With fewer than 30 games to be played in 2014/15 edition of
the National Hockey League’s regular season, time has finally come to shift our
focus away from the horror that has been this season for the Calgary Flames and
onto the fruits their incompetence will bear via the NHL Entry Draft in a few
Wait. That’s not right. Playoffs? What?!
That opening paragraph is how I expected to open a piece
written in February about the Calgary Flames, but instead it looks strikingly
out of place. The season has been anything but a horror and one hasn’t even
muttered the words “McDavid” or “Eichel” around these parts since mid-October.
At our Pre-Season Roundtable discussion here at
FlamesNation, everyone foresaw them a bottom-5 team; the average predicted
point total at seasons end came in at 76. Well, with just over a quarter of the
season left to go, the Flames are 13 points away from that prognostication.
We certainly weren’t the only ones on that boat, either. The
“Flames are a lottery team” prediction boat was in metaphoric terms, the
Titanic, jammed packed with virtually every opinion on the Internet.
When the Calgary Flames hit the ice, true to the story, so
did the Titanic. And sure enough it sank, taking all its preseason expert
passengers along with it. Sure, some tried to save face and grab onto the
floating door, or other debris in the water, but no one actually believed them
and they were frozen out of relevance, and also out of life because the waters
in the North Atlantic usually sit just above freezing.
The only people to make it were Aaron Ward, who is actually
Kate Winslet, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who in our analogy represents the outliers
in the prediction community that may have predicted the Flames in the playoffs,
but no one will ever hear of because Aaron Ward wouldn’t share his door with
them and they drifted off into the cold depths of the ocean that is the
The TSN panelist’s final fate is still to be decided,
though. He sat smugly and confidently on his floating plywood for the early
parts of the season as the Flames screamed out of the gate to one of the NHL’s
best records, and periodically reminded stunned onlookers of his foresight.
It’s almost like the Calgary Flames are for real… Who knew?
— Aaron Ward (@TSNAaronWard) November 19, 2014
To be fair, he owed us some good news after the Jarome
But with every passing game, he’s looking more and more like
a genius. The Flames sit 5 points inside a playoff spot with their fate firmly
in their hands – a situation they haven’t found themselves in, in half a
Analytic loyalists jumped at opportunities to shred the
Flames and their underlying numbered apart, citing a remarkably high PDO and bottom
5 Fenwick numbers to be sure signs of an impending collapse.
Their claims weren’t unfounded of course. This years
Colorado Avalanche followed 2013’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the 2012 Minnesota
Wild as teams whose underlying numbers bit them in rear end after the smoke and
mirrors of hot starts/seasons faded.
Unsustainable was the word of the day, week and month for
the Calgary Flames. But guess what?
The #Flames unsustainable fast start has lasted 54 games.
— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) February 10, 2015
But the fact of the matter is, the final 28 games of this
season and whether or not Aaron Ward’s prediction comes true are both irrelevant
when looking back and grading the Calgary Flames’ 2014/15 regular season.
Because it’s already been an overwhelming success. They’ve
accomplished more this season as a team, and as individuals, than anyone could’ve
hope at outset. They’re waist deep in a cutthroat playoff race in year two of a
rebuild, and haven’t lost that electric work ethic that earned them headlines
Emerged from the group is a potential Norris and Hart Trophy
nominee, who also wears the “C”, and the mighty mite from Boston College has
slid right into Calder Trophy talk.
Sean Monahan, the rookie 20 goal scorer, has taken a leap
forward in every single cateogry, now firmly entrenched as the teams number one
centerman at the tender age of 20. TJ Brodie too has established himself as a
top pairing blueliner, playing alongside the aforementioned Giordano.
Not be out done, Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman have formed
one of the best supplementary pairings in the league, the latter finally
finding the offense he was signed in Calgary for.
Countless others have emerged from the shadows and taken on
important roles on the team. Lance Bouma has turned himself into a legitimate
top-9 threat while Josh Jooris stormed from obscurity, straight to the top of Bob
Hartley’s list of favorites.
But above all, they’ve come together as a team, not unlike
in the movies. They play for the man next to them and never quit on each other.
I can guarantee no tracksuits have been soaked in that dressing room
The coaching staff and leadership core have assimilated the
youngsters into the culture established, which to this point has paid off in
spades. We all ridiculed the Jay Feaster’s “this team needs a culture change”
rhetoric, but the results of one are pretty undeniable. Takes note, Edmonton. Just
kidding, winners don’t take notes from anyone, I mean, have you seen Kevin
The point of it all is this: the Calgary Flames may not
deserve to be where they are right now and they may not even make the playoffs,
but the strides made this season are paramount in the grand scheme of things.
The organization is loaded with young talent that will soon
begin sprouting up, improving this team further. Whatever need they have at the
present time; a remedy or two is brewing in the AHL, junior or college.
Patience is key, and thankfully, it appears this management group has plenty of
As the Bennett’s and Poirier’s and Wotherspoon’s begin
graduating (and actually playing, in Wotherspoon’s case) from the farm, they’ll
be welcomed into an environment already primed for winning. An environment engineered
for motivation and cohesiveness
Regardless what the outside world says, this team believes
in themselves and in each other, and that is the most powerful tool they could
possibly possess. It’s what has allowed them to come back from deficits so many
times this year and topple so many of the NHL’s titans. You might say it’s impossible,
but they say it’s not.
So whether or not Aaron Ward and his floating door make it
to shore, and the Calgary Flames sit inside the playoff picture on April 12th,
the 2014/2015 National Hockey League Regular Season has been a resounding
success for the Calgary Flames, and it has been an incredible amount of fun to be apart of.