Flames reward coach Bob Hartley with new contract, but tough times are still ahead

Adam Proteau
Bob Hartley (Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames announced Wednesday a multi-year contract extension for head coach Bob Hartley and nobody in their right mind was going to argue with the move. The 54-year-old has exceeded all expectations this season, taking a young group near the top of the NHL standings out of the gate. He’s been a crafty tactician with a keen sense of the personalities in his dressing room, and he’s been able to sell his high-energy approach to his players with a virtually 100 percent buy-in rate. He’s earned a new deal.

However, once the warm feelings associated with Hartley’s contract die down, it’s more than a little likely Flames fans will come to know the pace their team has established this season was going to be unsustainable. There’s so much to like about the future in Calgary – the play of captain Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie; their skill and youth at forward (including Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Markus Granlund); the prospects who’ve yet to play an NHL game (Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski) – that it’s easy to look past the problems that still exist with this team.

And they do exist. Forget the Flames’ current six-game losing streak, and look at the advanced stats: they’re 20th in Fenwick; their Corsi-For is 18th overall; and their Corsi-Against is 29th overall. As well, their overall team depth is lacking: if the injury bug that’s already taken a fair bite out of them continues to feast, Calgary simply doesn’t have a deep enough farm system from which to restock the NHL roster.

Despite the losing skid, Flames fans have every right to be stoked for Hartley’s achievement and the good times ahead. But with the high level of competition in their conference – and so many lessons still to be learned for their dynamic youngsters – Calgary is still bound for some stretches that will push Hartley’s best days to the back of people’s minds.

Top 10 Calder Trophy candidates: Can anyone catch Filip Forsberg?

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There’s been no shortage of great stories this season, but one of the most surprising things is the cast of rookies who have quickly made names for themselves in the league.

The thing with rookies is they’re one of the most difficult groups of players to accurately forecast. With little known about how well adjusted they’ll be to the NHL, they can either boom or bust, and in some cases an injury or unfavorable situation can send the early Calder Trophy favorite to the bottom of the ballot.

Take Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, for instance, who some people thought would run away with the award but doesn’t even appear on our list. Or John Gibson, the THN consensus pick for the Calder, who had a shot at leading the Ducks this season before injury derailed his season.

These are the top 10 Calder Candidates at this point in the season: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Stewart still available, Blues and Jets may look for deals before trade freeze

Patrik Berglund Blues featured

With the NHL holiday trade freeze slated for midnight on Dec. 19, there’s increasing focus on Buffalo Sabres right wing Chris Stewart in the rumor mill. SI.com’s Allan Muir reports Sabres GM Tim Murray is reportedly willing to move the 27-year-old winger for the right price but so far he hasn’t found any takers.

Muir claims the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators are said to have interest in Stewart. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson adds the Pittsburgh Penguins to that list, while the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Calgary Flames are also among the interested parties. Read more

Who is the NHL’s scariest fighter and bodychecker?

Ryan Kennedy
Brian McGrattan (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

For our Nov. 3 Issue, We polled NHLers and hockey insiders to find out who are the NHL’s scariest in various modes of the game. When it came to punching and hitting, two men quickly rose to the fore.

SCARIEST FIGHTER: Calgary’s Brian McGrattan isn’t just the best fighter in the NHL. He’s quickly becoming a parent pugilist. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Several teams looking at moves leading up to holiday trade freeze

Buffalo's Tyler Myers (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the NHL’s holiday trade freeze beginning at midnight on Dec. 19 there’s growing speculation over possible moves leading up to the deadline.

ESPN.com’s Craig Custance reports Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray is willing to be creative after noting a recent decline in trade talks, leading Murray to acknowledge his asking prices could be too high.

Winger Chris Stewart, a recent healthy scratch against the Los Angeles Kings, is considered most likely to be dealt. The Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports the 27-year-old winger’s poor play could affect his trade value, as well as his chances for a lucrative contract via free agency in July. Vogl claims the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators could be interested in Stewart. Read more

Is Calgary D-man T.J. Brodie still a secret? He hopes so

Matt Larkin
Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie is on track for career highs in every offensive category.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

T.J. Brodie is nowhere to be found in the Flames’ dressing room on a Tuesday afternoon at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, and it’s a little surprising given what he’s done this season.

Etch out his name and peruse only his stats on paper. What you see is a breakout star. Fourth in scoring among NHL defensemen. Racking up offense at a 60-point pace. On track to play in the All-Star Game and maybe even contend for the Norris Trophy. Regularly among the league leaders in Corsi relative to his teammates.

When a player producing like that arrives in the media hotbed that is Toronto for his team’s only visit to the city all season, a swirl of microphones and cameras would make sense. But it’s not to be.

“Is T.J. Brodie around?” I ask the Flames media staff.

“No one’s asked for him. But he can be.”

No one’s asked for him? He’s half of what’s been the NHL’s most dynamic pairing this season with Mark Giordano. Maybe it’s because the Flames employ so many ex-Leafs making homecomings on this particular day, from Matt Stajan to Mason Raymond to Joe Colborne. But whatever the reason is, Brodie remains exactly where he’s been so far in his NHL career: in the shadows.

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Nolan calls out Stewart, winger responds with fight after telling media to “ask Lucic how soft” he is

Chris Stewart

Amid rumors that Chris Stewart and the Buffalo Sabres are in their last days together, it appears the big bodied forward and coach Ted Nolan aren’t seeing eye-to-eye.

On Tuesday, the 27-year-old forward was scratched for the Sabres game against the Los Angeles Kings. When asked about removing Stewart from the lineup, Nolan said the Sabres winger hasn’t been playing the way the team needs, and that, “he’s a big, powerful forward, but powerful forwards can’t be playing a soft game.”

Stewart, who avoided media on the day he was scratched, spoke on Wednesday and you could say he took exception to the comments of his coach. Read more

How the Boston Bruins blew the Thornton, Kessel, Wheeler, Seguin trades…and lost out on T.J. Brodie, too

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Let’s play a little hindsight gymnastics.

Quick question: would you make this trade?

Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin for Matt Bartkowski, Loui Eriksson, Alexander Fallstrom, Matt Fraser, Dougie Hamilton, Alexander Khokhlachev, Jared Knight, Joe Morrow, Dennis Seidenberg and Reilly Smith.

Because that’s what the Boston Bruins are left with after trading three future superstars and one well above average player before their primes in four separate trades.

If Thornton, Kessel, Wheeler or Seguin were still with Boston today, each would be the team’s top scorer. Seguin, of course, leads the NHL in goals and points.

One dumb deal is a mistake. Two is a coincidence. Three is a trend. Four is…WTF is going on?

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