Sunday, March 15, 2009

Frustrated, but not concerned. Except about Vandermeer.

Well, a 3-4 record for that was-always-going-to-suck road trip isn't exactly anything to celebrate. But considering the circumstances, I think it's also fair to say it wasn't a disaster. Being on the road for seven consecutive is hard enough without:

• 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 Columbus Nashville. (It was just 8-2 to Columbus, as WI noted in the comments.) And as far as swoons go, Boston and San Jose are doing that, big-time. I'm aware the Flames are in a race for first place that is much closer than it used to be thanks to the Canucks' run, but that doesn't negate the effects that the points above have on a team.

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.


walkinvisible said...

Detroit lost 8-0 to Columbus

they actually lost 8-0 to Nashville, followed by an 8-2 loss to Columbus... just sayin'...

while i know you're concerned about vandy, i'm currently more concerned about leopold: two own-goals in six games is a horrendous statistic, and pairing him with the already-liable phaneuf at one third more minutes than he's used to does not seem a good idea to me. in any way.

Kent W. said...

Almost nothing can be taken from games where your goalie has a sub-.800 SV%. It means that pucks are going in that shouldn't, either because the goalie stinks or the bounces are cruel.

I think Kipper has had 3 of those in the last 2 weeks and it's really skewing things.

Anonymous said...

The most frustrating part of this road trip, now that it's over, is that it is impossible to get a read on the Flames after that. The evidence is that they've given up a ridiculous number of goals over 8 games now, and looked poor doing it. Is it because of bad goaltending? (Sure seems like it) Bad defensive play? (see Phaneuf quotes on Insider re: Toronto that accountability!!) Incorporating new players on a long road trip? (Hard to define how tough that is)

I want so badly to analyze the team, but am starting to think the only thing that will be real at this point is the results of the first round - if they win, they're OK and we'll see where it goes from there. If they lose, well, the last two weeks were much closer to reality than any of us want to believe. Short of them losing or winning 80% of their games the rest of the way, it feels like there's nothing we can take from the rest of the schedule...

By the way, I saw a comment from WI on another site commenting that the optimism regarding Bourque coming back may not be based in realism. I just assumed he was coming back by the playoffs for some reason...does anyone have an update as to his condition?

duncan said...

On Leopold, I'm willing to believe it'll take more than what he's had so far to get the Tony Granato coaching stink off him.

As far as Kiprusoff, fair enough. And when a team loses, you look a lot more at negatives than positives, and all the warts come out. But that could be a good thing.

At this point, I'm just going to believe that Kipper will come out strong for playoffs because, well, I have to.

walkinvisible said...

(see Phaneuf quotes on Insider re: Toronto that accountability!!)

agreed. that comment was totally infuriating from a guy who makes the same dough as the captain. be accountable for your play, your ridiculously bad stats, and your part in the losses. totally outrageous...

as for bourque, my understanding is that high ankle sprains can vary in severity but i have heard nothing about him even skating... i'm actually considering going to practice tomorrow to see if he's on-ice... i doubt it, though.

Anonymous said...

The reason why ppl think he'll be back for playoffs is likely because that was my first reaction. I looked up Crosby and notived it took him 21 games to recover from the same thing. They can obviously vary in severity but in looking how each player got injured I find it hard to believe Bourques is worse than what Crosby had. That being said Bourque got injured with 23 games left if I recall and I figured that would be more than enough time for him to return in time.

That phaneuf comment I thought was rediculous also. I have never heard someone spew so many compliments to the Maple Leafs before. I guess its because when your defense lets in 8 goals to a good team its somehow easier to swallow. Whem Mayers makes you look silly, your a sad sad player who should likely sit for a game or two. Im still not off that idea sometimes.

walkinvisible said...

daymond langkow is quoted in the sun re: injuries"

"For most of the year, we were pretty fortunate in that area," Langkow said. "It's just they all seemed to happen within a few games. Gio, he's definitely done for the season, Bourque, it's hard to say.

Anonymous said...

Langkows comments are pretty vague still. I mean to say, "Gio, he's definitely done for the season, Bourque, it's hard to say."

Is that saying that its hard to determine if Bourque is done for the season or its hard to determine when he'll be back? You can kinda read it both ways. That being said I still stand by my original prediction he will be back very close to the beginning of playoffs; based entirely on Crosbys recovery.