OK, one more time: This sucks

And now, my final doom-and-gloom entry of the regular season! Coming next week: Actual analysis of games, players, playoff series and things that aren’t sweeping statements about the team as a whole. Enjoy! Sincerely, Duncan.

Several times during a game, a defenceman will pick up the puck behind the net a split-second before an oncoming forward arrives. Of the many options the forward has at that time, there is a choice between two main categories that exists at the most basic level:

1. Play it physical
2. Slide in light and focus on the puck

Option 1 or Option 2 may be the correct choice at any given time but, as I see it, Option 1 is the route taken by players and teams who want to win. It means you’ll probably feel a bit of pain and might be overcommitting a bit. But it’s essentially risk free. It charges up the crowd, often frees the puck anyway, and makes the defenceman think about just a little bit more about you instead of the puck the next time. You don’t have to do it every time —  but you have to do it often.

The Flames’ forwards, last night, didn’t do it often. Kristian Huselius is the worst for this. Alex Tanguay does it, but he’s Alex Tanguay, so it’s not that painful. Same for Matthew Lombardi. Jarome Iginla does it surprisingly little for a guy who likes body contact. Wayne Primeau, who should do it every time, rarely does it. The only guy I can think of who goes for it often, now that I think of it, is Dustin Boyd.

Meanwhile last night, the Wild were doing it all the time. And whether that specific play leads to a goal doesn’t matter — it’s about the psychology of the thing. Will you be aggressive and proactive, or will you just hope to receive a REALLY NICE PASS from Alex Tanguay all night long?

After these last crappy losses (and lucky win over the Oilers), I’m convinced again that the Flames are completely brainwashed into thinking they’re the bloody compact fluorescent lightbulb of hockey: Expensive, but long-lasting, efficient, trendy and built for the future.

They are none of these things except expensive.

Now, I know this is the fourth straight trip to the playoffs, something the fans of a bunch of teams would die for. But this isn’t a team that was supposed to be built to struggle into a seventh or eighth playoff spot and hope for the best. That was the 2003-04 team. So our expectations are, rightfully, going to be higher.

Is there any hope? Well, I’ve liked a few things the past month:

• Miikka Kiprusoff. Now giving you a chance to win nightly.
• Matthew Lombardi. The Flames’ best forward for 10 games now. If he can play this way when the others are on, it makes a big difference.
• Owen Nolan. Looks like more of a leader than Iginla right now.
• Dion Phaneuf. Would be a deserving Norris finalist, and now a definite Top 5 defenceman in the NHL.
• Wayne Primeau and Marcus Nilson. Doing what you’d hope fourth-liners would do (but unfortunately sometimes doing it on Lines 1-3.)

But that’s it. Six INDIVIDUALS. Team-wise, there’s nothing. These guys lack focus, take penalties way too much and don’t know their opponents — which means that for one reason or another, their coaches don’t have them prepared for games.

So it’s looking like a pretty sure thing that, like last season, they won’t be able to turn up the intensity for playoffs.

Which means that there must be a problem with your team’s “culture.”

Which means that in three years the Flames will be the Toronto Maple Leafs. A team that had some playoff success but no Stanley Cups, slowly declined, then hit bottom after giving out a bunch of big contracts to its best players, not understanding why the same thing that worked before doesn’t work now.

The game changes. Right now, the Flames don’t.

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~ by duncan on April 4, 2008.

3 Responses to “OK, one more time: This sucks”

  1. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; I truly believe Nolan is actually pulling his weight around. While his goal totals are similar to Amonte, I think he’s done other things on the ice that are vast improvements.

  2. Yes Owen Nolan acts like a leader and that’s why he has been nominated for the Masterton trophy. I also like Matthew Lombardi and the way he speeds through the opposing team’s defensive line. He even did it Thursday; only thing he didn’t score a goal. However i hear an ugly romour that Huselius is going to be traded. I know he’s a sniper and not a physical player but he has the most points after Iginla. I like him enough to buy his collector coin

  3. Allan, I highly doubt Huselius will be traded, more than likely he simply won’t be tendered an offer and will leave to free agency.

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