Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Flames New Year’s Resolutions

Originally posted on Flamesjambalaya

What do the Flames have to do ensure we do not get into another eight-game losing streak?
If I was Brad Treliving, my New Year’s Resolutions would be:
We really need another top-three defenseman. That might very well be very difficult to accomplish.These are the defensemen that I think the Flames should pursue.
If the Flyers drop out of the race, there could be a few players to be had.The one I would love to see the Flames acquire is Braydon Coburn. He would be very expensive. But he would really help the Flames in the defensive zone. 
I have no doubt the Canes will be sellers at the deadline. They will be looking to unload. They have a few players I would like. One defenseman I would love to see the Flames to acquire is Justin Faulk. He is a stable defenseman who can add offensive scoring. He would a great add.
There are more, but those two are the defensemen that I would go after.
Other Possibilities
I might look at Fedor Tyutin from the Jackets; but I do not think the Jackets will let him go. If the Panthers drop out of the race, I wonder if the Panthers would consider Kulikov. He is a young player who would help the Flames in the back line. The main reason why he is not in my top two is that he is probably not on the table.

If I was Brad, I would want another top-six forward to add onto the scoring. My two picks here are:
I would start talking to the Sabers about forward Drew Stafford. Even though he is not having a great year, I think he could flourish in a new environment. Drew has been a thirty-goal scorer in the past. If he can return to his earlier days, he might very well be the perfect antidote for the Flames' offense.
I would ask the availability of Martin Hanzal. I think that Martin would be a perfect second-line center. He is a good, steady center who could help the team with the scoring, and is also solid defensively.
Other Possibilities
If Hanzal is not available, the Coyotes might very well consider trading Doan or Vermette. As for the Sabers, Stewart is a possible replacement. Another forward I might consider is Jagr out of the Devils.

Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

Is anyone else sick and tired of the our team deciding when to show and not to show? It seems to vary from period-to-period. Or at least game-to-game.
For example, they played a near-perfect game in Dallas and blanked 4-0. Everyone was doing what was was expected of them. But they also did something extra in that game.
Oh, the little extras. The forwards would do that extra dig to get the puck out. The defence were solid, not panicking in their own zone. Looking before they got rid of the puck. Very few blind passes. People were using their heads for thinking.
Again, they were steady against the Panthers for the first two periods. They held their ground, played solid, and the goaltending was holding them in. 
But then Mr. Hyde ran wild in the third period. Everyone forgot what they were supposed to do. It was like the Keystone Cops meet a Chinese Fire Drill. So many defensive break-downs, and the forwards standing around in the defensive zone looking at the puck. No one bothered to cover the player standing in the slot.
How can three forwards do nothing while the defense throws the puck mindlessly to the opposing forwards? 
What is so frustrating is that these breakdowns seem to happen in stretches. The Leafs would go on these winning streaks, where it looks like Mr. Hyde has left the building. But then, out of nowhere, they would start making mental errors in a game, and lose it.
That is bound to happen now and then, and it is fine as long as they learn from their mistakes. But that seems to be a forgotten art in Leaf land. The Leafs make the same mistakes over and over again, and all of a sudden, they are on a losing streak. 
So here are some New Year’s Resolutions I think players should make:
Dion Phaneuf
Generally, Dion does too much. He needs to realize his limitations. On most teams, Dion would not have all this responsibility; but the Leafs are not most teams. With this team, Dion must learn that he is human, and stop taking so many chances.
Nazem Kadri 
Nazem has been showing signs of becoming the Center that the Leafs knew he could be. Nazem must continue to play with heart. He must continue to pitch in on the scoring. He must be the leader of the second line.
Joffrey Lupul
Simply put, Joffrey must play within his means. He must be smarter. He is a gifted winger who has ton of ability. He has to be healthy in order for the Flames to succeed. Get out of the nasty business and stick to the offensive game. And he must stay healthy.
The last and most important of the players, Jonathan Bernier 
Bernier must continue to be a number one goalie. Down the stretch, we are going to need him to make that save if the Leafs are going to stay in the playoff hunt. Bernier will have to steal a few games down the stretch.
Finally, I think Nonis should make some resolutions:
  • Acquire a puck-moving defenseman who can help in with offense, which the Leafs so badly need.
  • Find Jake Gardiner a new home. We must improve the defense. He might well be a huge asset for another team.
  • I would love to see the Leafs pick up one more top-six forward to help the goal scoring on the second line. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Breaking News: Twelve Days of Christmas for the Flames

