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Friday, October 24, 2014

Rubbing Shoulders with the Greats: Passin' Joe Colborne off to a Terrific Start

Look up the NHL's scoring leaders, sort the list by assists and you find an interesting group of names at the top with eight each. Among them:
  • John Tavares
  • Ryan Getzlaf
  • Joe Colborne

Not bad company for the 24-year-old Calgary kid.

"It feels nice but I'm not going to fool myself and say I'm playing at that level," said Colborne on Thursday night, after assisting on Sean Monahan's first two goals of the year. "It's just a component of being given a chance by the coaches and playing with some good players."

During the pre-season and through the first eight games of the regular season, Colborne had mainly played centre. But looking to kick-start his offence and in particular -- his forward group, coach Bob Hartley moved Colborne to the wing for Thursday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes and reunited him with Monahan and Jiri Hudler.

It worked. The Flames routed the visitors 5-0, Monahan broke out of his season-long slump and Hudler, with two assists, snapped a four-game pointless streak.

"I'm trying to create chemistry," Hartley said. "Huds, Mony and Colby. That's the line that I saw last year. That's the kind of performance that they were giving us and certainly, that's the kind of performance that we need from them."


Drafted Out of the AJHL

Colborne was drafted from the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Camrose Kodiaks by the Boston Bruins in 2008. He was chosen 16th overall. In a draft that was famous for the number of great defencemen selected (including TJ Brodie in round four), Colborne was the ninth forward taken.

After two years of playing NCAA at the University of Denver, Colborne signed with the Bruins and turned pro. He was in his first year with Boston's American Hockey League affiliate in Providence when he was acquired in February 2011 by Brian Burke, who at the time was the Maple Leafs general manager. Colborne and a second round draft pick went to Toronto in exchange for veteran defenceman Tomas Kaberle

With the exception of a handful of brief call-ups totaling 16 NHL appearances, Colborne spent the rest of that first year and then two more seasons with the AHL's Toronto Marlies before being acquired by Burke once again last September. Although technically it was then Flames general manager Jay Feaster, who consummated the trade in exchange for a fourth round draft pick, you just know Burke, Calgary's President of Hockey Operations, wielded some influence.

"When we picked him up last year at the end of training camp, reports were that he'd have a hard time playing in the NHL," recalls Hartley. "Today, he's on the power play, he's on the penalty kill, he's on a (regular) line. He's happy. We're certainly proud of his game and from our side, we're very happy to have him in our organization."


Continues to Get Better and Better

In 80 games with the Flames last year, Colborne finished with 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points. This season, he's got eight points already in just nine games.

"I'm seeing such progress from Colby," said Hartley. "An unbelievable young man. Wants to learn, prides himself. He has a great hockey sense, he's using his reach to his advantage, he's trusting his size and he's a great skater.

"He's really growing in our organization and that's a good sign. He's a local young man and that's always fun. That was a great trade for us and we're going to keep making sure that he's growing the right way."

Monahan was complimentary of his linemate, who you can bet he'll line up beside once again on Saturday night when the Washington Capitals visit the Saddledome.

"Me and Colbs are pretty good buddies," Monahan said. "Playing with each other, we still have some chemistry. We play a similar game. We both want the puck and we want to make plays and that's a big help for us."

While Monahan is a big guy himself at 6-foot-2 and north of 200 pounds, Colborne towers over him at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds. 

"He's got a lot of confidence right now. A big guy with skill and confidence is hard to stop and right now, Joe's rolling and he's helping everybody else out too," Monahan said.


Caddying for Monahan

Colborne, a genuinely nice and personable guy off the ice, naturally deflected away any credit for helping Monahan bust out of his slump, saying the 20-year-old's return to the scoresheet was inevitable.

"That's the way it is with goal scorers. He's been getting chances. It's not like he's been going chanceless at all, and goalies are making saves. Sooner or later, a guy with that skill is going to break out. I was just happy I was able to be a part of it," Colborne said.

But he did say you could sense Monahan's relief and now that he's got his first couple goals, look out. 

"You could see it. Just the celebration in him with that first one. All the boys on the ice and on the bench were happy for him," said Colborne. "Right now, if I was a fantasy hockey player, I'd have him in the line-up for the next little while, he's going to get hot."

