In my paean to pragmatism last week, I noted the current iteration of the Calgary Flames are closer to the playoffs than the basement so it made sense for the organization to actively pursue the post-season right now.
Because the battle lines of the rebuild debate have become almost ideological in nature, my endorsement of a short-term playoff pursuit may have been misconstrued by some as advocacy for the status quo.
In fact, I am just the opposite in many respects – I have written multiple articles on the potential benefits of trading guys like Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff. In fact, I wrote them as long as two years ago when the Flames were only flirting with the 10th placed abyss. Long time readers know I am generally uninterested in tradition and convention as guideposts to success.
So I’ll state I am painfully aware of the club’s general downward trend over the last few seasons: that many of the Flames cornerstone players are aging and beyond their peaks and that the team has precious few assets in the pipeline who will be able to step in and carry the torch. My enduring analogy of Flames fandom to purgatory is not accidental – there is no clear, obvious path out of the wilderness for the org currently.
The imagery and nomenclature surrounding the term "rebuild" (scorched earth, tear it down, etc.) evokes certain images and connotes specific, unnecessarily extreme variants of that particular strategy. The long-time bungling of, say, the Edmonton Oilers or the New York Islanders pose as object lessons for why the rebuild should be eschewed, when it reality they are merely the twisted offspring of incompetence rather than the inevitable result of a particular game plan. In the end, good management finds, collects and retains good players. Bad management doesn’t, whatever the circumstances.
The truth is a "rebuild" can be far more gradual in terms of player turn-over but far less extended in terms of failure than what we’ve seen out of the circus up north. The Flames may eventually run aground in the next few years as Iginla, Tanguay, Kipper and others age. Some form of improvement and resurgence if certainly required.
During the week, I plan to look in greater detail at how the Flames can marry their wish to remain competitive with their need to improve the top-end of their roster. I’ll try to redefine what a "rebuild" means versus the conventional understanding so the term isn’t associated with perpetually finishing 30th for years on end. We’ll see if there’s a way the Flames can stop running in place without falling off the treadmill altogether.