Tag:Calgary Flames
Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 1:29 pm
 

Flames' Backlund out 2-6 weeks (broken finger)

By Brian Stubits

The Flames are going to be missing center Mikael Backlund for the first two-to-six weeks of the season, and they'll really be missing him. The team confirmed the news to the Calgary Sun.

Backlund, who was in the rotation to anchor the Flames' top line, will instead be sidelined after a slash in practice broke a finger and required surgery. Now he joins Brendan Morrison, the other player in the mix to lead Calgary's No. 1 unit, on the injured list. At least Morrison is practicing and could possibly play, but he's dealing with a knee injury and there's no telling how ready he'll be.

As a result, the Flames are likely left with Matt Stajan or Olli Jokinen taking the opening faceoff and joining Jarome Iginla's scoring line. Let's just say Stajan doesn't exactly scream top-line center and Jokinen seems destined to fit elsewhere with Calgary this season. It will also give prospect Roman Horak a chance to show what he can do. The 20-year-old Czech played well enough this preseason to earn himself a spot on the roster.

It's a bad break (no pun intended) for Backlund, who started to come on strong near the end of last year playing with Iginla and Alex Tanguay. In 73 games, his first full NHL season, he had 10 goals and 15 assists with 10 of those points coming in the final 17 games.

Here's what Backlund had to say on his Twitter account: "I'm very sad and disappointed... But I'll work hard and be back soon to help the team to make the #playoffs!!"

The Flames could obviously use Backlund on the ice as soon as possible as he seems primed for a breakout season. Hopefully for Calgary, he isn't out long, because the Flames can ill-afford to fall behind the Canucks early in the Northwest Division and Western Conference races.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 30, 2011 6:44 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 7:02 pm
 

Northwest Division Preview: 'Nucks still own it

NW1

By: Adam Gretz

This was the only division in the NHL last season to produce only one playoff team, and that was the Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks, the team that's won the division three years in a row.

Playoff teams have been difficult to come by in the Northwest in recent years, as Colorado and Calgary are the only teams other than Vancouver to reach the postseason over the past three years; and they only managed to qualify once each. You have to go back to the 2007-08 season to find the last time more than two teams went to the playoffs in the same year out of the Northwest, and it's probably not going to happen this year.

Once you get past Vancouver, the Flames are probably the best bet to reach the playoffs, and even they're not a lock, having failed to qualify two years in a row, and then there's a steady dropoff to a pair of rebuilding teams in Colorado and Edmonton, and a team in Minnesota that seems to be stuck somewhere in the middle between being in contention and in a  rebuilding phase.

The Northwest Division (In predicted order of finish):

CanucksVancouver Canucks: The Vancouver Canucks reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in franchise history last season, losing to the Boston Bruins in seven games. After jumping out to a 2-0 series lead, Vancouver went on to lose four of the final five games of the series. And they not only lost, they were absolutely dominated, losing by a combined score of 21-4. Even with that disappointment in the rearview mirror, the Canucks are bringing back a roster that remains loaded from top to bottom, and is one of the top two or three cup contenders in the league.

Strengths: Just about everything is a strength for the Canucks. They're deep down the middle with Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and the underrated Manny Malhotra at center, and even with the loss of Christian Ehrhoff, they have an excellent defense led by Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo. Roberto Luongo is still one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, and Cory Schneider, his young backup, could probably start for quite a few teams as well. They have quality depth up front with wingers like Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Jannik Hansen and Maxim Lapierre, and they excel on special teams, finishing with the top power play in the league last season and the third best penalty kill.

Weaknesses: It's really difficult to find one. Is there one? An obvious one? The Canucks are as deep as just about any team in the NHL at forward, defense and goaltender and have outstanding special teams. Where is the weakness?

FlamesCalgary Flames: A slow start that resulted in just 11 wins in their first 27 games put the Flames in a hole that was simply too deep to dig out of in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs by just four points. It's actually the exact opposite path they followed the previous season when they opened the with a 17-6-3 mark, only to completely fall apart over the final four months of the season and missed the playoffs by five points.

