Wednesday, March 26, 2014

One-on-One with Chris Nichols

"Who do you think will be the new GM of the Flames?"

I don't necessarily have any insight into that in terms of a name, but there have been some breadcrumbs left by Brian Burke in recents months as to the nature of his role as president of hockey operations as it will potentially relate to his new GM. 

This was from the Calgary Herald in December and I've referenced it a number of times since. 

Burke: "The thinking is — and this exists in a number of franchises in football, baseball, basketball, and now forward in the NHL — you’ve got someone there to steer the ship and mentor a young GM. First off, you avoid the big mistakes that young GMs typically make. And second, you don’t have to have an organizational shift, a major reorientation every time you bring in a new GM. You have someone steering the ship even if someone else is in command on a day-to-day basis.”

Between that quote and the times he's noted wanting to be patient with waiting for getting permission to talk to candidates (maybe once a team has been eliminated from the playoffs), it seems like the Flames will be getting a first-time GM. That could have changed had Joe Nieuwendyk been interested, naturally. 

We'll see. I think Burke will find a good match and I also don't believe he'll want to micromanage the new guy either, despite what some people might think. 


"Who do you think the Flames will go after in the off-season?"

Anytime you're in a position such as the one in which the Flames currently find themselves, with whatever you want to call this rebuild, you're immediately going to close off a certain portion of the free agent market. UFAs are prime of their career guys, or older, so they generally want to try to win in addition to getting paid. 

What the Flames will be able to offer though, is chances for the guys who want a bigger role than they currently have. Calgary is willing to spend money if it's smart money, which is different than a rebuilding team that only wants to slash payroll. 

I'm most interested to see how things unfold between the pipes for Calgary. 


"Were you surprised that Cammy stayed and do you think the Flames will sign him?"

I wasn't terribly surprised, given how last-minute some of the big name trades were at the deadline - plus the Kesler trade that didn't happen. Burke alluded to how that all sort of gummed up the works for several teams. 

I think the Flames will make what they feel is a reasonable effort to sign him again, but it'll really come down to what Cammalleri wants to do. He'll certainly be sought on the free agent market if he wants a new home. I do like how direct Burke has been with Cammalleri though. Very straightforward. Players like and respect that, which can be a factor when signing with the Flames too. 


"Please let us know about your site, and about yourself."

I started NicholsOnHockey.com right before the trade deadline after seven years with Sportsnet.ca. My vision for it has been very simple, in that I want it to be daily value-added content for hockey fans. 

Aside from the staples of full line combinations and power play units, which appeal to poolies and hockey fans alike, the focus of the site is interesting stories and quotes - often with a social media twist of some kind. 

Most people don't have time to read even a portion of the NHL content floating around in cyber space, so I like to mine the info and point people toward stories worth reading. 

One of my favorite things to do is pull quotes that may not have had anything to do with the 'lead' angle in the original story, but may be even more interesting to readers. One of the most popular stories on the site, in fact, was one about Darryl Sutter discussing puck possession. It was buried in its original story, but was a fascinating take on it. Sutter has such a sharp hockey mind. 

Hopefully hockey fans will like and support the site. New content will be rolled out in the coming months and into next season as well. 

I've been in the media field for two decades now and have been writing about hockey or fantasy hockey professionally for about 14 of those years, dating back to my time with ESPN.com

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Flames Mount Rushmore

A little while ago while I was watching the guys from Pardon the Interruption discuss LeBron James and his NBA Mount Rushmore. That segment got me thinking about which 4 players would be on the Calgary Flames Mount Rushmore. On the small chance someone out there doesn’t understand the reference, I’m talking about which 4 players are the best in franchise history and deserve to have their heads chiseled into the side of a mountain. Simple enough so let’s get to my list:


Jarome Iginla- Anyone who knows me will know I am a huge Jarome Iginla fan. Before he was traded to Pittsburgh in 2012-2013, I used to wonder if I was a bigger Flames fan or a bigger Iginla fan and if I would still cheer for the Flames after he was gone. With that being said, Iginla is without a doubt the best player in Flames history and I would think most people would agree on that. He is the all time franchise leader in games played, goals and points and is second in assists. He arguably single-handedly carried the team to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004 and was one of most dominant players in the NHL from 2000 to 2008. He is hands down #1 on the list.


Miikka Kiprusoff- Even though Mike Vernon is the only goalie to back stop the Flames to a Stanley Cup win, Miikka Kiprusoff was only one win away from doing the same thing and is the only Flames goalie to win a Vezina Trophy.. The guy played outstanding in his tenure with the Flames and often times he was the only reason why they stayed in games. Jay Feaster once said, “If we were to trade [Kiprusoff], is there a position lower than 30th? If we were to trade [Kiprusoff], we'd be sub-30, whatever that number is in a 30-team league.” That’s completely true in my mind. While Iginla was the heart and soul of this team, Kipper was the backbone and team MVP for many years at the same time as Iginla played in Calgary.


