Five things: You know what they'll say to you

Ryan Lambert
March 21 2012 09:29AM

1. No intensity

Of course, it's not officially official or anything just yet, but that loss to Columbus (in the shootout though it was) following the one to Edmonton has me pretty well convinced.

Sorry.

I know it's been a divisive issue all year and in the end it's probably going to prove to have been a moot one: This team ain't makin' the playoffs. Blame injuries, blame the construction of the team, blame mediocre performances, blame ineffective roster shakeups, blame a lack of compete level in games against bad teams. Hell, blame it all. There's plenty of that to go around.

But when Calgary scores a grand total of two goals in 125 minutes against Devan Dubnyk and Steve Mason, there's no excuse. It's not like these weren't critical games. It's not like these weren't teams Calgary should have flattened. It's not even that I think they didn't compete hard.

They're just done. Having your season all but ended by Columbus in a shootout is such an indignity it's hard to understand. I don't say any of this lightly. I look at the Flames' opponents down the stretch and I see maybe one "easy" game — though for a team that lost back-to-back games against Edmonton and Columbus, what even constitutes "easy" at this point? — that being against Minnesota.

But these other games? Holy hell, what a gauntlet! Colorado, Dallas, Dallas, LA, Colorado, Vancouver, Vancouver, Anaheim. That's not even fair to have to play that many teams in competition for the same two spots, in addition to facing the Canucks twice. Yuck.

Let me put it this way, I've been watching a lot of that show "Luck" on HBO and I've been thinking a lot about horse racing as a consequence, and this strikes me very much as a team that was whipped fervently before it even came into the back stretch, and ran as hard as it could for as long as it could, and just didn't have the ability to keep the late surge going through to the finish line.

Let's be honest, that was a pretty hard charge the team made just to make it into the thick of this playoff hunt, and it was, in the end, pretty creditable. But at the same time, it's really starting to feel as though it wasn't enough. Can't say I blame the team, though. Most of us probably saw this coming, even if we didn't want to admit it.

(Author's note: I reserve the right to pretend I didn't say any of this stuff if they make the playoffs. Which they won't.)

2. Fare thee well, Svensanity

Nice to see Sven Baertschi get on the last liferaft out though. Women and children first, and all that.

But man, he has a chance to be very, very good. Even in the games where he didn't score (and remember, that was only two out of five) he was very much making things happen and his line looked rather threatening on many of its shifts.

Such a tantalizing little run of success, and especially impressive given the above discussion about how important those games were to the team. He can't do it all himself, though, and it would have been nice to see the team step up and compete in some meaningful way in his final NHL game, against its archrivals, who have nothing to play for but pride and an improved draft position.

No doubt he'll stick with the big club out of camp next year in case of disaster, and he'll have the benefit of returning to the WHL to play some hopefully important postseason games for Portland with both a great experience and a few days or valuable instruction from guys who have been in the NHL for years. Everyone benefited here.

3. And now Tim Jackman's back

Well at least they're trying to make it interesting, eh? Tim Jackman returned to the lineup for the Flames last night, just a few days after Lee Stempniak did the same.

It's a lot of too-little, too-late stuff as far as I'm concerned. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. After the iceberg. But hey, the Herald said yesterday that either Chris Butler or Blair Jones are back next. Never thought I'd say it, but Jones and Butler coming back, like, a week ago, probably get this team into the playoffs.

4. What about Brent?

Saw in Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts column that Flames fans were upset with Brent Sutter for starting Leland Irving against Edmonton in the Flames' loss.

Were they? I try to avoid anywhere that would have that kind of discussion about a coach who started his backup goalie against one of the worst teams in the league, but it wasn't like that decision was what cost the Flames the game. Only scoring one goal was what did it. If that was the point at which some fans said enough was enough with Sutter, well, the nicest thing I can say about them is they should be institutionalized.

