Remember in that episode of The Simpsons, when Homer joins the Stonecutters? Of course you do, it happened in the classic 1995 episode “Homer The Great.” In that episode, Homer is initiated into the ancient organization through a series of paddles to the backside.
That’s kind of how I picture the next 12 days going for the Calgary Flames. Because not only do they have a lot of games in rapid succession, but they’re against a lot of good teams. And Edmonton.
So tonight, the Flames host the Washington Capitals (3-1-0). On Friday (not Thursday), it’s the Detroit Red Wings (3-2-0). And after that, the schedule gets awful-er.
So Calgary plays in Manhattan against the 4-2-1 New York Rangers on Sunday night, then play in Brooklyn against the 3-1-1 New York Islanders the next night. At least the travel isn’t bad, but both of those games would be tough to win normally, and the Flames are getting those teams back-to-back. And after that, it’s off to Ottawa to face the Senators (3-2-1), and then back home for a back-to-back against the currently-undefeated Montreal Canadiens (6-0-0) and then the Oilers (2-4-0) again.
A GOOD OR BAD THING?
The way the team is currently playing, it’s hard to see a seven-games-in-12-days stretch as anything but a bad thing. But this season’s entire schedule to-date has been rather scattershot – alternating home and away dates with random off-days – and it’s likely been hard for the team to gain a rhythm.
But one of the things coaches most often want early in a season is a long road trip. It gives teams time away from girlfriends, wives, kids and off-ice distractions and basically forces them to bond with the teammates off-ice and focus on playing the games on the ice.
Let’s be honest here: if they keep playing the way they have over the next seven games, they could get spanked thoroughly over the next 12 days. And if that happens, I think we’ll see some significant changes. But there’s also a chance – not a massive one, but a non-trivial chance – that this tough stretch (and particularly the three game road trip) could be a great opportunity for them to get their game together and actually get back to playing the style of hockey that brought them to the dance.
The opportunity is upon them. Will they take advantage of this chance and build upon it? Or will management be forced to swing the wrecking ball?