Monday, November 10, 2014

Should We Plan the Parade?

Did I get you attention? Seriously though, you have to admit the Flames are the talk of the League right now. Everything about them is a feel-good story.

I continue to worry about when the other shoe drops; yet there are no reports about the shoe dropping. The Flames are still winning, and the world has not ended. Heaven knows, they have enough excuses for there world to end. Think of the player’s injuries alone. What players, you ask? Matt Stajan, Joe Colbourne, and Mikael Backlund… of course, I have not even mentioned our biggest injury yet. That, in my opinion, is Mason Raymond. With five goals, he was the leading scorer before he was injured.

So how have the Flames overcome all odds to remain in the playoff hunt? Not only do they remain, but they have exceled to one of elite teams in the League. I have heard so many people ask how they are doing it. By mirrors? Does Bob Hartley have voodoo dolls of all the other thirty teams? Do the players all carry around a rabbit’s foot?

Here are some of my thoughts on the Flames’ surprisingly fast start this season.

1. Bob Hartley


Bob is one of the best coaches in the League. He is getting the best out of every player on the Flames roster. Right from the start, the players knew what exactly was expected of them. Not only do they know what it is expected, he puts them in positions where they will succeed. He knows exactly who he wants on the ice and when.

He is especially very good with out young players. He does not throw them out in the wind. He brings them in slowly, giving them each a little more responsibility, until they reach their potential. Case in point: benching Johnny Hockey a game, so he can see the game from the press box. From that moment, Johnny was a shoe-in for the Calder trophy.

The second reason is really also the third reason at the same time.

2. Jonas Hiller


Probably the steal of the free agency draft. Simply put, Jonas has been outstanding in every sense of the word. He has been a rock all season so far. He is so cool in net, rarely does he allow himself to get out of position. He does this by playing deep in his net. I think this gives him a better view of where all the action is. He uses his size to his advantage in finding out where the puck is. He has been very successful in finding the puck when the net seems to be getting crowded. Most goalies come out to cover the angle, but with Hiller, he seems to be able to cover more of the net by staying deep. His style helps with his ability to control the rebounds, which helps him cover most of the net.

3. Mark Giordano + TJ Brodie = best combo in the league.


Mark and TJ have been the talk of the League. Mark is Mr. Consistent. Everyone knows his offensive ability. His rushes into the offensive zone are epic. Case in point: on Lance Bouma’s goal, Gio got the perfect pass after he got around PK. But do you notice he kills penalties just as much as power plays? He is first to block a shot as well as to take a shot. He is one of most complete defensemen in the League right now.

TJ is growing to be one of the best in the League in his own right. His strength is his speed. He glides through the zone and yet he can get back to cover up in his own zone. You remember his play in the defensive zone in the Habs game? The blocking of the pass in his own end and the perfect backhand pass to Goudreau? I do not know too many defensemen who could have made that pass. TJ has learned from the best (Gio) how to handle the pressure and get the puck up to the forwards.

4. Defence pinching in


Another key point in the success of the Flames is the ability of the Defense to pitch in with the offence. Hartley has given them a green light to jump in the play anytime. This is true with all the top four. Russell and Wideman have also been known to jump in. Their ability to jump in at the perfect time has been key. This also has to do with the netminding of Hiller; knowing he has their backs if they do jump in.

5. Johnny Goudreau + Shawn Monahan: blessed beyond their years


Johnny Goudreau

The Flames fans have not been this excited about a rookie since the Newy days. Mr. Hockey, the name by which Goudreau is known, has been nothing short of spectacular this season. He has the ability to do things with a puck that I did not know were possible. He has been one of the most consistent Flames this season. The biggest compliment I can give him is his skill at staying calm no matter what the situation is. For example, in the Panthers game he set up Monahan for the fifth goal. How many players do you know that could make that blinding pass? The Flames have him on the ice in the last minute to score the empty net goal. The kid has so much composure, you would swear that he has been in the League for ten years, yet he is only twenty-two.

Shawn Monahan

So far, the sophomore jinx has not happened. With three of our centers out, Shawn has stepped up to the plate as our number one Center. His six goals lead the team in scoring. He is a leader who has at times been Mr. Clutch. I have noticed this season that he has gotten stronger. He has a more complete game this season.

Conclusion


Obviously, I do not know if the Flames are going to keep up this pace all season. But what I am saying right now is that they are playing like a playoff team. They are finding new ways to win instead of finding ways to stay in the game. Every player on this team knows his role and is doing his best to fulfill it. It is a credit to how they are coached, and a credit to them for executing. Right now, they are gaining confidence that they can compete, and that can just as big as winning itself. As long as Hartley continues to get these players believing in themselves, who knows? Maybe a miracle on the red mile can still happen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Looks Like We Have a Number One Goalie (and other observations)

LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE A NUMBER ONE GOALIE


So it looks like Hiller gets the second start in a row. The biggest story so far this season has to be the goaltending. Hiller and Ramo have been outstanding so far, giving the Flames a chance to win every game this season. Hiller has been on his game every night; especially against the Hawks, making an outstanding forty-nine saves in Chicago. The quality of Hiller’s game I like most is his ability to never be caught out of position. Playing deep in the net seems to help his size to cover the net.

