Gotta sit Simon

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:25 PM ET


 So much for the Calgary Flames feeding off their late-game goon tactics in Game 3.

 Come to think of it, so much for goons.

 As Darryl Sutter looks for a way to stop the bleeding from an embarrassing 4-2 loss at the 'Dome yesterday, he'd be wise to start with a simple lineup change:

 Scratch Chris Simon.

 In a series that will ultimately be decided by speed and discipline, he brings neither.

 Since returning admirably from a first-round knee injury, Simon's contribution to the cause comes in the form of 45 penalty minutes and one meaningless powerplay goal in four outings against the Sharks.

 No assists, no spark.

 He hasn't even been hitting that much.

 It's not for a lack of effort -- he simply doesn't have the tools to contribute in a series of this nature.

 Truth is, he can't catch up.

 Playing on an energy line with Stephane Yelle and Chris Clark, the only reason Simon's play has garnered any sort of attention stems from his ability to take penalties.

 In that regard, he's been tremendously consistent, having been nailed for at least two minors in every one of the four games so far.

 He is singlehandedly responsible for eight of the Sharks' 18 powerplays, which finally caught up to him and the Flames yesterday when Vincent Damphousse cashed in an insurance marker with Simon in the bin for roughing.

 Clearly, a large number of the calls against Simon in this series have been borderline at best.

 He gets many of them based on reputation alone.

 Of that, there can be no debate.

 Still, he's been in this league long enough to know he's a marked man.

 He needs to act accordingly.

 "(Ville) Nieminen and Simon have got to be careful," said a remarkably upbeat Flames boss Darryl Sutter.

 "I know exactly what they're being told and it's the same thing two or three of their guys are being told.

 "And they got called tonight for those incidents, too.

 "It's not unfair, believe me. It's the same for both."

 The difference is the Sharks have a powerplay that will eventually make you pay for indiscretions.

 The Flames don't.

 "I don't have anything to say about the officiating," said Simon, whose biggest contribution was beating up Mike Rathje at the end of Game 3. "I always try to play the same way. It's up to you guys to decide (if I'm hurting the team)."

 He is.

 While Simon's penalties have put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Flames penalty killers, he hasn't reciprocated by helping his club's powerplay.

 It was there he was expected to use his 230-lb. frame to set up screens and cause havoc for opposing goalies.

 It hasn't worked this series as the Flames got their first powerplay goal in 16 tries when Simon roofed one with 40 seconds left

 yesterday.

 A Robert Reichel contribution, if you will.

 Yesterday, Sutter rolled the dice and lost by inserting Dave Lowry into the lineup in favour of Krzysztof Oliwa.

 While Lowry brought an admirable amount of energy to the rink, he was also partly responsible for the opening goal by Rathje, on a play which the Flames veteran should have done better to block.

 The Flames injuries and lack of depth is catching up with them as they head into the Shark Tank tonight for Game 5 (8 p.m., CBC), tied at two games apiece.

 Sutter has few options.

 At the very least, Oliwa's five minutes of play in each of the first three games provided the club with energy, adequate speed and, most importantly, no penalties.

 He even chipped in with the series-opening goal.

 Simon is without question one of the top-five heavyweights in the NHL who brings a shocking amount of skill with his ability to intimidate.

 There isn't a player in the league who wouldn't want him on their side the first

 82 games of a season.

 Even against Vancouver, the 1996 Stanley Cup winner scored twice and added an assist in three games.

 However, in this series, he provides none of the things his club needs.

 The only way to ensure he stays out of the penalty box is to keep him out of the lineup or slash his 15 minutes of ice time significantly.

 Before it's too late.


Videos

Photos