124Milan Lucic
Photo Credit: Perry Nelson/USA Today Sports

Taking the L as a Calgary fan

What a difference a week makes.

Last week seemed like such a blessed time. FlamesNation was debating how to juggle minor league goalies. I wasn’t at City Hall protesting budget cuts. Milan Lucic was still an Oiler.

It would be great to get a mulligan on these last seven days.

I get that it’s foolish to get so wrapped up in caring about a sports team when they will ultimately tell me that this is a business, and decisions are made accordingly. But I’m an idiot, so that point is moot.

Instead, I’m going to try and rationalize everything that has been going on with being a Calgary Flames fan in the last seven days.

Milan Lucic 

I get that when you think about it, this trade isn’t as bad as it seems.

James Neal was never going to move back into the top six, nor should he have. He wanted to go, and that was a hell of a contract for the Flames to move. They were going to have to take on dead weight. Did it have to be Lucic though?

Sure, Lucic was a positive CF%Rel for the Oilers. Someone had to be. He had a great face-off percentage for the extremely limited number of face-offs he took. He improves everyone’s height and weight according to some media personalities, ignoring how body growth works.

He also has one of the worst penalty differentials in the National Hockey League and has a terrible contract for someone who is going to provide grit in limited minutes.

He also tended to make news stories off the ice for all the wrong reasons when he was younger, be it for getting into barfights or for very public fights with his girlfriend.

The worst part of this though has to be that it seems to contradict the edict the Flames have been selling for the past few seasons. They keep drafting players who lean much more towards skill than size. This is a team that tinkered to find the most skillful lineup, and when they had grit, at least it was functional enough grit in Garnet Hathaway at a fraction of the cost.

It’s hard to see how the Flames decided they needed more grit after losing to the Colorado Avalanche – a team that won because they had the puck and not because they were grittier – and why they needed to over-commit to Lucic. Yes, the deal could have been a lot worse. No, it isn’t bad enough to be a fireable offense. The problem is that I don’t want to cheer for a team that could be doing worse, I want to cheer for a team that is actively good.

Ideally, he doesn’t finish that contract in Calgary. At least he can’t mess up the Flames’ expansion draft plans.

The arena, er… events centre

If the Flames had decided to break my heart by trading for Lucic, it would have been enough.  Instead, they finally got council and the Calgary Stampede to come together for a new “events centre” (read: an arena, but with more events) in a deal that sees public money pay $275 million of the budgeted $550 million.

Admittedly, the Flames made a great deal here, as they got a shiny new toy at half the cost. They also got it with a lot of other perks, and have council on board with streamlining the deal through. I just wish that I didn’t feel like I was going to suffer because of their great deal.

This deal comes at a time where City Council decided to really lean into a period of austerity and make cuts to a bunch of services around the city. Mayor Naheed Nenshi admitted the optics would not look good, and they don’t. Reading about all the cuts from Tuesday’s night’s council meeting stung.

It’s important to acknowledge that the pools of money for social services and for the events centre are two different ones, and it’s not like they were robbing one for the other. However, they could have balanced better. They could have made the smarter decision and invested in Calgary instead of the Calgary Flames.

There’s been a lot of great analysis (including from FlamesNation’s own Ryan Pike) and also not great analysis (especially those targeted towards the sports fan). Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the consensus around this deal is that it could have been worse.

This one will have Calgarians split, because some just want the peace and quiet of good relations to go along with a state-of-the-art arena. That being said, I definitely align with Calgarians who are disappointed with this deal.

None of this will ultimately matter 

The Calgary Flames will still play their 2019-20 season, and beyond. I’ll still watch their games. I likely won’t go to any, but I’ll find ways to watch them online. Council will keep making budget cuts, and they won’t be held side-by-side to the new events centre. It’d be easier to quit caring about sports, but as stated earlier: I’m an idiot.

Sometimes, you just need to vent that you wish things could be better, and turn the page. Hey, at least the Sam Bennett contact was pretty good!



  • Mickey O'Reaves

    “Sure, Lucic was a positive CF%Rel for the Oilers. Someone had to be. He had a great face-off percentage for the extremely limited number of face-offs he took.”

    Nailed it!! I’m sure when Treliving unloaded Neal for Lucic, Lucic’s superior CF%Rel figs were *the* deciding stat that sealed the deal. Grape. Kool-Aid. Yummy!

    • Flint

      I don’t think that’s it at all. Look, like most people, even when Lucic was on Edmonton I had/have little problem with Lucic as a player. Let’s be serious, if he had a 1,5 million dollar AAV he’d be in high demand because even if he’s not scoring he brings value – didn’t McJesus himself say that? The problem with Lucic and the criticism and the laughing has soley been contract based and Chia’s gross misunderstanding of player/role/team construct and cap management.

      But what Oilers fans don’t get is all the problems with James Neal are with him as a player and teammate. He’s straight up a bad NHL player. He cannot play in the NHL, so unless he’s found a time machine or the fountain of youth, he can’t play and he’s shown he’s unable to make himself useful or jive with the coach in that reality.

      This was about getting rid of a problem player with a bad cap hit for a fine depth player with (now thanks to the 12%) an awful, but somehow slightly less bad cap hit.

  • theartfuldodger

    Big Flames fan but the city coughing up dough for the arena while slashing front line services is not ok, it is down right wrong and most of these city counsellors will not find themselves back in their seats because of it. I dont suspect this deal goes through.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      The history of Calgary civic politics suggests otherwise. Incumbent councillors seldom lose, and the last incumbent mayor to feel the wrath of the voters was almost 40 years ago.

      The arena deal will pass because most councillors would rather see their names on a plaque inside the new building acknowledging them as the political visionaries for the project than to have their names linked to the slashing of public services and the increase in property and business taxes as the city slides ever deeper in the proverbial soup.