His size covers most of the net he simply plays the percentages, getting himself in front of the puck.


DEFENSIVE SCORING


I have also observed the defense pitching in and causing scoring chances. When they get the chance, they seem to be burrying it. Of late, in fact it seems like they have been getting the bulk of the scoring. Gio, Brodie, and Widemen are jumping in quite comfortably. That is why they are successful. I love the fact they are jumping in with confidence. Without them, the Flames would have no offense at all. They will have to continue to contribute. Without their contribution, there would be no scoring at all.


CALLING GLENCROSS


Mr. Glencross really has to start getting into the game. He has not been playing with any emotion. He is making silly mistakes on a regular basis. He is one of our best forwards, but he has to want the puck. He has been playing without any energy. He does not seem to want to do what he has to in order to be successful. Things have to change. Curtis has a chip on his shoulder, but he has to keep in focus. Seriously, Glencross has remember this a team game. He must learn to a team player. Stop being a ‘me’ player. If he does, he can be a huge asset.


WHO IS GOING TO CARRY THE BALL?


With Raymond and Stajan both being put on the IR, someone has to pick up the slack. Add the possibility of Backlund and Colborne being injured, and we have a problem. The answer could very well be Sean Monahan; he will have the bulk of the responsibility. Another player who needs to pick it up is Hudler. He has pick it up and be the player he can be. He is a highly skilled forward who is capable of being a leader and will have to be in order for the Flames to be a successful team.

When it comes down to it, the Flames have very few assets, and the ones they have must perform. This team is too good to be a lottery team. But if Glencross, Monahan, and Hudler do not perform, the Flames may very well become one.


FLAMES CALL UP GRANLUND 


Granlund has earned the opportunity, let’s hope he runs with it. I love his skills; he has the tools to be a stud. He is a great playmaker. He will have to contribute in a big way while Stajan and Monahan are on the IR.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jeff's Season Preview

Hey everyone! With puck drop only hours away I figured it was time to set out my expectations of what I see happening this season for our Calgary Flames. The rebuild is upon us and I am very excited with the direction the team is going in. I'm sure in the coming months you will read a blog or 3 where I talk about tanking or how I would love the Flames to get another top draft pick. Just keep an open mind and know it's only because I firmly believe in rebuilding the right way and I think one more year of finishing at the bottom of the league will truly help the process. With that out of the way let's get to my Top 5 things I expect to see this year.



1- Calgary will finish last in the Western Conference
Starting off with a big negative, that should hold the readers attention..... Problem is I don't see how the Flames are better than any other team in the West. It will pain me to see the Oilers finally finish ahead of the Flames but that's how I see the season playing out. I'd love say I hope I'm wrong but that would be a lie (circle back to my getting a high draft pick but we won't go there today). Edmonton should finally make that leap and climb up the standings a little bit. Winnipeg is decent to solid team in my opinion and should be better than Calgary. Nashville, Arizona, Vancouver and Minnesota all have stronger teams than Calgary doers on paper. That doesn't leave many teams for Calgary to pass and there lies the problem. Last in the West seems like a safe bet to me.


2- The Goaltending will be better than last season
This one is a no brainer for me. Jonas Hiller will definitely be an improvement to the Berra/MacDonald/Ortio combo from last season. Having Hiller and Ramo battle to be the #1 goaltender will make them both better and it will be a nice little competition between them. I'm sure both guys feel like they can be the main guy between the pipes and will want to out do their counterpart. This is going to make for some interesting times in net and I only see it as a positive.


3- At least one veteran will be traded this season
Might be another no brainer for some people but if the team isn't looking like they will be making the playoffs by the time the calendar reads December, I think it will be time to start looking to move some players. The 3 players I think are likely targets are: Dennis Wideman, Curtis Glencross and Jiri Hudler. If I had to chhose I would say Mr. Glencross is the most likely to go. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, right now has a really nice contract and I think has the skills a lot of teams would love to add to their lineup.


4- John Gaudreau will win the Calder Trophy
I'm going out on a limb on this one but if Johnny Hockey can play most of the season I think he has a great chance on being the rookie of the year. Playing most of the season might be his biggest challenge. He's never played more than 44 games in a season with Boston College so to almost double that could be a problem for the 5'8 phenom.


5- Sven Baertschi will finally make the jump
Yes he will be starting the season in the AHL. Yes he hasn't lived up to the over hyped expectations lumped onto him. And yes when we was sent down last season he had a slow start. I think this is the year everything changes and everything clicks for Sven. Maybe this is wishful thinking on my end but I think Sven will get called up part way through the season and finally stick with the big club.


Thanks for the read folks and follow me on twitter @nhlflamesfan.
Jeff
Flames Jambalaya is in no way, shape or form associated with the Calgary Flames Hockey Club or the AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat. This is a fans blog for fans. We just happen to love the Flames, so we write about it.