Pyrrhic Victories



An interesting debate I’ve been watching over Twitter among Flames fans recently: "Is it okay to cheer for short term failure on your own team?"

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There seem to be more and more fans who want the Flames to experience repeated losses and blowouts in order to get a change of management and finally make some seemingly necessary moves. On the other hand, there’s a lot of fans who are more than happy to keep cheering on the team to wins, despite the fact that the Flames are clearly not doing well on the whole and probably aren’t going to contend for anything in the short-term.

It’s a confusing arrangement. At which point do you value future returns over current success? Is it ever acceptable to cheer against your favorite team?

I find myself standing between the two views. I can’t bring myself to outright cheer against Calgary, even if it means positive change down the road. Neither can I sit down and think "Oh boy I really want the Flames to use what limited assets they have to acquire aging veterans at the trade deadline and lemme tell ya I really want Jay Feaster bumbling his way around the league for another year or two".

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I think where this leaves me is wanting the Flames to simply play better.

This, admittedly, comes down to one of the oldest advanced stats vs. counting stats arguments. Are wins all that matter? As someone who’s used advanced stats for some time, it should hardly be a surprise that I think there’s a lot more than wins. Just because a team wins a lot in the short-term doesn’t mean they’re actually a good team. I want the Flames to win, but I want them to win because they’re a good team, meaning their succes will be lasting. If Calgary suddenly starts winning 3 out of 4 games and Iginla looks 5 years younger and Giordano isn’t a trainwreck on the ice and things come together magically – that’s fantastic.

That said, if the Flames start winning a ton of games despite being in the bottom third in possession and have a horribly unsustainable PDO, well, I won’t cheer against the team outright, but I’ll have a hard time enjoying the "success" nevertheless.

Calgary is currently a medicore team at best and with the trade deadline approaching each win seems a little more like a pyrrhic victory: success for the moment, but ultimately self-defeating.

  • Stockley

    I think this article sums up a lot of where I sit on the matter as well. Hard to cheer for them, hard to cheer against them. It’s weird to feel this indifferent about my team.

  • fretsey

    Win or lose,I hope Feaster makes the right decisions at the deadline.
    I can’t really cheer for the team to win because I don’t trust Feaster to do the right thing.
    I also can’t really cheer outright for them to lose.

  • Michael

    It’s sad to say, but a complete and utter failure of a season, is likely the only way to force the Flames organization into changing directions.
    If this club was realistically in the playoff race, it would be status quo in Flames land, management would be looking to add at the trade deadline, likely using draft picks to add that one player to push us over the top. Even an organization as stubborn as the Flames can’t bury they heads in the sand forever, and may finally have to admit that the current approach has failed. The new coach has failed to make an impact and Feasters tinkering over the summer have left the roster completely unbalanced. The Flames continue to refuse to play sixty minutes, they continue to lack heart, grit and effective leadership.
    As much as I hate to see the Flames lose, losing is the last chance we have to see any meaningful changes. I’ll accept it short term, in the hope of brighter things to come.

  • icedawg_42

    I hate the fact that I feel guilty for cheering them on. I hate the fact that there’s a part of me that wants them to lose. I hate the fact that this management team needs to be hit over the head with a 2×4 before it sees that this team is garbage. Maybe skill wise it isn’t as bad as it’s record (MAYBE)..but their ‘give a f*ck’ o’meter is on absolute zero.

  • Derzie

    The reason we are so conflicted is the soultion is not a hockey solution (bring in pieces and work harder). It is a management solution (we need a long term plan to compete with the Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston and LAs of the world). How can we root against Scoreface, or Hudler or Kipper. We can’t. What we really want is for management to show ‘intellectual honesty’, without the lip service. Our wishes for the team to fail are so we can wave the results at Murray Edwards and Ken King to say ‘you are wrong. Fix this’. Another way to get the message across is for fans to not show up. Since corporations buy most of the seats, an empty stadium means nothing. All bought and paid for for the whole season. So that won’t get their attention. All that’s left is ridicule by their peers. If the team loses enough, one of the cigar toting oil barons may call out King or Edwards at a Country Club event. That is what it will take to get these guys to act. Money or Peer Pressure. The money is free flowing so its down to peer pressure. If you know any Oil Barons, bend their ear. Maybe they can hurt King or Edwards feelings and we’ll see some real plans. I feel like we are all hostages.

