The Calgary Flame Coaching Carousel
It wasn't quite as big of a jolt as the hiring of Mike Keenan, but the firing did come as a bit of a surprise. Not because of Iron Mike's firing, but because it was leaked to the media, late Friday afternoon. The timing alone tells you this is not what Darryl Sutter wanted, but the whole Keenan "era" (mess might be a better word) was tainted by things like media leaks. Add that to the growing list of reasons he was let go, whether he was to blame for that or not.
So now an endless amount of names have been bantered about including boss-man Sutter jumping back behind the bench. But Sutter has stated many times this is not what he would like to do... The Calgary sports writers feel pretty strongly that ownership will force him to get the team out of this mess by moving behind the bench.
Could happen, but the rumblings are starting to surface about a name already locked in, and really, think about what Sutter said was his priority with the team. Defense.
And now, the name...
Jacques Lemaire. It's rumoured that the Flames will be announcing the defense-first coach as their new bench boss at the press conference on Tuesday. This seems like the logical hire if a team wants to lower their goals against and establish a defensive attitude.
What do you think Calgary?
On the assistant front. I expect one or more will be kept, namely David Marcoux, although Jamie McClennan is waiting to take over that spot, he may not be ready yet. Jumping back into the rumour mill, the Flames have already made one major offer to bring in a new assistant. Jeff Truitt. Fired by the Springfield Falcons of the AHL this season but is widely considered as an up and coming coach and I think when hired by Springfield he was probably considered the heir-apparent to the Edmonton Oiler throne. He had great success in the WHL and would be a great addition to the Flames staff.
That's it for now on the coaching front as we wait for Tuesday and hope for some sort of an announcement by Darryl Sutter.
Western Conference Finals: Wings and Hawks
I think what's jumped out the most to me in this series is the disappearance of Patrick Kane. You can't deny his talent (how about that goal against the Canucks in the deciding game?), but the fact of the matter is that he's terribly undersized and inexperienced. The Hawks have put a lot on the shoulders of this young kid, and let's be honest, he really looks like a boy among men when playing against the Red Wings. Give him space to operate and he can rip you apart; finish your hits and play a tight-checking game against him, and he's invisible. He reminds me of Sam Gagner and I often wonder why teams put so much stock into these young and undersized kids before they're able to mature. Case in point, Darren Helm. Granted, he's a little bigger than Kane, but the Red Wings allowed him to mature in their minor-league system and now they can't keep him down anymore. He's learned how to play in these tough situations and is becoming a key component of an already dangerously good team. This is a perfect example of why the Red Wings are the class of the NHL.
The 12-million dollar tandem. For a team that has came so far on moves by Dale Tallon, he made two of the worst signings this off-season. Don't even get me started on Brian Campbell... but this was supposed to be the situation that would make having two overpaid goaltenders worth all that cash (with Khabibulin being hurt). Instead, Cristobal Huet reminds everyone of his inability to perform in the playoffs. He was brutal in Montreal, same in Washington. Yet he's rewarded with a 5+ million dollar contract for a team with playoff hopes. He's outshone by Nik Khabibulin and when pressed into action, gets lit up, all the while a much younger, cheaper and under-rated Corey Crawford waits on the bench. Safe to say the 12-million dollar tandem was a mistake, and the only thing worse is the good half of the tandem is gonna bolt, leaving the Hawks with Huet and some prospects. Should be an interesting situation this off-season.
Think you're about sick of hearing about John Tavares? Well, the good news is that by the end of June, the "Tavares Sweepstakes" should blow over. The bad news is the media will have another sweepstakes to debate for next season.
Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires.
What a talent this kid is. If the Memorial Cup is his coming out party, then this year's World Junior Championship is going to be his rise to stardom. Get ready Canada, because we've got another beauty coming up the ranks. This kid is fast and has the hands to match. When he has control of the puck, offensive zone pressure is a given. I know I'm not really breaking any new ground with talk about Hall, but I never realized just how good he was. He's going to be every bit as good as Steven Stamkos, and wouldn't we agree, when the Lightning trade Vincent Lecavalier this off-season, they'll instantly become favorites to win the Taylor Hall sweepstakes?
The Calgary Flame prospects have looked good. Not spectacular, but good. After Mikael Backlund's performance in the WHL finals I thought we were witnessing his ascendance to the NHL. Although he may not be performing at that level in the Memorial Cup, its safe to say he's a very promising prospect. A year of seasoning in the AHL may be just what he needs to take the next step.
Greg Nemisz is as-advertised. A big, solid, two-way forward. He can shoot the puck, he can forecheck and backcheck, and has made a number of solid plays on the defensive end. If things went as planned, I would look at Nemisz being a third-line forward in 3-4 years, with a slight chance of becoming a 2nd-line centre.
Eklund's Flame Rumours, Luongo and Hodgson
The chance still remains that Dion Phaneuf could develop into a Norris trophy winning d-man. However, if you can get a Jay Bouwmeester who's already proven as a top pair defenseman, don't you make that move? I really think that a lot of Dion's problem was a stale coaching staff that overplayed him when he was hurt, but at this point you'd be trading potential for rock-solid performance. In other words, it wouldn't break my heart. And, in talking with people close to the dressing room, it continues to come up that Dion is not well liked. Could be making something out of nothing, but Eklund has been linking the Flames to Bouwmeester for a while now... kinda reminds me of Olli Jokinen, whom Eklund also had linked to the Flames for a long time. I've said it before and I'll say it again, where there's smoke, there's fire... especially in the case of the Calgary Flames these days.
Trade Roberto Luongo? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Suck it up Vancouver, he had a tough outing. And here's something to think about... without Luongo, the Canucks this year are fighting for a playoff birth. With him, they win the division and had he not gotten hurt at all, they would have battled with San Jose and Detroit for top spot. He's the premiere goalie of the NHL right now.
Record when Luongo's healthy this season: 36 - 15 -7
Record when Luongo's hurt this season: 9 - 12 - 3
I think the numbers speak for themselves.
As for Cody Hodgson, he might be the answer to the whole Mats Sundin saga. He might end up being the best player to come out of last year's draft. He should step into the Canucks lineup next season, and by Christmas time (when Mats was signed last season), people in Vancouver will be saying Mats who? Seriously, let Sundin waffle about for another year, but let him go. Let the Hodgson era begin in Vancouver.