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GAME DAY PREVIEW: Canucks @ Flames

The long summer is over. The preseason changes complete. Krys Barch has assured himself of never setting foot on NHL ice again. The regular season is here, and we couldn't be happier.

Lots of this, please.
Lots of this, please.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Time Wednesday, 7:00 PM
TV Sportsnet
Season Series (2014/15)
Last Meeting
3-0 Canucks Sep 26/14
The Enemy Matchsticks & Gasoline Scoring Leaders No one yet, jackass

From the moment Trevor Linden took over as team president, we've been told 'Change is coming'. Now, change is here. New faces, new coaches, and a new attitude. The debate will rage about whether this team is retooling or rebuilding, but it's apparent that what we were fed last year will soon be a distant memory. There's a good chunk of the core left of the team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals, and should this team basically not overachieve, it's likely the last time we'll see them all together like this. That needs to play itself out though. Just from a health standpoint, the team is night and day different than the way they headed into last season. Healthy and with a number of guys looking to erase the memory of some pretty awful individual performances last year, this alone should give you some optimism as they get set to do battle in the insanely tough Pacific Division.

Let's not kid ourselves though. Nothing is going to come easy for this team, and they simply can't afford to have too many off nights. The Canucks of a couple seasons past could walk away from games where they showed up for 20 or 30 minutes and still snag 2 points. This isn't that team, and it's going to be a battle for them to get every single point they can muster. While I think this team has made some tweaks that, in spite of losing a guy like Ryan Kesler, makes them a little more competitive in the West, it's still going to be somewhat of a surprise that this team makes the playoffs. They're going to need the kind of bounces they haven't gotten for quite a while, and need some of the teams they do battle with to underperform. The thing to remember is that in this age of parity, getting a playoff spot and getting hot at the right time could see a team you didn't imagine had a chance going all the way, like we saw in 1994 when the Canucks scraped into the playoffs and after being down 3-1 to the Flames, scrapped their way back into the series and took the Rangers to game 7 of the finals.

The Flames are in the midst of their rebuild, and while they've certainly made some acquisitions through the draft, free agency and trades that make their team better, it's that old Brian Burke chestnut of 'truculence' that is popping up once again, both with reports of coach Bob Hartley giving young players fight training during camp, and their 4th line of Brian McGratton, Lance Bouma and ex-Blackhawk Brandon Bollig, not to mention the somewhat surprising contract to former Penguins D Deryk Engelland. At a time when teams in the NHL are finding there's simply no justification for guys like Colton Orr and Fraser MacLaren (both cut by the Leafs this week) in this new NHL, Burke continues to steadfastly advocate for face-punchiness, as does Krys Barch (who it should be noted is currently without an NHL team), who sent a message of support to that Flames 4th line via Twitter today:

We're not sure if the capitalization of the word 'Stars' meant just go after Dallas players, or he was in the OV again, and was calling on targeting star players. Either way, it's a pretty pathetic statement, especially considering McGrattan essentially ended the career of Andrew Alberts last season, and got away with it.

The presence of guys like Tom Sestito is supposed to prevent things like this from happening, and Burke would tell you that indeed that is what McGrattan's role is with the Flames. So what exactly are you supposed to do when the players that are there to police the game, to keep players honest, are the ones going rogue? There likely will always be fighting in hockey, and while I have serious concerns about the long term effects it has on those who choose to engage in fights, the excuse that enforcers prevent anything a better player from getting a roster spot simply doesn't hold water.

Anyway, on to the important stuff, right? The Flames have announced that, surprise... Jonas Hiller will start in goal tomorrow night. This was a great pickup by Calgary, as they really hadn't had any decent goaltending since the retirement of Miikka Kiprusoff. They also announced that rookie Sam Bennett was likely going to be having shoulder surgery to repair a nagging injury, with no real timetable in terms of recovery.

To get some Cowtown perspective, I threw a few questions at your pal and mine, Book Of Loob over at Flames Nation:

1. A lot of the pundits have the Oilers pegged for an upswing, leaving the Flames behind. Do you feel this is accurate? Are they missing something about this team?

The great thing about the Oilers is they are perpetually Charlie Brown on the cusp of kicking that football, and the universe is Lucy, truly an evil shrew if we've ever seen one, pulling the ball away at the last second. The Oilers really should be challenging for a Stanley Cup these days, but through their own blockheaded management they're as far behind the 8 ball as ever.

They're extremely thin at center and have a C+ defense at best. Are they better than the Flames? Probably. Will they finish ahead of the Flames? Not if the universe works the way I expect it does. It's nice to know there's at least one cosmic force out there looking after me and my kind.

