Thursday, November 20, 2008

the beat goes on

Now the Flames, after giving up 6 goals in 3 of their last 5 games, decide that they can play defense against the Avs.

They have looked downright '04 like with the way theyhave shut the Avs down. I was biting my nails and pulling out my (chest) hair (funny on a couple levels if you know me) in the 4-1 win on Tuesday. In case you didn;t wath, the Flames directed 90+ shots at the Avs net in a 60 minute game. 51 were on net, 25 were blocked and the rest missed. This is not including the three posts they hit. After 1, 1-0 Avs, after 2, 1-1. The Flames finally got a goal with about 7 minutes left, got an empty netter by Iginla and a PP goal by Boyd, in that order, in the lat minute to make Budaj's night look way worse than it was, which is to say the best performance I hve seen by a goalie this year.

Tonight a, 1-0, shut down road game.

Shades of '04...... until the next BIG slump.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

New year, same team

Okay, it has been 15 and most of an ugly 16th game and I think it is safe to say that despite the changes the Flames made, the results are no different than last year.

To review, this team started 1-3-1 and Miikka Kiprusoff was at his early season craptacular best, his GAA hovering over 4.00 and his save percentage well below the .900 level. The Flames then rattle off 6 straight wins, most of them in dominating fashion. Kiprusoff's numbers were down in pre-lockout territory during this stretch. As I write, barring a miracle of gigantic proportion (down 5-1 with 6 minutes left to the Hawks), the Flames will have lost 4 of their last 5 and their record a very familiar 8-7-1. Not good enough to be considered anything but an annoyance, not bad enough for them to be completely witten off, and frustating as all hell for the fans.

I'd like to note that I am not of the opinion that Kiprusoff is the main reason the Flames win or lose most games, rather his numbers are reflective of how the team in front of him plays. For example, anyone who did not watch this game tonight would think Kiprusoff had a bad game, yet he has made amny spectacular saves and the Hawks could really have 10 goals. The Flames have been THAT bad.

On nights when things are going well, the Flames truly look like they can be serious Cup contenders. Nights like these last two, you wonder how they even win games.

I do not believe that the talent level is lacking, in fact I would argue that on paper there are not many teams in the NHL that can compare man for man. So what does that leave? It has been 3 plus seasons since the Flames magical run in 2004, when they won games on effort and strong team defense. Every year since then, this team has gotten more offensively talented and seems to have forgotten more and more what made them a team that was a controversial non reviewed goal away from being Stanley Cup champions.

Keep in mind this team has seen three head coaches during this time. Darryl Sutter coached them following the lockout. He felt he had lost the team, so he promoted Jim Playfair to take over. That did not work, so he brought in his old buddy Mike Keenan and the results have been similar. What has stayed the same are the assistant coaches. How has it not occurred that maybe it's time to scrap the guys who the players get most of the messages from? Mike Keenan is more of a motivational/head game coach, not much in the way of X' and O's. Instead they listen to Rich Preston, Jim Playfair and company. Is that really enough to coax the effort needed from this team to play consistantly?

I think the Flames are running out of options and if that doesn't work, you either clean house in the front office, GM + Head Coach, or you make a BIG time roster shake-up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What the hell is going on?

So I sat through "Zherdev fest" on Friday where the Jackets played one solid period then let the Rags beat them to every loose puck and couldn't win a battle in the corner at all.

On to Minnesota where we let the referees decide the game...and the referees and the NHL are never going to take Columbus's side in Minnesota. Between Wes Walz and goal after inconclusive evidence, we have to have a two goal lead in the last minute to get a win up there.

Then tonight. Beat the shit out of the Ducklings all over the ice for 50 minutes, then just give up and lose 3-2 at home. Home in front of about 8,000 fans...nobody showed up. You need wins, points, and fans and decide to play part of a game. The best players on the ice were rookies...Brassard, Vorachek, and Methot. The veterans gave up. We paid Commodore a huge contract to be a leader and teach the team to win tough games. Um, money well spent so far...

This is beyond annoying. This team should be pissed off after what happened in Minny, but they weren't. They don't care, and we're not even 10 games into the season. I can't wait for the rest of the season if this is how it's going to go...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

WTF happened to the Jackets defense??