I think it's a perfectly reasonable discussion to have, of course. Maybe Brent isn't the guy. Maybe he is. It's hard to tell, since he wasn't exactly handed a great set of tools the last two years. Missing the playoffs for what would be a third year all but assures he'll face the axe in the offseason, but where do you turn to replace him? Could anyone make this team better over 82 games?

Hard questions, no good answers.

5. NCAA prospect update

The NCAA tournament starts this week and Calgary's two most prominent college prospects (sorry John Ramage!) will be playing for the best team in the tournament.

Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold's Boston College Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the tourney and don't seem especially vulnerable in their run to it. BC has won 15 straight games — yes, really — and seems poised to at least advance to the Frozen Four for what would be the 10th time since 1998.

And it's been Gaudreau, the freshman, leading them there. In the past 17 games, he's scored 12-12-24. That streak includes being named the MVP of the Hockey East tournament for scoring 3-4-7 in just four games, including two goals and an assist in the title game to give the Eagles their third straight league championship. A good word for his performance the last few weeks would be "sensational."

Arnold, still just a sophomore, had 16 goals and 33 points for BC in 37 games, which is a decent amount, but on a team that deep, was only good for sixth on the team in scoring.

Their first-round NCAA opponent is 16th-seeded Air Force, upon whom they will rain hellfire upon from puck drop to final horn.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 VK63
March 21 2012, 10:35AM
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I wonder where Freidman found these upset flames fans about the Irving start? I mean... really?

Be better Elliot, don't let the joke of an institution you work for bring your insights down to the common level that exists in that money pit.

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#2 Kent Wilson
March 21 2012, 10:58AM
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@VK63

It was a pretty common sentiment after the game in some circles.

Which is, of course, insane. The Flames got completely outclassed by the Oil, scored one (fluke) goal and there's no saying Kipper would have made any of the stops Irving failed to. Plus, the kid has been decent in all but one start (Boston) he has seen this year.

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#3 James and Gary
March 21 2012, 11:16AM
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"It's not like these weren't critical games. It's not like these weren't teams Calgary should have flattened." Phoenix couldn't flatten the oilers either, maybe were just not good?

Oh! The banter!

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#4 Brent G.
March 21 2012, 11:20AM
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One of the most disheartening things I am finding with the Flames these days is knowing that we shouldnt expect anything different next year. Dont kid yourselves the Flames are done. Sure they all said the right things after the game last night but it is all over now.

Since the loss to Columbus I started thinking about next year (as most people did). We know Feaster is going to resign guys like Moss, Jokinen, Jones, etc. Some of them deserve it, others really dont deserve half the money they are going to get (*ahem* Jokinen). I think it bothers me the most because they are going to keep going back to the same well and it is still going to be dry time and time again. What i find most surprising is in my regular discussions with your average Flames fan, they can't fathom the idea of keeping things pretty much the same. Somehow some people think by Sarich not being here but keeping everything else exactly the same (but 1 year older) suddenly they will have success. When you mention the mere mention of trading a guy like Jay Bo, Kipper or Iggy they get instantly defensive. People cant imagine a team without them even though a this team without its top players is likely to be pretty much where they are today.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. With players like Jay Bo, and Jokinen they have had next to no success. They stumbled into the playoffs with Jokinen once and were outclassed in the process. why on earth would we not look to go in a different direction? Simply put the Flames dont have the skill to compete with every other team in the NHL and changes need to be made no matter how much it will hurt some. I, for one, welcome the changes that I know wont happen but can dream of anyways.

(I am not necessarily advocating we trade Iggy quite yet btw)

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#5 maimster
March 21 2012, 12:32PM
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The way the season is ending is frustrating enough without projecting a bunch of potentially bad off-season moves. I prefer to think that Feaster's bluster at the trade deadline indicates he at least understands that the team needs an infusion for next year (ignoring the fact that he may have showed he's incapable of thinking this way when he signed Babchuk last offseason).