He says Monahan, who had 22 goals as a rookie, is an easy guy to play with.

"When you're playing with guys at that level like Mony, I don't know if it's just the fact that we're both centres, but he plays like he's a 30-year-old vet in this league. He's just in the right spot all the time and he makes it so easy."


Pass First, Shoot Second

Interestingly, Colborne doesn't have a goal yet. In fact, he's only had a total of six shots, one less than Brian McGrattan, who has sat out five of Calgary's nine games. But it's not personal success and gaudy statistics that's important to him, it's team success.

"If assists keep coming like this, I can go all year without scoring a goal. As long as the line is scoring," Colborne said. 

"It's confidence and playing with good players. The more you play with good players, the more they'll make you look good. The coach is giving me a lot of opportunities to get out there on the power play, get out there with some guys even strength and I'm just trying to take advantage of it."

The other thing that makes Colborne a very useful player for Hartley is his versatility. First line, fourth line, left or right wing, centre -- and sometimes all in the same night. It's something Colborne takes pride in.

Against Carolina, Hartley had Colborne fill in for Lance Bouma -- who is not a natural centre, a few times when the fourth line was on the ice for a key face-off in the defensize zone. In those situations, Colborne was perfect, finishing the night 5-0 at the dot.

"Any way they throw me on the ice, I'll take it. I'm loving the ice time and the opportunity I'm getting right now and it's something I want to just keep going," he said.


Willing to Play Wherever Necessary

If he was a baseball player, Colborne would be one of those National League utility guys that would have several different ball gloves in his locker and could play all over the field.

"It's something where if guys come back, we're healthy and another role needs to be created, it keeps me in the line-up when otherwise, it could be someone else being thrown in there," he said. "That's something I really tried to take advantage of last year when I was just trying to stay in the line-up and build that into my game. Now that I'm getting a larger role, I'm just trying to take advantage."

Does Colborne have a preference of position? If he does, he won't admit it. But he sure looked good back on the wing on Thursday.

"Less skating than as a centreman, that's for sure," Colborne admitted. "When you're playing with guys like Monahan and Huds and they're both feeling it like they were today, it makes it easy for me to make the switch."

The Flames have been pretty lucky with fourth round draft picks lately -- Brodie and Johnny Gaudreau have both turned out to be steals. Considering he was acquired in exchange for a fourth round draft pick, it looks like you can add Colborne to that theft list also.


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Reality Check: No McDavid? No Eichel? No Problem

We've all been obsessed with someone at some point in our lives.

For me, back to the early 80s, it was all about Catherine Bach and Christie Brinkley. I was smitten. I had posters of both of them, photos cut from magazines. Both the same age, I always told myself I'd be happy to end up with either one of them.

But alas, I grew out of those delusional early teenage years and now it's time for you to move on also.

Starting now, I implore Calgary Flames fans to reach the same realization I reluctantly came to back in 1983 with Daisy Duke and the hot blonde in the red Ferrari from the movie Vacation. That is the cold, harsh reality that the two objects of fans' undying affection -- Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, are not going to end up in Calgary.

Oh, your heart will ache for the next few days, I've been there. But it's time to accept the situation and move on. Unlike Patrick Dempsey in Can't Buy Me Love and Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid, it's looking increasingly likely that the nerd isn't going to end up with the cheerleader in this movie.

This may seem rash. After all, the NHL season is less than two weeks old and the Flames have stepped foot on Scotiabank Saddledome ice only once. But I don't think it is.

The impressive 4-2-0 mark on the recently completed road trip -- Calgary's first four-win road junket in nearly five seasons (since going 4-2-0 from Nov. 27 to Dec. 7, 2009), demonstrated to me that like it or not, these Flames are not capable of being bad enough to be in the running to land (or at least be one of the lottery favorites to get) one of those aforementioned 17-year-old uber-prospects, who will go first and second in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Here are a few reasons why it's time to stop dreaming, stop getting frustrated with Flames wins and to start enjoying them instead.


