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October 3, 2011

Brace Yourself: Coming to Terms with This Year’s Calgary Flames

Flames Fans Only

Photo Wendy Cooper

A few weeks ago, my wife and I spent the weekend in Kananaskis. We met an older couple and the husband and I, as men are wont to do, started talking about sports.

Henry has been a Flames fan since the team arrived in Calgary 30 years ago. In theory this should give him some good insight into the state of things. But he was nothing but hopeful for what the upcoming season would bring.

Fucking nuts, right?

I love the Flames, but let’s not kid ourselves about the situation we’re in here. This is not going to be a good year.

I felt bad saying this to Henry. He was just so earnest in his optimism of both this year’s squad and the future. The future! Insanity!

Where is he seeing potential? TJ Brodie. I’m not even kidding. The young defenseman who had a surprising pre-season last year was his example. Henry hasn’t been paying attention. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the kid wasn’t very likely to even break camp with the team this year. (Though, it should be said, Brodie has climbed the depth chart since Tim Erixon decided listening to John Tortorella say fuck a lot would be better for his self esteem career than showing up for camp in Calgary.)

Henry praised the work of Jay Feaster. Even I can’t say much negative about that guy. It can’t be easy taking over for one of the worst general managers in the history of hockey. We are all agreed that Darryl Sutter was that bad, right? If only for his complete inability to understand the complexities of the salary cap. Or the nuances of trading players. Or how free agency actually works. Or general uselessness of Ales Kotalik as, you know, a hockey player.

Henry could clearly see that paying Matt Stajan $583,333 per goal was not good business sense, and was happy that Feaster could get the team out of salary cap jail by moving a few pieces (who sadly aren’t Matt Stajan) out of town for smaller contracts. Admirably, Feaster managed to free up the funds necessary to get the summer’s top free agent into a Flames jersey, but then he neglected to actually sign the guy.

I will say that all hope isn’t lost. It’s the Western Conference and parity kind of ensures teams not named the Oilers can slide into that eight spot. But a lot of Western teams are better than they were last year, and while I might not bet my life of the Flames making the playoffs, I would certainly bet a lot of money on it. Speaking of the Oilers, are any Flames fans looking forward to the Battle of Alberta three years from now? Ouch.

This is a team that’s now missed the post season twice in a row, and I can’t believe a Flames team with Lee Stempniak and Scott Hannan is better than a team with Daymond Langkow and Robyn Regehr.

Jarome Iginla is a another year older, and he’s missed the entire pre-season with back problems. Not good considering he’s already a frustratingly slow starter. Mikka Kiprusoff is also another year older, and not exactly on an upward trajectory. Alex Tanguay is another year older and isn’t quite the same deal at $3.5 million as he was for $1.7 million (and let’s for forget that’s for the next five seasons). Jay Bouwmeester is another year older and another $6.8 million richer — no matter how not terrible and actually pretty good he is, that number is always going to hurt. Brendan Morrison is a year older, which brings him to an even 250 in dog years.

But Henry has faith. At the end of the season when things go pretty much as bad as I expect them to, Henry will still probably have some faith. He might not know sweet-fuck-all about hockey, but I’ll say this about the guy — he’s a loyal and happy fan, ready to blindly cheer in the face extreme disappointment.

I’m honestly not sure which of us is better off.