Q. Who would win in a fight: Bob Hartley or John Tortorella?
A. Hmm, good question. Tortorella is crazy but Hartley is scrappy and might be able to confuse him if he starts yelling at him in French. I'm going to go with Torts on this one, unless Hartley can bring Clint Malarchuk in as backup.
Q. Matt Stajan signed a four-year, $12.5 million extension on Monday. That seems like a significant commitment for a player with .47 career points per game and a career faceoff percentage of 48.6%. Is there something non-Flames fans are missing?
A. I'm confused by the dollar figure here too, especially since he was only making $1.75M when Burke dealt him to the Flames in January 2010. Stajan is several years removed from his career-best 55 point season in 2008-09. He has been a decent possession player for the Flames, he's good defensively and on the penalty kill and he's getting absolutely buried in the defensive zone this season, starting just 36.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Despite having an average to below average career faceoff percentage, he has won over 50% of his draws in three of his past five games. Stajan is a useful player, but I don't think any of that makes him worth $3.125M per season for the next four seasons, however, considering he'll be 34 when his new contract expires and that cap hit will make him difficult to move.
Q. Is either Karri Ramo or Reto Berra the long-term answer in net? Neither has separated from the other so far this season.
A. Ramo is only signed for the remainder of this season and next and Berra will be a UFA after this season, so he has a shorter window in which to prove himself than Ramo does. Both are the same age, but Berra seems to be the Flames' pet project, and has been given a longer leash than Ramo, perhaps because Ramo's body of work is larger and they feel as if they know what to expect, I'm not sure what the reason is. The impression Berra has given most Flames fans this season is that he is often lost in net and has trouble controlling the puck, while Ramo has certainly been the more steady of the two thus far, however I'm not certain either is a long-term solution in net.
Of course both would look better with a better team in front of them, and the fact that the Flames are second last in the league in offence is not giving either of them much to work with.
Q. Calgary has a few top forward prospects in the system (Baertschi, Monahan, Gaudreau, Reinhart, etc.). Which player will make the most impact in the Flames' rebuilding process?
A. As of right now, Sean Monahan looks poised to help the Flames most in the rebuilding process. Baertschi has just two goals and four points in 13 games with the Abbotsford Heat this season and was in and out of Hartley's doghouse in 26 games with the Flames. Burke pulled the trigger and sent him down in December, citing that he needed to improve his play and demonstrate more dedication in all three zones. While Sven is a very skilled player and he had some bad luck during his 26 games with the Flames this season (he shot only 6.7% compared to Monahan's sky-high shooting percentage to start the season), there is little doubt that he does have some maturing to do, physically and mentally.
Max Reinhart is third in scoring for the Abbotsford Heat with eight goals and 30 points in 35 games. Although his combination of offensive skill and defensive acumen is promising and appealing to Flames fans, he has yet to display the same effectiveness and consistency at the NHL level, with just one goal and three points in 15 NHL games. If used correctly, however, I think Reinhart could be a very valuable piece in the rebuilding Flames' bottom six, so long as he's not saddled with Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth.
John Gaudreau continues to put up impressive numbers for Boston College, but at this stage he is still something of an unknown commodity for the Flames. While he is clearly skilled and very exciting to watch, some are unsure if he'll ever be an impact player at the NHL level. His seeming reluctance to turn pro with Calgary until he finishes at BC is also worrisome. When or if he does become a Flame, Gaudreau's impact likely won't be felt until the Flames surround him with quality teammates. In that case he might be best served spending a season or so in the AHL first.
Q. The Coyotes traded Lee Stempniak to Calgary in 2011. How has he played for the Flames? It looks like he hasn't been able to replicate the massive success he had in Phoenix to end the 2009-10 season.
A. Lee Stempniak had a great start to the season with nine points in his first 10 games before his broke his foot in late October and was out until November 12th. Since then, he has just eight points and three goals, and if my memory serves me well he has been scratched or on the verge of being scratched a couple of times.
He has also been miserably unlucky this season. His PDO is just 930 and he is shooting 5.6%. Stempniak also faces fairly tough competition and starts less than half of his shifts in the offensive zone, so his role on the team is not insignificant even when he is not producing offensively. He seems to be turning a corner lately though, as he has a goal and three points in his past four games and has had some good scoring chances (including hitting a couple posts) recently as well. If Stempniak can find his scoring touch again don't be surprised to hear his name bantered about as trade bait as the deadline approaches.