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The blame game: mid-season melodrama

The headaches have only started to begin for Brent Sutter and the Calgary Flames
The headaches have only started to begin for Brent Sutter and the Calgary Flames
AP/Darryl Dyck

The 2009-10 season is over - at least for the Calgary Flames - but the analysis of the collapse of the campaign has just begun. We'll start this ten part series in the middle.

The irony is so thick it can smother you.

At mid-season, the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs – both struggling to find their footing in a chaotic hockey season – orchestrate a multi-player transaction that sends shock waves through the entire league.

Quickly, assorted skeptical scribes and puck prognosticators dissected and detailed the benefits and burdens of the trade. It seemed clear that Toronto had received a franchise-changing player, the type of individual that – despite the baggage he was carting into the dressing room – a team could re-build and re-mold itself around. The consensus was that Calgary was merely ridding itself of a volatile component and accepting serviceable though hardly equal commodities in return.

Despite the magnitude of the transaction and the number and quality of the bodies exchanged, it fails to elicit the expected results. Both teams miss the playoffs, but the difference in reaction in each of the cities couldn’t be more extreme.

In the self-proclaimed center of the hockey universe, there was a feeling of optimism, even giddy delight, at the way the season had drawn to its inevitable conclusion. For the first time in years, there was hope for the future and the belief that redemption was around the corner. Their general manager was being hailed as a hero.

In the Stampede City, there was only despair, disdain and disillusionment that a team, considered to be a Stanley Cup contender when the campaign began, wouldn’t even be able to secure a ticket to the post-season dance. Their general manager was being described as a dunce.

The irony? The trade I’m speaking of is the January of 1992 blockbuster that delivered Doug Gilmore and the promise of restored pride to Toronto and brought only gloom and shades of doom to Calgary.

Still, exchange the names and substitute the year and you have an eerily similar situation to what has transpired in this season of discontent.

History tells us that while Toronto did enjoy the fruits of Gilmore’s labor, he didn’t deliver the championship the city was so desperate to enjoy. Calgary regrouped, made another controversial trade in 1995, dispatching a revered veteran for a highly touted but relatively unknown prospect and rebuilt themselves the old-fashioned way.

Can Calgary recoup and redeem? Only time will tell.

The trouble with time is the time it takes.


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