Monday, August 14, 2017

Flames Then and Now

I dare say the Flames'  defense has never been so highly vaunted since 1989. Most people are putting the Flames defense in the top four in the League. Some say as high as second in the League just behind the Preds blue line.  How good is this defense? I think excellent, but only time will tell how good they are.

So, I thought I would compare the 1989 team with this year's defensive corps. Which defense is better? This is obviously subjective, but let's have a look:

1989 Flames

Al MacInnis

Maybe the best dman on the Flames ever.  Al had three 20-goal seasons as a defenceman.  Although this was in a different era of hockey, twenty goals is comparable to fifty goals as a forward.  Al was a consistent all-star while with the Flames.

Gary Suter    

A terrific playmaking defencemen who would have been number one on most teams. But because Al, Gary never got any of the limelight. That suited Gary just fine.

Jamie Macoun

A steady stay home defencemen who you could always rely on. Jamie knew his limitations and rarely got caught out of place. Jamie was the player who blocked the shot when needed.  He was a stable influence on the defense to calm things down.

Brad McCrimmon

Brad was a solid defenceman with some offensive punch. Mostly on the ice to cover up mistakes.  An excellent penalty killer with a no nonsense mentality.

Rob Ramage   

His best years were with the Blues. By the time he got traded to the Flames, he was a service defenceman.  He was mostly there to fill a hole on the defense.  And he did. A solid dman who could be relied on in the defensive zone.

Dana Murzyn

A number six defencemen who played limited minutes.  Nothing more nothing less. He did what was expected of him. The only thing was, there not much expected of him.

2017 Flames

Mark Giordano 

The leader, the heart, and soul of the team.  Mark has been so steady for so long. When the Flames needed a hit, goal, or play, Mark is their man. He does everything well on the powerplay and penalty kill.  Most offensive dmen lack the defensive play. Mark does not.

TJ Brodie

TJ is a gifted young defenceman who can distribute the puck with accuracy. He is a solid, playmaking defenseman who can cover up his mistakes with his speed.  He could be as high as a number two on most teams. In Calgary, he is a three or four guy.

Dougie Hamilton

Dougie can do it all for the Flames.  An excellent, all around defencemen.  Dougie is involved in all aspects of the game, his slapshot highly underrated. He is used as the number one powerplay unit with Gio.  He is a slick, playmaking defensemen who can pass with the best of them.

Travis Hamonic

The highly-touted ex- New York Islander will fit right in.  The key point is Travis does not have the pressure of being the man.  He is a second pairing defenseman. He will flourish in his role. No pressure, and all the glory in the lineup this season.

Michael Stone 

In ninety percent of the League, Michael would be the second pairing defencemen. Unfortunately for him, he is on the Flames, which puts him as a number five defencemen.  Michael is not a flashy player, but he is consistently playing with in his strength. Rarely does he play out of his game, which is the main reason the Flames re-signed him.

Matt Bartkowski/Rasmus Andersson 

Whichever one gets the job will have Stone as a teacher. Matt is the most stable.  Meaning more experienced and more predictable.  Andersson is the more talented but maybe makes more mistakes. Either way, you get what you get in sixth defensemen.

Conclusion

There you have it. I feel the "now" defense is very close to any team in the League.  The only reason I would be leaning toward the "then" team is Al Macinnis.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Here we go again, same old, same old

I keep dreaming of a right winger, but the Flames management doesn't seem to cooperate. Every year, I keep hoping the Flames will address the issue. Instead, they leave a gaping hole year after year. It isn't brain surgery.

We need a right winger with Mr. Gaudreau and Mr. Monahan. Having a slick forward with skill and the hockey know-how would be a big asset. He does not have to be a superstar, just a winger with some skill. No offense to Ferland, but what the Flames need is a player who can play with Gaudreau and Monahan.

What are the qualifications?

HOCKEY IQ

He must be able to think ahead of Sean and Johnny. To be successful, he must be able to figure out where he should be. If he can be in the position to score, the other two forwards will get him the puck. Gaudreau and Monahan are constantly evolving; our right winger must evolve with them.

SPEED.

The right winger has to have some speed to at least to in the same zone as Johnny and Sean. The winger has to be fast enough that he can turn a 2-on-2 into a 3-on-2. Johnny or Sean need another target.

