Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Dion still in calder race say's NHL.com
Listen to some people and you would think that there is a two-way race for the Calder Memorial Trophy this season between Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
If you adhere to the principle that the best offense is strong defense, a compelling case can be made for the inclusion of Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames as a legitimate front-runner among the NHL's top rookies.
Like Crosby and Ovechkin, the Flames' freshman enjoyed a phenomenal junior hockey career. He was twice named the Western Hockey League's Defenseman of the Year (2004, 2005), and has extensive experience representing his country in international competition. Phaneuf also came to the NHL with a well-deserved reputation as an impact player, but from the defense position rather than as a forward. His transition to the NHL has been a smooth one. In fact, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound defenseman is making a huge impact on the fortunes of his hockey club, averaging 22 minutes of ice time per game and playing in every critical situation for the Flames.
"Dion is getting lots of ice time and is playing on the power play, 5-on-5 and is he recognizing what it takes to be a quality player in this league," says Flames assistant coach Jim Playfair. "He's got good offensive talent and his overall shot is excellent. Dion can pass the puck as hard as anybody in the NHL and he can one-time the slap shot as good as anybody. So there are areas that he is really good at yet he is very sensible and has an understanding of the areas that he has to improve in.
"As a young player he reaches to get better and as good as he is now, his upside is huge. He has so many good assets to his game that as he develops them and gets more consistent with them, he'll be even more of an impact player for us."
The 20-year old Edmonton native has a vintage-style mean streak and will battle opponents tooth and nail. A tireless work ethic is one of his calling cards and he relishes the physical part of the game, bringing a degree of toughness that players respect and it garners him a little more space on the ice that a rookie deserves.
While Crosby has conjured up images of Pat Lafontaine and Ovechkin mirrors the goal-scoring prowess of Michel Goulet and Glenn Anderson, the Calgary rearguard is reminiscent of a young Scott Stevens.
Just consider the following scouting report ...
"A solid skater with excellent balance, mobility and agility. ... Very adept at making good outlet passes and effectively uses his defensive partner. ... Likes to join the offensive rush when the opportunity arises. ... Is a fixture on the power play and penalty kill. ... Possesses a solid wrist shot and slap shot. ... A tough competitor and a consistent hard worker. ... An edgy and abrasive player who is very effective in front of the net and in the corners. ... A physically strong player who takes full advantage of his size. ... A punishing body checker with a knack for open-ice hits ..."
Sound like a perfect description of Stevens?
Of course. It fits the future Hall of Famer to the letter. But this isn't a scouting report on Scott Stevens. It's a scouting report on Dion Phaneuf, who not surprisingly grew up idolizing the former no-nonsense defender.
"It's a huge honor for Dion to be compared with Scott Stevens," says Playfair. "When Stevens came into the league he was known as a big hitter and a real physical player. He was an aggressive, nasty guy every shift and he created a name for himself. Dion is the same. He plays the game with intensity and he recognizes the qualities that players have to adopt to be an impact player in this league."
Stevens dominated for so long because of his competitive drive, hockey smarts and commitment to being one of the best conditioned athletes in the game, but his exuberance sometimes drew criticism early in his career with the Capitals when he charged around like a heat-seeking missile in the defensive zone.
"But it's easier to get a thoroughbred to slow down than a jackass to run," says Playfair. "It's fun to coach a player with that kind of energy. Any mistakes that Dion makes are hard-work mistakes. He is a warrior. He understands the importance of helping his team and has a history of being a leader, whether it was in junior hockey, the World Junior Championships or with the Calgary Flames. The jersey he puts on is the team he is going to work for and team is so important to Dion. That's why he makes such an impact."
Not at all pretentious, Phaneuf is a practical young man with a simple plan -- to improve every day.
"It's a daily process," says Phaneuf. "The NHL is certainly a different game and there are steps that have to be taken to adjust to the speed of the game and the size of the players. Every day I feel more comfortable."
Phaneuf's unique combination of skill and authority enable him to perform at a high level while logging loads of minutes and playing a relentlessly aggressive game. He is a player that can bring everything to the table, but leaves everything out on the ice.
"Dion has been playing great," says Wade Redden of the Ottawa Senators. "He's got it all. Dion is big, tough and can play the game really well. He has stepped right in there and has emerged as a key guy on a great team, working on the penalty kill and the power play. He is the complete package."
And the kid is only going to get better.
"You would hope so," concludes Redden. "He is just starting off (his career) and it's amazing to see a guy doing what he is doing at such a young age. And Dion is not even close to being as good as he can be. As he improves, well, it's going to be scary out there."
Friday, November 25, 2005
Turn it up to 11
The greatest month in Flames history is within a stick length of their grasp.
