Calgary Flames

Those Flames are so hot right now

The quintessentially average Calgary Flames have finally found their stride and it may be for real this time.

THE SLUMP YEARS

The last time the Calgary Flames made a legitimate run for the Stanley Cup was in 2004 against the Tampa Bay Lightning (spoiler, the Flames lost).

The last time the Flames won a Stanley Cup was WAY back in 1989 and that is their only Cup.

So, it’s been a while since the Flames have tasted victory and it seems as though they are finally getting hungry.

The Flames have failed to make the playoffs in six of the last ten NHL seasons. Those seasons were chaotic, unsure and frustrating.

Calgary Flames

Miikkaa Kiprusoff may be the best goaltender the Flames have ever had. (Photo from Reddit)

After losing Miikka Kiprusoff (who may be even more missed than Jarome Iginla) to retirement before the 2014-15 season the Flames struggled to find someone to take command between the pipes. They went through Jonas Hiller,  Kari Ramo, Reto Berra, Brian Elliot, Chad Johnson and most recently Eddie Lack.

Even when the Flames had Kiprusoff they lacked solid secondary support in the crease which caused the Flames to overplay Kiprusoff and potentially lead to his somewhat premature retirement.

In addition to their goaltending woes, the Flames also had an extremely slow and old group of players.

Calgary Flames

Here is a breakdown of the average ages in the NHL in 2010-11. (Screenshot from QuantHockey.com)

Veterans are beneficial to a team, but you don’t want a whole team of veterans.

The Calgary Flames were above the NHL age average from the 2009-10 season until the 2012-13 season. Two of those seasons they were second in age average (at nearly 30 years old) to only the Detroit Red Wings.

A COUPLE GOOD MOVES

Extending the contracts of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan were clutch moves (albeit obvious). Their connection is absolutely incredible and adding Michael Ferland to that line has made a huge positive difference.

Picking up Dougie Hamilton and Travis Hamonic and the rise of Michael Stone have bolstered the Flames D-line to be one of top defensive cores in the league.

Picking up Mike Smith is one of the best things that’s happened to the Flames since Gaudreau became an unexpected star.

THE PAST TEN GAMES

In their last four games of December the Flames went 1-3. Not due to lack of effort. The Flames shootout loss against the San Jose Sharks was one of the best games I have ever watched.

On New Years Eve the Flames turned it all around. They were playing the Chicago Blackhawks and came out on top with a great all around effort. That victory sparked a seven game win streak which is still in progress. During the win streak the Flames have matched up with and beaten extremely strong opponents, such as the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning, the Anaheim Ducks and the LA Kings.

The biggest difference between this current streak and some of the Flames’ past streaks is the quality of the teams they are beating. In addition to this, the Flames are seeing offensive contributions from more players than just their first line, including key contributions from their defensemen.  

The Flames are seeing depth not only from their forwards and defensemen but also their goalies. It seems like for the first time in over a decade the Flames may have found a decent backup in David Rittich who has gone 4-1-1 since being called up with a 2.03 GAA and a .932 S%.

LOOKING FORWARD

Two members of the Flames were named to the NHL’s Three Stars of the Week; with Johnny Gaudreau at number one and Mike Smith at number two.

If the Flames continue to execute on special teams and keep their possession numbers up there is no reason why they shouldn’t be in the playoff picture.

Things are really starting to look up for the Flames, so if they can keep this level of confidence the rest of this season should be smooth sailing. 

Featured image from Calgary Herald

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Lauren

NHL Free Agency: Top 5 Unsigned Players

Just as it came in with the uneasiness and excitement it always brings, the NHL free agency frenzy has come and gone.

During the past few weeks, Kevin Shattenkirk went to the Big Apple to sign with his hometown team. Alexander Radulov crossed the border to head to Big D. The aging Patrick Marleau joined the youth movement in Toronto.

Even with the key players out of the market, there are still steady free agents available that can help teams out. Here are the top 5 skaters to watch out for as free agency continues.

5. Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla is still available in NHL free agency

Jarome Iginla. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Jarome Iginla has excelled in 19 NHL seasons. His 625 goals are 15th all-time in the NHL, per QuantHockey. He collected 1,300 points in that span as well. Undoubtedly, he is skating towards a Hall of Fame career. However, it depends when he gets in, considering he hasn’t officially retired yet.

