JGD 82: Last Hurrah

Kevin McCartney
April 11 2014 04:16PM

It's been a frustrating season for Jets fans. A confounded coach and the league's worst starting netminder are all that stood in the way of hosting playoff hockey at the MTS Centre. Again. The lines were maddening, the AHL call-ups confusing, and the injuries seemingly ill-timed. And James Wright never did get that first goal of the year. Aww shucks.

But it's always hard to say goodbye to another season of Jets hockey. Just five months until training camp.

Lines

Jets Forwards

  • Kane - Little - Frolik
  • Tangradi - Jokinen - Wheeler
  • O'Dell - Slater - Halischuk
  • Klingberg - Cormier - Peluso

I may never understand this management and coaching group as long as I live. Carl Klingberg took a major step forward this year. After a strong pre-season he went on to set personal bests in shots, goals, and points for the IceCaps. He wasn't given minutes either, playing his way out of the pressbox and up the lineup early in the season. With the Jets season all but done for some time now and the young prospect due for a contract in the off-season, Klingberg gets into just his 3rd NHL game of the year (10th of his career). He'll be playing on the bottom line, hoping for more than the 4 minutes a night he's had so far.

It's not that the Swede is a saviour. He's a older prospect who never lived up to the dreams we had for him on draft day back in 2009. But the team has to make a decision about him, and they know what Eric Tangradi is. They know what Matt Halischuk is. Can Carl Klingberg contribute to an NHL bottom-6? He has size, speed, some hockey sense. But the team won't even let him out on the ice to prove what he can do.

Oh, and Eric O'Dell is still averaging as many shifts as Chris Thorburn on the season. And former Capital Andrew Gordon is leading the IceCaps in scoring. 

The team has had a hole in the top-9 all year - we talked about it in training camp - and has put at least three players on their off-wings while shuffling the 8 cards they have. Injury is never easy for a team, but I just can't understand why ineffective NHL veterans are getting minutes over young players on the bubble. 

Jets Defence

  • Stuart - Trouba
  • Enstrom - Postma
  • Pardy - Redmond

  • Pavelec
  • Hutchinson

Congratulations to Michael Hutchinson for his first NHL win, and against a powerhouse former employer, no less. He didn't have it easy, either, starting in the ECHL only to supplant Pasquale as the top goalie on the farm. He's not Patrick Roy, but there's a cynical, dark laugh to be had knowing the goalie who started October two leagues down the ladder may have posted better numbers than the team's highly paid starter.

Trouba has had a wonderful season, despite my early criticisms. Cheveldayoff was quick to point to his success as a sign the team was moving in the right direction. I'm more critical of that idea (big shock, I know). The problem has never been the team's top-10 picks, many of whom still play prominent roles. No, it's that the team has graduated two NHL players after 12th overall since 2003. Given the O'Dell/Klingberg issue above, the team's future success is not likely to hinge around whether Scheifele and Trouba are stars, but whether this GM can develop a supporting cast.

Detroit made the post-season for the 23rd straight time on the sweat of youngsters like Nyqvist, Tatar, and Sheahan and still had two skaters make the AHL All-Rookie 5-man team. They, too, are building through the draft.

Flames Forwards

  • Byron - Cammalleri - Hudler
  • Glencross - Monahan - Colborne
  • Van Brabant - Stajan - Galiardi
  • Westgarth - Bouma - McGratton

One of the most confusing parts of the season has been the Calgary Flames, and specifically, how pundits talk about them. All we hear about is their work ethic and the 'signs' they will turn it around soon. I think it's because they won games when the journalists were paying attention. They won a few unexpectedly to open the year, when analysts are desperately trying to turn 5 and 10 game stretches into season-long narratives. And they've played spoiler recently, when the fortunes of playoff hopefuls is the primary content of sports news.

Somewhere in the middle they found time to lose 45 games, fire their GM, and install the butt of every joke about anachronism in hockey as their leader.

Let's be real. They've won 7 of their last 10 and Sean Monahan is a civic treasure. Cammalleri and Hudler are talented players. Giordano is among the best defenders in the league, and I'm a fan of TJ Brodie as well. But they're like the Star Wars protagonists caught in the trash compactor. They're swimming in hot garbage, the walls are closing in, and there remains a constant threat that the sea monster of a President will dispatch with one of them before the next stage of the plan. 

