Before proceeding with our regularly scheduled topic today, here’s a question to ponder: Does it seem like Olli Jokinen is making more noise about the Flames now than he ever did for the majority of the time he actually wore the Calgary uniform?
Since being handed a suitcase and pointed out the Saddledome door, Jokinen has grumbled about Calgary fans and media being responsible for two lost points in his Flames swan song — Monday’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers (Jokinen was pointless, minus-1 and lost six of eight faceoffs in that game by the way).
He’s also taken a shot at Flames fans for not "accepting" defenceman Dion Phaneuf, a remarkable observation for a chap who spent less than eight months in Calgary. Of course, in 36 regular-season home games with the Flames, Jokinen managed all of three goals, so whose acceptance is he really talking about?
But enough about that. The true topic at hand today is the abrupt turnaround in the mood of the Flames fanbase in the wake of Darryl Sutter’s wheeling and dealing and a couple of victories over remarkably unremarkable Southeast Division outfits. It’s the fickle nature of spectating that many in Flames Nation have gone from "oh-god-please-let-there-be-a-followup-move-to-the-acquisition-of-Kotalik-like-getting-Lecavalier-or-Kovalchuk-or-Richards-or-Whitney-heck-even-Colby-Armstrong" to "hey-that-Kotalik-doesn’t-seem-like-a-dog-at-all-and doesn’t-he-look-great-playing-with-Higgins-and-Langkow?" in less time than it takes for the Flames GM to break into a grimace.
After a gut-wrenching stretch of upheaval (which followed a mind-numbing period of bad hockey) the Flames faithful can be forgiven for their desperation to clutch onto something positive and their convenient amnesia when it comes to the inconvenient fact Kotalik had recently been a frequent healthy scratch for a team starved for goals from anyone who doesn’t share a first name with Mrs. C from Happy Days.
Yes, the Flames looked pretty snappy in limiting their opponents to 13 shots on goal Friday night and yes, Calgary has yet to allow an even-strength marker in the Kotalik-Higgins Era (and how’s that for a phrase you never thought you’d ever read or hear?) But there’s a reason no one has ever coined the phrased "The Road to the Stanley Cup is Paved With One-goal Victories Over the Florida Panthers" and there’s still cause for concern about (among other things) the play of the captain, who has one even-strength goal in the past 17 games.
And there’s also the psychological toll of occupying eighth place in the Western Conference standings and knowing that the Detroit Red Wings are the closest object in your rear-view mirror.
But hope is the theme of today’s entry, so Flames fans should perhaps look at the case of the Ottawa Senators (Calgary’s opponent on Tuesday, by the way) and take heart. Back on Jan. 12, the Senators were thumped 6-1 by the Atlanta Thrashers for crying out loud and their goaltending was so goshawful that Bryan Murray must have been tempted to dig up phone numbers for Damian Rhodes. Don Beaupre and/or Ron Tugnutt. Now, just 24 days and 11 straight wins later, the Sens have gone from keeping company with the Canadiens and Islanders of the Eastern Conference world to stepping on the heels of the division-leading Buffalo Sabres.
TLP will surely be along later today with some Fire Drill insight on tonight’s game, but in the meantime know that the Tampa Bay Lightning have moved back into the East’s top eight with a 5-1-1 run and that Antero Niittymaki has allowed just seven goals in his past six starts.