Calgarypuck Predictions: February

February 5, 2002

Calgarypuck.com Staff

 

January marked the second straight month where all four Calgarypuck prognosticators missed on the optimistic side suggesting the entire foursome may be slow on the uptake when it comes to judging a sliding hockey team.

Well guys ... you thought the last few months were tough to get a read on? Try a month with an all star break, an olympic break, and a huge shake up in leadership with the team. Good luck.

The month of February will feature only seven games for the club, but the'll need to win more than they lose to keep pace in a race they are already losing.

A failure to win now may make the March predictions a mute point.

The table below shows the point variance for each writer on a month to month basis as well as a season to date total.

Writer

Oct.

Nov.

Dec.

Jan.

Total

Charlton

-6

0

3

6

3

McCracken

-6

1

5

4

4

McGrath

-5

0

2

5

2

Ciampa

--

--

3

2

5

All four writers now sit on the optimistic side of the ledger when you look at the season to date.

The smallest total margin is set by McGrath with a +2, and he also holds the lowest average point variance at three points.

Where will each writer sit for the month of February?

Related Articles: October || November || December


Rick Charlton

Monthly Record: 3-2-2-0, 8 points

Pity the poor prognosticators.

On the eve of a month with an unusual event, the Olympics, splitting it in two, the Flames have gone and thrown another twist into the unpredictability of this most fascinating of seasons.

The dousing of Dave Lowry as Flames captain may go one of two ways, driving this team either hot or cold, but the reaction is unlikely to be the middle road.

Those objecting to yesterday's surprise decision by head coach Greg Gilbert seem to be the same people who were once clamoring for the big shakeup. They were expecting a trade. They got something else.

For every action there is an equal reaction. Cause and effect.

The wiser members of the Flames will know full well that Lowry had lost his "A" game, that there comes a moment in the life of any player when the legs can no longer play at the pace they once did. Don't cut Lowry any breaks. He hasn't been playing very well for a long time, a minus 21 in limited ice time over his last 38 games. Like Savard, he was costing his team games. He wasn't helping the team win. He was helping them lose.

Only his captaincy was keeping him in the lineup.

Don Cherry would have us believe that Wayne Gretzky could play another season but the minus 23 of Gretzky's final campaign revealed a player keeping his numbers up while cutting corners.

Mark Messier finally relented to more suitable duties on the third line after spending several seasons cheating defensively, his speed no longer the factor it once was.

Too often teams pay too much respect to the grizzled veterans in their ranks, when in fact it's a dog eat dog world, a cruel business.

The demotion of Lowry could be interpreted as a firm signal the Flames coaching staff isn't ready to run up the white flag just yet, even if fans and media might have already conceded the season.

Combined with Button's declaration that he's willing to finish the year with the same cast, the move to shuffle the captaincy could be construed as a vote of confidence in the group on hand.

But there is also the fact that Lowry is a respected member of the Flames dressing room and his public slap - and what else could you call it - may also serve as a breeding platform for resentment, if not outright revolt.

The Flames could just as easily disintegrate, as they did last year, feuding cliques replacing the oneness of a team. If it works, Gilbert is a genius. If not, it's one more mark against him.

No, there doesn't seem to be an in-between with this move, which makes our call for February all the more difficult.

It says here the Flames will emerge from this strange month with a winning record, 3-2-2, still in the playoff race but with long odds for the post-season.

Predictions:

Savard will discover a two-way game and begin to deliver once again on his impressive talent. ... Lowry will be traded before the end of the month ... Derek Morris, slow to get up to speed after his injury, finally hits stride and the Flames power play begins to come up out of the dust, contributing greatly to a successful month ... the Flames continue their recent trend of taking fewer penalties than they had earlier in the season, assisting the penalty killing to find its legs. ... Mike Vernon will not start a single game. ... Robyn Regehr is a one-time healthy scratch.


Aaron McCracken

Monthly Record: : 3-3-1-0, 7 points

Playoff spots aren't traditionally won or lost in February especially when the league is on a break for half of the month but the Calgary Flames' next seven games could determine whether the team will be a contender during the stretch drive or simply a below-average team continuing on a downward spiral.

