Smiles And Rainbows: Cheer Up, Everyone




Dark Days are ahead, friends. They say that most business ventures fail in their first year. The Calgary Flames, the NEW Calgary Flames, can thusly be looked upon as a business venture, and it is going to hurt. The Young Guns, or as friend of the blog Duncan Clark has dubbed them (and I’m concurrently stealing) the #Young2uns, are back. We all remember how that went last time. AND THEY HAD JAROME IGINLA.

It’s been brought to my attention that chasing the data is going to lead to some, er, daunting content in the weeks and months ahead here on your favourite Flames blog, and I don’t think anyone is necessarily surprised by that. Don’t shoot the messenger (the messenger being me – ol’ Looby! – and not FlamesNation, which is also a messenger. Figure it out, you’re all smart people, maybe), it’s just what I’ve been told.

But that doesn’t mean all is lost. For long term success, sacrifices have to be made, we know that. And we know that a long term plan is still in place. Tangible, WATCHABLE, decent things are going to happen in the next (hopefully less than) 5 seasons (gulp), and it’s important that we keep tabs on these budding paragons. After all, even the finest flowers still rise upwards from common dirt.

So that’s why throughout this offseason (and into the season as well if you cynics haven’t chased me out of town yet) I’ll be periodically checking in to provide some much needed optimism in what is surely to be some trying times. Now everyone take a deep breath, exhale, and find serenity. Or drink! Actually just drink, it’ll be a lot easier.

The Checklist

There’s a lot of small stones that need to be upturned here. We can find positives in several different areas surrounding this team. I’m not going to speak to all of them today, but it’s a broad scope, so I’m creating a checklist for us to discuss so that we can all keep focused over the course of the coming year(s). Consider it a guide to Flames related tranquility.

  • The Continued Development of Sven Baertschi
  • The Future Looks Good With Svean Monahan
  • TJ Brodie: Number One Defenseman?
  • Jon Gillies: Can He Be Awesome?
  • The Farm Hands Get A Shot At Being The Farmers
  • The Team Is Younger; The Savings By Buying Less Prune Juice Are Through The Roof
  • Cory Sarich Is Not A Calgary Flame
  • Anton Babchuk Is Certainly Not A Calgary Flame
  • Brian McGrattan Is A Nice Guy And Has Earned Nice Press Box Seats
  • You Can Still Buy Beer At The Saddledome
  • Randy Carlyle Is Not The Coach
  • If Things Go Really Bad, Jay Feaster Will Probably Get Fired

And I’ll add other things to the list as they develop. Feel free to add your own.

Today though, we’ll focus on the first two.


He’s still the best. Not only is he named Sven, which is adorable, he’s trending upwards in a really nice Swiss arc (not a thing, but go with me on this).

The inner beauty that comes with being an ugly looking team is that the guys that you project to be your GUYS in the future get to use the present to really come into their own. We all expect the Flames to be a bad team, largely devoid of elite talent. That’s because they are. Which sucks in the mean time, but damn, what an opportunity for Sven and friends.

When I was younger, just a pamphletofloob, growing up wanting to be an NHL goaltender, I read a book called In The Crease written by the legendary Dick Irvin. Dick took his tape recorder and interviewed goalies who have played the game from pretty much every decade leading up to the 1990’s (it was an older book, for sure. As an example, he interviewed Chris Terreri, because no one knew who Marty Brodeur was yet).

There were some compelling stories, some, uh, not so compelling stories, but there was an interesting trend that came through the recollections of this masked commonwealth: Many of them developed the skills to be good by playing on bad teams and facing a lot of shots.

Obviously, this makes all the sense in the world. You can’t get better at stopping pucks if you don’t have any of them slung your way. This philosophy can easily be adapted to forwards and defensemen as well, and in the case of Baertschi (and maybe a few other young Flames as well), it’s a pretty apt scenario.

