1. It’s starting
I swear to you that I wanted to enter this season with some amount of positivity until I got a list of inquiries from Kent on Monday night. That FlamesNation roundtable, which was published yesterday morning, asked a lot of tough question to which I found myself more than aggrieved by most of the answers.
I don’t know if it was the lockout helped me to forget that the team’s big free agent signings were Dennis Wideman, Jiri Hudler and a guy who has never played in the NHL, or if it was a mental block my subconcious gave me, not unlike Zaphod Beeblebrox, to prevent me from crying myself to sleep every night that this is how an NHL team with actual playoff aspirations spends its money. The roster reads like a list of guys you’d trade for in NHL08, and the problem with that is that it is currently 2013. It’s embarrassing.
Perhaps worst of these is, of course, that Calgary is shallow as hell down the middle. How do they fix it? By having Alex Tanguay move to center. Allegedly. This is a flatly bad idea. A guy who hasn’t played much in the middle during the length of his 12-year NHL career. A guy who, when tried there at numerous times during those 12 years, wasn’t very good at it. A guy who served as an impediment to Jarome Iginla when he did.
I just.. I don’t know. Like, okay, you knew you’d have trouble down the middle. And okay there weren’t many top-six centers on the market this summer, at least not at reasonable prices. So your answer was to sign wingers and hope one of them just magically happens to be good at playing 19 minutes a night in a position to which he is not native? Hoo boy.
2. Oh lord
Jarome Iginla’s contract status was something you figured would come up at some point in 2013. February maybe, with the trade deadline looming. But it was unlikely they’d ever trade him, really, so maybe even wait until the season begins to wind down in late April.
Well if you had "Jan. 8" in the "first time Iginla’s contract status is brought up in a negative way" pool, well then you win the big prize. The big prize is months and months of annoyance. Unfortunately, we all win.
Let’s put it this way: There is no way the Flames let Jarome Iginla walk under any circumstances at all. Zero percent chance. They will not be outbid for his services. The sad truth that they should probably allow themselves to be outbid, or even put a nice for-sale tag on him at the trade deadline, has never entered the minds of the team’s brass, and will never do so. For better or worse, Iginla is a Flame until he more or less decides that he doesn’t want to be. It seems unlikely he’ll ever arrive at that decision.
But there are column inches to fill and, while you’d think that "Holy crap there’s actually gonna be a season this year," would be a pretty good topic, you’re naïve if you do. Get ready to hear about this pretty much on a semi-daily basis until the greatest Flame of all time re-ups. It will be A Thing.
3. Thanks Bob
As if we didn’t know it all already, the last thing Calgary needed was no less an authority than Bob McKenzie declared the Flames’ intentions this season to be "playoffs or bust." Of course, your mileage will vary as to what "bust" means, because if Jay Feaster guaranteeing an appearance last year, not getting there, and not in any way appreciably changing the team in the offseason qualifies as "bust," well then, that’s not a very good baseline. At least he axed the coach, I guess.
Obviously this team’s hilarious, delusional goal is to make the playoffs, and as I said in the roundtable, I wouldn’t be super-surprised to see the team get hot for a week or two and sneak on in, particularly if the unbalanced divisional schedule gives them one fewer game against the Canucks (I’m not betting on it!!!). If the endgame is to make the playoffs, then that’s fine, but what’s even the point of doing so if you have just about zero legitimate chance of, you know, doing anything once you get there.
And please for the love of Lanny don’t give me that "anything can happen" line of talk. This isn’t a team like the Kings last year, where they have about six NHL All-Stars on the roster who are all capable of playing a comprehensive game at both ends of the ice. How many forwards on the Flames can play the kind of defense Anze Kopitar or Dustin Brown bring while still shooting the lights out? How many defensemen can dominate like Drew Doughty and also play lockdown defense? And as much as I still like Kiprusoff, he’s no Jon Quick, because there’s maybe one other goalie on earth (Henrik Lundqvist) who’s on his level.
Maybe Roman Cervenka will do for an aging Iginla what he did for an aging Jaromir Jagr. Maybe Kiprusoff turns in one last Vezina-worthy season. Maybe pigs fly.
4. Nonzero chance this happens
Pusuant to the item above: Compacted schedule be damned, there’s no way in hell Miikka Kiprusoff plays fewer than 40 games this season, right? Meanwhile, I’m pretty much convinced he doesn’t play fewer than 40, and I can see them going as high as 44.
That, obviously, means a decent amount of back-to-back nights in which Kiprusoff gets run out for the double-header, and I guess how you feel about that is going to dictate your thoughts on where the Flames end up. I don’t know the exact numbers and I would be super-interested to see them, but I can’t imagine the guy’s played both ends of too many back-to-backs in the last several years. Further, I know for sure the Flames are awful the second night of them. I don’t even have to look that up.
Haha, what a funny joke, "Kiprusoff won’t play 70 again this season." But I also wouldn’t be surprised if, in terms of percentage of the season, he plays more than that.
5. Cram it with walnuts
The Flames were the first team to publicly apologize for putting the hockey world through yet another dismal lockout. And while I touched on it for my column for Puck Daddy on Monday, I would like to reiterate, with feeling, that this organization, which helped to drive the lockout along with Boston, Minnesota, Washington and a few others, can kindly [expletive] right off as a result.