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The Flames are good. Whatever their trade deadline approach, let’s just enjoy the ride

It’s February: trade deadline month. No matter what the Flames choose to do over the next three weeks and change, we should probably just roll with it. After all, who saw this coming?

The Flames, like pretty much all teams, could be better. Another high-end forward could make them that much more threatening; another scoring depth forward could make them that much more difficult to defend against. Another defenceman could shore up the concerns surrounding the current group: three rookies, some injuries to veterans, a tendency towards lapses at times. Another goalie, one with less mileage on his body, could give the Flames that much more confidence no matter who’s in net.

They aren’t all realistic targets – certainly not with the few assets the Flames have available to them (no second round pick and not much in the way of top prospects, and those who could yield a good return may already be too valuable at the NHL level to lose) – but no team is ever going to be perfect; even the Stanley Cup Champions will have flaws in their roster.

But no matter what happens, let’s just enjoy the ride.

At the start of the season, who thought this group could be a legitimate Cup contender? And who thinks that now? This team has gradually risen its own expectation levels: just make the playoffs. Okay, maybe get home ice advantage for the first round. Or, okay, maybe get home ice advantage for future rounds. What do you mean, if the Flames beat the Predators in this early December game, they’ll be first in the West? And then they’ll just stay there? That they’re the only other team currently within striking distance of first overall in the NHL? And it’s how late into the season, exactly?

Expectations probably started to shift around mid-November; I’d point to the 4-2 victory over the Oilers on Nov. 17 as a turning point – the one in which the Oilers took a 2-0 lead but, once the Flames started playing actual hockey, they scored four straight to win. After which they started to blow other teams out – and good teams, at that.

They continued to come back from multi-goal deficits. They took over first place in the Western Conference. They kept going. They kept winning. And with each two points gained, with each bit of separation from divisional opponents, expectations changed along with them: from “you had better be a playoff team this year” to “so, just how many rounds could home ice really last for?”

There are inklings of 2004. On a personal note, that was the year that really kicked off my sports fandom: a realization that this could be a ton of fun on a day-to-day basis. And non-stop, at that, with something new to look forward to with each passing day: a game tonight, basking in a victory or at least an admirable performance the night previous. Now, 15 years later, the same sort of vibes are finally shaping up again this season. It took 15 years, but they’re finally back.

They’re toeing a weird line between being an underdog and not. The 2004 club was the epitome of being an underdog: they had two amazing players, some decent supporting cast, a guy who couldn’t stop scoring series-winning goals, and that was about it as they took down three division winners.

This year, the Flames are kind of underdogs in that they massively underachieved the previous season, and their biggest moves were to acquire players and personnel from the Eastern Conference underdog version of themselves. Unless you were paying attention to them, they wouldn’t be on your radar; and if you were paying attention to them, you’d be wary because you’d remember how the season before went and how disastrously it crumbled apart.

But they’re also kind of not underdogs because, well, they’re second in the NHL. They’ve played through some poor stretches and they’ve still won. They’re the only team with more than three 50-point scorers. Underdogs aren’t usually this high in the standings, they’re the ones who surprise those who have climbed to those heights. Except the Flames also so happened to surprise many – perhaps even themselves – by reaching these heights to begin with.

So whatever the Flames decide to do at the trade deadline – stand pat, make a minor move, make a splash – let’s enjoy it, because who could have seen this coming. However far they make it into the playoffs, let’s enjoy it, because who could have seen this coming.

This isn’t the do or die year, this is the sit back and enjoy the ride year. The signs were there, but they had to all come together first, and that’s never a guarantee. Still isn’t, really. But it’s looking like that reality is ever closer by the game.

In 2004, the Flames came out of nowhere, and it was such an explosion of joy across the entire city that it’s still looked back upon fondly. In 2019, it’s finally shaping up to be the exact same thing, including that promise of a good future for the team – and hopefully, this time, one they can follow up on.

Of course, just enjoying the ride is null and void if they make a truly indefensible move – but let’s hope that doesn’t happen. There’s no reason for it; this team has no reason to panic. They’ve got every reason to be optimistic. And that should be the way to go.

