Post Game: They Love Us, They Really Love Us


The horizon of this 2013-14 Calgary Flames hockey season draws ever near, and, alas, as we’ve become accustomed to over the past few years, will do so without any flair, any pomp, any drama; it will simply end. And while that may be a familiar tune, the remix is DANK, son. 

Maybe it’s a byproduct of playing pressure free hockey to close out another playoff-free season, or maybe this group of plucky, ragtag youngsters are truly much better than anyone ever gave them credit for, but your Calgary Flames, since the stroke of midnight that ushered out the calendar year 2013, have been undeniable. 

There has been a charm surrounding this team, a beacon of fortune among hushed expectations. Their glint, glintier, their resolve, fortified. Watchability? Oh you betcha.

So while scoresheet tonight tells a tale of a 3-2 loss to the Ducks of Anaheim in a mostly meaningless game, the fans recount an unshakable inkling of hope, one echoed by the masses, helpless feelings of empathy and admiration coming from even the fiercest of rivals and critical of commentators. And in the grand scheme of things…okay well as far as tonight goes that means nothing, but ONWARDS…a brighter future awaits. 

The Rundown


If you managed to get past all that melodrama at the top of this post, you might remember that there was in fact a game played tonight. And in fact, as exciting as a game as it ended up being, the first period was played with a conservatism generally reserved for those games where David Jones is in the lineup. While Calgary did hold a 12-9 shot advantage in the first period over those pesky, disease ridden waterfowl, the pace to begin the game was somewhat methodical, as you can be damn sure the Ducks weren’t about to let Calgary run roughshod to the tune of 7 goals over them AGAIN (because, as you’ll remember, that’s exactly what they did last time). As a result, the first goal in the game didn’t occur until 18:57 of the first frame, as young Nick Bonino, who is neither an 80’s muscle car or a Quebec City snow mascot, slipped the puck past Karri Ramo, who had a few gaffes but was mostly excellent again in the Flames goal.

The second period was one for the ages, where defense be damned, it was time for some river hockey. After (surprisingly) impressive rookie Tyler Wotherspoon made a fine play to maintain puck possession in Anaheim’s end, the Burnaby native then played human pinball, bouncing his point shot off noted meatbag Kevin Westgarth before ricocheting off your boyfriend Brian McGrattan into a hilariously yawning cage. Brian McGrattan now has 4 goals on the season, a career high, and this is a thing people are legitimately impressed by. McGrattan and Westgarth were all rewarded for their strong play with extended ice time, and looked to actually be having a decent game, until a shift from Jiri Hudler’s line showed us what actual hockey players can make this game look like, as the Flames ran the Ducks into the ground in their own end until Ladislav Smid faked a slapshot over to a wide open Hudlerite, himself presenting the most open net one will ever see. 2-1 Flames, on what was basically perfect hockey. It was a treat to watch.

And then the third period happened, where they coughed up the lead. The odd defensive lapse and shaky rebound by Ramo allowed Mathieu Perrault to tie the game, and for former Oiler and Ducks caller outer Andrew Cogliano would tuck in the winner minutes later. Still, the Flames gave it their all for 60 minutes, which I realize is the most cliched thing I could ever say, but it didn’t feel forced today. Alas, it wasn’t enough, as the 3-2 score was enough to hold up as the Final, but the crowd went home entertained, knowing the result doesn’t mean a damn thing.

Why The Flames Lost

Not for a lack of effort. Belie’dat. Of course a lack of truly elite talent puts them behind the 8-ball on most nights, but lately strong work ethic and superior puck possession has been enough to trump that trend, but we all know it can only last so long.

Specifically on this night was less of a focus on strong defensive play, as some blown assignments, and quite frankly, some shaky rebounds by Ramo, were enough of a momentum turner to keep Calgary out of the win column, but for the most part, they played admirably tonight given the circumstances.

The Red Warrior


You know what? Fine. Shut up. It’s Brian MGrattan. I know you guys want it, and you didn’t think you were going to get it, so here you go.

In his 300th NHL game, Brian McGrattan, as far as that guy goes, had a good game tonight, and he would actually be better described on this rarest of nights as a positive working towards a win then a negative preventing one. Beyond scoring an early second period tying goal, he was positionally sound and generally in the right place most of the night, and certainly not a liability. In almost 8 minutes (!) tonight, Big Ern brought in a goal on 4 shots and was not as hindered by his own limitations, it seemed.