    • Derzie

      Our wishes for the team to fail are so we can wave the results at Murray Edwards and Ken King to say ‘you are wrong. Fix this

      4 Years of first round play-off exits followed by 3 years of no play-offs (#4 coming soon)has been our proof to said Mr. Edwards, Mr. King et al that they are wrong in their philosophy yet they choose to not listen to those that supply them financially.

    • icedawg_42

      I think the point we’re trying to make (and one you’ve lived through) is that we’re ok if it gets worse before better, as long as we see a plan, and some effort to change things for the better. Status quo blows goats.

      • gotommygo

        Ya I think you guys need to change it up, but I get the sense that most people think this season will just be a blip on the radar. Trade iggy and kipper, draft high and bounce back into contention next year. I don’t think it’s that simple.

  • RexLibris

    It’s frustrating when your team sucks, and I would never cheer for them to loose… but I have found new life in focusing on the the positives.. such as a high draft pick, and perhaps moving our crappy players. At this point of the season, I’m ok with loosing.

  • RedMan

    I find myself changing the channel after a period or two, or completely skipping games altogether for something more interesting.

    This has not happened in quite a few years, and quite frankly, it is a bit liberating. It’s like being released from the clutches of an addiction… I look back and wonder why it ever mattered so much, and am grateful for the freedom I am experiencing in it’s place.

    Yes, i still root for the flames and wont ever cheer for any other team, but I have definitely reached the place where every game DOESN’T matter, and find it strangely liberating, though a tad embarrassing for the silly level of fervor I’ve shown in the past.

  • RexLibris

    news flash, feaster and company are merely edward’s snake oil salesmen. winning isn’t the goal, the illusion of winning puts dollars in the coffers.

    no canadian team needs to worry about fans boycotting.

  • icedawg_42

    The fact that the team has done nothing since 2004 and yet refuses to change their stance has forced the fans into cheering/wishing (or simply not caring if they do happen), for losses.

    No coherent game plan or overarching team philosophy makes it that much worse. The only constant in the Flames org is to ‘win now’ which is beyond laughable seeing as how they’ve only gotten past the first round once in 24 years.

    Seriously, think about that. One time since 1989. But ‘WIN NOW!’ It’s so utterly ridiculous. The org is a complete and utter joke.

    A top 4 pick this summer is the ONLY thing worth cheering about.

  • Subversive

    This: “Calgary is currently a medicore team at best and with the trade deadline approaching each win seems a little more like a pyrrhic victory: success for the moment, but ultimately self-defeating.”

    Which means, that as a logical human who wants my team to do well in the long term and for the right reasons, I am cheering for them to lose, this season.

  • BitGeek

    meh… if you’re cheering for the Flames to lose because you can’t trust Flames Management to make the right choices now, then how do you trust them to make the right choices after they are *forced* to do something different?

    They will continue to make decisions you don’t agree with and you’ll still be pissed with the quality of the Flames output.

      • BitGeek

        I agree that change is required and it all starts with a managment philosophy.

        I can only hope that mgmt changes their philosophy to align with what I’d like. If that doesn’t happen, then I can only hope that someday managment is replaced and their replacement(s) embrace a philosophy that I can get behind.

        Since I can’t influence the change (at least in a significant way) then I just feel better about enjoying the wins when they come and while they last. It might be a very long time before the changes I want will actually happen, so I might as well enjoy the wins while I can.

        In the meantime, I’ll still bitch and grumble about how things should be done differently.

  • gotommygo

    If at some point they have to totally suck (as opposed to marginally suck, as usual) then it might as well be during this season. The pain won’t last as long because of the late start, plus there’s a loaded draft waiting at the end.

