Thursday, January 10, 2008


Left Wing Rag

I think it's time to get Marcus Nilson back in the lineup. Eric Nystrom has now played 34 games with the Flames, and, it's time to face it -- he's not that good.

I was just looking at Huselius and Tanguay's numbers before and after The Switch (when Juice was moved to Iginla's line), trying to figure out if this idea of trading #40 to afford a new contract for #20 was merely silly, or unconscionably stupid. Anyway, from Game 27 on, at 5-on-5:
So my first reaction after tallying this up was to get distracted... the Flames have allowed ~30 5v5 goals since then -- who the heck has been on the ice if not these guys? Ahem:
Mark Smith has shown flashes of competence, and you gotta admire Nystrom's willingness to play the body and fight, and blah blah, but that's just not good enough. And I doubt I'm really stunning any Flames fans here, either: it's painfully apparent watching their games that the play dies with Nystrom all the time.

And he's dragging down his linemates too. I'm not (yet) the guy who's insisting that Matthew Lombardi should be displacing Conroy next to Iginla, but saddling him with two rookies... what is his role right now, anyway? Metrognome had a great post earlier this week about how the Flames could use a "Nothing Line", touching on some of these same things, and I think The "Come Get Some!" Line is regrettably accurate for Lombardi/Nystrom/Boyd.

My opinions differ from MG's on a few things -- I think 20-24-12 and 40-22-11 are fine as the top 2 lines, at least for now -- but he's absolutely right that Keenan has to figure out a way to make something out of the far end of the bench. My humble suggestion for today is to put Yelle and Nilson out with Lombardi as the Nothing or Bathroom Break Line, and then muck around with Primeau, Boyd, Smith, Godard, and Nystrom on the 4th line.

Then when Moss gets back, it's possible that the Flames have 4 functioning lines, with defined roles that they are more than capable of fulfilling.
  1. Huselius-Conroy-Iginla: until/unless it's clear that Conroy is weighing the other guys down, this is fine by me
  2. Tanguay-Langkow-Nolan: Nolan can't seem to produce, but he is TCB in his own end, and this line is (A) able to score, and (B) not overmatched or vulnerable against the other team's best
  3. Nilson-Yelle-Lombardi: go get a beer; Lombardi's speed and Yelle's hands should be enough to prevent the opposition from cheating to attack too much
  4. Boyd-Primeau (or Smith)-Moss: should be able to at least hold their own against other 4th lines, with elements of scoring touch and defensive conscience
Nystrom goes back to the QC to work on keeping it in the other guy's end and getting it out of his own. Godard gets spotted in for Boyd (or Primeau, with Boyd moving to centre) as required.


A thought: is it just me, or if Brad Richards' first name was "Alexei", would we constantly be seeing stories about how he's the biggest bust of the post-lockout era? He seems like a nice guy, sure, and there are definitely factors beyond his control that are contributing to the fact that he's not a Hart Trophy candidate. But the excuses (shitty goaltending, Jan Hlavac, etc.) can only go so far, no?

The aforementioned Mr. Lombardi is having a somewhat poor year for Matthew Lombardi, and he's +16/-20. Brad Richards is +22/-44. Aside from the PP (where Richards plays with A LOT better teammates than Lombardi), is there a reason why I should (continue to) believe that Richards is a better player?

The Lightning goalies have an EV SV% of 0.898, and Kipper's is 0.921, so that definitely hurts Richards a bit on the minus side. Linemates? There's no way Richards has Lombardi "beat" here; he does play with St. Louis every so often. (Desjardins has Lombardi's Quality of Teammates as much lower, -0.30 to -0.02). Richards has 13 points from those 22 GF, which indicates that, at least occasionally, his team is scoring while he's on the ice without his proximate contribution. Lombardi has 16 points from his 16 GF; not once this year has a linemate scored without the puck going through him first.

Brad Richards makes a higher averaged annual salary than anyone in the NHL. He is obviously one lovable dude to have had this essentially spun on his behalf as a mitigating factor. Basketball players (cough Vince Carter) who think they should be paid like franchise players but don't accept the responsibility of carrying a franchise are regularly trounced in the media. And yet not once have I read someone point out the plain fact (and no, "his contract would be hard to move" doesn't count) that he is absurdly overpaid and underperforming. If you're inclined to defend him, my question is, OK, what would his numbers be if he was a lousy player? Or, if you stuck Marty Reasoner between Hlavac and Darche for all those same minutes this season, would the Lightning be a lot worse? What's Latin for the question answers itself, again?


I was wondering when someone was going to call out Nystrom. He's still fairly popular with the boards and casual fans I talk to. But, like you, I've noticed that he doesn't get the job done. I think perhaps the only thing keeping him around is his PK work - which wasn't enough to save Freisen and shouldn't be enough to delay dropping Nystrom...either to 4th line or back to the farm.

Yeah, I'd be a lot more satisfied with Nystrom if he was PK, plus Godard's EV minutes. The "3rd line" duty is no good, though, and beyond his capabilities at present.

I'm pretty much in agreement on Richards Matt. I wrote back when he signed his deal that he'd have to be one of the best players in the league for it to make sense and I don't think that he's cleared that threshold.

I thought Richards was just a pretty boy .. but he killed the Flames and all comers in '04 and was full value for his Conn Smythe Trophy. That can get you a pretty rich deal most years. He will probably never again live up to spring 2004, but then he has his name engraved on the Cup. Lots of better, less pretyy guys don't.

I started this with some sort of a point, but I seem to have lost it now.

Lombardi is (possibly) the most under rated player in the league. He should be on the top line as I see Conroy is not the same as the pre-LA self. And yes, bring back Nilsson.

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