Strengths: Jarome Iginla is simply fantastic. He hasn't missed a game in four years, has scored at least 32 goals in each of those years, and managed to put in 43 during the 2010-11 season. Rene Bourque, Lee Stempniak, Curtis Glencross and David Moss is a solid group of forwards to put around Iginla, and all have the ability to score somewhere between 20 and 25 goals. A lot of other teams teams can -- and will -- do worse up front.

Weaknesses: How much does Miikka Kiprusoff have left in the tank? He's declined in recent years and his workload might be catching up with him and Henrik Karlsson could (and perhaps should) be getting a bigger role this season. Losing Robyn Regehr could be a significant loss on the blue line, and Jay Bouwmeester's first two years in Alberta have to be considered a tremendous disappointment. In his final three years with Florida he scored 12, 15 and 15 goals. In his two years with the Flames? He's scored seven. Total. And he's taking up over $6.6 million in cap space to be an offensive-defenseman. That's not going to work.

WildMinnesota Wild:  Mike Yeo takes over a team that hasn't made the playoffs in three years, hasn't won a playoff series since it went to the Conference Finals nine years ago, and he's introducing his version of the neutral zone trap (insert your own "it's boring hockey" comment here). Actually, it's pretty similar to the system the Penguins run -- the team Yeo was an assistant with for a number of years -- and is a bit more up-tempo than the Jacques Lemaire trap Minnesota fans witnessed all those years.

Strengths: Yeo is pushing for Mikko Koivu to win the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward, and he's definitely a worthy player to put on your early season watch list. An excellent two-way player that makes an impact in all three zones and all phases of the game. Dany Heatley, acquired from the Sharks over the summer, is coming off a down year (by his standards) in the goal-scoring department but possesses the best natural goal-scoring ability of any player on the roster and is a legitimate 40-goal threat.

Weaknesses: With Brent Burns no longer on the roster Minnesota has a bit of a hole on its blue line when it comes to providing offense. Marek Zidlicky, who was limited to just 46 games a season ago, was the only other defenseman to register at least 20 points. The 13th ranked power play in the league a season ago lost its top-three power play goal scorers (Burns, Antti Miettinen and Andrew Brunnette). Heatley should be able to help in that area, but will he be enough?

How good is Niklas Backstrom? He hasn't approached the numbers he put up the first three years of his career while playing under Lemaire, and his backups have pretty consistently put up similar save percentages in recent years. Was he a product of the system or is he set to play like one of the best goalies in the league again?

FlamesColorado Avalanche: Their decision to trade a first-round draft pick to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Semyon Varlamov was panned over the summer, as most observers are expecting Colorado to once again finish near the bottom of the NHL's standings, meaning that pick could turn out to be a lottery selection. The jury is still out on that trade, obviously, but there's no denying the Avalanche needed a significant upgrade in net after a disappointing season from Craig Anderson helped put the Avs at the bottom of the NHL in save percentage last season.

Strengths: The 1-2 punch of Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny down the middle is the foundation of this team, and they picked up another top young forward prospect back in June when they selected Gabriel Landeskog at the top of the draft.

Weaknesses: The Avalanche bulked up their defense this summer by putting an emphasis on adding size to their blue line, but will it result in a better product? Erik Johnson, acquired in last season's blockbuster trade with the St. Louis Blues, has the most potential of the group and is still only five years removed from being the No. 1 overall pick in the entire draft. Even with the addition of Varlamov, goaltending remains a question mark, especially since he's had problems staying injury free throughout his career.

The Avs had the worst penalty killing unit in the league last season. Can a full season of Jay McClement to go along with Daniel Winnick help improve that area?

OilersEdmonton Oilers: It's another rebuilding year, but they're getting closer, slowly but surely, to making an impact. And they might be the most entertaining -- and exciting -- non-playoff team in the league with an impressive list of young forwards led by last year's top pick, Taylor Hall.

Strengths: Even if No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn't spend the entire season in Edmonton, the Oilers still have some outstanding young talent up front. Ales Hemsky is one of the NHL's most creative players with the puck and a tremendous playmaker, typically averaging near a point-per-game. The biggest flaw in his game, unfortunately, is that he tends to miss at least 10 games (or more) per season. Getting him for a full season would be a welcome change. Hall looks to be a star in the making, and players like Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner are loaded with potential and should make the Oilers worth watching every night, even if they don't win a ton of games.

