Before the game began, my hopes for a win were rather muted given the chaos surrounding the team. I expected a disorganized, perhaps frenetic effort from the Flames but in truth they didn't even manage that. The infusion of four fresh bodies resulted in the same bland, lackluster effort the club has showcased a number of times at the Dome recently, culminating in a 18-shot, zero-goal snoozer of an evening.
On display were now well-familiar issues with this iteration of the Calgary Flames: an inability to control the puck in the neutral zone, an inability to draw penalties and, most galling of all, an inability to get pucks on net. The Flames actually marginally won the possession battle at ES last night. However, Emery had to stop just 32% (16 of 49) of the pucks Calgary fired at him. It's like the team's trainers do something strange to the players sticks. It's almost inexplicable at this point.
Also of note, Jarome Iginla played most of his night against Carter, Gagne and Pronger - and he got murdered. Stajan, Iginla's most regular linemate, didn't fare any better. The fault lies at the feet of both Butter and Iginla himself: the former for sending out his captain against the other team's best without the best possible linemates and the latter for playing some passive, uninspired hockey. Iginla's signature move has become skate into the zone, get pushed wide, stop, mis-handle the puck and then give it away. It was this very play that led to the back-breaking Claude Giroux tally last night and he does it more than once every, single game. He was, once upon a time, a guy who could do a lot with less but those days are clearly in the past. At some point, the Flames head coach has to realize this.
Overall, the new kids played well enough. Stajan was thrown head first into the deep end of the pool, so I'm not going to hold his rough night against him. Niklas Hagman was one of the few players who showed poise and creativity with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone while White had a steady enough evening once he settled down. Mayers took an ill-deserved penalty, but his ability to skate was in evidence at least.
Of course, the real story (as predicted) ended up being the Jokinen-Kotalik trade which was consummated after the game. The move has created more questions than it answered, so the Flames community - either breathing fire or waiting with baited breath - is buzzing like a disturbed wasps nest. And for good reason. Ales Kotalik is a fairly defective NHL hockey player - so was Jokinen, granted, but at least his contract ends in the off-season. Chris Higgins is something of reclamation project who may land anywhere on the roster, but he's really not the issue here.
There are really two schools of thought on the subject:
1.) Sutter has basically lost his marbles and has gone jeans model shopping. Even this doesn't make sense on it's face because Kotalik's counting numbers are dreadful this season and, outside of one alright year, have never been all that impressive. He is a pure PP/shoot-out specialist. Fleury would have been the same for this roster, but he would have cost less than 1/3rd the price.
2.) Sutter has another, bigger trade up his sleeve. Looking over the Flames now forward-bloated roster, it's hard to ignore the fact that there's a potential quantity for quality swap coming. Again, though, assuming Kotalik is part of the deal is problematic: who else would want him? And if he isn't part of the hypothetical trade, you're again stuck with his dreadful contract ($3M/year) for another two seasons. That's spending 60% of Jokinen's cap savings on similar (probably worse) player till 2012. That's Rene Bourque's raise.
It's almost like being stuck in David Lynch movie. Everything seems so purposeful, but none of it makes a lick of sense. I'll choose, for now, to forgo the torches and pitchforks to see if Sutter indeed has another swap in mind. If so, this all may soon be a funny afterthought. if not, then Lynchian nightmare.