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.
It should of course be noted that "blowing it up" isn't always the answer to a team's problems. For every Pittsburgh Penguins success story, there is also an Edmonton Oilers and Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets tragedy.
But what you don't hear very much is the story of teams that got mediocre and stayed that way for years at a time: Your Minnesota Wilds, your Florida Panthers, your Calgary Flames.
The problem with being a team like that is management seems very eager indeed to enter every season looking to compete very legitimately for a playoff spot (as opposed to those like Edmonton and the Islanders who pay lip service to competing but actually have no shot of doing so). Most spend middling amounts of money and seem somehow shocked when they receive middling results.
But at least they're not the Flames. Calgary, having missed the playoffs two years running after spending a few post-lockout seasons at the top of the Northwest Division, entered the season with one of the largest payrolls in the NHL and have never once looked especially like a team that had real playoff aspirations. The big-name, big-money players are there, of course. Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Jay Bouwmeester are all booking north of $5.8 million against the cap, and there was once again very little roster turnover under new GM Jay Feaster.
That was interesting. You can see Darryl Sutter's point in not flipping a what portions of the roster he could in the wake of that first missed postseason, because it may have been an aberration. After two such seasons, there weren't really any signs that the organization saw reasons for concern: several players from that group, in fact, were given multi-year extensions (the most egregious and baffling of which was Anton Babchuk's, which pays him $2.5 million for each of the next two years and comes with a no-trade clause).
After Feaster traded for Mike Cammalleri — a mildly prudent move, given how bad Rene Bourque has been in Montreal — he flatly told ESPN that the Flames were "going for it." And then came a flood of derision. At the time, Calgary was 12th in the West, and though Feaster wisely stood pat at the deadline, the team has done little to improve its position.
Calgary currently sits 11th, three points back of that big jumble of teams jockeying for the final two playoff spots, despite earlier this month putting together a five-game winning streak and climbing as high as a tie for ninth two points back of the final playoff spot. But since then, they've been dragged mercilessly back into the muck and mire that better fits their actual quality as a team.
(Coming Up: Teemu teases another season; Nassau Coliseum might be dangerous to your lungs; Blues chase NHL defense record; Toews inching back; Radulov's Nashville return; sick feed from Kyle Brodziak; Travis Zajac is lucky; a winning team in Toronto; Matt Cooke's argument against the red line; the joys of NCAA hockey; Quebec City gets a minus; John Tavares to the Rangers [yup]; and Henrik Sedin offers a little hypocrisy on player safety.)
Since that winning streak ended, Calgary has rattled off five straight losses, including some to positively abysmal teams like Edmonton, Columbus, and Minnesota. All the while, everyone said all the right things about staying competitive.
And it was Dallas on Saturday afternoon that drove the final nail into the casket on Calgary's playoff hopes, though the team still has six games remaining. They needed to be desperate and competitive, and instead gave up a goal 97 seconds in en route to a 4-1 loss.
You could have guessed that Calgary would fail to make it in September, November, January and last week, and you'd have been right. It was a stupid decision to enter the season with this team, and even stupider to stick with it when it became apparent that things weren't going to work out.
And so this is what teams who make the mistake of "going for it" get when the roster very obviously doesn't have the goods to make the playoffs: They don't make the playoffs.
There's no great mystery to it.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne might not be retiring at the end of this season after all. "There's more inside me that wants to play than retire," Selanne admitted. "But it's got to be 100 percent when I make the decision." Let's hope like hell it's 100 percent. Teemu forever.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins' win over the Kings on Saturday night snapped two streaks: It was the Bruins' first road win in five tries, and ended a six-game winning run for LA. Zdeno Chara, who had no points but effectively bottled the Kings' now-potent attack, was named the No. 1 star in his 1,000th career game.
Buffalo Sabres: Is it any coincidence at all that the Sabres keep winning now that they're riding Ryan Miller like Secretariat down the stretch? He's started 28 of the last 30 games, and shockingly he's only lost 10 of them. Why it's almost like he's one of the best goalies in the world. Whoa!
Calgary Flames: Miikka Kiprusoff was announced as the Flames' nominee for the Masterton, presumably because he hasn't retired instead of playing behind these bums.
Carolina Hurricanes: Chip Alexander, who covers the team for the Raleigh News and Observer, tweeted that the 'Canes loss to Detroit was "arguably [the] toughest of the season." My nominee: Getting drilled by Columbus 5-1 on Friday, which came just a day after a column headlined "Canes still hope to make playoffs." Oof.
Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews and Steve Montador are both practicing with the team after their concussions but their return dates, obviously, remain undetermined. Montador has missed 22 games, and Toews 16. Getting either one back, you'd think, would be incredibly helpful.
Colorado Avalanche: The Canucks have beaten Colorado five times this year, but in Saturday's game, the Avs at least picked up a crucial loser point that surely had Dallas, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Phoenix screaming, "Oh come ON, Luongo!" Just like every Canucks fan.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Here's a headline that just made me want to cry: "On The Line When Columbus Hosts Edmonton." Pride in what, exactly?
Dallas Stars: Dallas' 4-1 win over Calgary on Saturday propelled them back into the division lead in the Pacific. They were, however, still tied with Phoenix at 87 points.
Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Here's Todd Bertuzzi swatting a puck out of mid-air to help the Wings snap a six-game losing streak.