Weaknesses: Defense. Goaltending. Goaltending. Defense. After Ryan Whitney it's a very thin team on the blue line, and additions like Cam Barker aren't likely to help that. Their defense and goaltending, led by Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk, will keep the Oilers at the bottom of the division, as well as the Western Conference, for at least another year.

NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 22, 2011 5:28 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 7:32 pm
 

Letourneau-Leblond suspended 5 games

By: Adam Gretz

Brendan Shanahan issued his first suspension in his new role as Senior Vice President of Player Safety by suspending Calgary Flames forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond for five games (four preseason games and one regular season game) for boarding Vancouver's Matt Clackson during the Canucks 4-3 win on Tuesday night.

Because Letourneau-Leblond was suspended back in October he is considered a repeat offender under the rules of the current CBA, while the suspension will cost him over $6,000 in salary.

Along with the announcement of the suspension, the NHL also released a video that features Shanahan, who is replacing Colin Campbell in charge of player discipline, breaking down the play frame-by-frame and explaining why it was against the rules and why the suspension is as long as iti is, which is something we're not used to seeing from the NHL (and I like it).

Letourneau-Leblond recieved only a minor penalty during the game.

Shanahan said in the video, which you can watch below, that Clackson had his back turned toward Leblond prior to the contact, and that he did not put himself in that position immediatly prior to the check, which meant Leblond had plenty of time to avoid the hit or minimize it.

And this from the NHL:
"Letourneau-Leblond took a direct route toward Clackson, hit him squarely from behind into the boards and drove through the check high and hard," Shanahan said. "Clackson's back was turned toward Letourneau-Leblond well before the contract, requiring that Letourneau-Leblond avoid or minimize the check completely. He did neither."
During Wednesday's action there were two other boarding calls that are sure to get at least a look from Shanahan and the league as Philadelphia's Jody Shelley was ejected from the Flyers game against Toronto. Detroit's Danny Cleary was also issued a five-minute major for boarding Pittsburgh's Philip Samuelsson in the third period of the Red Wings 3-2 loss to the Penguins, a play that both Cleary and his head coach, Mike Babcock, felt was a clean hit based on a video the NHL sent out earlier in the day showing examples of what are considered to be illegal (and legal) hits.


For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.


Posted on: September 2, 2011 4:43 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 4:46 pm
 

Jay Feaster answers questions from fans

FlamesFans

By: Adam Gretz

As a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates I know what it's like to follow a team that never wins (zero winning seasons since 1992. And counting!). By the end of the season the focus, as a fan, goes from winning games (that usually stops by early June) to securing a top draft pick. Because, hey, if you're going to lose and not contend for a playoff spot, you might as well lose a ton and get a potential franchise-changing player at the top of the draft. Not all fans want to see their teams tank it late in the season for draft pick positioning, but they do exist.

This line of thinking, of course, is fine for a fan.

For players, who are fighting for roster spots the following season, whether it be with the current team or a new team, they aren't going to (and shouldn't) care about a draft pick that might play for the team in two or three years when they may be playing for somebody else. A person in the front office with plenty of job security may not be opposed to trying to secure a top pick, but is unlikely to do anything to sabotage the team's season ... and if they are, they certainly aren't going to admit it.

On Thursday, Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster took part in a fan forum and answered some questions from Flames Fans. He was asked why the Flames haven't tried to model the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals by trying to build around high draft picks.

Here is Feaster's response, via Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald:
“I’m sorry — Edmonton finished where last year, caller? Want to wager on where we finish relative to Edmonton this year? I’m tired of this question, I’ll tell you very honestly. I’m getting a little sour. How many teams . . . every year, for the last 10 years, five years, eight years, have finished in the bottom five, bottom seven, bottom 10? They’ve had a pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 10 year after year after year after year, and they still wander in the desert. And they’re no closer to getting out than they were 10 years ago.

“You know what? I look forward to the Battle of Alberta for the next X number of years. If the idea is, ‘Burn it to the ground,’ then Ken can find another manager to do it.”

