Flames Set to Welcome Oliwa and Simon back to the Fold
D'Arcy McGrath March 26th, 2004
When the Calgary Flames take to the ice on Saturday afternoon against the Los Angeles Kings, two rather looming physical specimens will be taking the twirl before the puck drops.
Krzysztof Oliwa and Chris Simon are both set to return from a period of banging out chalkboard erasers behind Colin Campbell's office, and will hope to make a bruising impact as the Flames hope to clinch a playoff spot in their final four regular season games.
Will they make a difference?
Simon has only been a Calgary Flame for three weeks, so his true impact on the lineup is difficult to measure, but in the case of Oliwa, there is a season long trend to analyze.
The Flames, ten games over .500 through 78 games have an impressive record of 39-29-7-3 on the season, good for 6th spot in the mega-competitive Western Conference.
To date Oliwa has suited up for 62 hockey games, or 79% of Calgary's games, missing five for suspension and was a healthy scratch in 11 others.
How have the Flames fared in his absence?
An intimidation injected Calgary squad has a record of 33-21-6-2 on the season, or a .597 winning percentage compared to the overall mark of .564.
With the addition of Simon in early March the Flames have gone 5-2-2 in games in which he played, good for an impressive .667 winning percentage. In the nine games with Simon the Flames have dressed Oliwa in eight of those contests with the Flames going 5-1-2 or .750 with both "scary men" patrolling the ice.
But what does it all mean?
On the surface, very little, Chris Simon hasn't been here long enough and the Flames record with and without Oliwa is just too close to call.
Another angle to bring into the discussion is the result in games in which Oliwa has fought. With few exceptions, the big man has tended to drop his gloves early in contests in the hopes of spurring his team on to victory. It's not a strange sight to see Oliwa in the penalty box before the two minute mark having thrown a few on his very first shift.
Oliwa has fought 31 times on the season, and these fights took place in a total of 26 games. The Flames are 13-10-2-1 in games that Oliwa spends considerable time in the penalty box, or a winning percentage of .558, a number below the team's average, and below the overall record of just having Oliwa in the lineup.
A weak argument could be made that he should play and not fight, but then where's the fun in that?
Regardless of the impact of either big left winger, the Flames are quite likely to clinch a playoff spot over the next handful of games.
When they do, a starting 20-man roster for a playoff series will have to be ironed out by coach and general manager Darryl Sutter.
Should the Flames find a way to get somewhat healthy - they have Dean McAmmond, Stephane Yelle, and Toni Lydman on the limp currently - some decisions will have to be made.
Chris Simon will play, of that we have little doubt, but how will the Viking, Alberta native deploy his policeman in the playoffs?
One clue to Sutter's decision for the playoffs could come in the form of the Oliwa utilization through the season.
As we mentioned, Oliwa has missed only 11 games as a healthy scratch on the season, meaning he has suited up for 85% of the games in which he was eligible - a ratio much higher than many expected coming into the season.
But what's more interesting is the games in which Sutter has scratched his nuclear arsenal.
Six of the 11 games that Oliwa has sat for non-suspension related reasons came on either the first or second half of back to back games? NHL pugilists often get very sore hands after a bought and Sutter could very well be protecting the big man from excessive wear and tear on his knuckles.
Though United States' TV networks can seriously bamboozle a NHL playoff schedule, typically, teams don't have to play often on back to back nights, suggesting Oliwa could be good to go for all games in the playoffs.
The other line of thinking would suggest limited action for the Polish born player given the lack of fighting in hotly contested playoff encounters.
Only Sutter truly has an idea of how things will shake out.
But one thing we can all be certain of given the numbers, having the big lug around hasn't hurt the Flames chances of success this season one iota. Plus, as barbarian Canadians, his presence keeps things interesting.