Calgarypuck Predictions: December

December 1, 2001

Calgarypuck.com Staff

 

Battered, but not beaten the Calgarypuck.com staff is back to predict the month of December. Looking back at the prior to prediction pieces it could be suggested that the opposite of the collective opinion below should become reality by Christmas.

 

Related Articles: October || November


Rick Charlton

Monthly Record: 7-7-1-0, 15 points

Either the element of surprise has left them or the Flames are, as head coach Greg Gilbert recently said, "dragging their butts."

Either way, the month of December offers little respite for the struggling Flames, losers of four straight and winless in six.

Only Tampa and Anaheim stand out as "easy" games next month, as far as "easy" can be defined in the highly competitive NHL. Even Minnesota, fresh out of the expansion bucket, is currently two games over .500.

After a start that included a 10 game undefeated string, leaving them lounging near the top of the NHL pile, the Flames are teetering on the precipice, the leaders starting to leave them behind and the trailers closing in.

A fading memory in this "what have you done for me lately" world is the high tempo, physical, speedy and skilled style of October and early November. Instead we see a Calgary team which has lost a step, its natural advantage of speed neutralized through its own doing. And a Flames team with average speed is merely an easy target for the lineups the Flames will encounter through much of December.

The little mistakes that killed them in past seasons are also starting to re-emerge. Against Dallas, Igor Kravchuk didn't play Benoit Brunet tough enough on the first goal. Chris Clark didn't skate hard enough to prevent Modano's second goal. And Clarke Wilm didn't do his job on Pierre Turgeon for the third marker - all preventable goals with extra effort.

And a loss because the effort and concentration on detail wasn't there.

But that's been the story for the Flames this last week and a half. They haven't lost to better teams so much as they've beaten themselves repeatedly.

As such, it may come to pass that the Flames, concentrating so much on a good start to the year, will be unable to maintain a high energy level through a full 82 games. If the Flames are to pull out of their current funk they'll receive no help from the schedule.

The easy days are behind them. It only gets harder from here.

Time to separate the men from the boys.

DECEMBER PREDICTIONS - The month will start all right for the Flames but they will lose five of six on the road sandwiched around Christmas. ... Mike Vernon will lose twice more in December ... Chuck Kobasew, after a difficult start in Kelowna, will light it up at the World Junior Championships. ... Oleg Saprykin will continue to flounder in Saint John. ... The Flames will have four straight sell-outs late in the month with Edmonton twice and Vancouver and Minnesota. ... Marc Savard will find himself in the press box at least twice this month. ... Is it any coincidence the Flames started to flounder when Savard returned to the lineup? Just asking. ... Jarome Iginla will get a letter in the mail confirming he has made the Canadian Olympic team. ... Derek Morris will not make the team. ... Craig Conroy will be named to Team USA. ... As Savard continues to war with Gilbert, Rob Niedermayer will step up with five goals in the month. He'd better start producing - I'm the guy who lobbied for the Flames to acquire him two summers ago. ... Flames will avenge their 8-0 beating at the hands of San Jose last Dec 8 with a win over the Sharks on home ice on Dec. 6. ... A prediction you'll never see here – an Edmonton win at the Saddledome.

 


Aaron McCracken

Monthly Record: : 6-4-4-1, 17 points

December to separate the Contenders from the Pretenders

Are the Calgary Flames contenders? Chances are that as we ring in the New Year, we'll have a pretty good idea whether this year's team is really good enough to compete in the tough Western Conference.

The Flames will play 15 games during the coming month, with all but one coming against Western opponents, and all but 3 against teams that made the playoffs last season. Calgary also has three sets of back-to-back games - all on the road. Arguably, this will be the toughest month of the season for the surprising Flames.

Despite this, I expect the Flames to continue their relentless play and to notch more than a point-per-game during the month. This is a team that seems to thrive on adversity and to play its best hockey against the elite teams in the league. I don't expect to see many long winning streaks or major upsets during the month, but I do think the Flames will record points in 11 of 15 games, which is a major accomplishment in itself.

On the ice, Roman Turek will continue to play a major role in the Flames' success. 'Large' will play all but two of the games in December and will rebound from a mini-slump in late November and continue to have a GAA in the 2.00 range. Jarome Iginla's scoring pace will slow down during the month, but he'll still notch several key goals, including an overtime winner or two. For his efforts, Iginla will be named to the Olympic team, but Derek Morris will be inexplicably left off the squad.

