*This is written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. It is not intended to insult or antagonize the Flames fan base. At this stage of the season, once we’ve finished off everything in the liquor cabinet, humour is all we have left to numb the pain.
At the time of this writing, the Flames have won their last three straight games, beating Detroit, Anaheim, and Minnesota respectively. As a result had been steadily climbing the standings and moving away from the coveted top-three draft position, currently sitting 24th overall (draft position 7th overall effective Monday). The Flames have even managed to ascend one place ahead of the Edmonton Oilers (a mixed blessing certainly for many fans this year).
They have a mere three games remaining and are mathematically eliminated from the 30th overall spot. They need to find a way to beat Colorado, Carolina, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay to the bottom of the NHL lake over the course of this week.This season has been abbreviated, but unreasonably painful for many fans of the Flaming C, however the end is in sight. Hope in the fan base now rests on the team delivering on their potential and netting the team a draft position within the top four spots this June. Doing so will require a plummet in the standings unlike anything Calgary has seen in recent years.
As a long-time Oilers fan, I have taken note of the Flames’ efforts of late and have decided to pass along some words of wisdom on the undertaking of this nosedive.
How To Fail
To begin with, you have recalled a significant portion of your AHL roster to replace injured, scratched, or departed NHL roster players. That’s good!
However, those AHL players are actually performing above expectations and forcing the team to win games in spite of a notable lack of talent or reasonable expectation of any continued success into next season. That’s bad.
These players need to show a complete lack of any hockey sense whatsoever. They need to begin putting the puck into their own net or passing between defensemen at the icing line because neither can thread a pass fifteen feet to a waiting winger. In addition, all offensive zone sorties need to end with a button-hook against the sideboards and a shot at a poor angle through traffic from roughly twenty feet away from the net that quickly results in an opposition transition and scoring chance against.
Your starting goaltender is old. That’s good!
He is playing well. That is bad. Perhaps the Flames could arrange to have a teammate run him in practice or put some cement in his hockey bag to induce back spasms.
Your backup goaltender is a journeyman that almost no other team in the league would claim on waivers at this point. That’s good.
He is performing well enough to be re-signed. That is bad (and somewhat questionable). Somebody needs to remind him that grandstanding is not tolerated in the dressing room and that for the sake of the team he had best let in some soft 40-foot clearing shots just to send the message to his teammates that he is onside. The Flames should still have Vesa Toskala’s jersey kicking around somewhere. Make Joey MacDonald sleep with it on.
You have traded away an iconic player responsible for approximately 200% of your seasonal point production as well as a stalwart defenseman who would routinely play the entire game while also selling 50/50 tickets during intermission. These are both good.
Your roster does not seem to have taken note of the absence of these two pillars, which was meant to make the entire house fall down upon itself. Instead, they appear to want to win just to spite those fans planning their draft party seating arrangements. That’s bad.
Aiming for the Ditch
The thing that makes the video above so memorable is the serene, almost zen way in which the car casually interrupts traffic and then slips over the edge of the road. The trick, of course, is that the driver had already fallen out of the vehicle in an inebriated stupor. This is an excellent metaphor for what the Flames need to do: abandon the wheel, let the car slip over the edge and into the abyss, and most importantly, make it look as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
The Jay Feaster is doing so many things well to get to the top of the league standings this June 30th, yet despite these measures the team itself cannot accomplish the failure necessary to truly be considered a success (does that sentence even make sense?).
My advice would be to borrow from the best-practices of other noted successful organizations. They could begin to submit waiver claims on every single player who crosses their desk, especially those who represent an organizational redundancy and would likely resist coming to play for the team. This is the Garth Snow model of management and has historically served that franchise well.
There is also the prospect of having a bottom six player “accidentally” injure a key offensive player by stepping on his hand while leaping over the boards for a shift as Ryan Jones did last season lacerating Sam Gagner’s wrist. This and the strategy of icing an all-AHL roster while placing all your veteran players on the injured reserve can be characterized as the Oilers school of draft positioning.
I mean, when you look at this season, have the Flames even sent a single one of their players to the IR for season-ending shoulder surgery? No. Teams that want to win (draft position) will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.
The Calgary Flames are putting together a fine season, one that could deliver great rewards this spring. However, their prize is slowly slipping away and the team and organization needs to find a way to refocus. The management certainly seems to be putting forth the effort required in a season-ending death spiral. It remains in the hands of the players to take the helm and steer this ship straight onto the rocks.
Most NHL teams employ video to help educate their players on strategies, positioning, defensive breakdowns, offensive zone entries and the like. For the purposes of the Calgary Flames ensuring a top draft pick, I have included below some video to study in an effort to help bring the team onto the same page.
Please watch carefully.