Don’t get fooled here, Calgary. This year isn’t last year.
Those goals with the goalie pulled? Well, they’re ending up in your net now.
The third period comebacks? That plus-36 third-period goal differential last season sits at minus-20 this season — and we’re only a quarter of the way into the season.
Jiri Hudler? Sorry, he’s turned back into Jiri Hudler.
That stingy, strangely impenetrable defence from a year ago? Well, your 3.59 goals allowed per game puts you in 30th place, a full half-goal behind the 28th place team (Winnipeg Jets). (The Columbus Blue Jackets are 29th with 3.23.)
It’s over, Flames fan. Forget the fact you’re five points behind the third-place Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific. The chase for that spot will set you back, when you should be building a team that can win a Stanley Cup a few years from now.
The analytics folks will be the first to say they all saw this coming. (Because you needed an abacus to realize that Calgary’s numbers last season were going to be nearly impossible to duplicate.)
But it’s here: The unrepeatable season has not been repeated. The only real problem occurs if you force things to try and make the impossible happen again.
General manager Brad Treliving is, in my esteem, too smart for that. But it must be said: Like his team, Year 2 has been more difficult than Year 1 for the Flames GM.
Signing Karri Ramo was a risk that backfired. Treliving couldn’t move Jonas Hiller, got stuck in a three-goalie system, and today prospect Joni Ortio is on waivers, sufficiently de-valued by the Flames to the point where he may go unclaimed. That’s not Plan A for asset management.
That three-year, $9.45 million deal for Mason Raymond? Like every GM in the league, Treliving can toss that contract in the skeleton closet. It’s a bad one.
And it must be said, neither Mark Giordano nor Dougie Hamilton has rewarded their boss with top-notch play after signing long-term deals prior to the season. And Giordano’s six-year, $40.5 million contract doesn’t kick in until next year — when he will be 33.
You can add Mikael Backlund to that pile. He signed a new, three-year deal last summer and has rewarded the Flames with two goals so far.
The trick is, don’t make the same mistake with Hudler. And don’t do what the Flames did for so long, pushing a middling team into the chase for eighth place, and then pray you could catch lightning in a bottle again, the way they did in 2004.
In sending Ladislav Smid to AHL Stockton on a conditioning assignment, the Flames should be building a stockpile of assets to be dealt at the trade deadline for draft picks. Then take those picks to the draft and make the right deals to upgrade your roster.
The rebuild is in fine shape. Don’t let one season of overachievement fool you into thinking Year 2 should actually be Year 5.
Like they say in Edmonton: It’s a process.