1. Giordano and Brodie are Too Good

Captain Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, the Flames dynamic top defense pairing, who log 25 minutes per night and typically do so against the most difficult of opposition forward lines, is as underrated as they come. This is no longer two guys you merely dismiss with a 'best of the rest' descriptor, they blew by that point some time ago. Now they're right up there among the best pairings in the NHL and are worthy of being mentioned in the same conversation as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Shea Weber and Roman Josi, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton, etc.

With seven points (3 goals, 4 assists), Brodie is tied with Mason Raymond for the Flames scoring lead and is also tied for the NHL lead in points by a defenceman. With six points (1 goal, 5 assists), Giordano is right behind. Always threats in the attacking zone, they are even better in the defensive end where they anchor Calgary. They play the penalty kill, they're on the power play, they're two star players and no matter how bad the cast is around them, they're single-handedly going to keep Calgary from being in the NHL cellar. There's just no way with them playing at the level they are that the Flames can finish in the bottom two.


2. Goaltending is Too Good

It's one thing to have a good goalie -- someone you can rely upon every night to keep you in the game and who will sometimes steal you a win. It's quite another to have two of them.

When you only have one goalie that is proven, like the Colorado Avalanche with Semyon Varlamov and the Nashville Predators with Pekka Rinne, you can be in a heap of trouble when that goalie gets hurt. However, it appears the Flames are in really good shape between the pipes this season with two accomplished goaltenders in Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo, each of whom have gotten off to tremendous starts.

Let's face it, goaltender is the most important position on the ice. They can turn great teams into average teams as longtime Philadelphia Flyers fans can attest. They can also turn mediocre teams into good teams, which in this city we know about first-hand from the many seasons Miikka Kiprusoff was the Flames starting goaltender and savior.

Recognizing a need to upgrade in net, adding a proven veteran goalie was the modus operandi for Flames general manager Brad Treliving on July 1 and the mission was successful, signing Hiller, 32, to a two-year/$9-million deal.

Backstopped by Hiller and Ramo, who had a strong second half last season, the Flames enter this season with goaltending as one of their strengths and biggest areas of improvement and we've seen that play out so far. Hiller (.942) and Ramo (.920) have combined for a .934 team save percentage (excluding empty net goals) through Sunday's games, which ranks Calgary sixth in the NHL:
  1. Minnesota, .955
  2. Los Angeles, .954
  3. Detroit, .949
  4. Nashville, .948
  5. Ottawa, .944
  6. Calgary, .934

Based on what we've seen, this duo is just too strong for Calgary to finish at or near the cellar. And even if an injury was to occur, there's always Joni Ortio waiting in Adirondack. The 23-year-old Finn showed last season he's a capable NHL goalie also and while his first month this season was a bit rocky, he stopped 36 of 38 shots on Saturday night in Adirondack's win so he's returning to form.


3. Bob Hartley is Too Good

As you'll all remember, the Flames played 49 one-goal games last year, which equaled the most a NHL team had ever played prior to last season.

Early signs this year are that coach Bob Hartley will once again have his team competing to the final buzzer every single night.

On Sunday, it was overcoming a 1-0 first period deficit to storm back and defeat Winnipeg 4-1. On Friday night, after falling behind 2-0 less than six minutes into the game and trailing 3-0 after two periods, Calgary rolled up its sleeves, dug in, and started chipping away. Suddenly there they were, within one goal near the end of the game and absolutely pouring on the pressure. That puck was in the Blue Jackets end for the final two-and-a-half minutes and the Flames were extremely unlucky to not tie the game.

Even on nights when they get dominated territorially as they did earlier in the trip in Chicago, this club seems to always find a way to hang around and stay in it. It's a quality that will earn them extra points throughout this season via extra-time losses and shootout victories, many of which will come in games in which zero points was the expected outcome.


4. Flames Prospects are Too Good

The Flames dipped into the minors for the first time the other day and brought up Josh Jooris. The training camp sensation had an immediate impact in Columbus scoring a beautiful goal, generating three shots, had another two-on-one chance that could have also resulted in a goal. Hartley was so pleased with Jooris' game, he sent the 24-year-old in his first NHL game over the boards with 2:07 left in a one-goal game. That stuff rarely happens, especially under Hartley. But it nearly paid off too.

