The 2011/2012 version of the Calgary Flames was together one last time on Monday before going their separate ways. The team has missed the playoffs for three straight years and there’s a feeling that significant change may be in order this off season. Here are some observations from an annual event we all wish would come much later on.
- Audio – Here, in one place, are all the Flames players speaking following their exit interviews and final medicals.
-If you listen to that audio, you’ll hear a very pronounced feeling of how the players let each other down. They felt there was an opportunity, with control of their own fate, to earn themselves a playoff spot. Instead, they lost eight of nine games between March 16th and March 31st to eliminate themselves from playoff contention. There’s also a realization that change will have to be made, because you won’t see very many teams standing pat with a certain group after three years without playoffs.
-The Flames have six pending unrestricted free agents with most speaking on Monday. Some gave you the feeling they wanted to be back, while some were a little more vague about their future with the team. Olli Jokinen didn’t elaborate too much on his status, but said he hasn’t thought about signing anywhere else but with Calgary. Lee Stempniak, Tom Kostopoulos, and David Moss were farily clear in their assertion of wanting to come back next season while Cory Sarich’s comments were a little more difficult to read. If you listen, Sarich uses the term “you need to be somewhere where you’re wanted” a few times, and maybe reading too much into things, but I didn’t get the feeling that he was the most confident in his chances to return. We did not hear from Scott Hannan on Monday.
-The topic of Jarome Iginla’s future with the team was by far the hottest one. I encourage you to listen to the entire piece with Iginla, because it was as candid as I’ve heard the captain in a long long time. It’s pretty clear he’s not in favor of a “full rebuild” as some have coined it, and he made it very clear that winning a Stanley Cup and feeling like you’ve got a shot is all he’s looking for. Iginla even clarified that, saying he believed this past incarnation of the Flames fell into that category where he felt like there was a shot. The most intriguing thing with Iginla came when he was asked about changing his role, ala Steve Yzerman. Jarome basically said he doesn’t feel Calgary’s situation allows that same transformation to happen, which I happen to agree with. Iginla turns 35 in July, he’s scored 30 goals in 11 straight years; let him play his game. Put him out in offensively tailored situations, play him against weaker opposition when you can, and let him be effective in that way.
-At least one Calgary Flames player will be representing his country at the World Hockey Championships in Finland and Sweden, and that’s Jay Bouwmeester. It’ll be Bouwmeester’s third trip to the World’s as he’ll look to add to his two gold medals and single silver. It sounds like Chris Butler will have a chance to represent Team USA as well, saying that Jay Feaster had floated it out there to USA Hockey and that he’ll have to talk with doctors before a true determination can be made. Neither Mike Cammalleri nor Mark Giordano had much to say about playing for their country in May, as neither had heard from Hockey Canada as of Monday afternoon. Cammalleri especially seemed a little miffed that he hadn’t been asked and didn’t have much to say. Jokinen said there’s “zero chance” he’ll play for Finland after ending his time with the national program following the 2010 Olympics.
Who knows what happens this summer with the Calgary Flames, but they face an off season of decisions unlike they have in a long time. With more than a handful of pending UFA’s and three more restricted free agents pending, Calgary has immediate decisions to make in that regard. But what about Iginla’s future? What about the guy teammates referred to Monday as their MVP in Miikka Kiprusoff? Could there be more changes coming that we haven’t discussed at length? The answers will come in the coming months.