Race from Disgrace

April 1st, 2010 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

The 2009-10 NHL season has not gone as planned in Calgary.

Big off season acquisitions of a stud defenseman and a can’t miss coach fired a cannon across the bow of Western Conference contenders that the deep on paper Flames would be a club to keep an eye on not only for the Northwest title, but also the top seed out West.

Quite clearly nothing has worked out.

A solid October, at least in record, was honestly mired in some pretty sketchy hockey. They found a way to win games they likely shouldn’t.

A solid November had many a pundit thinking the Flames were dialing into Brent Sutter’s game plan setting the team up for a solid second half and a deep playoff run.

Then the guns went silent. The Flames started losing … a lot. Early on there were games lost not on effort or chances, but on an inability to finish. Hard fought losses soon became magnified when the team swirled into a fugue of self doubt and before long they had lost nine in a row, kissed the division good bye and set up the chaos they now inhabit.

But enough of the tragic backdrop, things have changed this week.

The Flames have a glimmer of hope, and with it an out and out playoff race, but a different type of race than we’ve seen in Calgary in the past few seasons.

The Flames are the hunters, not the huntees.

Rather than backing down the standings and into the playoffs, and in the process feeding the Calgary fans a spoonful of season wrecking disappointment, the club is trying a different angle this season by possibly peaking late.

This year’s Calgary Flames are played by the Colorado Avalanche, a team picked by many to finish last overall, that instead challenged for the division lead most of the season. On St. Patrick’s Day the Flames marched into Denver at beat the Avalanche 3-2, snapping their two game win streak. Since then the Avalanche have a shoot out loss and an overtime win against LA to go along with four regulation losses. They are reeling.

Enter Friday night and a huge stage in Denver where the Flames will be looking to continue that Big Foot Death Spiral by turning back the Colorado squad again and essentially push a tie in the standings.

The Flames are an up and down club and you don’t what you’ll get from game to game; that ill hasn’t been cured by anything that has happened in the last few weeks. But they smell blood, and the Avalanche are hearing footsteps, both facts could conspire to have a very tight hockey club wearing burgundy or purple or burnt orange or whatever the heck they take out onto the ice.

A win in Washington, and a Rene Bourque skate goal induced win over Phoenix hardly saves a season; there will be a post mortum on this season no matter what goes down. But the Flames have given the city an interesting ride this week instead of just throwing in the towel and accepting a lost season as many (me included) suggested last Saturday.

Playoff races are a blast so soak it up today and tomorrow; a win in Denver and perhaps even next week will be damn exciting.

Love this time of year.

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