With two games remaining in November and 10 victories already in hand, the Flames have the opportunity to set a franchise record for most wins in a month.
Not surprisingly, the players see the end result as a product of focusing on the short term, according to defenceman Robyn Regehr.
"We looked at the month after October and said it would be extremely important for us to get back on track," Regehr said. "But the first thing we wanted to do was start with a good homestand in the first four games, with Minnesota, Columbus and Vancouver twice. Winning four was the most important part of the month and, after that, we continued to carry the momentum we'd gained, other than the game against Chicago (a 5-2 loss last Friday).
"It's not over yet. We still have some games left and, when you look at the standings, you can see it's still extremely tight. You have to keep moving up and keep winning games."
The Flames posted an 11-3-2 record inMarch 1991, the only Calgary squad to collect more than 10 victories in a month.
This year's edition can reach that standard tonight when they host the Edmonton Oilers
(7 p.m., Sportsnet, FAN 960).
Calgary rounds out its November schedule Tuesday in Nashville.
Throughout this month, Calgary has won games in a variety of ways.
Wednesday's win over San Jose was a tight-checking, nearly penalty-free contest. During the spell, there's been a 1-0 shutout against Vancouver, a 5-3 run-and-gun clash with Colorado, a few third-period comebacks and even a shootout win over the Avalanche.
Winger Darren McCarty says that demonstrates the team's versatility.
"We're sticking to our game plan for 60 minutes because we believe we can get it done in any type of game," he said.
Tonight's clash is also a chance to continue on-going domination of their biggest rivals.
The Flames have won both of this season's instalments of the Battle of Alberta, which were also held at the Saddledome, and have a 7-0-1-1 record in the last nine meetings.
Since Darryl Sutter took the head coaching reins in December 2002, Calgary has posted a 9-1-1-1 record against its northern rivals.
"When Darryl came here, one of the first days he mentioned that Edmonton had been in the playoffs and we hadn't, so we had to change that situation, flip that," Regehr said. "We wanted to be in the playoffs and knock them out, and the way you do that is by winning games against them. We've done it so far but have to continue because they're right behind us again."
- - -
FLAMES' 10-PLUS WIN MONTHS
NOV. 2005: 10-1-0*
DEC. 2003: 10-3-2
DEC. 1992: 10-1-2
MARCH 1991: 11-3-2
MARCH 1990: 10-3-2
NOV. 1988: 10-1-1
JAN. 1989: 10-3-2
FEB. 1989: 10-3-0
MARCH 1988: 10-2-2
NOV. 1986: 10-4-0
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Flames3 vs Sharks 2
|11:35||CGY Roman Hamrlik, 4 (Jarome Iginla, 12 Steven Reinprecht, 10)|
|01:31||SJ Grant Stevenson, 1 (PP) (Patrick Marleau, 11)|
|11:14||CGY Robyn Regehr, 2 (Shean Donovan, 1 Stephane Yelle, 6)|
|16:27||CGY Tony Amonte, 6 (Darren McCarty, 4 Marcus Nilson, 6)|
|19:52||SJ Tom Preissing, 4 (Patrick Marleau, 12 Marcel Goc, 4)|
Friday, November 18, 2005
Phaneuf is phenomenal
It's not Crosby or Ovechkin keeping Dion Phaneuf from Calder consideration, it's the league schedule.
Circle December 3 on your schedule. Calgary Flames at Pittsburgh Penguins. Huh, you say? Let me clarify it for you: Dion Phaneuf vs Sydney Crosby. The battle for the Calder Trophy.Yes, I've heard of Alexander Ovechkin. Fun to watch. Nicely skilled. Playing on a team that's a work in progress. Alexander you're third, get over it.
It's Crosby, he of the hype ... he of the big promotional contracts ... he of the astonishing skill. Dion Phaneuf however, I am here to say is a better player. We'll find out December 3 when they go head-to-head.
Phaneuf,you see, has the misfortune if you will of playing in Calgary. Frankly, I think it's good fortune. However, methinks the Gods of the East would beg to differ. That's their problem. But I digress.
The Flames blueliner has a lot on his plate, and because of this he deserves attention for the Calder. My case in points:
1. He is playing a far tougher position. Defence in the NHL is not the picnic a sniper upfront enjoys these days.
2. He is playing in a far more difficult division. The Northwest isn't the walk in the park Crosby thrives in.
3. He's playing 23 minutes a night, skating backwards most of the time.
4. He plays a punishing style and skates against the other team's best players.
5. He may have the hardest shot in the NHL.
You get my point, in this case all five of them. Yet, until the entire NHL sees this guy the Crosby Show will dominate the Calder Race. Yet, if the NHL and the observers open their eyes they will see what a player this young man truly is.
