Thrashers Well Represented At World Championships

Anssi Salmela will play for Team Finland in the World Championships being held in Switzerland. That brings the total number of Thrashers playing in the tournament to eight. Also wearing their country’s colors are…Ilya Kovalchuk for Russia… Tobias Enstrom, who’ll play for Sweden… Colby Armstrong who will suit up for Canada… Boris Valabik will do battle for Slovakia…and Colin Stuart, Zach Bogosian along Ron Hainsey will each represent the red, white and blue for the good ‘ol USA.

What sticks out to me in that count is the fact that no less than five Atlanta defenders have been selected to compete in the tournament.

Congrats to them all and we’ll be following their success in the weeks to come.

Hey Caps Fans…We Can Relate

The Washington Capitals are in a bad, bad position right now. They had the luxury of playing the first two games of their series with the New York Rangers on home ice …and dropped both of them by one goal margins.

Game-one went 4-3 to the New York. In game-two, played last Saturday afternoon, Lundqvist and the Rangers found a way to make one single goal stand up, giving them a 2-0 series lead heading back to Madison Square Garden.

If all this sounds painfully familiar, there’s a reason for that. Two season ago the Rangers were a lower seed matched up in a round-1 playoff series with the Southeast Division winners…the Atlanta Thrashers. Game one played in Philips Arena was a 4-3 Rangers win and game two… also an afternoon affair… was a low-scoring, one-goal win by the Blue Shirts. 2-1 then, 1-0 this past Saturday.

Also like the Thrashers of two seasons ago, Washington’s head coach Bruce Boudreau made a change in goal for game-two and now is faced with the decision of whether or not to go back to veteran goalie Jose Theodore who allowed four goals on only 21shots in game-one… or stick with 20-year old Simeon Valamov who stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced in game-two.

As I’m sure you’ll recall, Thrashers’ coach Bob Hartley decided to keep the revolving door in front of Atlanta’s net spinning and switched netminders yet again…returning to Kari Leghtonen.

The result was a 7-0 game-three mugging at MSG, Kari allowing all seven on 35 SOG.

So, if history is any guide here…I’d say Broudreau should stick with Valamov.

Thank God For Los Angeles

The Falconer reports that the Atlanta Thrashers spent $44.1 in salaries that went toward the cap. That places them at 29th in the league with only the Kings spending less.

65 comments Add your comment

kracker

April 19th, 2009
11:04 pm

This is great, Rawhide! OK, we have to say that a lot of guysare still in the NHL playoffs but it still says a lot about so many of our young guys to be representing their countries.

I don’t think the Habs are gonna pull the series out vs the Bruins so we will have to give up the third round pick. But, hey, I get to root for the Habs when there is little hope for them to win so it’s not a total loss.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
12:43 am

http://blogs.ajc.com/iceman-thrashers-blog/2009/04/17/ring-around-the-blogosphere/#comment-2358 . I can’t disagree with Rawhide’s assertion that Boudreau should stick with Varlamov. He played really well in Game Two. If Boudreau doesn’t think Theodore can get it done, and Varlamov is playing well, what real choice does he have? On the other hand, maybe Game One really was “one bad game” by Theodore, who led the Capitals to a Century mark regular season.

Don’t look now, but the Anaheim Ducks have a 2-0 series lead on the Stanley Cup favorites, San Jose, as the series shifts over to Honda Center, in Anaheim. Wow. Many of us selected the Sharks to win the Cup. As it stands now, the Sharks must win four of the next five (4/5) games, with three of the next five (3/5) being playing in Anaheim.

And you may be wondering, “How on EARTH did San Jose wind up drawing Anaheim??” Well, it’s simple. The St. Louis Blues, the NHL’s best “2nd Half season record” team, poured it on down the stretch, and finished sixth. This pushed Columbus out of 6th spot and into 7th position. Which, in turn, displaced the Ducks to the 8th. This probably wasn’t what San Jose had hoped. And now, down 2-0, we can all see why.

It’s the Ducks series to lose now. Coming home, up 2-0, needing two wins in five games (2/5), with three games at home, there’s little by way of excuses.

