So, if any of you are legitimately surprised that it looks like Craig Conroy will begin the year as Jarome Iginla's centre, that Todd Bertuzzi is the other player on that line, or that Dustin Boyd will start the year on the fourth line, well, clearly you haven't been watching the last four years.
Darryl Sutter and the Sutteriites (who include the entire management, coaching and scouting staffs) are the stubbornest bunch of bastards this side of Kim Jong-Il. THEY KNOW HOCKEY DAMMIT! The youngins gotta pay their dues! Craig Conroy and Jarome Iginla will play well together cuz' they're pals! If you make lotsa money, you must be good!
It's maddening. I know every fan of every team other than the Detroit Red Wings has their own set of maddening circumstances, but I'd argue that Darryl has pulled ours pretty close to the top of the list. I know we aren't the Columbus Blue Jackets fan club, and that making the playoffs for four consecutive seasons is a lot of fun, and ... aw, forget it. I'll say it now: It's worse to be "close, but not close enough" than it is to be "not close at all." The Young Guns years were cathartic: A rest from years of frustrated passion that allowed me to indulge in grunge rock, import beer and Europe. But ever since 2004, well, there's more Calgary Flames merchandise in my house than there should be.
Anyway, this diatribe has a purpose, which is to re-assert (I did my predictions ages ago) that the Flames will probably finish second in the division, seventh in the conference, and lose in the first round of the playoffs again. "Close, but not close enough," right?
But, seeing as I've already plopped down the two large on the Centre Ice subscription and stuff, I'm going to try be slightly optimistic and imagine factors that could lead the Flames to be closer this year. (They ain't winning the cup, but I think we'd all be happy with the second round of the playoffs in the final analysis ...)
- Anders Eriksson and Rhett Warrener leave the building. Wait, that already happened! Kinda! Eriksson on the farm and Warrener "injured" means they could both make unwelcome returns in the future but, for now, Adam Pardy is No. 7, and that's a very good thing.
- Mike Keenan's line-juggling finds two groups of players who can score, and two groups who can score once in a while and prevent other teams from scoring more than once in a while. I believe in "chemistry" on the ice. It's because of chemistry with my centreman on my beer league team that my horrendous skills have carried me to the top of its scoring list right now. That won't last for even one more week, but a team that finds they have players with complimentary skills to go together can go a long way. It's how Calgary reached the final in 2004. (Well, that plus they had Kiprusoff and Iginla.)
- Andre Roy gets hurt in the first game, and his replacement scores at a point-a-game clip while Darryl rushes to replace him, forcing him to back off. OK, so that's never going to happen.
- Miikka Kiprusoff goes 2004 on us. But we'd also accept 2005-06 or 2007 playoffs Kipper.
As for tonight, Kent's prediction makes a lot of sense, except for the fact that the Canucks may not score five goals in a game all year.
But I'd also like to think that we can get that nice Flames-Canucks rivalry going again tonight in earnest. All it'll take is a little Alex Burrows slew-foot on Jarome Iginla, followed by a Todd Bertuzzi intervention, followed by Dion Phaneuf falling down on Captain Bobby and IT'S ON. Nothing I like better than angry, nonsensical Canucks fans in comment strings trying to teach themselves English.