The Calgary Flames’ all-Canadian 2009-10 schedule continues Tuesday evening at The House Roger Johansson Built when the Montreal Canadiens come calling.
The meeting is notable in that it’s not anywhere near New Year’s Eve, which not so long ago was the traditional date for Le Bleu-blanc-rouge’s annual visit to Cowtown. It’s also notable in that in marks to return of one of the most recent one-year Flames wonders that are so prevalent now in this ultra-disposable world of the current CBA.
As short-term/we-hardly-knew-you Flames go (and the recent list includes the likes of Chris Drury, Todd Bertuzzi, Owen Nolan, Brad Stuart, Alex Tanguay, etc.) Michael Cammalleri was a better, less acrimonious story than most. From the moment he joined the club, one year away from full-fledged free agency, the little guy’s stay in Southern Alberta was destined to be a short one and so there was little shock value and fewer hurt feelings on all sides come separation time.
The Flames already had a lot of loonies invested in the core players whose names and major salaries you know by now and the machinations leading to the additions of Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester was the equivalent of a "Mazel tov for the great season, hope to see you at an alumni function some day down the road" to Cammalleri. Blinded by their fandom, some Flames backers hoped Cammalleri would take a "hometown" discout to play for a team that’s two timezones away from his actual hometown but after potting a career-high 39 goals, but given the current cap situation, Cammalleri would have needed to discount himself down to $6.75 an hour.
To Cammalleri’s credit, he was too honest to snow Calgarians with false promises of his undying love for the city and the hockey club and hollow vows of his intention to stay. He never came out and said he was going to be one and done as a Flame, choosing instead to defer all talk of the subject, but the guy was obviously sharp enough to realize that the deck was stacked against his return.
He seemed genuinely happy to be a member of the Flames, however briefly, and his recent conversation with the Calgary Herald’s George Johnson goes beyond merely saying all the right things. Best of all, by signing with the Canadiens, he proved wrong all the smart-alecs who smugly declared it was done deal that Cammalleri was going to be a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
From a pure hockey standpoint, it’s difficult to assess the impact of Cammalleri’s absence in Calgary until the results of the David Moss-on-portside experiment are known. While nothing should be taken away from Cammalleri’s excellent performance on the power play, would it surprise you to know he had the exact same number of non-power play points as Craig Conroy? And even Cammalleri’s most ardent admirers will admit his defensive work was hardly likely to ever attract the attention of the Selke voters.
There will unquestionably be times this season when the power play will be oh-fer and the fans will be longing for Cammalleri’s Al Jolson-followthrough one-timer but the bottom line is the Flames should be grateful for the one productive season he gave Calgary and mindful of the fact that keeping No. 13 would have meant doing without No. 4.
As for Tuesday’s game, is this the weirdest ever matchup of 2-0 teams? The Flames have two straight wins despite being outshot 44-76 and the Habs have been even worse, getting their victories despite a 44-81 shots differential. Something has to give, right?