Alan

April 20th, 2009
2:26 am

I’m just looking at the Detroit-Columbus series. If the Jackets keep playing the way they are now, they’re going to be in the same boat as Atlanta.

One trip to the dance, but having nothing to showfor it.

Really, they didn’t even try during game two, practically handing the game on a platter.

Paminski

April 20th, 2009
9:39 am

It sure is tempting to want to see other teams screw up as badly as we have before. Go! (er, Don’t Go!) Caps and Jackets!

Smoothie

April 20th, 2009
10:58 am

On the topic of the Salary Cap and potential players who will be Cap Casualties, who would you rather have for two years if there were no other options than to add an experienced goal-scoring forward for less than $3.5 M / year?

A) Mike Knuble…37 y/o, 6′ 2″, 235 lbs; avg of 28.5 goals & 55 pts over the last four seasons

B) Petr Sykora…32 y/o, 6′ 0″, 190 lbs; avg of 26 goals & 55 pts over the last 3.5 seasons

C) Keith Tkachuk…37 y/o, 6′ 2″, 232 lbs; 26.85 goals & 57.5 pts over the last 3.5 seasons

I know it is not ideal to have to bring in a guy this old, but just for the sake of argument and considering the possibility that the ASG will be outbid and outmaneuvered for the younger FA talent out there, which one of these guys would you like to see in Thrashers blue (or red) next season.

My preference would be Knuble with a slight edge over KT and then Sykora as a decent RW compliment to Kovy and Peverley at C. With KT back in the mix, then you could keep Little at RW and drop Pevs down to the 2nd line as the RW for Kozzy and White. Interesting Top 6 there.

Russian

April 20th, 2009
11:28 am

Kovy said to Russian news, that Atlanta Thrashers do not have enough money to get Nikulin this year. Also he said that if Nikulin did not come here last year he will not coming next season also. This is a bad news. I really want to see Nikulin and Hainsi play together next year. :-(

Dwayne

April 20th, 2009
11:30 am

Who would Kovy want? IMO? Knuble!! kanuckle head could have stayed here and help build something, he took a shot at the playoffs and went back to St LEWIS. He can stay there. Sykora would be the 2nd pick. Anything going on with Reasoner? Kovy? so far so good on my eastern conference picks, didn’t pick the west tho. could care less who comes out from there!! Still feel like the Devils will get to raise Lord Stanleys cup, alotho, if Carolina upsets them and wins the cup i’d be happy. another cup for the SOUTH !!! ya hear that Don Cherry?? eh?? I sure do miss the Thrashers.

Smoothie

April 20th, 2009
11:33 am

Russian, do you think he meant that Nikulin won’t accept the entry level money required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement? I don’t think the Thrashers can offer him more than the $900 K or so in base salary plus bonus incentives to the tune of $1.5 – $1.85 M. So even if Don Waddell wanted to throw the kitchen sink at Ilya, it wouldn’t matter due to the restrictions of the CBA.

Thanks for the news out of Russia, but really no surprise on that front.

Spud Webb

April 20th, 2009
11:47 am

It’s not over yet, but I believe I predicted the Ducks taking SanJose out!!!!
But I also predicted st.louis beating Vancouver, OOOOOOOOOOPS!!!!!!!!!! ahahhahahahaha
More than ever I see the penguins crying and crying. I hate both Philly and Pitt, but find myself rooting for philly. Every whistle Cindy is talking to the ref and just crying and whining, the whole team. Good lord!
Robert Luango looks amazing at this point. Tough to get it by that guy right now. It took some perfect passes by the blues last night just to get two goals.
Personally, I don’t want Knuble, Sykora or Tkachuk, we can find better. If we can somehow get Nikulin here for next year, we can go Offense for sure with our first round selection. Let’s hope we can.