    • freethe flames

      Do we need muscle that can’t play? Last night we did not see the best of Bennett or Hathaway at their physical best. Far to often we were willing to take a hit and not lay a hit. Nobody is saying that guys like Monahan have to run someone through the boards but a bunch of the bigger guys like him, Neal, Lindholm, Hanifin could finish a few more checks. I even saw Janko finish a check last night.

      One thing that I noticed in watching the game this morning on PVR was Johnny’s effort a number of times to get back on D to help take away an odd man rush; he seldom get’s credit for it but I noticed it a number of times. There are few other guys who could make that effort.

      • The GREAT WW

        Hathaway and Bennett are not heavyweights and neither is Hamonic.
        We need a true heavyweight.
        Ross Johnston perhaps?

        Agreed on your Johnny comment.

        WW

        • freethe flames

          I never said they were heavyweights but that both can be much more physical than they were last night.
          I have not seen the Isle’s play enough to know enough about Johnston so I won’t try and argue with you on him. With the Isle’s in a playoff spot and knowing who they are likely to play in the playoffs I’m not sure they move him. Is there anyone on the non playoff teams that you think would add that physical presence?

          • The GREAT WW

            Maybe the Isles have another monster in their system they can replace him with.
            Not all teams are like us and only draft kids 5foot 9 and under…

            Would it really hurt our team to have a guy like Johnston replace Mangiapane or Neal?

            WW

          • Speed Kills

            The NYI’s still have Clutterbuck & Matt Martin, They would be Fine with out Ross Johnston. Johnston has a very small sample size to work with but considering the NYI’s signed him for 4 years (inc this year) @ $1,000,000… I’d say they do have faith in his playing abilities. He has been with the NYI’s since 2015-16.
            NHL TOTALS = 38/3/6=9, +2, Pim89… Not a glaring Defensive liability nor a scoring machine but brings that “Don’t mess with our stars” grit a team can use.
            Cheers~!

        • freethe flames

          WW replying to your later response(I hate that this site thinks it knows when to end a converstaion). Would it kill this team to have Mangiapene or Neal sit probably not but I can’t see them sitting Neal(would it hurt this team for him to bring the physical style he was said to have into every game). Johnston might be the guy but I would still prefer a guy who could be more functional toughness. Again I have not seen him enough to know.

      • Luter 1

        I can almost guarantee Bennett is already dinged up because he is not hitting and Hathaway was hurting only because both are trying to punch or hit above their weightclass. Neal doesn’t hit anybody and neither does Hanifin for a big guy, he is almost a replica of Dougie less the wrist shot. As WW says some level of muscle is required as we definitely got banged around yesterday with no response.

  • freethe flames

    Last night injury to Hamonic will cause the Flames to shop for an insurance D even if they had not planned to.(but I suspect they have a list)

    I have always been on the side of being patient and not spending early draft picks on rentals but I look at this team and the various views of the “windows to win” and have come to the conclusion that you have to look at winning when the “window” is as wide open as it is this year. By this time next year the Flames will be likely shopping or already have shopped at least 1 of their top 4 D and likely Frolik and this team looks very different if it does not have 1 of tJ or Hamonic(maybe both) and Frolik. Regardless of what BT does or does not do I will enjoy the ride but IMO he needs to and will do something to improve the chance of having a parade in June. As a fan i will keep speculating as to the who and how; that’s half the fun at the moment.

    • everton fc

      How bad is the injury? Any updates??

      I think we call up Hamonic, and maybe grab a “Schlemko” type, as insurance. A guy who will cost us basically nothing. McQuaid would be another to fit that bill.

      If we bring in a player of Dzingel’s calibre (the Sens won’t move him – I’m simply using him as an example), then we become deadly. I also like the idea of Johnston here, but he’s played 13 games. There’s a reason he’s played 13 games, in NY. Matt Martin has as many goals as James Neal, two less assists, in 11 less games. He can at least put the puck in the net, but neither Johnston, nor Martin, are moving from NY.

      We need a tough player who can score a bit. And, if Hamonic is out for an extended period of time, a 5/6 d-man.

