This might not come as hard-hitting news, but here it is anyway: People in sports tend to overreact. To Everything.
I still remember the night Jarome Iginla got hurt during a game in town when I was still a Calgary Sun beat writer. The panic was instant. The game became meaningless. The story numbers shot up, all related to the injured captain.
There was a banner across four or more pages screaming, “Red Alert: Iggy’s Hurt” and every word written was about the injury in spite of the fact not a lot of info was really available.
What happened? How bad is it? How long will he be out? What is the team going to do now that its best player is injured?
How excited are you that you’ll be picking first overall now that you can surely no longer win any games … because, well, Jarome is hurt?
I know this example is a little dramatic, and the rhyming banner was clever enough that it was probably the main reason so many pages were dedicated to an event that allowed for nothing but vague “we’ll sees” from the coaching staff, boring and cliché reactions from the players in the room who had just as little information as the media questioning them, and speculative columns guessing what’s going to happen with … you guessed it … no real information.
But, hey, gotta feed the beast.
That’s how dreadful Frankensteined pieces (like one posted on a reputable mainstream sports website last week on whether or not it’s time to trade Sam Bennett) come to exist, stitched together horrifically and making very little in the way of a point.
I mean, come on, Bennett’s value would be at an all-time low in any deal right now, and there is more potential in him than there would be in some other prospect another team is looking to give a fresh start.
This trade chatter, of course, happened before young Bennett netted his first point of the year in what was a solid night for the Flames’ generally criticized third line last Thursday.
Mark Jankowski was the golden boy during training camp and the preseason but after his recall from the minors, hadn’t earned a point in seven games. That led to some members of the media and the public questioning whether he could really cut it in the NHL — as if seven games with about 10 minutes of ice time is a large enough sample size to know.
Jaromir Jagr definitely didn’t get off to a Hall of Fame start in Calgary after a summer on the shelf pondering his future. Moving up and down the lineup and in and out of the trainer’s room, Jagr had a pair of assists through his first half-dozen games here before a groin injury knocked him out for a week and a half.
And we all know about Bennett’s rocky start.
But Jagr scored his first goal as a Flame and assisted on Mark Jankowski’s first in the NHL against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, while Bennett ended the 15-game pointless start to what was expected to be his breakout season.
And that’s why overreactions happen in the first place. Expectations.
If so many people (Bennett included) hadn’t been eagerly anticipating at least 20 goals and 40-50 points in his third year in the NHL, the masses wouldn’t be so upset that he came up empty over the first six weeks of the season.
As for Jagr, being the legend that he is, the people who swore the 45-year-old would be a poster boy for secondary scoring and net 15 or more goals and 35-40 points in Flames silks after his sudden signing in October were the same ones already declaring the signing a bust and the experiment over after six games with his new team.
Somehow, the notion that we haven’t yet seen what Jagr is truly capable of didn’t cross enough minds until he showed it on Thursday with an at times dominating display second only to Johnny Gaudreau’s.
Remember, Jagr didn’t skate for an entire offseason and then signed up to play what’s likely his swan song season in the NHL after the puck had already dropped on the 2017-18 campaign — shorting him weeks of training camp to get his sizeable legs underneath him and put together an on-ice session that didn’t leave him gasping for air.
He looked like he had plenty to spare on Thursday after making the most of just under 13 minutes of play.
The truth for each of the three members of that line probably lies somewhere in between the extreme highs and lows they’ve experienced so far.
Bennett isn’t likely to go another 15 games without a point, but he’s also not suddenly going to be racking them up regularly without some sort of dry spell.
Jagr isn’t going to shave a decade off his odometer and bring back the post-goal salute, and Jankowski is unlikely to work his way into consideration for the Calder Trophy in his rookie season.
There is a lot of potential for all three, though, and things are going to be much better for them going forward as they gain chemistry and confidence as a trio.
“Guys were liking Jags’ big-time shifts. There was some energy there,” head coach Glen Gulutzan told reporters after the last game. “We need that moving forward. This league gets hard, it’s close every night and you need your guys to feel confidence and have some fun.”
That should be cemented as the Flames embark on a lengthy road trip after their home game against the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.
As nice as it is to play in front of 19,289 screaming fans a night in Calgary, the road is where teams develop their identities. While there is a ton of pressure to perform and be entertaining at the Saddledome, simplicity and instinct tends to rule away from home.
That, and some good, old-fashioned team bonding over a few pops, away from screaming kids and all the responsibilities of family life.
Jagr will get to spend some extended quality time with his new teammates. Jankowski and Bennett will get away from the scrutiny of the Calgary market.
The focus will be entirely on hockey. And that’s a good thing.
A brutal start to the season a year ago was overcome by a Flames team that finally figured out how to play to its strengths during a late-November road trip. The record on that six-game swing was 3-2-1 and they followed it up with a six-game winning streak immediately upon their return.
Trekking through Detroit, Buffalo, Columbus, Boston, Philadelphia and New York, the guys won three of the first four games and laid the foundation for the rest of their season.
With a relatively healthy roster, the same might be expected of this year’s version.
Starting in the same spot that last year’s turnaround began, the Flames can launch a climb up the standings in Detroit.
But if they don’t, let’s lay off trading guys or demanding the coach’s head when they’re back in two weeks.
At least until Christmas.