Nikita

April 20th, 2009
11:55 am

Personally I’m very fond of Sykora. I like his relative youth, I like his Cezchitude, and I also generally like seeing how well he plays with others. Sykora is a good acquisition for Atlanta because he can be slotted in practically anywhere and perform well. I’m not sure that’s the case for Tkachuk or Knuble. Who costs what, though? Sykora, I seem to recall, doesn’t cost a lot, but what do K & T cost?

Otherwise, I’m very happy to see Anahaeim doing well. It’ll turn the whole predictive scheme on its head if they knock out San Jose, though.

sisu

April 20th, 2009
11:56 am

Nikulin is not real, he does not exists as far as i am concerned. He will stay in Russia until Atlanta trades his rights to someone else and he still may stay in Russia.

Rawhide

April 20th, 2009
12:05 pm

Spudster – I predicted that San Jose, Chicago, Detroit, Vancouver, Washington, Carolina, Boston and Philly would advance to the second round.

I think 4 of those teams are winning their series…two of the ones I picked, Washington and SJ are down 2-0 having dropped both opening games at home.

Un-good.

Smoothie

April 20th, 2009
12:18 pm

Spud, that wasn’t the question. I don’t want them either in an ideal situation, but do you really think we’re going to shell out $7 M / year for Gaborik or Gionta or a younger player of their ilk?

Nikita, Sykora is only making $2.5 M this year and would be a relative steal to get him for less than $3.5 M / year. The Pens have about $47 M tied up in 13 players including their goalie. That leaves only $10.5 M or so to sign the following players:

Sykora, Fedotenko, Satan (unlikely), Guerin (unlikely?), Zigomanis, Craig Adams, Hal Gill, Scuderi and Phillipe Boucher (perhaps unlikely since he is 35) as well as a back-up netminder (Garon & Sabourin are both UFAs). That’s 8-10 player to sign with only $10.5 M…issues!!

Russian

April 20th, 2009
1:20 pm

I do not want to Sykora, Tkuch ot Knuble. I want to TWINS. They are expencive, but Don should has money for next year. Kovy will not Sign a Deal with Current Team. He said on last game that he wanted to see PROGRESS, he wanted to see Players. We will get 4 pick from Draft. Who is believe that this Kid (18 y.o) will play with Kovy next year. I will not. Twins will be perfect to him.
Look what I can think.
Twin – Twin – Kovy
Little – White – Slava (or Pever)
Armi – Reasoner – Pever (or Slava)
Stuart – Slater – Laraque (from Montreal)

That Line up may keep Kovy in Atlanta.

Dwayne

April 20th, 2009
1:26 pm

Rawhide…i picked Rangers, Pitt(league and refs will help them) even tho i want Philly to win, Devils and Boston. so far so good. i picked Rangers because of one player….Avery. aint that sad. picked Devils becuase of one player. guess who. Boston was the no brainer.

Rawhide

April 20th, 2009
1:45 pm

Dwaynepicked Devils because of one player. guess who.

Ummm…I’ll take “Martin Brodeur” for one thousand, Alex…

Alan

April 20th, 2009
2:02 pm

I don’t want another old guy to come in. Give us someone under age 30. The Sedins, for example. Gaborik. Filppula (via trade — hey, it’s possible), Hudler (RFA, trade for rights), etc.

We have some options this summer. It’s not integral that we make the playoffs next spring (though trying is certainly encouraged). We just need to get better. Can any of the players who appear in the fantasies of everyone here actually step in and make us better? We would hope so, but there’s no guarantees. Especially if you’re talking a 30+yr old whose prime is behind them.

sisu

April 20th, 2009
2:53 pm

I think it is a pipe dream to get the Sedins here, won’t happen, you think the spirit will spend 15 to 16 million for 2 players? I am still laughing! Plus, if you add Kovy’s salary then the team would have 21 to 24 million in just 3 players…no thanks! It will be a player who either has much upside or a veteran in the twilight of their career…just my opinion

A2B

April 20th, 2009
2:57 pm

Forget scoring besides one top 6 right winger (Gaborik would be nice with all his speed)… that is not our problem. Anyone catch we scored the seventh most goals in the NHL (yea we were on par with the sharks), only problem we let in tons of goals that got through because of week defenseman/we couldn’t get the puck out of the zone. If you want to see a rapid improvement start there. Get rid of X and get another smart defensive minded D-man to hold over till Valabik is really ready. The man is going to be a beast one day, Chara sucked (yes you read that right) for about his first 2 full years in the NHL and now he is a monster. Valabik plays the same way and if he turns out like Chara either this year or the next then, amen we are golden. Our scoring is fine we need the defense and the winger we get to play solid PK minutes. We are stacked in the system with scoring forwards, we have to hope our Defense finally comes through and matures to good NHL players.

