Gotta tackle the elephant in the room - what does it mean to you guys to have Jarome Iginla coming back to play there tonight? How painful was it to have him leave last year, and how have the Flames filled his role?
It means a lot to have Iginla coming back to play in Calgary tonight. He was the face of the Flames for 16 years, and no matter how hurt some segments of the fan base may be about his departure or how overdue the trade that sent him to Pittsburgh may have been, no one can forget everything he did for this team over the course of his time here and I think getting the chance to thank him for that will be a very special moment for everyone in attendance at the Saddledome tonight. No matter how long you prepare for your favourite team's captain and franchise player to be traded or to move on, it's always painful when they finally are/do. Some fans resented how long it took management to pull the trigger and how much control Iggy himself had over the process, and some believed this tied Feaster's hands to some degree, but it was clear towards the end that he wasn't exactly happy here. Should he have been traded earlier? Almost certainly. Did he deserve that much control over where he ended up? It's hard to argue that he hadn't earned it, but the seemingly non-spectacular return that the Flames got in the deal with Pittsburgh certainly added insult to injury.
As far as filling his role, it will be a long time before the Flames can do that. By all indications thus far Mark Giordano is a good and very deserving captain, but in terms of filling the hole in production left by a consistent 30-goal scorer, they're quite a ways away from doing that. Their haphazard collection of top-six forwards and subsequent injuries to these players haven't helped their cause this season either.
You guys are rolling with a rookie goalie and Karri Ramo, who's never had a GAA under 3 in the national hockey league. Any idea what the organization's long-term goaltending plans look like?
Flames fans are really excited about Providence College goalie Jon Gillies right now. After Laurent Brossoit was traded to the Oilers last month in exchange for Olivier Roy, Gillies has become the stand-out number one goaltending prospect in the Flames' system. The 19-year-old 2012 draftee has allowed just 1.88 goals in 15 games this season and has an SV% of .941. He is 10-3-1 in those games and has three shutouts, and his team recently won something called the Mayor's Cup. He was named national rookie of the year in 2012 and later this month, Gillies will likely play a pretty big role in net for the US World Junior team, which will give Flames fans and others a good indication of what he's capable of against some of the best young players in the game.
The Flames have actually given Joe Colborne NHL playing time! How has he done for you guys?
When Colborne was first acquired by the Flames, Bob Hartley seemed to have the idea that he was a top-six centre, and unsurprisingly he really struggled in that role. Since being given more appropriate ice time as a third line centre, Colborne has proven to be a pretty effective energy player who is not bad in the faceoff circle either (and surprisingly good in the shootout). He's not going to score a ton and he has trouble hanging onto the puck sometimes, but he seems to have settled into this role quite nicely. He can move pretty quickly when has to and he does a good job of mucking around down low and along the boards. Playing with Sven Baertschi doesn't hurt his cause either, depending on whether or not Sven is in Hartley's doghouse.
Calgary is really not a team we see on national broadcasts ever. Who are some of the players we should be watching for tonight?
Jiri Hudler is leading the Flames in scoring by more than 10 points with 27 points through 29 games this season, and he'll likely be playing on a line with Mikael Backlund tonight, who has three points in his past five games and finally seems to be getting the ice time he deserves this season (which probably means the Flames are shopping him). Backlund is one of the Flames' most underrated and effective players at even strength. Lee Stempniak and Matt Stajan have also played big roles for the Flames this season on the first line, especially on the penalty kill, where the Flames lead the league with six shorthanded goals. Then of course there's Sven Baertschi and recent call-up Paul Byron, who stands at just 5 foot 7". And defenceman TJ Brodie. And fan favourite sometimes-facepuncher Lance Bouma. Okay, I'm done now.
On a scale of one to crying eagle tears, how excited are Calgary fans for Boston College Eagle Johnny Gaudreau to someday play for the Flames?
Definitely crying eagle tears. As much as it sucks to be a Flames fan right now, there's no doubt that seeing how well the Abbotsford Heat are playing this season and watching prospects like Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Jon Gillies is exciting and provides hope for the future. On the other hand, that excitement is tempered by the fact that Gaudreau hasn't actually turned pro yet and there is some worry that he might Tim Erixon us.
Thanks, Hayley! Check out Matchsticks and Gasoline for Flames coverage tonight.