Grats doesn’t get anything for winning tonight’s Red Warrior, but my guess is he can sense it and feels pretty good right now. Congrats to him. I’m sure he feels how high of an honour this is.

In the End

This is just a smattering of tweets from fans of opposing teams and neutral observers who are paying attention to, nay, enjoying the efforts being put on by our local charges, and it’s big that people even outside the fanbase are invested. If you have Oilers and Canucks fans heaping praise onto the CALGARY FLAMES in a period where it takes significant effort to watch them not compete for the playoffs, it’s a sign that there’s some good hockey being played, but I don’t think I really need to delve into that too much for all the Flames fans reading this- you already knew.

So with that in mind, I leave you with what you all came here for anyway: Brian Burke’s hair helmet. Goodnight.

  • TheRealPoc

    Now comes the tough part. It’s one thing to be plucky and full of vinegar; it’s quite another to be a legitimately good team. Last 25 have us in the league’s top half of 5v5 Corsi% but this group is still sorely missing elite talent, at least up front. And I think that’s what separates the Jets and Yotes of the West from that next tier.

    With that said, if we want to go down the path of selling off farmhands for NHL talent…the Abby stable sure looks a helluva lot more stocked now than it ever has. I think Burke and whoever the hell he decides upon will at least have options & assets to work with. Which is nice.

      • beloch

        I am going to go out on a limb and speculate that you guys are going to say something like: “The Flames are going to have more stars on the team next year because some of the guys who took major steps forward and kicked butt this season are finally going to be noticed.”

  • T&A4Flames

    Despite the loss and a couple of blunders in the third, can’t help but be impressed with the performance by the Flames not only tonight, but as of late at home. We all knew they were going to be in tough this year, but it shows that the players truly care about the fans when they come out and play 60 minutes on home ice, even if they don’t come out of the game with the W. That’s more than you can say up north, who were more than willing to let their rivals from the south absolutely trounce them in their own building, with maybe Taylor Hall being the only one who showed he was upset (only to be benched because Eakins couldn’t handle a little water and passion). This combined with the big win against SJ and it’s good to see the boys aren’t willing to let themselves get pushed around by the beasts from Cali-for-ni-a.

    Also, is Ramo for real? He’s played really well recently (outside of the 3rd goal tonight) and I can’t help but be excited for him and Ortio going forward.

    Keep it up boys!

  • beloch

    The advanced stats say this one was close, but that the Flames had the edge and the Ducks had to be (slightly) lucky to win.

    Overall CF% 50.4%
    Overall FF% 51.1%
    5on5 CF% 52.2%
    5on5 FF% 54.3% [1]

    What made the Ducks lucky? Hiller going 0.941. The Ducks came into town looking for payback for that drubbing, but they only just barely squeaked through with a W entirely because their starting (not the backup!) goalie stood on his head. Impressive stuff!

    The Blueline:
    Wotherspoon played 17:54 with a CF% of 50.00%. He is sheltered, but again, that’s impressive for a rookie stapled to Smid [2].

    Smid played a few extra shifts with Brodie (during which he got killed) for a total of 20:09 and a CF% of 47.8%. Although he did get creamed when playing against top comp with Brodie, he did a lot better than we’re used to seeing.
    Russel and Butler got plowed, both with 39.4% 5on5 CF%. People were wondering why Smid was playing so much tonight. That’s why.

    Brodie and Giordano, of course, spent most of the evening playing together and just killed it with CF% of 68.6% and 66.7% respectively. Seriously, those two are like Starsky & Hutch together. Freakin’ brilliant!
    MacGrattan had a great game by his standards. That’s still not great in terms of corsi, but he did have some standout shifts. He pick-pocketed Selane at least once and that goal, although it was total pinball wizardry, was only possible because he got into a good position for it to bounce off of him. You gotta love the guy. Most of the other forwards were fairly unspectacular with corsi for percentages in the mid forties. The Cammalleri, Backlund, and Byron line, however, went atomic. They played most of the evening together against the toughest competition and managed 5on5 CF percentages of 80.8%, 77.4% and 72.4% respectively. Wow. Squid and Beastlund were both awesome out there, but how great is it to have a rookie like Byron stepping up and joining in the butt-kicking? Somebody is going to offer-sheet that kid if Burke doesn’t get him inked to a new contract soon!

