The Flames have been under the microscope with their farm system. There have been a lot of negative comments on the Flames' drafting. The Flames' draft history has been under a lot of scrutiny, and rightly so. I have heard over and over again that the only draft pick that has turned out has been Dion. I, for one, have really questioned the Flames' picks. They have always picked - well mostly picked - the defence.
But in the Flames' defence, they may have one of the best defensive cores in the League. The problem is that the forwards have not exactly panned out in the past, to put things bluntly. For today's blog, I have the pleasure of getting an update on the Flames' farm team, the Heat, from Cam Tucker, a freelance reporter with the Abbotsford Times and Postmedia News. You can find him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/camabbytimes
A lot of the Flames are really excited about how Irving has progressed, given his play this season.
I'd say he would be ready to make the jump to the NHL. This marks his third year in the AHL, and he's on pace for a career year as a professional.
The thing about Irving, as with most goalies, is confidence. Irving summed up last season in two words during the Canucks' prospects tournament, which the Flames (more so the Heat) were part of. "It's over." He had games last year where he was amazing, but then he had games that left you shaking your head, thinking maybe it's not in this kid's makeup. His confidence sputtered; he was sent down to the ECHL; and when recalled, he still couldn't win the No. 1 goalie job.
That has changed this season; quite drastically too. If you look at his shootout stats, he's allowed five goals on 25 shots in the skills competition, and that not only boosts confidence, it shows he has a lot of that right now. If he continues to play the way he has this season, utilizing both his athleticism and technique, he will be ready for the NHL next season.
Most of us don't know that much about the Heat, except the name players, like Greg Nemisz, who is tied with lead in scoring with Matt Keith. Who? Can you tell us more about Matt? Is he pretty much a career minor leaguer, or is there more to him?
Matt Keith is a bit of an odd case, statistically. He's a great guy, one that enjoys being around a team that is the youngest in the AHL. He does have 27 NHL games to his credit, and five points to go along with that, but statistically speaking, his best AHL season came in 2005-2006 when he had 26 goals, 45 points in 72 games with Norfolk. He turns 28 in April, and while he's been the Heat's most consistent offensive producer to this point, along with Greg Nemisz, I think the Flames would like to see more out of him if they are to one day sign him to an NHL contract. Calgary is also to the limit of NHL contracts, which I believe is 50.
But overall, Matt Keith is a great guy; lots of fun to deal with on a daily basis, and he always plays hard.
T.J. Brodie was almost a golden child here, as everyone was pulling for him. He was a great kid, everyone loved him. How has he been down at the farm? Should we still be excited about him?
Not to take any of the thunder from Pierre McGuire's game, but get real excited about T.J. Brodie.
This kid is the real deal, and while I do agree with his reassignment to the AHL (who wants a young rookie like him sitting on the bench, playing five minutes a game, or worse yet, up in the press box?)
But this kid is the real deal. Brodie can skate, he's got a great shot, he's physical, he can escape guys on the forecheck, he jumps up in the rush, and he can quarterback your powerplay.
Jim Playfair has done an excellent job of getting Brodie involved in every scenario of the game in his time with the Heat, and the Flames will benefit greatly from that.
Of course, most of us would like to know more about Greg Nemisz. How is his progress?
I think what you'll find with Greg Nemisz is that he's just a solid player. He does have a great set of hands, but I doubt his stick handling capabilities will be in great demand in the NHL, especially with Calgary, should they stay with the style of the play they have now (See coaching/GM changes...).
In other words, Nemisz is a guy that you can use as a set-up guy on the powerplay. He's got great vision with the puck, and he can kill penalties too. In fact, he's got 3 short-handed goals, which leads the Heat, and he's been doing a great job of doing the gritty things that come with being on the penalty kill, such as shot blocking, active sticks, taking away lanes and collapsing to the net, and clearing away rebounds.
What kind of style do the Heat play? Are they a defense-first kind of team? Did most people expect more, or are they where they were supposed to be?
The Heat right now have been forced to play a defensive style of game right now due to injuries (surprise, surprise). They were forced to do the same thing last season, due to the 350-man games lost to injury, but this year they've also had to work through a prolonged scoring slump.
Call it a case of bad luck, no finish, a hot goalie - whatever word you choose to describe it, they can't score right now. So add injuries to that, and now you're forced to play a defensive style of game and rely on your goaltending.
Now that they are getting healthier (Cam Cunning is back) and they have some veterans like Ryan Stone and Stefan Meyer, maybe they can start filling the net a little more.
Is there a player on the team who is sticking out right now, that the fans should be looking out for?
Someone that has stood out, but hasn't gotten nearly any recognition for it, is Lance Bouma.
Bouma is one of those guys I'd want on my team. He's not going to get you a lot of goals, and even dating back to his days with the Vancouver Giants, he never has. But he hits, goes to the dirty areas, doesn't take anything, and he's very physical.
He's also got courage like you wouldn't believe. We've seen him block shots with his head, dive fearlessly in front of pucks with the upper half of his body if it means keeping the puck out of his team's net, and you love guys like that.
I'd compare him to a Cam Cunning in most ways. Cunning was never an offensive threat, then last year he scores 19 goals and challenges this year for a spot on the Flames' fourth line. I'd say Bouma, in probably two or three years, does the same.
I would thank the Abbotsford Times and Cam for the interview, for a great update, and finally some positive news on the Flames' prospects. Thanks again, Cam.