Pens vs. Flames Preview

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

A look at how the Calgary Flames are doing. It's not very pretty at the moment, so they'll definitely be looking to raise their game when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town tonight.

The Pittsburgh Penguins conclude their three game Western Canadian road trip with a game against the Calgary Flames. All teams have ebbs and flows in a season, but as we found out from Hayley at Matchsticks and Gasoline, the Flames are really struggling right now.

#1 – The Flames have suffered another rough season and are in the midst of changes. Any word on if you think they’d consider trading Mike Cammalleri this season? The Pens have a hole at first line forward with Pascal Dupuis out for the season and could probably use Cammalleri. Any ideas on if they’d trade before Burke names a permanent GM?

Cammalleri is definitely one of the players who is potentially on the trading block and could bring back a good return for the Flames at the deadline. Cammalleri will be a UFA in July and if Burke is to stay on as GM for any length of time, I'm not sure he necessarily fits the mould of Burke's ideal player. However, for a team that is struggling mightily to score goals right now as the Flames are, I would be slightly hesitant to sell off one of the few players who has been capable of scoring consistently this season. That all becomes practically irrelevant if the Flames are still in the position they're in now at the deadline.

I don't think Burke has any reservations about putting his stamp on the Flames even as a "temporary" GM, he has already traded former first round pick Greg Nemisz for a player of questionable usefulness in Kevin Westgarth and buried Sven Baertschi in the minors for the time being, but dealing a player like Cammalleri would be a larger-scale move that would have much more significant impact on the team, depending on the return.

#2 – What’s the general fan consensus on the team right now? As Penguin fans we can remember some lean years as well, it’s never fun being in the basement but is there any hope that things are moving in the right direction? When do you see an ETA for the Flames to be competing for a playoff spot?

It's certainly tough watching a team that is languishing at the bottom of the standings, especially one that has been shutout five times in its past seven games. However there is some hope for the future. Obviously players like Sean Monahan provide something of a beacon of light in dark times, and Flames fans are excited about other prospects in the system like Johnny Gaudreau and goalie John Gillies. Their AHL affiliate the Abbotsford Heat are also currently in first place in their division and second place in the Western Conference, so seeing a team composed of potential future Flames succeed is encouraging for fans of the team.

While I don't reasonably see the Flames seriously competing for a playoff spot for at least another two to three seasons, the prospect of securing a top-five pick in this summer's draft is also something that provides hope for expediting the turn-around process.

In the meantime, however, acquiring and signing good value players who are solid bets to outperform their contracts is something that would help the team make a smoother transition from bottom feeder to bubble team.

Kris Russell, although he's currently injured, is a good example of one of these players. He has exceeded expectations this season and if the Flames can find more players like him to fill out their roster when they're competing for a playoff spot again in a few years, they should be in good shape.

#3 – As a Pittsburgh fan that probably doesn’t watch the Flames too much, who are some players we might not have heard of but should keep an eye on during this game?

This is a tough question to answer since the team has been collectively invisible over the course of the past two weeks. However, some players to keep an eye on are defenceman TJ Brodie, as well as forwards Mikael Backlund, Paul Byron, Lance Bouma and, obviously, Sean Monahan. None of these players are having an exception season, but Brodie has become a reliable top-two defenceman at just 23 years old and is worth watching for his skating and passing abilities alone while Mikael Backlund is one of the few forwards who has managed to look good despite the fact that the Flames have been outscored 11-0 in their past two games.

Lance Bouma and rookie Paul Byron have become very effective energy players, more so Bouma, who have managed to provide a spark to the team without spending too much time in the penalty box.

#4 – Are the Czechs really going to take 1000-year-old Petr Nedved to the Olympics over Jiri Hudler? Hudler’s got 35 points in 43 games to lead the Flames, how’s he found more success in his second year in Calgary versus his first?

It would seem so. I haven't closely examined his numbers this season compared to last, but if I had to guess Jarome Iginla being traded has meant more ice time for him as well as more time on special teams. I believe he also missed some time due to injury last season, but his 16.2 SH% this season doesn't hurt either. And I'm sure playing with a guy like Sean Monahan must be fun for him.

#5 – The Pens and Flames will be linked by the Iginla trade, what’s the fall-out been now that the dust has settled? Weird that they actually traded him? Now with some time to give perspective, are you satisfied with how the events of last March went down? Do a lot of Calgary fans still closely track Iggy even though he’s now in Boston?

For a lot of fans the Iginla trade was something that had to happen. It was like ripping of a band-aid - painful at the time, but most fans have moved on now. Obviously he will always mean a lot to the franchise and its fans, and some certainly do track his play with the Bruins closely, but his absence doesn't seem to be something that many people agonize over often.

The return, on the other hand, is still something of a bitter pill to swallow. The last-minute switch-a-roo and the fact that Feaster sat on his best asset for as long as he did while Iggy's play continued to fall off and the possible return diminished are wrongs many Flames fans won't soon forgive. The Flames recently signed 28th overall pick Morgan Klimchuk to an entry-level deal, although it's too early to tell what kind of player he'll turn out to be, whereas Ben Hanowski and Kenneth Agostino are not exactly at the top of most fans' lists in terms of players they're most excited about. That's not to say they may not turn out to be serviceable NHLers in the future, but when your team trades its franchise player you expect the prospects received in return to be game-changers, and the fact that these players likely won't be is disappointing. Overall, although it needed it happen, I don't think any Flames fan looks back on the events of March 28th 2013 fondly.

Thanks again to Hayley for her answers and remember to check out Matchsticks and Gasoline for the Calgary perspective (where I answered some of their questions too)!

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