This question also allows me to reference my all time favourite tweet:

2. Like the Canucks, the Flames have a lot of new faces. Which moves did you like or not like?

I'm not ready to talk about Brandon Bollig yet. I can't. I just can't. It hurts me. Same goes for Deryk Engelland. What in the hell...I still don't know how that happened. This season is another season for Flames fans to bide their time, so I can handle one more year of this facepuncher nonsense, but after that, enough is enough. It's just embarrassing now.

But I do like the addition of Mason Raymond. He's a nice stop-gap measure at forward while we wait for the Sam Bennetts of the world to be ready for the NHL. Jonas Hiller was a nice pickup because even if he's declined, he's still 18 goalies better than Reto Berra, who he's replacing, so between that and Karri Ramo replicating his better stretches from last year, the goaltending overall should be improved.

Raphael Diaz might be the sneakiest good move of the offseason, assuming the team doesn't ruin it by making him the 7th defenseman, losing favour to Ladi Smid.

I keep forgetting Devon Setoguchi is here. He might not be for too long.

3. Johnny Gaudreau. Real deal?

The realest deal since Theo Fleury. I can not stress to you how excited I am to watch this guy get a full season of Flames hockey under his belt. The kid has all the talent in the world, and we get to watch him figure out how it translates to the NHL. And he's so good, I have no doubt in my mind that he'll get there sooner rather than later.

Honestly I'm having lewd thoughts just thinking about it.

4. Your thoughts on Krys Barch's well wishes for the upcoming season?

haha, it's great fodder. Barch seems like a bitter guy who realizes he's on the verge of extinction (in his case, he's already done) the idea that the Flames would let a fourth line of Bollig - Bouma - McGrattan anywhere near the opposition's star players is...well I guess that Vancouver line brawl happened last season, so anything is possible, but I wouldn't expect to see any dressing room confrontations this time around.

Nice to know that Krys Barch continues not to be something I made up in a dream once.

5. Can the Flames stay competitive not just in the Pacific, but the West? What do they need to do to have a shot at the playoffs?

Poison the water supplies of the rest of the Pacific Division. It's safe to say this is not Calgary's year.

6. Does the Battle of Alberta mean anything anymore, or has the focus shifted to other rivalries?

Yeah. Kinda. In the saddest way. Rivalries are borne out of geographical proximity, but the thing that made the Battle of Alberta so great in the 80's and early 90's was that the games were important beyond the fact that a highway separates the cities. The teams went all out back then because they HAD TO. Times have changed. We've seen both teams have ups and downs and just ruin each other during that time, and it didn't matter because one of the two teams was just pitiful. Now they're both next level bad. Like According To Jim bad. Most of the games each team plays in means nothing, because the postseason is an oasis in the too distant horizon. Thus, the only games that really matter at this point is when they play each other.

It's rough.

7. Finally, who ya got in the finals this year, and who wins it?

The Eastern Conference continues to be adorable, and as such, it's hard to put my thumb on who's coming out of there. I think Boston is taking some big steps back, and at one point they would have been the slam dunk in the East. I wouldn't be surprised if Pittsburgh claws their way back into the Finals, nor would it shock me if Montreal or Tampa fell ass backward through the Conference. But it doesn't matter. LA is going to crush whoever stands in their way. (Huge thanks to @bookofloob for this, make sure and follow him on the twitter, eh?)

The Canucks meanwhile will be bringing Kevin Bieksa to Calgary and he will be a gametime decision. Corrado skated with Bieksa today, but will likely be sent back to Utica to start the season once he's fully recovered. The lines for tomorrow should be as follows:





The defence? Well, when they're trying to get Juice back in the lineup this quickly shows just how thin their back end has become. We know what we get with Hamhuis and Bieksa, but with Edler needing to prove last year's awfulness is behind him, Ryan Stanton and Chris Tanev both still works in progress, and the confidence inspiring choice of Luca Sbisa or Yannick Weber as the last of the 6, and you can see the goaltending tandem of Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack will have their work cut out for them.


New season? This calls for something truly epic, and with so many fine BC metal bands to choose from it wasn't easy. EXPAIN's jazzed-up goofball thrash it is then! Heavy as hell with a serious dose of silly, this track is from their first EP (when they were still known as The Almighty Excruciating Pain. Make sure to check out the album 'Just The Tip' on their Bandcamp page, and support BC metal.



Same deal as before: 1 point for correct score, one point for correct team winning and one point for the scorer of the GWG. This is my first year tracking this, so be patient, and if I miss something, give me a shout and I will fix it.