Are you a proud but frustrated member of Leaf Nation? Are you constantly perplexed and saddened by the current state of the once proud franchise? Does the thought of Jeff Finger making $3.5-million a year to patrol the blueline for the AHL Marlies make you queasy? Stop feeling sorry for yourself Leaf fans, it could be worse. You could be a supporter of the Calgary Flames.
The Flames currently sit in 14th spot in the Western Conference and GM Darryl Sutter has assembled a veteran-laden roster with a number of horrific contracts. Former Leaf Matt Stajan, who is making $3.5-million through the 2013-14 season, has one goal in his last 43 games. Olli Jokinen bombed in his first time around as a Flame, but that didn't stop Sutter from bringing him back on a two-year, $6-million deal in one of the most puzzling off-season moves in recent history. The totals so far this season: four goals, 12 points and a +/- rating of minus seven. Niklas Hagman ($3-million per season through 2011-12) has 12 goals in his 52 games in Calgary and Ales Kotalik (on the same contract as Hagman) has also struggled mightily.
Looking forward, Sutter has left himself very little cap room to work with and the team's system isn't exactly stocked with can't-miss prospects. Also fun for Flames' fans this year: Constant speculation that captain Jarome Iginla will end the season in a different sweater and head coach Brent Sutter is on his way out. (How'd you like to be Darryl at the Sutter family Christmas this year? He already traded his son and could be close to firing his brother. Happy Holidays!).
So yes, it would be nice to have a first-round pick this year and Ron Wilson's effectiveness as a head coach is up for debate, but with youngsters such as Nazem Kadri, Keith Aulie (thanks Darryl!), Jonas Gustavsson, Luke Schenn and Phil Kessel, you can at least see some pieces that could be part of a brighter future.
Eric Duhatschek is at the game for us tonight (9:30 p.m. Leafs TV) and will file to this space.
Until then, the links:
Duhatschek on Dion Phaneuf's return to Calgary being delayed by a day.
Kris Versteeg wore a Phaneuf mask to practice yesterday.
Toronto Star reporter Paul Hunter saysthe Leafs were the clear winners of the Phaneuf trade.
Hunter also talks to Fredrik Sjostrom about returning to Calgary.
Star reporter Mark Zwolinski on Matt Stajan's struggles.
Toronto Sun columnist Mike Zeisberger catches up with former Leaf Nik Hagman.
The Calgary Herald has a game day preview.
The Herald's John Down talks to Keith Aulie about being a throw-in piece of the Phaneuf deal.
Pension Plan Puppets have been doing the 12 Days of Leafsmas. Three Luke Schenns!
J.S. Giguere tells AM640's Jonas Siegel he can be better.
From Puck Daddy: Former Leaf Carlo Colaiacovo comes right through your screen as he appears to pick up his latest injury.