Dwayne

April 20th, 2009
3:00 pm

ding ding ding, you get a prize from the bottom shelf.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
3:00 pm

Smoothie, of the players you listed, I would want Knuble 1st, Tkachuk 2nd, and Sykora, 3rd. I think Tkachuk is at $4 million a year. I don’t know, salary-wise, what the other two make. But I’d bet that Knuble could be had for under $4.0 million. And maybe Sykora, too.

But I genuinely believe the Thrashers do have a “youth movement” underway. And while they’re building, and expected to finish in the lottery draft in that process, I’d say that they’d be better served to try players they have in Chicago, in hopes they can cut it at the NHL level.

I think it would be “surprising” to have the Sedin Twins here. The funniest part would be that … Atlanta did own that 1st overall pick in 1999, when the Sedin Twins were draft eligible. For them to wind up here, afterall, is almost “like” we drafted them. But uhh, they way they’re playing right now, in the Blues series, I would think Mike Gillis is much more seriously thinking of re-signing Henrik and Daniel.

If the Sharks lose to Anaheim, Detroit would play the Ducks next. We all know that the Ducks upset Detroit in 2003, in that miracle run to the Finals. Anaheim also defeated the Red Wings in the Conference Finals, in 2007, en route to winning the Stanley Cup. The Ducks and Red Wings are tied, 2-2, all-time, in the playoffs. But, we shouldn’t look ahead. These series aren’t over yet.

Vancouver’s lead is 3-0. And unless the Blues become the 3rd team, all-time, to pull off overcoming such a deficit, the Canucks will advance. If the Ducks win their series with San Jose, then Vancouver would HOST the winner of Chicago/Calgary. Vancouver has to like their chances against either the Flames or the Blackhawks. And if the Ducks continued their mastery of the Red Wings, Vancouver would HOST the Ducks in the CF.

Uhhh, see … this is why we shouldn’t look ahead.

A2B

April 20th, 2009
3:07 pm

Here is the big stat that glares out to me 88 PPGA on 366 SH situations… to get into the top half of the league in PPGA we have to cut that number down to 64. How many fans here can say we lost several games by watching Power PLay goal after power play goal go in late in the third period? IMHO, that should be our main goal, since correcting that leads you to defensive responsible players. I could be way off, abut if we go in that direction that might solve a lot of our problems faster that if we just try to outscore people every night (as exciting as it is to watch its just not smart in the long haul).

ranallo10 (in AT)

April 20th, 2009
3:29 pm

Which is why I would argue a player like Ohlund should be an offseason target. Call me crazy, but I’d be happier with Ohlund on this team than Campbell. I’d also be much happier seeing a defender pursued than an aged forward who is running on fumes (they can do that for years to come and I’d still be concerned with Knuble and Tkachuk…signing them is a step backwards, in my opinion).

Nikulin’s news (thanks Russian) is not surprising but is still disappointing. I’m curious about Andrei Zubarev, any news on him?

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
3:35 pm

And A2B,, such a defensive-minded coach/GM is out there, and available for work. His name is Jacques Lemaire, formerly of the Minnesota Wild. Imagine if Lemaire taught Kovalchuk how to be a Selke Trophy-like player? He’d be the #1 player in the NHL, excelling offensively and defensively. When Todd White was first signed, the first quote of his that I remember went something like this, “I’m really proud of the way I play on both sides of the puck. I believe playing well defensively leads to more offensive opportunities. It’s about having good positional play.”

