Monday, February 16, 2009

Yeah, Jarome's a good leader, but is he enough?

Prior to what Kent appropriately called a "shinny game" between the Flames and Coyotes on Saturday night, the last hockey game I watched was live in Tampa Bay. That was the opposite: the Lightning defeated the New York Islanders 1-0 on a Gary Roberts deflection in the game's final five minutes. The teams didn't score because neither could execute a bloody thing. The Lightning's defence is horrifically bad at its execution, and managed a shutout only because the Islanders might have the worst group of 12 forwards I've ever seen live at the NHL level.

So, as sloppy as the third was in Phoenix — and, as concerned as it gets me that the Flames seem unable to maintain even basic concentration as soon as they get up by three goals — it was gratifying to see a team that, when it pays attention, still knows how to execute.

If the four-game losing streak that preceded the five-of-possible-six-points roadie brought me back to Earth (as I think it did a lot of us) about the Flames, the Canucks' current run of wins have now started dropping me in a pit of doubt. For some reason, the nine points separating the Flames' 71 and Vancouver's 62 seems much smaller now that it's in single digits. By no means do I think the Canucks are a playoff force to be reckoned with — not enough depth there — but they're a team that plays very well with confidence. And they're chasing the Flames, who've in recent history played terribly under the greatest of pressure. I fully expect tomorrow's game to make me even more frightened.

So here's the thing: I don't think the Flames need Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf to start scoring mountains of goals to make this thing work. What they DO need to do, what with their veteran status and letters on their sweaters and all, is keep their teammates calm and focused. The biggest danger at this point isn't losing position or missing the playoffs, because neither of those things are likely. It's about not preparing to be in the best position to win come the arrival of the post-season.

That said — and knowing Phaneuf is still all of: young, dating a starlet, spotted allegedly intoxicated at local nightclubs, and taking a step back this season — I'd like to see the Flames acquire a veteran, playoff-tested, depth player before the deadline. The Shanahan signing in New Jersey was so smart — he's cheap, a professional, guaranteed not to screw anything up.

And, sorry if you think this is heresy, but Jarome Iginla hasn't gotten the job done in this department for the past three years. I'm not saying he's a bad leader, or doesn't lead well by example, but he hasn't been a calming influence come playoff time since 2004. I think he wants it too much. The Flames don't have much on their roster in terms of actual cup winners: It's Cory Sarich, and that's it. And since Iggy seems to also be a guy who loves Todd Bertuzzi, it would be nice to have a guy who could stare down Bert when he starts taking stupid penalties in Game 1 of the first round.

I won't speculate or suggest anyone. Hell, I'm not even saying "The Flames must do this." What I am saying is, I think it would be a positive move. At worst, the guy doesn't fit in, and becomes a healthy scratch. At best, the Flames have another guy, one not named Jarome, to set the tone.


Anonymous said...

Good post.
Do you think the aforementioned Gary Roberts would be a good idea back in Calgary, or is he almost too strong of a personality for the job you describe?
I'd much rather see the addition of a player like this instead of a big move (say, J-Bo for Lombardi and Backlund or something similar).

duncan said...

I've always loved Roberts, and he'd slot in very well there and not complain for a second while doing it. His history with the Flames would probably help.

And, yeah, I can't think of any scenario where it's worth delivering Backlund and/or Lombardi for a rental.

walkinvisible said...

I can't think of any scenario where it's worth delivering Backlund and/or Lombardi for a rental.

there's absolutely no way in hell. lombardi for the right guy, maybe. but daz *ahem* needs looser pants when it comes to backlund...

Anonymous said...

I think I would go after someone like Recchi and add some defensive depth with Krajicek. Im not sure the latter is possible, or reasonable, however Recchi is still scoring, won the cup more than anyone else available, is big and likely would cost a 3rd or 4th round draft pick (maybe 5th just to try and move his 1 mill salary).

I think moving lombardi would prove to be a big mistake in hindsight 20/20, backlund I know will!

Kent W. said...

it would be nice to have a guy who could stare down Bert when he starts taking stupid penalties in Game 1 of the first round.

Im not sure such a player exists. Bertuzzi has been buckling under pressure and taking stupid, inopportune penalties his whole career. He did it in Vancouver in the play-offs and he did it during the Olympics(surrounded by winners, leaders and character guys).

walkinvisible said...

ahhhhh the olympics.... while bertuzzi was on the ice taking stupid penalties, crosby and staalzy (the offensive one) were sitting in the pressbox...