Maybe a coaching change can’t help this team after all. It’s not a full ‘rebuild’ so any talk about ‘look at the positives coming out of this’ is a moot point–there’s not time to ‘look at the positives’.
After a lengthy lockout that ended with the start of a shortened season, the Calgary Flames opened the 2012-2013 season at home versus the San Jose Sharks. Whether you’re boycotting the game (or the entire season as many have), or you’re crawling back to NHL hockey, there was a certain level of excitement in the air this weekend in Cowtown.
Most NHL pundits have pitted Calgary to finished somewhere near the bottom of the league. Lack of talent, lack of grit, lack of pretty much everything–nobody has the Flames even close to entering the playoff picture.
On paper the opening season lineup looks like a bottom basement dweller team. The likes of career 4th line plugger Steve Begin factored in as the starting 4th line center somehow. Admittedly, he did put up OK faceoff stats, and his penalty killing was good, but apart from that you have to wonder why? Lack of talent is apparent especially given the Flames are missing two key pieces from their off-season acquisitions–Roman Cervenka and Jiri Hudler. Both play center, an empty space for the Flames currently.
Alex Tanguay returns to the position despite never playing the position in the NHL consistently. Mikael Backlund, Matt Stajan, and Steve Begin rounded out the other three. A sight for sore eyes.
Despite all the shortcomings it was the Flames that came out flying after puck drop. Dominating from top to bottom, you had the inkling that things weren’t as they seemed, in a good way. The 2nd and 3rd lines, especially Backlund and Baertschi, had flashes of brilliance. The line was rewarded in the first with a PP goal. The home-team went into the first intermission up one and could’ve been up more if it wasn’t for stellar goaltending by Niemi.
If the Flames pulled out a great effort in the first, they did the exact opposite in the second. The referees got things going with a soft call on Butler. Perhaps a makeup for a missed high stick earlier? Regardless, the PP lasted 3 seconds until SJ tied it up. The NHL refs haven’t ‘played’ during the lockout and it was evident with numerous soft pathetic calls. That should straighten up soon, but you hate to see the complexion of games change because of soft reffing.
After that SJ took the play and killed the Flames off their transition game. The very thing Calgary has been supposedly practicing was the weakest part of their game. 3 straight goals in the second that left the Flames looking like bewildered deer in the headlights. The likes of Jarome Iginla caught in no-mans land over and over again. Bouwmeester and Giordano looking very ordinary and slow.
There’s going to be a transition time for the players who haven’t played an NHL game in almost 8 month, but unfortunately there’s not time find the extra step.
Calgary tried a gently push in the third period and had a bit more success generating chances, but it was too little to late against the veteran Sharks squad.
After this game you get an idea why everyone seems to think the Flames will amount to very little. So close yet so far, or in the case, really far off. This team needs reinforcements now, after day one, just to compete.
Notes: No TJ Brodie, no Blair Jones. Certainly players who received rave reviews under the old regime. Both may get a taste of action tomorrow with Anaheim in town.