You can't tell me Ron Hainsey and Dick Tarnstrom were the difference between responsible defense and giving up 21 goals in the first 5 games, including 3 shorties. Team defense was the strength of the team a year ago, but it appears to be the biggest weakness of the team right now. There seems to be a lot of scrambling and losing track of people in our own zone. Too much overplaying? Overcompensating? WTF is going with these guys.

In the meantime, our goalies are looking like crap. I'm sure there are many fans looking at the boxscores and ready to hang the goalies. Some of it is warranted, but 21 goals through 5 games points to way more than goaltending.

What blows is we're finally scoring some goals, almost a goal per game better than a year ago. But, in giving up waaaaay more than a goal a game than we did a year ago, all that offense is buried underneath the shitty defense.

Hitch is known for his defense, and I'm confident he'll get it turned around, but when? How much longer do we watch Klesla and Tyutin struggle in our end? Maybe it's time to put Klesla and Hejda back together, they excelled late last season. Let Commodore and Tyutin make things happen as a pair.

The upside is Kris Russell looks to have matured nicely. The kid is playing great, not tenative at all, and is moving the puck like a 10 year veteran. But, again, overshadowed by all the gaffes his teammates are making.

Hitch has a couple days to get things moving in the right direction before the Canucks are here, followed by the league leading Rangers and a certain Russian kid I'm sure will be ready to put on a show on Friday.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

And so the season is under way...

OK, I'm a bit late to the party. We were in Florida for a week, so I didn't see any of the Jackets first three games. I read all I could on my phone, but that's not the same as watching. So, my first look was last night at home vs. the Preds. Some quick thoughts...

- Holy shit, where is all this offense coming from? I like it, keep it up.

- What the...where'd our defense go? I'm sure it will get there - it's what Hitch does - but would the Fedor Tyutin from the preseason please report to the regular season?

So, we're 2-2, have played some iffy defense, and have taken down Dallas and Nashville. Not bad, but I'm greedy, I want more. Kindly take down the Preds again tonight, boys, and I'll be happier.

Speaking of last night's game, Freddy Modin was an animal last night. I know Nasher's two goals, and captain status, pretty much gave him the #1 star, but Modin was outstanding and maybe should have gotten it himself. He was a one man wrecking crew in the Preds zone last night, hope to see more of that as the season goes along.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Charity Event in London Ontario

The recent London Knights alumni had a skills competition and 4 on 4 game here tonight. Why am I telling you about it you ask? Well, Rick Nash and Marc Methot of the Blue Jackets and Brandon Prust of the Flames were involved.

Here's a list of the 25 players who were there, and their current affiliations, just to show you the kind players that the Knights seem to always find and develop:

Rick Nash - CBJ
Corey Perry - Anaheim
Patrick Kane - Chicago
Sam Gagner - Edmonton
Chris Kelly - Ottawa
Dan Girardi - NYR
Dennis Wideman - Boston
Brandon Prust - Calgary
Kyle Quincey - Detroit
Marc Methot - Ottawa
Chris Kelly - Ottawa
Krys Barch - Dallas
Dan Jancevski - Dallas
David Bolland - Chicago
Rob Schremp - Edmonton
Adam Dennis - Buffalo
Bryan Rodney - Carolina
Alex Henry - Montreal
Gerald Coleman - Anaheim
Danny Syvret - Philadelphia
Dylan Hunter - Buffalo
Drew Larman - Florida
Rob Drummond - signed with Lake Erie, is property of Colorado
Trevor Kell - drafted by Chicago, playing in the ECHL
A.J. Perry - free agent, been to 3 NHL camps, played in Memorial Cup this past year )Corey's brother)

The night started off with a skills competition. Rick Nash was captaining Team White and raced in the relay race. Basically just a sprint down the ice and through pylons on the way back. Nas has great agility but as we all know he is not the fastest skater. He didn't hurt his team as they won.

Nash looks even bigger. The guy is ripped.

Marc Methot was involved in the hardest shot and finished around 4th or 5th. Dan Girardi won with a shot at 150km/h or just over 93MPH. Dennis Wideman was 2nd.