NO STONE HANDS

The winger has to be able to finish. Gaudreau and Monahan both have the ability to pass at anytime to anyone. It will do them no good if they continue to see the winger but he cannot finish the passes. The ability to convert some of the chances is vital.

DEFENSIVE RESPONSIBLE

Our winger has to have some defensive responsibility. There will be a few times where he will have to cover up for Monahan and Gaudreau. That happens when a player is as imaginative as Gaudreau. Once in a while, there is going to be a bad pass or Monahan and Gaudreau will not be on the same page.

The Flames were an inconsistent hockey team last year. In fact, a ten-game winning streak is the only reason they made the playoffs. They must get more consistent. More than one line must contribute. Last year, the 3M line was the best line and most consistent line. This year, teams will not be caught off guard. It is vital the Flames get more out of their first line. Monahan and Gaudreau must be more consistent.

Conclusion

The defense must be more responsible. The breakdowns in coverage must improve. The forwards must come back to help. Team defensive play has to improve massively.

The goaltending is a gamble. Smith and Lack have to return to their glory years. They don't have to be outstanding, but giving up one bad goal a game has to be a bad memory never repeated. They do not have to be perfect. The ability to come up with a save when needed would be nice. The tandem cannot be the reason for losses. Nothing brings down momentum like a bad goal.




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Flames get Hammer, Smith, and announcing Mr. Foo

As we left the draft weekend, the Flames grabbed the big prize.  So now what? The Flames wanted a number four dman and a new starting goaltender. The Flames get a mobile puck-moving responsible defender In Travis Hamonic (Hammer). Travis could be a number two, which puts the Flames into the elite defensive corps in the NHL.

The Flames acquired Mike Smith for two reasons. One is the familiarity between him and General Manager Brad Treliving.

Brad has seen Smith at his best and his worst. Brad knows Mike as Canada's  goaltender in the championships year after year. He knows Mr. Smith carried the Coyotes on his back into the playoffs a couple of years back. The problem is, everyone knows him as a bad goalie of a bad team.  Mike was inconsistent last year, but to be honest, he had company. The Coyotes did not give him the support he needed last season. If he can be the goalie that Brad sees, the Flames could be in for a memorable season.

So what's next? In my opinion, the Flames have needed a right winger for some time. As I write this, the Flames announced the signing of Spencer Foo. The prospect from Union College was coming off a career year with 26 goals and 62 points. He is a potential sniper who is fast and smart; a player who might be the missing link the Flames need to take that next step. They need a sniper who can score on a consistent basis.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Who the Flames Will Pick

It is this time of year, the time I make a complete fool out of myself. It is time to pretend that I am a professional scout, and it's your time to laugh at me for making a fool out of myself.

This year, the Flames do not have the second or third rounder.  So I will just do the first rounder and a fourth rounder.

With the First round selection, I predict the Flames pick:

Klim Kostin 

A big, rugged, right winger who will eat people up in front
of the net.  He has adequate offensive skills and will put up points the dirty way.  Kostin makes very strong plays with no fear. He abandons all caution to the wind. He is a big power forward who just might pay off. Flames will have to patient with him.

With the fourth round, the Flames pick:

David Farrance

A highly skilled defencemen who can pass with the best of them.  Potential top four dman and a power play specialist.  Farrance is a rocket from the point, which will cause torment to most goalies.  He has a fairly accurate shot and is a pinpoint passer, which will help the Flames tremendously in the future.

Next picks, I am just listing them:

Fifth round, Brady Lyle D

Sixth round, Ryan Hughes C

Seventh round, Saku Vesterinen

This and that 

The Flames will no doubt look for a right winger and a puck-moving defencemen. Also, look for the Flames to be busy during the draft. The Flames may very well get additional picks.

The players that comes to mind are Nate Schnarr, a slick center with some skills and Aleksi Heponiemi, a small, talented forward who moves with the best of them. The Flames might very well step in and grab him.

The Flames might be looking for that top-six forward. I have not heard any names; they are keeping things close to the chest. They are getting tons of offers for Bennett. Not shopping, but listening to offers.