Let's take a simple view of next year based upon who is actually signed (or in the case of Backlund will be), and not assume they're doing a blanket re-sign of their own free agents. They have Iginla, Tanguay, Cammalleri, Stajan, Backlund, Glencross - not terrible by any means, most of those guys top 6 ish. Add in Baertschi, and then Jones/Jackman and that's certainly a group that can be a base. I like Moss, but really he, Comeau, Stempniak, Jokinen, Kosto can all go and not be missed.

Similarly on D, Jay-Bo/Gio/Butler/Smith/Brodie is a reasonable group to add to (I'm ignoring Babchuk).

In net, I'd hate to trade Kipper because of that ol' soft spot in the heart, but the future is not bleak there either.

We all agree the prospect list isn't as long as we'd like, but it's not empty and those guys like Bouma/Nemisz/Horak/Byron who are the bridge to Reinhart/Gaudreau etc at least can hold their own near the bottom of the roster.

So, optimism abounds. No point in projecting all negative until it happens, is what I'm saying. Oh, and no reason to think Flames still can't go 6-2. One thing different from last year, they aren't as hopeless against the tough teams and great against the bad teams - they're mediocre against all teams! And if they can win five in a row, they can go 6-2.

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#6 suba steve
March 21 2012, 12:57PM
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@maimster

Problem, as I see it, is 6-2 still doesnt necessarily get you in. 6-2 gets you to 94pt, speculation has always been 95 might get you in/then again it might not. So, realistically, my money is on 7-1 getting you in for sure...however my money is not on the Flames.

To hit 95 points, but still no playoff guarantee: Avs need 5-2 (or 4-1-2 etc.) LA needs 5-3-1 Pho need 5-2-1 SJ need 6-2-1

All of these seem more likely then the Flames going 6-1-1 (to hit 95pt). If even 2 of these teams simply keep pace with Calgary, the Flames are out. Emphasis on THE FLAMES ARE OUT!

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#7 John Deere Green
March 21 2012, 01:02PM
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@maimster

So what your saying is that they are pretty much bringing back the same team for next year as they had this year? And your excited about that?

@Brent G

Well put. I agree 100%. Any chance you could send that to Feaster or Murray Edwards?

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#8 Tach
March 21 2012, 01:19PM
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"this strikes me very much as a team that was whipped fervently before it even came into the back stretch, and ran as hard as it could for as long as it could, and just didn't have the ability to keep the late surge going through to the finish line."

This a hundred times. And the same thing goes for this team for the last two seasons before this. I don't know if it is conditioning, coaching style, the players on this team or just plain bad luck. The last stretch of games just always has them looking so mediocre.

(Just to check my recollection, I did check historical scores. I can't figure out how to get as of a particular date standings, but the Flames came off a 4 game win streak on March 11, 2010. After that they went 6-8-1 and finished with 90 points.

Last year, it seems their strong stretch ended about March 9, 2011. They then went 5-5-3 int their last 13 to finish with 94 points.)

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#9 Jeff Lebowski
March 21 2012, 02:24PM
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Obviously the playoff chances don't look good. However and I know I'm in the minority, I don't think this team is that bad.

I think there is enough skill here. Not to the same degree as other teams but NYR seem to be a comparable to me (in style and talent).

The injuries have impacted. To me it's undeniable. It's the lack of bonus points that hurt. Yet to be able to be in those positions (to get bonus points) when so many key guys have been out for significant stretches says something. Kipper has been great.

12,40,93,20,13 have been good (not great) at generating offense during the year (except 93). However they seem to collectively go cold.

I don't knock Brent for his tactics. However he seems to not adjust in game well ie play the hot hand (18) on PP or change up his shootout guys. It seems there was more offense in the roster that just was locked up. Everything is easy to critique in hindsight however.

In stating the obvious, the key goal has been missing this year. Calgary's getting the saves but not the goals (on balance).

Really no consistent offense from the back end and I think that can be attributed to the tactics (fear of odd man rushes against). Smith got reamed for bad pinches. Babchuk never got utilized (he's bad defensively but he scored in the past).

