Lots of talk about learning curves lately and how the players are still trying to figure out the new system(s). What's been overlooked is the fact that Brent Sutter and co and probably going through a learning curve of their own. A number of Brent's assumptions have been tested through the first 7 games, with some no doubt passing (Jay Bouwmeester is indeed an excellent defensemen) and others, well...not (Olli Jokinen isn't a "#1 center"). As the players figure out what is expected of them on the ice, Sutter will be figuring out what exactly he has in terms of staff and how best to deploy them.
I was asked during my CBC appearance when Brent Sutter might think of breaking up the Iginla/Jokinen duo. My response was, in short: when it starts costing the team some games. Cue a few losses and the new combinations. I'm not sure what Jokinen with the 'stroms is going to accomplish, nor if Iginla is going to continue to see the heavy lifting now that he's with Conroy (my guess: probably) but this is all part of the experiment - now that he's realized he doesn't have a Zach Parise to lean on in Calgary, Sutter's search to properly workable match-ups begins in earnest. Some of that will involve randomization, no doubt, until something clicks and the pieces fall into place. As the process continues, we can only expect (at best) slight, incremental improvements.
Luckily Vancouver has it's own problems. Down one Sedin and one Salo, the Canucks are skating a raw rookie on the first line and have had to shuffle the defense pairings. Via Yankee Canuck of Nucks Misconduct:
Two chief concerns are the layoff and injuries. It's been five days since they beat Dallas so the rust factor is worrisome. We already know their injury problems and the fact the cavalry (Schneider and Demitra) aren't close to returning. As a result, Vigneault has changed his defensive pairings so Iginla and Conroy will see a healthy dose of Mitchell and Bieksa. Vigneault also mixed up the bottom six, bumping slumping Ryan Johnson alongside the equally slumping Wellwood and Bernier. And he's tapped Michael Grabner, first rounder pick from 2006, to replace Daniel Sedin in his first NHL outing tonight. Grabner should be the fastest player out there for both teams (Grabner's faster than Raymond? Really? - ed.), but what that actually equates to is unknown.
So if there's a positive for Calgary, it's that they're facing an experiment. But an experiment that has to come out like caged wolverines unleashed in a petting zoo. They were passive and weak on the puck in the season opener and it cost them. Tonight has to be different if they want the points.
That sounds nice, but Vancouver has been the better team by a couple of miles by my eye through the first few weeks. It'll take a long fall South by them or a sizable improvement by the Flames (or a little of both) for Calgary to come away with the 2 points this evening.