Through 10 games I have to say that I'm not at all surprised at the Flames performance. A little of this and a little of that on their way to a 4-5-1 record, good enough to sidle up to the basement dwellers of the West.
For any fans with playoff hopes, some of the facts don't look that pleasing to this point. According to the Flames strength of schedule, calculated based on the opponents W-L record on the date of their game; the average game has been against opponents with a points percentage (just total points earned / total points available) of .570. Over the past 3 NHL seasons, that equates to about the average points percentage of the 10th place finisher in the West. So, to come out of that 10 game stretch (7 of which were at home) with a sub-500 record has to be disheartening. Of course, it's early, and 10 games in we're only now starting to get the idea of what kind of teams everyone has, so that has to be taken into consideration.
The Flames next test is a pair of mini road trips where they'll play 5 of the next 6 away from the 'dome, and against pretty solid competition.
Tonight - it's Motown, a team projected to finish among the top teams in the West. They currently sit just above the Flames in the standings and with the Flames coming off possibly their most lackluster game of the season, Brent Sutter is searching for a spark.Most of the Flames blogosphere has been more than a tad perplexed with the way Sutter has divvied up the minutes this year. Deploying the Jokinen line in offensive situations and matching up the Iginla line against stiff competition, something that's been proven over and over again to be detrimental to the success of the team and to Jarome's stat line.
Well, get ready gang because ol' Sutter's got a treat for us tonight. Reaching back into his bag of tricks - Sutter is set to bring back the ghost of Darryl past and reunite Iggy with Jokinen.
Normally, I'd be quite up in arms over this move as we pretty much know they don't work well together. But, given the current situation of the Jokinen line facing weaker competition and with Glencross and Olli continuing to work well together, this could just be the answer to seeing some production out of the captain. I'm not going to hold my breath, but it's possible that getting Iggy into some favorable circumstances, regardless or his linemates, could help.
Here are the projected lines according to Flames.com: You'll also notice Sutter split the Gio/Hannan pair as well.
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay - Brendan Morrison - Lee Stempniak
Rene Bourque - Roman Horak - David Moss
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman
Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Scott Hannan - Anton Babchuk
Mark Giordano - Cory Sarich
And, for the hometown Red Wings:
Jiri Hudler - Pavel Datsyuk - Danny Clearly
Johan Franzen - Henrik Zetterberg - Todd Bertuzzi
Justin Abdelkader - Darren Helm - Valtteri Filpulla
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Mike Commodore
Jonathan Ericsson - Brad Stuart
We've seen the Flames go into Joe Louis arena and steal games before, but I don't have a great feeling about tonight's matchup and Vegas agrees, listing the Wings as -200 favorites. This is a bad-timing game for Calgary with Detroit struggling overall, but maintaining a solid home record (3-1-1) and needing the win nearly as much as the Flames.
Not to just point out the blatantly obvious, but without a noticeably better effort, the Flames will struggle against the Wings.