They have played well against good opposition but when they really need it (now) they haven't given it (because they haven't had the all their horses).

I may be so wrong, just an apologist but I just feel it's not so terrible. We're not Columbus (ironic) that it needs to be start from scratch.

It's just crazy bad luck this year. Maybe it's crazy good luck to be in the hunt this late again. I don't know.

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#10 maimster
March 21 2012, 02:35PM
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@John Deere Green

Pretty sure I didn't say that; I'd prefer they don't sign any of their free agents and infuse some new blood. They aren't getting a top 3 forward via free agency or trade, but they can add pieces and change the mix. My point was I'm not going to rend my garments in despair about moves they haven't made yet.

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#11 John Deere Green
March 21 2012, 03:20PM
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@maimster

I get that. I guess my point is this, you have an 82 AMC Pacer, the engine and tranny are gone. The rearend seals are leaking. The owner of the car runs done to auto-parts-r-us and buys new rims and tires. He then takes it to an autobody shop and puts a pristine paint job on it. Sooner or later the core of the Pacer will need to be replaced other wise your flogging a dead horse. I know it's a piss poor example but it's somewhat how this Flames organization is being driven.

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#12 Tears of RED
March 21 2012, 03:21PM
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For the 4th or 5th year in a row the Flames have tanked again in March when it really matters. Was it last year when they went on that eastern road and couldn't beat the lowly Islanders?

It would just seem fitting if they lose to Minny tomorrow night. The obituary for 2011-12 can be sum up by the fact they lost to the 13, 14th and 15th place teams in the conference.

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#13 maimster
March 21 2012, 03:36PM
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@John Deere Green

Decent analogy. The question is can the core of the Pacer be replaced/upgraded/made 'younger' without tearing the car into pieces and hoping you can find the parts to put it back together. I believe it can, but it is difficult to do a)when the core is the best core you've ever had in that car ad b)the guys replacing the core don't know what constitutes a good engine. I get the concern that the leadership team (owner/prez/GM) may be the wrong team - no getting around that, and I'm not minimizing that. However, I'd still rather not tear down because it's worked twice (and only worked for Pens because of the Crosby lottery) and hasn't worked many, many, many times.

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#14 gussey
March 21 2012, 03:55PM
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The chase for playoffs, its over. This off season is what we are looking at. If I'm in charge, I look at the rebuild. Not that I see trading iggy or anything, but I look at not resigning any of the free agents we have unless you get value (eg oli for much less than the 5 mil he's looking for). I have heard a lot of radio shows talk about lots of teams need for a #1 goalie. I'm sure a 1st and 2nd could be got for kipper. I would trade anyone else u could get value for. Possibly stajen after his scoring streak, etc.

Its time to move on. I'm tired of watching and being interested in flames, and not have anything good happen.

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#15 John Deere Green
March 21 2012, 03:58PM
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@maimster

Funny how there is no real answer right or wromg on this subject I guess. I'm in no means advocating a true-blue 100% blowup like Edmonton. I just don't see how that can work. However, like my point with the Pacer, I just think it's time to move on from Iginla and Kipper. I realize that by moving just those two players may signal a blowup, but I can see some significant players coming back that could move this team in a new direction. The Flames organization has to realize that it's time to build around a new core that will/may be here for the next decade. I just think watching the younger teams, it's more exciting and the future looks a little brighter, and I don't see how the Flames can get real young 1A talent by not trading Iginla and Kipper. I don't know what the right answer is, but I sure appreciate your point of view as well. It's nice to be able to chat back and forth without someone calling you four-letter names for not bowing to Iginla's greatness. Cheers!

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#16 FireOnIce
March 21 2012, 05:08PM
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Looks like Sarich probably got concussed on that hit from David Jones last night, he's back in Calgary with an "upper body" injury. Chalk one up to the injury list, start tearing down the Saddledome for summer concerts. This ship has sailed.

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