If you have read none of my rambling recaps over the course of the year, this is the one to read.
The last two games to me against the Stars have summed up the issues the Flames have had for the last 3 years. An internal tension on the team that has existed since Sutter arrived and never gone away.
We can sum it up with Iggy vs Sutter or we can sum it up with the creative offense vs the structured defense. We can sum it up in a number of ways as a team divided or as a "House Divided" - that is a reference to a famous speech by Abraham Lincoln in 1858, just three years before the Civil War broke out.
It is weird moving to another country and becoming aware of stuff the people around you have known since they were children. One of the great lines of the speech is simply - "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
The Flames have had the rare opportunity of playing two games back to back against the exact same team, this provides a great comparable. The game of Mar 24th they lost 4-1. Last nights game of Mar 26th they won 5-4.
Now right off the bat here and before I get into it all I want to state this is NOT a "Jarome has an attitude and doesn't want to do what the coach tells him to do" kind of nonsense article full of speculation. I believe the Flames Vets are professional and are trying to do what B Sutter has told them to do. I just don't think they can successfully do it or that they do it well. Something along the lines of "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."
In short I put the issue on Sutter having a one-size fits all system that every player has to fit into and he has failed to make adjustments to utilize his Vets properly over the years. I just want to get that out of the way right away.
First off - fair warning, I do not watch hockey with a calculator.
Just the old beer in hand - macro perspective and I had a distinct impression of two different styles of game against the exact same team here. The fact that it was the exact same team makes me more confident making the macro-claim.
In Dallas the Flames went on to lose 4-1, they actually played Sutter hockey. Defensively responsible and they even had a pretty damn good game despite the score. In fairness it was a game they didn't really deserve to lose and certainly not by a score like that. It was the same structured game we have seen for quite some time now with varying degrees of success. Some players have not been able to prosper under the system.
Last night in Calgary the Flames did not play a structured game in my view and they won 5-4. Despite Kipper letting in a terrible goal to start the game.
I'm not going to break the game down for you goal by goal because I would rather lay-out the macro analysis. Here is the NHL's recap and Flames Nations recap by the numbers.
The game last night had Miikka Kiprusoff turn aside 35 of 39 shots and turn in a 0.897 SV%. Lehtonen faced 35 shots and turned aside 30 for a 0.857% SV%.
Certainly not a good night for two quality goaltenders was it?
What was interesting to me was how wide-open the game got for the Flames, their offense really came alive in a creative way. The PP began to flow and three PP goals went in. The Flames defense started pinching with Gio often going deep. This lead to some goals against as well and penalties but with one you take the other.
It was one of the worst games I have seen Jay Bouwmeester play with him looking totally lost at some points positionally. Usually one of the strongest D men he really seemed suddenly uncertain while Mike Cammalleri, Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay swarmed up the ice. Even the third line of Comeau, Stajan and Stempniak threatened consistently.
Meanwhile Glencross, Jokinen and Moss looked weaker to me and they were all -2 by the end of the game.
Anton Babchuk, *gasp* also came to life in this game, with 3 shots and an assist on one goal, he got 17 min of ice time. That is a downside unless you are now playing to his strength as an offensive D men which this game was.
From a offensive perspective this was a fun game to watch, for the fan with the defensive eye to the game it was one they watched with Eyes Wide Shut - so to speak.
The House Divided
For the Flames since Brent Sutter took the job I think a tension has existed. A house divided and we have clearly seen the two sides in the last two games.
I speculate that there is several players who feel the Flames best chance of success is to play a creative offensive hockey.
These are mainly the Vet forwards who just want the D and Kipper to take care of the rushes coming back at them. I don't think there is any issues with the team being mean to Sutter or purposely trying to undermine him or anything but I think this school of thought definitely exists and always has. We had a good example of it last night.
Some want a creative offensive system, they want to be allowed to roam and do what they have proven they can do.
This part of the team based on what I saw is probably Jarome, Cammy, Tangs, Babchuk.
The other part is the players who have embraced Sutter's system. Lets just call it structured two-way hockey.
This group would be Jokinen, GlenX, Moss, Jbo
Players who I have no idea where they would be and can probably do both is Stajan, Stempy, Gio and the rest - they can probably go either way.
This issue will not likely fester into next season due to Feaster having to make a choice. It is going to be a coaching change or trading Iginla, maybe even at his request.
I don't think Iginla has purposely tried to undermine Sutter or anything like that. I just honestly think the man can not change his game at this stage of his career. Joker did pull it off but he has also highly benefited from a abnormally high shooting percentage from Curtis Glencross this season.
His performance may be much more highly suspect if he was a 35 point player playing the top line on a non-playoff team.
If you require further evidence that Vets are not on the same page of the coach at this juncture listen to these following two interviews.
At certain points in both interviews Sutter talks about how watching the scoreboard out of town shouldn't happen while in Tangs interview he right after the game talks about how he will be looking for the results out of San Jose and Vancouver… It is a small thing, not really noticeable but the message to me is clear...
That tells me the Flames players are taking over at this point. They are going to play their game so the next one should be another offensively charged one, that is my prediction anyway.