Pre-season Game Day: Food for thought

Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks

Game Time: 8 PM MT

Opposition: Nucks Misconduct 

TV: RSN Pacific

Webcast: flames.nhl.com

    canucks.nhl.com

 

In all honesty, I wasn't expecting the Theo show to go much past last night's game. The shoot-out winner was certainly a feel-good moment for everyone, but that aside, his over-all game Thursday night was pretty pedestrian. Last night, as Kent noted in his post game review, there was a better effort from Fleury that has begun to muddy the waters.  He's still not fast, or thinking the game at top speed, or all the other things that would get him a permanent NHL job. But he doesn't utterly suck, and he's showing at least as much as most of the fringe guys trying to make the roster at this point. Tonight, he'll get another chance to continue making a mess of Darryl Sutter's plans when the Flames take on the Canucks at GM Place.

For all the chatter from the team suggesting the Flames were willing to let a one-way deal or two slide down to Abbotsford, money normally talks in these scenarios. Stralman for Kronwall, or Jaffray for Stuart might have been the reasonable expectation for how far the Flames would take that line of thinking. Maybe, at the outside, Mikael Backlund might earn a spot, but if he were to play all year the Flames would be cap-strapped again. There just weren't many scenarios where something genuinely unusual could occur. And the truth is, except for one small exception, that's held. Jason Jaffray and Carsen Germyn have been OK, so Colin Stuart might be in trouble, or maybe Brandon Prust. Staffan Kronwall might be an Abbotsford Heat member later this week. Nigel Dawes has had a so-so audition for a top-six job, and if Curtis Glencross is in the mix to be more than a really good third liner, he certainly did himself no harm last night. Even with that, the farthest someone of the caliber of Glencross would fall would be to the left wing with Craig Conroy. That's all small stuff, incremental things that don't tax the imagination.

 

The small exception, of course, is a middle-aged, undersized, and once again as of last night, yappy gentleman coming from the back of beyond to put himself in the mix. This Fleury stuff, nascent as it may be, was and is a wild card at this point. Pierre McGuire was on The Fan this morning suggesting that Fleury might get as much benefit staying in Calgary as a specialist rather than starting the year in the AHL, because the things he needs to work on won't improve on the farm.

 

The specialist premise is, of course, one that NHL GMs have had no problem wrapping their minds around in the past. The catch is that it's normally guys like Colton Orr or Eric Godard or Brian McGrattan who get that sort of benefit of the doubt. They'd be hard-pressed to be within a million dollar cab ride of the NHL if they couldn't fight, and for all the howling of traditionalists, that skill is mostly semi-arranged sideshow stuff in the league these days. The Stanley Cup champions employed Mr. Godard last year, dressing him for 71 regular season games. His post-season consisted of exactly zero games dressed. If the playoffs are what it's all about, shouldn't the message have been received, loud and clear?

 

Maybe Theo Fleury's adventure will come to a halt after tonight, or limp on for a while in Abbotsford. I can't read it right now, and I'm not sure anyone else can either. My question is, if he can help a team (Calgary or otherwise) for 6-8 minutes a night on the PP, with the odd shift at EV on the fourth line, why should that be considered less valuable than what Andre Roy would have offered the team last year? Roy wasn't completely terrible at hockey last year, but he played all of 5:29 a night. I'm not at all convinced that this little fairytale ends happily every after, but if a team will employ an enforcer type without hesitation, why not a PP specialist? I'd obviously rather have a full-fledged NHL player in every one of the 12 forward and 6 defence positions, but if a team wants to employ a specialist, I'd lean towards the one who can score a goal once in a while. Please note even countenancing this idea has put me in league with Pierre McGuire, so I hope you appreciate the cost to my soul.

 

On to tonight's affair on the coast. As mentioned, Theo Fleury will once again skate with Langkow and Glencross. Olli Jokinen, Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Eric Nystrom and Fredrik Sjostrom are also expected to feature, with Iginla, Phaneuf and Kiprusoff sitting out. I still haven't seen a full roster, so post 'em if you got 'em in comments, and I'll update as soon as I see anything. The other Flames personnel news is that Irving, Palin and Negrin have been assigned to Abbotsford, so the last AHL goalie standing is David Shantz.  Matt Keetley is in tough to even make the AHL team at this point.

 

The opposition will dress some decent forwards and three or four regular defencemen, by the sound of things. Cory Schneider is expected to go the distance in net. Game time is at 8 PM MT, with streaming video on both team's official websites, so fans from Winnipeg west at least should be able to watch. The make-up of the two rosters does suggest that things are getting a bit more serious, as should be expected with only a week and a half until the two squads meet for real on October 1.

 

Update re: coverage 

If you live in BC, you can watch the game on Sportsnet Pacific at 7 PT/8 MT. For fans elsewhere, I have no idea whether the usual blackout of Sportsnet's out of market games applies for the pre-season.

 

Upper-date:

Per the Herald, here's tonight's roster:

 

Dawes-Jokinen-Bourque
Glencross-Langkow-Fleury
Sutter-Lundmark-Sjostrom
Nystrom-Prust-Backlund

Bouwmeester-Regehr
Giordano-Sarich
Pardy-Kronwall

Curtis McElhinney
David Shantz

 

The surprise here is the return of Rene Bourque, who apparently has recovered fully from his off-season ankle surgery.

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