And would the blueline be upset about forwards backchecking? Or our goalies? No, I would think, rather, they’d like to see more defensive commitment on the part of our forwards. Jacques Lemaire is ACCOSTUMED to coaching/managing a “shoestring budget” team, too. Wonder if “Boomer” (Geoffrion) ever sang Atlanta’s praises to Lemaire? Aw, forget it. We’re sticking with a GM with no playoff wins over nine seasons. PFFT. Even a PRESIDENT has to LEAVE OFFICE after 10 years. (2 years, taking over for a sitting president, then elected for four, and re-elected for another four, makes 10 years, MAXIMUM.) Maybe the NHL can look into “term limits” for sitting GM’s.

Jimbo

April 20th, 2009
3:49 pm

If Nikulin ever gets to the NHL, he’ll be be getting around with a walker. Re-sign Oystrick and see if a beefed up Postma can beat out Kulda for the last D. spot. The D. is OK but we do need more toughness and grit than Perrin, thorburn and Boulton provided.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
3:58 pm

Iffffffff we look outside the organization for free agents, which I’m not encouraging, as we have enough guys, inhouse, we need to re-sign, and still have a responsible budget for the ‘09-10 season, I’d look to Michael Cammalleri, Center, of the Calgary Flames. Previously, of the Los Angeles Kings. Cammalleri is still young. And there’s just no wayyyy he could fail centering Kovalchuk. He’ll cost $5 million, minimum. He actually wants $6 million. That’s about where a market like Atlanta would have to pay to get him.

I know. Okay, I do. I get it. Don’t go there. But ifff it’s true that Cammalleri is the “odd man out” in Calgary, or if he, flat-out, wants out of Calgary, this is something worth pursuing. He’s 26. As in twennnnnn-ty sixxxxxxx. He’s not aged. He’s not decrepid. He’s not running on fumes. Or surviving on reputation more than actual talent. But he’s not sold on Atlanta, or we’re not sold on him, we could still just try a 2-year deal to see if he’s the “right fit” for the Thrashers. And if he isn’t, he won’t be hard to trade, either at the deadline in 2010, or at the draft in 2010.

Rawhide

April 20th, 2009
4:01 pm

JimboIf Nikulin ever gets to the NHL, he’ll be be getting around with a walker

Agreed. I consider that saga over. If he does come here next fall…great. But if not, it’s time to move on.

ASG hater

April 20th, 2009
4:06 pm

We need a new GM. Clearly if someone else was drafting, making trades and signing free agents for this team we would have at least 6 of our young defensemen going to the World Championships, not just a measly 5.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
4:29 pm

Isn’t it true that the IIHF has to take what’s available, just like a lonely person at closing time? (If ya’d done better, you wouldn’t BE THERE when the bar closes.) In that sense, the World’s might have to take our whole team. And would that be an accomplishment?

Jus’ sayin.

Tony C.

April 20th, 2009
4:30 pm

What about Lundmark from Cal-Gary??? I would think Sutter will keep Cammelleri-I may be wrong, but just watch the guy work with Iginla-it’s pretty special.

Ohlund would be AWESOME pickup. Imagine the D (with just the addition of Ohlund):

Ohlund-Enstrom

Hainsey-Valabik

X-Bogosian

With PP pairings of:

Enstrom-Bogsian

Hainsey-Ohlund

Of course you’re going to see #17 out at the point on the PP a lot (does he demand this or what? I think he’s way more effective moving around that left side rather than being a fixture at the point) so:

#17-Enstrom

Enstrom-Bogosian

Hansiey-Ohlund/Bogosian

Not too shabby if you ask me.

Also, if things continue to go the wrong way for San Jose, do you think management there blows that team up? I would think that there’d be a general house-cleaning in the front office, and perhaps there might be a chance to get someone like Michalek? Or maybe the long-rumored Marleau trade could happen….

The Joker

April 20th, 2009
4:32 pm

Which will occur first?