Al MacInnis- “Chopper” played in Calgary for 13 years and is mostly remembered for having one of the hardest shot in the NHL. His shot clocked in at 100 MPH and was so hard he broke the end boards and goalie Mike Liut’s mask. This was in a day before players used their magic composite sticks they use today. Besides that Al MacInnis led the Flames to their only Stanley Cup win in 1989, leading the team in scoring with 31 points and winning the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. He is the best defenceman in Flames history and was named to the NHL 1st or 2nd All-Star team 5 times while playing in Calgary. Al was also the first player to be inducted into the Forever a Flame program in 2012.


Theoren Fleury- The last spot on the list is the most debatable in my mind but Fleury takes it for me. He was THE franchise player during the mid to late 90’s, which was right when I became a Flames fan. His OT goal and double knee slide celebration against the Oilers in the 1991 playoffs is one of the highlights that you will always remember (Click here to watch). He represented Canada on numerous occasions and played in 6 All-Star games while playing in Calgary. Before my man Jarome took over the team lead in all time goals and points, Theo was the leader in both categories. What is amazing to me is he did all that, plus added a physical element to his game, as a player who was smaller than Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning! Let’s not forget his memorable comeback attempt in 2009 where he scored 4 points in 4 exhibition games and had most Flames fans hoping he would make the team.


Thanks for reading. I'm always up for talking about the Flames and the NHL on twitter, hit me up @nhlflamesfan.  

Jeff

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An expression of love to the Stajans

Times like this reminds me that hockey is just a game. We at FlamesJambalaya would like offer our deepest sympathy to the Stajan family. No words can heal the heartache of a loved one. But prayers and words of support can strengthen them at this time. So please, let's all have the Stajans in our prayers and thoughts. 

As a parent, I can only imagine the pain of losing my son. When I lost my father, my sister sang a song with the message  “I'm not leaving, I’m just going home. So with that, the Stajans' little one is going home. I truly hope they can find comfort during these troubled times.  We have them in our hearts.

I thought if you would to leave a comment for the family, I will let Flames know about this blog with our condolences to the Stajans. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Grading the Flames Deadline Day


On a day that Flames fans were waiting weeks or months for, the Flames made two trades at the deadline. Reto Berra was traded to Colorado in exchanged for a 2nd round draft pick in 2014 and Lee Stempniak was traded to Pittsburgh for a 2014 3rd rounder.  What the day might be remembered for is that UFA’s Mike Cammalleri and Chris Butler were not traded before the 3pm EST deadline.

We decided it would be fun to grade Brian Burke’s performance today and give a brief description as to why.


Here is what Dearen thought:

I am giving the Flames and Burke a B-. The second round pick for Berra saved the day. Reality is we had move able assets that will be UFAs come July 1st; and I expected ones like Cammalleri and Butler to be moved. Now the attention will shift to resigning Cammalleri, and with Burke saying that he hopes to be a buyer next deadline; perhaps Cammalleri signs an extension and it begins the turnaround in Calgary.

All in all with how Burke spoke leading up to the trade deadline with comments like "I expect to be busy" and "I am willing to take on salary". I am shocked that Berra and Stempniak were the only two moves. With those two moves we will get the see what we have in Ortio, Granlund and Knight. 

Now the return for Berra (2nd round pick) is fantastic. Perhaps in two years we can be discussing how great of a goalie Berra has become, but today a second round pick for him is a nice haul. Stempniak for a third rounder is what I expected. Nice deal and a great opportunity for a great person in Stempniak.

Overall acquiring two top 90 picks in the 2014 for two expiring contracts is solid considering who was moved.
I am giving the Flames a B-, and the return for Berra is the reason why.


Here are Randy’s thoughts:

Flames = Lames on Deadline Day

My title should give you a hint on what I thought of what Burke did. First of all, let me clarify why I am so upset. You do not buy an asset and then throw said asset out the second story window. That is how I felt about what he did with Cammy.  Cammy wants to win. He told the Flames he is not planning to stay. Burke would have to convince Cammy that the Flames will be a contender. 

Butler, the other notable UFA, is like a kid in a candy store. Butler is so happy to be here. You have to think Burke is drinking the Kool-Aid; so I will give Burke the benefit of the doubt in signing Butler. 

I also give Burke a failing grade for not picking up any bad contracts for the fringe benefit of getting picks. We have all of this cap space, and we are not taking advantage of it. We should have gotten some picks, but we failed to do so. 

On the bright side, we made a couple of great trades. Who would ever have thought that we could get a second rounder for Berra? Liar—I see you with your hand in the air! Yes, that was a great deal for Berra. Well done, Mr. Burke. Lee Stempniak for a third round pick was also good value for a streaky player.  

Overall, I would give Burke a C grade. You just cannot give up an asset without any return. Getting anything would have been better than getting nothing.


As for me:

It’s tough for me to give Burke and the Flames a single grade on today’s moves. On one hand I really expected Mike Cammalleri to get moved. The fact that he is a UFA and there is a possibility the Flames could lose him for nothing is terrible asset management if it comes to that. The same can be said for Chris Butler but obviously not to the same extend.

