Canadiens vs. Flames: 5 Questions with Matchsticks and Gasoline

Derek Leung

Leading up to the Canadiens' second matchup of the season with the Calgary Flames, we got some information from their SB Nation site about the current state of affairs

The Calgary Flames' SB Nation site, Matchsticks and Gasoline, does a 5 questions feature about their opponents before each Flames game, and in return they answer five questions about their team for the opposing blog. Here are the questions I asked their own Arik James (great name, he has) about the 2013-2014 Calgary Flames.

1. The Flames as currently composed don't consist of a lot of big names, but who are some guys who have stepped up that Habs fans should expect to see make a positive impact on Tuesday?

The big one is Mikael Backlund. He's long been a favorite of the Calgary advanced stat guys, but the percentages have finally started going his way and he's been driving both possession and results lately. Even Bob Hartley trusts him enough to put him on the top line, which is really where he should be at this point. Jiri Hudler and Mark Giordano have been the other big contributors for Calgary, and are the main players keeping the team being an absolute trainwreck.

2. What has been the reaction in Calgary to Brian Burke taking over, both at the time and now a couple of months in. What seems to be the direction Burke wants to take the team in, and are you optimistic about where it will lead?

It's been a mixed bag: on the one hand, Jay Feaster was long past his "best if used by" date. On the other hand, there's a certain amount of trepidation with regards to Burke. He's certainly capable of good top end talent evaluation, but the concern is how much he'll focus the bottom of the roster on toughness vice actual skill. If nothing else, the next few months will certainly be interesting.

3. Obviously the Flames are a rebuilding franchise. Which players on the current roster do you see as guys for the long haul, players you can see eventually being on this team when they become a contender?

Mikael Backlund, who I've talked about a bit already is definitely a key player. He probably won't stick as the top line center, but he should definitely be around in the long run. Sean Monahan's another kid who's certainly not going anywhere, and if he pans out like most fans hope, there'll be good reasons for that. While Bob Hartley may have found fault in Sven Baertschi, I'm of the opinion that he just needs time and opportunity to grow.

On defense the two key guys for the long haul are TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano. Gio will probably take a step back or two by the time Calgary's a contender, but he's the captain and a solid two-way defenseman. Brodie is just pure excellence. He's got great vision, is smart with the puck, and can skate with most anyone. The best part is he's still improving, and could very possibly end up as a number one defenseman for the Flames someday.

4. Canadiens fans, I'm sure, want to know about how Mike Cammalleri is doing. 21 points in 38 games isn't bad (certainly better than Rene Bourque), but how has he looked at both ends of the ice, what has his role been, and do you see him being traded?

While he's not the Cammalleri the Flames had the first time around, he's still a quality player. Obviously his forte is offense, but it's not like he's a trainwreck in his own zone either. That said, he's almost certainly gone at the deadline. Whatever return he'd bring to Calgary is almost certainly worth more than he is in the long term. Most tellingly though, is Burke's promise to trade any and all unsigned UFAs by the deadline- a group that currently includes Cammi.

5. Calgary has won five in a row now (all at home). Is this just a fortuitous run, or do you expect the team to win significantly more games the rest of the year?

It's a weird mix of luck and real improvement. On the one hand, Calgary's actually played better in these games, rather than just getting lucky. Part of this can be attributed to some smarter player decisions (no more Shane O'brien, more Mikael Backlund, and so on. That said, I don't expect Calgary to continue winning like this long term. The trade deadline is going to see a lot of guys gone and replaced by prospects and AHLers, and realistically, they aren't a team that will win even 3 in a row on a regular basis.

Make sure to check out my answers to his questions here, as well as other pregame coverage, over at Matchsticks and Gasoline.

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