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Ryan Lambert

What We Learned: The NHL's most disappointing team

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Don't let the semi-convincing 5-3 win over the Capitals fool you, the Calgary Flames are done.

And really, they shouldn't be.

Look at the roster from the beginning of the season. There were all-stars at every position. Several decent players beyond that. A new coach that had gotten 99 and 106 points in his two seasons with New Jersey. This looked like a team that could win a tough Northwest Division. Darryl Sutter even had the audacity to call this team "elite" before the season started.

It started out that way, too. The Flames took 23 points from its first 16 games, but the signs were there. Two of the games they lost in that stretch were to Dallas and Columbus, another one saw them blow a five-goal lead to Chicago and lose 6-5 in overtime. Since then, the season has been a series of disappointments, each more troubling than the last.

No team could have thrown a season like this away quite like the Flames have. Why?

(Coming Up: Henrik Lundqvist's(notes) CBC F-bombs; Marc Savard(notes) wants nothing to do with Matt Cooke(notes); the sad reality of the Blue Jackets; the unstoppable Kari Lehtonen(notes), at least until his next injury; speaking of which, Rick DiPietro's(notes) done again; Jumbo Joe's injury; College hockey brilliance; in praise of the NHL's team; Tampa's goalies stink; and Malkin To The Canes.)

1. Jay Bouwmeester(notes) has been a total flop.

It's not unheard of for free agents to struggle in the first year after they sign a big-money contract in a new city. But it is unheard of for offensive defensemen of Bouwmeester's alleged caliber to turn into no-offense defensemen in one season.

J-Bo was going to be counted on to devour minutes and quarterback the Flames power play, and while he's done the former largely out of necessity, the kind of quarterbacking he's done has been Joey Harrington-quality. Calgary's power play is 25th in the league at 16.5 percent.

To be fair, Bouwmeester did score Sunday. It bumped his season total to three. So that's $6.6 million against the cap right down the drain.

2. The team has no offense.

Look at the Flames roster. Jarome Iginla's(notes) on there. Nice. Rene Bourque(notes) is on there. He's pretty good too. After that? ... Oh, right. Apparently Darryl Sutter believes quantity is somehow related to quality, because, of the 22 forwards that have played for the Flames this season, only two have more than 20 goals. Conventional wisdom said Brent Sutter preaches defense-first hockey, but with the Flames 28th in the league in goals, I'm more convinced it's defense-only.

3. Bad contracts to bad players.

Daymond Langkow(notes) has 37 points in 72 games this year. His cap hit is $4.5 million. Cory Sarich(notes) has five points and costs $3.6 million against the cap. Olli Jokinen's(notes) cap hit was $5.25 million and he had 35 points before he was mercifully shipped out of town. The list goes on and on.

4. Darryl Sutter doesn't know how trades work.

I get that Dion Phaneuf(notes) was a divisive player in the dressing room and had to be traded. Well, in theory anyway. But when the return is four Maple Leafs Brian Burke didn't particularly want, that should raise a red flag or two. Plus, Ales Kotalik(notes) was a healthy scratch for the Rangers for about half the season, and Sutter took on his contract, apparently unaware that he's signed for next year as well.

But even beyond all that, Sutter traded for Vesa Toskala(notes). The defense rests.

5. No one cares.

Games like Sunday's win over Washington have been the exception rather than the rule this season. Occasionally the team will get up for a game and win 4-2 or something like that, and Flames fans will wonder where that team has been all season. Then the next night they'll sleepwalk through 60 minutes and score once. There's no consistency and there's no accountability.

But hey, at least they've got a high draft pick this year. Wait ...

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Former BU forward Nick Bonino(notes) made his NHL debut on Friday against Edmonton, and Dean Arsene(notes) was more than happy to welcome the kid to the big-time. Lesson No. 1 in the NHL: Keep your head up.

Atlanta Thrashers: After they almost made John Anderson cry following a pathetic loss to Toronto, the Thrashers held a closed-door team meeting and responded well, thumping Philly 4-0 and greatly improving their playoff chances. But can they keep it up with a seven-game schedule that features both the Capitals and Penguins twice, and the Devils? Probably not.

Boston Bruins: Before Saturday's game, Marc Savard addressed the media for the first time since Matt Cooke knocked him out for the season. He doesn't remember the hit and he has no interest in talking to Cooke about it. "Yeah, he has tried, and he has tried to get my phone number and stuff like that," Savard said. "But from what happened, I really don't, right at the moment, have any interest in talking to him, that's just how I feel. Maybe down the road, but right now I am not feeling any better, so I would rather just not talk to him."

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are going to win their division in another few days, but for now they're just happy to be in the playoffs again.

Calgary Flames: I felt real bad for Craig Conroy(notes) Sunday. A lot of Flames have turned in no-effort performances lately, but he wasn't one of them. So of course his two hooking penalties led directly to Bruins power play goals (anyone who's watched a Bruins game since Savard got hurt knows how rare those are), and the Bruins' fourth goal went in off him.

Carolina Hurricanes: Since the end of the Olympic break, the Hurricanes have an odd record after they pull out big wins. Beat the Pens 4-3 in overtime on March 11, lose 4-0 to Phoenix at home two days later. Beat the Pens again, 3-2 in overtime, exactly a week later, lose 5-3 to Buffalo at home. Beat the Caps 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday, lose to Atlanta 4-0 at home two night later.

Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago had an uninspired performance against Columbus Sunday night and lost 4-2. In a game at the United Center, Blue Jackets fans happily chanted "Overrated!" and Blackhawks fans booed the home team twice.