If Hartley and the organization continue to be true to the motto of 'always earned, never given', there is too much talent in the Flames farm system for them to lose at the pace they'll need to in order to finish in the NHL's bottom two. This is not the Flames organization of six years ago when your minor league options when injuries struck were guys like Brett Sutter, Warren Peters and Kyle Greentree.

Waiting in the wings this season, dying for a chance to come up and show they are NHL-ready (as they already showed in the pre-season) are talented players like Michael Ferland and Markus Granlund. I would also include Max Reinhart, who has looked really good with the baby Flames so far. On the weekend for Adirondack, the three of them played on the same line and were excellent, even dominating at times.

When the Flames need to call up someone from the AHL now, they may even end up improving their team, depending on who is being replaced.


5. A Bunch of Other Teams Are Not Too Good

While it's easy and amusing for folks in Calgary to pick on the last place Oilers while they can, I think Edmonton should eventually be fine. Surely. The real threat to secure 30th place and guarantee themselves one of McDavid or Eichel are the Buffalo Sabres. With 2014 second overall draft pick Sam Reinhart looking like he might be jettisoned back to the WHL soon, it has already been a tough start for Buffalo and I just can't see their fortunes turning around. Recapping the Sabres season so far:
  • In four home games, they've scored two goals
  • They've been outshot 227-141 so far, that's an average of 38 to 24
  • Their only win was a shootout win against a not-very-good Carolina team

In addition to Buffalo, other teams that are going to be awfully hard for the Flames to get under are the Jordan Staal-less Carolina Hurricanes. If they trade away older brother Eric Staal, that's going to make them even worse. In the West, there's Edmonton but perhaps an even bigger threat to the bottom three is Winnipeg, who did not look very good at all on Sunday night and have lost four straight. The Jets scored six times in their season opener but have scored only twice in four games since. They're missing Evander Kane and with goaltending a giant question mark, it wouldn't be a shock if the Jets are right in the thick of the 27th, 28th, 29th place mix.

Don't forget about Florida either. While they're better, they're still the Panthers and there's not exactly a culture of winning around that hockey club.


6. Draft Lottery Odds are Not Too Good

The way the draft lottery works now, after the NHL introduced changes this past summer, is even if the Flames were to finish in 29th place, ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres, that still leaves Calgary with just a one-in-three chance of selecting in the top two.

It seems like funky math at first but it's true. Finish second-last and the odds of dropping a spot in the draft order are twice-as-good as staying at No. 2 or moving up.

Huh?

Allow me to explain. As you'll see in the chart below, the cumulative odds of a team ranked 17th to 28th in the overall standings winning the lottery is 66.5% and if that happened, that team would jump up to No. 1, knocking Buffalo to 2nd and Calgary to 3rd pick in this scenario.



Now it should be noted that third pick in 2015 isn't a bad spot to be in either, considering the Flames positional need. Giant Boston College blue-liner Noah Hanifin is highly touted and would make for a nice consolation prize. However, you're only assured of him as a worst-case scenario if you finish in 29th place and I just can't see that happening for Calgary.

It would only take one of the Hurricanes, Panthers, Jets or Oilers to finish below Calgary for the Flames to finish no lower than 28th. In this scenario, despite that bottom three placing, the odds of dropping to 4th pick are still greater than 50/50 at 55 percent to be exact.


Final Thoughts

If you're going to get frustrated every time the Flames lose this season or send a game to overtime, you've got a long, agonizing six months ahead of you. Just give up on that pipe dream right now and instead, sit back and enjoy watching Calgary begin to turn the corner. Soak up the entertainment of close games, the one-goal losses, the overtime victories, which are all building blocks towards an eventual return to the playoffs.

Continue to enjoy watching Brodie and Giordano shut opponents down. Just like seeing your own kids grow up and mature, fondly watch for continued improved play from youngsters like Joe Colborne, Lance Bouma and Sean Monahan. Enjoy seeing Mikael Backlund take another step. Be on the edge of your seat to see Johnny Gaudreau find his way. Revel in the scoring prowess of Mason Raymond, who will be here for at least three years and is looking like a real find with five goals already -- second in the NHL behind only Rick Nash. Get excited about Kris Russell, the Flames new alternate captain and a shifty little player, who is fun to watch.

