Flames' age not cause of road woes

 

The Flames are a dismal 8-14-4 on the road this year. With strong board play and a good base of two-way players, Calgary should be a tough team to play against in any rink, not just their own.

A recent Calgary Herald article said this:

“this is an aggregation you’d think would be ideally suited to handling the particular challenges of the road; stockpiled, as it is, with old warhorses savvy in the ways of survival in hostile environments, in tight situations. Equipped to overcome an obvious disparity in talent with wit, guile and experience.”
 

Reading comments and articles like this online, I get the impression people want the old fogies of the team sold and replaced by young up-and-comers. They believe doing this will improve the road game. 

I would agree, if Calgary had a lot of old fogies.

The Flames have the eighth oldest team in the league with an average age of just over 28. Safe to say that unlike the Oilers and Avalanche, they can grow facial hair. But unlike Detroit, they need mouthguards and can’t just take out their dentures before games.  

Brendan Morrison is the geezer of the dressing room at 36, but he's still injured and has only suited up for 26 games this year. Surely people aren’t referring to him when they’re talking about the old-timers.

Are they referring to Jarome Iginla? I hope not. Despite being 34, Iggy is usually the best Flames forward in any given game. He hasn’t missed the 30 goal mark since the ’99-00 season and is on pace for more than 30 this year. If you watched the Sharks game on Tuesday Jan. 18, then you would know that he also likes to dummy defensemen with his shoulders.Iginla cocks back his fist as Clowe cowers in fear. Well, not really...but it sounded nice.

The other old farts that people must be talking about are Cory Sarich and Olli Jokinen at 33 years old (33 is not old but, for the sake of arguing, I’ll address them).

Rumours have swirled around Sarich being traded, but nothing has come of it yet. It would be difficult to move Sarich as he has a cap hit of $3.6 million, which may be the only thing keeping him in Calgary.

Jokinen hasn’t been dreadful by any means. His 35 points hasn’t quite lived up to his $3 million price tag but there are far worse third-line players in the league than Jokinen. Ovechkin, at $9 million, only has 36 points, FYI.

The real reason for the Flames’ deplorable road record isn’t because of their age, it’s simply because they make too many defensive mistakes. Neutral zone turnovers and missed assignments in the defensive end have killed the Flames in away games.

Want proof?

Looking at only regular season HOME games, Calgary is ranked sixth in the league in Goals Against with 49. Not too shabby. Looking at only regular season AWAY games, the Flames are ranked 28th in the league with 81 Goals Against. Yep. Third last.

How are they so much worse on the road? They’re still playing the same game, right?

There is an obvious mentality shift when the Flames leave town. Something there needs to be remedied. Maybe Captain Jerome needs to hook his team up with Nyquil so they can sleep better in the hotels they’re staying in. 

 

What the Flames-fan huffing and puffing really comes down to is they want to see the Taylor Hall-ish potential for the future. They’re okay with losing 5 straight on the road as long as the team looks fast and skilled. They look at teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Edmonton and say, “Hey! We should do that!”

Wrong.

No one wants the Flames to lose three straight seasons and place their future in the hands of a bunch of unproven teens. Sure Pittsburgh and Chicago worked out, but have you seen Columbus? Hey, watch Moneyball and then tell me if you want to risk your future on prospects.

Plus, Calgary isn’t far from having a playoff team. The acquisitions of Cammalleri and Jones add a little more quickness up front. If Glencross can make a speedy recovery from his recent lower body injury then he would be key in getting the Flames’ road game on track.

If the Flames can’t turn around their ugly record, then those early first-round draft picks that fans are chanting for may not be so far off after all. 

