Five Questions with Matchsticks and Gasoline
In preparation for tonight's match-up between the Ottawa Senators and the Calgary Flames, five questions were put to our sister blog, Matchsticks and Gasoline
Ottawa makes the trip to Calgary tonight and since these two Canadian teams don't play each other very often, Hayley over at Matchsticks and Gasoline reached out to exchange questions and better familiarize each fan base with tonight's opponent. Here are her answers:
Amelia: Ottawa fans are familiar with former Ottawa 67 Sean Monahan. What have Flames fans been most surprised with from this emerging star?
Hayley: I don't think many Flames fans expected Monahan to be the leading goal scorer on this team, and that is probably what is most surprising so far with regard to the 2013 sixth overall pick. He has had his ups and downs this season, including missing time with a fractured foot, and a lot of fans were unhappy when management decided not to send him down to the 67s after the nine game limit, but Monahan's 18 goals and 26 points in 54 games have certainly been a pleasant surprise. it won't be so pleasant when his shooting percentage falls from its lofty 18.2%, but we may as well enjoy it while it lasts.
Amelia: Brian Burke seems to be waiting before searching for a new GM. Who do you think will eventually take the reins?
Hayley: With Burke being the go-to guy for today's trade deadline, the changes he has already made to this team and his continued espousal of size and strength makes me doubtful that anyone else will ever take over the reigns. He seems to be making himself fairly comfortable, and the fact that keeps pursuing Joe Nieuwendyk despite the fact that he has repeatedly declined the opportunity is another red flag that makes it seem like Burke is here to stay.
Amelia: Ottawa is nearing the end of its self-described three-year rebuild. Calgary is in the first season of a significant rebuilding process. How would you evaluate the first year of this project from the front office down to the on-ice project?
Hayley: As far as the on-ice product goes, this season seems pretty much in line with what to expect from the first year of a rebuild. Young players are getting playing time and small deals are being made in exchange for draft picks, similar calibre prospects or to fill holes on the team, such as the acquisition of Ladislav Smid from the Oilers earlier this season. As far as management goes, I'm still weary of Brian Burke's impact on the team and his continued emphasis on acquiring "more beef." I can't help but think that trading for players like Kevin Westgarth is counterproductive and a step backward for a rebuilding team that is still struggling to remove itself from Darryl Sutter's legacy, one which involved much of the same rhetoric. I also don't think that Bob Hartley has any business coaching this team given his reputation for mismanaging young players, amongst other accusations about the nature of his character and flippant attitude toward the health of his players. In terms of judging the overall progress in what is supposedly year one of the rebuild, well, the Flames are currently in a position to obtain a top-five draft pick provided Burke doesn't do anything too rash today, and that's good I guess...one would think things could only go up from here. Unless you're an Oilers fan.
Amelia: Since you asked me about how Sens fans currently feel about Daniel Alfredsson, I'll return the favor: how do Flames fans currently feel about Jarome Iginla? Flames fans have had to live with twin departures: Iginla and the retirement of Miikka Kiprusoff. Who has been harder to replace?
Hayley: The fact that both players were fairly mediocre in their final half-season as members of the Flames makes it somewhat easier to deal with the fact that they are no longer on the team. Despite a rough start, the Flames' goaltending trio of Karri Ramo, Reto Berra and Joni Ortio has not been terrible and Mark Giordano has certainly performed well as team captain and second-leading point-getter. However I do think that Jarome Iginla has and will be the more difficult of the two to replace. Even though his final games as a Flame were not his best ones, he was closer to his peak as an elite player than any other Flames forward is at the moment, and it will likely be a little while still before anyone currently on the team or in its prospect stable reaches their prime and can hold a candle to Iggy.
Amelia: Much has been made of how realignment has contributed to the humbling of the Vancouver Canucks this season. What do you think about playing in the Pacific?
Hayley: It certainly is enjoyable for Flames fans to watch, that's for sure! I distinctly remember letting out a long groan when I saw the proposed new divisions under NHL realignment and resigning myself to the fact that it would be a very long time before the Flames made the playoffs, but playing in the Pacific has been somewhat less nightmarish that I was anticipating (at least so far). The Flames have only lost to the Canucks in regulation once, they've beaten LA twice and San Jose once; the only team they have been unable to steal a single point from is Anaheim.
The Flames have relished playing spoiler on some occasions this season and have been very lucky on others, scoring two last-minute goals against the Kings to snatch regulation victories from right under the nose of their former general manager, so I don't anticipate that playing in this division will get any easier and I fully realize that Calgary's relative success against its divisional opponents is likely somewhat flukey, but so far it could be worse.