Will Calgary be able to keep up the pace from this strong start to the season? Doubt it. Are some offensive droughts coming? Probably. Do the Flames have a realistic shot at making the playoffs? Not really.

But it's time to move past the infatuation with McDavid and Eichel and be prepared and happy to accept whoever the Flames get at wherever they end up picking -- just like the Flames ended up with Monahan two years ago and Bennett last season. (And who knows, maybe Calgary finishes 25th and wins the draft lottery. The odds of winning the lottery for teams that finish 17th to 26th have gone up with those changes made to the lottery.)

Let's not forget there is already plenty of talent in the pipeline already that I haven't yet mentioned in the likes of Sam Bennett, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk, Sven Baertschi, Bill Arnold, Hunter SmithTyler Wotherspoon, Patrick Sieloff and Jon Gillies. While also adding one of the two best prospects of the 2015 draft class would have been icing on the cake, we're still talking about a pretty good ice cream cake already in existence here.

With such a strong draft class at the very top for 2015, that inevitably means some pretty darn good players are going to be available at picks No. 4, 5, and 6 also. You may not know their names right now but you will and that player chosen will become yet another important piece. Heck, when I was 13, even I had a back-up plan I was more then content with: Elisabeth Shue, Heather Locklear, or Belinda Carlisle.

My best advice for this season is don't over-think it and just sit back and enjoy the moments... all 82 games of them.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy 20th Birthday: Sean Monahan Finishes Second for Goals by a Flames Teen

Sean Monahan turned 20 on Sunday. But while he was a teenager, the centre racked up the second-most goals in Calgary Flames history.

Monahan wasn't able to add any more to his total in the first three games this season -- his final three games as a 19-year-old, but his 22 goals last year were enough to pass Jarome Iginla.

The Flames all-time most prolific goal scorer as a teen was Danny Quinn, who did it 30 years ago. Before Quinn reached his 20th birthday, the Ottawa native scored 39 goals in 128 games over two NHL seasons.

Monahan ended up suiting up for 78 NHL games as a teenager.


Danny Who?

If you're under the age of 35, you likely have little to no recollection of Quinn, the exciting 5-foot-11 centre, who was drafted 13th overall by the Flames in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. However, if you are a female in your 40s and you grew up a hockey fan in Calgary, you quite likely had a crush on Quinn back in the day. Here's a quick backgrounder on the Flames old No. 10.

As happened back in those days, Quinn started the 1983-84 season playing major junior with the Belleville Bulls. He nearly made the Flames with an impressive training camp but coach Bob Johnson chose to begin the year with Doug Risebrough, Steve Tambellini, Mike Eaves and Jim Peplinski as his four centres. However, after piling up a ridiculous 23-36-59 in 24 games to lead the OHL in scoring, the Flames called up the 18-year-old. He scored 19 goals in Calgary's final 54 games, added three more in the playoffs, then scored another 20 the next season.

At age 21, Quinn was traded by general manager Cliff Fletcher to Pittsburgh. That trade on Nov. 12, 1986, was a one-for-one exchange for centre Mike Bullard. The next season, Quinn scored 40 goals for the Penguins, playing on the same team as hall-of-famers Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey.

Bullard spent two years with Calgary before being part of the package shipped to St. Louis on Sept. 6, 1988, to acquire Doug Gilmour and Mark Hunter, who would end up being two key members of the Flames Stanley Cup-winning team in 1989.


Top 10 Calgary Flames Goal Scorers - As a Teen

1. Dan Quinn (1983-84, 1984-85) - 39
2. Sean Monahan (2013-14, 2014-15) - 22
3. Jarome Iginla (1996-97) - 21
4. Robert Reichel (1990-91) - 19
5. Kevin LaVallee (1980-81) - 15
6. Richard Kromm (1983-84) - 10
7. Derek Morris (1997-98) - 9
8. Oleg Saprykin (2000-01) - 7
9. Robyn Regehr (1999-00) - 5
9. Brian Glynn (1987-88) - 5

Notable Others: Sven Baertschi (3), Al MacInnis (1)


Other Candidates 

News last week that Sam Bennett would be undergoing shoulder surgery was unfortunate. While he was most likely destined to return to Kingston (OHL) this year anyway, it was possible he could have appeared in a few NHL regular season games before that occurred.

