It’s the time of the week where we have a look at a few items of note about the Flames and the league. On the holiday installment of News and Notes, the Flames are in a bit of a funk, the Blue Jackets talk it out, and a Canadian team takes an un-Canadian approach to moving some ducats.
After another loss on Saturday that left the Flames in the Western Conference's 7th spot, the boss decided to go old school, with a physically demanding practice the order of the day. We're hearing urgency talk and discussion of attention to detail crop up again:
I agree, coach. In the spirit of the season, as a gift from me to you, allow me to simply note that one more useful forward, a better 6th D than Aaron Johnson and a bit less of this one man in on the forecheck stuff might be “details” that could be looked into by you or someone else in the organization. Oh, and if Elliotte Friedman can advise the world how to slow your team down, a re-thinking might be in order.
Moving on, the World Juniors are approaching, and as I work on this, the Canadian team has just closed out a 3-0 win in a tuneup against the Finns this evening at the Saddledome. Flames’ first rounder Greg Nemisz is part of the club, and he got a chance tonight to have an outing in front of his future fans, and if my eyes weren’t deceiving me during the first period, several current Flames and the head coach, who had a few thoughts about his time behind the Canadian bench. Another Flame prospect, Joni Ortio, got the nod in the nets for the Finns, who had a couple of the locals reminiscing this week about their turn in the Blue and White.
Speaking of Finnish goalies, Kipper decided that he wasn't going to look for any more trouble regarding his participation in the Olympics. Which brings us to Kipper watch:
Kipper 5 v 5: L.A. 1-23, Nashville 4-13, season to date, 43- 674, .936 SV%. A bit of a dropoff against the Preds, but unless this sort of night becomes the norm, I like his chances of heading to Vancouver in February.
Up next for the Flames is St. Louis, who had their way with Edmonton Monday night, pasting the Oilers 7-2. Dan Barnes unloaded on the team in the Journal today, and threw in a nice shot at the Oiler PR machine to boot, but it was David Staples’ call to oust the current management that caught my eye. I lived in Edmonton from 2002-2006, so it did surprise me somewhat to see any representative of the press in that town take a run at LoweBellini. That hasn’t exactly been the M.O. of the local media, even with three consecutive years out of the playoffs. The actual list of complaints from Staples won’t shock anyone who’s a regular blogosphere reader, but the fact that it was printed in the Journal just isn’t normal. Staples also has a reputation in some quarters of carrying the team’s mail as they attempt to get public money for a new building, so the fact that he wrote this might suggest a certain level of impatience amongst the broader public is beginning to be noticed.
The division leading Avalanche have stayed in their perch a lot longer than I might have expected, but the locals haven’t quite made the connection yet, at least at the box office. It seems a bit odd to me that a team that has done so well for so many years ends up in a situation with support so soft after one down year. Colorado has as well-heeled an owner as there is in the game, so it’s not like the franchise is in the slightest peril, but it just seems very strange to talk about the Avs drawing 11,000 without the club being in the lead for the rights to Taylor Hall.
They aren’t the only team with unusually soft support right now. The Senators have taken a page from the marketing of some U.S. teams, offering discounted tickets and promo packages to fill the seats at Scotiabank Place. The tech sector in Ottawa, the engine that drove the private economy of that area for years, has fallen on some hard times, and most civil servants, contrary to the occasional myths that get bandied about, aren’t really the target market for an NHL season ticket package. The Sens are also giving away tickets in unheard of numbers for a Canadian franchise, north of 3,000 a night. I doubt Eugene Melnyk will have a tag day any time in the near future, but it’s never a bad thing to remember that isn’t just American markets that struggle when things go poorly on the ice.
Moving back to the game itself, Martin Brodeur became the NHL’s all-time leader in shut-outs, surpassing Terry Sawchuk’s record by blanking the Penguins. He’s been very good for quite a long time, which isn’t anything to sneeze at, given how goalies can run hot and cold. That stipulated, I don’t think it’s unfair to ask how Dominik Hasek might have done with the same support.
Brodeur’s most notable internet critic, the Contrarian Goaltender, takes a look at how PK shot volume affects a goalie’s overall numbers. You’ll note that Miikka Kiprusoff has faced entirely too many shots down a man or two, which simply reinforces the quality of his year to date, IMO.
The Blue Jackets are in a bit of a state at the moment, with talk of the team tuning out Ken Hitchcock. Aaron Portzline makes a case to the contrary, arguing that the meetings in Dallas this morning are a sign of a team trying to work through the matter in a productive fashion. If the Jackets are losing interest in Hitch's message, it wouldn't be the first time, good a coach as he is. I'll be damned if I can find a link to the quote, but I'm sure it was Sparky Anderson, after being fired by the Reds in 1978, who said, "Sometimes they just get tired of looking at your face." It happens.
To close this week, the Kurtenblog uses a seasonal favourite as a template to examine the Canucks‘ sluggish start. I’ll confess my own tastes in Christmas fare run to something not quite as gentle, but each to their own, right?
The comments are open for items worthy of note. Best of the season to you and yours.
by Robert Cleave