The price I pay for being a Flames fan in Toronto is higher than the $229 per year I pay for Centre Ice. I also lose a lot of sleep, because games rarely start before 9 p.m. And, as a result of not having other fans to watch games with, I've taken to PVRing the things and watching late, late into the night, not live, and urging hometown friends like WI to NOT TEXT ME ANYTHING ABOUT THE RESULT. And, of course, because I'm not watching live, I'm not participating in the game thread over at Matchsticks and Gasoline, which is usually where I get my motivation to write.
Anyway, oddly, my motivation today is the Stampeders-less Grey Cup I'm sitting through. So, I'm here now, and I have a couple of thoughts past the rare nugget I throw into comments at the various quality Flames blogging locations that I frequent:
1. Four games ago, I yelled at the TV for the first time this year, and did it several times, always at Olli Jokinen. I went to bed grumbling, wondering how this was ever going to work out. Then, the last three games, it's like he realized he'd better mix some good plays in with the bad if he ever wants another NHL contract. (Perhaps WI should take credit.)
I still suspect this is a temporary dip into the pool of respectability, but something that has me quite chuffed is that his biggest improvement has been in the field of "vision." The pass to Boyd last night on the 3-2 goal against Columbus was, frankly, phenomenal. As was the rush on the play at the end of the Anaheim game (the one where I was yelling at him), where he knew Jarome Iginla was going to be in the slot on the tying goal, and found him with a perfect pass.
He's doing a lot of this in crucial moments as well. So: Keep it up, big guy! And, if you don't, I'll still get a kick out of calling you Sex Panther.
2. About a month ago, I noticed that Dion Phaneuf no longer had an "A" on his uniform, anywhere. Last year he had it at home and on the road, and to start this year he was wearing it at home at handing it over on the road. The guy wearing it now, of course, is Jay Bouwmeester. I can't say this is a surprise, given the clear division of skills and maturity between the two players, but I think it also says a lot about how the Sutters are seeing the future. And I think it's a lot like Matt sees it. (Update: The Flames say this is about expanding the leadership group, and Craig Conroy says Phaneuf is fine with it.)
I've long argued here that the Flames ought not give up on Phaneuf's potential, and I'm pleased that he's showed clear improvement this year under Brent Sutter and Ryan McGill. I also know that teams like the Detroit Red Wings do well with more than one star-level-paid defenceman. But I didn't know, till he got to Calgary, what a crazy talent Jay Bouwmeester really is.
He does make Phaneuf expendable.