So, 3-1 Hawks after two periods tonight, after some typically horrendous defensive-zone coverage by onetime top "defensive forward" and Duncan favourite Craig Conroy, Jarmoe-style Jarome Iginla and, most damningly, asinine "decision-making" by the old-timey "hockey men" behind the Calgary Flames' bench.
I was "inspired" to write this after the Comcast SportsNet Hawks announcers, Pat Foley and Ed Olczyk, wondered why it was that Dustin Boyd and David Moss, clearly the best Flames players on the ice all night, hadn't been sent out on the ice since generating Calgary's best scoring chance of the night. Several shifts in between had taken place, and they sat on the bench while Jarmoe, Bertuzzi and Old Man Conroy were sent out to screw things up.
Of course, the Hawks soon scored their third goal (with Conroy rambling around by the circle while Martin Havlat skated and passed at will), then the Flames only get "back in the game" when Moss and Boyd are allowed back on the ice, and Boyd generates something with an inspired drive to the net.
Meanwhile, the Flames defence has looked confused all night. No wonder, since they've gone out in just about every conceivable combination. It's not as though defence pairings get to know each other and play most comfortably together or anything. But, hey, they haven't looked great, so time for Mike Keenan to "shake things up." I mean, why not send out Jim Vandermeer to miss passes at the point on the power play? At least it's a little blueline earthquake to whip 'em into shape.
But anyway, back to specifics about Mike Keenan and his merry band of Darryl Sutter acolytes. They're not useless. If they weren't, the Flames wouldn't win games. But what they are, is completely without creativity. Line-juggling isn't creative. It's mostly meddling. Ice-time distribution is an art, and art requires creativity. But in a game like today's, It takes a 3-0 score and almost two full periods for them to get their due. Dion Phaneuf plays 30 minutes every night, then looks visibly tired in back-to-backs. Miikka Kiprusoff gets send out over and over until he's too tired. The "energy line" gets sent out in the wrong situation to generate "energy" — when you're down 2-0 is not the time for that.
This isn't to say all is lost, because the Flames clearly don't just-plain-suck. Teams that win six in a row generally have something to them, and the Flames have great players who will win them games. Some nights, things will come together.
But some nights — many nights — things won't. And Darryl Sutter hasn't created an environment or hired a coaching staff that can work on the fly. Interviews aren't anything, but listen to Rich Preston the next time he chats with Roger Millions — he can barely speak. Mike Keenan stares at the camera and issues statements that are clearly meant not to be challenged.
Watching Patrick Kane celebrate his first goal tonight was a pleasure, because he was clearly just plain excited to be on the ice and playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. When was the last time you saw a Flame react that way?
I think it was 2004.