Here is Dearen's opinion on who the Calgary Flames are going to pick for number one:

Who will the Calgary Flames select at #16 in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft?

You mean the draft? Like the expansion draft? No? Oh...

I predict the Flames select Juuso Valimaki, the Captain of the U18 Finland team who is a solid two-way defenseman. Valimaki scored 19 goals for the Tri-City Americans this past season, yet when you watch him play you feel like he can produce much more. Juuso measures six feet tall with his weight hovering around 200 pounds at the age of 18. Juuso's strengths are his solid skating abilities and his intelligence in his own end. Flames assistant Craig Conroy was quoted as saying this is a "character" draft, and Juuso has plenty of character. Juuso Valmaki has been compared to the likes of Mattias Ekholm and Erik Johnson. At #16 the Calgary Flames are proud to select Juuso Valmaki.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Flames and the Expansion Draft

Are you excited about the Vegas team?

The only thing that excites me is losing Bouma. The Flames will either lose one of their young defenders or a third line forward. I desperately don't want to lose Alex Chiasson. His offensive contributions come in handy.  I hope it will be Lance Bouma; he is an easy replaceable fourth line forward. But unfortunately, the only way that happens is if the Flames arrange a deal for that to happen. Who do you think the Flames are going to lose in the expansion?

Next, who are my picks? There are many options. I feel it is down to four players. I am sure the experts will give you more options, but they are wrong!  That is my story, and I am sticking to it.

My picks, or who I think the Golden Knights will consider:

Matt Stajan

The Golden Knights may choose Matt for his experience.  He is an excellent penalty killer, who gets the job done.  Matt is a solid fourth line Centre. In fact,  he might be the third line Centre.  He will be a great example for the younger kids.

Alex Chiasson 

Alex was a pleasant surprise in my eyes. I was not expecting his twelve goals.  His size will help the Golden Knights on the powerplay, and he will not let the smaller players get pushed around.  His best quality is the garbage goals he can get in there with the best of them.  He could be a second line winger on the expansion team.

Brett Kulak

A solid chance in the NHL. I honestly believe that Brett will be in the NHL on a regular stint. He is a solid defender who has some spunk.  With the Flames, he is probably a fifth to seventh defencemen.   He could pitch in with some offense skill.  There is lots of time for Brett to develop the perfect fit for expansion team who can be patient with him.

Tyler Wotherspoon

Wotherspoon never truly developed into the offensive defencemen people thought he would. But if you do not make Tyler into something he isn't, you still have a young defenseman with some defensive smarts.  If the Knights are looking for a young, stay-home defenseman, Tyler is their man.

The Flames will be making some changes in the off-season.  So I thought I would pick Dearen's brain to see what some of the solutions could be:

Q: Who will be the Flames starting goaltender next season? 

A: I want to answer this question with two answers. No one will be the Flames legitimate starting goaltender next season and Mike Smith. I would love to say a young goalie like Grubauer or Raanta, but those two goalies are not proven goalies and may not even be available. Treliving and Brian Burke appear to like veteran goalies, and for that reason, I believe Mike Smith will be the Flames next attempt at a #1 goaltender. Smith is 35 years old and has a cap hit of $5,666,667 for the next two seasons. Mike Smith has had some injury woes, and that is why the Flames will bring back Chad Johnson as the backup. You don't like my answer? I don't like my answer either. However, the acquisition cost likely makes more sense than an M.A. Fleury, who may not accept a trade to Calgary. Another name that I will mention is Jaroslav Halak (he showed well in the World Cup). I know he was waived last year and I know the majority of people will tell you he is not a #1 goalie. And they are right. I hope you realize that I am telling you that the Flames will not acquire a #1 goaltender. The Flames will either have to make a trade and take a risk on a goalie like Grubauer, Raanta, or Condon, or acquire/sign a guy like Mike Smith, Steve Mason, Jonathan Bernier or Ryan Miller and hope they find their past success. I predict that Treliving goes with familiarity and acquires Mike Smith and signs Chad Johnson to back him up.

Q: Who will fill the void at Right Wing next season for the Flames?

A: Brouwer!! Oh, wait that was last year when Brad Treliving overpaid a third line winger and expected him to fill in our top 6 roles. I love Ferland, but he does not belong on our top two lines.

