Calgary Flames an obvious burnout

First published in the Lethbridge College Endeavour, Oct. 22, 2008

Jarome Iginla is still the best all-around forward in the world and Dion Phaneuf will win multiple Norris trophies before his career is over.

OK, I had to get that out before I risk entering the southern Alberta witness protection program.

Here it goes.

The Calgary Flames are exceptionally over-rated and I don’t understand why, except to say they have two superstars and four years ago the sun shined in a spot only tanning beds should see and they almost won the whole thing.

Since then, the media experts have pegged Calgary as an elite team that will contend for the Cup every season and — as the horrendous start the red and black have had this year will attest to — the team has grossly underachieved.

The truth is, the team really hasn’t underachieved at all. They simply don’t match up with the style of game that exists in the wake of the 2005 lockout.

When the league came out that debacle, the Flames were an obvious choice to win the division, which they did, and go on another lengthy playoff˝ run, which they didn’t. Anaheim took care of them quickly and, while the Ducks were certainly physical, they were a stronger skating team and made the Flames look tired.

Then last season, the big, gritty Flames looked like bright red pylons as the speed and skill of the league consistently took the play to them. Sure, No.12 and No.3 meant a playoff spot, but we all know how that finished up.

The top four teams in the NHL last sea-son were all speed-based, puck-possession teams and two of them faced off in the Cup final. How do the Flames counter that for this year?

They drop two fast, skilled guys in Alex Tanguay and Kristian Huselius, both of whom are o˝ to excellent starts with their new teams. But that’s okay because Todd Bertuzzi’s in.

You have to appreciate an entire contingent of fans that once despised the clumsy forward, somehow finding all of this love and praise for him. I mean, he has scored five dazzling highlight reel goals so far — cough, cough. Of course, he also has five textbook-Bertuzzian minor penalties, one of which had him on a timeout while the Oilers were scoring the winning goal on Friday. But holding penalties are certainly no sign of a slow skater.

Mike Cammalleri is a solid acquisition, but he’ll be a while quenching his thirst after the Los Angeles heat dried him up last year. Matthew Lombardi does skate about 100 km/h, but unfortunately that’s about 98 clicks more than his skill level.

So they’re not very fast, and not overly skilled, but at least they have great team defence. Actually, last season saw them fall to 15th in the league in that area so GM Darryl Sutter addressed the issue in the o˝ season. Who am i kidding, I can’t even say Jim Vandermeer without laughing, and at this point they are ranked 29th in the NHL in goals against, while the entire team except for Daymond Langkow is a minus.

Which brings me to the tissue paper wall that seems to have formed between the pipes by the name of Miikka Kiprusoff . I like this guy; he’s funny in interviews, his mannerisms on the ice are always entertaining, and he’s a class act. He just can’t stop the puck very often and I think as the puck-stopper, the act of actually stopping the pucks can never be overemphasized.

Let’s recap: the scoring of goals is over-rated and the prevention of goals is over-rated. Why not go for the trifecta?

Head coach Mike Keenan is so over-rated, no man-made machine can measure the level anymore. He’s been coaching in the NHL since 1984, with just one Cup, and you can bet he still sends Mark Messier two Christmas cards for that gift.

While he has taken four teams and three franchises to the finals, look at what hap-pens to organizations after he King Kong’s his way through them?

He left Philly in ’88 and they were among the worst teams for five years until the trade for good ol’ porridge-head Lindros.

After he helped sell the future in Chicago and get them one unsuccessful shot at a Cup, they turned awful until around, um, now.

The Rangers missed the playoff’s for most of a decade after their Cup and the Blues were in the sewer until John David-son took over as president.

Keenan did, however, trade Roberto Lu-ongo for Todd Bertuzzi while at the helm of the Florida Panthers, so I guess he is a great fit in Calgary.

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