Again, mark down December 3. Head to head, and don't think for a minute Dion Phaneuf doesn't know it. He's not only a talent, but a fella who understands the big picture. A picture I hope Calder voters will see as the days go by. I'm not, however, holding my breath.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Detriot 1 Calgary 3
01:20 DET Robert Lang 7 (Shanahan, 8)
11:01 CGY Tony Amonte 5 (Langkow, 9)
16:41 CGY Chuck Kobasew, 8 (PP) (Jarome Iginla, 12 Robyn Regehr, 1)
02:03 CGY Darren McCarty, 2 (Tony Amonte, 9 Daymond Langkow, 10)
DET--Legace--3 goals on 28 shots
CGY--Kiprusoff--1 goal on 22 shots
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Dame Day article
Pretty good read.
Babcock thinks highly of Sutter, and the work Sutter did with the San Jose Sharks, and now the Flames.
Babcock is a Red Deer, Alberta native, as are the famous Sutter brothers, just down the road from Calgary.
Babcock knows several of the Sutter brothers a little better than Darryl, but the two do have a passing friendship.
"I've known him for a long time, and what I found out about him is that he looks out for you a little bit when you first come in the league, and you'd see him," Babcock said. "He was in San Jose when I started in the league. My measuring stick was to do as good a job as he did, and that's because I thought he was a heck of a coach. He made that team better every single year."
Kobasew doing well and quarter mark
So what was the biggest Calgary Flames development over the first quarter?
The brilliance of Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff? Naw, too predictable.
The impact of Dion Phaneuf? Closer to the mark, but the young rearguard, too, was eagerly anticipated by too many to be considered a huge surprise.
How about the emergence of Chuck Kobasew?
As the first-line left-winger, no less? Now, there's a storyline few could have imagined.
As Calgary heads into its 21st National Hockey League game tonight against the Detroit Red Wings, the fleet-footed 23-year-old, with seven goals, has already established a career high.
Even when scores were scarce in '03-04 -- six tallies in 96 regular-season and playoff games -- Kobasew rarely spared the elbow grease. Now, after a 38-tally American Hockey League season, he's a far more polished product.
"I think probably one of the bigger differences this year," said defenceman Andrew Ference, "is he's earning himself more ice time and the chance to play with Iggy (Jarome Iginla) and some of the bigger lines.
"He's shown speed and the ability to go to the net and challenge defenders. The year in the AHL, putting pucks in the net, probably helps out."
Two summers -- the ones book-ending the lockout -- training with Iginla also spurred Kobasew's development.
"We had little competitions and we just pushed one another," said Kobasew. "I know working with him, it's brought my strength up a lot. It's pretty amazing how fit he is, and his determination. You want to get in there and be a part of it."
The bigger, quicker Kobasew has been such a standout, he's been moved from right to left wing for some top-line time. He enjoyed a similarly prominent role with Lowell during an all-star stint last season. Nearly the same success, too.
"Very, very close," said Craig MacDonald, a former Lock Monsters teammate. "This last month, he's shown the flashes where he can take over games with his energy, his enthusiasm and speed. I think he's only going to get better. He's getting more confidence every day."
Kobasew specializes in so-called garbage goals -- rebounds, redirections, shovel-ins -- but MacDonald has seen his more artistic side.
"I saw Chuckie score some end-to-end goals last year," said MacDonald, "and he almost did it again (Monday) night."
That would be the breathtaking sequence during which a full-speed Kobasew undressed Minnesota's Alex Henry and created three glorious scoring chances -- one for himself, two for teammates. Dwayne Roloson's vigilance and a post denied Calgary a score.
"That's confidence," said Ference. "If he's playing five, six minutes a night and still paying his dues, then he's not going to make that move. He's going to dump it in and get the forecheck going."
Kobasew's thoughts on his shiftiness?
"It would have been a lot nicer," he said drily, "if I would have buried it."
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Minnesota 2 vs Calgary 3
13:41 MIN Mikko Koivu, 2 (Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 10 Derek Boogaard, 3)
18:44 MIN Randy Robitaille, 4 (PP) (Daniel Tjarnqvist, 1 Pascal Dupuis, 6)
|02:49||CGY Dion Phaneuf, 5 (PP) (Tony Amonte, 8 Jarome Iginla, 10)|
|14:16||CGY Daymond Langkow, 4 (Jarome Iginla, 11 Chris Simon, 3)|
|18:53||CGY Jarome Iginla, 11 (PP) (Roman Hamrlik, 11 Miikka Kiprusoff, 1)|
CGY--Kiprusoff--2 goals on 26 shots
MIN--Roloson--3 goals on 42 shots