Plan A and Plan B, nuke the team, are broken records, not going to happen. At least Feaster, IMO, is trying new creative things and some fans are seeing it as a positive.

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#42 Baalzamon
February 04 2013, 07:46PM
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@the-wolf

I still wouldn't make the trade. Backlund's underlying numbers are still better across the board than Turris's, and he's a better player at even strength no matter what the stat lines say. Adding Turris to the Flames would be like having another Tanguay. They'd have another offensively skilled center who has a lot of trouble driving play at even strength--and, as a result, bleeds scoring chances.

If Backlund were centering the top line, and we had some solid 2way pivots elsewhere in the lineup, it would be a different story.

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#43 Subversive
February 04 2013, 08:45PM
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@the-wolf

"It's obviously subjective, and it's not the Flames haven't played well at all, ever, but from what I saw, Anaheim's and SJ's best hockey was better than our best hockey."

See, and I think that the truth so far is that Anaheim and SJ's best goaltending was better than ours.

If Kipper is the better goaltender, not even by a lot, just by a little, in any given game this season, the Flames are unbeaten right now. It may sound like hyperbole, but they have been the better skaters in 4 of 6 games, and essentially tied the other 2.

Will it continue? Who knows. The pessimist in me says they'll start to revert to their old ways, but then Kipper will turn it around and win them a couple of games and we'll be back to the same old song and dance.

The optimist in me thinks that 6 games is a pretty decent chunk of games for them to sustain play like this, and it might just actually be for real. The question here is, does Kipper drag them down or does he get back to league average?

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#44 Jonathan Happy
February 04 2013, 09:00PM
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the-wolf wrote:

1) Yeah, thanks for that, he has a NMC, I get it. And most players waive them when asked too.

Why do people bring this up as though it's a startling revelation that no one is aware of?

2) Source please.

But if that's what Kipper would do, just pack up his bat and ball and go home than fine, get lost. He obviously wouldn't be coming back for 1.5 million next season anyways.

Personally though, I don't think the man is a whiny little quitter as you suggest who will only play for one city or bust.

3) Yes please! I'd be delighted with a 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft for Cammi.

4) You think very highly of JBo if you think he can get you both those things. You're wong too, you can't.

I also said, "maybe JBo if it's a 'can't refuse it' offer is the way to go. And Philly or Detroit may just provide that."

You're also not taking into account losing JBo's contract off the books.

That is my plan B.

My plan A is to nuke the entire team (excepting Backlund, Brodie and Baertschi).

1) Because the Flames will NEVER ask Iginla for a trade. He is the Franchise's all time leader. So I have eliminated any ideas of the Flames approaching Iginla for a trade, cause it's not happening. The only way Iggy gets traded is if HE wants to. Is that a good way to do business? No probably not, but that's reality.

2)"He obviously wouldn't be coming back for 1.5 million next season anyways. Personally though, I don't think the man is a whiny little quitter as you suggest who will only play for one city or bust."

Then what makes you think that he wouldn't come back for the final year of his contract? Yea, I know, it's not much money for him, and he's getting fairly long in the tooth, but personally though, I think the man is a guy who genuinely loves playing in the NHL and would come back, even for that meagre payday, just to play another season of the game he loves in the city where he became a hero.

3)Agree. A 2nd for Cammi in a deep draft would be good.

4) I believe that a 1st rounder and a decent prospect would be pretty much fair value. What do you think Bouwmeester would net the Flames?

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#45 John Deere Green
February 04 2013, 09:04PM
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This is an honest question, not trying to start WWIII here. How is/are Iginla and Kipper entitled to dictate the rest of their careers as so many fans suggest. Is this not a business? These two players have been paid (with fans money) very well to play a sport in a fantastic city. They are great in the community but does that not come with the job and being paid well? They have not been awarded a Stanley Cup. I guess I'm having trouble understanding why people are so against the thought of trading away 1 member of a TEAM.

Also, I dont see how trading Iginla or Kipper equals a "blow it up rebuild". They are very good players, dont get me wrong, however, they should bring back young players/picks to help the future of the TEAM. I'd like to see some young returns for them in a trade. Losing them to free agency or retirement is poor asset management in my opinion, but what do I know, I'm not a NHL team owner.

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#46 Section205
February 04 2013, 10:01PM
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@the-wolf

"Better to live in the past and count the $$$ from jersey sales than to even try and build an actual contending team."

"And ownership only cares about $$$, don't kid yourself."

Oh, please. Perhaps one could google to find out what kind of businesses these owners run on a day-to-day basis, no?

I have only myself to blame for standing in the way of your daily rant. Please resume.

