Top to bottom, the Calgary Flames look like one of the top teams in the league each of the last 2 seasons and including the one upcoming. However, these teams have failed to produce to the hefty standards of the entire city. Having sat in my seat in the 'dome to watch us lose back-to-back playoff series at home I can safely say I miss the grinders of 2004.
I'm not so happy to say that I know the reason we fail to win on the road and fail to accomplish the elite standards we set for our team.
What most Flames fans fail to recognize or admit and I'll even say a lot of experts seem to overlook is the way the Flames are put together and the way they perform. We are not the team that other clubs hate to play anymore. That pains me. Now, there are members of our team that will crush you if you put your head down or go into the boards with them, but most of our team will try and "Tanguay" it out with a little pokecheck between your skates. The battles along the boards that our team used to be so good at are now lost. Our team used to cycle better than any other along the opposing teams boards. This doesn't happen anymore.
So sure, Alex Tanguay, Roman Hamrlik, Tony Amonte and other additions since 2004 were all well and great on paper. But I find myself wondering if trading Chris Clark, Blair Betts, Mike Commodore and Steve Montador away weren't major mistakes. Those guys never stopped competing and wouldn't let themselves get beat along the boards. I'm not saying I protested the deals at the time, but looking back I can't help but wonder. Along those lines; I loved the Brad Stuart deal, but in order to get it done, we had to give up Andrew Ference. Although undersized, there wasn't a guy on our team that outworked him. We missed that presence in the playoffs.
I can only hope the addition of Mike Keenan will help to address the lack of grit on our team and help to get us back to the playoffs and make another run.
As for the Edmonton Oilers offseason which I've been asked about so often. I don't think they are a playoff contender and I think they'll finish in the basement of the northwest. However, when it comes to the battle of Alberta they may just have a leg up now. The Flames are incredibly weak at covering point shots and are extremely vulnerable to goals by opposing D-men. Especially those with cannons; look no further than Souray's 2 goal performance against us. Also, I remember when Bertuzzi was playing well and would dominate in games against the Flames. Well, now we get to see Dustin Penner 8 times a year! They may not make the playoffs but they could make a run at evening out the battle of Alberta that has been dominated by the Flames over the last 3 seasons.