TRH NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH: CALGARY FLAMES
Welcome to Day 3 of The Royal Half Pacific Division Season Preview Week-O-Rama!!! So far we’ve seen Jesse Cohen compare the Pacific Division to HBO’s Game of Thrones… and we’ve had PumperNicholl preview the Pacific with a bunch of awful hockey memorabilia. And One Girl One Puck has… well… done something, I guess. And while it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the #TeamTRH Pacific Division Previews… we also need to make sure we take a step back and welcome the newest additions to our fine Pacific Division… 3 teams from Canada!!!
We’ve heard all about the Edmonton Oilers, so now it’s time to get reacquainted with the 2nd best NHL team from Alberta, the Calgary Flames. The wonderfully awesome Book of Loob has taken a break from writing at Flames Nation as well as his own dormant blog to remind us LA Kings fans about our former Smythe Division rival. It’s something we like to call:
TRH NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH: THE CALGARY FLAMES
By Book Of Loob
When the Half asked me if I wanted to write up a little something for you rabid Kings fans (seriously, go to a vet) about your new Pacific rivals, THE CALGARY FLAMES, I said that yes, I’d love to contribute. TRH is my favourite non-Calgary Flames blog, which mostly means I just don’t care for it, but I don’t care for it way less than a lot of other things.
I also told him, jokingly I think, that he’ll have to remind me to get it in, because I’ll probably forget. Then we laughed and laughed and laughed. And then I forgot.
But fear not, Kings fans who have never heard of me before! We got this in just before the third period buzzer! As such, now you can learn everything you never wanted to know about your (well..MY) Calgary Flames.
First things first, thanks for being so welcoming. It’s nice to be a part of the Pacific Division again. You guys have kept it sparkling, I feel like it looks almost exactly as it did back when we were all toddlers calling it the Smythe Division. It’s a great division for the Flames, because obviously when you hear the word “Pacific”, it immediately conjures up images of a landlocked mountain city some 10 hours away from the coast. That’s Calgary. Cowboys and oil, and… I don’t know, skiing?
I know the Flames are a team in what we’re all officially permitted to call a rebuild now (re-tooling is so gauche), and everyone suspects the boys in red to flounder near the bottom of the division all season (if not the entire league. I disagree. Thank you, Buffalo), but hey, I’m here to tell you it’s not going to be that bad!
Er, at least, it won’t be that comically terrible. It will still probably be very bad.
Let’s take a trip back all the way to 1999-2000. The Flames, then considered a small market team, had been facing financial doldrums backed by a crippling low Canadian dollar that forced the Flames (as well as the Oilers and Senators) for a number of seasons to ice less than star studded teams. The lack of economic prosperity had made it impossible to retain key players from the team’s past that made them so incredibly badass that just thinking about it makes my pants feel tighter. No more Gilmour. Peace to you, Al MacInnis and still awesome Gary Suter. Adios Roberts, Nieuwendyk, Vernon. Finally, Theoren Fleury was sent off to greener pastures, and thus ushered in the era of the Young Guns, an era in Calgary Flames history unparalleled in abhorrence. Not one notable superstar prevailed in this era (Jarome Iginla, bless his heart, was undoubtedly good, consistent, and downright handsome, but even he had yet to discover just how truly good he could be.)
The Young Guns were, uh, underwhelming, but boy were they fun to love. They were all nobodies, and none of them could score goals (except for Jarome), but the effort they gave and the lack of money it cost to acquire them, well, it was kind of like cheering for the itsy bitsy spider crawling up that spout, even though you KNOW how it’s going to end.
The new Flames, the new era we shall henceforth refer to as Young 2uns (courtesy of Flames superfan @gduncanclark), is very much in the same vein as that bygone team from the early aughts, and while we know on many nights they are going to get clobbered, there’s an overarching spirit and a youthful exuberance from this team we haven’t seen in awhile.
So you, Los Angeles Kings fans (all…what, 12 of you who existed after Gretzky left and before the team won a Cup?), you’ll have a few names to remember, a few faces to come to know on this team as they line up across from your beskated noblemen, and the interesting thing is, as Flames fans, so do we.
Our favorite is Sven. Sure he has a whole name, it’s Baertschi, or Bartschi, or Batman or something, but he’s our hero; our future; a simple moniker for a complex individual is required, so SVEN it is. Many feel he’s the future face of this team, and he’s all Swiss and adorable, and even you guys won’t be able to help but fall in love with him, even as he’s undressing Jonathan Quick night after night (you heard it here first). He’s 20 years old, guys, you’ll have to get used to him for a while.
His sidekick, the 2 punch to his 1, likely will be and SHOULD be Mikael Backlund. It’s been tough sledding for Backs early in his career. Some iffy decision making by previous coaches on how to use him and a slew of just weird injuries have not allowed him to progress to where everyone thought he could be when he was drafted in the first round in 2007, but he’s slowly finding his way. Dude knows how to carry a puck, he knows how to gain the offensive zone (a skill this franchise has been sorely lacking for years now), and given the chance to be the number 1 or 2 center in a depleted lineup is going to give him the opportunity to show everyone he’s worth it. Remember him, he kinda has weird hair and a puberty ‘stache, if it helps.
Then there’s TJ Brodie. Through, uh, harrowing defensive play from other Flames defensemen, the loss of Jay Bouwmeester, and his own staggering development (in that order), Brodie has elevated himself into the role of a top pair defender, and has yet to show that he sucks at it. Homey was a 4th round pick in 2008, and everyone assumed he’d be a good depth player someday, but apparently he had other plans. Consider him the new Oliver Ekman Larsson of the divisi…I’m being told Phoenix is still in the division, so we can’t call him that…so…uh, he’s like Roman Josi, but without the exceeding pressure of living up to that ridonculous contract Josi signed in the offseason.
After that, your guess is as good as ours. The goaltending is rounded out by mostly found kabookie men from various corners of the earth. The defensemen have a very “Rick Vaughn from Major League on Skates” vibe to it, as in they all seem like they could be hardened cons, they probably have a wicked fastball, and none of them have ever demonstrated the ability to skate. And a good number of the forwards are young guys with potential upside (no really), but, much like the case of Flames 6th round draft pick Tim Harrison, no one is absolutely sure if any of them actually exist.
Oh, and Brian Burke is here now! YEAH, NOW YOU’RE PAYING ATTENTION. And with good reason. Next time you’re driving down the interstate and pass a barn, any barn, you will idly wonder if Brian Burke is in there right now, trying to fight someone.
He’s not. He’s in Calgary, where he’s busy not being in the spotlight, not being the trigger man on deals, not PUBLICLY telling Jay Feaster to negotiate a trade with the Leafs for James Reimer now that Miikka Kiprusoff has officially retired, and is DEFINITELY NOT feasting on the remaining grey matter left in the collective of Calgary sports talk radio personalities.
He’s definitely not doing any of these things.
So if this is the year you’re expecting a solid rivalry to develop between the Kings and the Flames, I wouldn’t be holding your breath. Divisional rivalries indeed do always seem to develop, but it’s a slow machine with several moving parts until an intense playoff battle puts things into overdrive. And I know the teams are 2-2 lifetime against each other in playoff matchups, well, I don’t remember any of those, and be honest, neither do you.
Give Calgary time to get a bit more competitive (it should be anywhere from a year to a decade), while not going through a Flamesian collapse of your own, and maybe things will get a bit more heated. For now though, it’s safe to say that you don’t care about us, and we don’t care about you.
Thanks for your time. Gretzky’s best days came as a St. Louis Blue.