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.
As @RealKyper suggested, Gaudreau, Monahan, Bouma likely out of CGY lineup tonight for disciplinary reasons. May be playing 11 F and 7 D.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 9, 2016
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).
Hartley ends practice just 25 minutes after it starts… Interesting. Doesn’t look like Hartley was to pleased with the effort. #Flames
— Jermain Franklin (@TSNJFranklin) February 8, 2016
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?
Asked why they wouldn’t slot Nakaladal in: “We’re not in a situation to see how a guy would do,” said Flames head coach Bob Hartley.
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) February 5, 2016
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.