I think it’s pretty obvious that Sven is going to earn himself some Top 6 minutes this year, if not 1st line time. This is going to equate to taking on tougher defense and higher volumes of tough minutes against quality opponents. Now, naturally, this is going to lead to some growing pains. There will certainly be times where he’s going to look exposed, but he’s at a point in his career where that’s okay. He needs to learn to play with and adapt to that level of competition, and really, there’s not a lot of pressure on him this season if he falls on his face from time to time figuring out how it all works at that level.

Ideally, he just thrives anyway, plays well with, oh, let’s say Mikael Backlund, and both players enjoy a bit of a renaissance, and we have a couple of Forever a Flame candidates well on their way to winning our hearts for eternity. But more likely, he’ll get there (and he WILL get there) after another season or two getting his feet wet. 

I think it’ll be exciting to watch.


William Labov: The Changing Patterns of Philadelphia English; White, Black and Latino

(This is the first picture that came up when I did a flickr search for Sean Monahan. It makes no sense, but I like it, so we’re rolling with it)

(Also yes, I’m going to call Sean Monahan Svean. It’s a nice uniformity)

Anyway, Lambert was on the Fan the other day talking to Ryan Pinder about Sean Monahan (I can’t find the audio for it anywhere, so I’ll just summarize), and he crushed it so hard like he was Tim Jackman’s cement forehead cracking a walnut shell.

The gist of it, and I couldn’t agree more, is that the best way to get really excited about Monahan is if he doesn’t make the Flames at all this year (the nine game tryout would be fine, but ONLY THE NINE GAME TRYOUT PLEASE).

With Sven, he’s in the position now where he’s beyond dipping a toe into the water, and just needs to be grabbed by the waist and tossed right into the cold lake. With Svean, it’s not that time yet.

Really, AT BEST, Monahan would start the year on the Flames as a 3C (probably 4th, really. Hello Corban Knight or Roman Horak or someone), earning goon minutes and then planting his ass on the bench for 55 minutes a game. They did this with Sven for a portion of the season last year, and it was a terrible idea until they traded everyone away, brought him back from Abbotsford and gave him real minutes.

It would be a terrible thing for Monahan, too. There’s a school of thought out there that suggests he’s outgrown the ranks of the OHL and needs to go up a rung on the ladder to get better, which is a theory that has a modicum of truth to it. But, as Lambert attested to on the radio, quite often for an 18 year old to make it into the NHL and fit in, it just really doesn’t happen unless you’re a really special 18 year old (Crosbys of the world unite). No one’s suggesting Monahan isn’t a great hockey player at 18 years old, but is he one of those INSANELY RARE NHL READY 18 year olds? Probably not.

You also avoid the messy contract scenarios that arise when you burn the first year of a prospect’s ELC on a player that is probably not ready to start honouring that contract yet. Just look up north to Edmonton to see what potentially ugly jams you could find yourself in (Sam Gagner got PAID, y’all!)

So give him another year of junior. The thing that will make him a positive point for Flames fans in this scenario is that he immediately becomes a strong contender to lace up for Team Canada at the World Juniors. Albeit a small sample, that level of competition is going to be the best thing for a guy in SVEAN’s position to experience.

Sure beats sitting next to Steve Begin on the bench watching hockey happen instead of creating his own.

(we can admit we won’t be surprised if somehow Steve Begin comes back, yes?)


Training Camp is a little over 2 months away. If I can’t make you all at least a little bit happy before it begins I’m personally coming over to your houses and forece feeding you all healthy doses of Zoloft.

  • beloch

    I played in net in soccer, and on a truly terrible team one year. It’s not just facing more shots that makes you improve rapidly. Even if they’re good enough sports not to let it show, everybody subconsciously blames the goalie for letting the ball in. You pick up on that and it’s a powerful motivator!

    As for the coming suck… At least the Flames have a season or two where it’s excusable or even advantageous to suck. I actually fear they’ll fail to sufficiently suck this season! Still, this is a much better position than the Oilers are in. They were supposed to be challenging for the cup by now, but it’s more probable they’ll miss the playoffs… again. It’s like you’ve patiently set up the perfect shot, wound up big, let er’ rip, and now you’re watching the puck veer off into the corner in super HiDef 3D slomo. The Flames are still setting their big shot up, so it’s easier to remain hopeful!

