Stuck In The Past

Jeremy Wiebe February 21, 2013 2
Derek Leung/Getty Images

In the early 1980s, the city of Calgary was going through some difficult times. Oil prices were falling and jobs were scarce. The Stampede City knew it had to make changes in order to get people to stay. One was bringing an NHL team to Calgary. The Flames arrived in 1980, which gave the city a much-needed boost through trying times.

Fast-forward to 2013 and the picture looks quite different. Calgary as a city is booming. Jobs are plentiful, oil prices are sky-high and people from across Canada are moving to southern Alberta. Calgary is considered a young, hip city with a mix of old-time cowboy values. However, the city’s hockey team has seen its on-ice fortunes, taking a downturn. The Flames have stumbled out of the gate in 2013, as they sit in 14th place in the Western Conference, going 5-7-3 to start the season.

The biggest problem for the Flames is that management thinks this team can repeat what they did in 2004. Every Flames fan remembers 2004. The Flames went on a magical run that spring, making it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The city was electric as 17th Avenue SW became known as the Red Mile, the party central for all of Canada. Led by Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames earned series victories over Vancouver, Detroit and San Jose in thrilling fashion.

Today, Iginla and Kiprusoff are still with the Flames, but are going through issues. Iginla has only one goal in 15 games, while Kiprusoff is on injured reserve due to a knee sprain. Flames president Ken King believes these two can still lead the Flames to the promised land, but instead they can’t get any further than Cochrane.

The Flames need to make changes and need to make them now. It is time for the Flames to get out of the 2004 dream and look ahead to the future. It is painfully obvious they won’t win the Stanley Cup with Iginla or Kiprusoff so it is time to trade both stars. Granted Iginla has a no-trade clause and Kiprusoff can’t be dealt while on IR, but with the trade deadline approaching sooner rather than later, it is time for the Flames to cut their losses.

The Flames also need to get rid of King. While there is no doubt King has done a great job in turning around the franchise, after some rough years in the late 1990s, it is also clear the game has past him by. King is far too loyal to the old guard, while forsaking younger talent. The Dion Phaneuf trade to Toronto was ill-advised, especially for what the Flames got in return. Jamal Mayers, Niklas Hagman and Ian White are no longer with the team, while Matt Stajan is one of the most useless players in the NHL. Phaneuf, meanwhile is enjoying a solid season as the Maple Leafs have been playing well in the early going of 2013.

The Flames draft record has been horrendous in recent years, leaving the cupboard bare of prospects. While the Flames still have hopes for Mikael Backlund and Sven Baertschi, the Flames first round picks in recent years have been abysmal. Matt Pelech, Leland Irving, Greg Nemisz and Tim Erixon have all been first round busts. The Flames need to re-evaluate their draft thinking, and start focusing on drafting better talent.

Flames fans won’t like to hear it, but a massive rebuild is in order. It might be time to look at this team as an expansion franchise and wipe the slate clean. If they don’t, the consequences could be catastrophic.

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