6 Comments

Derrick Newman's picture

Solid read Drew! Welcome to TCL!
Some solid points as well as Calgary isnt really as old as a lot of people have made them out to be. Now, that being said, they have made themselves considerably younger over the last year, which I've liked. But it's a matter of mixing the savvy veterans with those rooks that will make them successful. As for Jokinen, he really has done everything he has been asked. He changed his ENTIRE game in the past season and a half and now plays a more complete game and is a contributing member of this team who happens to be neck and neck with Iginla for the team scoring race.
And I agree, with the addition of Cammy, I really think this team CAN make the playoffs. I didnt think so before, and its not as if Cammy is THAT much better than Bourque was but I guess I like what Cammy brings to the table, and thats a skillset the team didnt posses beforehand. And his chemistry with Jarome is undeniable.

Drew Henn's picture

I totally agree. That top line of Backlund, Cammalleri, and Iginla looks sick. Jokinen has played solid and one thing that has gone seemingly unnoticed about him is that he never seems to get injured (knock-on-wood). His whole career he has always played over 75 games a season. I think coming in, people wanted ginos from him, but in his role he is a better all around player. Thanks for the comment!

George Prax's picture

Great read Drew, welcome aboard!

I wouldn't necessarily say the Flames are old, but it is a little concerning that they don't really have a couple of young studs. They have young players, sure, but where's the rookie that gets teased by the veterans, that gets to experience the NHL for the first time, that can give hope to the fans and the team for the future? As a Habs fan, losing Cammalleri wasn't that big an issue to me because not only do the Habs have players his age to replace him, they have young players both on the team and coming through the developmental pipes to replace him, no matter how bad they're doing this year. It's one thing to have an older team, and there's merit to that, but teams also need to have a balance between veterans and young players, and I can't see that on the flames.

Drew Henn's picture

Hey George,

I I agree with you that there may not be a good balance between young prospects and aged players this year, but i think that is only due to the amount of one-way contracts and not because of a lack of prospects. I think people who follow the Flames closely are excited to see guys like Ryan Howse, Max Reinhart, Sven Bartschi, and even Markus Granlund eventually get a shot - especially after watching the success TJ Brodie has had this year. I think people here want to see either a struggling team of young potential, or a successful team. In Calgary, they haven't been able to see either one. Sarich, Stempniak, and Morrison are all UFAs at the end of the season though, and that should open up some spots for young guys. We're not there yet, but we're close!

Thanks for the comment! I'm stoked to part of the TCL team!

stubblejumper77's picture

Hi Drew

I agree it's time to start de-bunking this "Flames are old" myth now. For those who keep spreading yesterdays news that the Flames are an old team I think they need to start checking their facts. As of Thursday Jan 19th, 2012 the Flames have the 10th oldest average age of current active roster players.

Essentially there are three groups of teams:

Group #1 .. with the oldest average team age of 29.7 down to 28.0 including (in order of oldest team to younger team) Detroit, Anaheim, Tampa, New Jersey, Phoenix, Florida, Pittsburgh, NY Islanders, Dallas

Group #2 ... with a team age of 27.9 down to 27.0 including Calgary, Vancouver, Philly, Montreal, San Jose, Washington, Boston, Ottawa, Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis

Group #3... with a team age of 26.8 down to 25.9 including Winnipeg, Columbus, Edmonton, Buffalo, LA, NY Rangers, Carolina, Nashville, Toronto and Colorado.

These groupings provide a pretty good opportunity to analyze age in relation to potential success (i.e. odds of winning the Stanley Cup). It's pretty easy to argue the Flames are in the same group with the greatest number of top-ranked teams such as Vancouver (yech!), Philly, SJ, Boston, Chicago and perhaps StL and Wash. The older Group#1 has Detroit and Pittsburgh, the youngest Group#3 has NYR and perhaps LA.

Bottom line is from a team age vs success perspective, with the changes that Feaster has already made this year Calgary has lowered it's team age and is sitting in a comfortable spot. Any changes he makes going forward should not consider age as one of the priorities of any trade.

Stubblejumper77 ...Smile

Drew Henn's picture

I totally agree. I actually think that if they can somehow get their road game going, then these next couple years should be their most successful. There will come a time to rebuild and develop players but the guys on this team are not old enough to be "write-offs," so i think that idea needs to be postponed for a bit.

Thanks for catching that they're 10th in the league too, as opposed to 8th. I appreciate the update.