    • MC Hockey

      In 2009 Kevin Lowe stated on the record it was a 7 year rebuild plan. Not sure the Oilers are behind their plan. If they don’t take a step this year then yes, but its hardly failing. Remember the Pens drafted fleury, Crosby, Malkin three consecutive years then STILL got last in the east earning a shot at jordan Staal. It took them a full 4 years before becoming a powerhouse for a decade. And that’s with Crosby and Malkin, generational talents. The lesson is likely how far we got to go…

      It’s ridiculous to say you’d rather be in our position. I’d trade teams with the Oilers in half a millisecond 1000 times out of 1000.

      But anyways… I agree with the blog. Lots of small things to be excited about. First time in 5 years I’m not going to be frustrated and arguing all year about if we are sellers or buyers and when we should trade Iggy.

      With the right mindset, this suck will be fun!

      • the forgotten man

        Your timelines are flawed. Staal was drafted in 2006. Ie. immediately after Crosby’s rookie season. Malkin didn’t reach the NHL until the 2006/2007 season–AFTER Staal was drafted.

        • prendrefeu

          How is that off? Malkin played 3 years in the KHL, 1 full season after being drafted. But the fact remains the pens drafted Fleury 1st overall in 03, Malkin 2nd overall in 04, Crosby 1st overall in 05 then Staal 2nd overall in 06.

          They got dead last with Crosby cranking out a 100pt season. 1st overall, 2nd overall, 1st overall, 2nd overall. 4 years of complete suck (including the lockout).

          My point is just how long these things take. EVEN with Crosby/Malkin.

        • the forgotten man

          Rereading you comment I get your point. You are correct, Malkin didn’t play in the NHL Crosby’s rookie year. Yes I agree… That’s also how he tore up the NHL his ‘rookie’ year, at 21, after playing KHL 3 years.

          But we are just splitting hairs. Still works out to 4 years of 1st or 2nd overall picks.

      • beloch

        7 years is a nice number. It’s enough time for a couple crops of rookies to reach apex. It’s also sufficiently far off into the future that nobody will really blame you if the rebuild goes tits up, assuming you’re still stuck in the same job!

        After making the playoffs every year for a decade, the Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time in 2002. Let’s call that suck+0. Malkin was drafted in 2004 (suck+2) and Crosby was drafted in 2005 (suck+3). The Penguins missed the playoffs in 2006, but made it next year (suck+5). The following year (suck+6) they made the finals and they won the cup in 2009 (suck+7). So if you use the Penguins as an example, I can see where you get the 7-year rebuild idea from (even though they made the finals in suck+6).

        However, when did the Oilers rebuild really start? It you consider it to be at the start of the suck, as we did for the Penguins, then it started in 2007. That means Eberle was drafted suck+1, Hall was suck+3, the Nuge suck+4, and the Yak was suck+5, with Paajarvi sucking somewhere in there as well (and still sucking). This season will be the magical suck+7 year. So… How’s that 7 year rebuild going Lowe? Oh wait, the Oilers rebuild didn’t really start with the suck. It started later, in 2009 (suck+2). There were a couple seasons wasted sucking in denial. Lowe still has two years to bring the cup back to Alberta. Hey, the Penguins went from missing the playoffs to the final in that period of time! (Yes, this is wishful thinking and I am being sarcastic.)

        Sucking in denial… Yeah, that sounds familiar. Using the same definition for the Flames, the upcoming season is suck+4, and we finally started our rebuild! God, I’m so depressed.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            Haha!! Me too!

            In terms if those timelines the oilers were still chasing whales (heatley etc) until 2010 when they were forced to really blow it up and draft Hall due to complete ineptitude. That when their rebuild started in a logical, structured way.

            It does sound a bits depressing. BUT, I have lots of Oiler buddies and I am tell you first hand they have thoroughly enjoyed the last few years because it felt purposeful and with a plan, and its fun accumulating future hope.

            Even if it takes a few years of complete suck (like it should) we can enjoy it cause we are no longer throwing good money after bad and grinding vets with the hope of 8th place in the playoffs.

