Rick Charlton & D'Arcy McGrath December 22nd, 2003
Santa has spent seven dark, dank and cold winters piling coal into the stocking of the Calgary Flames and their bitter fans.
As late as one year ago, the Flames viewed Christmas Eve near the bottom of the NHL, winners of only five of their previous 22 games, losers, losers, losers and dare we repeat ourselves, losers over and over again.
If you believed the rumours, there was a fight to the death among the suits at the top of the totem pole, later proven true with the demise of GM Craig Button and the departure of GM wannabe Lanny McDonald, while the team drifted aimlessly through another lost season, coachless, leaderless, rudderless and generally less than any reasonable ticket-buying fan could possibly expect.
The only thing good to say might have been that Val Bure and Marc Savard weren't around to demand trades in December.
Christmas, a real one, filled with the trappings of song, joy and the proverbial happy ending, came three days late last year, Darryl Sutter, named coach of the Flames on December 28, now 36-27-10-4 in the job, Calgarians dizzy with delight as their team sits fifth overall in the NHL's Western Conference, in a bonafide playoff spot.
Could it get any better than this?
Not at Christmas.
Not if you're a Flames fan.
But what of these individual heroes? Isn't there something we could think of to lighten their load, brighten their day ... egg them on towards the playoffs?
We shall see below with the annual Calgarypuck.com Christmas Wish List:
DARRYL SUTTER - Few can say so much with so few words in such a biting way, so we expend on Darryl Sutter a one-year Toastmaster's membership to expand his verbage.
KEN KING - Geez, he's still celebrating last Christmas when he landed Sutter. Quit bothering him.
ROBYN REGEHR - Shall we donate a pest to poke him in the eye or kick him in the shin so that he might enter every game angry and ready to crush some spleens? Sounds like a good idea for the big-hearted lug.
MARTIN GELINAS - A GQ spread before his all his facial injuries heal up and he loses his good looks.
OLEG SAPRYKIN/MATTHEW LOMBARDI/ CHUCK KOBASEW - The gift of time, time to get comfortable at the NHL level and start to produce like they did in the AHL.
STEVE MONTADOR - Ho, ho, ho . . . a set of titanium tie downs.
DENIS GAUTHIER - Santa doesn't have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to figure out this naughty boy needs a box of "sorry" cards to send all his teammates to make up for all his suicide passes.
STEVE REINPRECHT - The latest in holistic medicine to ward off future injuries.
CRAIG CONROY - A smooth transition back to the club's second line and continued avoidance of silly expectations. Then again, we also hear Santa has him in his hockey pool and he'd been counting on 20 goals again.
THE ANNUAL CALGARYPUCK GIFT OF A BLOW-UP JAROME IGINLA DOLL - Ha, ha. That's the thing!! Nobody gets it. In fact that's the joke. This year the Shean Donovan blow up doll is all the rage!
JAMIE MCLENNAN - Someplace soft between a rock and hard place, which is where he'll be when Roman Turek is healthy.
MIIKKU KIPRUSOFF - Don't do a damned thing for this guy. Don't touch anything. Everything's cool.
RHETT WARRENER - In return for earning The Unsung Hero Award as the rock-hard annihilator in front of the Calgary net, we grant thee a date with Christina Aguilera. if you can handle Joe Thornton, then we're sure you can handle this little spitfire!!
ROMAN TUREK - Give him a self-help book, "Making up for Lost Time."
JAROME IGINLA - the gift of renegotiation so the anvil of his lofty contract can be taken off his shoulders.
STEPHANE YELLE - A life time supply of Gillette disposable razors
BLAIR BETTS - A perch on the fourth line is a perilous one with a team winning steadily in his absence, so we gift him a roster spot upon his return.
KRZSYSZTOF OLIWA - An old Nick Fotiu trick of using a tub of vaseline to lube up his aching cheek bones. Could there be a better gift for a busy pugilist? How thoughtful we are!!
JOSH GREEN - a large prescription of whatever Mr. Sutter must be taking to call the winger "his best left winger" of late.
ROBERT DOME - Better timing for a European vacation, just as his peers in Calgary were dropping like ten-pins.
SHEAN DONOVAN - Let's face it, he opened his present, Jarome Iginla's mitts, early.
JORDAN LEOPOLD - Let's see. He's already got the hockey sense, the skating, and the shot ... well, how about 20 goals for a Flames defenceman for the first time since Al MacInnis in 1991-92.
ANDREW FERENCE - A Ryan Vandenbussche voodoo doll.
CHRIS CLARK - The ability to find that fine line between playing an "in your face" rugged style while not putting his team down a man.
DEAN MCAMMOND - To finally come off the Allied Van Lines VIP Customer list and raise his family in one spot.
TONY LYDMAN - Averaging 20 minutes a game but still, shall we say, doubted, we therefore grant him a place in Darryl Sutter's cold, cold heart.
DAVE LOWRY - One more playoff appearance for this creaky ole' buzzard.