Relive the 2008-09 Calgary Flames Season

The 2008-09 season was largely the last hurrah for the Jarome Iginla Era Calgary Flames. It was the last time that Iginla would make the playoffs as captain of the Flames, and the last time that a Darryl Sutter Flames club made the dance, as well.

In many ways, the chickens came home to roost in 2008-09. Darryl Sutter’s famed tweaks failed to make a big impact on the roster. His tenuous salary cap house of cards collapsed at the end of the season, forcing the team to play short a few players for the last five games. And without flexibility in the organization, the Flames were worn down, worn out, and their veteran core simply didn’t have the gas in the tank after an 82-game slog to put up much of a fight in the playoffs against Chicago.

SEASON RESULTS

Northwest Division GP W L OTL Pts GD Sh% Sv% PDO Conf.
Rank
y-Vancouver 82 45 27 10 100 +26 9.1% 92.9% 101.9 3rd
x-Calgary 82 46 30 6 98 +6 8.3% 90.9% 99.2 5th
Minnesota 82 40 33 9 94 +19 7.5% 92.7% 100.2 9th
Edmonton 82 38 35 9 88 -14 8.9% 92.5% 101.3 11th
Colorado 82 32 45 5 88 -58 7.0% 90.7% 97.7 15th


SEASON RECAP

The 2008-09 Flames were fundamentally similar to the 2007-08 Flames, with a couple exceptions: young Mark Giordano was back on the blueline, Alex Tanguay was swapped out for Mike Cammalleri and Todd Bertuzzi and Rene Boruque added some size and speed to the top nine mix. Jordan Leopold and Olli Jokinen were added to the group at the trade deadline, as well.

Mike Keenan’s crew hit the ground running and really strung together a lot of good streaks during the season. They had six winning streaks of three games or longer, including a five-gamer and a six-gamer. They had just three three-game losing skids. They otherwise plodded along exchanging wins and losses. Everything seemed good until the injuries began to pile up late in the season, and things fell apart for two primary seasons.

First, the old CBA had a specific rule regarding the use of the injured reserve. If you put a player on the IR, they had to be on for a week and you got cap relief for the player on the IR. But that also meant that there had to be a week left in the season. Second, the Flames didn’t build enough cap room into their roster for the unforeseen event that injuries would pile up in the last week of the season. Injuries felled Cory Sarich, Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf and Curtis Glencross in the final week and the Flames couldn’t get cap relief and couldn’t bring anybody up to fill those spots.

So here’s how Darryl Sutter’s team went into the last five games of the season with a potential division title up for grabs.

  • April 3 at Minnesota: 16 skaters (6 defense, 10 forwards)
  • April 6 vs. Los Angeles: 17 skaters (6 defense, 11 forwards)
  • April 7 at Vancouver: 17 skaters (6 defense, 11 forwards)
  • April 10 at Edmonton: 15 skaters (6 defense, 9 forwards)
  • April 11 vs. Edmonton: 15 skaters (6 defense, 9 forwards)

They went 2-3-0 in those final five games. If they had beaten out Vancouver for the division crown, they would’ve faced St. Louis in the playoffs. But they finished 5th and faced (and lost to) Chicago.

Despite the results being seemingly not his fault, Mike Keenan took the bullet and was fired after the season. Brent Sutter was hired in the off-season to right the ship for his brother’s team.

SCORING LEADERS

Player GP G A Pts +/-
Jarome Iginla 82 35 54 89 -2
Mike Cammalleri 81 39 43 82 -2
Daymond Langkow 73 21 28 49 +1
Craig Conroy 82 12 36 48 +20
Dion Phaneuf 80 11 36 47 -11
Todd Bertuzzi 66 15 29 44 -13
Rene Bourque 58 21 19 40 +18
Curtis Glencross 74 13 27 40 +14
David Moss 81 20 19 39 -5
Adrian Aucoin 81 10 24 34 -8

(Regular Season)

Player GP G A Pts +/-
Olli Jokinen 6 2 3 5 -1
Jarome Iginla 6 3 1 4 -4
Eric Nystrom 6 2 2 4 +1
David Moss 6 3 0 3 E
Adrian Aucoin 6 2 1 3 -2
Mike Cammalleri 6 1 2 3 +1
Dion Phaneuf 6 0 3 3 +2
Daymond Langkow 6 0 3 3 +4
Curtis Glencross 6 0 3 3 -1
Todd Bertuzzi 6 1 1 2 +4

(Playoffs)

Miikka Kiprusoff started 76 games for the second straight season, winning 45 of them and seeing his underlying numbers continue to drift downwards as he posted a rather disappointing .907 even-strength save percentage. Curtis McElhinney started 6 games as back-up and took until the final game of the regular season to register his first NHL victory. Kiprusoff put up a similarly dismal (by his standards) .908 even-strength mark in six playoff starts, losing four of them.

