1. No intensity
Of course, it’s not officially official or anything just yet, but that loss to Columbus (in the shootout though it was) following the one to Edmonton has me pretty well convinced.
I know it’s been a divisive issue all year and in the end it’s probably going to prove to have been a moot one: This team ain’t makin’ the playoffs. Blame injuries, blame the construction of the team, blame mediocre performances, blame ineffective roster shakeups, blame a lack of compete level in games against bad teams. Hell, blame it all. There’s plenty of that to go around.
But when Calgary scores a grand total of two goals in 125 minutes against Devan Dubnyk and Steve Mason, there’s no excuse. It’s not like these weren’t critical games. It’s not like these weren’t teams Calgary should have flattened. It’s not even that I think they didn’t compete hard.
They’re just done. Having your season all but ended by Columbus in a shootout is such an indignity it’s hard to understand. I don’t say any of this lightly. I look at the Flames’ opponents down the stretch and I see maybe one "easy" game — though for a team that lost back-to-back games against Edmonton and Columbus, what even constitutes "easy" at this point? — that being against Minnesota.
But these other games? Holy hell, what a gauntlet! Colorado, Dallas, Dallas, LA, Colorado, Vancouver, Vancouver, Anaheim. That’s not even fair to have to play that many teams in competition for the same two spots, in addition to facing the Canucks twice. Yuck.
Let me put it this way, I’ve been watching a lot of that show "Luck" on HBO and I’ve been thinking a lot about horse racing as a consequence, and this strikes me very much as a team that was whipped fervently before it even came into the back stretch, and ran as hard as it could for as long as it could, and just didn’t have the ability to keep the late surge going through to the finish line.
Let’s be honest, that was a pretty hard charge the team made just to make it into the thick of this playoff hunt, and it was, in the end, pretty creditable. But at the same time, it’s really starting to feel as though it wasn’t enough. Can’t say I blame the team, though. Most of us probably saw this coming, even if we didn’t want to admit it.
(Author’s note: I reserve the right to pretend I didn’t say any of this stuff if they make the playoffs. Which they won’t.)
2. Fare thee well, Svensanity
Nice to see Sven Baertschi get on the last liferaft out though. Women and children first, and all that.
But man, he has a chance to be very, very good. Even in the games where he didn’t score (and remember, that was only two out of five) he was very much making things happen and his line looked rather threatening on many of its shifts.
Such a tantalizing little run of success, and especially impressive given the above discussion about how important those games were to the team. He can’t do it all himself, though, and it would have been nice to see the team step up and compete in some meaningful way in his final NHL game, against its archrivals, who have nothing to play for but pride and an improved draft position.
No doubt he’ll stick with the big club out of camp next year in case of disaster, and he’ll have the benefit of returning to the WHL to play some hopefully important postseason games for Portland with both a great experience and a few days or valuable instruction from guys who have been in the NHL for years. Everyone benefited here.
3. And now Tim Jackman’s back
Well at least they’re trying to make it interesting, eh? Tim Jackman returned to the lineup for the Flames last night, just a few days after Lee Stempniak did the same.
It’s a lot of too-little, too-late stuff as far as I’m concerned. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. After the iceberg. But hey, the Herald said yesterday that either Chris Butler or Blair Jones are back next. Never thought I’d say it, but Jones and Butler coming back, like, a week ago, probably get this team into the playoffs.
4. What about Brent?
Saw in Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts column that Flames fans were upset with Brent Sutter for starting Leland Irving against Edmonton in the Flames’ loss.
Were they? I try to avoid anywhere that would have that kind of discussion about a coach who started his backup goalie against one of the worst teams in the league, but it wasn’t like that decision was what cost the Flames the game. Only scoring one goal was what did it. If that was the point at which some fans said enough was enough with Sutter, well, the nicest thing I can say about them is they should be institutionalized.
I think it’s a perfectly reasonable discussion to have, of course. Maybe Brent isn’t the guy. Maybe he is. It’s hard to tell, since he wasn’t exactly handed a great set of tools the last two years. Missing the playoffs for what would be a third year all but assures he’ll face the axe in the offseason, but where do you turn to replace him? Could anyone make this team better over 82 games?
Hard questions, no good answers.
5. NCAA prospect update
The NCAA tournament starts this week and Calgary’s two most prominent college prospects (sorry John Ramage!) will be playing for the best team in the tournament.
Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold’s Boston College Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the tourney and don’t seem especially vulnerable in their run to it. BC has won 15 straight games — yes, really — and seems poised to at least advance to the Frozen Four for what would be the 10th time since 1998.
And it’s been Gaudreau, the freshman, leading them there. In the past 17 games, he’s scored 12-12-24. That streak includes being named the MVP of the Hockey East tournament for scoring 3-4-7 in just four games, including two goals and an assist in the title game to give the Eagles their third straight league championship. A good word for his performance the last few weeks would be "sensational."
Arnold, still just a sophomore, had 16 goals and 33 points for BC in 37 games, which is a decent amount, but on a team that deep, was only good for sixth on the team in scoring.
Their first-round NCAA opponent is 16th-seeded Air Force, upon whom they will rain hellfire upon from puck drop to final horn.