Well, Feaster is right about one thing: It's a solid bet that Calgary is going to finish ahead of Edmonton in the standings this season, but if the Flames finish outside of the top-eight in the Western Conference, as they've done in each of the past two seasons, they will be in the same position as Edmonton when it comes to playing in the playoffs. I do, however, love the candid response, and have wondered how a general manager would react when presented with that scenario (losing to get a high draft pick) by a fan.

Still, as exciting as it is  for that one day of the NHL calender (draft day) to get the top pick in the draft, nobody wants to be picking in that spot every year because it means your team stinks and isn't winning many games.

Teams like Chicago (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews), Washington (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom) and Pittsburgh (Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury) had some high draft picks over the years and used them as key building blocks in turning their franchise from being a bottom feeder to a contender. Two of those teams (Chicago and Pittsburgh) have won the Stanley Cup over the past three years, while the other (Washington) has consistently been one of the top teams in the NHL in the regular season over the past four years.

But there's also been examples of teams like Florida and Atlanta (now the Winnipeg Jets) that have been picking in the top-10 on a rather consistent basis and haven't had anywhere near that level of success. They are, as Feaster put it, still wandering the desert.

In other news, Feaster was also asked whether or not goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff will be counted on to play 70 games again as he's done in each of the past six seasons. Feaster said, again via the Herald, that Kiprusoff will not be asked to carry such a heavy workload this season, and that 28-year-old back Henrik Karlsson will see more ice-time.

In 17 appearances last season Karlsson posted a 4-5-6 record along with a .908 save percentage.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: August 31, 2011 6:10 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 11:35 pm
 

Wade Belak found dead

Belak

By: Adam Gretz

What has been an incredibly sad offseason in the NHL continued to get worse with the news that recently retired defenseman Wade Belak was found dead in a Toronto condo on Wednesday afternoon according to the Toronto Sun. He was 35 years old.

Belak, selected 12th overall in the 1994 Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques, spent 14 seasons in the NHL as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and, most recently, the Nashville Predators. In 549 career games he scored eight goals and tallied over 1,263 penalty minutes.

He announced his retirement back in March.

On Wednesday evening the Predators organization released the following statement:
“The entire Nashville Predators organization and family is shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely passing of Wade Belak. Wade was a beloved member of the organization, a terrific teammate and wonderful father and husband. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Jennifer and children Andie and Alex. We offer our full support to them at this very difficult time.”
Belak's name was in the news earlier this month when it was announced that he was going to appear in CBC's Battle of the Blades, which is basically Canada's on ice version of Dancing With The Stars

His primary role in the NHL was as an enforcer and fighter, which will make it easy for everyone to immediately connect his death to the recent passings of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien, both of whom were also fighters. Whether there's any connection or not, it's been a very disturbing couple of months.

According to Hockeyfights.com Belak was involved in over 125 fights during his NHL career.

I never met Belak or had an opportunity to speak with him, but just about every person that did meet him and work with him throughout his 15-year NHL career has shared pretty much the same opinion on Wednesday night: He was an amazing person to be around and always -- always -- a fantastic player to interview.

You can find plenty of examples of his personality on YouTube, including just about every episode of the "Wade a Minute" segment that was filmed during his tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here are a couple of examples:



Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: August 30, 2011 9:50 am
Edited on: August 30, 2011 9:56 am
 

Daily Skate: Devils planning Niedermayer night?

By Brian Stubits

NIEDERMAYER NIGHT? It's seems to be only a matter of time before the Devils honor Scott Niedermayer and retire his No. 27 jersey. According to Al Dhalla of Super Agent Inc., it will happen on Dec. 16 against the Stars. Tom Gulitti at the Bergen Record couldn't confirm the plans with Niedermayer, but Scott did acknowledge he has talked about it with the Devils in the past. "Lou [Lamoriello] will do it when he feels it's right to do. In my eyes at least, I don't think anything has been finalized anyway."

BELLY ACHING Alexander Ovechkin is the closes thing to a rock star in hockey because of his following back in Russia, he gets a bit of the paparazzi treatment. That makes this summer's hysteria and analysis over Ovi's seemingly bloated belly that was dissected by many, including Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post. Well maybe this will put fans at ease. Puck Daddy caught up with the Caps star before his upcoming charity game, and the interview included a "look at THIS belly" photo.

