Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good lord, it's worse than we thought

Remember when we were 4-0? Those were the days. After another lacklustre performance in Columbus on Tuesday, Coach Sutter was finally forced to shuffle the proverbial deck. The results: Jarome Iginla is playing on a line with Conroy and Glencross, while Olli Jokinen has been demoted to the third line with Sjostrom and Nystrom. That's right folks, we're paying a third-line centre $5.25 million this season. This isn't even the worst part; the fourth line will be made up of Boyd, Prust, and McGrattan. Poor Boyd, what did he do to deserve being stuck on the fourth line with the goon twins? No offence to Brandon Prust, who has proved that he possesses skill as well as a keen ability to agitate the opposition, but a) why is there a need for two enforcer types on the same line? and b) why don't the Flames just scratch McGrattan and call up someone like Jaffray or Lundmark, who cost less and are more capable?

The line changes didn't affect the second line of Dawes, Langkow, and Bourque, even though the trio has not been especially effective as of late, with the exception of Bourque, and Dawes is apparently playing hurt. I don't know if moving Conroy to the first line is the right idea. When Conroy was re-acquired from the Kings, Playfair tried to re-ignite the chemistry between him and Iginla on the first line, but the former spark was now a dull-burning ember, and both players seemed to have moved on. Iginla and Langkow have each had career seasons playing together, and I don't see the harm in reuniting the two, they obviously know each other's habits and tendencies well and enjoy playing with each other.

To add insult to injury Tuesday against the Blue Jackets, it was two former Flames that contributed to their visitor's demise: Kristian Huselius and Anton Stralman. I will confess to being a huge fan of Huselius during his stint in Calgary, even though he was plagued by inconsistency and defensive irresponsibility. I knew he wasn't an ideal Sutter player, and that he wouldn't be sticking around much longer once Keenan took the reigns, so I refrained from purchasing a #20 Flames jersey. I have learnt over the years never to invest too much in a particular player, because it seems my favourite players always seem to skip town one way or another, via trade or free agency.

Anyways, back on topic; the Flames host the Canucks tomorrow, minus one of the creepy Sedin twins. The Sedins eat Flames defencemen for dinner. Having the luxury of one of them being injured is HUGE for us, but will this team be able to take advantage? D. Sedin's absence from the lineup didn't seem to affect Vancouver as much as the absence of defenceman Sami Salo, as the team squandered a lead late against the Stars last weekend, but managed to emerge victorious in the shootout.

Once again, the key to the Flames' success lies in their forecheck, getting pucks and bodies to the net, maintaining a presence in the offensive and neutral zones, and attention to detail defensively. The Flames actually improved in the faceoff circle in their loss to Columbus, with Craig Conroy leading the way winning thirteen draws. While this is a good sign, the Flames were again outshot 33-23 and outhit by a 40-31 margin against the Blue Jackets. These trends need to change if the Flames have any hopes of earning two points against the Canucks tomorrow. It seems too early to say that this is a must-win game, but to rehash an old cliche, points in October matter just as much as those in March and April, and breathing room in the Northwest is already limited.

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