"Hi, you've reached the Calgary Flames. We've lost our identity, but please leave a detailed message and we'll get back to it as soon as possible"
What a difference a year can make. One calendar year ago, we were rejoicing the sneaky acquisition of Jay Bouwmeester. We were perplexed by the ease and efficiency by which he was acquired and, within hours, signed to a long term deal - while teams like Vancouver, Montreal and San Jose were reportedly poised to throw serious money and term at the gifted defenseman the following morning.
Safe to say the city was ecstatic for the upcoming season – a solid goaltender, a big bad blueline, a steady core and some promising 2-way forwards to compliment Jarome Iginla and his brand new coaching staff. Fans and media alike were gearing up for the 2009-2010 season with enthusiasm, while Theo Fleury was performing his usual circus act. Heck, writers at TheHockeyNews even picked the Flames to win the cup in 2010. If my memory serves, the Flyers were picked to come out of the East. One out of two ain’t bad, considering no one could have seen this coming:
Darryl Sutter’s small town practice was interrupted by the big city shortly after Christmas, and he was introduced to harmful street drugs. Darryl, in one horrific overdose, was bullied by Brian Burke and manipulated by Glen Sather. Darryl threw away valuable pieces for Ales Kotalik, and half of the worst team in the league – the Toronto Maple Leafs. The next game, I purchased a copy of Blaze Magazine at the dome, because I felt completely out of the loop on my favorite team. While much of Hockeyland was laughing at the organization, I can remember thinking “what the heck is this team all about?”
Oddly enough, that question remains unanswered as we sit here in early August. It’s not that I completely disagree with every move that has been made in the last 6 months… It’s more that I can’t help but question what the plan is here. Every member of the organization has a different explanation. Many media sources are grasping at straws, trying to be reasonable in creating new perspectives on what might be taking place in Southern Alberta. To make matters worse, Darryl has already shown some lament by trying to undo the problems he created just six months ago. How confident were you in your decision making, if months later you are reacquiring Olli Jokinen, and quietly trying to make an annual $3M worth of Ales Kotalik go away? Meanwhile, when asked about the identity of his team, Darryl mumbles “To be quite honest, we’re a good hockey team.” Ohhhhh okay – now I get it.
While the Flames haven’t had any recent playoff success, there has always been a plan under Darryl. This team had an identity. They played with heart, with a crash and bang attitude, and the Saddledome was admittedly a very difficult place for any team to come and play. Hometown players felt privileged to wear the flaming C, as there was a culture associated with that logo. Today, that culture is completely nonexistent. What does it mean to be a Calgary Flame today?
Oh, you know: Jarome Iginla, Ales Kotalik, Olli Jokinen, Raitis Ivanans, Vesa Toskala (until recently), Jay Bouwmeester, Tim Jackman and Steve Staios
… Do you see any consistent theme here? Because I’ve tried, but I get lost. Try reading the names over again, and let me know if you come up with anything
This team lacks identity. It lacks one sole focus. It’s just a mixed bag of differing styles and strategies. The Calgary Flames, as they stand today, represent a big/small team (or group of individuals), with a defensive (or Olli Jokinen/Ales Kotalik) mindset that can’t score enough goals to capitalize on the defensive mindset that they take so much pride in. This team resembles an old school New Jersey Devil’s style of game… only without the winning factor; without the division titles.
Well, that’s the most realistic picture I can paint to reflect the current status of our local hockey heroes.
Next up: an overly-optimistic view, that will at least help us sleep for the next month