TO WHIT: If the Oilers plan on making a few small steps forward this season, they will need to have Ryan Whitney back on the ice. He was having a good season last year before he suffered an injured foot that cost him the remainder of his season. Unfortunately for him and Edmonton, he re-aggravated the injury earlier this summer skating in Boston. "I rolled over on the foot ... caught a rut in the ice. Minor sprain, I think," he told the Edmonton Journal. The good news is that it">

ODE TO LANGKOW: We finish up today with an ode coming from the Matchsticks and Gasoline blog about the exit of Daymond Langkow from the Flames to the Coyotes. I gotta tell ya, parting is such sweet sorrow. Especially when it includes prose like this: Then came that fateful day against Minnesota, Your luck was absent, not even one iota, The puck flew off of Ian White's stick, And hit your neck with the force of a brick.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 29, 2011 3:43 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 4:51 pm
 

Daymond Langkow traded to Phoenix

By: Adam Gretz

After spending the past six seasons with the Calgary Flames veteran forward Daymond Langkow has been traded to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for forward Lee Stempniak.

Here's what Flames general manager Jay Feaster had to say in a team-released statement: "It is never easy moving a player who battles and competes such as Daymond; however, because of our depth and options at centre ice, this trade presents us with an opportunity to positively impact the organization in a number of ways. It makes us younger and provides an opportunity to evaluate a player who may factor into our plans for the future, it provides (coach) Brent (Sutter) with options as Stempniak can play either wing and can be used on both the power play and the penalty kill and it creates healthy competition among the forward group for ice time."

Langkow, who will turn 35 later this month, is coming off a neck injury last season that limited him to just four games. He is signed through the end of this season at a cap hit of $4.5 million, making it a rather expensive -- financially speaking -- gamble. There's also the fact that Phoenix traded a younger, cheaper player that isn't coming off an injury that cost him nearly a full season.

Prior to last season Langkow's offensive production was in a pretty steep decline, going from 33 goals and 77 points during the 2006-07 season -- his peak season in the NHL -- all the way down to 14 goals and 37 assists in 2009-10 with a steady downward trend during the years in between.

Before the trade Calgary was up against the NHL's salary cap with over $63.2 million in salary (via CapGeek), so the move definitely helps clear some space.

In exchange for Langkow the Flames get the 27-year-old Stempniak who is coming off a 19-goal, 19-assist performance with the Coyotes last season. He's shown nice offensive ability throughout his career but has had some issues with consistency. He's in the last year of a contract that has a $1.9 million cap hit, so the deal saves Calgary $2.6 million in cap space.

Once Langkow joins the Coyotes he will instantly become the second-highest paid forward on the team, trailing only their captain Shane Doan, and the fourth-highest paid player overall, behind only Doan and defenseman Keith Yandle and Michal Rozsival. It will be Langkow's second stop with the Coyotes, having spent three years with the team between 2001 and 2004, scoring 68 goals in 243 games.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.


Posted on: August 22, 2011 3:11 pm
 

Flames' David Moss faces Canseco in HR derby

By Brian Stubits

In the offseason, players have to find a way to keep themselves busy. Some go on trips to Haiti to help the people out. Plenty do constant training to prepare for the next season. Others just enjoy their time off and do some partying and vacationing.

David Moss of the Flames throws in home run contests against Jose Canseco on his itinerary.

The Calgary forward, who hails from Dearborn, Mich., recently took some cuts from home plate with an aluminum bat, battling Canseco in a home run derby. Canseco's only handicap? Using a wood bat.

Before the competition Moss was asked for advice he'd give to Canseco for beating him.

"Uh, bat left-handed."

No dice, David.

Moss, who did play baseball growing up, did manage to hit one ball over the high walls in Calgary's Foothills Stadium, home to the Vipers of the North American League. Canseco, though, naturally had no problem besting that score.

It's fun to dabble in sports in the offseason, but Moss is looking forward to getting back on the ice. The 29-year-old was on his way to his best season last year before suffering a high ankle sprain that ended his season. Before then he had 17 goals and 13 assists in 58 games.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com