For today's Three Questions, we reached out to Hayley from Matchsticks and Gasoline to ask a little about Calgary's past, present, and near future. Without further ado...
1. Are the Flames "rebuilding" or "reshaping" or "retooling" or just kind of running in place?
H: As of now, it's hard to say. The additions Jay Feaster made in the off-season have made the Flames a better team in some ways, they've gotten slightly younger and have shown improvements with regard to their powerplay, scoring and puck possession, but consistency is still something of an issue and it's likely still too early to tell if it's the players who have improved the team or the way that Bob Hartley and his coaching staff are utilizing them. It's difficult to imagine the Flames finishing much higher in the standings than they have the past few years, given their competition and the poor start they've had early on, but I suppose we'll have a more definite answer about which of the three "Rs" management is going to run with depending on what happens with Iginla and/or Kiprusoff following this season.
2. How serious is the Kipper injury? I would imagine him being out for an extended period of time would be tough on the Flames.
H: The team is saying that he's day-to-day with a lower-body injury and has accompanied the team to Columbus, and Miikka says he believes it's a short-term injury. Kipper's struggles early on in the season were well documented, mostly because of a sub-.900 EV SV% and an even worse .682 PP SV%, and Flames fans expressed frustration with his performance in close games they felt the team probably should have won, although he was certainly not at fault in every scenario.
Danny Taylor comes into the league sporting a .927 SV% in the AHL and even with the decrease in save-percentage expected in the transition between the two leagues due largely to an increase in the opposition's skill level, his SV% would still likely be higher than Kipper's has been so far this season. As for Irving, he's been competing with Taylor for starts all season with the Abbotsford Heat and he'll likely have to continue doing so at the NHL-level. I think the Flames will be able to manage without Kipper in the short-term, provided they keep up their recent trend of spending more time in the offensive zone and remember how to play defence.
3. Will Jarome Iginla follow Rick Nash's lead and find his way out of Calgary and onto a contender via trade this year?
H: I find it difficult to envision an Iginla trade, specifically one that would garner a return Flames fans would be satisfied with given Iginla's age and declining abilities. Although he's been better than his point totals show so far and taking the shortened season into consideration, most GMs around the league are probably going to be looking for his counting stats to improve in order to confirm that he is a player who is going to make their team notably better on the ice before they sell the farm for him (which most teams in a contending position might not be prepared to do anyway unless they were hell-bent on a Darryl Sutter-esque "win now" philosophy).
I'm sure most Flames fans would rather get something for him than see him walk away for nothing as a UFA after almost two decades with the organization, but it's hard to imagine a return that would not be classified as something of a let-down in the immediate future given how much he means and has meant to the team, as I'm sure Blue Jackets fans experienced leading up to and after the Rick Nash deal.
Our thanks to Hayley, and check out Matchsticks and Gasoline for the Flames' perspective on tonight's game!