So hear it is. After 50 games last year the Flames sat with a record of 23-21-6 and 52 points. This year going into the All-Star break, Calgary had completed 50 games and their record? You got it, 23-21-6. Instantly these numbers usually bring a groan from whoever you just told that too, usually followed by, “Here we go again”.
Are the Flames capable of not just replicating what they did last year, but actually improving upon it? If you were to ask most fans, the answer would be a resounding no. But why? Are the fans just so jaded now by the makeup of this team, or its speculated lack of direction that they just want immediate radical change and are tired of hearing the GM-of-the-week proclaiming to the fan-base like Feaster did that once again “We’re going for it!”
OK (VF)! You need to tell me who these next games can be considered soft in our favour: Detroit Chicago, Anaheim (one of the hottest teams in last 10 games), San Jose(2 losses already), Phoenix on a B2B on the road (when was the last time we won there?), Vancouver(say no more) then let’s roll into the following week: Toronto (0-1 this year), Dallas & LA (both teams we are fighting & will be playing with urgency). Then we get our soft game against the oilers before we wind up the month of Feb with Phoenix, Philly & St Louis. 13 games from now till the trade deadline. What’s your guess that record would be? Maybe we have a contest. My pick is we go 5-6-2 in these next 12 games & we sit in 11th place on Feb 28th. Just saying, I don’t see a soft schedule when it counts.
– Frequent Commenter Kevin R
One of the biggest changes from last year has to be the way the Flames play out these remaining 32 games. Last year during “The Run”, Calgary found success by beating up mostly on the weaker teams of the Western Conference and winning games from the East. They have to find a more direct route this year, and it has to go through the West. Kevin mentioned the schedule for the Flames leading up to the trade deadline and how it’s a pretty uphill battle. To this I have no issue with, it is indeed going to be a fight, but it is also going to give the Flames the perfect series of case studies before the deadline to see if they can truly go for it, or if the team is on the same dead end trail that they took last year.
Believe it or not, Detroit and Chicago are both winnable games. They aren’t guaranteed wins, but they aren’t guaranteed losses either. The Flames have beaten both these teams already and if Detroit is going with Conklin, then remember, Calgary has had reasonable success against him. Chicago is an elite team no question, and undoubtedly there will be high emotions as the team faces former teammate Brendan Morrison for the first time.
The Flames can’t get by on beating the low-lifes of the conference. It’s a lot of fun to beat-up Edmonton over and over, but somewhere down the line, Calgary has to measure its mettle against playoff contenders. This includes the game against San Jose. The “we almost won” excuse doesn’t mean anything anymore, and these guys are going to have to steal games to give themselves a chance. Three times the Flames have approached the eighth seed and three times they have fallen. My point in all this is that Calgary can’t look at the schedule like Kevin did and try and find the “soft” games, because there aren’t any. This team missed the playoffs last year because they had to win 2 out of every 3 games to get enough points, but they disregarded where those points were coming from. The soft games gave them almost enough points to get in, but the points they needed left the arena with the teams they were chasing.
Kevin, this brings me to your point about Anaheim and Phoenix. Sure the Ducks are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, but that can’t be a factor for the Flames. They are a team that is nine points behind Calgary and it’s a game they had better win. The same goes for Phoenix, who is tied with Calgary, but is also 3-3-4 in their last ten. Now of course, it’s not ideal playing them on the back end of a back-to-back, especially after playing San Jose, but think about it: If the Flames pull one out against the Sharks, then that momentum should be a good shot of adrenaline to get the guys through a game against a team they really should beat. The Flames would hardly be giant killers if they won that one. Winning is contagious, so is losing; the Flames have good success at home and marginal success, to put it nicely, on the road. Something between now and the deadline has to give, to give Feaster the nod to pull the big deal everyone thinks is coming. This should be it.
Let’s talk about Vancouver! How long are we going to view the Canucks like Edmonton sees us? The Flames played one of their best games of the season on Dec. 23rd and it was against the Canucks with their backup goalie. How did they beat the Canucks? Was it a fluke? They played a system and didn’t let Vancouver play theirs – you can’t put it any more simpler than that. Can they do it again? Absolutely, but it comes down to that intangible quality that they seem to find only to let slip through their hands: consistency.
The play of Miikka Kiprusoff this season is arguably the reason the Flames have a shot at a chair at the table. He has been the one constant for the team this year, and gives them a chance to win every night. His numbers may not have him in the top 5 of NHL goalies, but I think it’s important to consider that the top 5 goalies haven’t had to play behind what Miikka has either.
Kent brought up an interesting point in that in order for the Flames to have any shot at the post-season, they better hope that Kiprusoff doesn’t fall off the pace with his play. I’m going to go against Kent here in questioning why we should even expect that result. Is it because Flames fans are so far gone with scepticism that we expect the collapse? I know it can be a numbers game and there are pages upon pages of statistical data to show regression and percentages that just aren’t maintainable, but there is also the consideration that Kiprusoff has shown no indication as to moving in this direction. He is in better shape this year than he has been in a while and he has stated on numerous occasions that he is excited about the way Brent has managed his time with days off this year. He has also said that he feels better now than he had for the past few seasons.
Now something else that Kent brought up was that we and I mean the fans, the team and the City, had better hope he doesn’t get hurt. An injury to Kiprusoff means an instant tilt…as in game over. However, since you can’t ever predict the occurrence or likelihood of an injury, then there is no point in dwelling on it or factoring it in to any consideration of playoff contention. You can never count in or out injuries…
… Or can you? If there is any team in the NHL that should have the crystal ball on injuries, it’s the Flames. Calgary has lost over 200 man games to injury, and they have been significant ones too. Mikael Backlund, David Moss, Mark Giordano, Alex Tanguay, Derek Smith, even Jarome Iginla in the beginning wasn’t right, and now Curtis Glencross have had Calgary behind the eight ball all season.
Would the Flames be in any better position if they hadn’t been injury riddled? I don’t know if you can make that assumption. Boston has only lost 32 man games to injury and look where they are in the standings! Now of course I’m being facetious and there is no way I’m comparing the Flames to the Boston Bruins, but you never know where Calgary might be right now if they only had suffered maybe a third of the injuries, and not to key personel. Where would the Bruins be if they went from 32 to 215 lost man-games?
So what is this lovely lass praying about exactly? Maybe it’s the same thing the rest of us are? That Feaster going out and trading a disinterested and apathetic Bourque for “blast from the past” Mike Cammallerri can be the offensive spark we need on the power-play. That getting Alex Tanguay back just as they lose arguably their best all around player will soften the blow, and pay dividends? That the miraculous early return of Mark Giordano was a sign of positive divine intervention for once…
Look.. I’m not saying that Calgary is a team that controls its own fate. They are going to need a series of things happen including probably a perfect alignment of all the planets to pull this off.. But it can be done. They may not control their playoff life, but I think they have a pretty big say in their death.
Tim Tebow might have used up all the prayers that are allotted to professional athletes and their sport, but sometimes, with just a Chip and a Chair, you can produce some pretty amazing results. The Flames are “all-in” this month. The trade deadline should show us what Feaster gets dealt on the river card…or if his game was just a bluff.