Rebuilding is never fun. There’s no disputing that.
However, every team at some point comes to the realization
that their best route to glory must run through the dreaded lands of a rebuild.
The Calgary Flames came to such a realization, in 2013, after years of treading
the waters of mediocrity and have since begun a retooling and rearming process
to return them to relevance.
Just like every rebuild, in every sport, it’s not an awfully
pleasant experience. In fact, last season’s “fun” and
“positive” 27th place finish was something of an anomaly in the
rebuilding business, just ask our friends up in Edmonton. Finishing fourth-last
in the league doesn’t usually drench the fan base in positivity, yet somehow
last year it did.
Fact is, rebuilds generally – and historically – are not fun,
and that reality could very well hit home this season. Nonetheless, fans of
rebuilding teams hang on to little clippings of positivity here and there,
whether it lies in prospects the team has accumulated or other happenings around
the club, to keep the mood tolerable.
Flames fans though, may have a unique perspective to hinge
onto, in addition to the blossoming prospect base, in an effort to drown out
the losing and general suckiness: the team looks to have chosen an excellent
time to tear it down.
There may never
truly be a “perfect” time to rebuild, but when taking everything into account
right now, this might just be the one for the Flames.
The West is a bloodbath, and the puck hasn’t even dropped
yet; a true massacre in the waiting. There will be good teams left whimpering
on the outside looking in come April and even more broken dreams as the
playoffs advance. This edition of the Western Conference looks to be even
better than the beast of yesteryear, oversaturated in colossal titans, all
considered strong possibilities to seize Stanley’s
On top of that, the Pacific division is a
death blender in itself, further complicating a quest for playoff action in
Cowtown. The standard for being a playoff team in the West is as high as it’s
ever been, and having a sniff at hockey in late April requires a near elite
roster. In other words, the conditions have been primed to suck, if you really
want to (in fact, even if you don’t).
A team looking to lose more than they win, furthering their quest of acquiring
top talent and remodelling themselves into a contender. Seems like a match made
in heaven, doesn’t it? A 30th place finish ensures one of Connor McDavid or
Jack Eichel, and will almost certainly schedule that return to relevance sooner
rather than later. Superstars can do that to a team.
Sure, they’ll never admit it in a million
years, but Flames management will want this season, at some point, to go to
heck. Certainly not right away, but once the teams’ hopes slowly fade away as
scheduled in mid-November/December and Connor McDavid scores all the goals in
the OHL, Brad Treliving and Brian Burke will retreat to the Holy House of
Truculence and pray for the team to lose games, preferably in the least brutal
way possible, to muffle the fan base as much as possible. Something along the
lines of what happened last season. Lose the actual game but come away from it
feeling like progress was made and a step was taken in the right direction. Such
a result would net Calgary
a likely generational talent and move the Flames into that playoff
conversation, at long last.
appropriate timeline for a rebuild could be pegged somewhere between 3-6 years.
The former requiring things to be slightly expedited, obviously, and the latter
bordering on Oiler-like unrest within the organization.
after the 2015 Draft, the Flames will be theoretically entering their window for
ascension, likely armed to teeth with talent, and could again reap the
rewards of choosing to rebuild now. You
see, while the West is a horror show now, many of those teams are built to win at the present time (when losing should be valued over winning in Calgary), and will be nearing their expiration dates when the Flames are ready to
take leaps forward. Double the luck for the Flames.
strictly at the Pacific Division, the San Jose Sharks’ days of getting quality
minutes from Thornton and Marleau are liquidating fast, with both celebrating
their 36th birthdays before the 2015/16 season begins. The Vancouver Canucks
will be anchored by 35 year old twins in a years time, while the LA Kings will
be shelling out big bucks to many of their blueliners’ pensions in the near
future. The Coyotes have a shot at being worse than the Flames this year, while
Shane Doan isn’t getting any younger, and the Edmonton Oilers are caught in
some sort of perpetual suck, so neither are really worth mentioning. Anaheim is the only team
that looks to only be getting stronger, with a core still in its twenties, for
the most part.
being, almost every team in the Pacific will be missing significant contributions
from important pieces in the not-so-distant-future, and appears will take steps
backwards. While none of these teams are really on the brink of completely falling off
the map, most are currently in their primes right now – same with
the powerhouses of the Central Division – and will surely begin to trend
downwards, just as the Flames should begin their upward climb.
I’m not suggesting that in three, four
years – when the Flames should theoretically be reaping the rewards of their
suffering with a quality squad – the rest of the Western Conference will suck
eggs, I am however suggesting it will be weaker than it currently is. The Law
of Averages will re-balance the East and West and the Flames won’t have to walk
through Mordor just to secure a Wild Card position in the West.
At the end of the day though, that side of
it is a collection of guess work and (slightly) educated assumptions – although
taking an in-depth, analytical look at the validity of it would be fascinating,
but for another day. The NHL is a near impossible animal to read and if we look
back on this in a couple calendars, I may be completely out to lunch. Theoretically,
some of the West’s elite should temper back down to Earth, but its anyone’s
guess how and when that will happen.
is for sure however, is the climate in the current Western Conference looks to
be prime for bombing and securing the pieces necessary to succeed in the
National Hockey League. If the Flames wish to compete in a couple years
time, especially considering the dudes at the top of this years draft class,
they damn well better capitalize on the opportunity laid in front of them.
Rebuilding is never fun. But it sure looks
like the Calgary Flames chose the perfect time to undertake it. For the retooling phase
of their rebuild, it without a doubt looks perfect, but it could also prove opportune for the second phase of rebuilding, the achieving of their
end game: bringing the Stanley Cup back to Calgary, in a couple years time.
Only time will tell if any of this is remotely accurate, but from where I’m sitting at this moment, things look pretty opportune for the Calgary Flames, and what they’re trying to achieve. After all, you have to be lucky to be good, and good to be lucky.