Saturday, February 09, 2008

Calgary Flames: What Can We Expect?

I'm just sitting here watching Hockey Day in Canada and after the events of the past week or so I think the rest of the season is coming into focus for both Calgary and Edmonton, although tonight I will focus exclusively on Calgary.

Of note before I get into it is a conversation I had with a Flames compatriot at the Saddledome regarding Owen Nolan. After being a replacement Tony Amonte for much of the early season (as well as being injury prone), Nolan should be looked at as a pretty successful FA signing if he hits certain criteria. He's got 14G and I think 20G would be a respectable, he's on a pretty close pace. His ES quality of competition is ranked as 6th on the team (I'm going to ignore Ramholt), his CORSI is a +5.0 and he's got a On Ice/Off Ice/60 rating of 0.07, which although paltry compared to Iginla's +2.32, is at least on the positive end of zero. I think we can all agree that although Nolan might not be a captain on the ship, he's certainly not an anchor.

Ok, now onto what we can expect for the final quarter of the season:

A Trade:
MG at Five Hole Fanatics has done a lot of blogging about the Tanguay trade rumors, siding on the 'don't trade Tanguay' and the 'Tanguay is worth more than Huselius' side of the debate. So will Tanguay be traded? I think it was Duncan at Flames Blog who said that more than likely the trade that Sutter will make will be completely unexpected in terms of his target and who he trades. I'll agree. I think though that we can make a couple of statements with an near absolute certainty, and then I'll make a couple of completely speculative comments as well.

Firstly, I think I can safely predict neither Iginla, nor Regehr, nor Kiprussoff, nor Phaneuf will be traded. Secondly, the Flames will not acquire Petr Forsberg.

Now for the speculation: I agree with MG when he says that the Flames biggest problem is not the forward group, its the defence. There are two bonafied defenceman, a couple of guys who are not bad, and then some who are simply too injured or too terrible to be consistently counted upon. Would the Flames have the same record they do today if Giordano and Ference were in the lineup for Ericksson and Warrener or Hale? I know who I'd rather have, given the choice.

So we can speculate about Mats Sundin but for my money I'd rather have Sutter go after a solid defenceman to compliment the group.

I like watching Dr. Phil because I think it probably provides the most laughs per minute of any other scripted comedy show, but I think he's right when he says the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Last year about this time the Flames went on a surge, and then they played terribly through March and then limped into the postseason and got worked by Detroit. This year had a terrible October and November, followed by an outstanding December and pretty good January, now a mediocre February. Can anyone tell me a reason not to expect inconsistency? We've already had the monthly 'Sutter visits the dressing room' event, and we'll probably see a few more.

The Dion Effect:
If there's one singular area where Darryl Sutter has excelled it's that he has very aptly identified the core of his team and rewarded them in terms of dollars. While Calgary's salary is extremely top heavy, it's at least going to the right guys. (Sutter's job identifying value in his perimeter players is less commendable). Now it's time for those core guys to step up. Besides Iginla, I don't think we've seen the other core guys' best this year. I think Regehr can play better, Phaneuf has truly stepped up his game in the past couple of weeks, and it's obvious Miikka Kiprusoff can play better. Alex Tanguay should be in that group too, and despite my concerns about him I know he can put a few more pucks in the net. There's no more money to spend this year, at this point the guys earning the big bucks have to prove they're worth it. It's not just about leadership now, it's about results.

The Goal:
There's been some talk of the goal as being finishing 1st in the conference, but make no mistake about it, the Flames have one single goal in the regular season: DO NOT FINISH 8th. Playing Detroit does not look like it's any better of a matchup this year than it was last year, and I am sure it doesn't matter if the Flames finish 2nd or 7th, the matchups will all probably be pretty even. Obviously the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, but after two consecutive first round losses, I think we can qualify this season as a success by winning a playoff round.


Dave said...

Great post, Kyle. Woot!

I'm not the only one getting nervous the closer the Flames get to 8th place.

walkinvisible said...

i think owen nolan brings a veteran presence that perfectly compliments iggy's captaincy. it's been said that jarome's not a very vocal guy, but leads by example. in watching nolan, you can see that he is on the bench hollering and congratulating the young guys on good shifts etc. and is presumeably doing the same in the lockerroom.

so while two months ago, i called him useless, he's definitely showing that he can hustle, score and lift his team. ie: if he'd resign for another year (ONE) at same, i'd take it.

duncan said...

I did say that, still think it. I'm also sold on Nolan now, same as you and WI — and not just because he scores here and there. He did the same thing last year, struggle to start, finish strong. That's a hell of a lot better than the opposite.

Don't think I agree that they're more needy on D than at forward. I think both needs are equal, but that it will be easier to fill the No. 5 defence slot than find, say, a No. 3 or 4 forward. If Hale's established himself as a quality 6 (and he has), and the Top 4 is in place (I think it is), you can find a nice veteran who's a bit faster than Rhettsky to play alongside D.H.

Someone to play in the Top 6 and be the guy when Huselius and Iginla don't do it? That's a bit tougher to find, but just as needed on this team.

Also, I'm with Dave: Nice post.

MetroGnome said...

Nolan is certainly an improvement on Amonte. Tony couldn't do a damn thing by the end. He couldn't score, he couldn't defend...we was just another Jeff Friesen. My only complaint with Nolan is his role (not his fault). If the Flames had a capable 2nd line RWer and Nolan to pilot the 3rd line, that would be ideal.

therealdeal said...

Holy shit guys, thanks for all the comments, for some reason blogger didn't email me so I haven't responded and now i'll have to catch up.

Dave - thanks man!

WI - it seems that Nolan has at least served a purpose with Calgary. He's a great 3rd line guy and an ok 2nd line guy, and the Flames need useful player in those areas so it's a fit.

Duncan - While looking up Nolan's numbers I noticed Hale's were much better than I would have given him credit for, so I'll concede that he's definately established himself as a 3rd line pairing guy. He's very steady and hes certainly good enough at what he does.

MG - as I mentioned in my comment to WI, he's a great 3rd liner, and an ok 2nd liner so I'll agree with you. Still, he's done about as good a job at his role that he could have.