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#47 Danger
February 05 2013, 07:52AM
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Wow, relax folks. I know the bad early results are probably making us all a little grumpy, but FlamesNation is about the hockey team, not about having flame wars in the comment threads! /pun

Seriously though, when KW is telling you the team is better than it looks in the standings, you can pretty much take that to the bank. They're just pulling a reverse Minnesota Wild at the moment, and for once regression will be in a good direction when it happens. Let's just hope it happens soon or not until it's way too late. I'm really bored of 9-10 finishes.

As far as trade suggestions go, I think it's probably a little too early to pull any major swaps yet. With that said, I am inclined to agree with trading Cammy for an early pick and a prospect (if his play improves - otherwise, unlikely you can get the prospect as well as the pick). His play is unlikely to get worse though, so might as well hold on to him for now, or you're just selling low.

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#48 icedawg_42
February 05 2013, 10:03AM
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Nicely written Kent...but considering I've only been able to watch about 10 minutes of Flames hockey this season, and hearing about their luck, the ONLY logical assumption that can be made is this: I, Icedawg_42 am the missing ingredient.

Seriously though, It's been pretty universal hearing that Backlund has been really good, Cervenka and Hudler are fun to watch, Brodie has taken his 'next step', Wideman is good value, and Kipper has looked ..er..not good. I'll share in some of the optimism. Before the season started I thought that for the first time in a while, the roster looked playoff capable, and I like what I'm hearing about Hartley as well.

I'm joining The-Wolf's camp though in tempering my expectations around prospects. I've watched many dominant juniors turn into fringe or average NHL'ers. We can still hope.

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#49 shutout
February 05 2013, 10:25AM
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Maybe the best thing in the world would be for Iginla to be traded. Here is a team that has been treading water at best the last few years, though slowly sinking would be more accurate. A team that is devoid of star players, I mean those really elite star players. Right now Iginla looks like a 36 year old player that belongs on the second line in a support role. Just within our division I would say that the following teams have more elite players than the Flames (Colorado - 2, Edmonton - 4, Minnesota - 4, Vancouver - 3) and in this league you do not win without star talent. The only way to get that talent is to draft it, and to acquire as many picks as possible, and moving Iginla at the deadline would make that a greater possibility.

As a number of fanboys have quite shrilly noted Iginla has a NMC and it is completely in his court as to whether or not he would want to leave the team. During the season I doubt that he would want to waive it because he would not want to be apart from his family. Or at least family is the reason that he uses when he has not gone to play for Canada at the World Championships the last dozen years or so. However, at the trade deadline he would be only away for a short period followed by the summer, and would be in playoff mode and would thus be spending less time with family as is.

When Calgary misses the playoffs for the fourth time this season, Iginla has to be thinking about the possibility of trying to win a cup before he retires. Somewhere in the back of his mind he has to be weighing the odds of Calgary achieving a miracle versus going to a contending team that has a much better chance. If Iginla has no interest in winning a cup and just wants to finish his career in Calgary then the whole discussion is a mute point. However, I think that the competitor in him would be thinking about it.

Here is where the trade makes all the sense in the world. It allows Iginla the chance this season to make a run through the playoffs if he goes to a contending team. But more importantly it gives him the chance to see what it would be like in another organization. The whole grass is greener analogy is accurate and for somebody like Iginla who has really only known how the Flames work, having a short window to experience different cultures and surroundings would be more beneficial than trying to decide in the summer.

That way if he does not enjoy the changes he can resign in the summer with Calgary. Or if he decides to move on he has a much more informed opinion of what to expect.

Last arguement is that at 37 and spending 18 years in one place a player has to become somewhat stagnant. Leaving or resigning with Calgary in the summer, maybe a shock or jolt to his comfort zone might do him wonders in terms of feeling revitalized. While it is Iginla's decision, I think that if the Flames organization actually grew a pair and had some honest dialog with Iginla the situation could end up win-win.

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#50 seve927
February 05 2013, 11:07AM
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the-wolf wrote:

Not top 10 picks and there were older players to compliment, but still a few guys who were legit top line players in their 20's.

Last time Detroit won Datsyuk and Zetterbg were still a hair under 30, for example.

It's why I think the Canucks will never get there again. The playoffs are jsut so grueling and another notch higher in intensity that the legs seem to wear down.

Point is we're at least 2 more Sven (and that's assuming he meets his potential) caliber players from even being close to being in the conversation. And one of those needs to be a big center and the other a #1 stud D.

I'm having trouble formulating a response. I agree with you but not completely. Just don't think there's an exact formula. I think the key is developing that team chemistry that can transform potentially good players to true star players. If you have a Crosby and Malkin, you can probably by-pass that step, but other than the generational talents, you've got to provide the right environment.

At any rate, thanks for the comments. Obviously some thought put into them. Appreciated.

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