Decision Time in Calgary?

November 26th, 2011 | Posted in Commentary | By: D'Arcy McGrath

During the Flames- Blues matchup last night the fellas at Sportsnet put up a graphic showing the standings in the NHL at Thanksgiving last season; three West teams out of playoff spots recovered to secure them.

So no problem for the Flames right? Stay the course!

This time I don’t think so; things feel different. And boy am I glad!

The NHL is a big business now, the executive staffs of hockey clubs are expanded with new and evolving specialists that are tasked for digging into their portion of the game be it scouting, statistics, video, cap issues, development curves, logistics, arena management, marketing; the list goes on.

This fall the Flames were proud to announce the addition of a stats guru, and a couple of different technical initiatives designed to give the team a leg up in understanding and analyzing hockey data.

So I just don’t buy it when I read a comment like the following from Ken King this week:

“I think we were all teased a little bit from Dec. 28 onward. I think we maybe thought we were further advanced than we actually were,” admitted King. “Maybe we should have been smarter, maybe we should have been able to see that wasn’t quite as firm as we thought it was, but nevertheless, so be it.”

That my friends is either the most terrifying quote I’ve ever read from a Calgary hockey executive, or irrefutable proof of what I suspect is about to happen in the Southern Alberta City in the next 20 months.

First the fear … if Ken King and his hockey staff put that level of thought into last season when all they had to do was cruise the media and hockey boards like to see a full out debate on how much probability of repeating last season’s second half they should be instantly fired. Was there a concise view? Of course not, but at very least there was certainly a split camp on repeating based on items like difficulty of schedule, the frequency of backup goaltenders and teams not taking them seriously.

If the team felt they were “that team” they’ve naively lost an entire off season to really make hay towards rebuilding this franchise for the future.

I don’t buy that however.

I think the Flames Brass is making a much smaller mistake, one that doesn’t effect hockey operations at all, but the marketing department. They think the fans of Calgary are Vancouver and not Edmonton. That is … they are assuming a degree of fickleness and getting ready to manage the public when all out honestly will likely suffice.

So get ready for “we haven’t given up on the playoffs”, “we still think this group can get the job done”, and the always popular “all 30 teams are always looking to get better each and every day and we’re no different”.

What I’d like to see is quotes from hockey execs that trust the market that they work in …

“Something has been wrong with this group a long time, clearly far reaching, broad based changes are needed”.

This summer the Robyn Regehr trade was made for “cap reasons”, but really it was the first shot fired in a Calgary rebuild. Teams with aspirations of a playoff spot (or a playoff run) don’t trade players like Robyn Regehr and his cap friendly contract.

The Daymond Langkow trade was common sense all around and doesn’t quite fit that motif, but the Hagman reentry waiver move earlier this month does, as does the appearance of TJ Brodie, Roman Horak and Paul Byron on the day to day roster.

The Flames are rebuilding.

The executive understand the standings math.

They know this team isn’t going to the playoffs this year or next.

Hopefully they trust us enough to just admit it.

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