It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
There’s a strange sort of freedom to being a Flames fan right now. A kind of pleasant weightlessness with the season lost and the rebuild underway. It’s a wholly foreign feeling for the faithful after years and years of grasping and clawing for wins until the last few games of the season.
The Flames are impervious to harm right now. Scratch that – they are in a position to actually gain from harm (ie; losses). And because wins don’t matter and the club can benefit form defeat, they are able to run the sort of experiments that are denied most professional hockey teams. Hartley can try a wide variety of new line combinations in an effort to see if anything fits. Hopefuls can be called up to see where they’re at in their development. New PP strategies and different PK formations can be tested. The rest of the year is strictly about fact finding and evaluation. If a certain experiment doesn’t work, well then the club is one step closer to picking first overall. If something does work, though, the Flames can file it away for later use. Whatever minor successes that are stubled upon are bonuses right now. If, in discovering them, the club’s record fails even further, even better.
Flames fans can literally cheer for every goal that is scored in every Flames game down the stretch. It’s fun and liberating – as long as it doesn’t carry over to subsequent seasons, of course. Reveling in nihilism is only fun for so long…
Speaking of experiments, Sven Baertschi rejoined the team thanks to Brian McGrattan’s shoulder injury. That means Roman Horak, Max Reinhart and Baertschi will all be finding their legs tonight – maybe even on the same line at some point! Baertschi had 8 points in 11 games on the farm (almost all of them on the PP). He recently opened up to Vicki Hall in an interesting interview which I would recomend.
Curtis Glencross returns to active duty after one game away, while Jiri Hudler fills his space in the infirmary. Because the Flames have nothing to play for, I get the sense that veterans are resting ailments they would normally play throgh in other circumstances.
- Glencross – Stajan – Stempniak
- Tanguay – Horak – Cammalleri
- Baertschi – Backlund – Cervenka
- Jackman – Reinhart – Begin
- Giordano – Wideman
- Brodie – Sarich
- Butler – Carson
Joey M gets the call after another subpar performance from Miikka Kiprusoff on Saturday night. I don’t know why they played Kipper on back-to-back nights in the portion of the season that doesn’t matter (and in a year where he’s generally been terrible), but, as I said…losses are wins right now, so it’s cool.
The bad guys tonight are in a similar situation, albeit far more reluctantly since they’ve already been in rebuild mode for a few years. The only team worse than the Flames currently is the Colorado Avalanche, who are one point back with one more game played.
The Avs are an even worse possession team than the Flames, but also suffer from similarly bad percentages, which is how one sinks to 30th overall in the league. Losing Ryan O’Reilly for a month or two didn’t help Colorado, but their real problem is almost everyone in their top six spends too much time in the defensive zone (sound familiar)? Aside from O’Reilly and sophomore Gabriel Landeskog, guys like David Jones, Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk and even Matt Duchene are yielding possession. Half of the regulars on the blueline are under water as well, including Jan Hejda, Matt Hunwick and Greg Zanon.
- Parenteau – Duchene – McGinn
- Landeskog – O’Reilly – Jones
- McLeod – Mitchell – Van Der Gulik
- Malone – Olver – Bordeleau
- Johnson – Hunwick
- Zanon – Barrie
- Hejda – Elliot
On top of everything else, Colorado is suffering through a bunch of injuries, so their bottom six is a mess of replacement level type players (or worse).
One move that worked out for the Avs was the signing of PA Parenteau. Nobody really knew if the long-time AHL sniper was for real or simply riding Tavares’ coattails in New York, but he’s put up good numbers across the board. Parenteau has the second best relative corsi rate on the team behind O’Reilly and leads the club in scoring with 15 goals and 37 points in 38 games to boot. He has been given the high ground somewhat by his coach, but it’s hard not to call that gamble a win for Sherman anyways.
Sum It Up
Tune in, crack a brew and enjoy guys and gals. The Flames can’t lose right now. I mean they can, and they probably will, but losing is good. Minor highs, no lows!
Tanking is the novocaine of sports fandom.