1) Nikulin signs with the Thrashers

2) the ASG clowns settle the lawsuit

3) Don Waddell is fired as GM

4) None of the above

ASG hater

April 20th, 2009
4:35 pm

14 teams didn’t make the playoffs, why isn’t the IIHF taking more defensemen from those other 13 teams? Looks like those 13 teams have a lot of defensemen still there for last call. Just sayin’

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
5:01 pm

Well, I definitely see Ohlund as an improvement. Duly noted that he’ll be 33 in September. If permitted to hallucinate, I’d look at Jay Bouwmeester (much younger). And that’s your wake up call. The only way I see Bouwmeester here … is if he has such an AX TO GRIND with Florida, that he intends to “get even” with them by signing with a division rival. But uhh, I don’t think it works that way. The way I think it works … is that the player CHOOSES the market he wants to play in, provided that said market is likewise interested in him, and has cap room, or is willing to MAKE THE CAP ROOM, for Bouwmeester.

I second the motion to move Exelby. But what are we, seriously, going to get for him?? “X” is under contract for another year. And I suspect he’ll play out that contract, then go from there. The only way I see Exelby leaving … is if he’s packaged in deal, somehow. And I don’t have any particular thoughts on the who, where, what or how that might happen.

Does anyone happen to have a list of players Waddell drafted that he later traded? There’s only two that immediately come to mind: Heatley and Coburn. But there must be more. Like Stefan.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
5:05 pm

Some of those other players don’t have a contract for next season and won’t risk an injury.

Jus’ sayin.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
5:06 pm

Joker, Choice #2.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
5:15 pm

Tony C., the source of the Calgary rumors about Cammalleri is TSN. More specifically, Bob MacKenzie, Darren Dreger, and James Duffie. I don’t really believe it. I think Calgary will do what’s necessary to keep Cammalleri. But if Mike isn’t happy there, then there’s a stronger possibility of his leaving.

The Joker

April 20th, 2009
5:42 pm

If Cammalleri is brought in to finally fill the Savard void, does he also chase around teenage girls like Savard did?

Tony C.

April 20th, 2009
7:46 pm

What’s the deal with that anyway?

That’s not the first time I’ve heard that about Savard-what exactly is up with that? I mean I know this is The South and people love to gossip & point fingers, but what’s the source for the Savard rumors?

I’ve heard everything from he was very friendly with some lady golf pro to some really creepy “to catch a predator”-type action. We do know his wife filed for divorce and presumably “infidelity” was a topic of concern in her suit, but what gives?

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
8:56 pm

Joker, is this an essay question?

‘Cuz if it is, my opening premise will be that Calgary’s “disgruntleds” are Atlanta’s salvation. First Savard, now Cammalleri. Works for me!! Speaking of Savard, the TSN crowd changed their tune about him, stating, “There USED TO BE concerns about whether Marc Savard could be a guy you could depend on up the middle. All the former Stanley Cup Champs had a dominant center who took care of business. Marc Savard will be that guy for Boston, if it’s to be Boston’s year.”

High praise. I’m not sure why Marc Savard fell out of favor in Calgary. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Savard played well here, and wasn’t a MAJOR SOURCE of ACRIMONY in the lockerroom, from what I gather. There were some comments like, “Some people (Savard) are more concerned with hitting their numbers ….” But, what team doesn’t have a player like that, or a player who anonymously makes a comment like that to beat writer? I just shrug it off. Marc Savard has been on the NHL Leaderboard for assists for enough years now to be taken seriously as a Tier I center. At $5 million year, he’s probably regarded as something of a “steal.” He did very well in the shootout segment of the All-Star game in Montreal, as well. Savard is mostly known as a passer, not a goal scorer. If Cammalleri could fill that void on the Thrashers, I’d greenlight it. But, cost matters. Length of contract matters, too. The price will be hefty. Perhaps too hefty for Atlanta, for this ownership, and its “plans.” Truthfully, I’d rather that they take the “free agent money” to go lock up Little, Pavelec, and Kovalchuk proactively. And then re-sign Valabik, Crabb, Oystrick, Armstrong, and Reasoner. I know that sounds a little bit crazy. But honestly, I think it would go a lonnnnng way to showing the players that Atlanta isn’t just some “blip” on their NHL career. I’d like to send the message, “When Atlanta drafts you, you should expect to be here for a solid Decade. You can put down roots in Atlanta. You can play a whole career in Atlanta, if you chose to.” This continues to be my wish.

