The end, mercifully

Colorado Avalanche v Calgary Flames


The agonizing death march has finally concluded, aptly enough with yet another one goal performance. The Flames were by no means bad last night against San Jose; like many other nights this season they were simply stifled by a lack of creativity and finish. I won’t say that was the Flames only problem this year – there’s been some very obvious possession and special teams issues – but it has frequently been the most glaring. Charlie Simmer’s "get bodies to the net, keep it simple" cliche seems to have been the club’s offensive mantra this season, and when pucks started deflecting into the corner rather the net sometime in November (as they were bound to) the wins became a whole lot tougher to come by. 

Like the previous game in Chicago, Calgary played the Sharks more or less to a draw, but were down through two thanks to the bounces. And like the loss to the Hawks, the Flames pressed hard for the equalizer in the third (shots 15-4 in favor of the Flames), but were unable to make up the difference. Jarome Iginla went pointless for his 4th straight game (despite favorable circumstances and 22 minutes of ice) and many of the usual bright spots were good again: Rene Bourque scored the Flames lone goal, Mark Giordano was a force to be reckoned with and Mikael Backlund displayed some of the raw offensive talent and creativity which is generally lacking in the rest of the roster otherwise. The positives are cold comfort at this point, but notable nonetheless.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the last night’s contest was the mad scramble line combinations employed by Sutter once the Flames were down by a pair. It was, in effect, the last paroxysm of a desperate man in his death throws. The Flames began the evening sheltering Iginla’s line including Stajan and Hagman, while feeding Bourque, Conroy and Kotalik to the wolves (Thornton et al). When they went down by two, however, Iginla was shuttled out with every possible centerman on the team, including one Craig Conroy. There was something grimly amusing, given the events of the season, about Brent Sutter turning to that pairing in his final hour of need. The scouring of Olli Jokinen and Dion Phaneuf, the total upheaval of the roster mid-season and a 37 year old, 3 goal centerman is who the coach turns to when the season is on the line. Funny thing is, I can’t even say it was the wrong decision

Ruminate on that as the Flames play out the stretch. Our full post-mortems will follow.

  • Three words to describe the 2009/10 Calgary Flames:

    Not. Good. Enough.

    Three words to describe the future of the Calgary Flames:

    Doesn't. Look. Bright.

    Thanks for finally putting an end to an abysmal, disappointing season with more questions than answers.

    *Sorry Kent, didn't realize you had just posted; figured I'd put up The Funeral March for venting*

  • Balthazar

    "the last paroxysm of a desperate man in his death throws"

    Paroxysm is my word of the day.

    We can all throw darts at various targets today; I think the conversation will turn to the overall strategy of the organization.

    That means Daz and his ideas.

    In no particular order it will be interesting to se how the Flames deal with critical issues including:

    1) Scouting/ talent identification.
    2) Talent acquisition
    3) Diversity – ie talented europeans that can score, not just western boys who have "character"
    4) Cap management
    5) Next generaton leadership – doesn't mean displacing Jerome, just prepping for a transition

    and then how that translates to an up tempo attack/ puck possession game

    Still optimistic, but recognize there are changes coming,


    ps. Thanks for your good work this year Kent.

  • Thanks Balthazar. I think you have summed up things nicely there too.

    Don't go away, either. The material will continue to flow this offseason. Hell, this may well be the most interesting summer in a long time here in Calgary.

  • Aside from the flailing about on the line combinations, it also seemed to my eye that White, Giordano and Bouwmeester, and to a lesser extent Regehr, were much more aggressive on pinching or carrying the puck into the zone themselves than the Flames had been in any prior game. I thought so even prior to the Sharks first goal.

    This means one of three things: a) the coaching strategy changed to tell these guys to take more chances offensively, b) the players started to ignore the coaching and took it on their own accord to be more aggressive or c) the coach was telling the to be more aggressive all season and the players ignored him until the last game of the season.

    It seems to me that none of these bodes well for Brent Sutter as a coach. If a), presumably Brent thought that was the best way to win a hockey game and, if so, why the hell weren't they playing that way all season. If b) what does that say about the coach. If c) why weren't these guys being benched earlier?

    Either way I found it most disconcerting that the last game of the year featured a major change in strategy…and it still didn't work.

  • I would suggest "A" is the most likely scenario seeing as it is coaching orthodoxy in the NHL to "go all out" when you're down by a couple on the third. Especially when there's more on the line that just a single game. It's easier to attack, too, when the opponent grows as placid as the Sharks did last night.

    You're right though – why wasn't this tact taken earlier in the year (and more permanently) when it was clear the defense alone wasn't going to carry the day?

  • I'm just glad the Sharks put the Flames and us fans out of their/our misery. I was getting really sick of listening to all that pie in the sky optimism on the Fan. It's time we all start facing the facts, and still having a mathematical chance was not helping things. Nice writeup Kent.