Changes comin' for the Flames

Mikael Backlund due back any day from the broken finger suffered in a pre-season practice, maybe...

Mikael Backlund due back any day from the broken finger suffered in a pre-season practice, maybe even as early as Friday’s clash in Chicago, something has to give. (MIKE DREW/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:40 PM ET

Changes are coming among the Calgary Flames.

Make that changes beyond Wednesday’s recall of defenceman T.J. Brodie from the AHL Abbotsford Heat with Anton Babchuk put on the injured list.

However, any changes won’t likely be along the lines of the sweeping moves fans began calling for immediately after Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild, which is strangely familiar to what we heard after that 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks one week earlier.

It’s rare to see a blockbuster swap in November — the last one which coming to mind is the deal which sent Joe Thornton from the Boston Bruins to the San Jose Sharks in 2005 — so people may want to temper such hopes.

However, with centre Mikael Backlund due back any day from the broken finger suffered in a pre-season practice, maybe even as early as Friday’s clash in Chicago, something has to give.

Adding Backlund to the 23-man roster will mean one player must come off it. There are a few candidates in the likes of oft-scratched forwards such as Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Pierre-Luc Leblond being sent to the minors, or putting Brendan Morrison on the injured list.

Still, GM Jay Feaster may pull off some form of trade to clear up the roster spot, and he stirred up a hornet’s nest by saying the organization doesn’t have a lot of patience for a floundering team — words which have reached the dressing room.

“Everywhere I’ve been in the course of my career, and from Year 1 through now Year 12, there’s always rumours and always speculation,” said Flames forward Alex Tanguay. “The GM’s job is to make his team better. The plan they’ll take is up to them, but the job is to make their team better, and I’m sure he’s looking like 29 other teams.”

It’s most likely the people Feaster really wanted to hear those words are the players in the locker room. Only time will tell if they have the desired effect.

“If you start focusing on that, your focus is on the wrong place. We’re all professional,” Tanguay said. “We all have a job to do, and that’s perform and help our team on the ice.”

OFF THE GLASS

Coaches aren’t immune to criticism, so it’s hard to understand how a team struggling to score goals would dress Leblond over Hagman or even a not-quite 100% Morrison as was the case in the loss to the Wild. But Flames bench boss Brent Sutter opted for Leblond, who played 4:15. The Flames could have used somebody with more offensive potential. At least Hagman is willing to shoot the puck, which the powerplay needs … Speaking of the Flames powerplay, Sutter didn’t want to delve too deeply in the post-game address, but he did make a point of saying both Tanguay and Mark Giordano aren’t shooting the puck often enough. Amen to that. When they and others start firing the puck more often, it will open more chances for captain Jarome Iginla. Of course, it would have helped the Flames to do a better job of getting into the offensive zone, setting up the powerplay and actually moving the puck quickly enough to create shooting lanes, all basic elements. The confusing part of the powerplay is how it’s so effective on the road (33.3%) but miserable at home (5.9%).

IN THE CORNERS

Lost in the loss to the Wild was the play of Flames’ Jay Bouwmeester. The much-maligned defenceman, who is often the target of derision from the fans, delivered most of the elements you want to see from him. Bouwmeester, who actually received a big cheer from the fans when he zoomed back to break up a potential two-man breakaway, was more active in the offensive zone, created a couple of scoring chances for himself and more for others. If he delivered that on a nightly basis, fans would appreciate all the other things he does ... The headbutt infraction during the fight with Iginla and the subsequent major penalty and game misconduct handed to the Wild’s Nick Johnson during Tuesday’s game should be enough punishment. It didn’t appear to be an intentional move akin to the degree what Buffalo Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta did to receive a four-game banishment, but it was there. Johnson paid a price for a careless move, but considering he was in a fight with Iginla — a scrap he didn’t seem interested in at first and didn’t fare well during — the league would be OK to just call it time served and move along.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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