• Your entire second line missing for most of the trip
• Two significant trades midstream
• Significant expectations about your potential following those trades
• A rotating cast of players from the farm trying to adapt to NHL speed
It would be easy to panic after losses to the likes of the Thrashers and Maple Leafs, but it's not like the Flames are alone among the league's elite teams in struggling, and struggling against lesser teams. The Devils, just before they beat the Flames, were hammered by the Islanders. Detroit lost 8-0 to
As much as I expected the trouble on this trip and following the trades, I'm expecting a turnaround after this four-day break. I'm willing to accept the idea that the Flames' own-zone troubles have been a result of players learning the system, and that Olli Jokinen is a more responsible two-way player than Todd Bertuzzi. I know what Jordan Leopold is capable of being coached by Jim Playfair, and I expect his play to improve as well.
As much as Matthew Lombardi had established himself as a solid NHLer, and as much as I loved Brandon Prust's potential, Jokinen has aboslutely made this team more dangerous going into the playoffs. He's obviously an elite scoring option, and the full capabilities of what this team can be were displayed in the third period against Detroit.
That, among anything on the trip, is something to build on. Three good days of practice will have them ready for tough games against teams in Dallas and St. Louis that will be far more desperate than Calgary for points at this part of the season.
One real long-term issue with this team that came out of the trip, I think, is its insistence on considering Jim Vandermeer to be a good option as a Top 6 defender. I've wanted him to be better, and thought he could, but it just isn't happening. The third-period goal that Jamal Mayers scored yesterday defined his game to me. He laid a big hit against his player on the boards, but let that same guy get back into the play faster than him, because he couldn't read what was happening fast enough. Mayers deflects the puck past McElhinney, and that's the ballgame, really.
Adam Pardy needs to be back in there, fast, and the Flames have to start getting ready to stomach two years of having to eat the 2009-2012 version of Andrei Zyuzin/Anders Eriksson.