What’s a new year without a few resolutions? Here are three for the Calgary Flames to take into 2014.
Be Bold in the Trade Market
When Jay Feaster was shown the door, Brian Burke explained that the pace of Calgary’s rebuild was a key factor in the decision. As young as this rebuild is, according to Burke, things are already taking too long and that needs to change.
Well, the talk has been talked, and now the walk needs to be walked. It will be up to Burke and his eventual replacement in the general manager’s role to accelerate the process, and the trade market seems like the logical place to start quickening the pace. Management has to get proactive and creative if they want to see better returns than those that Feaster was able to scoop up in his time.
The Flames aren’t exactly swimming in alluring assets, but they do have some personnel that could be valuable additions for teams looking to make a run at the Cup. Their most shoppable piece is obviously Mike Cammalleri, whose pending UFA status and proven playoff performance – 32 points in as many games – should lure a few teams into discussions. But they also have several players who could fill important roles in post-season campaigns, such as Matt Stajan and Lee Stempniak. Neither has much playoff experience, but both have expiring contracts and could help teams looking to shore up their penalty-kill with a rental.
Currently, the Flames have only five picks in the 2014 draft; Calgary sent its fourth-round pick to Toronto in exchange for Joe Colborne (it could become a third-round pick if certain conditions are met, but one of those is a post-season appearance for the Flames), while their fifth-rounder went to St. Louis for Kris Russell. That’s not a particularly satisfying collection, so here’s hoping that some vets-for-futures transactions change that between now and June.
Trades don’t happen overnight, at least, not good trades. If management is intent on speeding up this rebuild, they would do well to get some serious dialogue going sooner rather than later. The deadline might be in March, but we all know what happens to the early bird.
Power Up the Power Play
CalgaryFlames.com writer Aaron Vickers recently pointed out that Calgary leads the league in one-goal games with 25 heading into Sunday’s game against Vancouver, while five of their six two-goal losses have included an empty-net tally by the opposition.
Calgary is a respectable 12-7-6 in those 25 contests, but if this trend continues and the Flames want better results, they should to look to their play with the man-advantage.
The Flames are clicking at 14.6 per cent on the power play this season, good for 26th in the league. Granted, Dennis Wideman’s continued absence with a broken hand is a significant blow to the power play, but Calgary needs to do more with the personnel they do have. In five two-man-advantage opportunities, they have zero goals. Nashville and Montreal, the other two teams with five 5-on-3 chances (and about half as much total 5-on-3 time as the Flames), have three goals and two goals, respectively. Calgary’s seven 4-on-3 chances are second only to LA’s eight, but again they have no goals to show for their opportunities.
Meanwhile, on a much happier note, Calgary’s penalty-killing proficiency for the season is middle-of-the-pack at 17th in the league, thanks in large part to the Flames’ excellent shorthanded play in December. In 12 games so far, they’ve killed off a highly impressive 41of 47 penalties (87.2 per cent), including three of three against the league’s second-best power play in Pittsburgh.
The importance of special teams is well-documented. In close games like those the Flames are playing, they become even more critical, the difference between two points and none.
The PK is doing its part. In 2014, the power play needs to do the same.
Maintain the Attitude
This point is more a continuation of present philosophy than a new resolution, and an admittedly cheesy one at that. But the importance of the current attitude in Calgary cannot be overstated. The Flames are working hard, playing with heart and most importantly, staying positive. It’s refreshing in a hockey market that has had a dark cloud of underachievement and disappointment hanging over it for close to a decade. And it shows on the ice. As we already know, the Flames lead the league in close games, despite boasting what many consider to be one of its most mediocre rosters. Bob Hartley set out to build a team identity of hard work and constant passion, and, so far, the players have established just that. The right attitude is one of the most important ingredients in a rebuilding organization, and the Flames have it. As long as they maintain it in the New Year, the rest will follow.
Happy New Year from all of us here at LWOS!
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