Deja Vu? The Calgary Flames and a Familiar Battle for the Playoffs
This season has most certainly been an interesting one thus far.
Regardless of the outcome, I think it’s fair to say we can hand it to the Flames for turning themselves from a bottom-feeding disaster to a legitimate playoff contending team.
Before the season started, I remember jokingly high-fiving my friends after talking about how Matt Stajan and Olli Jokinen were going to LIGHT IT UP! Fact is, I was prepared for this season. I wasn’t expecting much from the team, but was expecting a better start than we initially got.
Starting off with a mediocre October, coupled with a terrible 4-win November, the Flames were at the bottom of the Conference, even sitting below the Oilers at one point.
If the Flames fail to make the playoffs, which is looking more and more likely, that period of purely terrible hockey can be looked at as the source of their failure.
That being said, what they’ve done for themselves lately also doesn’t help. Dating back to the 3-0 loss to the Coyotes on March 11th, the Flames started their up and down streak, most importantly blowing it on their California road trip. Though it didn’t mathematically eliminate them, it was practically the dagger in the coffin.
After all that work the team did to eventually crawl back up to a playoff position, I can’t help but be livid with how things have gone lately. Now they’re yet again in a position where they have to rely on other teams to help get them back into playoff position. As a fan, I’m left to think, “do they even deserve it?”
Fact is, this is all too familiar.
The year after the lockout, the Flames had a great season and ended up winning the NW division title. The playoffs….didn’t work out.
Since then, it’s been the all too common end-of-season struggle, ultimately looking to other teams for help. In the 2006-2007 season, the Colorado Avalanche made a surge towards the end of the season and the Flames suddenly found themselves in a playoff battle. All it had to take was the Flames to win one game, or for the Avs to lose one. What did the Flames do? Lose one game after another, while the Avs continued surging. Ultimately, it was Nashville who eliminated the Avs for the Flames, and the team ended up squeaking into the playoffs just one point ahead to the Avs.
The 2007-2008 season wasn’t quite as stressful, though the Flames ended up in another 7th place finish.
The 2008-2009 season was the year of the now infamous Olli Jokinen trade, one that ultimately doomed the Flames. In January, the Flames were on a roll and the team clearly had chemistry. The remainder of the season was dreadful, as Flames fans watched the Vancouver Canucks crawl up and steal the Northwest Division title from the Flames. Though ending up in 5th, the fact that they had to face Chicago didn’t work in their favour, and it didn’t take much for the Blackhawks to eliminate the Flames in the playoffs.
A similar end-of-season free fall last year had the Flames looking to even the Canucks for help, but ultimately watched as the Avs took 8th place position.
Now the Flames are relying on themselves to win their last two games, and Chicago and Dallas to lose their remaining four. The situation is bleak, and every team the Flames are battling against have games in hand.
Really, I’m pretty sick of relying on other teams to get the Flames into the playoffs. I reiterate, if this is what is comes down to, how deserving are the Flames to make the playoffs?
There has been plenty of fantastic surprises this season, like the play of Alex Tanguay, and even Olli Jokinen from time to time. There has also been some celebrations, like Jarome Iginla’s 10th straight season of 30+ goals as well as his 1000th point. And let’s not forget the wonderful return of Daymond Langkow.
Ultimately, I respect what they’ve done to get themselves to this point, and I’ve found this season to be much more enjoyable than last season. But when you have the voice of the Flames, Peter Maher, talking about trading Iginla so that he can finally get his Stanley Cup, you can’t help and wonder if it’s just time to throw in the towel and re-build.