Amidst everything from yesterday, there was one particular garbage bag day player quote that stuck out. Amidst finding out so-and-so was injured and what’s-his-name likes Calgary, Mark Giordano offered up this tidbit:
“The one good thing to come out of this is we won’t take it for granted how hard it is to get into the playoffs.” – Mark Giordano
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) April 11, 2016
So, let’s get this straight… A rebuilding team that essentially fluked its way to success the season before assumed they could rest on their laurels? And it took an entire year for them to figure out this wasn’t the case?
There are so many things wrong with this picture.
On the one hand, I can kind of understand where they’re coming from. I highly doubt hockey players analyze their shooting percentage stats and come away with the conclusion that there’s no way they can replicate the same success the next season; of course they’re going to see that’s what they’re capable of and proceed as that’s their new standard. That’s where stories like Lance Bouma’s shooting coach come in (and as we all know, Bouma was unable to replicate that newfound goal-scoring ability this season).
Then you have a player like Johnny Gaudreau who has never missed the playoffs before. He enters the NHL, his team breaks a playoff drought; the dots are easy to connect. And to Gaudreau’s credit, it’s not as though he was the problem with the Flames this year.
But it does question just what others in the organization were thinking as they came into the season. They were thoroughly outclassed by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round; was there any thought put into why they just narrowly avoided being swept?
Did someone like Sean Monahan believe the Flames were for real, even though he spent his rookie season on a floundering team that had its worst finish in franchise history? Was someone like Mikael Backlund, who spent his entire NHL career until last season on Flames teams that failed to make the dance, thinking the team had turned the corner?
What about Brandon Bollig, who spent the first three seasons of his career on highly skilled Chicago Blackhawks teams, one of which won a Cup – did he feel these Flames were at that level? If being a Cup-winner is part of his resume, did his experience of seeing what a championship-caliber team is like firsthand never come into play?
What about Giordano himself, who hasn’t been in NHL playoffs since 2007? He’s looking at a decade-long absence at absolute minimum now; how is it anyone takes that for granted?
Now, I’m not here believing that just because a team tries really, really hard, that means they can do anything they set their minds to. That’s naive. But it showed in the Flames’ home opener, a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. They were thoroughly outclassed by the team they’d sent packing just six months prior, and a near-winless October showed no reason to have faith in this group.
Not to pile on, but also, to kind of do exactly that: whose job is it to get a team ready for the season? Ultimately, that has to fall on the head coach. And when all said head coach can do is seem stunned that his methods were exposed, that third period comebacks were no longer a thing and his team was out-classed night after night, and merely offer up flabbergasted statements of there being doubt to his squad’s game… what is he doing, exactly? If he’s a motivational coach, when did that come into play?
If work ethic is supposed to be your thing, where was it throughout the season?
There are more reasons the Flames missed the playoffs. So many more. But to have a team enter the season apparently already resting on laurels, and have no solution as everything comes crumbling down almost instantly – that’s a massive failure. It showed a sign of unreadiness and an ego not even close to having been earned.
Though we already knew that “earned, never given” was a farce, didn’t we?