Originally posted to Flames Jambalaya

According to my secret sources (the squirrels), Brian Burke is meeting with some of the players and coaches before the Christmas. They are trying to keep these meeting hush hush, but my sources have special ways to get into the room. Apparently, Brian is meeting with some of his favorites, asking what they want for Christmas. Burke does not want people to know he plays favorites. It is not professional to play favorites. He does not want jealousy to be an issue in the dressing room.
Our sources worked overtime to get this info. The problem is that they do not speak English, so some of this could be lost in translation. I will try my best to get you the full story.
So my squirrels—oh, I mean insiders—said Burke would only answer to ‘my true love’. He is kind of funny that way. 
Burke: So, Shawn, what is it do you want for Christmas?
Shawn Manahan: Well, Mr. Burke—
Burke: Excuse me? How do you address me?
Shawn Monahan: Are you serious? Okay then… my true love, what I want from thee is a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: Okay then, get out of my office.
(The squirrels, have informed me Burke is never big on words; he's right to the point.)
Burke: Good afternoon Mark. What would you like for Christmas?
(Mark was kind of cocky. He looked at Burke.)
Mark Giordano: Not to have to call you 'my true love.' 
Burke picked up the phone, and next thing the squirrels saw was McGratton coming in with brass knuckles.
Mark changes his tune: My true love, what I want from thee is two more defensemen and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: Fine, get out of my office.
Burke: Hey, Johnny, what do you want for Christmas? 
Johnny Gaudreau: My true love, what I want from thee is three snipers, two more defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree. And of course, not to have to call you ‘my true love.' 
Burke: Do I need to bring in Mr. McGratton?
Johnny ran out before Burke could get an answer from him.
Burke: So, Brian, what do you want for Christmas?
Brian McGratton: (pretending to gag) My true love, what I want from thee is to send four more players to the hospital, three snipers, two defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: (sweating) Please leave my office.
Burke: Coach, what do you want for Christmas? 
Coach Hartley: (while making certain finger gestures) My true love, what I want from thee is five golden Stanley Cup rings, four players to hospital, three snipers, two defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: Curtis, what do want for Christmas?
Curtis Glencross: I am so delicate, my true love, what I want from thee is six fewer practices, five golden rings, four players to hospital, three snipers, two defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree. 
Burke: (trying to find something to throw at him, yells) Get out of my office! Dennis, what do you want for Christmas?
Dennis Widemen: (trying to poke his own eyes out) My true love, what I want from thee is seven more power plays, six less practices, five golden rings, four players to hospital, three snipers, two defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: Kris, what do you want for Christmas?
Kris Russell: (choking on his words) My true love, what I want from thee is eight more block shots, seven power plays, six less practices, five golden rings, four players to hospital, three snipers, two defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: Fine, get out of my office. Markus what do you want for Christmas?
Markus Granlund: (turning blue, holding his breath) My true love, what I want from thee is nine minutes playing time, eight block shots, seven power plays, six less practices, five golden rings, four players to hospital, three snipers, two defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: Fine, get out of my office. Juri, what do you want for Christmas?
Juri Hudler: (while covering his ears) My true love, what I want from thee is ten more Johnny Hockeys, nine minutes playing, eight block shots, seven power plays, six less practices, five golden rings, four players to hospital, three snipers, two defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: Get out of my office. What do you want for Christmas Lance?
Lance Bouma: (crying for being made to say the words) My true love, what I want from thee is eleven more body checks, ten Johnny Hockeys, nine minutes playing, eight block shots, seven power plays, six less practices, five golden rings, four players to hospital, three snipers, two defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: Get out of my office. Jonas, what do you want for Christmas?
Jonas Hiller: (drinking lots of alcohol) My true love, what I want from thee is twelve more shutouts, eleven body checks, ten Johnny Hockeys, nine minutes playing, eight block shots, seven power plays, six less practices, five golden rings, four players to hospital, three snipers, two defensemen, and a Stanley Cup in a pear tree.
Burke: Get out of my office.
My wish to you is to have a safe, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What is it Working in Toronto

Hockey life is sure a lot prettier in Toronto land since that debacle of the Preds game.

