In this new recurring post, I ask some questions to a staff writer or editor of an opposing team’s FanSided Blog. This week, I interviewed a writer for the Calgary Flames site, Flame for Thought, Taylor Mckee.
U&B: What has been the biggest strength for the Calgary Flames so far?
Taylor: At the start of the year, it was quite widely publicized that with the departures of Iginla and Bouwmeester, the Flames had virtually no star players and didn’t exactly have a lot of high-end skill on the roster.
As a result, Coach Hartley decided that the only possible way in which the Flames wouldn’t be firmly seated in the cellar beneath the basement of the Pacific division was for the entire team to buy into one system and basically be tough as nails to play against.
Without question, that is the biggest strength of the Flames so far this season. The plucky intestinal fortitude that has endeared this team to this city so far, even though their results have been lacklustre at best. In short, the biggest strength of the team has been the team itself, and not any individual performances.
U&B: Who should the Columbus Blue Jackets look out for on the ice?
Taylor: The Flames might not have a star per se, but they do have one cold-blooded sniper who has been red hot since missing the first few weeks of the season with a wrist injury, Mike Cammalleri.
In the final season of a contract inherited from Montreal, Cammalleri is a player that many have pegged as deadline trade bait this season and for good reason. Cammalleri is 30, without a serious sniff at the cup, and likely the exact archetype of a deadline rental. If there is one player whom the Jackets should keep their eye on it is without question Cammalleri.
If there are two players to look out for, the other would have to be Jiri Hudler who is currently producing at a career-best clip to start this season. has been given the role of unofficial shepherd to the youngster Sean Monahan whom has been more or less welded to Hudler’s hip since the start of the season.
U&B: Who do you see as the biggest threat to the Flames from the Blue Jackets?
Taylor: Well aside from Blake Comeau, who will likely score five goals against the Flames as poetic justice, Columbus has a number of semi-dangerous forwards listed on their roster who have a formidable scoring touch.
However, two of them (Gaborik and Horton) are currently injured. That leaves Artem Anisimov and Ryan Johansen as two players that the Flames should keep their eye on, particularly Anisimov whose speed could prove problematic for some of Flames more flat-footed defenders like Shane O’Brien and Chris Butler.
U&B: What is one area in which the Flames have struggled this season?
Taylor: Frankly, the Flames are not a very good hockey team, so they have struggled virtually at every facet of the game at some point or another this season. The struggle de jour is a cardinal sin for any team that wants to taken seriously in the NHL, the (in)ability to hold leads in the third period.
The Flames recently blew a two goal lead in the third period to the smoldering tire-fire called the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
They also blew three separate one goal leads against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, so the Flames are definitely struggling to close out games. This should be expected as the Flames are severely lacking at essentially every position and currently are missing their captain Mark Giordano and one of their assistant captains Curtis Glencross.
Oh yeah, and the Flames have also struggled to combine Karri Ramo, Reto Berra, and (shudder) Joey MacDonald into anything resembling NHL quality goaltending so far this season. Berra has shown flashes of brilliance amongst groan-inducing softies, Ramo has barely played but has been largely inconsistent, and MacDonald is basically a pile of garbage and is currently tending net with Joni Ortio in Abbotsford.
U&B: What are your expectations for the upcoming game?
Taylor: By all accounts, I am sure that most Jackets fans are looking at this game as a must-win against what passes for a weak opponent in the extremely tough Western Conference and this is largely true. Columbus should win this game, and others like this one, if they wish to have any hope of being taken seriously as playoff contenders.
However, if the Flames play the way that they have at times this year, this could become an annoying, frustrating, trap-game. Calgary is a team without a lot to play for except each other and sometimes that means crazy things can happen.
A huge thank you to Taylor McKee and Flame for Thought for agreeing to this interview! Come back soon for another edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” Also, be sure to check out our game day edition on Union and Blue!