THE STATS LINE
7-9-1 record [25th overall (in points percentage)]
2.12 goals-for per game [28th overall]
2.65 goals-against per game [15th overall]
12.9% power-play success rate [24nd overall]
83.6% penalty-kill success rate [13th overall]
THE WEEK THAT WAS
- November 11: Flames drop two games below .500 with a 4-1 road loss to Chicago. The Blackhawks carry the play, out-shooting Calgary 31-25 and go 1-for-4 on the power-play. Olli Jokinen made the game 2-1 mid-way through the third, but Chicago pulled away with a pair of goals (including an empty netter).
- November 12: The Flames re-grouped from their loss with a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche. The Flames got up to a 4-0 lead by halfway through the game, but gave up three goals before Miikka Kiprusoff shut the door late in the third period.
- November 15: The Flames return home and drop a 3-1 decision to the Senators. The team peppers Craig Anderson with shots, but struggles on the power-play (going 0-for-6 with the man advantage). The Sens pull away mid-way through the third.
BACKLUND RETURNS TO THE LINE-UP
After missing 14 games with a broken pinky finger suffered in the last days of training camp, centre Mikael Backlund returned to the line-up on November 11 against Chicago. While an injury so close to the start of the season was obviously frustrating, Backlund chose to take advantage of the opportunity to get even more prepared for the season.
“I worked hard all summer and then this happens,” reflected Backlund. “It’s just another opportunity to get even better physically. I was able to skate a lot so, get better at skating, too.”
While Backlund was able to skate with the team for a while before being activated off the injured reserve, the game pace was a bit different. Back-to-back games on the road in Chicago and Denver may have also played a factor, although Backlund noted that he felt more comfortable on the ice as the games wore on.
“I played better in the first, but I felt more comfortable in the second game because I had a game under my belt,” shared Backlund. “Playing back-to-back, it’s pretty tough with the travel. I’m not used to that, so I was tired the second game but I felt more comfortable with our system and stuff and getting back to that and game situations.”
BYRON & BRODIE ARE RECALLED, HAGMAN EXITS
The Flames dressing room got a bit younger this week as centre Brendan Morrison and blueliner Anton Babchuk were put on injured reserve and winger Niklas Hagman was claimed off re-entry waivers by the Anaheim Ducks. The three openings allowed the Flames to activate Mikael Backlund off the injured list and bring up centre Paul Byron and defenseman T.J. Brodie from Abbotsford of the AHL.
Brodie played three games with Calgary to kick off last season after a tremendous showing at training camp, but his defensive play struggled at times and he was sent down to the minors. His stat line in Abbotsford shows the quality of his response: 80 games, six goals, 37 points, plus-seven over parts of two seasons in the AHL. Brodie mentioned that his newfound defensive awareness got him back to the dance.
“I guess the last year coming in, I never really focused a lot on defense,” said Brodie. “So last year and this year, I focused a lot on that trying to improve that. I guess I’m more reliable back there and my first priority is defending instead of trying to jump up in the rush and always thinking offense.”
Joining Brodie in the big leagues is Heat teammate Paul Byron, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres organization in the Robyn Regehr trade back at the NHL Entry Draft. A smaller player – listed somewhat generously by the Flames’ website as 5-9 and 170 pounds – Byron relies on speed and finesse. His call-up immediately paid dividends for the Flames: Byron’s line with rookie Roman Horak and veteran Lee Stempniak was singled out by head coach Brent Sutter as the difference-maker in their 4-3 win over Colorado. The line generated two goals, including a first-period tally by Byron off the rush.
“The game in Colorado, I thought our line played really well,” said Byron. “I think we showed good chemistry together and hopefully we can keep building on that.”
Both Byron and Sutter explained that the organization is focused on rewarding players who fill roles, not necessarily the guy who puts up the most points. While Byron only had 4 points in 9 AHL contests, Flames brass and Abbotsford coach Troy Ward felt he deserved the first ticket to Calgary.
“The message was clear that they were going to call up guys to fill positions and fill roles, not call up the guy who’s a leading scorer,” said Byron. “For me, I think that was really important for me to adjust my game and play hard down there and hopefully be that first call-up.”
The introduction of young players like Brodie, Byron and Horak into the Flames line-up has been positive, explained Flames head coach Brent Sutter. He noted that the energy from the youngsters can be something that the entire club, including the team’s veterans, can feed off.
“It doesn’t bother me at all to have a bunch of young players on the team,” said Sutter. “It’s a good thing for this organization. It’s been a long time, but it’s time. Quite honestly, as a coach, it’s exciting to see it.”
TWO FLAMES ALUMNI INDUCTED INTO HALL OF FAME
Two key members of the Calgary Flames’ 1989 Stanley Cup championship team were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.
Joe Nieuwendyk was drafted by the Flames in 1985 out of Cornell University, with a draft pick acquired when the team traded away Kent Nilsson, and debuted with the club during the 1986-87 season. Nieuwendyk went on to win the Calder Trophy in his first full NHL campaign, scoring 50 goals, and was a big piece of the franchise’s success in the late 1980s. He served a term as team captain and was traded to Dallas in December 1995 for veteran forward Corey Millen and a Stars prospect named Jarome Iginla. In 577 games with Calgary, Nieuwendyk recorded 616 points. He later won Stanley Cups with Dallas and New Jersey before retiring in late 2006.
Doug Gilmour was acquired by the Flames from St. Louis following the 1987-88 season and immediately helped the team win a Stanley Cup, scoring the Cup-winning goal in Game 6 against Montreal. Gilmour went on to play 266 games in Calgary (including a stint as captain), scoring 295 points. His relationship with team management soured, though, and he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in February 1992 in one of the most lop-sided trades in National Hockey League history.
DISPATCHES FROM THE FARM
- AHL: Krys Kolanos, in Abbotsford on a try-out, signed an American League deal with the Heat for the balance of the season. Kolanos’ try-out period saw him rack up 7 goals and 13 points in 7 games. Leland Irving is the first goalie in the AHL to 10 wins. He got 30 wins last year. The Heat open play this week as the #2 team in the entire AHL (behind the St. John’s Ice Caps).
- WHL: The WHL is off until this weekend for the Subway Super Series. Flames prospect Max Reinhart plays in the first game for Team WHL on November 16, then is joined by Patrick Holland and Michael Ferland for the second game on November 17.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.