An eery silence has settled on the Flames fanship today. In the immediate aftermath of the gut punch loss to the Detroit, there was the expected wailing and gnashing of teeth. Our own Pat Steinberg no doubt fielded angry calls deep into the night. Today, however, in the cold light of a late winter morning, a sort of bland resignation seems to have taken hold of the faithful at large. Perhaps it’s because, with 13 games left on the schedule, it’s far too early to begin the Flames eulogy. While many may be planning the post-mortem, the truth is the patient isn’t quite dead yet.
Like the malingering peasant in a Monty Python movie, no one really expects the Flames playoff hopes to survive, however. Calgary’s chances of making the dance dipped to 20% after last night’s loss. I think the floundering hopes of the fanbase runs deeper than just the single 2009-10 longshot, however. After 5 consecutive seasons of high expectations, heavy payrolls, late year collapses and first round ousters, Flames fans are taking on the sallow helplessness of a the perpetually disappointed. The endless rotation of support staff and coaches, without a marked improvement in results, has made this season’s fall from grace seem somehow fatalistic and inexorable to the followers of this franchise. Would any Flames fan, for example, put money on the club to win their first round matchup should they somehow manage to sneak into the play-off picture?
The continued fidelity to the tragic script of spend high-play well-lose out-fail miserably has an almost Shakespearian quality to it, right down to the hubiristic fatal flaw of the primary protagonist in question. Were this a Thomas Hardy novel, one would likely find Darryl Sutter alone in an isolated farm, a single drink clutched in his hand, penning a final missive demanding no funeral and no one to mourn his passing.
It’s not over, yet, of course. An unlikely reversal of fortune, a sudden 9 game winning streak, and an upset in the first round isn’t impossible yet. But it remains really, really unlikely. And the fact that the prospect of failure seems familiar and in no way foreign is perhaps the most distasteful part for the long suffering fans of this organization. In addition, the immediate future holds no promise of succor; no real avenues for advancement or improvement given the club’s lack of prospects, picks and cap flexibility means further disappointment on the horizon.
The silence in town is rather deafening today. While a portion of the fanbase is busy dressing up effigies to burn, another portion may have ceased to care altogether.