NOTABLE TRANSACTIONS

Here’s the trades Darryl Sutter made throughout the 2008-09 campaign. Aside from the trade deadline, he was relatively quiet:

  • July 1, 2008: traded a second round pick to Chicago for Rene Bourque.
  • March 4, 2009: traded Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first round pick to Phoenix for Olli Jokinen.
  • March 4, 2009: traded Kevin Lalande to Columbus for a fourth round pick.
  • March 4, 2009: traded Ryan Wilson, Lawrence Nycholat and a second round pick to Colorado for Jordan Leopold.
  • June 26, 2009: traded down in the first round (from 20 to 24) with New Jersey, gaining a third round pick.
  • June 27, 2009: traded Jordan Leopold and a third round pick to Florida for the ability to exclusively negotiate with Jay Bouwmeester for four days.
  • June 27, 2009: traded Jim Vandermeer to Phoenix for Brandon Prust.
  • June 27, 2009: traded up in the third round with Los Angeles, giving up a fifth round pick.

In the summer of 2008, the Flames signed Todd Bertuzzi, Curtis Glencross and Andre Roy. The Glencross move paid off long-term, while the others provided some depth at least.

The 2009 Draft featured Tim Erixon, Joni Ortio and a lot of disappointment otherwise.

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RETHINKING THE 2008-09 FLAMES

The Calgary Flames were a Mike Keenan team in 2008-09, which means like the year prior they were a possession monster driven by a team that pushed hard to stay in the offensive end. The return of Mark Giordano helped out their depth on defense a bit, which meant they were a bit less awful in their own end.

They were a possession monster with a 55.7 Corsi For percentage, second in the entire NHL.

As seemingly always happened in those years, they hit a wall in the playoffs in the form of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks were slightly worse possession-wise than Calgary in the regular season (at 55.2% Corsi For), but were otherwise a virtually identical team – with slightly better goaltending. Kiprusoff continued to feel the brunt of playing all the time, while the Flames overall were a tired, injury-riddled bunch after having played short-handed for the season’s final week. If the Flames weren’t worn out, Chicago would’ve been a tough match-up. But with Chicago having better goaltending and the Flames not having much tread left on the tires, they didn’t stand much of a chance.

Now, if they had faced St. Louis instead, they would’ve probably fared better. The Flames were much better possession-wise than the Blues (who were 47.9% Corsi For), had about the same level of goaltending and were slightly better in terms of their shooting percentage. But the hockey gods being what they are, the Flames played (and lost to) Chicago instead.

It would be the last playoff series they played in for six years.

  • Rallytongue

    The 08/09 Flames were a great team sunk by a couple of bad deadline trades, a career worst season from Kiprusoff, an injury to Regehr, and Mike Keenan.

    If Regehr had been healthy, OR if Kiprusoff had been not awful, the Flames would have made it past Chicago in the first round (or not played them at all).

    • CofRed4Life

      Agreed. If they could have won the division, I think things would have been different. Oh well, it’s in the past now. I have a feeling the next few years in the “relive” series are going to be depressing…

    • SmellOfVictory

      I’d have been curious to see how they’d have done minus the Jokinen trade. The extra cap space that Jokinen took up was one of the big things that hooped them for injuries at the end of the season (also removed any chance of re-signing Cammalleri).

  • CofRed4Life

    I’ve said this for many many years, I thought that was the year for a serious run. I still curse that no call on the offside by Havlat in OT, which ended up in te net.

  • SydScout

    I understand the reality of it, but using the words ‘career worst’ and ‘Kiprusoff’ together just bugs me. They don’t go together.

    Especially when he is getting slaughtered year after year playing 70+ games a season.

  • OKG

    Those injuries did end up killing us in the end but if they would have just stuck with Lombo and Prust, this team would have been in much better position. Even before the injuries, I felt the team lost what made it such a powerful possession team: speed and depth. The team got too top heavy, and too top heavy on snipers without any playmakers. Having Lombardi on that first line, despite his lack of finish, was far and above better for this team than Jokinen.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Keenan was so bad his best buddy Darryl had to fire him, that’s saying a lot. Keenan ride all his starting goalies to the point they had nothing left and didn’t even practice the Powerplay. There was zero accountability to the defensive side of the game while he coached anywhere so there should be no surprise the Corsi numbers were high, which at the end of the day means nothing when you don’t play a committed two way game