January 18 2012 10:53AM
1. The Cammalleri trade
So I'm watching the Bruins/Canadiens game last week — you know, as you do — and Mike Cammalleri sure isn't getting a lot of playing time as the second period wore on.
I got it though. It was a day after he said all that stuff about the Habs playing with a losing attitude, which the francophone press conflated to "playing like losers" (in what was actually a shockingly successful attempt to run a guy out of town; the French-speaking media really needed a win after they couldn't oust Cunneyworth, after all) so I figure this is some sort of penance.
But then he didn't come out for the third period and that was when I started thinking maybe he got traded.
It was weird to see a guy get yanked in the middle of the game, but it was also excruciatingly interesting to watch all the drama unfold on Twitter. The dispatches came fast and furious, informed and not, indiscriminately. Cammalleri pulled from game, Camalleri sent to hotel, Cammalleri told to wait for more details, Cammalleri told he's been traded but not to what team, Cammalleri might have been traded to Calgary, Cammalleri definitely was traded to Calgary, Cammalleri was traded to Calgary for Rene Bourque.
We've never seen anything unfold like that before, and probably never will again. It would have been even more enthralling had it not all been so hideously related to Calgary.
2. What it means to me
Now don't get me wrong, I think Mike Cammalleri is a very good hockey player who found himself in a bad situation on a team that, as he said, had a losing attitude. And in being traded to Calgary for that rockhead Rene Bourque, he probably got what he ultimately wanted.
I'm not even especially off-put by all the talk about Cammalleri being kind of a pain in the ass in the room and none of his Montreal teammates really liking him. We've all had jobs where we loved our coworkers and jobs where we didn't and jeez what do you know I bet we all liked working at the place where we liked 'em more than the ones where we didn't. I always got the sense that, like a couple other guys, Cammalleri never really wanted to leave Calgary but didn't have a choice. He can't feel too bad about what he did in that one season in town, right? So that's all fine.
But the reason I objected to the trade the second it happened is what I thought it symbolized. That horror creeping up the back of my skull was manifested when, the next day, Jay Feaster said the Flames were "going for it." With "it" being "the absurd dream of the playoffs."
And I know what you're going to say. "There aren't a lot of teams outside the top four or five teams in the West that are appreciably better than the Flames, and Cammalleri probably makes them a better team. The playoffs are realistic." Sure they are, but as I've said a million times (approximately!) before, to what end? They sneak into the seven or eight seed, make a million bucks or so a night on the small handful of home dates they receive as they get trampled by the Canucks or Sharks or Blackhawks and then...?
It's misguided. Of course it is. This team is no closer to being able to compete legitimately for home ice in the Western Conference, let alone to be one of the top teams in the league, after the trade than it was before it, and Feaster pledging the team would push all-in seems pretty dumb considering it's the hockey equivalent of a three-five offsuit.
(Or whatever. What's a mediocre hand that's not likely to win? I don't play poker.)
3. And to those who would admonish me
As an outspoken advocate of rebuilding, I've been tsk-tsked a few times in the last week for believing that strip-it-down reworking of the team's roster so that it can more effectively tank for high draft picks.
"Look," my critics say, "at the crap job they've done of it in Edmonton."
And it's true. Edmonton has finished outside the playoffs in every season since the one in which they fluked their way to the Stanley Cup Final and Chris Pronger begged his way out of town. In just two of those campaigns have they finished higher than fifth in the division. So it would appear that simply resigning oneself to five or seven years of really poor results isn't always the solution. Of course, that ignores that the Penguins more or less did the same thing about seven years before the Oilers did and it seemed to have worked out pretty well for them (getting to draft the best player of his generation sure didn't hurt either).
But let me say that my position has never been, "Well an attempted rebuild will definitely work." But I think it's something that should be tried, because obviously, sticking with a core of guys who are north of 30 isn't getting the job done. If you're not going to make the playoffs, would you rather finish 10th in the West and like 20th in the league or between 13th and 15th/26th and 30th?
I know why I would pick the latter. I'm legitimately interested to see why some people would choose the former.
4. Tough road ahead
And now on to more at-hand business than all this theoretical and philosophical stuff:
If the Flames want to be taken seriously as contenders for a playoff spot in the West, and they clearly do at this point, the next few days will be big. I'm writing this ahead of the game with San Jose so I don't know how that's going to go obviously (2-1 SOL - ed.), but if ever there was a three-game road trip to legitimize a team's pretensions, this might be it.
San Jose is a Western Conference power and seems to be one more or less in perpetuity at this point, as they were, coming into the game, a plus-24 in goal differential, third in the West despite a poor start and only five points out of the top spot with three games in hand on St. Louis and four on Vancouver. A strong, improving team making a nice little charge up the standings with just two regulation losses in their last 16 games.
Los Angeles is the second date of the road trip and that serves as another good measuring stick. The Kings were, like the Sharks, not great to start the season, and, having hired Darryl Sutter, are now pretty much killing it out there, underwhelming OT loss to Edmonton on Sunday aside. They already beat the re-Cammalleried Flames and did it convincingly, but they're far better on the road than they are at home, so it will be interesting to see if Staples Center remains a problem for Calgary, which has won just one of its last four there.
Two road games in three days against two very good teams playing generally great hockey is a tough ask. But then there's the game at Edmonton to close out the mini-trip, which could be problematic itself. Will the team be able to get up for a game against its laboring archrivals after two assumedly-trying contests on the coast? That might be the most interesting aspect of all this.
Frankly, you'd have to be happy with three points from the trip, and downright delighted with any more than that.
5. Here's the moment you've all been waiting for
Sorry about all that. Here's Jarome.