VANCOUVER - The holidays are here again.
They don’t last long for the Flames, who enjoy two days off before hitting the road for six games while the kids of the world junior hockey championship take over the Saddledome, but the NHLers will have a brief Christmas with their families.
Gifts will be given and received. Those who aren’t lactose intolerant might indulge in a little egg nog. And Santa — for those who still believe in the jolly old elf — will visit.
Here’s what he might bring the Flames ...
He plays against every opponent’s top line, is on pace for his best offensive season since he left the Florida Panthers, and has shown he actually can have chemistry with Jarome Iginla. Jokinen has essentially become the player the Flames wanted when they first picked him up, at a fraction of the price.
A temporary scoring slump.
With just three goals to go for 500 and the Flames playing on the road until Jan. 7, it’s unlikely Iginla will net his milestone marker at the Saddledome — unless he has a relatively quiet couple of weeks. He can have all the assists needed for wins, though.
A bag of Halls, maybe some Fisherman’s Friend. The talkative winger is always targeted by members of the media when they are in desperate need of some honest quotes with some personality behind them. It’s possible he’s not injured and just needed a break for his throat.
Seriously … I know he signed a long-term deal for decent dollars this summer, but Glencross has been one of if not THE best Flames. If they could bottle up his hustle and pass it around they’d be a much stronger team. We could take a cut off some of their paycheques.
A hot streak.
Stempniak has been good, just not all that productive consistently. His career has seen bursts of offence followed by strings of zeroes. As long as he continues to blast the puck a couple of times a game and play hard without it, no one will complain. But they’d love to see him catch fire the way he has in the past.
A train set.
We’ve all seen what happens when Bourque’s engine is cranked. So even if he’s not into trains, maybe they’ll serve as a reminder to open up the throttle every night on the ice. Good things happen for him when he’s playing at full speed.
A licence to thrill.
He’s one of the best skaters in the league and can almost effortlessly use his speed to recover from a mistake in the offensive zone. But he rarely takes control and leads the rush, or even seems confident enough to join it these days. It’d be nice to see him unleashed occassionally.
Hey, he needs an early start on his coaching career. The guy is already drawing up plays in the dressing room. Might as well give him his own board. The veteran has a future in the game when his playing days are over.
An ID bracelet.
Not much was known about the 27-year-old blueliner who played much of his hockey since 2007 for the Binghamton Senators. But the former Ottawa prospect has surprised during his first season with the Flames, flashing offensive upside (nine points) and defensive smarts. But ask a casual fan to pick him out of a police lineup ...
A lifelike rubber plant.
If Horak had any real plants in his new place after the Flames told him he’d be sticking around in Calgary for the season, they might have been lacking some TLC when he got sent back to Abbotsford earlier this month. He’s back now, but better to be safe with the home decor.
A rabbit’s foot.
Arguably the hardest working Flame of all time hasn’t had a lot of luck. He’s overcome a bad shoulder injury but is now dealing with a tendon tear in what should have been the start of his prime as an NHLer. He could use a charm to keep in his pocket.
A subscription to Sports Illustrated.
You know the one ... the package that includes some commemorative kit of memorabilia so he always remembers his St. Louis Cardinals’ world series victory. Maybe it will come with a Cardinals phone or mini baseball glove stamped with all their signatures. Hey, pro athletes have heroes, too.
A spy camera.
This one isn’t exactly for him, it’s for Flames fans who never get to see the prankster with a legendary sense of humour behind closed doors. Constantly referred to as the team’s funniest member, Kostopoulos keeps that side of himself hidden pretty well.
Between all the black eyes, busted noses and split lips the bruising big guy has taken on in his two years as a Flame, he deserves a night out on the town without looking like a street brawler. Might need a makeup applicator, too, because I’m guessing he’s never used it.
A time machine.
No telling what Stajan would choose to do with this one. Go back to his days as a scorer with the Leafs? Back to the negotiation table with former Flames GM Darryl Sutter? Not that anyone would turn down big dollars, but that contract is a lot to live up to.
A bobblehead in his likeness.
From what we’ve seen of the 21-year-old from Chatham, Ont., you get the feeling he’s going to be a fan-favourite for a long time. Slick skating, an eye for the outlet pass, and no fear at all. His defensive skills are improving as well.
A one-year extension.
The Flames are going with youth on the back end, but Hannan and his $1-million deal are proving to be good value. He’s not the quickest or most agile defender but the 32-year-old has been a strong presence on the penalty kill.
A massage chair.
Moss is stuck sitting around so often, he should at least do it in comfort. He’s been a great depth power forward and it always seems his future will hold better days until he gets clipped with another injury. Our budget is limited, though, so he might have to just settle for one of those shiatsu pads.
Sorry Blake, you got your present early when the Flames plucked you off the waiver wire on American Thanksgiving. Things have been much better for the former New York Islanders sniper since. Aside from the five points in 15 games with the Flames, he doesn’t have to travel to see his family in Calgary.
Luke Skywalker’s robotic hand.
Breaking his hand was unfortunate, but if we’ve learned anything from the movies, it’s that sometimes losing use of a limb can be for the better. Maybe Star Wars isn’t the bet example but Luke seemed to do well after his dad cut his off. And if it has its own electronic brain, it might even make Babchuk shoot more often.
A self-help book.
Backlund’s biggest problem as he tries to ascend to a level of consistency befitting a full-time NHL scoring centre is his own brain. For some reason, confidence continues to elude him. Brent Sutter says he’s working on things with the youngster. But one of guru Tony Robbins’s publications might do the trick.
A better deal.
That could mean a regular role with the Flames, which is his first choice, or a trade to another team that wants him in their nightly lineup. The big-hitting blueliner deserves to play based on his ambition and experience alone.
An invisible fence.
The way players are crashing the crease these days, the Flames’ starting goaltender could use a little extra protection. The problem with this gift is getting the opposing players to wear those collars that go off when they cross the invisible line. Hmmm.
A helmet to wear off the ice.
Seriously, how many door frames does the 6-foot-7 giant smack his head on around the city? It might also protect him from stones some fans and media members want to chuck at him over his record as a starter.