            Where do I order my tshirt?

        • schevvy

          The Oil need to take a huge step forward this year…if they dont they are in trouble.

          When CHI won in2010 Kane and Toews were still on their ELC deals… iEdmontons guy sre starting to come off their deals

          They are near the cap and will need to sign SchultzNuge and Yak in the next two years.

        • I tried it at home

          I don’t think you can ignore suck denial. Everyone does it, some longer than others, look at us. I would say Hall is suck+0, Eberle is comparable to our Sven, drafted during suck denial. Monohan is comparable to Oilers Hall at Suck+0(where they did their true firesale triggered by all their injuries). Gagner & Cogliano & Nillson where part of their “youth retool” similar to what Feaster was doing prior to this last TDL. Difference is we made the playoffs after our magical Cup run, Oil never did after their run in 2005. So don’t be so depressed, the depressing days where when we were all expecting Flames to sell off Iggy & Kipper but were stuck in suck denial “retool” mode. Now we can get excited about suck with a purpose.

  • Well put BoL. We’re in for a wild ride in the coming years, and I for one can’t wait to get strapped in.
    I agree on Monahan, as much as I want to see what we have NOW, he needs to go dominate junior.
    How many times have young players seen their development hampered by spending their draft +1 season back in junior?…uh…
    No matter how good he is in 9 games, send him back, there’s no rush.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Buttons and bows. That’s what they tried to sell the fan base in Young Guns 1.0. The organization did everything it could to sell the Flames as entertainment. The trouble is they tried to do so with teams that had no business being in the playoffs, let alone being truly competitive. This time they’ll sell hope, and I hope like hell we won’t be ‘wondering in the desert’ very long.

    I propose a toast to “the promised land, for ourselves and posterity sake”.

  • the forgotten man

    The Flames need to bottom out some more this year and next to garner a couple more top 3-4 picks…frankly we need to pickup an elite forward talent and a stud defence man in the next 2 drafts. Steve Begin has already set back the rebuild a couple of years by actually giving an effort at the end of the season..I hope his golf game sucked this summer.
    Watching the playoffs, this team is so far from contention that it would be foolish to predict when they may even contend for at least 2 More years until the dust settles. I have found it laughable with some of the irrational exuberance (cough…burning sensation…cough) I read from posters on this site…besides Brodie and Backlund, I have seen nothing from anyone in the Flames stable to suggest a proven talent at the NHL level…that includes Sven. You literally have to be absolutely crushing it in .junior or NCAA to even sniff at being impact full in the NHL…I don’t see that from a current Flames prospect. Reality is that at best 2-3 of all the Flames current prospects will have any impact in the NHL.
    The only way out of this hole is top 5 draft choices, a little bit of luck and some shrewd free agent signings.

  • prendrefeu

    Good article!

    The suck will be fun. Yeah, losing will hurt. But so what? Really, so what? You know it’s going to happen anyway, so why not watch the talent that’s out there get better under the pressure? Why not still hope for those once-in-a-while David-beats-Goliath games that hopefully won’t hurt the target pickings come June 2014, but still give us Flames fan the pleasure of landing an uppercut to the big guys?

    Strapped in, let’s take this roller coaster for a ride.

    Go Flames! No matter what.

  • prendrefeu

    Also, can someone PLEASE get in touch with the Tilted Kilt and have them send over an advert with a waitress that doesn’t have plastic breasts? Calgary is better than the douchery of the 909 area code.

    Let’s make that a goal before the season starts, eh?

  • T&A4Flames

    Everyones an expert eh?

    Flames management is alot smatter than everyone here gives them credit for.

    Whatever decision is best for the team, and players since they make up the team, is the decision they will make. Weather that means Monahan on the team or not we will see.

    I wish people would stop worrying about Gagner’s contract. Its time we stop comparing ourselves to them, we arent them and will never be like them.

    That doesnt mean we cant be better than them one day.

