“In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate.”
Is that Jarome Iginla? Well, it’s entirely possible.
A man who is both chastised for what he doesn’t do, but loved for what he does. It’s a fascinating situation to be in and now that November is upon us it is historically Jarome’s, and the Calgary Flames time to shine.
Let me explain.
Despite the Calgary Flames losing their third in a row, at home, on Wednesday night, there is reason for hope in this city. After blowing leads in four straight games, three of which resulted in losses, the Flames now head out on the road for the majority of the coming month.
Why would you say this is a reason to jump up and shout and dance and wiggle about? Well, if last year was any indication, this team likes to hit their stride once the trick-or-treaters have come and gone. Just so everyone knows what I’m talking about, let’s crank it up to 88mph and go back to November 2009.
After going 7-4-1 in the month of October, the Flames went on a tear, going 10-2-2 in November. Iginla had 13 goals and seven assists in those 14 games and was named NHL player of the month. Kiprusoff had three shut outs and besides the out of place 7-1 drubbing from the Blackhawks, Kipper did not let in more than three goals in any other game. He sported a GAA of 1.60, with a Save% of .947. They averaged 2.71 goals per game which was half a goal more than they ended up averaging all season. Ten of these 14 games were on the road, and even Olli Jokinen chipped in with 14 points, including 11 assists. It was easily the best month of hockey the Flames played all of year.
So what evidence is there to believe that 2010 will be similar to 2009? Well, first off, what is the same? The coach, the goalie, the star player, the defensive core (plus White) are all intact. The forward group is changed obviously but the Sutter system remains the same. Nine of the Flames next 12 games will be away from the Dome, which is eerily similar to last year’s schedule. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to system again – Brent Sutter did say that the team wasn’t completely buying in, so maybe it just takes a dozen games to adjust to the program.
That’s me being positive, can you tell?
On the other hand, why should it take this long in the first place if Sutter has already been here for year? Shouldn’t the pieces be in place and if the players haven’t ‘bought in’ yet, what hope is there left that they might now? Why don’t they get it? Maybe it’s the system itself that is flawed or maybe the pieces simply are not there.
You take a look at the games they have lost recently, and the Flames discovered they are not fit for the pond hockey style of play (No, really?). Trading chances with any team is never a good option for a team that struggles to score goals. Eventually it will come back to bite you, and the Flames were left with some massive gashes after the Avs and especially the Caps rolled through town. I’m not at liberty to comment on the Red Wings game as I was working and only caught glimpses of it, but being outshot 33-17 is never a good thing. At least that’s what I was always told.
The power play is STILL a major area of concern. Kind of sounds like a broken record, doesn’t it? You have to go back to 2006-07 to find a Flames team that ranked in the top half of the league in PP%. No beuno.
It’s been one of the worst units for the past couple years and nothing, really, has been done about it. This year, they seem to be taking some chances. Morrison on the point, Bouwmeester down low, etc, etc. Still, nothing to show for it. And in a goals driven league, a team with a bad power play isn’t going to win a lot of games. What’s the solution? Keep trying new things until it clicks, because the status quo is not doing anyone any good. Just look at the 4-minute extended chance at the end of the game tonight and you will know what I am talking about.
Beside their troubles though, and in an effort to show more positivity, the Flames have shown spurts and glimmers of being a good team. The 4-0 waxing of the Sharks is a great example. The team pounced on a good team early and then shut it down and didn’t let them off the mat. Something that recently has become an issue of sorts.
So it’s there. Where exactly, I don’t know, but I’m hoping the site of November might spark some emotion in the boys clad in red.
The November schedule coming up is, well, not easy by any means, but what schedule is nowadays with the extreme levels of parity seen throughout the league. They face Wild, Avs, Coyotes, Sharks on the road. Home for two against the Yotes and Blackhawks. Funny enough, the Hawks game will be a year to the date from the beat down last season. Then on the road for games against the Wings, Rangers, Devils, Flyers, and Penguins, before returning home to bookend the month with the Wild.
Fix the power play. Shut down opponents. Win games.
It seems so simple.
If only it was.