Here ladies and gentlemen are your new look Calgary Flames, post trade deadline 2012. Oh right, this is the same team that we entered this morning with, on a night where the Flames finally took the time to “honour” one of the best players to ever wear the flaming C: Al MacInnis. Now, you might take note of my derisive tone towards the honouring the Flames are bestowing on MacInnis as the team he’s chosen to affiliate himself with post playing career comes into town, and that would be a good read. The Calgary Flames took a step back in the department of doing things right tonight because they did not retire number 2. Honour players like Joe Nieuwendyk, or Miikka Kiprusoff, or arguably Theoren Fleury, but not MacInnis, and in the future, not Jarome Iginla.
Onto the hockey game at hand. The Flames last saw the Blues in the Saddledome under a different head coach, and since that time, they’ve become one of the top teams in the NHL, while of late Calgary has been letting go of the good habits that got them into a playoff spot just over a week ago. Winless on the four game home stand to date, the Flames were in tough against one of the best of the west.
On The Line
With the hopes of a playoff spot slipping through the fingers of the Flames, and St. Louis looking to climb into second place in the Western Conference, Calgary had to put up or shut up.
If you were to look at the first period on a whole, you’d see two teams trying to shake off the rust of a lengthy ceremony prior to the game. The Blues were quite sloppy in their own zone, and the Flames took advantage of this when Curtis Glencross found himself in the slot with the puck and handcuffed Jaroslav Halak with a shot just under the blocker of the Blues netminder. But as the period wore on the Blues started to get their legs again and we’d see the Flames running around in their own zone. However it was a simple go to the net and never give up kind of play that led to the Blues tying goal. After a routine save off of David Backes, Kiprusoff failed to control the rebound and the puck trickled into the net. The Blues then took the lead on their first power play of the game after a dubious hooking call to Mark Giordano who had just come out of the corner having been tripped himself and failing to clear the puck. Jason Arnott fired the puck on net and a helpless Kiprusoff failed to see the shot with under a minute remaining in the first.
The second period was what would have been called an unmitigated disaster if the Blues weren’t still slightly out of sorts. St. Louis extended their lead just over a minute into the period with Scott Hannan off for slightly pushing TJ Oshie (interference) when Jason Arnott slammed home a rebound on a Kevin Shattenkirk point shot. From that point on in the second the Blues had chance after chance, with many shots trickling wide or going just over the net. Calgary could barely enter the zone without turning the puck over. The period ended with the Flames managing a meagre 3 shots on net. The Blues didn’t exactly light things up either, but if they’d connected on some of their shots, the score and shot total would have been quite a bit higher.
The third was hard to describe to be honest. It was incredibly frustrating in the sense that the Flames were starting to generate more offensive pressure, but at the same time utterly failing to do anything of use with it. There were several opportunities where Flames players left a puck in the middle of the ice in a drop pass to no one. Tried making a cute play rather than simply putting the puck on net, and Curtis Glencross was particularly bad about trying to carry the puck into the zone and attempting to literally go through 2 or 3 Blues at the time. It was typical Flames hockey of late, put in some hard work and create a good opportunity, then squander it by doing something completely stupid. This continued for the duration of the period as the Blues held on to take over the lead in the Central division from Detroit.
1. Jason Arnott: One of the definitions of Flame Killer over his career, he scored the winner and the insurance goal.
2. David Backes: The Flames didn’t really have an answer for him. He was physical and got the Blues momentum with the tying goal.
3. Blake Comeau: Comeau was like a completely different player tonight. He hit everything that moved and had several good opportunities. His play tonight was a great example of how to play the pest role to a tee..
The biggest save of the night went to Miikka Kiprusoff on Andy McDonald in the third period when the speedy center got a breakaway on Kiprusoff and tried to go five hole, but Kipper shut the door.
Biggest hit of the night was actually a series of hits laid out by Comeau in the second period. The first levelling Carlo Colaiacovo, and the second on Pietrangelo that drew a crowd and somehow ended up with Curtis Glencross getting a penalty for doing what the Blues had just done.
The Flames. All of them. OK not all of them, but almost all of them. Collectively, individually, the Flames played one of their stupidest games of hockey in recent memory. The Oilers loss: law of averages; the Coyotes loss: failure to execute; the Flyers loss: failure to press the issue; the Blues loss: failure to do anything right. Passes were off, everyone tried the extra move instead of putting the puck on net, fancy plays when simple ones were needed, shoddy goaltending. This was just bad.
You have to hand this one to Jason Arnott, the 37 year old just knows how to beat the Flames.
Odds and Ends
Since it was trade deadline day I suppose it’s appropriate to touch on the Flames activity today, which by standing pat is an interesting scenario in and of itself. Given the pieces the Flames actually had on the board, or had the ability to move, you have to wonder if there was even an opportunity for the Flames to make a move. Buying a rental player at this point in time, with the Flames in the situation they are in doesn’t make the most sense. You don’t move a prospect or draft picks to mortgage the future in order to try and give the equivalent of a bye to whatever team you MIGHT face in the first round, but at the same time, you’re so close to a play off spot, that you don’t want to give up any of the pieces you could possibly move so you don’t handcuff yourself if that number 4 defenceman could have made the difference in the ultra tight west playoff race.
Unfortunately with all that said, moving a player like Scott Hannan or Cory Sarich (assuming he waived his no movement clause) for a second or third round pick isn’t a given. While we as fans might estimate the worth of these players, there is no telling what actual GMs value these guys at, if at all. The same thing goes for any of your bottom six, guys like Tom Kostopolous, who I would argue would be essential in your quest for a playoff spot, and valuable for a team looking to bolster their bottom 6, or Tim Jackman, who some teams apparently covet for some reason including the Flames who signed the grinder to a two year contract extension this afternoon.
So what was the right answer? It depends on your point of view. My opinion: they made the right moves by not making any moves (outside of the deals made weeks ago) but at the same time, this team will not make the playoffs, nor should they have that as an organizational goal right now. Making the playoffs would only encourage an already dysfunctional group to be stuck together, while retooling the shed for the future should be a foremost thought. The reality of the Flames situation is that they should be looking to put together the pieces of the core of this team when the existing aged core moves on, and making the playoffs only hurts that goal for the future.
The Flames head to Phoenix on Thursday night to take on the Coyotes on Sportsnet West at 7PM MT.
Glencross – Jokinen – Iginla
Tanguay – Cammalleri – Comeau
Bouma – Stajan – Kostopolous
Desbiens – Horak – Jackman
Smith – Bouwmeester
Giordano – Hannan
Brodie – Sarich