So here's my dissection of the Calgary Flames. I am a little surprised they've struggled like this, but I felt they would have trouble scoring prior to the start of the season.
They can't score and this obvious defect has started to bite them hard. The Flames have lost six straight and have scored one more goal than Detroit (now that doesn't look right) as the lowest scoring team in the West. While everyone tries to figure out what's wrong, I believe it's pretty straight forward.
I'll put the issues in order.
1) Their centre ice position is a mess. Daymond Langkow has 11 goals and leads the Flames in production in the middle. That's fine if you have say, 40 assists. But he doesn't. Olli Jokinen has not had any consistency and for $5 million plus, 10 goals are not nearly enough. The Flames can't seem to find the proper set of wingers for him. Craig Conroy has had his best days and he has two goals. This week, I helped call the Flames' game against the Blackhawks and they created very little offence, only seven shots in the first 30 minutes. Name the last team to win the Stanley Cup without a top end centre. Certainly none since the end of the lockout.
2) They have one finisher up front - Jarome Iginla - and he is at 10 games and counting without a goal. The give and go - a staple of his attack - is virtually non-existent. It is now give and gone! He looks totally flummoxed and I thought he looked clunky during the morning skate and during the Hawks game - a sure sign he is searching for answers. When the team talks that their lack of production is "unacceptable", maybe it's not. Gifted scorers need a couple chances to score, 15 goal scorers need 10 chances. This trend will not turn around magically.
3) If you are paying $5 million for a defenceman to have two goals after 50 games, you're overpaying big time. Jay Bouwmeester has two - after back to back years with 15 goals. His numbers might be skewed by playing in a defensively weak Southeast division prior to this year, but when he's on the ice, nothing has happened offensively. I need my $5 million guys to score - or at least be a threat offensively. Look at the teams that score a lot. Each has a defenceman who contributes to the rush. Washington (Mike Green), San Jose (Dan Boyle), Chicago (Duncan Keith) and Pittsburgh (Sergei Gonchar) are in that mix. Teams back check so hard now, if your team attacks with just the three forwards, it's often 3-on-5 on the rush. Sheer numbers tell you that can't work. Unless the Flames make a deal, this will not be a problem that fixes itself. I do not see a long run with this current group. Darryl Sutter pointed out this week that there is not much chance for any team to make a trade before the Olympics because you would have to shell out two weeks of salary for a guy to be on vacation. The Flames have one area of depth (defence) and a huge area of need (scoring). Even I can put that equation together.
1) No matter how much attention the Sedins get, it seems lacking these days. Another big night against the Blackhawks in a 5-1 win gave Henrik 74 points and a four-point lead in the scoring race. Daniel has 46 points in 33 games. They're stronger than you might think and have propelled Alex Burrows to a huge month with 13 goals. This line is as productive as any one in the league right now. Patrick Kane even said that he and Jonathan Toews watch and learn from the Sedins' work on the power play.
2) Boston is as offensively anemic as Calgary. They have the lowest goals for in the entire league. Marco Sturm has 15, while three other players have 12. Talk about no room for error! I know Marc Savard has missed long stretches, but who is he going to pass it to? They'll be the Eastern counterpart to Calgary all year - grind it out, try to win 2-1.
3) Have to give Ottawa props. The return of Daniel Alfredsson has been huge, but all of a sudden they have six straight wins? As soon as their goaltending looked about as bad as possible - Pascal Leclaire has been playing dodge ball in goal – they've been getting solid goaltending from Mike Brodeur and especially Brian Elliott. Aggressive, confident play has pushed them to fifth in the East. Smoke and mirrors? At times it has seems like that, but now they just look like a solid team.
Hi Ray. On shootouts, which are like penalty shots, I thought the rule was that the skater had to maintain forward motion at all times. That being the case, how does the Bertuzzi goal from two Sundays ago count? And I do believe it was Jason Blake who did that move first in the shootouts, and his counted also. To do that move, you forego your forward motion by turning towards the other end of the ice in order to make the backhand shot. Why is it allowed then?
