Flames Game Day: Stasis

 


Pengrowth Saddledome

7:30 PM MT

Opposition: St. Louis Game Time

TV: Sportsnet West

After a weekend devoted to self-examination, the Flames return to action having vaulted back into 8th without playing a game, thanks to Detroit's loss on Saturday. That occurrence, odd as it might seem, is likely the sort of situation that will await the middle of the pack in the Western Conference on a nightly basis from now until April 11th. In other words, get used to it, because middle of the pack is where Calgary will likely be until further notice. Tonight, they face a team that they should be better than. The fact that they haven't looked the part in their three games thus far is just another indicator of the mediocrity that has enveloped the Flames all season.

What we shouldn't expect is external assistance, because given what we heard over the weekend from the boss, the cavalry isn't coming, at least not in the form of a trade. The points that Darryl Sutter makes are pretty much indisputable regarding the lack of cap space stalling player movement league wide, and as someone who thought that the Flames would try to hang on until March before adding to the roster, his statements are nothing but reinforcement of that belief. I'm still of the mind that Calgary will try to add a forward, and will do everything it can to limit the payout to prospects or the fringe of the roster. In other words, unless they completely tank, Dion Phaneuf is likely a Flame for a while longer. 

Sutter has held that position even as injuries, which have let Calgary be most of the year, have now become a bit of a factor. Nigel Dawes and David Moss are on IR, which really exposes the Flames' forward depth for what it is. Jarome Iginla looks to be slated for duty with Conroy and Glencross again, and as I've mentioned, there's a proper place for those two gents on any team, but it isn't on what passes for your first or second line. Iginla's lack of scoring is a focus of attention, but playing with middling players against good competition doesn't seem like a long term solution to that problem. 

The other thing regarding Iginla's play that jumped out at me when I took a look at the numbers was his inability to get shots 5 v 5:

 

07/08 196 5 v 5 shots in 82 games, 2.4 SPG, overall SOG 338

08/09 189 5 v 5 shots in 82 games, 2.3 SPG, overall SOG 289

09/10 94  5 v 5 shots in 51 games, 1.8 SPG, overall SOG 153 (82 G pace would be 148 5 v 5, 246 overall)

That's right off the cliff, and given how the team is built, they can't afford it. Part of this is who he plays with, and part is very likely a matter of his own decline as a player, and neither of those things is certain to turn around. Cheery stuff, I know.

As for the others, Dustin Boyd practiced in Nigel Dawes' spot yesterday, which would make sense. They aren't dissimilar players, and Boyd is likely the best hope to fit with Langkow and Bourque in the short term. Olli Jokinen, Jamie Lundmark and Eric Nystrom seem ready to play again as a unit, and when I was digging around in the 5 v 5 shot numbers, I thought I'd take a look at Joker, since his overall shot totals are down quite a bit since he moved west:

 

07/08 with FLA; 196 5 v 5 shots in 82 games, 2.4 SPG, overall SOG 341

08/09 CGY/PHX; 129 5 v 5  shots in 76 games, 1.7 SPG, overall SOG 236

09/10 with CGY; 116 5 v 5 shots in 51 games, 2.3 SPG, overall SOG 147 (82 G pace would be 186 5 v 5, 236 overall)

Hmm. The big mystery is why Joker's shooting totals on the PP and in the limited time of 4 v 4 are so low. As you can see, his 5 v 5 shot numbers are pretty high, 8th league wide in fact. His lack of goal scoring 5 v 5 is very likely a matter of percentage, shooting 6 % when 5 v 5.

What shocked me is that he has only 31 shots in all other situations, and since he doesn't PK, those situations should, in theory, lend themselves to offence. From what I can glean, it doesn't appear that he has a markedly higher shooting volume/60 on the PP than he does at 5 v 5, and for a guy who made his bones as a big volume shooter on the PP, that just seems really strange. I know that there are only so many shots to go around, but then again, the Flames as a team are quite poor at generating PP shots, as you might well have noticed. That just reinforces my belief that the make-up of the PP units has been flawed all season, and that if you expect Joker to be a useful PP option, he needs to be a primary shooter. He's no better than 3rd best normally, after Iginla and Phaneuf, and that appears to be squandering a potential asset.   

 

The blue appears unchanged, and Kipper should get the nod, with Wednesday or Thursday likely heralding another Spectacular Curtis McElhinney Experience TM  . 

 

The Blues are still treading water, even with the coaching change, and as has been the case all season, it's due to being slightly sub-par at 5 v 5 and a lack of production on the PP. They're as bad as the Flames in that latter regard, wallowing around 16 % for the year. Brad Boyes and Keith Tkachuk had 30 PP goals last season. This year, with 60 % of the schedule in the books, they have 6. Patrik Berglund and David Backes are also well off the pace, and the overall effect has the Blues in 13th place, albeit only six points in arrears of the Flames.

 

The Flames really do have to get the PP going, and I know I've likely written some variation of that sentiment nearly every preview since late October. For all their offensive woes at EV, the place that a team can make up some ground is with an extra man, and the Flames are certainly in need of a boost from somewhere. The Blues do have a good PK, so I'll acknowledge this may not be the night for a breakout. I just know that if the Flames don't start generating more when up a man, the chances of them scoring at a overall rate that isn't an embarrassment are not good. 

 

Game time is 7: 30 MT on Sportsnet West

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