2010-2011 NHL season preview: Calgary Flames

jaromeiginla2.jpgLast season: (40-32-10, 90 points, 3rd in Northwest Division, t-9th in Western Conference) The Flames just missed out on the playoffs last year, finishing five points behind Colorado in the standings. For Calgary, times were tough as Jarome Iginla struggled and the team got virtually no secondary scoring. Rene Bourque did his part to help, but this team had no jump late in the season.

Head coach: Brent Sutter enters his second season as head coach. After a rather uninspiring season, expectations for what Sutter can do to help keep the Flames locked in and in the hunt for the playoffs are tenuous at best. There’s good talent here, but there are cap woes to deal with and Brent’s brother, Daryl, brought back some ghosts from Calgary’s past to try and improve things. Brent Sutter’s job is safe as long as his brother is still the GM.

Key departures: F Nigel Dawes, F Chris Higgins, F Eric Nystrom. Not exactly a murderer’s row. It’s not fair to put both Daymond Langkow and Matt Stajan on this list, but clearly their injuries and however long they’re out for this season will have a drastic effect on the Flames chances this season.

Key arrivals: F Alex Tanguay, F Olli Jokinen, F Raitis Ivanans, F Ryan Stone, F Tim Jackman. All right, on paper the Flames improved themselves. However, the quality of that paper is highly questionable. Jokinen and Tanguay both struggled in Calgary and were sent unceremoniously packing out of town, Tanguay after the 07-08 season, Jokinen in an early season trade with the Rangers just last year. Now they’ll be on the first line with Iginla looking to lead the team to the playoffs. Even Curious George finds this situation to be amazing. Ivanans and Jackman will be the muscle on the fourth line while Stone will potentially get forced into action thanks to injuries to two of the Flames top centers. Good times.

Under pressure: Daryl Sutter. If you thought the pressure was on Iginla to carry this team to the playoffs, you’re nuts. He does the best he can with what he’s got. Instead, the focus goes on Sutter because this fascinating creation of a roster is up to him. If his brother Brent can’t get the team to win, the cries for both of them to get out of Calgary will become deafening.

miikkakiprusoff1.jpgProtecting the house: Miikka Kiprusoff is the man and one of the main reasons why the Flames do as well as they have, even when things aren’t all that inspiring. He’ll play more than 65 games if he’s healthy enough to do so and while that might be an issue come playoff time, the Flames would like to get there first. Backing up Kiprusoff will be either Leland Irving or Henrik Karlsson, the loser of that battle heads to Abbotsford of the AHL. Of course the winner gets to play sparsely and mop up if Kiprusoff has an off night. The life of a backup goalie was never said to be a glamorous one.

Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Ian White, and Mark Giordano make up a fairly solid top four along the blue line. Steve Staios, Cory Sarich and Adam Pardy are there as well. Ideally with these seven, the Flames should have no problems on defense. With all the injury problems the forwards seem to have, keeping the defensive unit healthy and all together is a blessing. These guys won’t score much (Ian White did have 13 goals last season) but keeping the other team off the board will be their job. The Flames won’t dare try to be a run-and-gun team.

Top line we’d like to see: As if there was a doubt? Tanguay-Jokinen-Iginla. This will be the top line unless Brent Sutter loses his mind or youngster Mikael Backlund forces someone’s hand and moves to the top line. This will be like a franchise sport science experiment. The fans are baffled as to why Jokinen was brought back and scratched their heads at the signing of Tanguay. If things don’t pan out, it will be proof that you can’t go home again because the Calgary fans will go ape-nuts if the “chemistry” these three players had at one time doesn’t return. Keep the popcorn ready to watch this season-long soap opera play out.

Oh captain, my captain: Iginla is the captain and rightfully so as he and Kiprusoff have been the sole reason to watch the Flames the last few seasons. Iginla leads the team in scoring year in and year out and leads through his play on the ice. He scores, he fights, he hits, he’s every TV announcer’s man-crush.