Bennett has a very late birthday. He only turned 18 a week before the Flames made him the fourth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Assuming there are no complications and the recovery from his surgery goes well, I would expect Bennett to be a member of the Calgary Flames in 2015-16, a year in which he'll play the entire season as a 19-year-old.

Given his skill set, a full season should land him top-five on the all-time teen scoring list and he would definitely have a shot at supplanting Monahan for the number two spot.

Emile Poirier is the other candidate at the moment, who could make this list. He doesn't turn 20 until Dec. 14. However, he also had shoulder surgery and is not yet healthy. He is hoping to join the line-up in Adirondack by the end of October but given the circumstances, the odds of the first-year pro getting recalled and into some NHL games before mid-December is highly unlikely.

Of course, depending on how this season goes and how the draft lottery goes, Jack Eichel will turn 19 on Oct. 28, 2015, so should he end up a Flame, he'd be a threat as well. Meanwhile, Connor McDavid won't turn 19 until Jan. 13, 2016, so he could be looking at a season-and-a-half in the NHL as a teenager.


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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Absolutely Disgraceful. Why Trevor Gillies Should Soon be an ex-Flame

Disgraceful. Shameful. Deplorable. Embarrassing.

There are many adjectives to describe the actions of Adirondack left-winger Trevor Gillies on Friday night -- opening night of the AHL regular season, and all of them would be accurate.

Looking more like Ogie Ogilthorpe of Slapshot fame, Gillies' assault spree began after a whistle deep in the Flames end with 3:09 left in the third period and the hometown Rochester Americans leading 5-1 at the time.

With Adirondack's Patrick Sieloff and Matt MacKenzie squared off in a shoving match in the corner, Gillies skates over to the two of them and from behind throws a vicious overhand left to the side of the head of the unsuspecting MacKenzie.

And he was just getting started.

Gillies then gives a shove to the chest of Swedish forward Johan Larsson, the next Americans player he encounters, and then continued by attacking William Carrier and proceeding to pummel the rookie, who was playing his first AHL game. The beating continued as Carrier dropped down to the ice on his knees -- gloves still on, stick still in his hands, defenceless.

But wait, there's more.

If all that wasn't enough, before he skated away, he put an exclamation mark on the despicable act by grabbing the 19-year-old Carrier by the shoulders and slamming his head on the ice.

Awful.

For his actions and you can watch the entire sequence for yourself right here, Gillies was tagged with 27 penalty minutes: an instigating minor, fighting major, and two game misconducts -- one for being the instigator in the game's final five minutes, the other for being the 'aggressor' under rule 46.2 of the NHL Rule Book.



Now that the referee has done his job, it's time for the league to step up and do its job and suspend Gillies for a long time. It's also time for the Flames to do the right thing and release this guy before he does something stupid again.


Surely There are Better Sources of Leadership

I've never talked with Gillies. I've heard he can be a decent guy off the ice. But let's be honest, he's an idiot when he's on the ice and no amount of goodwill off the ice can justify what he did last night.

If it's veteran leadership the Flames organization is seeking for an inexperienced Adirondack forward group that has loads of talent but are all very young, surely there are plenty of far better options out there.

Gillies rap sheet from over the years, as you can see (and watch), pretty much speaks for itself:

Since turning pro 15 years ago, Gillies has amassed 3,054 penalty minutes in 696 games that have come while playing for 20 different teams. Hopefully there won't be a 21st team.

If you are wondering if maybe playoff experience is the intangible that he brings. Nope, guess again. He's appeared in only 20 playoff games in that decade-and-a-half and hasn't picked up a point while racking up 43 penalty minutes.


Could That Have Been Johnny Gaudreau?

One overlooked angle to the earlier debate around whether talented but tiny Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau would be better off starting in the AHL or in the NHL is what would be best for his own safety.

The NHL is a changing place. There is no better example of this than the encouraging sign that came out of Toronto last week when the Maple Leafs cut Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren and opened the season without a dedicated enforcer.

