Are the playoffs over yet?

Jean Lefebvre
May 12 2010 09:39PM

So, is it Next Year yet?

It's been a full 32 days since the Calgary Flames stopped playing hockey this season but it has seemed no longer than seven-and-a-half months.

For those in this corner of the NHL world who chose to continue paying attention, there was much rejoicing when the Vancouver Canucks were once again ousted by the Chicago Blackhawks. Heaven forbid if Flames fans lose the ability to lord their one Stanley Cup over their left-coast neighbours.

There was much wailing in Vancouver over the spring-long absence of Willie Mitchell and the late-stages lameness of Sami Salo and Alexander Edler, but that elicited nothing more than scoffs in the other Canadian city touched by May Madness, Montreal having lost blue-liners Andrei Markov and Paul Mara while making do with a lacerated and crocheted Hal Gill.

Oh, speaking of the Canadiens, it would seem a member of the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge with a Calgary connection has been making some noise in the post-season. We're speaking of course of Roman Hamrlik, who is one of an astounding 11 Habs players advancing to the third round despite being a minus player in the first two. Old Hammer at least has the cold comfort of knowing he's not Marc-Andre Bergeron, who is a mere minus-10 so far in the post-season (and only heaven knows how deep in the red he'd be without Jaroslav Halak).

The Canadiens have been responsible for a lot of remarkable numbers so far in the playoffs, not the least of which is their 5-0 record in elimination games. This one's a real attention-grabber, too — Montreal ranks 11th in the playoffs with 2.79 goals per game, well back of the two teams they've eliminated, namely Pittsburgh (3.23) and Washington (3.14).

And yeah, OK, that Michael Cammalleri dude almost everyone in Flames Nation is talking about and pining over? Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter certainly deserves heat for some of his personnel moves but the magnitude of the abuse he's absorbing on this Cammalleri business is preposterous. Based on decibel level, some of the angry Flames fans presently groaning about the decision to keep Olli Jokinen over Cammalleri (an overly simplistic view to begin with) must surely have come from the mob of disgruntled natives criticizing Cammalleri's production (one goal in six games) during Calgary's series with Chicago in 2009.

Besides, what would a playoff season be without Southern Alberta anguish about the one that got away? Remember Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2003? Martin St-Louis in 2004? Derek Morris in . . . OK, forget that last one. Just wait if Cammalleri and Hamrlik and the Habs should happen to hook up with Scott Nichol and the Sharks in this year's final.

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Lefebvre is in that awkward stage of hockey following -- old enough to fondly remember the Cleveland Barons and too set in his ways to accept charity points and games where there's a winner but apparently no loser. As a long-time ink-stained wretch, he's also a firm believer in the old Bobby Knight quote about journalists: "All of us learn to write in second grade, but most of us go on to better things."
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#1 R O
May 13 2010, 07:40AM
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And yeah, OK, that Michael Cammalleri dude almost everyone in Flames Nation is talking about and pining over? Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter certainly deserves heat for some of his personnel moves but the magnitude of the abuse he's absorbing on this Cammalleri business is preposterous. Based on decibel level, some of the angry Flames fans presently groaning about the decision to keep Olli Jokinen over Cammalleri (an overly simplistic view, to begin with) must surely have come from the disgruntled natives criticizing Cammalleri's production (one goal in six games) during Calgary's series with Chicago in 2009.

Yeah Jean, what the simple minds don't realize is you don't get jobs like GM for the ability to look backwards. Any fool with an Internet connection can do that, and judging by the comments about Cammalleri, some are really trying to live up to that condemnation.

And I think we can all forgive Darryl for not thinking that Cammalleri can actually bury his chances better than Mario in his prime, unless there's somebody in the audience delusional enough to think that it's possible.

Then again, someone yesterday had the wherewithal to suggest that Cammalleri could replace Iginla as the "face of the franchise". Please. These people don't even watch the games, apparently, and they have the memory of goldfish. Brain-damaged goldfish.

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#2 Kent Wilson
May 13 2010, 07:53AM
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Sutter's error in the summer was symbolically represented by Cammalleri walking away, even if it wasn't manifest in that move in particular. The Flames entered the season with one of the most expensive bluelines in the league and, if I remember correctly, the third cheapest forward corps.

I don't know if re-signing Cammalleri was possible, nor even if it was the right thing to do given the $6M he got from MTL. But the decision to enter the season with a top 6 consisting of Langkow, Iginla, Jokinen, Bourque, Dawes and question mark was needlessly risky, particularly for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

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#3 R O
May 13 2010, 08:16AM
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Sutter's error in the summer was symbolically represented by Cammalleri walking away, even if it wasn't manifest in that move in particular. The Flames entered the season with one of the most expensive bluelines in the league and, if I remember correctly, the third cheapest forward corps.

I don't put much into the $$ of the forwards. If they are good, the cheaper the better, if not then a high price tag would cripple the team.

The real error was walking into the season without enough difference-makers at forward. The problem could be traced probably all the way back to the 2008 offseason where Tanguay was traded. Or even further back when Phaneuf was signed to a contract that he probably couldn't fulfill (and I was a big Phaneuf booster in 09/10) thus cramping our ability to ice a squad of forward difference-makers. And of course the Jokinen trade was an obvious mis-step.