Street fighting man: Take your pick between Ivanans and Tim Jackman. Jackman had 10 fights last year with the Islanders in limited duty and Ivanans, a monstrous figure at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, had 14. Should both of these guys get into the lineup at the same time, they might just fight each other if they can’t land an opponent to brawl with.

Best-case scenario: Jokinen and Tanguay use their pride to their advantage and go back to when they were both hugely productive players and help Iginla get to 50 goals while lighting up the scoreboard themselves. Stajan and Langkow recover from their injuries and bounce back with solid seasons. Mikael Backlund has a breakout season while Kiprusoff and the defense do their thing keeping everyone off the board. Mark Giordano adds another solid season to his resume while Bouwmeester ceases to be the invisible man in Calgary leading the Flames to a second-place finish in the division and a spot in the lower pack of the playoff race.

Worst-case scenario: Unabashed chaos breaks loose when Jokinen and Tanguay can’t reignite the old chemistry with Iginla and the line is broken up. Langkow and Stajan’s injury recoveries go slowly and with the lack of offense, the weight on Kiprusoff’s shoulders becomes too heavy to bear. Losing too many 2-1 games would make anyone crazy. Pressure to do something causes Flames ownership to step in and relieve the Sutter brothers of their jobs and start figuring things out for next season after finishing out of the playoffs.

Keeping it real: This is a perfectly average team. In the Eastern Conference they’d be able to sneak around better and their shortcomings wouldn’t be as painful and making the playoffs would be conceivably easier. In the Western Conference, however, times are tougher. What will keep Calgary motivated and afloat is that their division is not good. Getting to play a slew of your games against a potentially bad Minnesota team, a very young and goaltending-iffy Oilers team, and a Colorado team allergic to defense will keep you in the hunt. Forget about beating Vancouver though. The Flames can hang around and challenge for a seven or eight seed in the playoffs if things go well enough.

Stanley Cup chances: On a scale of 1-5, with one being the worst and a five being the best, the Flames are a practical 3. They’re not terrible, they’re not great, they’re an ideal middle-of-the-pack team in the West. If they make the playoffs, they could cause problems for a round if things go right, but overall you look at the team and you’re left unimpressed.

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    Could Larry Robinson be joining the Florida Panthers?

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    Last week, it was revealed that with his contract about to expire, Larry Robinson would not return to the San Jose Sharks.

    Robinson, a six-time Stanley Cup champion with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, was the Sharks’ director of player development. He joined the club in 2012.

    Like with any departure, Robinson’s set forth the usual questions about where he’ll surface next. Given the comments his agent, Donnie Cape, made to the Montreal Gazette a few days ago, Robinson still wants to work for an NHL club — just not behind the bench as a coach.

    That same report said Robinson, who lives in Florida, could have the Panthers “high on [his] wish list.”

    More, from the Gazette:

    Cape said the perfect role for Robinson at this point in his life would be to work with players at training camp, keep tabs on the development of young defencemen during the season and then spend time with players when necessary if they are having specific problems. Cape expects his phone to start ringing with calls from NHL general managers interested in Robinson’s services, and why wouldn’t they be?

    “If it’s the right thing, we can wrap it up right away,” Cape said. “If it takes time, it doesn’t matter. It’s more important the fit than anything else. The comfort zone, respectability, all that has to come into play.”

    On Monday, a report from 91.9 FM radio’s Jean-Charles Lajoie said Robinson will join the Panthers, becoming a development coach for the team’s defensemen. Lajoie added Robinson will work strictly in Sunrise, and not travel with the club.

    If the report pans out, the move makes sense.

    One of the greatest defensemen of all time and an experienced coach, Robinson could be the ideal tutor for Florida’s collection of good young blueline talent. Aaron Ekblad, the 2015 Calder Trophy winner as the league’s top rookie of the year, only turned 21 in February. Ian McCoshen, 21, made his NHL debut last season, appearing in three games. Michael Matheson, 22, is another promising blueliner that’s twice represented Canada at the World Hockey Championship.