So why has it changed? What have the Leafs done to fix it? The simple answer would be because they are scoring more goals. But we all know that hockey has been never simple. In this case, though, it would be not far off. 

First line 

Phil Kessel 

Phil Kessel scored twice tonight in a 6-2 rout over the Ducks. Phil has scored six goals in last seven games. He has been outstanding all season. He is a leader, and is leading by example. He is doing everything he expects from his teammates.

James Van Riemsdyk 

What I like about James game right now is that he is in the opposition’s head. He is using his size and getting the dirty goals. He is getting back in the zone, playing a full game. He is terrific on the powerplay. Basically, he is becoming a full player. 

Tyler Bozak

Everyone keeps telling me he should not be a number one center. Guess what? I can tell you why he is. He continues to use his speed and continues to think with the puck. He has been terrific using his speed with JVR and Kessel. He continues to get the puck to Kessel when he needs to.

Supportive scoring

Nazem Kadri 

Ever since they got Lupul back, Nazem has picked up his game. He was fantastic tonight, scoring a goal on a terrific shot. He should have gotten another, if he hadn’t put himself offside. He is beginning to show the kind of player he is.

Joffrey Lupul

Lupul is the glue right now. He is making Kadri a better player. He is an outstanding leader, showing his team mates what to do.

Jonathan Bernier 

Bernier has been outstanding, and tonight was no different. He was fabulous in goal. He made several saves, making sure the Ducks couldn’t get any momentum. He is playing like a bona fide number one goaltender. 

Finally, the defense as a group is playing smarter. They are making the plays they need to, and the forwards are getting in there, coming back, and giving them support in their own zone.

There is a lot of positive flow on this team right now. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Player's Psyche, Part 2

Today's Blog is part 2 on the Player’s Psyche. We learned in part 1 that this has to be worked on at a early age. I am very fortunate to know a gentlemen who runs a hockey school for midgets through high school age. You can follow Dennis Chighisola on twitter @CoachChic.

Randy: Thanks, Dennis, for the opportunity for the interview.

Dennis: And thank you, Randy, for the opportunity to help your audience in any way I can.

Then, before we get going, perhaps I can apologize to you and your followers about not being up on the NHL as much as most hockey folks are. Of course I try to keep tabs on all levels of our wonderful game, but I tend to study individual players more as part of my work, as well as trying to keep an eye on trends that might affect the younger players I'm trying to help.

Randy: Thanks, Coach. As you know, I recently did a blog on the player’s psyche. So this interview is part 2 of that blog, as I hope to explore that topic further, starting when they are young.

Dennis: The timing of this is pretty interesting, Randy, because I've just recently posted several podcasts discussing the mental side of our game. 

Actually, your audience might be interested to know that I've been calling that "the last frontier in sport" for at least two decades. What I'm getting at is that everyone has known for quite a long time how to improve their physical skills -- like biomechanics, speed, explosive strength, stamina and a lot of others. I can't blame them, either, if they want to be able to fly on the ice, or be able to fire frightening slapshots. At the same time, few players, coaches or hockey parents seem to appreciate that probably half of the battle in playing at a high level will ultimately depend on mental makeup, or on a player's ability to perform under some pretty stressful conditions.

With that, I believe we need to stress this area of preparation beginning with the youngest levels. Or, said another way, it's quite possible a player is headed for trouble if he or she isn't guided in this area from an early age.

Oh, and one last thing here before I get further into this topic... Like a lot of other things, I believe we have to separate what the parents and coaches know from what the kids are troubled with until the time is right.

Randy: How do you go about getting to know a new student?

Dennis: Very subtly, I guess... I mean, a player who is aware you're studying him or her isn't going to act naturally. Anyway, while I don't know how other coaches might handle this, I don't think there's a formula or chart one can run down in order to evaluate a young player. Instead -- or at least from my perspective, I'm taking "gut readings" -- on how a youngster responds to different things.

As an aside here, let me suggest to parents that they always let a coach (or teacher) know about anything that might affect their youngster's ability to learn.