Jeff Shantz will return to the line-up at the expense of Scott Nichol, who will be dispatched to Saint John. For the time being, Jeff Cowan, Steve Begin, and Jamie Allison will remain on the roster. Despite an abundance of trade rumours, Craig Button will not pull the trigger on a deal, and the roster will remain virtually the same.

And, for my bold prediction, Mike Vernon will lose twice more and retire from hockey to assume a scouting position in the organization. Kay Whitmore will (at least temporary) assume the back-up role, although with limited success.

Finally, as we sip our champagne to celebrate New Year's, the Flames will be firmly entrenched in 4th place in the Western conference, proving themselves as legitimate contenders, well on their well to their first playoff appearance in five years.


D'Arcy McGrath

Monthly Record: 5-6-3-1, 14 points

Given the results of October and November it's tempting to take whatever expectations I may harbour for the month of December and add five points.

For 20 games the Calgary Flames exceeded most onlookers, including regional, national and Calgarypuck media, but it can't last can it?

Recently we've experienced some apparent weaknesses in the Flames armour - weaknesses that we all knew to exist, but that have only recently affected their plight in the standings.

December could be a tough month for the Flames, a month that brings them back to the pack, but remaining in strong position to contend for a playoff spot.

December

This month looks tough on paper.

Two against Colorado, two against San Jose, two against Edmonton, plus games against the Blues, Wings and Stars. Yikes!

The Flames will have to sort out some of their shortcomings in short order or the month could be a disaster. Chances are they will.

The Flames are reasonably healthy for the first time this season, and with that has come an adjustment to a full roster, new linemates, and a lack of excuses.

Time will heal this awkwardness, and a more cohesive team will emerge.

The team needs to find a second line, take the body with the same vigor they did in October, and play better team defence.

Despite what Craig Conroy and Denis Gauthier will tell you, the Flames goaltending must also improve. Even the once infallible Roman Turek has been giving up some easy touches, something the Flames can't afford.

Predictions:

During the month of December the Flames will break up the big line, uniting Marc Savard with Jarome Iginla. Dean McAmmond and Craig Conroy will find a new right winger in Jukka Hentunen (yes, I'm trying this one again). Jarome Iginla will be named to the Canadian Olympic team, teammate Derek Morris will not. Mike Vernon will finally win a game this season (yes, I'm trying this one again too) when he bests the Coyotes towards the middle of the month. Rob Niedermayer will triple is goal output to three by the end of the month, while Dean McAmmond will find himself goalless. ... A prediction with a caveat; should the Flames slide continue, towards the middle of the month the Flames will try to build a second line by dealing a pivot for a wingman.


Marc Ciampa

Monthly Record: : 6-6-3-0, 15 points

This is it, make-it or break-it for the Calgary Flames. How they do in December will ultimately decide whether they are a playoff team or if their early season heroics were simply an aberration.

If this team does not come out of December comfortably in a playoff spot, the postseason will be a pipe dream yet again. The schedule gets much more difficult come February and March. This month is not all that tough, with the exception of a four-game road trip leading into the Christmas break through Dallas, St. Louis, Phoenix and Colorado.

The Flames have entered this month with by far their biggest slump of the season. How they deal with this slump will determine the character that exists within them.

There are some crucial games ahead, a pair of games against the Oilers which may or may not be for first place in the division depending on how the first three weeks of the month go.

So far the season has been a lot of fun, and I really hope the team can continue its pace and that this slump is nothing more than a blip on the screen. It would be very hard to get used to seeing the Flames scrape the bottom of the barrel again.

Is this team for real? We're about to find out.

Predictions: They will continue to slump through the first week of December but will finally break out in the second game of their home-and-home with San Jose. They will play well enough in the previous two games before that one to earn a victory. …

Mike Vernon will start only one game this month; it will be a loss in Vancouver on December 27. … Jarome Iginla will continue to struggle somewhat, until he is reunited on a line with Marc Savard partway through the month—this re-ignites both players. Craig Conroy and Dean McAmmond continue their solid production even without Iginla. … Rob Niedermayer does not score this month and finds himself a healthy scratch on one occasion. … Jeff Shantz makes his triumphant return to the lineup.

 

December Calendar (small)

December Calendar (large)

 

 

RC

DM AM MC

L

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

 

 

 

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