Rawhide

April 20th, 2009
9:35 pm

Looks like sticking with Valamov was the right call indeed!

The Joker

April 20th, 2009
10:04 pm

Calling ranallo10, calling ranallo10…tell your Savard story please.

Midfield

April 20th, 2009
10:17 pm

When in Atlanta, Savard was a defensive liability and often took lazy and poorly timed penalties in the offensive zone. Very few coaches like that, and Hartley particularly disliked it, I suspect. I don’t blame him, by the way. Perhaps, Boston became the change he could believe in after all.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
10:23 pm

Rawhide: Putting you on the spot, here now the question: “Would you say Flames Head Coach Mike Keenan’s job is on the line if the Flames are swept, or lose their series with Chicago?”

Keenan was hired in June of 2007, largely with a smattering of chuckles and even HARSH CRITICISM over Keenan’s “worthiness.” But the Flames were a playoff team last year, 7th seed, and pushed San Jose to 7 games. This year, Keenan got the Flames into the playoffs, once again, at the #5 seed. But, in Bruce Levenson-like fashion, “Are the Flames still moving in the ‘right direction?’” At first peek, moving from #7 up to #5, reflects improvement.

As we speak, the Flames and Blackhawks are tied, 1-1, in the 1st period. If Calgary loses this game, they’ll be down, 3-0. And they won’t be coming back. At best, they’ll be prolonging this series, if that happens. In the strictly technical sense, Calgary must obtain four (4) playoff wins, i.e., win the series, to be making … (say it with me!!!) “incremental progress.”

Well, it was three (3) playoff wins last year. Incremental progress does, indeed, mean four wins are need this year. My feeling is this: Keenan’s job is safe for another year, unless Games Three and Four are blowouts, in favor of Chicago. Yes, they did blow a nice lead on the division. That would be something that supports the “fire him!, and fire hime now!” response.

Now, someone might say it, “What about GM Darryl Sutter’s job? Couldn’t he be fired?” Sutter was hired in April 2003, having been the coach in 2002. Since 2004, when the Flames reached the Cup Finals, losing in seven games to Tampa Bay, Calgary has been a playoff team, each and every year. Buttttttt, the Flames haven’t won a playoff series since 2004. They lost to Anaheim in 2006, in seven games. The Flames lost to Detroit in six games, in 2007. Last year, they pushed San Jose to seven games. But, an argument can be made that, in Game Four, the Flames squandered a lead that should have kept, especially at home, that would have put them up 3-1, in the series. Instead of winning, 2-1, they lost, 3-2. Ouch. Losing to San Jose is nothing to be ashamed of. Likewise, losing to a Chicago team on the upswing, isn’t something to hang their heads about. But when you take a look back to 2004, you see no return trips to the CF or SCF.

So, what’s next for Calgary, if they don’t advance? Changes? Accountability? Or a realization that they aren’t doing horribly, and perhaps, they shouldn’t “freak out” just yet. But know that next year’s regular season could bring forth changes, and, for sure, the playoff results next year will be under the microscope. Looking forward to your thoughts, Rawhide.

By the way, Bob Gainey should be sweating. The Habs dropped Game Three, and now … talk about his continued employment will start to circulate. Last year, Montreal was the #1 seed. This year, they limped into the playoffs, and now trail, 3-0, to their “arch rivals,” the Boston Bruins. GM/Head Coach Gainey isn’t “blameless.” He’s the one who decided to surrender two draft picks for Alex Tanguay. It was on HIS WATCH that Cristobal Huet was dealt to the Capitals for a 2nd round pick. I like Bob Gainey. He’s been through a lot in the last 36 months or so, with the loss of his daughter. Gainey isn’t an idiot. But name of his market is “Montreal.” Not “Atlanta.”

