Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flames Camp 2014

Originally published on Flames Jambalaya

The Flames are more than halfway through their camp; so how much do we know? Today’s blog is a general summary on how the Camp is going so far. I will go through my observations on the goaltending, defense, and offense. 

Physical Play
The most obvious observation is that the Flames are going to be a much more physical team this year. They really beefed up in the off season.

The newcomers who will work on the physical play; or as I like to say, beat the crud out of the opposition. The signing of Deryk Engelland instantly gives the Flames a bigger presence, which will keep opposing Forwards honest. The acquisition of Brandon Bollig gives the Flames some much-needed physical size in Forwards. Too many times, the opposing Defense took liberties with the Flames’ Forwards with no repercussions. 

Speed Kills
The Flames signed ex-Leaf Mason Raymond on Canada Day. Mason is one of the fastest skaters in the League. He will put the fear of God in opposing Defense. If he can connect with Backlund, who is also very fast, the Flames’ speed will double. He will make Backlund better. Additionally, if Curtis Glencross can stay healthy, he will also be a huge asset to the team’s speed.

Team Leadership
Gio will get major help in the Flames’ dressing room. Monahan will be a year older and will help. He will be a more mature and complete player this season. But the major players will be Engelland and Bollig. First of all, Deryk Engelland: Coach Hartley has been gushing with glee about Engelland. Deryk will voice his opinion if he is unhappy about a player. He will speak up when it is needed. There will be no dilly-dallying in the Flames’ dressing room. Engelland won't allow it. Now Brandon Bollig: he will teach this team how to win. He has two rings. He will bring that knowledge and experience into the dressing room. Matt Stajan will be continue to grow as a player. The Flames will rely on this vet to lead by example.

The goalies are going to be a huge upgrade. With the signing of Jonas Hiller, the Flames have a legitimate number-one goalie. He will cut the bad goals down by one goal a game. Plus he brings in another factor; he will make Ramo better. Ramo will have to be better if he wants his chance to play. If he does not play better, he will play much less this season.

Things we do not know or should I say  the concerns the Fans may have
Will the Flames’ Defense be better than last year? The first question: Is Engelland better than Buttler? At the beginning of camp, I would have said ‘not a chance.’ But  since the camp, I have been very impressed with Engelland’s play. He is a solid defensemen who has been a stable influence in the defense zone. He has been building a nice chemistry with Russell. 

The next question: Is Raphael Diaz going to get a contract offer from the Flames? In this blogger’s mind, yes. He fills a great need for a second powerplay captain.  He has been outstanding in the camp so far. His play has really helped fill a lot of holes in the Flames’ line-up. But unfortunately, he is a major risk in the defensive zone. It would help if the Flames can match him with a stable, offensive dman like Smid. He must also improve in consistency. If he can do this, the Flames will hit the motherload with him.

The next question is: Will Sheldon Brookbank get a contract? I am having a problem answering this one. He is a vital asset in the physical play. He is a very good finisher with his hits. He punishes opposition and follows through on his hits. His leadership skills will help the Flames down the stretch. He will be good role model for the young defensemen. The downside is his speed. He will have to make sure he does not take too many chances. It will not help in the offensive game. He would be a good asset as a seventh defensemen.
Gio and Russell will be still there. They are the rocks. Brodie is close behind. I suspect that Engelland is penciled in at the number four on the Roster. 

The major question is: Who is going to win that number seven dman spot? Is it Diaz or Burbank or is it one of the kids.  Mr. Smid needs a defensive partner. Time will tell who it is going to be.

Another question is: Where is the offense coming from? Or I like to say: Who is going make up the loss of Cammy's 26 goals? With this, the Flames will look to their first signing of the off-season. Of course, I am referring to Mason Raymond. His nineteen goal season from last year is reason for optimism. It is vital that he matches, if not passes, that total this season. Mason is capable of being the leading scorer. He has never been given this role, and I think he will flourish with it. 

The second solution to the offense is the low-risk in signing of Devin Setoguchi. He will be motivated to play this season. Devin is coming off his worst season. He surely will clear his eleven goal season. If he doesn’t, he will be spending it on the pine or in the AHL. Not much of a gamble for the Flames with his low cap hit of $750,000.

Gentlemen Joe has to do one thing: forget that he is a gentlemen. He has to start getting in the corners and his hands dirty.  The Flames will expect more input from Colborne. Joe will be given more duties, but where much is given, much is required. Joe has great tools, he just needs to put them to good use.  He must use his size. In other words, he must become a Burke player.

If I am talking offense, I would be an idiot not to mention Curtis Glencross. He must become a less selfish player. By this, I mean he must not take stupid penalties. He has to stay healthy. If he can achieve this, he is capable of scoring twenty goals again.

Sean Monahan will to match his first-year totals. He has to continue his smart playing and continue to be the man. There cannot be any sophomoric hi-jinx. He has to play smart and stay out of the physical play. The Flames have plenty of other players who can do that for him. I cannot emphasize this enough. Monahan is a key part of the Flames’ offense and will be a force this season.

Before I close, I have to mention Johnny Hockey’s goal in the Colorado game Tuesday night. The kid has skill, doesn't he? If Johnny can keep those skills, he will be a Flame for many years to come.

There are a lot more questions yet to be answered this season. Will Backlund get healthy? Will the Offense be able to make up for the loss of Cammy? Flames fans are going to have fun this season.