New York Islanders fans don't see the Calgary Flames much (certain Blake Comeau fans excepting, at least back in Blake's Flame days), so we caught up with Hayley of SB Nation's Flames site Matchsticks & Gasoline to compare misery, er, find out what's going on with Alberta's best team.
Her answers follow each of my questions below. (I also answered some questions of hers over at M&G.)
Looks like the Flames took a rather Islanders-esque approach to goaltending this year. How has the Karri Ramo and Reto Berra (who starts tonight vs. the Isles) experience gone? And with names like that, did it take you long to figure out who was who?
Hayley: Both Karri Ramo and Reto Berra came to the Flames this season as unknown quantities, moreso in Berra's case, having never played a game in the NHL prior to this season. When the Flames were finally permitted to sign Ramo after acquiring his rights in January 2012, it appeared that Ramo would be the designated #1, especially in the light of Kiprusoff's retirement this past spring.
After the acquisition of Reto Berra in the Jay Bouwmeester trade, it was assumed he would step in as the Flames' 1a. However, Ramo found himself splitting time with Joey MacDonald early in the season after Berra was cut at the end of pre-season play, until MacDonald was demoted to the AHL in late October. When Berra was called up, he was given the reigns and a lot of patience from the coaching staff as they waited to find out what they had in him despite indications that there were numerous weaknesses in his play--namely his ability to track the puck and control rebounds.
Finally, Ramo began to start more regularly at the end of November and despite a lack of wins, Flames fans were and continue to be impressed with his play. Unfortunately Ramo injured his knee last Saturday against Minnesota, so we're going to see more of Reto Berra at least until after the Olympic break. But the Flames have also recalled another young Finnish goaltender in prospect Joni Ortio, so it will be interesting to see what he can do at the NHL-level and if he represents more of a long-term solution in net for the Flames.
Kris Russell seems like one of those guys who's better than his relative anonymity would indicate, but not exactly a fixture to build around. Do you prefer they extend him, or trade him?
Hayley: Kris Russell has fit into the Flames' top-four surprisingly well, well enough to attract some attention from fans of other teams in the hunt for a defenceman, although he missed almost a month with a knee injury in December/January.
He is a pending UFA so if the Flames can finagle something for him at the deadline, which shouldn't be tough considering what Douglas Murray fetched last season, that would be nice, but all signs seem to be pointing in the direction of an extension.
He's still young and valuable as long as he continues to out-perform his contract, so I'm in favour of a reasonable extension for the time being.
3. On that note, where do you stand on Mike Cammalleri's future?
Hayley: Similar to the Thomas Vanek situation on Long Island, it seems to be a given that Mike Cammalleri will be traded at or before the deadline. If the Flames can manage to snatch a first or early second round pick in return for Cammalleri (also an impending UFA), I would be happy.
On the other hand, the Flames can't exactly afford to sacrifice offence at the moment, and Cammy is still a valuable player. But the Flames also have cap space, and if they lose Cammalleri there is always the potential to scour the free agent market in the summer or even take on a salary dump via trade, and they do have some young prospects coming up through the ranks as well.
4. Granted he hasn't made much of a noticeable impact yet (right?), but are you generally happy or scared that Brian Burke is in charge of proceedings?
Hayley: While Burke's work with the Flames so far is a small sample size, I'm not exactly pleased with the direction things are going with him as general manager so far. His demotion of Sven Baertschi seems to have done such a number on the young forward's confidence that he is only now beginning to recover, Kevin Westgarth (acquired from Carolina in December) is a useless plug, and all of Burke's rhetoric about remaining in the background when he was brought on by the team last summer disappeared instantly following last month's Flames/Canucks line brawl.
On top of that, the recent signing of Trevor Gillies by the Abbotsford Heat has Burke's fingerprints all over it.
Forgot your fries, asshole!
The best thing Burke has done so far is demote Shane O'Brien, but I'll be more impressed if he can actually manage to fetch something for him in return.
That being said, Burke does have a history of pulling the wool over the eyes of other general managers (see: Darryl Sutter), so if he's going to remain in charge for the next few months I will maintain a small sliver of hope that he'll be able to pull off a similar feat again, this time in the Flames' favour.
Any wishes on who the next Flames GM should be?
Hayley: Burke seems hellbent on hiring Joe Nieuwendyk for whatever reason, but I think it's safe to say that he is the last choice of Flames fans by near consensus.
Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton has come up in conversation in multiple occasions as an ideal candidate, but of course himself and many of the other candidates who are likely under consideration for the job are already under contract elsewhere.
So far, my only wish is that Burke doesn't stay on too long and wear out his welcome as he has done previously in two other Canadian cities.
Our thanks to Hayley for the thoughtful resposes. In the tradition of our First Islanders Goal pool, guests on our program receive 5 LHH bucks ... which is nice.
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