Every NHL team's ultimate goal is, of course, to win the Stanley Cup. Before they can make that happen, they first have to make the playoffs. The Calgary Flames are no different. Their first goal is to make the playoffs. You never know; once a team makes the playoffs, anything can happen. A hot goalie can carry a team through the playoffs.
That being said, it is a tall order for the Flames to actually make the playoffs. So today's blog is a Flames panel. Our esteemed guests are regulars, Mike and Dearen, and first time guest Rob. The question put out there is:
What needs to happen for the Flames to make the playoffs?
First up, my fellow blogger, Dearen you can follow him on twitter DKAY1987.
Craig Hartsburg got brought in because he believes the same fundamentals as Brent Sutter. And the players now will have two strong voiced mouths cramming the “systems” into their heads. Last year, a few players did not buy in, I believe Regehr was one of them. This year, the players will have no choice. Familiarity issues won’t be there, since 95% of the team is back. Needless to say, all the excuses are out of it for the players, and it is now time to perform. And if certain players are not capable or choose not to buy in, they need to be held accountable. The team has more depth than it has in the past five years, which should allow the coaches to send some messages to players that are not playing the way they want them to. I also believe the fact that many players are in a contract year; we could see some a strong campaign out of a few. Iginla and Tanguay will not have the same success; at least I don’t believe so. So a fully committed team night in and night out will be the key.
In addition to buying in, the Flames will need some surprises. The players I put in this category are the three “B’s); Backlund, Butler, and Bourque. All three of these players will need to provide the Flames with that secondary talent that is so greatly needed in the NHL for success. Karlsson will need to be a sounder goaltender and put some pressure on Kipper while making the coaching staff use him more.
The Flames do not have a bad roster and can be a playoff team, but unless they toss the excuses and play the way they can, another disappointing year is ahead.
I totally agree on your first point. Players have to be held responsible for their play. Too often last year, the coaches let the players off the hook. That has to stop this year. If you put Hartsburg in another room and asked him about the system, he would say the same thing. If the players don’t buy into it, this will turn ugly. The problem is trying to figure out whether or not they will buy into it. Great insight Dearen.
Next let's move onto Mike. You can follow Mike on twitter mwalsh20
In my opinion, the Flames are a playoff team with the current roster. But in order to remain a playoff team, here is what has to happen. First, they have continue where they left off. They earned points in something like 35 of their last 46 games or something close to that, they really cannot afford a major slip up from that. Second, the Flames have to stay healthy, especially up front. With most teams who battle all season long just to make the playoffs, the Flames do not have enough depth. The prospects who are closest to playing and pushing for time with them are blue liners. If the Flames lose a couple key guys for a prolonged period of time, it could really hurt the Flames' chances of making the playoffs. Third, they must get the balanced contributions that they received last season. Iginla needs to be in the 80-90 point range and Tanguay the 70-80 range. The secondary scoring forwards: Jokinen, Bourque, Glencross, even Morrison all need to be in 40-55 maybe even 60 point range. Mikael Backlund needs to take another step forward, I’d settle for 40ish points. It would be a real bonus if one of Stajan or Hagman could rebound as well. They must get more scoring from the blue liners, Bouwmeester must improve on his 4 goals and 24 point season. And finally, there must be a better commitment to team defense. As a 5 man unit on the ice, they all need to be committed to help keep the puck out of the net. The Flames will finish anywhere from 5-10th in the conference, I will say they finish 6th and play Vancouver in the first round.
I agree, Mike, the Flames have to start off fast they must not start slow again this year. Injuries do play a major role and Flames losing any of their core would be devastating. The secondary scoring is huge for this team the top 6 must get help from the last two lines. Some fans would say the Flames don’t have enough top 6 forwards. As I said in one of my earlier blogs, Jbo has to take on a major role this season. He has a lot of responsibility. Great insight ,Mike. As usual, you are right on again.
I would like to welcome the last member of the panel, Rob, our first time visitor. You can follow him on Twitter as etchysketch.
If there's one thing that has plagued the Flames post-2004, it's the inability to be consistent. In fact, if you look at the stats, the Flames have been fairly consistent at being inconsistent. After last year's amazing record of 26-11-9, following the Darryl Sutter era, the Flames looked to be a contender following Boxing Day 2010. Unfortunately, losing Morrison during the final stretch didn't help the team's cause and everything seemed to fall out of place. That being said, the Flames finished the season strong, going 3-0-1 in the final 4 games. If the Flames can play like they did in the second half of the season, for the entire season, I can see them making a serious bid for a playoff spot come next Spring. And although a lot of us may not really understand the Flames' strategy this off-season, there's one thing we can all agree on... Only 32 days until pre-season.
Watching the Flames last year was like watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Flames last year totally blew it in the first half so much so that they could not overcome it in the second. I totally agree. Can they play the first half like it’s just as important as the last half?
Now for my answer. As I sat and thought about this, two major thoughts came to my head. The Flames' strength on this team is the goaltending. Kipper and the Tower can, and probably will, steal at least 10 games this season. That is the key point. Karlsson has to play 20 games and win half of them, if not more. Last year, like every year, Kipper got worn out. We need a fresh Kipper the last part of the year.
My last point is that Iggy and Tangs need to repeat last year, and if Lanks can return to his numbers, the Flames will have a major first line. If the offense can add a little more numbers, mainly if Stajan and Hagmen can produce, then yes, it can happen.
I would like to thank the guests Rob, Dearen, and Mike. They are great guys with huge hockey knowledge. I will try to keep this a regular event. Thanks again guys.
Until next time, take care.