Our season-long Three Questions series continues as we get ready to welcome Jiri Hudler and the rest of the Calgary Flames to the Joe for a hockey game. Today we've got Hayley Mutch from Matchsticks & Gasoline to answer three questions for us.
1. Yesterday we had a Jiri Hudler Appreciation Day at WIIM because we miss the crazy little scamp. How has Calgary's fanbase taken to him so far?
I opened that post in class, you guys should have put an NSFW warning on that! Hudler has been well-received so far, although it has been a very small sample size as the Flames have only played six games heading into today's contest. It's been a while since the Flames had more than one skilled playmaker like Hudler in the lineup, especially one that they can utilize as something of a depth player, so I think Flames fans are pretty satisfied with his performance thus far while still maintaining realistic expectations. Hudler has also contributed to the depth and improvement of the Flames' powerplay, which has been humming along nicely so far with two decent units.
2. What are expectations in Calgary this year? Are they any closer to either the playoffs or a complete rebuild?
I think expectations in Calgary this year are similar to those of other bubble teams; while most Flames fans probably expect them to finish just outside of the post-season again, in the middle of the pack with regard to bottom-half teams, others acknowledge that a playoff berth could very well be a possibility in a shortened season if the team goes on a winning streak. The Flames have been a team of slow starters that have traditionally gone on hot streaks several months into the season for a few years now, but expectations for their performance this year depend on factors such as whether or not Miikka Kiprusoff can bounce back from a poor start to the season (.885 EV SV% so far this season) and whether the team can consistently get enough offence from Iginla, Tanguay, Cammalleri, and the rest of the top six. There are some Flames fans who would rather see the team finish at the bottom of the conference this season and hopefully signal the beginning of a rebuild, but I think that would be an unlikely result. The Flames did improve their team in the off-season by adding the likes of Hudler and Cervenka and partially re-tooling their blueline so I don't see a rebuild-inducing finish this year unless the Flames' goaltending continues to operate at sub-.900 levels and the rest of the team is terribly unlucky.
3. Jarome Iginla leads the team in shots, but hasn't potted his first goal yet: growing concern or insignificant blip on the radar so far?
Jarome Iginla's experience is, unfortunately, a microcosm of what much of the team is going through to start the season. The Flames have out-shot their opposition by a healthy measure so far and have only one win and two shootout losses to show for it, so hopefully the the team's collective luck will begin to turn around soon, including Iggy's. Obviously no one expects him to score 30+ goals again this season or embarrass the opposition's best, and there has been an ongoing acknowledgement that the aging process is finally beginning to catch up with him, but he has also been a slow starter throughout much of his career (at least recently, if my memory serves me well), and I expect he should break out of his funk soon enough. Iggy has 20 goals and 54 points in 60 career games against the Wings, so it might happen at Detroit's expense!
Thanks, Hayley! And sorry for not warning you about the Hudler love.