Well, the season finally comes to an end and the Calgary Flames have missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003. What is wrong? What needs to be done? What has transpired that led to this? Well to diagnose the problem we must go back to the beginning.
The season opened in early October with a much hyped match-up between the Flames and their arch rival Vancouver Canucks. The Flames jumped out to a 3-0 lead, only to white-knuckle the steering wheel and hold on for a 5-3 win; a sign of things to come maybe?
The Flames open with four straight wins, scoring four or more goals in each game.
October 12th against the Blackhawks; a game that defined the entire disappointing season. The Flames scored five goals in the first 11 minutes of the game to get some revenge on the Hawks for knocking them out of the playoffs a year earlier. However, the Flames proceeded to give up the lead and lose 6-5 on overtime, being out shot 39-20 in the process.
City of Calgary gasps, “Did that really just happen?”
The Flames shove that game into their subconscious and regain their form for the next 10 games going 8-2-1.
Road block: a 7-1 thumping on home ice to, you guessed it, the Chicago Blackhawks. They allowed four power play goals in this game alone.
The Flames bounce back again and go 5-0-1 over the next six games. Kiprusoff has re-discovered his ‘vezina like’ form and has a shutout streak of 159 minutes and 10 seconds, including a November 30th 5-0 victory over the Nashville Predators.
December 1st : the beginning of the end.
The Flames go 6-6-1 in December while only averaging two goals per game. If not for #34, the Flames possibly lose every one of these matches.
2010 arrives and the Flames dive bomb faster than a Denny’s waitress on Eldrick Woods and go through a stretch where they lose 11 of 12 games, including a 9-1 disembodiment at the hands of the San Jose Sharks.
Rock bottom is officially here.
This stretch of futility leads to Darryl Sutter reaching over to his file drawer and finding a file marked: “Use when you are out of ideas.” Sutter proceeds to give away one of the Flames best assets, Dion Phaneuf, for nothing more than spare parts and replaceable players (possibly exclude Ian White as he is a serviceable player).
Sutter is not done there, as less than 24 hours later he strikes a deal with the Rangers to send “That prized center man we’ve always wanted” away, a year after he had botched a trade to get him with the Pheonix Coyotes. Just to refresh your memory at last years trade deadline, the Flames dealt Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a 1st Round pick in this years draft for Olli Jokinen.
Lombardi: 19G, 34 A
Jokinen: 15G, 35A
First Round Pick: Something the Flames desperately need
The trades do nothing to spark the offence and they lose three of four heading into the Olympic break and sit on the edge of the playoff picture.
The Olympics end with Flames Captain Jarome Iginla setting up Sidney Crosby for the Golden goal and the country goes ballistic. Flames fans maybe figure it is a good omen for the team and their optimistic playoff aspirations.
After getting embarrassed at home by the Wild 4-0 (one of four games the Flames were shut out on home ice), the Flames run off four in a row to re-invigorate the city’s hopes of seeing playoff hockey again.
Alas, this was just a mirage and the Flames score only 32 goals in their remaining 15 games, and play some of the most un-inspirational hockey ever seen to lose four straight to close out the season.
So, clearly a common theme has arisen here; problems putting the little black piece of rubber into the 4 x 6. Apparently, this is how teams win hockey games, or so the rules are stated.
The philosophy going into the season was that the defence would be better and the offence would not slow down as a result. Well, the defence was alright but the offence disappeared.
With the trades that were made by Sutter mid-season and the moves he made last season (getting Olli and giving up Cammy), he has left the Flames searching for goal-scoring talent.
Let me show you what I mean:
(I have excluded Iginla as he is the whole legitimate threat on the team.)
Can you find one legitimate top line player there? Bourque is growing into the role. Stajan is far too soft. Langkow has lost a step. Backlund has the potential but the guy has only played 20 NHL games. The rest of the Flames are grinders and checkers or soft forwards who can not have a significant impact on the game and are inter-changeable on any rosters 3rd or 4th line.
Sutter is stuck in 2004. The “New” NHL train came and Darryl was in the bathroom dropping off the kids. The game is about skill and the Flames have none, or simply not enough. This responsibility should be Darryl’s and Darryl’s alone.
The 2004 grace period has officially expired and it is time to move on if the Flames ever plan on digging themselves out of this quagmire of mediocre players and ridiculous mismanagement.
Sutter called the Flames a “Good team” on in his press conference on Monday.
I disagree. The Flames have a great goaltender and a decent defence, but far from a good hockey team. A good hockey team averages more than 2.45 goals per game (29th in league) and 2.32 GPG on home ice (Last in NHL). You can not call a team that does not know how to do the most important thing in hockey, a ‘good’ team. A team that can not score is actually a ‘bad’ team, and that is what the Flames have become.
Sutter also used lame excuses like “The East vs. West”, in saying that if the Flames were in the East they would be in the playoffs. Are you kidding? You actually expect fans to buy that bull$%&#? The Flames are in the West and are not going anywhere and what the East does should not concern the Flames. That insults the fan base if anything else.
Basically, the decision lies with Ownership and whether they decide or not to stay the course with Sutter. If they give him one more year, Flames fans can expect a similar fate next year and will be calling for his head again.
I looked back on the blog I wrote talking about the season that was and it read:
“My guess would be is that another mediocre season results in the same drivel us die hard Flames fans have come to expect come spring time. And unless the Flames crash and burn and miss the playoffs then we are stuck with the Viking Flames for some time to come.”
Well I was right on the first point and hopefully now the Flames owners do the right thing and give this team a chance to breathe. ‘Sutter-style hockey’ is way past its due date and must be thrown out immediately.
This has been,
Newman on the Flames
Read more: http://calgaryontheflames.blogspot.com/