Flames lose third straight; Trade Deadline Looms

 

Once again the Calgary Flames got off to a roaring start in a must-win game, and once again they gave up much needed points in the chase for that 8th and final playoff spot.

Up 3-0 midway through the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Flames folded like a cheap tent relinquishing the lead, en route to a 5-4 shootout loss. This was the Flames second straight shootout loss and they are currently 0-1-2 during their four game homestand.

They were outshot 45-21, so really, did they deserve to win? Probably not.

 Miikka Kiprusoff did all he could to keep pucks out of the Flames net, while Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s did everything he could to let pucks in the net, yet the Flames still couldn’t manage to close the game out.

As I’ve said before it’s become all too predictable.

Curtain raises: Flames get an early lead, then white knuckle the steering wheel and hope to god the other team doesn’t score. Other team inevitably scores and the Flames leave the arena with their tails between their legs. Curtain closes.

 Not exactly the killer instinct mentality that great teams posses.

As GM Jay Feaster put it, the Flames haven’t been playing well since the Leafs game (a 5-1 win) and the Flames goaltending has “masked a lot of problems” the team has been facing. Basically, without Kipper, the Flames are in the running for a lottery pick and not a playoff spot. It’s that simple.

So heading forward, the Flames sit one point back of the 8th and final playoff spot occupied currently by the Dallas Stars. However, Dallas is also tied in points with the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche.

Calgary plays St. Louis on Monday and then play Phoenix, Anaheim and Dallas in a span of four days. Do or die time is continuous in Calgary.

With the trade deadline set for tomorrow, it’s hard to say what GM Jay Feaster will do, if anything, with the team. Judging by his comments these past couple days, it seems that he is not very happy with the current play of the team. Who can blame him?  For a team desperate to make the playoffs, they have showed no desperation in the past three games. They were pummelled by the second worst team in the league. They then relinquished two multi goal leads in back-to-back games and have been outshot 176-112 in their past five games – an average of almost 13 shots a game.

Brent Sutter said it best in his post game press conference last night, when he singled out the top two lines for not getting more pucks on net. The Philly top six outshot the Flames top 6 forwards 18-7. Philly’s first thought is “shoot.” The Flames first thought when they cross the blue line is, “how many times can we attempt shady passes around the perimeter before the Flyers eventually take it away from us?” or “let’s dump it in and get off the ice before something bad happens.”

So should we expect a substantial move from Jay Feaster on the eve of the trade deadline? I highly doubt it given the Flames current cap situation (roughly $2.4 million in room) and their current position in the standings (neither buyers nor sellers).

And given the Flames injury situation, I would venture to guess that getting these players (Moss, Backlund, Stempniak, etc.) back would be roughly equal to making a deal for a top nine forward.

The only deal I see Feaster possibly trying to make is dealing a defenceman like Cory Sarich or Scott Hannan. Both players will be UFA’s at the end of the season and both payers have a wealth of experience for teams looking for a little defensive depth. Sarich, at $3.6 million, might be a little more difficult to part with, but Hannan, at $1 million, could have played his last game in a Flames sweater.  Both players could fetch a pick in return, which the Flames are always looking to stockpile. Ideally they would be looking to get that 2nd round pick back that they lost in the Regehr deal last summer. I’m not sure either Sarich or Hannan could get that by themselves, but possibly if you packaged one of them with a later round pick (much like the Hal Gill deal) for a earlier pick, there might be a deal to be made.

Unfortunately trading Anton Babchuk is nearly impossible given his $2.5 million salary and his lack of defensive abilities. Trying to channel Sandis Ozolinsh hasn’t panned out for Babs as well as he had hoped.

So you can afford to deal Sarich or Hannan and either bring up Brett Carson to fill the void until Butler returns or roll the dice by putting in Babchuk.

Looking at the rest of the soon to be UFA’s on the Flames, I don’t see much happening.

Jokinen – announced Saturday he won’t be leaving

Moss and Stempniak – both injured and would find it surprising to see either go. If they do, they would have to bring back a NHL calibre player.

Tom Non-Stopoulos – great 3rd/4th liner who has fit in well.

Jackman – crowd favorite who anchors the fourth line. No reason to deal him.

Tomorrow should be interesting, but I really don’t think the Flames will be headliners. They have the makings of a playoff team in their dressing room and have played some solid hockey, in spurts, over the past two months that would suggest that post-season play in a possibility.

It’s just a matter of whether they want it enough, and how much weight Kipper can carry on that gargantuan back of his. 

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