An anxiety appears to have been building in Calgary regarding the Flames’ new management
team and their seemingly undying thirst for size and toughness. The debate
seems to ignite itself on the majority of message board and article comment
section, regardless the topic of the original post.
Brian Burke, the proud father of ‘truculence’, and Brad
Treliving, a man who appears to be an apostle of the
Truculence & Belligerence™ manuscript, have already gained themselves a whole
barn of haters and picketers, lurking on the world wide web, eager to spread
the word of how stupid “BB” and “BT” (their new
designations, apparently) are.
As mentioned, the root of all this anger lies in the cry for
size and toughness by Brian Burke, and echoed by Brad Treliving and his staff.
Something about Burkie calling the third shortest and lightest team in the NHL
last season “soft,” irked the fan base. How dare he want to beef up a roster
with an average weight under 200 (as of opening night last season). Fact is,
that’s just not good enough in today’s NHL. I understand the value of speed and
skill, but completely disregarding size in favour of those two attributes alone
only make a successful hockey team in NHL 14. Puck battles are often like an
arm wrestling match, you can only do so much with skill and technique until raw
strength overcomes, and if you’re losing puck battles, you’re not getting the
And without the puck, all your speed and skill goes to waste
like a shiny new super car with nowhere to roam. As our own Byron Baderdisplayed here, being big and
heavy does make a difference. Heck, the defending Stanley Cup champs, who won
with an almost identical roster in 2012 too, were one of the tallest teams in
the NHL, and the standalone heaviest. Did that mean they were slow and dried up
of any skill? Absolutely not. You could argue the impact, or lack thereof, of
being big in the regular season, but in a seven game playoff series, the
argument practically wins itself. With the amount of parity in today’s game,
the ability to wear down an opponent is a priceless advantage.
So then, why do so many fear the idea of adding size and
getting bigger? Why is the population of Antiburke’s (the official, super cool,
name of the Burke hater clan) and Sizeaphobes ever growing?
The answer I’ve arrived at: PTSD. Post Traumatic Sutter
PTSD is psychological ailment some Flames fans, specifically
the Anti-Burke population, still struggle with in their day-to-day, Flame fan
lives. The random idiocy Flames fans were
subjected to under Sutter still lingers in their everyday sports fan lives.
Like a puppy rescued from an abusive situation, they cower and are deathly
frightened by things, in this situation terms, they associate with their past;
things that caused them pain. During the Sutter regime (I’m making it sound
like some sort of brutal, oppressive dictatorship), that “thing” that
cause Flames fans pain, was the blind mandate for size. Size, size, size.
That’s all we heard about and all the team did. They drafted big, they signed
big and they traded big. Any other hockey skills and/or ability didn’t seem to
matter as long as the person(s) in question were blessed with stature and scale
breaking ability. Being really old and out of your prime was a big bonus too.
After Sutter, Jay Feaster gobbled up this directive and
instilled his own – centered around hockey IQ, speed and skill. Obviously, the
fans loved it. Sven Baertschi, the first Feaster pick, was (unfairly) crowned
the “second coming” and the solution to all of the Flames’ problems.
After almost a decade of drafting big, Alberta
boys, you can’t blame everyone for getting excited over the diminutive, hyper
The problem was however, Feaster zoomed all the way to the
other side of the spectrum, now seemingly ignoring – albeit not completely – size
and building team only with players that had good hockey IQ, speed and skill.
For a while that was fine, as it evened the scales – so to speak – in the
organization and gave it a good blend of players over, and under, six foot.
However, when Brian Burke filled his new role as President
of Hockey Operations, the organization found itself shifted to an uncharted
territory of the spectrum. They had plenty of players with a lot of skill, both
on the roster and in the system, but not a lot of it could reach the cookie jar
on the top shelf. They were getting pushed around and admit it, was pissing off
the fans just as much as it pissed off management. Brian Burke and Brad
Treliving have gone about changing this reality. Obviously, the game plan is
centered around acquiring big bodied presences, but not those who aren’t worth
a damn in any other aspect of the game. No more “coke machines”, so
You may read this, glance at the Flames’ summer acquisitions
and scoff, but from what I’ve been able to gather, Brandon Bollig is a fourth
liner who can actually play, and Deryk Engellend is… well … ah forget it. I
have no idea what to say to that one. Although, maybe we’ll find out he can
actually play the ice hockey rather proficiently come October? Or maybe not.
David Wolf by all accounts is a skilled fridge, which is always fun. Kind of
reminds me of Dwight King in LA, who’s a player most would like on their teams.
Even the draft showed us that although size is the new
mandate, “Sutter” style size is a thing of the past. Hunter Smith
showed pretty well in Dev Camp, at the very least showing he can play. He’ll
likely be on Oshawa’s
1st line this coming season which will satisfy our thirst for those superficial
goal and point totals. Brandon Hickey can flat out fly at 6’2 and Adam Ollas
Mattsson is an up and coming rock on Sweden’s National Junior blueline.
Sure, Burke and Treliving have reeled in a plethora of
players with size, but they aren’t just big players, they’re big hockey
players. It’s a difference Sutter just couldn’t comprehend, or care
about, during his time here. “BB” and “BT” are building a
winning team with a blueprint constructed around today’s NHL and the way the
game is played in 2014. Yeah you need speed and skill, but without size to
complete the threesome, success will be harder to come by; see: Colorado
The men running this organization are extremely smart hockey
individuals and if presented with an opportunity to make this team better, they
will take it. Whether that opportunity stands 5’10 or 6’10. When the 2015 NHL
Draft and it’s glut of talent rolls around, I trust the Calgary Flames will
select the Best Players Available, not the Tallest Players Available or Heaviest
While it may be hard to see sometimes with PTSD screwing
with your head, this team is headed in the right direction and the influx of
size isn’t necessarily a sign of things to come, rather a balancing of the
scale in the organization. After all, greatness is achieved in equilibrium.