I actually stumbled across this while teaching a hockey skills clinic sometime back in the late-1970s... What happened was that a fairly talented student froze in his tracks several times when I called on him to demonstrate a skill. It wasn't until I chased down his mom that she informed me that he was legally deaf. Ugh. Maybe she was trying to protect her son for some reason, but she was really doing the wrong thing, for her son and for me.

From that point on, I've always included an area in my clinic or hockey school signup forms asking if the applicant has any special learning needs that we coaches should be made aware of.

Returning to your question, though, Randy, I'll have to suggest that it's a long, slow process in getting to know a new player. A lot of kids aren't what they appear to be in the earliest sessions. More importantly, however, I'm not the type who makes rash evaluations -- on anyone.

Randy: How do you learn how a given player learns?

Dennis: I think I may have answered some of that already, but let me add to the above that the process is ongoing. I mean, some seemingly slow learners can show up one day and suddenly kick things into a new gear. And, I guess it's just as possible that one of my better students can as suddenly seem to lose interest or intensity.

As another aside here, I might point out to parents and new coaches that we all have learning preferences. Members of your audience probably know this about themselves, but we all tend to prefer either seeing new information, listening to it, or getting involved in the exchange of that information. 

That in mind, can you imagine how a single approach to teaching might satisfy about a third of the players, and leave the majority a little less so? That's why I'll try to employ a number of different methods and teaching tools when it's at all possible. The first thing I do to deal with this problem includes mixing in some demonstrations (as visuals), quick explanations (for the audio), and even a brief discussion (for those who need to be involved in the process). I take things a little further, though, and rotate through different tools -- like a greaseboard at rinkside, a model rink on the lockerroom floor, and videos the kids and parents can view at home online. My ways aren't perfect, but my hope is to satisfy more of my kids' learning needs.

Then, it just struck me that coaches work with kids under varying conditions. Personally, I don't like to do private lessons with young players, this owing to the cost to their parents, and the fact that a little one's attention span and some related key motor learning principles suggest otherwise. That leaves most of us coaches to deal with young players in a group setting, be it either in a clinic or on a team.

Working with kids within a group doesn't mean that we can't be keeping an eye on each individual's needs. What it does mean, though, is that we probably have to address those needs more broadly. 

In reference to the latter, let me suggest something else to new coaches and parents... If a few kids need the instruction slowed a bit for a few sessions, that isn't likely to hurt the rest of the group all that much. Nor does it usually hurt others if extra drills -- or a few remedial ones -- are inserted.

Randy: How do you go about correcting a player's bad habits?

Dennis: Well, all that said about dealing with a group, I think one of the best things a coach can do is communicate with the parents of young players. And, if the coach doesn't initiate such a conversation, the parents should.

To be honest, there's only so much a coach can do to help a young player's psyche. In a clinic, the coach might see a kid for an hour, while the coach of a young team probably only gets to influence him or her for two or three hours per week. Oh, while we might be able to help with things in those short spans, our efforts probably go for naught if what we're trying to accomplish is being undone over all the other hours.

By the way, while I said I didn't have a checklist of things to observe in a young player, the guest speaker in my mental training podcasts, John Haime, did address nine specific areas for listeners...

Of these, I think maybe only a few would be evident in real beginners. As young ones move into competitive levels -- like Mites and Squirts/Atoms, however, I think the bulk of John's ideas come into play.

For sure, any kid's drive to achieve is important, otherwise he or she isn't going to improve -- a lick. 

Focus is obviously important with older players, although I'm not sure how much we can hold little ones' feet to the fire in this area. Goal setting fits in this category, as well.

John addresses fear and nervousness in his presentation, and I'll suggest that those things can be noticed in the youngest kids. I've had a bit of success helping young ones with these, although that was usually dictated by just how deeply engrained their fears were.

Then, your followers might be interested to know that I've head coached at a US high school, in Juniors, and at a small college. And I'll tell them that guys at those levels had better be pretty focused, they'd better be competitive, and they'd better have some self-control. Their chances of ice-time would also be helped with a degree of optimism.

That said, I wonder if readers might appreciate how those things have to be slowly but surely creeping into a young player's personality as he or she matures. In other words, a player isn't going to be able to just turn on things -- like dedication, focus, a competitive nature or personal discipline -- when he or she arrives at a higher level. So it should make sense that young ones need to be gradually steered towards the right mental traits.

Randy: How do you know when to be hard on a kid and when to encourage him to do better?

