Wednesday, January 5, 2011

View From the Press Box - Flames Mid-Season Review

On December 16th, 2010 I attended the Calgary Flames vs the Toronto Maple Leafs game, team game No: 32 of the 82 NHL game schedule. At this time, the Flames were positioned 4th in the North West Division and 14th over all in the Western Conference. The top story line was Dion Phaneuf’s return to Calgary. Flames GM, Darryl Sutter was quoted as saying he had to trade Phaneuf to sign Giordano and Bourque and he would do it again. There was a unique buzz in the Saddledome air. The Flames played a spirited game winning 5 to 2. Olli Jokinen was the first star, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists. The Flames used Olli more off the half boards on the power play to utilize one of his strengths - his shot. It worked tonight! Looking back at the Flames season, so far, here are a few observations with some accompanying stats.

Highlights:

  • Alex Tanguay, second in points, has been the most consistent Flames forward.
  • Kipper is playing well again.
  • Henrik Karlsson has been a steady backup and may play 15 – 20 games.
  • Mark Giordano is a solid top 2 defenseman - playing physical and contributing strong offensive skills as well.
  • Rene Bourque has become a good power forward with 13 goals, second on the team behind Iginla but he still lacks consistency.
  • Jarome Iginla is finally playing up his strengths – keeping his feet moving, battling for the puck and shooting more. Iginla with 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points is back to nearly a point per game. He will score 35 - 40 goals again.
  • Jay Boumeester is stepping up his offensive play. He has been the best two way defenseman on the team.
  • Secondary scoring from Curtis Glencross – 7 goals and Niklas Hagman – 8 goals have been a welcomed addition.

Lowlights:

  • Last season’s injury to Daymond Langkow, arguably the number 1 centre on the team has hurt the Flames. Neither Matt Stajan with 1 goal in 26 games (missed games due to a concussion), Olli Jokinen with 5 goals or Craig Convoy, who has played only 17 games and been a healthy scratch lately have not measured up offensively.
  • Glencross has the skill to be a top 6 forward but, like Bourque, he is too inconsistent and found himself in the press box for this game.
  • The Flames goals against average is 2.82 this season for 21st best in the league.
  • Last season the Flames were fortunate to lose only 32 man games to injury so far the total is up to 163 man games this year.
  • The Flames power play is 24th 15:0 % at 20 goals on 133 chances. The penalty kill is 21st - 26 goals against on 134 chances for 81%.
  • Overall the team has trouble scoring goals especially at critical times in a game.

Summary:

The Calgary Flames have been inconsistent, especially at home. The Flames home record, of 9 – 6 – 0 is the 20th best in the league. It does not make the Saddledome a feared building to play in. The home record must improve if the team wishes to be a playoff contender. The road record, 25th best in the league at 5-9-3 must improve as well. How far will the Flames go this season? This writer believes the Calgary Flames will be in a dogfight to make the playoffs. Currently, they are 6 pts behind Columbus for the 8th playoff spot and 9 pts behind Vancouver for the lead in the Northwest Division. It’s simple. We need more wins. However, the margin between winning and losing on any given night in today’s NHL is a fine line. The team needs to play a stronger game from start to finish. If Kipper keeps up his level of play, and the team continues to get secondary scoring from the likes of Hagman, Glencross, Stajan and Jokinen etc. there is a chance to make the playoffs. They must also improve on their speciality team play particularly at home - this is critical. But that’s a lot to ask - let’s wait and see. When the Flames play a skating, up tempo and puck pressure game they are very competitive and can be victorious on most nights, but this rarely happens. A consistent team effort will ensure a much needed winning streak. Flames fans are patiently waiting!