    Players like Sven, Monahan, Guadreau, Gillies, Brodie all have the potential to be star players in the league. And in all honesty the way the Flames have valued character so much tells me these kids will reach their potential.

    Management said they researched all rebuilds and discovered the ones that lasted 2-3 years were teams that drafted players with character. The character to know how good they can be, but also how hard they will have to work to reach it.

    Its character within our prospects that tells me we dont have to worry about the future salaries of our players now because its insignificant to the decision really. If they base the decision on something like that I would turn my back on them.

    Look at how the Islanders handled Niederieter, they kept him on the team in a fourth line role, cause he wasnt ready but his rookie bonus’ brought them to the salary floor.

    Look at the teams that are continually successful. Most have players that take less salary because of the talent around them on the team. They know they cant all stay unless they take less. It usually takes a character player to decide to do this. The team is more important.

    This is the motto the Flames are adopting.

    Stop worrying about things that wont happen. I can assure you Monahan will play where its best for him to improve, Guadreau will be in a Flames uniform this upcoming season (as long as there are games left after Boston College’s season is finished), and we do have elite level prospects who are surrounded by a strong group of supporting prospects, all of which are strong character guys that care more about making the team and making the team better, than anything else.

    This is the best the Flames future has ever looked in my memory of the team.

    Maybe not near future but I bet the Flames will pick up steam alot quicker than originally expected…

    But hey, I’m no expert!

  • the forgotten man

    Right now I’m dreaming 3 years ahead and looking at a top 6 that looks like this: 1. Baertschi – Jankowski – Gaudreau 2. Klimchuk – Monahan – Poirier … A bottom 6 made up of a combination of Arnold, Knight, Reinhart, Bouma, Agostino, Ferland. Ekblad – Brodie, Sieloff – Wotherspoon, Cundari – Breen… Gillies and Brossoit have a fierce battle to be the the starting goalie and everyone is best of friends! In my dream everyone pans out and smashes helmet first through their ceilings! All while our farm team wins Calder after Calder.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Optimism is great, but if this is nuts. If the Flames have suddenly become the greatest scouting organization in pro sports then maybe 2/3 of the guys on your list (not including NHLers) will make the show.
      I’ve said it before drafting alone will not be enough to turn the Flames into a top team. Savvy trades, smart UFA pick ups, proper cap and asset management, and just getting lucky will all be needed to turn the ship around. Yes, the draft will always be important, but it’s not enough. This is especially true if you are wishing for a quick turn around.

  • Franko J

    For the first time in 5 years I’m actually excited to watch this team again. While the many prognosticators have suggested this team will be bottom feeders I disagree to a degree. My optimism stems from the fact that I’m more interested in seeing who is ready to take on a leadership role with this team. There is no more Iginla or Kiprusoff to fall back on and I want to see which player(s) currently on this roster ready to take the next step in their development.

    Every season there is always one or two teams in the league that exceed expectations, maybe it is wishful thinking, but I think the Flames will surprise some with their play. Last season I can guarantee that nobody saw the Canadians or Senators finishing where they ended up. I believe (hope) that while they seem to have inferior talent to some other teams in the league, I can see this current roster out working and out hustling most teams on a nightly basis and as a fan that is all I can ask for. Far too many times in the past few years this team was constantly out worked which made it very tough to watch games.
    Yes some nights they will be unlucky or overmatched, but I think it is important to begin with a good foundation of making it tougher for opponents to win. Instilling pride and creating a strong indentity will be vital keys to this season.

  • beloch

    I don’t think the Flames can rely on getting multiple top-5 picks. Yes, they are not competitive with most playoff teams, but there are some truly crappy teams out there! Of course, a lot of great players do fall later in the draft, but I have no illusions about the Flames scouts being able to spot such talent when nobody else can. Quantity is the key. Feaster needs to keep trading for picks. Every deal he makes should improve the Flames picks, whether the return is a lowly 7th rounder or trading a 7th in for a 6th. A lot of GM’s play free and loose with late-round picks and give them up for practically nothing (see Darryl Sutter). Take advantage!

    Of course, the Flames still have some fairly decent post-apex players who should be traded soon. Few things would endear Feaster to me more than translating them into some more first round picks.