Rawhide

April 20th, 2009
10:33 pm

Brendan – Regarding Gainey, I say “Yes”. The game-3 loss just turned the heating element all the way “up to eleven”. I speculated last week this would be the case and it looks more and more likely.

Keenan? I’m gonna have to say “yes” too here…escpecially if they fail to make a series of it…and with Kane out tonight! Blowing a 13-point lead in the division then, possibly, facing a 1st round sweep should make his buns quite toasty as well.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
10:35 pm

Midfield, that’s definitely true. Marc Savard was ofted goaded into penalties, late in games. And, people wouldn’t think of him as “Selke Trophy” material. And yet, segue, in the past two regular seasons, Marc Savard is a +28. A misprint? Well, check it out: http://www.nhlpa.com/WebStats/PlayerBiography.asp?ID=4985.

I’m as stunned as you are. But, good for Marc Savard.

R. Stroz

April 20th, 2009
10:42 pm

Gainey is toast.

The Habs “expected” big things for their 100 year anniversary and what did they get: a scandel, an 8th place seed, and probably a playoff sweep. The broom will sweep Gainey out the door.

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
10:43 pm

Glovesave29, what do you make of S. Varlamov? His GAA is something like 0.51 and his save percentage has got to astronomical? I’m thinking like .975, or thereabouts. He’s the young netminder to record a shutout in the NHL playoffs. Kind of a nice thing to put on a resume. And, have we seen the very last of Jose Theodore in these playoffs?

I don’t know how to categorize his play. At times, he seems like a “stand up” sort. But I see him crouch and slide, too. Perhaps lateral movement is his weakness. Maybe “wrap arounds” are what the Rangers should try? The glove looks solid. I haven’t assessed his puck handling abilities. Instead, I’m much rather get YOUR PERSPECTIVE on him. His stick. His glove. His awareness. His style. Is he a “pusher or a reacher?” And so forth. And bear in mind, Darren Eliot is reading on!

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
11:02 pm

R.Stroz, I had forgotten about that! This is the 100th season, and a year Montreal hosted the All-Star game. Barring a miracle, I think Gainey is through. Heavy sigh. And just think, R.Stroz, we’re going to keep Waddell, at a time when Gainey, Risebrough, Lemaire, and Carbonneau are all simultaneously available. Just thinking out loud here, imagine Bob Gainey, as GM, with Jacques Lemaire as Head Coach? Unless the two of them can’t stand each other, how could they possibly fail? Okay. I retract that. FUBAS is a force that can even defeat men with something like 14 Stanley Cups between them. Come to think of it, with caller ID as “fairly standard feature,” why would they even answer the phone?

Brendan

April 20th, 2009
11:10 pm

Rawhide, and can I press you for a projected status of GM Darryl Sutter, if Keenan is canned? In a very real way, the person responsible for bringing Keenan in is … Darryl Sutter.

What? It’s true. People laughed when Sutter hired Keenan, and he made the “Coaches mostly likely to be fired” list in 2007. When Christmas ‘07 came and went, Keenan kept his job. And he’s still here. For now, as you pointed out. Calgary just scored. It’s 2-1, Flames, in the waning moments of the 2nd period. Pierre McGuire, who picked Calgary to win this series, just had an “on air” orgasm, Meg Ryan-style. Pretty unabashed, I might add.

I’ve often said, “There’s not a jury in the world that would convict Pierre McGuire’s assassin.” The defense strategy is simple enough. The Defense polls the jury, “How many of you … are thinking about killing Pierre McGuire. Right now. As we speak?” When all the members in the jury box raise their hand, as well as Pierre McGuire’s mother, seated in the courtroom, the case will be dismissed.

Rawhide

April 20th, 2009
11:14 pm

Professor Brendan – You can mark me down as “would not be surprised at all” if Sutter is released as well if the Flames fizzle out.

However, the Flames hold a 2-1 lead entering into the 3rd. If held, it would bring the series to 2 games to 1 for Chicago with game-4 in Cal-GARY. So, let’s not fill out their pink slips just yet.