After ending last year with the Kings, they have said they won’t resign him. At 40 years old, the age is enough to scare teams away. He isn’t the same prolific scorer he once was, as his totals have decreased in the past four years. Take that out of consideration and Iginla doesn’t do much of anything else.

Although he’s well past his prime, he can assist a young team thanks to that longevity. He’s a tremendous locker room presence and brings a winning attitude to a team, similar to what Marleau will do for the Maple Leafs. And though his scoring has declined, he still chipped in 14 goals and 27 points between Colorado and Los Angeles. If Iginla can scratch out one more contract before his retirement, he can aid a team with secondary scoring.

4. Drew Stafford

Drew Stafford picked a bad time to have a down year. After scoring more than 20 goals for the fourth time in his career in 2015-16, Stafford regressed to four goals in 40 games for Winnipeg last season. The Jets traded him to Boston for a sixth-round pick, and he scored four more goals. Eight tallies for over $4 million last season is not great value at all.

Still, the reason he is on this list is he is a buy-low candidate. It’s doubtful he gets more than a couple million on his next deal. For someone that has a nice shot as well as improved Corsi and Fenwick ratings (according to Hockey Reference, 51.6 percent and 52.7 percent, respectively), that is a bargain.

There is not a lot of traction for Stafford yet. The Bruins are talking to his camp, but there aren’t any substantial rumors at this point. When he does sign, his team is gambling that he’s more consistent than last year.

3. Thomas Vanek

Thomas Vanek is on the NHL free agency market

Thomas Vanek. Photo courtesy of The Hockey News/Photo by Mike Carlson, Getty Images

Vanek has enjoyed a nice career in the NHL, but he is no longer the explosive player he once was. He could’ve ascended to top-10 status in the league after notching 84 points when he was 23. However, he is still a top-six forward capable of 40 points in a season.

The Panthers are not interested after he ended last season in Sunrise. It’s likely he plays for his seventh team since 2013. Last week, Vanek was talking to several teams, but none were specified and he hasn’t signed yet. The Rangers, Bruins and Sabres supposedly have interest.

Vanek brings speed to the table. Even at 33, he is the fastest player in NHL free agency at the moment. He is a streaky player, but when he gets hot, he is a solid asset. So long as he keeps up his speed, he has value in today’s NHL.

In addition, Vanek’s time on the market should drive down his value. He got $2.6 million last year from Detroit, according to Spotrac. He can sign for a couple million that doesn’t break the bank.

2. Cody Franson

With Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner signed, Cody Franson is the best defenseman available. After missing 23 games two seasons ago, he rebounded in his second year with Buffalo. He increased his minutes, blocks, and hits according to Hockey Reference. He improved his possession metrics to positive ratios as well.

Franson is not the same player that he once was in Toronto. If anything, he is more of a second or third-pair blue liner at this stage. However, teams will love what he can bring to the table. On top of the possession skills, he has a right-handed stick and is 6-foot-5, which is great size for a defenseman.

Franson’s last contract with Buffalo had an annual value of $3.325 million. At this rate, it may be slightly lower if he doesn’t lower his expectations. Andrew Gross, the Devils’ beat reporter for The Record, brought up Franson’s name as a possibility. New Jersey whiffed on Shattenkirk and they have the cap room. The question, like he poses, is if the Devils would give for years on his deal. With the way he’s played recently, a few years seems fair.

1. Jaromir Jagr

Was there any doubt he wasn’t going to be the top one left in NHL free agency? He’s second all-time with 1,914 points and he still has no job. If there’s a positive, he can use social media to market himself.

If you ask any fan in the NHL, chances are they want Jagr on their team. With that history and success, combined with a great presence in the locker room, it’s a no-brainer. Plus, at 16 goals and 30 assists last year, he can still play the game.

Although he is a big hit within the NHL fandom, teams are acknowledging they aren’t getting Jagr’s prime. He’s 45 years old and has lost some speed, which is almost a necessity in this era. If a team brings him in, it’s under the impression that he is a second or third-line skater.

Contract-wise, Jagr isn’t looking for much. He has said himself he wants one-year deals moving forward. He made over $5 million last year, but he likely won’t make as much. At this point, he’d take anything he could get.

A team should sign him with his intangibles. He’s a legendary player that inspires others around him. It’ll shock the hockey world if he doesn’t get that next contract.

 

Feature image courtesy of NHL.com

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Connor!

“From Our Haus to Yours”