Another week in the season is done, and with that comes today's look at the Flames and a few things that caught my eye around the league. In this installment, the Captain breaks out, injuries hit the Bruins, and Robert Sirois opens a can of worms.
I'm a major college football fan, and on Saturday I watched the defending national champion Florida Gators hang on for a home win they didn't exactly deserve over Arkansas. During that game, SBN's Spencer Hall (aka Orson Swindle of EDSBS) tweeted this:
This is game is Florida messin' with Sasquatch. Sasquatch knocks your golf cart over in the end.
I'll have to confess that during the penalty-ridden stretch of last night's 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets where Calgary went more than 20 minutes without a shot, I was reminded of that very point. The Flames have shown a disturbing tendency to let teams regain a foothold in games they should put away, but to their credit they were able to put a decent third together. Steve Mason gave them some help as well, with the Phaneuf and Sjostrom goals not being the best.
That's still a hell of a play by Sjostrom. Great take on the pass, and enough wit to come up with Plan B.
In the aftermath, Brent Sutter compared Sjostrom favourably to Curtis Glencross. Nice if it happens. He's certainly got some tools, and his signing could be another in Darryl Sutter's recent run of good work finding players that other teams didn't quite see the value in. Bourque and Glencross were, and are, major contributors to the Flames, and if Dawes and Sjostrom pan out it could be four of those types of players added in two years. For a team as top heavy salary-wise as the Flames, finding cheap help of that sort is a must if they hope to be competitive.
The other story last night was the break out of Jarome Iginla. A terrific shot for a goal, two assists, and the sort of overall effort more reminiscent of his best was a welcome sign. I don't know if the pairing is any long term solution, but teaming him with Conroy seems to have gotten him out of his funk for now. They do seem to be comfortable together, and having Glencross riding shotgun never hurts any line.
In slightly related news, Rick Nash's evolution from soft-minute scorer to elite player under Ken Hitchcock gets a going over by Eric Francis. I was struck by this in particular:
"If you can't put your top player out there against the other teams' top players, you're not going to win very many games," said Hitchcock of the Nash he inherited years back.
Around the West:
In a story advising that the Oilers were kept away from the rink to minimize the effects of a flu bug, Tom Renney made note of something that gets occasionally overlooked by hockey people out East: the travel Western teams suffer changes the way teams approach practice time between games. It's a competitive disadvantage, period.
Minnesota has gotten off to a slow start, but Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune notes that several of the wounded Wild are on the mend. As well, Mikko Koivu has been named captain. I don't know if it will have any effect on keeping him in Minny, but he's certainly worthy based on his on-ice work.
The Avalanche have been the feel-good story of the first few weeks, with excellent goaltending from Craig Anderson at the forefront. The 'Lanche have also made a decision on the status of their 18 year olds. Matt Duchene and Ryan O' Reilly are staying up, and relative to the other options Colorado has, maybe it isn't bad. I looked at Avalanche forwards who have played 5 games to this point, and they aren't being sheltered:
Matt Duchene: O/D faceoff ratio 46.4% (5th of 11), QComp 1st of 11, Relative Corsi 2nd of 11, EV -4
Ryan O' Reilly: O/D faceoff ratio 36.6% (10th of 11), QComp 4th of 11 Relative Corsi 4th of 11, EV +5
I'd bet the EV SV% behind them is out of sight because Anderson has been so good, but relative to the other players on the team, they haven't looked out of place. They're 18, so if they hit the wall, Colorado's stuck for the year, but unless Anderson ends up as the Hart winner the Avalanche aren't likely to make the playoffs at any rate. It's always tricky because some guys are too good for junior before they can head to the AHL, but likely shouldn't be full-time NHLers either.
Alex Frolov has had a falling out of sorts with Terry Murray and Dean Lombardi, with the Russian getting the press box treatment in Dallas Monday night. Battle of California's Rudy Kelly wants Frolov to be traded, but it's based on love, not hate. Some players don't fit in every scenario. If Lombardi is serious about moving the impending UFA, he'll find a market.
Rudy's a funny dude under normal circumstances, and even in his time of discontent, he unloaded this gem over at From the Rink:
It would be funny if the Leafs showed up at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence and were turned away, and when they asked why the manager just pointed at the sign.
In actual news, the Bruins have had several changes this week. Chuck Kobasew gone, Dan Paille in, Lucic out for 4-6 weeks, and now, Marc Savard is on the shelf for at least a month. Not every year is a fairly tale, is it?
The champs also had a tough night. The on-ice result was fine, with the Pens running over St. Louis 5-1, but Sergei Gonchar has a wrist injury that will keep him out for six weeks. The Penguins struggled without him last year, and their turn around happened when he returned, Bylsma's good work noted.
The future Winnipeg Jets :P, aka the Thrashers, are in contract talks with their meal ticket. The Falconer highlights an interview with Iyla Kovalchuk. It's pretty wide-ranging, and beyond discussion of his status, includes some pointed remarks regarding the Olympics and the current state of the NHLPA. Atlanta really needs to keep the guy to send a message that they plan on winning some day, and I do note that Ray Ferraro's a fan of his former teammate.
Finally this week, former player Robert Sirois has sparked some conversation with his book, claiming that Quebecois hockey players are discriminated against. Tyler Dellow has a look at the matter, and via The Cheap Seats comes a story on the IIHF website that attempts to debunk Sirois' claims. I'll leave any interpretations one way or another as an exercise for the reader.
That's all for this week. If anything else has caught your eye, the comments are open.