The mid-week review of matters returns to M and G, local difficulties or no. This time around, the Flames examine the wreckage, troubles could be brewing on and off-ice in Tampa, and Carolina begins preparations for the re-build.
Well, we could have done without that. The Flames returned to the ice Wednesday, determined not to wallow in the mud after Monday's fiasco. The boss is still questioning the commitment of his charges, which is a lousy place to find your team 50 games in. I do admire, in a way, the consistency of Brent Sutter when it comes to delivering his message. Whether the team is doing any more than paying lip service to what he's selling is another matter, of course.
On-ice, I was struck by this bit in Randy Sportak's practice report:
Among the drills were refreshers about putting themselves in position to score goals
They've scored 89 times in the last 40 games, so I suppose one might charitably regard the move as a good idea. A bit tardy and all that, but still good, and absent a change in personnel, a very rational approach. As Kent noted in the previous post, they do still have the feel of a team that could use one more guy in the top six, even if they can right things in the near term.
Kipper 5 v 5: NSH 1-19, S.J. 5-27. Season totals; 63-909 .931 SV%. He was off a touch in San Jose, so just like everyone else in that regard.
Oh, goody, the Blackhawks are in town. I suppose if you want to start a turnaround, no better place to get things going. They did lose to the Senators on Tuesday, leading to talk around the team of needing some tightening up in their own end. The Hawks are very good, of course, but if they have a flaw it could be defensive depth and goaltending. They likely have enough firepower to cover things off, which is a nice thing to have in your back pocket, but they do run Brent Sopel out there most nights, so they aren't invulnerable, irrespective of how they may appear against the Flames.
The Oilers spent most of Wednesday night looking like the better team against Vancouver, but they are, at heart, the Oilers. They managed to surrender two PP goals late in the proceedings, falling 3-2 in OT after a shaky penalty call to Denis Grebeshkov. So, in review, not only did they lose, but they gained an unwelcome point in the "Tank for Taylor" turtle derby. It's been some year in Stinktown; they might have lost Ladislav Smid tonight with an upper body injury, which leaves them about two more mishaps from resembling the Germans at Stalingrad, with scads of sick or wounded everywhere and no help on the horizon. Pat Quinn is still under the impression that they could use some old school love and affection, although if they play lousy until April, the long-term state of the team may well benefit.
The Lightning are in neutral at the moment, with a 8-2 pummeling at the hands of the offensively-challenged Rangers just now fading into the rear view. Prize rookie Victor Hedman might have hit the wall, and there's talk of a benching in his future. Tampa struggling on-ice might make them consider moving a few players as the deadline nears, but off-ice issues, as so often has been the case with that franchise, appear to be bubbling to the surface, and Bruce McLeod's story included this interesting passage:
Restructuring the Lightning ownership group with the addition of new capital is a possibility and one that the current Tampa Bay ownership would prefer. But the source said that: "The most likely scenario is a new owner. The League wants to expedite it."
Are there really that many rich guys that want to set fire to piles of money? If so, they should contact Kent or myself, because I'm certain we could help them in that sort of endeavor. I could use a yacht or two, personally, although current conditions in Winnipeg might preclude getting full value from such an item for another four or five months. Mr. Wilson might have to move, since there's scarcely a body of water in Southern Alberta even worthy of a canoe, but I'm certain he'd manage. Or not ask for a yacht. Whatever.
Another team with a potential Flame target come trade time is Tampa's next opponent. The Maple Leafs really should try to tie up Alexei Ponikarovsky, because he's quite useful, but David Shoalts advises that the main target of other teams' affections is Tomas Kaberle. If the Leafs aren't willing to sign the big Ukrainian, they can feel free to send him West.
The Hurricanes have chosen to accept their fate, asking Ray Whitney and Niclas Wallin to waive their no-trade clauses in order to facilitate the re-build. I suspect they'll play along, since they don't appear to be of the same mindset as a few Leafs were two years ago when they balked at a similar request from Cliff Fletcher. I never object to players exercising that right, though. I've moved around a fair bit for work purposes and it wasn't always voluntary, so if a player doesn't want to be uprooted and has negotiated that right in his contract, it's hard to begrudge him, even if it gets in the way of what I might want to see as a fan.
The other move that Carolina made with an eye to the future was the transfer of the club's captaincy from Rod Brind 'Amour to Eric Staal. Old Joe Camel has had a pretty fair career for himself, but it's likely time for this move if Staal wants the C. Leadership isn't always confined to letter-wearers, so we'll see who else the Canes choose to keep around as part of their long-term core.
That's all for this week. Comments are, as always, open for anything you might have noted.