Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Let the Speculation Begin...

The Hammer has fallen. Or will fall. Soon. Maybe. What is certain is that with the call-ups of Brandon Prust and Dustin Boyd from the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, a message was delivered. That message? Get your asses in gear or you will be replaced.

Of course, its possible no one will be replaced anytime soon, or if they are replaced soon they won't necessarily be replaced for an extended period of time - the aforementioned call-ups could end up sitting in the press gallery. But that wouldn’t be very Sutter like. I would suspect they'll get playing time - but at who's expense? Let the speculation begin!

Right now the list of players that are deserving of replacement is longer than the Flames would like, but lets simply narrow it down by assuming they will replace players at like positions. Prust plays left wing, and from top to bottom, Calgary's LWers are; Tanguay, Huselius (LW/RW), Friesen, Amonte(LW/RW), Kobasew (RW/LW).

Even though Tanguay isn't even noticeable on the ice most of the time, he plays a different role than Prust, so he's safe. Huselius at times looks like Calgary's only forward with hands, and he's been playing on Iginla's line (the only productive one) over the last two games. He's safe as well. Apparently Playfair singled out Amonte as having been one of the Flames better players lately (I don't agree, but it’s a plausible explanation of why the Flames are so bad), so he won't be looking over his shoulder. That leaves Kobasew, and Friesen.

Kobasew is really the odd man out on his line. Lombardi has speed, Tanguay has speed, puck handling skills, and a scoring touch, Kobasew has the ability to get hit. Prust on the other hand doesn't take hits. He gives them. While his scouting outlook is not as offensively optimistic as Kobasew's, perhaps his actual offensive output could be. Players like Tanguay have made mediocre players look good before.

Friesen referred to his last season as an embarressment. I hope he's learned to deal with the feeling of being embarressed, because so far he has not exactly shown why last year was the exception and not the rule. I give the guy a little credit, he is playing with Amonte and Yelle, so he probably won't look like an offensive powerhouse even if he was playing well. But that line has very little cohesion and I don't think his play is a symptom as much of a cause. It could be an ace in Friesen's sleeve that Sutter went out of his way to aquire his services-or it could mean that expectations from above are high.

I would say its more likely Friesen will sit, simply because Prust is scouted to be more of a 3rd liner than a 2nd, though I wouldn't mind seeing him create some room out there for Lombardi and Tanguay, both of whom are not known for their physical play.

The most obvious choice of replacement is Darren McCarty simply because McCarty doesn’t seem to be in Playfair's goodbooks judging purely by ice time. However, it would seem strange to me to replace a guy you're not willing to play anyway.

Boyd shares his position with Langkow, Lombardi, Nilson and Lundmark. Technically Ritchie as well, but he's been playing on the wing, and Boyd is more of a natural centre, so Ritchie is off the hook. Despite the fact Langkow looks lost on the first line and is desperately trying to keep up with Iginla and Huselius, I would be very surprised if the Flames called up a player with no pro regular season experience to be their number one centre. Therefore, Langkow is safe. Lombardi has been one of the Flames most consistent players, and still leads the team's +/-. He's safe for sure. This leaves Nilson and Lundmark.

I would also be very surprised if Nilson is replaced by Boyd. Nilson plays a checking role, while Boyd plays an uptempo offensive style. This leads us to Lundmark, who may play on the 4th line, often thinks like a 2nd or 1st line centre. Despite giving a beautiful breakaway pass to Iginla yesterday, Lundmark often makes defensive positioning errors. The question is, will Boyd be an improvement? I don't know how much sense it makes to bring Boyd up only to make him sit on the bench for 50-53 minutes per game.

So will Boyd replace a centre? If he does, I would say Lundmark is the best bet. I believe the second most likely person he will replace is Chuck Kobesew. If he can adapt his positioning his style of play is much more suited to that of Lombardi and Tanguay's. My money will still be on Lundmark however.

The only thing Flames fans needn't speculate is that management is in denial of the problem. Clearly management now believes the staying the course is not enough, and are now willing to implement some personnel changes. The question now is, will it work?


hockeygirl said...

But how come no one is looking at management as the problem? Maybe Coach Jimmy isn't the best choice right now.

MetroGnome said...

But how come no one is looking at management as the problem? Maybe Coach Jimmy isn't the best choice right now.

Sutter apparently has faith in his choice for head coach and probably thinks that 10 games is too small a sample size to be questioning Playfair.

That said, if the Flames are this bad at the half-way point of the season, expect to see Jimmy's head on a spike somewhere.

Kyle said...

Although I respect and admire Sutter, its' now pretty obvious he's made mistakes (as I've mentioned numerous times before). Sutter has more leeway with the fans than many GMs thanks to the 04 cup run. Despite that, more and more people seem to be getting leary.
Right now I just don't feel Playfair has the skills for this job. Bring on Brent...