“We are being totally dominated.” – Darryl Sutter
Have we misjudged the depth and talent of the Calgary Flames?
The main question at the start of this campaign wasn’t whether the Calgary Flames were capable of winning the Stanley Cup, it was how many games will it take in the spring to bring Lord Stanley back to the Miracle Mile.
Now we are left to wonder whether the 2009-10 edition of the Flames are capable of even making the playoffs. As of this writing, they are no longer in a position to enjoy post-season play.
This is a team that has been receiving All-Star caliber goaltending all season long from Miikka Kiprusoff. Still they can’t translate that superb play between the pipes into points in the standings or victories in the win/loss ledger.
This is a team that has been blessed with health all season long, losing only a handful of man-games to injury. Still they can’t find a competent winger to patrol the right side on the top line, are unable to generate any kind of offensive pressure in the opponents end, are dead last in the league in face-off percentage and have a dismal power-play that is ranked 26th in the NHL and is falling fast.
This is a team that allowed Mike Cammalleri, the club’s top goal scorer last year, to walk away as a free agent and sign with Montreal, where he has been able to score 23 goals, a total no Flame player has been able to match. The rationale behind the decision to jettison Cammalleri was that the move enabled the club to keep Olli Jokinen and sign Jay Bouwmeester. That duo has combined for 12 goals – and only four in the last 16 games, all by Jokinen.
This is a team that touted a defensive trio in Phaneuf, Bouwmeester and Regehr that was supposed to elevate the entire Flames defense into the top rearguard regime in the entire league. All three were regarded as prime Team Canada Olympic stock. All three were left off that roster. Each of them has struggled in their own zone and has been consistently inconsistent on the offensive side of the puck. The Big-3 have combined for only 11 goals and are a collective +5, and only because Bouwmeester’s plus/minus rating of +10 is holding up his lackluster blueline brethren.
This is a team that has been unable to win against the teams they must be able to defeat if they are to have any hope of a prolonged spring fling. Still they have lost every game they’ve played against Chicago and Colorado. The best game the club has played this season – the 2-1 thriller over Vancouver that should have sparked the team – has been followed by six consecutive losses. What was the last team to endure six-game losing streak in the regular season and still win the Stanley Cup? Well, it hasn’t happened post-lockout. And in the modern NHL, all time is measured after that calamity.
This is a team that hired Brent Sutter as their head coach, despite his limited tenure as a NHL bench boss and a resume of post-season failures. There’s no jury on Sutter – his job is safe. However, his hard-nosed, strict and stern approach has not paid dividends, his messages seem to fall on deaf ears and his methods have not produced results.
These are not opinions or the ramblings of skeptical speculation. These are facts – cold, hard and unforgiving.
They are the same facts this edition of the Flames must reverse or they’ll continue to slide in that direction.