Colorado Avalanche: An interesting question: Are the Avs using Craig Anderson(notes) too much? In trying to lock up a playoff spot, they've relied on him heavily (he's played in all but two games since Jan. 8) and Colorado has just slipped deeper in the standings as time has worn on. Anderson's record in his last nine games is just 3-6, and he's given up 19 on 137 shots (an .861 save percentage) in his last five games.

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Columbus Blue Jackets: This is a note so sad I'll just copy and paste it, because there's no better way to paint it: "If the Blue Jackets earn two points in the final seven games, they'll have the third best point total in franchise history. Ugh." They currently have 73. Think about that.

Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen is playing out of his mind right now. He's allowed two goals on the last 65 shots he's faced, and both, obviously, were wins. Even with a four-goals-on-29 shots hiccup last week, he's allowed 11 goals on the last 170 shots he's faced over five games.

Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard(notes) had a decent game against the Predators on Saturday. He made 33 saves in regulation and OT, then stopped 10 of 11 in the shootout to earn his second shutout of the year.

Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Whitney's(notes) going to play out the rest of the season, but he's going to have surgery on his oddly-shaped right foot at the end of the year and will miss the World Championships in May. The right foot doesn't hurt enough that Whitney won't finish the season, but it's troublesome because the foot isn't aligned in his skate. That just sounds uncomfortable.

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Florida Panthers: The Panthers opened a "Den of Honor" this weekend last weekend, which is apparently designed to celebrate the club's history. Included in the exhibit is game-used equipment from Ed Jovanovski(notes). Because nothing says "history" like Jovo's used shinpads.

Los Angeles Kings: The media asked Terry Murray about his team's lack of urgency against the Stars, but Murray wasn't hearing any of it. "It's the penalty killing. Let's not over-evaluate here. Our special teams were no good here tonight. Penalty killing was no good." The Kings gave up four power play goals, so Murray might be on to something.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are just playing out the rest of the schedule because they have no chance of making the playoffs. And yet their injured players are still playing, which makes no sense.

Montreal Canadiens: Glen Metropolit(notes) left Saturday's loss to the Devils early and while the Habs were mum on why, he has a separated shoulder.

Nashville Predators: Why did the Preds lose a 1-0, 11-round shootout to the Red Wings? Bad ice. Or, more accurately, an inability to put a puck in the net in 65 minutes or more than once on 11 tries in the shootout.

New Jersey Devils: The Devs clinched a playoff appearance for the 13th year in a row. Marty Brodeur says it never gets old. He, Patrik Elias(notes) and Jay Pandolfo(notes) are the only guys to have played in all 13 of those seasons.

New York Islanders: "DiPietro done for the season." I have read this headline many different times in the last several years.

New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist used a lot of swearwords to describe the goal he gave up to lose 3-2 to Toronto in OT. The Rangers sure aren't having any dressing room issues. (Listen To Henrik's potty mouth here; NSFW language, obviously.)

Ottawa Senators: The Sens are a streaky team. In their last 25 games, they're 15-9-1, with five straight losses, 11 straight wins, five straight losses and now four straight wins. How is that even possible?

Philadelphia Flyers: Philly called up goaltender Carter Hutton(notes) from their AHL team on an emergency basis for Sunday night's game with the Devils. He can't stay with the team too long though. He was still playing college hockey three weeks ago, and he's not done with classes yet.

Phoenix Coyotes: With the Flames' ugly 5-0 loss to the Bruins on Saturday, the Coyotes officially clinched their first playoff spot in eight years. They celebrated by pummeling the Avs later that night and became the third team this season to break 100 points.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens' new rink is going to have better acoustics than the Igloo. This is presumably so the refs can more accurately discern what penalty Sid Crosby is whining about. (Jokes!)

San Jose Sharks: Some feared Joe Thornton(notes) would miss some time after Alex Edler clobbered him on Saturday night.

Indeed, he was held out of the following night's game with the Avs.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues penalty killers' are their unsung heroes this year. They're tops in the league! Now there's a stat.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Vinny Lecavalier speared Tim Kennedy(notes), doesn't think he deserved a five-minute major.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Jonas Gustavsson(notes) and Nikolai Kulemin(notes) are gonna be expensive come the offseason.

Vancouver Canucks: Tony Gallagher thinks it's time for the Canucks to make playoff preparations. Let's just hope the planning committee leaves "plot parade route" off the to-do list.

Washington Capitals: The Caps only needed one point from an awful Calgary team to lock up the No. 1 seed in the East. Instead, Jose Theodore(notes) gave up three in the first 10:34 and Calgary won 5-3, which I can't even begin to understand. But they still clinched the top spot thanks to New Jersey's loss to Philly.

Play of the Weekend

It may not have happened in the NHL, but Leafs propect Matt Frattin scored a helluva goal against Yale in a losing effort on Saturday.

Gold Star Award

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The Phoenix Coyotes are an awesome team and I'm glad the teams we all like are paying money to fund the ass-kickings they've been dropping on everyone all season.

Minus of the Weekend

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Tampa's goaltending duo of Mike Smith(notes) and Antero Niitymaki did not have a good night against Buffalo. The two combined to stop 19 of 26 shots in a 7-1 loss.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "ILoveLuci" knows the score. Let's look at the ensuing Hurricanes/Penguins proposal.

To Car: Malkin, Letang

To Pit: Staal, Pitkanen

Is it fair?

Well it's something.

Signoff

Save it for the talk room.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness pretty much every day over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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