However, where did those two noted pugilists end up? The AHL. Down there, they join the likes of Gillies, Zack Stortini, Jay Rosehill, Cam Janssen, Steve MacIntyre and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. The AHL is becoming a landfill for ex-NHL goons.

Who is to say that on Nov. 26 when Adirondack are to play the Toronto Marlies for the first time that the tables wouldn't have ended up reversed from last night.

After all, who was William Carrier anyway? He was an innocent bystander caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's a highly touted second round draft pick by the Blues, who was acquired by Buffalo in the trade package for Ryan Miller last year. He had all of five fights in his four full seasons in the QMJHL. It's not his thing but Gillies was not on the prowl looking for a guy whose 'thing' was fighting, he was merely looking to ragdoll anyone he could find.

Imagine the conversation in Calgary today if Gaudreau had been jumped by Orr and beaten into the ice.


Does Playing the Same System Mean This?

It's been stated that coach Ryan Huska will have Adirondack playing the same system that Calgary plays under Bob Hartley this year to ease the transition on players when they're brought up to the NHL.

I thought by that, they were referring to roles in the defensive zone, responsibilities on the forecheck, etc. But, perhaps that also means icing a marginally skilled fourth line with guys that bring little other than belligerence, truculence and all those Brian Burke terms I've grown really tired of hearing about.

In playing Gillies last night on a fourth line centred by agitator Mathieu Tousignant, Adirondack left speedy Turner Elson, young Bryce van Brabant and intriguing 25-year-old German prospect David Wolf in the press box.

Wolf, while no angel himself -- he's had more penalty minutes in Germany than anyone else over the last three years, at least he has decent offensive skills and an all-round game. As I wrote about Wolf here, he played with two skilled guys in Germany and was among the team's top scorers. There's two dimensions to his game and there's room in the NHL -- plenty of room, for guys that can do both. But Gillies, he's about as one-dimensional as you can get. In those 15 pro seasons, he's scored 11 goals.

One can only hope that eventually the Flames will realize that they'll need more from their fourth line if they're going to be a legitimate contender. The enforcer is becoming an endangered species but unlike the giant panda, there is no need to put it on a protected list. The game is too fast now to count on just three lines while deploying a fourth line for just a handful of minutes.

Lance Bouma, Bill Arnold, Josh Jooris. Now that would be an excellent fourth line in my eyes. All guys that can do multiple things -- defend, kill penalties, bring energy, and play physical and scrappy, but without needing to drop the gloves and beat the crap out of someone.

Once that day happens here in Calgary, hopefully that same 'system' will be reflected across the organization, so in Adirondack too.


Conclusion

Adirondack got a lot of negative publicity on Thursday when they unveiled a new mascot named Scorch in a poorly thought-out video in which Scorch appeared to be dancing around the corpse of a fireman. Also, Scorch is ridiculous looking.

But the type of negative public relations Adirondack got one day later from Gillies is 100 times worse and don't kid yourself, it not only embarrases the baby Flames, but the entire Calgary Flames organization.

Rochester coach Chadd Cassidy said it best after last night's game. "If there's room for that in hockey, I'm not sure I want to coach anymore."

Calgary Flames content on YouTube has been on the rise lately and for all the right reasons -- thank you, Johnny Gaudreau. We need more of that and not the type of dubious YouTube infamy that Gillies just provided.

My goodness, if you need to make a choice Adirondack, keep Scorch for gods sake and get rid of Gillies. It's a no-brainer.


UPDATE:

On Saturday afternoon, the AHL confirmed an automatic one-game suspension for Gillies, a result of being assessed an instigator penalty within the final five minutes of the third period of a game. The AHL added that "any further supplemental discipline will be announced following the league’s official review of the game."

Also on Saturday afternoon, Gillies apologized via a statement on his Facebook page. "I would like to apologize to my family back home for embarrassing the family name. To my teammates and the organization and the fans in the hockey community. I crossed the line. Thankfully the kid is okay. I'm not taking this lightly or easily and promise it won't happen again. If you want to bash me I get it. I will just take my medicine with no response. Again I'm truly sorry. Gillies"


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