If we look at Free Agency, we see names like Radulov, TJ Oshie and after that, it drops to names like Vrbata, Justin Williams, and Patrick Eaves. Radulov and Oshie are both 30 years old and are going to want term and money. I am not convinced Calgary has a realistic chance to land either guy. Radulov will end up back in Montreal while rumors suggest Oshie goes back to Washington. Eaves had a crazy good year and is going to wait for that one team that will overpay him on a 3-4 year deal. I hope Calgary is not that team. I just don't see a legit top two line right winger that can help the Flames in free agency.

The Flames may need to get creative and look outside of the NHL. How about Valerie Nichushkin? I am not entirely sure if he can opt out of his final year with CSKA Moscow, but perhaps you can speak to his agent and work out a deal with Dallas. Nischushkin made it clear he was not happy with Dallas and returned home. Maybe a new coach in Dallas changes that? Nischushkin shoots left but plays the right wing. The 22-year-old has the size and the skill. Other names that I will throw out there are Nikita Gusev and Evgeny Dadonov. The Flames will have to get creative and take a risk, and perhaps they look in Europe to find a crafty winger to play with Gaudreau and Monahan.

Q; Should the Flames consider signing Jarome Iginla?

A: No. I love Jarome just like any other Flames fan. Jarome Iginla will be 40 years old and although he had a little success in LA, his best days are far behind him. The Flames want to play an up-tempo puck possession style game, and Iginla does not fit that style.

As much as we can use a right winger and need a goaltender, I am curious to see what the Flames do on defense. Brad Treliving and Brian Burke have recently been quoted saying that you need to have six very capable defensemen to be successful. Right now the Flames have three legitimate NHL defensemen under contract in Giordano: Hamilton and Brodie. A lot of work needs to be done on the back end.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Calgary Flames: The Questions, the Answers

Now that the season is over; we can sit back and ask ourselves what is next. What are the Flames priorities? Obviously, the Flames have a wish list. Guess what? I have one too.  Since this is my party, my list is more important.

So here is my list in no particular order, of what I would do if I were the General Manager. Watch out Brad; I am gunning for your job.

NUMBER ONE GOALIE

Antti Raanta

The Rangers backup is a steady goalie who ready for more responsibility. Antti is a steady goaltender who plays the angles and will give the Flames a chance to win every game.

I love Antti. He is consistent. He is who he is.  You know what you are getting—a starting, capable goalie.

TOP SIX RIGHT WINGER

Patrick Eaves

Patrick is a sniper who would fit in perfectly with Johnny and Sean.  Eaves is a smooth skater who thinks with his head. He would be a perfect stop-gap. Flames could probably, sign him for a 2-year window, long enough for prospects to come in. The native Calgarian should be brought home.

NUMBER FOUR DEFENCEMAN

Kyle Alzner

Kyle is the best option for the Flames. He is a steady, dependable stay home dman. Kyle would cut down on the defensive mistakes.  He would bring a stable veteran influence in the dressing room.  He leads by example. He would a great help to the top three in the lineup.

These players would not fill all the holes, but they would go a long way to making the Flames a better hockey team next season.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Flame trade deadline

I understand how everyone looks at the deadline as insignificant.  I can completely understand that it was, well, pretty boring.  But dare I say that if we take a deeper look, it was significant for the Calgary Flames players. What I am getting at is the message it gives the players: "We believe in you."

Most people seem to think that if you don't bring in a stud, you are sending the wrong message. But I think if it's not broke, why fix it? The Flames management believes in this team and its chemistry.   Chemistry is vital to a team's success.

So what do we get in Lazar? We get a young forward with tons of potential. What I like most about Curtis is his speed. He will fit right in. Curtis has a quick release and is an excellent passer. His weakness is in the faceoff circle. For that reason, I think he will be on the wing.   He is worth the gamble. A second rounder plus a dman who never plays is not too steep of a price. This year's draft is pretty weak.

The other thing I am pleased with is the acquisition of Stone to fill a weak spot in the line-up. Before the Stone trade, the Flames were extremely weak on number 4-6.  Think I am overestimating him? Look at their record since he was acquired!  Bringing in Stone to solidify the defense might just have saved their season.