Six of seven February games are against Western contenders, and the Flames will play at home just twice during the month. With the Flames sitting in 11th place and 5 points out of a playoff spot, a bad month will all but eliminate the team from the playoffs. Ideally, the Flames will need to win 4 or 5 games to position themselves as a contender down the stretch. It's a difficult task for a struggling team, but not one that's completely out of their reach.

Predictions:

I don't see the Flames doing anything special during the month. They are capable of beating Vancouver, Phoenix, and Anaheim and because of that, I see them with a .500 record during the month. That won't be good enough to make any ground on a playoff spot, but it will keep the team in contention, at least for a while longer. The Flames have the joy of facing the Avalanche and a rested Patrick Roy in their first game back after the Olympic break, then returning home to face a strong St. Louis team. Despite the fact that the Flames should be healthy and well rested for those games, I don't expect to see a significant post-Olympic surge.

On the ice, the WIS line of Wright, Iginla, and Savard will be kept together for the upcoming road trip allowing Jamie Wright to emerge as a legitimate NHL winger. Roman Turek will see action in every game during the month, but won't see any Olympic action, as Dominek Hasek will carry the load for the Czech Republic. Dean McAmmond will return from his back injury and lead the team with 4 goals during the month, while Craig Conroy will notch 7 points in a last ditch effort to be named to the US Olympic team as an injury replacement.

NHL GMs will continue their cautious approach to player movement during the month, and the Flames roster will remain virtually unchanged. Craig Button will send Steve Begin and Chris Clark to Saint John on conditioning stints during the Olympic break, while Jukka Hentunen will be assigned outright to Saint John. The Baby Flames will ride goaltender Levente Szuper to a winning month and will regain a strangle hold on a playoff spot.


D'Arcy McGrath

Monthly Record: 3-2-1-1, 8 points

The February schedule begins in turmoil with the Dave Lowry captaincy stripping, and a team sitting out of a playoff spot to start a month for the first time this season.

January was make or break time for this team, and they quite simply ... broke.

Five wins, eight losses and ten points in a month with nine home dates is unacceptable, so justly their sentence is fitting their crime - they sit outside looking in.

An optimist would point to the fact that they won their last two games of the month, saving some face, and suggesting that they could come out of their funk.

February

February is a month of immeasurable variables.

How will the team respond to the Dave Lowry demotion, and subsequent rise of Craig Conroy and Bob Boughner to leadership roles?

How will the team respond to the all-star break after two wins and a reemergence from Marc Savard?

Later in the month ... how will the Flames and other teams they are competing with respond to a long Olympic break in the heart of their season? Will teams on a roll lose their stride? The struggling reemerge?

It's really hard to say.

The Flames play a total of seven games in the month of February, five before the Olympic break and two after. Within those seven are key dates with Vancouver (2) and one with Phoenix; two teams that they'll need to leap frog to get back to a playoff spot.

On the plus side, the Flames are approaching healthy again. They appear to have Roman Turek and Jarome Iginla back on their games, and Derek Morris should be readjusted to the pace of play after missing eight weeks with a wrist injury. The table is set much like the beginning of the year for the first time since mid November.

Great goaltending and better special teams could propel this team back into a playoff spot, but their margin is very small - a few more missteps could have them out of playoff contention by the time the torch is lit.

Predictions:

Dave Lowry is a very classy guy. That alone will make Lowry-gate blow over without much mention within a week, he won't put himself ahead of the team even if he has a legitimate beef. ... Marc Savard will play the majority of the month's games with Jarome Iginla on his side, and Craig Conroy will find a rythm with Dean McAmmond as his principal winger, giving the Flames two above average lines for the first time this season. ... This will be Marc Savard's last month in a Flame uniform however, as Mr. Button will move him soon after the Olympic break. ... Mike Vernon will not get a start this month, but Levente Szuper will. ... Canada will win gold in Salt Lake City on the strength of balanced scoring and great goaltending from Martin Brodeur. ... Derek Morris will find his stride this month moving the powerplay back to the high teens in success rate. ... Dominic Hasek will suffer a groin pull during the Olympics moving the spotlight to Roman Turek. ... The Flames will enter March in a very similar spot to which they sit now, on the cusp but not in a playoff spot.

 


January Calendar (small)

January Calendar (large)

 

 

RC

DM AM MC

L

L L --
W W W --
T T L --
W OL W --
W W W --
L L L --
T W T --

 

 

 

Please Take our Survey