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.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Flames Expectation

Flames Expectation

Another Flames regular season is here; but what should we expect?

We are in rebuild, which is obvious. Yet Hartley and Treliving have been quoted saying they expect the team to be better. But how are they expected to be better?

When Treliving came in as the General Manager of the Calgary Flames he said that he wanted to upgrade the team on the blue line. Few months later prior to camp, Treliving was quoted saying the same thing again.

So did he improve the defense?

Out: Butler, O’Brien, Billins and Breen
In: Engelland, Potter, Acolatse and Diaz

So, are they better on the blue line? In my opinion they are not. Not saying the guys we lost are going to be a big loss, but considering I was expecting improvements; I am not impressed. Engelland will be debated for the next three seasons, strictly because of his contract dollars. But is he better than Butler? Sure hope so and we will soon find out. But essentially Treliving changed the #6 & #7 defenseman spots this off season. Looks fairly tame for a guy who on numerous occasions said he wanted to upgrade the team on the blue line. Brodie should be better and having a healthy Wideman should improve the powerplay. In the end thanks to Hiller our defense may come off as better, but no thanks to Treliving.

Since I mentioned Jonas Hiller, clearly our goaltending situation has improved.

Out: Berra
In: Hiller

No argument here, we should be better in net. Hiller will bring calmness back to the team and he should help elevate Ramo’s game. Knowing that Ortio is on a one way deal next year, Ramo is playing for an NHL spot past this season, he will be motivated.

Offense, goals and scoring, three words that is not always associated with the Flames. After Iginla was traded, Cammalleri was viewed as the only real goal scorer, but he is now also gone. So who will score the goals?

Out: Cammalleri, Stempniak, Galiardi, Westgarth and Blair Jones
In: Raymond, Setoguchi, Bollig, Gaudreau and Wolf

I know a lot of fans will say that Gaudreau alone will make us a more offensive team, but is that really fair? Gaudreau has all the talent and we know he can play but can we really expect him to produce at a point for game level? Not in my opinion, heck I think if we get another 22 goals out of Monahan we will be fortunate.

Raymond is a nice addition; he has speed and can score some goals. But unlike in Toronto he will be playing against top pairing defense man, I am hoping for 20 goals out of him. I know Cammalleri was on pace to score 30 goals last year, I don’t expect Raymond to do the same. Oh but Setoguchi will help… unless you are like me and you watched the pre-season. Initially when Setoguchi was signed I was optimistic, and maybe I should remain optimistic. But from what I saw in the pre-season, it would not shock me if come November he is playing on a line with Max Reinhart with the Adirondack Flames.

A healthy Backlund with Colborne taking another step forward should help, and perhaps Glencross scores 26 goals again, if he can stay healthy.

Personally I see a lot of “ifs” and “perhaps” and that is probably the result of being in a rebuild. A lot of things will have to go right for this team to improve on last season. The Flames will not surprise anyone, unlike last year. Jonas Hiller will steal a few extra points and Gaudreau will score the odd shootout goal. But suggesting that this team is that much better? I have always been told I am too positive, but this year I have accepted that a top 5 draft pick is in store once again come June. Let’s just hope McDavid or Eichel is the name called this time, although Hiller may make sure that does not happen. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flames Camp 2014

The Flames are more than halfway through their camp; so how much do we know? Today’s blog is a general summary on how the Camp is going so far. I will go through my observations on the goaltending, defense, and offense. 
Physical Play
The most obvious observation is that the Flames are going to be a much more physical team this year. They really beefed up in the off-season.
The newcomers who will work on the physical play; or as I like to say, beat the crud out of the opposition. The signing of Deryk Engelland instantly gives the Flames a bigger presence, which will keep opposing Forwards honest. The acquisition of Brandon Bollig gives the Flames some much-needed physical size in Forwards. Too many times, the opposing Defense took liberties with the Flames’ Forwards with no repercussions. 

Speed Kills
The Flames signed ex-Leaf Mason Raymond on Canada Day. Mason is one of the fastest skaters in the League. He will put the fear of God in opposing Defense. If he can connect with Backlund, who is also very fast, the Flames’ speed will double. He will make Backlund better. Additionally, if Curtis Glencross can stay healthy, he will also be a huge asset to the team’s speed.

