Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Lance Bouma likely healthy scratches tonight

Pop quiz. You’re a rebuilding team coming down from the high of an unexpected playoffs appearance. You had a good off-season, and that, combined with the prior playoff victory, raised expectations. Perhaps unfairly – but they were raised.

Your new year started with so much hope, only to promptly crash and burn from the get-go. It’s at the point where you’re just waiting for the shoe to drop and all the upcoming unrestricted free agents to be shipped out for future assets, because you aren’t going anywhere this season, as much as you may be desperate to deny it.

It’s also at the point where pretty much the only reason worth watching your team is its young talent. So what do you do? You scratch them. For “disciplinary reasons”.

Welcome to Calgary Flames hockey!

Seriously, if it wasn’t possible for the Flames to sink any lower this season, they just did it.

This would finally mark Jakub Nakladal’s NHL debut, although it’s not under the best of circumstances.

It’s also hilarious. This is a team that, apparently, for some reason even though they were literally just tied for the bottom of the league a couple of days ago, thinks they may still have a chance to make the playoffs. A team that had to play Ladislav Smid and Deryk Engelland on the bottom pairing because they weren’t in a position to insert a new player with potential into the lineup for his NHL debut.

And a team that can afford to scratch some of its best players? Hey, Calgary: either “every game matters”, every game is a Game 7, and you put forward your best possible lineup night in and night out to give you a chance to win (to say nothing of the fans spending however much money to get to watch this mess in person), or you admit your season is over and start giving opportunities to those who deserve it (have deserved it for some time now) as you prepare for the future.

This looks to date back to Monday’s practice, and perhaps significantly, the Flames’ first practice following the Superbowl (and almost certain Superbowl party).

Lance Bouma left said practice early, apparently with “illness”. He, along with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, were apparently late to said practice, and now, in a blatant power move, they’re paying the price for it.

On one hand, it’s within any coach’s – and, considering the magnitude of the names here, possibly organization’s – power to scratch anybody he or it deems fit. And while like anyone else, players are allowed to have their own lives outside of their work, they still have to show up later and actually earn their paycheque. When your job is physically demanding, being in ideal condition to perform is a part of that.

So if Gaudreau, Monahan, and Bouma – three players in their early-mid 20s, and one of whom wears a letter half the time – weren’t ready for practice, that’s a message that needs sending. 

On the other hand, for as long as the Flames want to trumpet out quotes about giving it their all and knowing they have to dig down really deep and play every game like it’s a Game 7, they can’t really do this. I don’t care that this is essentially against a decimated Leafs team that got further decimated earlier today: the Flames have two more points than Toronto and aren’t in position to look down on anybody. 

And to deny Nakladal’s NHL debut and leave him in the press box in every game since his recall – for the second recall, for that matter – because of… reasons?

And then turn around and do this? It’s hypocritical at absolute best.

And this is all to say nothing that in a struggle or disagreement between someone and a star, potentially franchise, player – which is exactly what Gaudreau and Monahan are or are on the verge of becoming – it’s the star players who always wins. Who should always win, for the good of the organization.

If this boils down to Hartley vs. Gaudreau, who do you take? It’s not even a question.

It’ll be really interesting to see how this seasons closes out, though, and much more interesting to see if any heads roll alongside it.

  • TheRealPoc

    Quotes of interest from a piece the author was co-author on, not five months ago:

    “The use of the terms “distraction” and “non-factor” indicates exactly how this matter has been handled by the Blackhawks and the NHL. Hockey is the priority, and endangering the product is unacceptable…There is hockey to be played and money to be made, and addressing a player’s behavior and the allegations against him are not a part of that equation.”

    “But allowing Kane to attend camp…perpetuates the concept that sports and those who play them are more important than properly addressing serious charges.”

    “The league needs to send the message that sexual assault allegations will be handled seriously and properly, regardless of who you are or how many Stanley Cup rings you have.”

    – taken from “The NHL has a responsibility to suspend Patrick Kane,” Sept. 24th, 2015 (


    Before this goes any further, no, I am not implying that Gaudreau, Monahan & Bouma committed a sexual assault. Like everyone else – unless you ran into these boys at Cowboys or something on Super Bowl Sunday – we don’t know what happened. In all likelihood, their most serious crime was pulling a Youngblood and dogging yesterday’s morning skate while they were still hung. We do know they broke a team rule, but on the relative scale of egregiousness, this is probably pretty low.

    But there is a reason I draw parallels to the Kane situation. One of the most troubling aspects of that episode – which the authors alluded to frequently in the linked piece – was how toxic an enabling & entitled culture can become. When there is no true deterrent to your behaviour, you feel like you can get away with anything. That’s the message that Kane’s presence at camp, without a second thought, sent to the larger public – this guy is so talented, we’re going to defiantly look the other way until things blow over. As the authors made quite clear in the linked piece, that simply doesn’t cut it these days.

    Again, I feel like I need to make this clear before I continue and it gets misconstrued: lazy, nonchalant dressing room culture != rape culture, and showing up late & hung to morning skate != violating another human being’s right to dignity. But there are major parallels between the way you address these improprieties in a way that sets the tone and makes it clear they’re not to be tolerated. We can just about conclude that the lads broke some form of team rules. And we have no indication that anyone else has broken these rules this season. So, either those rules are in place for a reason, or they’re just pure lip service. Either they apply to all 23 guys on the roster at any given time, or they’re circumvented based on talent. Either you send a message that says this is unacceptable, or you don’t.

    Sending this message is looking at a much bigger picture, one that extends well after Hartley’s been dismissed for being an incompetent coach and hopefully well into the run of this team as a contender (and I’m almost positive this wasn’t a Hartley-only decision anyway). Just think about it from an optics perspective: this organization is preparing to make long-term commitments to Monahan & Gaudreau that will probably surpass the combined threshold of $70M for the pair. Bouma was already (excessively) rewarded with his own $6.6M extension, ostensibly because of the example he sets in the room (which was repeatedly trumpeted in public). All told, that’s a helluva large commitment of capital for any organization. It’s fine & well to say this season is a lost cause, because it is, but if you truly believe in the long-term process over short-term results, then why should you have any expectation of these three guys that doesn’t consist of them acting like consummate professionals for the full 82? With particular focus on the two big guns, that’s the future of your franchise – if your leaders & best players don’t set the right tone at the top, you’re preparing to fail.

    No, this team isn’t talented enough to truly compete yet. And no, a great culture complementing a room full of AHL’ers won’t magically transform a team into a contender. But for the first time in a long, long time, this organization has a front office that’s focused on the big picture, and this move came across as a very big picture type of message to send. If the org is setting a standard of expected professionalism, I refuse to automatically dismiss that as misguided. If the org is explicitly communicating that no one player is above these expectations, I also have a hard time disagreeing.

    Players/employees/people are products of their environment, and I have no problem with the Flames trying to build a strong cultural foundation that will serve them well when they’re finally ready to contend. It’s not something to flippantly dismiss at the drop of a hat, and certainly not because the perpetrators in question are too talented to sit; the groundwork built now, and the expectations established now, should permeate for years after we’ve forgotten about a mid-February game between two lottery teams. Like the original article linked in here correctly states: “Prevention is always better than punishment.”