    It should be noted the Panthers have not made any confirmations or official announcements with regards to Robinson.

    Related: Panthers reportedly will speak with Housley after Stanley Cup Final

    Capitals to host Maple Leafs in outdoor game at U.S. Naval Academy

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    As part of the 2018 Stadium Series, the Washington Capitals will host the Toronto Maple Leafs. The NHL confirmed this news today, which originally surfaced from the AP on May 27.

    To be more specific, the event takes place at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which is located at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The game is scheduled for March 3, 2018.

    This will mark the third outdoor game for both the Maple Leafs and the Capitals. The league notes how this contest should have special meaning for Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

    Holding the game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will have particular meaning for Leonsis because his father, Louis, who died in 2007, served in the U.S. Navy for seven years. Additionally, the Capitals have a long-standing relationship with the Naval Academy, which is about a 40-minute drive from Washington.

    As a reminder, the NHL already announced that the 2018 Winter Classic will pit the Buffalo Sabres against the New York Rangers at Citi Field on Jan. 1, 2018.

    The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators will also square off in the NHL 100 Classic at Landsdowne Park on Dec. 17, 2017.

    As Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final nears, it’s already shaping up to be a busy 2017-18 season as far as special events go.

    WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final – Predators vs. Penguins – Game 1

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    The 2017 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin with Game 1 on NBC at 8 p.m. ET tonight. The livestream can be found here.

    (Here is the full schedule, including where to watch each contest in this series.)

    Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins aim for the rare feat of repeat championships, along with their third rings and the fifth Stanley Cup in team history. The Nashville Predators, meanwhile, have never been here before, from guys in their first year with the team (P.K. Subban) to their long-time veteran goalie Pekka Rinne.

    There should be a lot of gold and a lot of excitement in this series, so let’s get ready.

    To start things off, tune into “NHL Live” for an extensive preview on NBCSN. “NHL Live” is underway now and runs until the game begins. Click here for the livestream.

    Then, Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Finally, you can watch some coverage after Game 1 on NBCSN in the form of “NHL Overtime.” Click here for that livestream link.

    The Senators have a very, very, very long list of injuries from the playoffs

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    Every year, NHL teams deal with injuries during the Stanley Cup playoffs, as players fight through the pain of broken bones, torn ligaments, sprains and cuts.

    On Monday, Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion went through a laundry list of players dealing with injuries, following his team’s run to the Eastern Conference Final. The detail he went into shows the price some players paid, as the Senators pushed the Penguins to double overtime of Game 7 in the third round.

    It starts with Erik Karlsson, who was dealing with more than hairline fractures in his foot.

    — Karlsson: In addition to dealing with the fractures, Dorion said his star defenseman had muscle issues with his foot.

    Mark Borowiecki: High-ankle sprain. “He would’ve been ready for Game 1 if we got to the Stanley Cup Final.”

    Alex Burrows: High-ankle sprain.

    Cody Ceci: Broken finger. “I think Cody had his finger broken 17 times. I’m not sure exactly how many times. It got broken during the year, it got broken in the playoffs (versus the Rangers). It was put back into place and it broke again. He needed to freeze it before every game.”

    Zack Smith: Pulled rib and abdominal muscles.

    Viktor Stalberg: Rib injury.

    Chris Neil: “Significant” sprained hand.

    Dion Phaneuf: Wrist injury.

    Craig Anderson: Back injury. His back “was in terrible shape during the Rangers series, which we managed to win, so that says a lot about his character playing through the pain.”

    Tom Pyatt: Ankle injury.

    Derick Brassard: Should injury.

    Fredrik Claesson: Back injury.

    Marc Methot: Finger injury. Methot suffered the injury on a Sidney Crosby slash in the regular season. “It never healed to 100 per cent through the playoffs.”

    Mark Stone: Knee injury.

    Ryan Dzingel: Wrist injury.

    The good news for the Senators out of all this? Dorion added that, as of now anyway, none of the aforementioned players require surgery for their injuries.