Team Leadership
Gio will get major help in the Flames’ dressing room. Monahan will be a year older and will help. He will be a more mature and complete player this season. But the major players will be Engelland and Bollig. First of all, Deryk Engelland: Coach Hartley has been gushing with glee about Engelland. Deryk will voice his opinion if he is unhappy about a player. He will speak up when it is needed. There will be no dilly-dallying in the Flames’ dressing room. Engelland won't allow it. Now Brandon Bollig: he will teach this team how to win. He has two rings. He will bring that knowledge and experience into the dressing room. Matt Stajan will be continue to grow as a player. The Flames will rely on this vet to lead by example.

The goalies are going to be a huge upgrade. With the signing of Jonas Hiller, the Flames have a legitimate number-one goalie. He will cut the bad goals down by one goal a game. Plus he brings in another factor; he will make Ramo better. Ramo will have to be better if he wants his chance to play. If he does not play better, he will play much less this season.

Things we do not know or should I say  the concerns the Fans may have
Will the Flames’ Defense be better than last year? The first question: Is Engelland better than Buttler? At the beginning of camp, I would have said ‘not a chance.’ But  since the camp, I have been very impressed with Engelland’s play. He is a solid defensemen who has been a stable influence in the defense zone. He has been building a nice chemistry with Russell. 

The next question: Is Raphael Diaz going to get a contract offer from the Flames? In this blogger’s mind, yes. He fills a great need for a second powerplay captain.  He has been outstanding in the camp so far. His play has really helped fill a lot of holes in the Flames’ line-up. But unfortunately, he is a major risk in the defensive zone. It would help if the Flames can match him with a stable, offensive dman like Smid. He must also improve in consistency. If he can do this, the Flames will hit the motherload with him.

The next question is: Will Sheldon Brookbank get a contract? I am having a problem answering this one. He is a vital asset in the physical play. He is a very good finisher with his hits. He punishes opposition and follows through on his hits. His leadership skills will help the Flames down the stretch. He will be good role model for the young defensemen. The downside is his speed. He will have to make sure he does not take too many chances. It will not help in the offensive game. He would be a good asset as a seventh defensemen.
Gio and Russell will be still there. They are the rocks. Brodie is close behind. I suspect that Engelland is penciled in at the number four on the Roster. 
The major question is: Who is going to win that number seven dman spot? Is it Diaz or Burbank or is it one of the kids.  Mr. Smid needs a defensive partner. Time will tell who it is going to be.

Another question is: Where is the offense coming from? Or I like to say: Who is going make up the loss of Cammy's 26 goals? With this, the Flames will look to their first signing of the off-season. Of course, I am referring to Mason Raymond. His nineteen goal season from last year is reason for optimism. It is vital that he matches, if not passes, that total this season. Mason is capable of being the leading scorer. He has never been given this role, and I think he will flourish with it. 

The second solution to the offense is the low-risk in signing of Devin Setoguchi. He will be motivated to play this season. Devin is coming off his worst season. He surely will clear his eleven goal season. If he doesn’t, he will be spending it on the pine or in the AHL. Not much of a gamble for the Flames with his low cap hit of $750,000.

Gentlemen Joe has to do one thing: forget that he is a gentlemen. He has to start getting in the corners and his hands dirty.  The Flames will expect more input from Colborne. Joe will be given more duties, but where much is given, much is required. Joe has great tools, he just needs to put them to good use.  He must use his size. In other words, he must become a Burke player.

If I am talking offense, I would be an idiot not to mention Curtis Glencross. He must become a less selfish player. By this, I mean he must not take stupid penalties. He has to stay healthy. If he can achieve this, he is capable of scoring twenty goals again.

Sean Monahan will to match his first-year totals. He has to continue his smart playing and continue to be the man. There cannot be any sophomoric hi-jinx. He has to play smart and stay out of the physical play. The Flames have plenty of other players who can do that for him. I cannot emphasize this enough. Monahan is a key part of the Flames’ offense and will be a force this season.

Before I close, I have to mention Johnny Hockey’s goal in the Colorado game Tuesday night. The kid has skill, doesn't he? If Johnny can keep those skills, he will be a Flame for many years to come.

There are a lot more questions yet to be answered this season. Will Backlund get healthy? Will the Offense be able to make up for the loss of Cammy? Flames fans are going to have fun this season.

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.