Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks

Flames say line brawl vs. Canucks turned season around, was ‘good for hockey’


Following the now-infamous line brawl against Vancouver on Jan. 18, the Calgary Flames went an impressive 19-14-0 to finish the year.

The secret to that success? According to the players, that huge scrap turned the season around.

(All quotes from the Calgary Sun)

Chris Butler: “I think it was a turning point for our season. Things were tough for us at that time. We were getting tired of losing, and guys were (peeved) off.”

Kevin Westgarth: “It was good for hockey — you don’t want it to happen every day, but that’s part of the soul of the game. People who want to deride that can go watch another sport. People watch hockey for the violence — just like football.”

Joe Colborne: “Things like that galvanize a team. It really brings a team together. It brought a tight group even closer.”

These comments are going to raise eyebrows for a number of reasons. One, they came prior to Calgary getting waxed 5-1 by Vancouver in Sunday’s regular season finale, a game that saw Flames forward Paul Byron get tossed for boarding Daniel Sedin, who was forced to leave on a stretcher.

Two, the Jan. 18 line brawl was referenced in John Tortorella’s postgame media availability, albeit indirectly. Tortorella once again went after Flames head coach Bob Hartley — though this time with only his words, not physically like he did three months ago — blasting Hartley for a perceived lack of respect.

“It’s embarrassing to coach against the guy across from me tonight,” Tortorella said. “Some of the things that went on when Danny was hurt, it’s embarrassing.”

Tortorella was alluding to reports that Hartley was yelling at Henrik Sedin and the officiating crew while Daniel was laying on the ice.

“It just pisses me off,” Tortorella continued. “I just don’t like the disrespect with players. It aggravates me. I am not going to go any further. I don’t like the way he does business. I don’t like him, and eventually I guess why I am talking about it in this way is because I need to protect my players and a lot of people don’t understand that, so I’ll just leave it at that. I don’t know why I opened it up.”

It’s also worth noting that Hartley started Westgarth and fellow tough guy Brian McGrattan on Sunday, the same pair he started back on Jan. 18. The Canucks opted to go with Zack Kassian, Brad Richardson and Shawn Matthias.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.