As the Calgary Flames get set to host the Winnipeg Jets Friday night in their final home game of the 2013-14 season, the teams, unexpectedly, find themselves relatively close in the Western Conference standings.
The Flames come into play Friday riding a four-game winning streak. Having collected 77 points through 80 games, things aren’t near as dire in Calgary as many predicted. Not only have the Flames been able to play a large amount of prospects during this season of rebuilding, but they’ve done so while remaining competitive. Karri Ramo has the potential to be a No. 1 goaltender. Sean Monahan, with 21 goals, has had a terrific rookie season. It has been a coming of age season for Mikael Backlund, Chris Butler, Kris Russell and T.J. Brodie. The veteran players, Mike Cammalleri, Matt Stajan, Jiri Hudler and Curtis Glencross, have played well despite injuries throughout the season. Captain Mark Giordano is having a career year while embodying the grit and determination that has been the backbone of all successes the Flames have had this season.
Of course, there have been some disappointments. Dennis Wideman has yet to live up to his $5.25 million per season salary. The Flames would also have expected a lot more from David Jones and T.J. Galiardi. All three have dealt with injuries this season, so maybe they can get the benefit of the doubt. All in all, things in Calgary are alright. The same cannot be said for Winnipeg.
Yes, the Jets will finish higher up in the standings, having collected 82 points in 81 games, regardless of tonight’s outcome. For Winnipeg, this was a team with true playoff aspirations heading into the season. Some may even have thought a first round victory in said playoffs was a realistic goal. A 19-24-4 start cost head coach Claude Noel his job. Despite winning nine of their first 11 games under the new reign of Paul Maurice, the Jets officially faded out of contention after turning in a 4-7-4 month of March.
Having signed Ondrej Pavelec to a five-year, $19.5 million contract in the summer of 2012, the Jets surely expected better numbers than 3.01 GAA with a .901 SV percentage from their No. 1. The same sentiment of underachieving can be expressed throughout the lineup, highlighted by Devin Setoguchi‘s recent cameos on the fourth line and Evander Kane having twice been asked to sit out games due to a breach of team rules. The Jets have committed a ton of money and years to their core of Pavelec, Kane, captain Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian and Mark Stuart. It is not a question of will anyone be shopped around this summer, rather the question is who will be shopped this summer.
While questions await every team come the offseason, Calgary will feel optimistic heading into summer while tough decisions in Winnipeg lurk in the near future.