Brandon Prust looked faster than I've ever seen him in the relay, bodes well since he signed a two year, one way deal with the Flames. He also scored two beauties in the 4 on 4.

The 4 on 4 game was about what you'd expect. Team Black won 16-8 in two 30 minute non stop time periods. Nash played hard for the first period, but "played D" the rest of the night, basically floating around and pretending to care about stopping the oncoming 3 on 1.

Some other notes:

- former Wild captain (who hasn't been a Wild captain) Alex Henry scored two of his teams 3 goals (the goalies were awesome), including one after captain Rick Nash chose him to go first in sudden death, LOL.

- Rob Schremp still has awesome moves but still will never be more than a tease. I called this long before he was drafted in junior. A few things I noticed. Every player came out and stretched out and looked like they were preparing for hockey, Schremp was off in one zone practising his lacrosse move. He took slapshots from the hash marks in the 4 on 4 which I'm sure the goalies loved. He's still a hotdog. So glad the Flames did not draft this clown.

- I wish Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner could have played one more year together in London, or at least end up on the same team sometime in their career. These two are unbelievable together. Sam Gagner, as much as I'll hate it, Gagner is going to be a star.

- Danny Syvret should get a shot in Philly. The guy just knows how to play. Not sure why he didn't get much of a shot in Mulletville (Edmonton).

- Wings fans should enjoy Kyle Quincey for years to come.

- Adam Dennis was outstanding in net, Gerald Coleman, not so much. Who is Buffalo's back-up? Dennis may get a shot this year.

- Chris Kelly is fast! I honestly never realized that he has played 243 games in the NHL already. Wow.

- I miss hockey

Friday, July 11, 2008

The dust has cleared...

Well, I think the dust has cleared...

The moves by GM Scott Howson have been pretty well noted, but a quick recap...

Added R.J. Umberger, Mike Commodore, Christian Bachman, Fedor Tyutin, and Kristian Huselius. Gone are Gilbert Brule, Danny Fritsche, and the enigmatic Nikki Zherdev. Still around are Mike Peca and Hitch.

My opinion is we are definitely a stronger club, especially on the back end. Down the middle we're better than we were a year ago, even if R.J. has to move up to play on the top line with Nash, and most likely Huselius.

What the moves didn't really do for me was get me excited about how many goals we're going to score. I still feel we're a player or two short in the scoring department, and shipping off Zherdev put a big blow to that goal total. Especially considering the move netted two mid-range defensemen.

On the blue line, Howson didn't net the big, numer one, puck-moving, power-play-quarter-backing defenseman. We lost Hainsey, who wasn't that guy - and in my opinion iffy in our own zone at best - but didn't really add a guy who put the puck on net like Ronny. Overall the blue line is upgraded, and should be getting the puck out of our zone. Nashville pulled the whole "overhaul the blueline" thing a few years ago, and it worked pretty well for them. And they found Kimmo Timmonen in the process.

Even though we didn't get the big #1 d-man, and are still a scorer short, I still can't help but get exicted about the upcoming season. First off, I'm a fan, so there's always some hope in the offseason.

First of all I'm excited for this season because Howson and Hitch seem to be building an actual team rather a collection of individuals. One by one, Howson's moves make you scratch your head, especially the Zherdev one. But, the overall result is going to be a stronger defensive team, and a team more committed to playing the system Hitchcock has in place. So, while there is much dissention on message boards, we don't know how the team will fare on the ice this fall at all. This is the most change any of us have seen to the line up since we participated in the expansion draft.

Secondly, we look to have two or three rookies coming in that aren't being rushed, that have the playmaking ability that made them top draft picks, and won't have the deer in the headlights look on their face all season. Brassard looks to be a lock at center at this point, and it's three years after he was drafted, so he's got some seasoning. He's also got about 15 more pounds on him since we saw him in January. Add Voracek to the mix, and possibly even Filatov, and could the Jackets be this year's version of the Kane and Toews show in Chicago last year? From a fan stand point, it's about our turn, isn't it?

The slow time of the offseason is almost upon us, so things will drag. But once again, for the umpteenth summer in a row, I'm again looking forward to what happens on the ice in September.