I suppose it was a fitting end to the night. On an evening that had few happy moments for Calgary Flames and Team Canada hockey fans, it was one thing that we could cheer about. Tim Jackman ruined Roberto Luongo’s shutout bid with just over 10 seconds left in the game by scoring the Flames only goal. The end result was a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, and another loss at a time when wins are absolutely necessary to the Flames’ survival.
The Flames, who were looking to get back on track after losing their last outing, couldn’t beat Luongo until late in the game despite having 44 shots on net. The Canucks jumped out to an early lead a minute into the first period when Ryan Kesler tipped a shot from Mason Raymond past Miikka Kiprusoff. Kevin Bieksa added another goal late in the first, and Daniel Sedin added the 3rd goal midway through the second period. Though the Canucks didn’t play exceptionally well, they played well enough to beat the Flames tonight and to hold onto first place in the NHL.
On the way home from the pub, my cab driver seemed to have it all figured out. “It’s simple”, he said, “the Flames are done for the year; out of the playoffs already.” In fact, he told me that he’s known since the Flames lost to the Florida Panthers in the 3rd game of the season that they wouldn’t get anywhere. “I’ve known since that game that they wouldn’t get more than 70 points this year and you know that’s not enough to make the playoffs.”
The Flames continue to underachieve despite one of the highest payrolls in the league and a roster that looks really good on paper. However, we all know that it’s the play on the ice, not how good they look on paper, that matters. This season’s Flames team is remarkably similar to the one that finished last season, and if you combine their collective records for the past 82 games, it paints a bleak picture for Flames fans. In the past 2 half-seasons, the Flames have gone 34-40-12 and have a total of 80 points. Sure, they’re *almost* a .500 hockey club, but that’s not something we should be celebrating.
More insights, which go much deeper than tonight’s loss, came from my cabbie on the ride home. “Their big mistake was letting Cammalleri go. He would still have been good for 35-40 goals. Iginla would be good for 40-45 goals. Having a guy like him would take the pressure off Iginla. He’s not so young anymore, you know.” He continued with the statement that continues to stare us in the eyes, “The Flames picked up all the garbage. They have no other good players except for Iginla. No good young players, and guys like Jokinen.” It was blunt, but to the point and echoes the sentiments of so many Flames fans.
My cabbie seems to have a good head for hockey, but we disagreed on one point: that the Vancouver Canucks could win the Stanley Cup this year. I’m a serious Flames fan, and that makes me anti-Canucks by nature, but I’m also a hockey fan and am not afraid to admit when I see a championship hockey team. I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t think the Canucks have what it takes to win The Cup. Sure, they have Luongo, and the Sedins, and some good defencemen, and a bunch of other guys that play gritty hockey and provide “secondary” scoring. But there’s something missing from their team that makes me think that they’ll do the same thing again this year. By that, I mean they’ll be in the playoffs, win their first round series and then choke again in the second or third round.
I’m not sure what the missing ingredient is, but it’s also lacking on the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks, and most of my friends (who are Canucks fans) realize it, but hate to admit it. I suppose that’s the beauty of a believing fan, though. If you happen know what that mysterious thing is, please let me know. I’d like to bottle it up and then give it to the Flames secretly in their soup.