Province hockey writer Ben Kuzma takes a capsule look at how other Northwest Division rivals are approaching the NHL trade deadline:
For what seems like an eternity, the worst development in Calgary has been a three-game win streak.
To their detractors, any spurt of consistency has provided false hope that the Flames are indeed a playoff team. And the faith that ownership and management have maintained in retaining the coveted Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff — instead of dealing the stars for a major retooling — will keep the Flames in the hunt until they ultimately fall short again.
It happened last season when Calgary went on a 27-11-9 run after Christmas, yet fell three points shy of a postseason berth.
There’s much to suggest that could be happening again, but this story has an interesting twist.
Beset by a bevy of injuries — Mikael Backlund (shoulder), Blair Jones (ankle), Lee Stempniak (ankle), Curtis Glencross (knee), Derek Smith (ankle), David Moss (ankle) — the 24th-ranked offence and what is basically a one-line team with one hot goaltender is again banging at the playoff door.
However, the rejuvenation of Olli Jokinen — must be the hair — and playmaking ability of Alex Tanguay have turned Iginla into a dangerous stretch-drive weapon again and the acquisition of Mike Cammalleri might just provide enough sizzle for that steak on the power play.
And although general manager Jay Feaster has done a credible job in shedding salary to open up room to re-sign Tanguay and absorb Cammalleri’s deal, being at the cap ceiling means the Flames will have to part with a roster player at the trade deadline or go with what they have to get in the postseason.
For an organization that has little depth, the Flames are getting a push from their Abbotsford Heat line of Lance Bouma, Roman Horak and Krys Kolanos that has formed the third alignment.
Paul Byron provides a lot of try on the fourth line and T.J. Brodie may finally be developing into a responsible blueliner.
That’s all fine, but those injuries to key players are of the long-term variety and with five teams jockeying for the final conference playoff spot, the Flames need help up front.
Question is, who if anybody is Feaster prepared to part with?
Rookie coach Mike Yeo was saying all the right things and getting all the right results in the fall.
It now seems like so long time ago, but when the Wild were actually winning regularly and atop NHL standings — they even entered the new year right on the Canucks’ heels — the acquisitions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi and promoting minor-leaguers that Yeo was more than familiar with seemed like the right route to travel.
Heatley and Setoguchi have done the expected, but injuries to Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse only emphasized why the Wild had the 29th-ranked offence and 24th-ranked power play entering weekend play.
Void of offence and tired of those rah-rah speeches that often fell on deaf ears, it all got the better of defenceman Marek Zidlicky, who was scratched for four-consecutive games.
He wants out of Minny in the worst way and has waived his no-trade clause in hopes of being dealt to the New Jersey Devils. With no goals and 13 assists through 39 games, Zidlicky was also a minus-7 but would still draw considerable interest at or before the deadline.
“I can tell you for sure I’m planning to talk to other teams,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune of the 35-year-old blueliner who has another year left at a $4-million US cap hit.
The New York Rangers, Chicago and Florida could also come calling for Zidlicky.
Ryan Smyth is staying, Ales Hemsky should be going and the trade deadline should be uneventful unless it means better stocking a roster for next season.
The real work for the Oilers should come in the offseason.
As much as they need a better supporting cast for the kids — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle — and it’s no surprise that they’ve all been hurt this season in trying to carry the offensive load, that back end needs addressing in the worst way and maybe the goaltending, too.
And while it didn’t register much on the Richter Scale, shipping former first-round pick Ryan O’Marra to Anaheim for minor-league blueliner Bryan Rodney speaks volumes about the void behind the blueline.
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