On the other hand the two trades Brian Burke was able to make were great. It was quite the shock to see Reto Berra get traded period but the fact Burke was able to get a 2nd round pick for him was a great trade. As Dearen said this trade really saves the deadline day in my mind. I wouldn’t have expected that for him even if I thought he was going to get traded. Lee Stempniak landing a 3rd round is also a win in my mind as I would have expected a 3rd or 4th to come back.


Going back to my grade here is why I can’t give just one grade. If the Flames fail to get Cammalleri signed onto a new contract and they lose him to the UFA market then this day gets a D from me. I’ll be very disappointed that he left without anything coming back. Now if they are able to get Mike to re-sign then my grade jumps to a B based on the fact both trades landed higher draft picks than I would have expected.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Flames Trade Candidates

With the NHL trade deadline hours away, we await the frenzy of moves that everyone hopes happens. The Flames should be involved with many UFA players on the current roster.

Brian Burke recently said he expects there to be a lot of moves before the deadline. Burke also quoted that GMs make the biggest mistakes on deadline day; I am sure he hopes a GM makes a “mistake” on one of his current players.

Players such as O’Brien, Butler,Galiardi, Stempniak and Cammalleri are most talked about. I however am most interested to see if Burke can move a contract like Wideman. I am also intrigued to see if Baertschi’s days are numbered, although I see that more of a draft day deal. And Hudler, another name that could draw some interest from teams who want a producing player beyond this season.

For fun let’s see who Randy, Jeff and I think will get moved and what team will acquire this Flames player. And a wild card pick for fun.

RANDY:
Somebody once said high expectations can be a huge letdown, so always lower expectations.  The lower your expectations; the less disappointment you may endure. There are so many players made available at this deadline, but with my luck, none of them will get traded. So with that, I am a little gun-shy of predicting anything. But they are making me do this, so here it goes.

Let me be clear. This is not inside info. This is my opinion and only my opinion. Heaven knows, I wish my squirrels had some good info here. But here it goes. The Flames will try to make as many trades as they can. But only good deals that make sense. 

1. Mike Cammalleri 

Mike has the skill of a pure sniper who can change the game in a second. He can be that player who wants the puck when the game is on the line. I love his one timer, when he bends down one knee to shoot it.  

The teams: Kings, Devils, Ducks, Pens, or Leafs.  All five teams could use him, but only two of them cannot score. The Kings and the Devils. But the Kings are assured of the playoffs. So my prediction is the Kings. They need him and will be desperate to get him. 

2. Lee Stempniak

The second player is difficult, because I am sure there will be three players being shopped. My second pick is Lee Stempniak. He is a streaky player, who scores in buckets. He is a great secondary scorer. 

Several teams could use Lee, led by the Bruins and the Pens. This is a toss-up. I think the Pens will step up and grab him. They are still pretty weak in third and fourth line forwards. Lee would be a perfect fit for the Pens. 

3.  Bonus wild card player 

My last guess is Dennis Wideman. The problem is that he might be hard to trade. But if the Flames could find a home for him, I think they would. He is a great powerplay defensemen with a hard shot. I think the Bruins could really use him. 

-Randy 

Very interesting picks by Randy, I am sure we can all agree that Cammalleri to the Kings is a high possibility. Moving Wideman’s contract would be a great bonus but likely Burke would be eating some of his salary to make a trade work.

Up next is Jeff:

#1- Mike Cammalleri. He is the "for sure getting traded". I'm going with Pittsburgh because I really want to see the Flames get one of their young prospects on defense.

#2- Chris Butler. I'm not exactly sure where I see him going but I'll say Pittsburgh again because they are hurting on the back end and I can see them making a move to help fix that problem.  

Wild Card Pick- Giordano to Philly. Why? Because Philly LOVES to make a splash and they love to acquire defencemen. They also love to trade away quality, young players so they send Calgary a Schenn or Couturier type player.
-Jeff

Again we see Cammalleri as #1 at no surprise. Giordano was an off the wall selection. But if two guys are crazy enough to make such a deal, Burke and Holmgren would be the likely partners.

And at last it is me:

Cammalleri- He is popular kid on the school yard. Although we keep hearing an “extension” as a possibility, I predict Anaheim adds him to their roster. He would fit in nicely and I see them as a team that could extend Cammalleri beyond this season.

Galiardi- Pittsburgh adds the young winger to their bottom six. It is no secret that the Pens would like to strengthen their bottom two lines. Galiardi will come cheap and provide some speed and depth going into the playoffs for the Pens.

 Wild card: Smid- Although Burke said on TSN that he cannot see himself trading Smid this deadline, there may be more interest than he initially thought. Teams always look for defensive depth heading into the post season. Look at what Doug Murray got the Sharks last year (two second rounds picks) same for Regehr. Smid will get dealt in my opinion and Detroit will make the deal with Calgary to acquire Smid.

In the end we can all speculate but by 3pm EST. on Wednesday we will all know who actually will be wearing a new NHL jersey.


Let us know what you think! Thanks to Randy and Jeff for taking the time to give us their picks.
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.