(courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Well, the Calgary Flames lost last night to their most (or second-most) bitter rivals, the Edmonton Oilers. The loss was Calgary’s 87th against the Oilers, 35th in Calgary against them, and the first time they’ve been shut out at home against the Oilers.
And you know what? That may be just fine.
In the 2014 Draft Lottery Dive, the Flames sit with 34 points in 38 games (with a 14-18-6 record), which puts them a whopping 10 points ahead of Edmonton. Prior to Friday night, the Flames had played maybe two or three stinkers in their prior 37 games. Three of the four teams below Calgary in the standings are from the Eastern Conference, which gives those teams the advantage of playing more games against arguably worse teams than the Flames do. If the Flames have a snowball’s chance of getting a crack at Aaron Ekblad or Sam Reinhart in this year’s draft – and their best shot may be winning the draft lottery at the end of the season – they need to take advantage of their chances to come up short against teams like Edmonton.
In all seriousness, a rational observer should look at Calgary’s 2-0 loss last night with a bewildered shrug and then move on. It was a home game after a three-day break with no practices. Players were surrounded by family members and presents (and food) for three days. The post-Christmas stumble is not a rarity in hockey, but hopefully this just lasts this game. And it’s not like there aren’t any positives to take out of the game, as Reto Berra was fairly solid, and Paul Byron and Mikael Backlund continued to play well. And Sean Monahan played well enough to get off of the fourth line. All in all, Calgary’s ability to make lemonade out of their lemons this year roster-wise – face it, they’re no world-beaters on paper – has to be one of the most interesting stories of 2013-14. But it’s frustratingly (for the club’s futures) arguably driving them further and further away from a great draft selection. But what’s the alternative? Tanking? As we’ve seen up north, that’s no guarantee of success.
For those looking for something to do on Monday night, the Kootenay Ice are visiting the Calgary Hitmen – albeit without Sam Reinhart, which is a bit like Garfield Without Garfield. But it’s also a good chance to see how the Hitmen are playing. Jake Virtanen, Radel Fazleev and Ben Thomas are all 2014 Draft eligible players who are garnering attention and, from a Flames perspective, Virtanen is almost the personification of "truculence" on the ice. Either way, puck drops at 7pm down at the Saddledome.
What’s your take? Are you more excited about this year’s on-ice efforts or worried about the draft? Or are you somewhere in the middle?