Sunday, November 9, 2008

Why it just isn't happening

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.


walkinvisible said...

i would actually really like to ask mike keenan what the word "practice" means to him.

it seems like he thinks it's a chance for a bunch of guys to get out and skate in combinations that he will never use in game situations. it's totally infuriating.

and i'm starting to think it's time to ask jim playfair what, exactly, "defensive specialist" means, as well.

Kent W. said...

Dogs breakfast tonight.

Flames should have just skated to center at the onset and bent over. It would have been less painful.

That said, 3 games, 4 nights and the flu ripping through the room. I think the Flames are mediocre team overall, ubt they aren't *this* bad.

My worries after the last 4 games? The ES play isn't getting better. It's getting worse.

Anonymous said...

Point of Clarification: Toews scored his first goal.

walkinvisible said...

The ES play isn't getting better. It's getting worse.

uhhh... by my count, special teams are also getting (significantly) worse.

duncan said...

Re: Toews — True. I was referring to Kane, though. Since I was writing in the second intermission, I suppose I just presumed he'd have another by the end of the night. That's a hell of a player.

As for the flu, that's fine, but my criticism is still about how this team is handled more than how it's played. Sure, the latter is a problem, but I've decided to blame the former.

"Easy"? Sure. But that doesn't make it untrue.

Kent W. said...

uhhh... by my count, special teams are also getting (significantly) worse.

Special teams seem to go through significant swings during the season though. Which is why having decent ES play is so important.

awildermode said...

hawks just looked better out there last night. and yes, boyd and moss (and kipper) were doing all the work out there.

awildermode said...

one more thing, i do not see why boyd was not centering the top line. if you care going to mix it up, mix it up. also, i keep hearing things about keenan not practicing the pp. flames were at the top of the league in pp (5th?) coming into the game...then go 0-8.