    I think Stockley put it best in the Post-Game article comments, “Am I actually cheering against the Flames? I wouldn’t go that far. I don’t actually want them to lose. I just don’t get upset anymore when they do.”

  • BitGeek

    Here’s a look at things from a different perspective.

    If you’re cheering for the team to lose so that *change* can occur, would you support Hartley if he suddenly coached his players to lose? A coach that actively makes decisions with the deliberate intent to lose games?

    You’d be assured of getting your result sooner wouldn’t you? Except that, the coach would be throwing the game, and that’s not right.

    If I think about it in those terms, then I get the exact same feeling if I cheer for the team to lose as if I were cheering for Hartley to throw the games.

    It doesn’t feel good either way.

    I’d rather suffer the consequences (as ironic as that sounds) of the team winning, and the players all playing to their potential.

  • beloch

    Although the Flames have had trouble staying above 0.50, for them to go 0.65 over the remaining 20 games is not impossible (this is what sportsclubstats says they need to do to have a >50% chance of making the playoffs). If you look at the standings, yes, Calgary is second last in the conference, but the bubble goes right to the basement this year.

    So I say to those cheering for the Flames to lose, you’re not out of the woods yet! Feaster could still decide to “go for it” and make some big veteran acquisitions.

    Now, based on his moves to date, I think he’s smart enough not to hamstring the team’s long-term plans by buying geezers. For me, the big fear is that he’s going to stand pat and not take advantage of an excellent seller’s market.

  • Personally, I don’t want to see the team intentionally tank, whether it be by coaching, GM fiat, trading of all the quality players, etc.

    I want to see evidence of good processes throughout the organization at all times and from all levels, whatever happens on the ice. So I still want to see Hartley managing his bench in a rational manner, the GM targeting worthwhile players, etc. The team should always be looking to get better and play better.

    That said, pragmatically speaking, the best thing that can happen for the long-term health of the club is the goaltending continues to stink and the Flames get a lotto pick out of it. That way, management is sufficiently motivated to stop pretending the Iginla era can go indefinitely, the team on the ice doesn’t have to purposefully “throw” anything and the org gets a potential cornerstone future player for what is essentially half a year of below average netminding.

    • supra steve

      I cannot see them intentionally tanking, but they really don’t have to, do they.

      Keep Gio, Glencross, Backlund, Hudler, Stemp, Brodie, and the prospects. All other NHL players should be available if anyone comes calling with a nice return to offer. That’s not to say that “everthing must go”, just that we are open to offers. Iggy though, does need to go.

  • BitGeek

    @Kent Wilson

    Saying that “a lotto pick will improve the long term health of the team” is really just an assumption and a hope at best, that is… if you believe Feaster can’t be trusted with the keys to the executive washroom, let alone the keys to the future of the team. In which case his lotto pick (and related player moves) is going to be a crap shoot at best.

    To be fair, you’ve already advocated that the team just needs to stop building around a couple of “franchise” players (Iginla & Kipper). Which I assume, means that you haven’t lost confidence in Feasters based on his other decisions. I personally don’t think he’s done an awful job either actually, and I think he will make a few more good decisions along the way.

    A lotto pick is just a different path than they are on now, and different can be good, but there’s no guarantee it will be better. If he’s forced down that path, then perhaps Feaster will do something good.

    In the meantime, I cheer, and wait, and hope.

    PS: No coach with any integrity would ever purposefully try to lose. I could however, see a coach experiment with new plays and ideas with the hopes of learning something new, knowing that it won’t jeopardize the team’s aspirations.

    • No move is guaranteed to produce success, but given the supposed talent level of the top-5 to 10 prospects this summer, I think it’s safe to assume a lottery pick will result in quality player no matter who is at the helm. Remember, even Tambellini managed to pick Hall, RNH, Yakupov, etc.

  • BitGeek

    @Kent Wilson

    True. And Feaster is nowhere near as bad as Tambellini in my opinion. So even though Tambellini has squandered his picks (and by squandered I mean not procuded a berth in the playoffs), I hope Feaster would do better. Tambellini is a good example of what “could” happen though. 😉 lol