Dennis: Well, Randy, I was wondering when you'd finally get around to a question I don't look forward to answering. Anyway...

I do know that I'm never hard on a young one, UNLESS it has to do with general behavior. Let's face it, it's important for the adults in charge of any group to ensure things are safe for all the kids. I don't think that's any different from the way they'd be handled in school or at home. 

I think I might be able to put all of my suggestions into a rough formula, though, this to cover the current question, as well as just about all I've mentioned today...

To begin, I think we could all agree on what the final hockey player should look and act like, and that would include the nine traits John covered in his podcasts. At the other end of the spectrum, we have to know that we can't force such things on beginners or real young ones.

And that suggests to me that the hockey player's mental training should be incrementally introduced over a lot of years -- or not unlike the way we gradually increase their skill and game play education. In other words, I think we should increase our expectations of developing players with each passing year -- from beginners through Juniors, when it comes to both the physical and the mental sides of their game.

Lastly, Randy, let me share a couple of links that may be helpful to your readers...

- The podcasts I referenced are episodes number 11, 12, 13 and 14 (

- I have an "Ask The Coach" area on my website where I offer to answer questions posed by players, coaches and parents (

Monday, December 8, 2014

7 Reasons the Flames are Successful

Originally posted on Flames Jumbalaya

The Flames are the talk of the season. Anyone not talking about the Flames is obviously not watching, or is no one we need to concern ourselves with. Seriously, who would have picked the Flames to be nine games above five hundred to start the season. Every time someone asks me how the Flames are doing it, I get tongue-tied. It is not just one thing. They are doing several things that seem be going right. In fact, I have a hard time holding it to five seven. These are in order of importance. Of course, you can disagree with me, but that just makes you wrong!

Bob Hartley

Bob is the best coach in the League. He knows how to motivate. Bob's strength is working with younger players. He knows how to teach. He has implemented the perfect system for the players. What is really important is that the players believe in the system. He has sold it to the players, and they continue to buy in.

Flames Defense

Mark Giordano

Mark is probably the leading candidate for the Norris Trophy. He is a leader in the dressing room. He knows when to rush the puck, and he knows and when not to. He is on a career year in points. Right now he is heart and soul of the Flames.

TJ Brodie

Brodie is developing into a number two defencemen. Ever since he signed an extension, he has developed into the stud the Flames thought he would. He is playing like a vet in the League for years.

Dennis Wideman

Wideman is outstanding. He is scoring goals at will. He has regenerated his career. He has become a powerplay specialist. He is doing everything right, and Flames are the sole beneficiaries.

The Leaders

Shawn Monahan

Monahan has put the sophomore jinx to bed. Everything he was last year, this year he is more. He comes up with the goals when we need them. He is developing into a complete player. The Flames continue to use him in all situations, including protecting a lead in the third period.

Lance Bouma

No one can doubts Lance’s heart. Every time the Flames need some motivation, Lance provides it. He throws his body in front any shots fired. He is fearless. He hits with the best of them, but more importantly, is willing take a hit to make a play.

The Kids

Johnny Gaudreau

This kid has more moves than a slick car salesman. He can stick-handle in a phone booth. Everyone was worried about his size, but he is too slick to be smacked. He has overcome every obstacle in his way. He is a winner everywhere he has played including this season.

Josh Jooris

Where did this kid come from? He has the wheels to put the heebee jeebies into every defensemen in the NHL. He has a great wrist-shot, which can often surprise goalies. I love his ability to jump on loose pucks and make the other team pay for their mistakes.


Both goalies have been outstanding. At times it was Hiller who was making the key saves. He was getting the bulk of the starts. But when Hiller struggled, Ramo took over and won four straight starts. The Flames have had fantastic goaltending.


The Flames have more energy and heart. Every player knows his role, and when does not do his job, he is is easily replaced. Every line is skating, hitting every opposition player in sight.

This and that

Do not plan on the Flames bringing in a hired gun. Do not get me wrong; they love winning, but they are in no hurry to gamble this team’s future. Wideman has pretty much taken himself off the market. The Flames have one of the best defenses in the League, and they will not mess with it. What they will do is take a huge contract off of a team, but will make them pay for the service. They are busy trying to improve the team, but will not jump into it. They will take their time before their next move.