The Jets/Thrashers miss Bob Hartley. Feaster injected some talented young bodies into the system before he left. But this hasn't been a landmark year for the Flames no matter how you dress it up.

Flames Defence

  • Giordano - Brodie
  • Russell - Butler
  • Billins - Cundari

  • Ramo
  • MacDonald

As someone who doesn't watch the Flames, it's been hard to keep up with their goaltending this year. Joni Ortio had a strong year in the AHL. Reto Berra was traded. Did you know they have Joey MacDonald and Olivier Roy have been in the picture? And, of course, Kari Ramo has earned recent praise for his .915 sv% on a poor club. It's a very respectable number given the circumstances and the fact that every other Flames goalie posted below .900 for the year. 

Ramo and Ortio appear to be the future, provided no one has started training Goalie Enforcers. Then all bets are off.

I'm going to call Billins "Chauncey" exclusively as a way to make this game fun for myself.  That's a reference for all the people who stopped watching basketball when the Pistons were great AND knew that Billins's real name is Chad. AKA Just me. Still, it's a cunning pseudonym. 

All Too Specific Predictions

Remember that scene in Rocket when Richard throws all the sticks over for being scratched? Well, that totally happens before the game tonight, only it's Brian Burke throwing the stick rack. His team inspired but stick-less, Jiri Hudler gets scouted by the MLS for his incredible slide tackling and retires from the NHL. Burke calls him a quitter in his memoirs.

Meanwhile, the Jets really take control of the puck thanks to the invention of sticks. Everyone except Mark Stuart is a positive corsi player on the night. Tangradi gets his fourth, Halischuk pots one, and even Cormier gets on the board. Evander Kane is traded at the draft as unnecessary given the results of this game. Cheveldayoff is quoted as saying, "Well, listen, consistency is a hard thing in this league, but we think if we play our game and the other team doesn't use sticks, we can stay competitive even without Evander." 

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Kevin is the Managing Editor of Jets Nation. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, The Sporting News, and around the Nations Network. An enthusiastic over-analyst, his background and interests are diverse, but you might notice he's obsessed with hockey. Track him down on twitter @kevinmccart or @nhljetsnation
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#1 beloch
April 11 2014, 06:27PM
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"One of the most confusing parts of the season has been the Calgary Flames, and specifically, how pundits talk about them. All we hear about is their work ethic and the 'signs' they will turn it around soon. I think it's because they won games when the journalists were paying attention. They won a few unexpectedly to open the year, when analysts are desperately trying to turn 5 and 10 game stretches into season-long narratives. And they've played spoiler recently, when the fortunes of playoff hopefuls is the primary content of sports news.

Somewhere in the middle they found time to lose 45 games, fire their GM, and install the butt of every joke about anachronism in hockey as their leader."

Flames fan here. Finishing in the bottom six of the league is, objectively, pretty awful. However, if either of the Flames two remaining games are close the team will set a new NHL record for most close games in a season. This team has lost a lot of games but they've been in almost all of them until the final buzzer. Last season they finished in a similar spot but were way less fun to watch because they lost a lot of games badly.

The other reason fans are optimistic is that the older core has been mostly moved out. Regehr is gone. Iginla is gone. Bouwmeester is gone. Younger, cheaper players have been shouldering more of the load. The Flames started last season near the cap, but only three teams in the league spent less on payroll this season. The Flames have also been drafting well for a few seasons (after being utterly feckless for a decade) and have some big talent trickling in. e.g. A college center with a NHLE of 44.5 just signed, and nobody is even paying attention because Johnny "Hockey" Gaudreau just signed too. This team could take huge strides forward next season if Burke doesn't get too crazy in the off-season.

Tonight's prediction: Another close game.

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#2 Thx1138
April 14 2014, 08:22AM
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I'll give the GM a break if we see some of the young players on the roster next season. There has to be an exodus of marginally talented players. If the roster lock continues...and Clitsome, Jokinen, Thorburn, Wright, Tangradi and others take up roster spots...we deserve the young players wanting out of this organization.

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