The player cannot lose forward momentum, but there is a continuation portion to the rule that allows the spin move to be legal.
Hey Ray, as a hockey parent I was sickened by that hit (Patrice Cormier), it just shows me the complete lack of respect in hockey today, especially at the junior level. The way I see it, is this there is more younger players playing in today's NHL then 25 years ago. Cormier's suspension will be a joke the rest of his junior career and he'll most likely be playing with Devils next season or at least in AHL.
Here is my question - I think it's asinine once a player has been drafted to go back to juniors and develop more. What more can a kid learn in junior? What makes matters worse is that this kid is now playing against younger junior players - so you can see the recipe for disaster happening. There is just too much at stake with these kids. The odds are greater of getting your foot in the NHL so I feel that kids 18 years or older not be sent back to juniors but start their pro careers either with the NHL club or their minor league affiliate. I do not see the benefit of them going back, they have graduated to the next level and should be starting their careers at that level. At least this way there would be some sort of separation and at least these young kids starting out would not be playing against players ready for pro that are bigger faster and stronger. So Ray, do you think is it time to change the rules?
First of all, if you want to be honest, the lack of respect starts much earlier than junior hockey. It starts when kids are allowed to hit and coaches and parents do not hold their 12-year-old players accountable for their actions. Go to a Pee Wee game and listen to yells of "finish your check" or "that's not even a penalty.” That's when respect needs to be taught. But who's going to teach it? A coach who forgets that the Stanley Cup isn't in the building? A parent who thinks "Johnny" is going to the NHL? Unlikely! As for all 18-year-olds that are drafted going to pro hockey. You want to see a strength and size difference? Compare an 18-year-old junior player to a 25-year-old man playing in the AHL or NHL. Now that's a strength, speed and size difference. So you are saying that on May 15 of this year, it's okay for a player drafted four weeks later to play junior, but on June 15 he is ineligible? I do not agree, and in most cases, it's no better. The Cormier hit was idiotic. Age and preparation for pro hockey do not come into play here. He made a colossal blunder and should play accordingly. No hockey, QMJHL or AHL (when his junior team is done) this year.
Ray, as I'm sure you know, there's been a bit of fuss this year over whether and when the Habs will name a new team captain, and who it should be. As a fan, I'm kind of puzzled over why it matters at all, especially when the captaincy is awarded by management rather than voted on by the players. What does a team captain actually do in today's NHL? Do teams need a designated captain?
Not all captains are awarded solely by management - often player input is taken in. I do believe a team should have a captain, if only to avoid the "too many cooks in the kitchen" problem. Often, it is obvious who the leader of the team is and players know it. You can't just slap a letter on a guy's chest and have that make him a leader. (Hello, Alexei Yashin - that guy really ‘spoke' leadership, huh?) In Montreal, I think there are three choices. Andrei Markov seems at the top of the list, followed by Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri. In Montreal, I would want my captain to not be shy - too much attention would make that job seem like going to the dentist if you were not comfortable with the scrutiny.
Ray, what is wrong with Luke Schenn this year? Don't give me the whole, 'it's his sophomore year slump.' His play this year is completely different. Last year he was heralded as the next Scott Stevens, he is beginning to look like the next Aki Berg or even Cory Cross. Has Leaf management pushed the envelope too far or what? What can they or should they do in order to get him back on track?
I won't give you the "sophomore slump" thing. A little bitter are we? And whoever heralded him as the next Scott Stevens was a fool! Stevens averaged 45 points and 200 penalty minutes in the first 3 years of a Hall of Fame career. Luke Schenn might not have been the best defenceman on his junior team in Kelowna (Tyler Myers is better with the puck), Schenn was just miles more physically mature. I see Luke as a 3-4 defenceman with not a lot of offensive upside, but an effective defender. This is not an easy gig - but Schenn will be better with more experience. He is only 20 years old.
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