I don't know, I suspect we wouldn't be talking about this at all if Iginla was still elite, so one could argue that the real problem is that Sutter put all his eggs in one basket. That just won't do in hockey. I'm not certain what he could've done about it though, that kind of talent is rare and big-press-clipping forward UFAs have come and gone with mixed results. Still, one wonders if Sutter could have bought us some insurance that way or via a big trade like 07/08-Richards.

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#4 R O
May 13 2010, 08:40AM
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By the way, this quote from Crosby is just not getting enough press.

Crosby: "I don't know many teams that go out there with the intention of getting outchanced 2-1 every game and try to hang around."

So damn true on every level imaginable.

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#6 R O
May 13 2010, 10:46AM
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Jean Lefebvre wrote:

It's hard to evaluate the Crosby quote out of context but it certainly seems to be part of line of thinking that has been Montreal's biggest asset in these playoffs. Because of the unorthodox way the Canadiens have been winning, it's hard for anyone to take them seriously. That includes the two opponents that have let series slip away.

I don't know how much more in context the quote could be. He's clearly talking about Montreal, and insinuating that they suck.

And it's true.

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#7 Wanye
May 13 2010, 11:28AM
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Ah Marc Andre Bergeron. I seem to recall him effing up another Canadian Team's chances of winning the Stanley Cup a few years back...

*goes back to torching MAB voodoo doll with a zippo*

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#8 Domebeers.com
May 13 2010, 11:53AM
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@R O

This is silly. I havent looked, but I imagine Montreal was leading for most of their games, and when Montreal has a lead, they trap. Which means they give up chances.

And in fact, I think there are about 29 teams in this league that trap with a lead.

Honestly, hanging ones hat on scoring chances and not goals makes Sid look a little pathetic to me.

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#10 Kent Wilson
May 13 2010, 11:57AM
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Domebeers.com wrote:

This is silly. I havent looked, but I imagine Montreal was leading for most of their games, and when Montreal has a lead, they trap. Which means they give up chances.

And in fact, I think there are about 29 teams in this league that trap with a lead.

Honestly, hanging ones hat on scoring chances and not goals makes Sid look a little pathetic to me.

MTL has been outshot and outchanced with the score tied as well. It's not just playing to score effect, although there was a lot of that in the game last night.

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#11 Kent Wilson
May 13 2010, 12:03PM
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R O wrote:

Sutter's error in the summer was symbolically represented by Cammalleri walking away, even if it wasn't manifest in that move in particular. The Flames entered the season with one of the most expensive bluelines in the league and, if I remember correctly, the third cheapest forward corps.

I don't put much into the $$ of the forwards. If they are good, the cheaper the better, if not then a high price tag would cripple the team.

The real error was walking into the season without enough difference-makers at forward. The problem could be traced probably all the way back to the 2008 offseason where Tanguay was traded. Or even further back when Phaneuf was signed to a contract that he probably couldn't fulfill (and I was a big Phaneuf booster in 09/10) thus cramping our ability to ice a squad of forward difference-makers. And of course the Jokinen trade was an obvious mis-step.

I don't know, I suspect we wouldn't be talking about this at all if Iginla was still elite, so one could argue that the real problem is that Sutter put all his eggs in one basket. That just won't do in hockey. I'm not certain what he could've done about it though, that kind of talent is rare and big-press-clipping forward UFAs have come and gone with mixed results. Still, one wonders if Sutter could have bought us some insurance that way or via a big trade like 07/08-Richards.

While it's true that big money doesn't not necessarily = better forwards, there's definitely a correlation between the two. Your chain of antecedents is probably correct though in that the Flames have been gently bleeding good to very good talent up front for a few years (Tanguay, Huselius, Cammalleri, Conroy getting older) while not really stemming the bleeding because they've been shunting the dollars to the back-end (Phaneuf raise, Regehr raise, Bouwmeester, and now Staios and possibly White). Perhaps the biggest mistake was not trading Phaneuf in the summer, when the move could have been done slowly and deliberately with a view to maximizing the return.

As you say, everything was exacerbated by Iginla taking a giant step backwards. The real fault was building around him as if he was going to be elite indefinitely I guess.

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#12 R O
May 13 2010, 12:06PM
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This is silly. I havent looked, but I imagine Montreal was leading for most of their games, and when Montreal has a lead, they trap. Which means they give up chances. And in fact, I think there are about 29 teams in this league that trap with a lead. Honestly, hanging ones hat on scoring chances and not goals makes Sid look a little pathetic to me.

Oh, you haven't looked. Then you don't know.

In fact, many teams in this league let up with a lead but the magnitude to which Montreal got dominated clearly implies skill-based domination beyond the usual score effects.

I thought you were a reality guy at one point but I was sorely mistaken. You can go cheer for these loser teams like the Avs and the Habs if you like, just let me know how next season goes.

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#13 R O
May 13 2010, 12:07PM
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Of course he's talking about Montreal, it's just that it has the appearance of a statement that is followed by a BUT or an ALL THAT SAID and then another remark that may elaborate on the first line. Coming from a guy who managed one even-strength point in the series, the hope is that it's a little more than a "But we outplayed them" whine.

There was a "but", it's irrelevant though.

When was the last time you heard a player astute enough to talk about this kind of thing? Most of them just spout the usual BS about timely scoring and big saves.

The coaches usually reveal themselves to be much smarter than that, in moments of weakness, but generally speaking the players are dumb as tacks. This Crosby, he's not only a good hockey player but clearly a thinker too.

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