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!

  • Zorn

    As far as the Lucic trade goes I am in the wait and see” camp. Basically, bad for bad and the Flames save 1/2 million against the cap.
    On the arena deal, Nathan, I agree whole heartedly. Billionaires are what they are because they are brilliant business people. They know how to get something for nothing and the people get snookered. Sports teams come to cities not to make those cities great but because they are great already.

    • PlayitagainSam

      But you could have bought Neal out! That’s the kicker right there and brought in a good skating tough guy for a fraction of the cost of Lucic a guy who look like he has no blades on when he skates.

      • MDG1600

        Whoa – settle down there Sam! Some people in these here parts don’t want to hear criticism of their beloved GM. Pretty much the entire hockey world are laughing at us over this trade yet I see post after post using mental gymnastics to rationalize that Calgary won this trade. Perhaps BT doesn’t want to concede what a brutally bad signing Neal was and his pride prevented him from buying out Neal.

        • HOCKEY83

          I think he conceded how absolutely horrible it was to have Neal on the team by trading him way for looch. He realized Neal was so useless that having looch and his NMC was far better than having Neal.

          • Who is Alberta’s team?

            Neal just did back to back cup finals. Think about that for a minute. Guy played intense hockey for 21out of the last 24 months. I don’t mean Sean Monohan intense either. Listen to his interviews. Guy was exhausted. Mentally too I suppose since he lost both cup finals. What’s lucics reason for sucking the last 24 months?

      • Flint

        Name one. “A good skating tough guy” who hits as much as Lucic and can fight and has Stanley Cup experience.

        And add his salary to 2 million for 4 years to buy out Neal. Who’s that guy and what do you think it takes to acquire him?

        • Flint

          And sorry…. just to clarify, that’s four EXTRA years….. so 8 years of 1,916million to buy our Neal (until 2026/27).

          And if you think Lucic is a terrible skater, you got a surprise coming with Neal. Go back and look at his goals last year. He’s not a better skater than Lucic.

      • Porcupine at a balloon party

        You’re really loving to troll here Sam. But do the math. Go ahead and buyout Lucic and buyout Neal. Then add the Oilers contribution to Lucic to your Neal deal. It’s the same freaking number

      • canadian1967

        Agreed.
        I would genuinely have traded Neal for Brouwer (at Neal’s salary) to get rid of James Neal.
        THAT is how much I hate “the I don’t care real deal” James Neal.

        • Porcupine at a balloon party

          That’s something no one has been talking about. As much as flames and Oilers are cap teams, they still have cash budgets. That cash savings will go to other things. Be it front loading Tkachuk, scouting, more experienced coach in AHL, something else is front office. Cash is king

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Leave off the sugar coating, the Lucic trade was a bad deal made by a desperate GM with limited options. When trading for Lucic is your best bet, you know how deep you are in the bung hole. Though Holland got no prize in Neal, he must still be LHAO having unloaded one of the worst contracts in the NHL at practically face value to his provincial rival.

    As for the new barn, what’s funny in a stupid and scary sort of way is that the public consultation and city approval for my application to build a deck in my backyard a couple of years ago took a helluva lot longer than the week Davison says is necessary for council to vote on this half-a-billion-dollar project. Do you really trust this debased and debauched council to do the right thing here? Remember these are the same incompetents who promised you the Olympics without raising property taxes.