    The boys played an unreal game tonight folks.

    [1]Stats are from

  • RedMan

    right when Burke wants to get bigger, Byron happens.

    how can you let him go when he plays so well? he plays a 6’2″ game, very aggressive and not shy about battling in the corners/ you often see him beating guys on the puck.

    • beloch

      I think when people talk about Burke and “truculence” they automatically assume:

      a) The team physically needs to be bigger
      b) That the team needs to bulk up on goons to fill out bottom roles

      However, I don’t think this is entirely true. Obviously Burke likes to have bigger forwards, but he still wants a skilled team. Also, I think he wants players who play big (or bigger than their size). Burke would take a guy who’s 5’9 that is hard to take off the puck over a 6’5 player who gets pushed around all game. Byron actually plays what I would consider “Brian Burke hockey”. He gets into dirty areas, bangs bodies, isn’t afraid to take on bigger players along the boards. He’s a beaut and I hope he sticks around as a 3rd line energy player for next season for sure. What Byron is doing this year is exactly what Burke is especting out of Sven.

      Also, I hear a lot of flak for bringing in Westgarth, and that people like to say Burke wants to build a team around a bunch of Westgarths. That’s not true either. Westgarth is a transitional piece that allows the young players on the team to flourish without the worries of getting taken out by some borderline players like Roussel or Clutterbuck (Buttercup as Cherry would say). He’s not a long term piece by any means and I think we’ll see more players like Byron (not necessarily his size but the way he plays) being a necessary part of this team going forward.

      Backlund is an example of another player who has allowed himself to play bigger than he is this year and he’s exponentially better because of it.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Would be sweet if the league would somehow reward teams for not taking. Have a league panel comprised of representatives from each play-off team. Have them vote on the bottom 10 team that showed the “greatest improvement or desire to compete”, or something like that. Whichever team gets the most votes, wins the lottery!

    I know… I can dream

      • T&A4Flames

        2 tier system:

        1st overall should be won. Whether that’s through a mini tourney or some compilation of bottom 5 teams records over a certain stretch.

        The 2nd overall is won via lottery. If its a tourney system that wins the 1st, the 30th place team (if they don’t win tourney) and the runner up in the tourney get even % chance of winning 2nd overall.

        No team can be in the running for a top 3 pick for more than 3 years in a 5 year stretch. thus eliminating the EDM, FLA, and NYI of the hockey world from being regulars in the bottom 5.

        Rough idea but something ive just recently been thinking about.

        • Robear

          I read in Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts that the league is consideering something similar, primarily in response to next year’s Connor McDavid lottery.

          The idea that he mentioned utilized the current percentage lottery aspect, but focussed on a rolling 3 or 5 yr average (weighted slightly to the current year’s results) of a team’s final placement.

          Unfortunately this improves the chances for the FLA, EDM, and NYI’s of the world, as year over year they continue to mine new depths of suckage as organizations. But it does eliminate one-off teams from intentionally sewering themselves for 1 year and trying to get McDavid or whatever top prospect is in line.

  • spx03

    In the final minute with the Ramo on the bench (before the penalty) we had 6 lefty’s on the ice. Really takes away a fair bit of scoring threat. I know it doesn’t help having jones and wideman out, but do we look at moving a few guys in the off season to even this out?

    • mk

      I’m not usually an advocate of a strict even balance of left and right handed shooters, but its become evident that the Flames do have an issue here. Recently, its seems like EVERY pass between point-men causes problems because of the left handed shots. We’re at an extreme now.

      • T&A4Flames

        #’s may not support it but this allows teams to cheat to the right side of the D zone and cover the one timers. Having a balance of right and left shots spreads teams out and quickens a players ability to gain control along the boards.

  • T&A4Flames

    The one thing I really liked watching at the game last night was the cycling. In previous years with the Vets, they would cycle the puck but really the majority of the cycle was in the corner & at the back of the net. Yes it was controlled possession but no real good scoring opportunities. Last, I saw that cycle but with more creativity that utilized the defensemen & some real good scoring chances from the cycle. & the tic tac toe passing was fun to watch. We have more talent than we are getting credit for & this talent is starting to show because of a solid structure from the coaches. This summer, not only do I think it should be announced by both BB & the new GM that Hartley will be coaching next year(last year of his 3 year deal) but also announce an extension. Guys, the last thing we want is to have Hartley available to coach the Oilers.