      • freethe flames

        He did not practice today. I suspect we won’t get much of an update until they get home. Yes indeed I suspect BT is trying to find an upgrade on Prout as we speak. I think you meant to say Valimaki and not Hamonic but the news is they have brought Valiev instead.

  • Honkydonk

    Problem I still have is these guys went away for 10 days and came back and lost the first game. That again speaks to the seriousness and urgency.

    They should have come back with game face on and showed what they are made of but instead they let the first goal go in and they don’t start playing their game until late in the second period.

    If they are contenders this wouldn’t have happened

  • Afterburn

    Thought Smith looked really good last night. I think he has done enough to show that he is more than capable of being an excellent back up goalie, he may even push Dave for the starting role again. I know many will disagree with my comment but I’m felling very good about our goaltending this year. Neither Dave or Smith have been overworked so far this season and should both be fresh moving forward. I’m of the opinion that Smith is an old warhorse that will rise to the occasion of potentially being a part of a tandem that gets this team deep into this years playoff.
    Can’t wait for tomorrow’s game. Go Flames, Go Rittich.

    • snotss

      have you been sniffing glue or what????? mike smith the goalie for the flames????? i don’t think he will find his game and will cost the flames points when ever he plays it is so obvious

      • Afterburn

        No man, I’m a season ticket holder and watch a lot of hockey as I’m sure you do too. I’m as invested in this team as anybody. I’ve been as frustrated as anyone watching Smith this year and end of last season. I’m not saying he’s taking us to the Promised Land but he’s looked much better as of late. Just think he’s coming around and am glad to see it.

        • Bucky 1989

          Afterburn:

          Are you prepared to go into the playoffs in the remote chance that Rittich gets hurt in the last week of the regular season? If the answer to this is No, then the Flames have to get insurance in net. As a season ticket holder you will know more than many that if the Flames lose the first round in 4 games ( worst case scenario) because they could not call upon Rittich, the cost to the franchise could be lost revenue of 2-6 home games at $2.5mm per game. Would you chance that on Mike Smith? I don’t think so.

  • Gus Fring

    I agree that we need some size up front. What is anyone’s thoughts on Kyle Clifford? He isn’t a goon but he wont back down either. We do need this type of player for a playoff run.

    • freethe flames

      He has more goals than Neal this. We have a highly sought after RW who makes less money. He brings lots of speed and we will move him for Clifford and you won’t even have to sweeten the pot. (likely it would take more than just Czarnik straight across though).

  • Korcan

    I agree with Ari on this one. With a core in their early to mid 20s, the window is just opening for the Flames and should remain open for a number of years to come. Tre doesn’t need to make a huge move, at risk of sacrificing the future, in order to win now. The Flames are not the Sharks. Just enjoy the ride — it’s only beginning.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Johnny has 3 years remaining after this season. However, the likelihood of him re-signing with Cal is slim to none. For arguments sake , let’s say that is true. With an eye to the future, the Flames should surely be able to get a lot more for Johnny if they traded him with a year left on his contract than to wait until the year his contract expires, much like the situation the Jackets are in with their two big-name pending FAs. Without Johnny, what is Monahan? Nobody really knows. With no Stockton farmers banging the doors down to get to Cal, might this season and the next two and possibly three be the Flames’ wide window of opportunity?

  • BlueMoonNigel

    In 1986, the Fabulous Thunderbirds asked the question are you “Tuff Enuff?”

    That same question was posed to the lames last night and , as always, actions spoke louder than words. Tom Wilson ran amok and the Flames had no retort. Last night’s game should be a wake-up call for Nehru Tre to make his team bigger and badder for the malicious mayhem that comes with the playoffs.

    Mind you, rocket back to spring 1990 when Fletcher, thinking his team wasn’t “Tuff Enuff” made only one deadline deal: the acquisition of tough guy Jim “Candy” Korn. Alas, the Flames were done that spring before the real corn was sowed.

  • Luter 1

    I can almost guarantee Bennett is already dinged up because he is not hitting and Hathaway was hurting only because both are trying to punch or hit above their weightclass. Neal doesn’t hit anybody and neither does Hanifin for a big guy, he is almost a replica of Dougie less the wrist shot. As WW says some level of muscle is required as we definitely got banged around yesterday with no response.