  • Skuehler

    So there are two exciting things I look forward to this year. One. Being that there is nothing more boring than watching a good team underachieve, it safe to say that this team can only possibly overachieve this season now that the slate has been wiped clean. That’s exciting! Coach’s first full year as well so lets see what they can do to disrupt some of the predictions for this team. They did a good job down the stretch last season. The lack of pressure, nothing to lose, only way is up mentality could be a healthy opportunity for those motivated to step up. The team we’ll see in Penticton should be a close sample to what we’ll sxee throughout the year. There so many intangibles that you can’t always quantify statistically…team chemistry, confidence and momentum, coaching systems, injuries, injuries etc of the competition night in night out. All I expect is COMPETE and anything above that is a bonus this year. Adversity always leads to unexpected positive by-products and builds character – what this young team needs.

    Second, perhaps more importantly…who will wear number 12 this year??

    • schevvy

      Nobody will wear #12 ever again for the Flames. Not a chance.

      I too am excited for this season. Will they be bad? Absolutely. But it’ll be exciting to watch the growth of the young players. All I ask is that hey compete hard every night. I’m sure quite a few nights they will be overmatched but if they compete and work hard it’ll be alright. Hey, maybe Sven can make a run at the Calder :))))

  • T&A4Flames

    Further to my last email, my Oiler buddies are RESTLESS now. If things don’t turn around this year (playoffs) then we can start making fun and poking the beast. Fingers crossed. It’ll get ugly down highway 2 if they flop this year.

      • I tried it at home

        Damn right, you southern fried so-and-so. As an Oilers fan I invite all your mud slinging, bad jokes, and 3rd rate one liners. I still chuckle at the fun you all had with Wanye after he called you out before the game we “couldn’t possibly lose” and got absolutely creamed by your AHL rejects. Its all fun and games, and its our turn at the bat next up. Enjoy the desert, the wandering’s GREAT

  • schevvy

    Talk about denial. The Flames ownership and management have been in denial for at least 2 years. The rebuild should have started two seasons ago but alas it did not. Now the real work begins; can ownership, management, coaching, season ticket holders and us regular fans get on board for the next 3-5 years.(maybe longer)Hartley will really earn his money this year as he will need to deny himself what all coaches want to do; win right now. Anyone who has ever coached any sport at any serious level hates to lose and the hard thing to do is not short circuit development. He needs to roll 4 lines and play the kids in every situation; find out who has what type of moxie. While I like both of our veteran grinders (if we were a team in contention and needed grit) I believe they will just get in way of development. Hopefully the style of play will be entertaining and not boring. Hopefully ownership and KK will have the patience to allow management to find the kind of players Hartley wants for his uptempo. Fans too. I’m excited about the rebuild but can we stop already using the Young Gun’s 2 title as any one who was a fan did not like. Let’s hope they will be more like Blazing Saddles; entertaining at least.

  • Michael


    My recommendation, hibernate for the next two or three winters, and wake up in time for the draft. Selecting in the top five is going to be THE hi-light of the next few seasons.

    This tean is destined for a bottom five finish, so the regular season is going to be tough to take. The Flames are weak down the middle, weak on right wing, missing a top four d man, and the goaltending is largely unknown. The Flames havent replaced Iggys and Tanquays scoring, so we stay near the bottom in goals for. Without JBo our back up is much weaker, so we fall down the standings in goals against… We don’t have an established NHL starter, so I expect the goaltending to be eractic at best. Decent for a stretch, terrible for another… expecting any of the prospects to be able to handle an NHL schedule is a lot to ask.

  • beloch

    The Flames have not made the playoffs in 4 years. If you look carefully at there lineups since the early 90s they have been a pretty average team since then. The current roster is by far the least talented in franchise history – there is not a scorer in the bunch. The expansion team was much better! Even with improved prospects the team is going nowhere. Darryl Sutter dug us into a very deep hole. It could be years before the Flames make the playoffs, and longer before they become a contender again. We are heading for Leafs territory here.