"Boundless Optimism" is not a phrase you would currently, if ever, use to describe Flames fans; Hope does not spring eternal here and hasn't for some time. With the miniscule chances the Flames have of making the post season--6.5 percent, to be exact-- dwindling daily through of combination of their own missteps and the good fortunes of teams ahead of them in the standings, it seems now is as good a time as any to address the inevitable.
It appears that the 2009-10 Calgary Flames have finally learnt their diagnosis--an incurable case of mediocrity, terminal inconsistency, or chronic just-plain-not-good-enough-itis--and have been given eight games to live. The premature conclusion of your favourite team's season can be a very painful and confusing time for fans, and can require much guidance from friends, family, the media, and above all--the Flames blogosphere. Before I present you with a selection of reactions to last night's listless effort and the beginnings of what will surely be many eulogies of the 09-10 Flames, I want to take a moment to familiarize you with the five stages of grief:
Denial: It wasn't too long ago that many of us would have scoffed at the suggestion of the Flames not making the playoffs. After all, they had a 90+% chance of securing a spot in the top eight a mere ten weeks ago. Sure, I toyed with the thought during the ides of many a losing streak, but never really considered it a possible reality until about last Sunday and the loss in Minnesota.
Anger: Anger at Darryl Sutter for trading Dustin Boyd for a sack of pucks, for acquiring Steve Staios for no palpable reason outside of "leadership" capabilities, for acquiring the Great Invisible Ales Kotalik and his cumbersome contract in a swap of mediocre forwards, for failing to acquire a real "difference maker" in the Phaneuf trade. Anger at Brent for insisting on fusing Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen together for fifty games despite obvious lack of results, for starting Vesa Toskalol in one of many must-wins, for sending the fourth line over the boards after an opposition icing call. Anger at underachieving players for, well, underachieving. You name it, we got it.
Bargaining: Various attempts to make a deal with the Hockey Gods; for example: if the Flames make the playoffs in favour of, say Detroit or Colorado, I promise not to complain about Lady Luck and her cruel ways, not to call the Canucks divers or make fun of the Sharks' inability to perform in the post season, or even take pleasure in the perpetual misery of Oilers fans...
Depression: Described as "overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, mourning loss as well as the hopes, dreams and plans for the future." The Flames registered twenty-two shots on goal and four even-strength scoring chances--exactly zero of which came off the stick of El Capitan-- in a 3-2 loss to the fourteenth place New York Islanders and remain four points (ed: six) behind the Red Wings and eighth place in the conference with eight games left to play. Thanks to a general manager guilty of an insatiable win now mentality, salary cap mismanagement, and a general incapability of addressing his team's real needs, there is no foreseeable way out of this purgatory of mediocrity in the immediate future. Woe is us. We may as well become Canucks fans, since we all know they are going all the way this year.
Acceptance (not the same as Resignation): You have to accept the loss, not just try to bear it quietly. Most of us are now approaching this stage. This season of frustration, dissatisfaction, disappointment, discontent and any other 'dis' word you can think of will soon be behind us and we can look back on its, ahem, finer moments, when the team's fleeting episodes of good play left us with feelings of false hope. We will all soon be looking forward to a stress-free post-season, a draft day free of the anxiety over which defenceman Sutter will choose in the first round, and a free-agency period largely free of worries about which bad contract with an overpaid "first-line centre" to play with Iggy or a "top-four defenceman" he will scrawl his name on next. Of course, if he gets the boot, it'll be a different story altogether...
With that in mind, cue the funeral march. Here is some of the best from around the web:
Arik from The Fourth Line Blog takes on the complex task of deducing Brent Sutter's reasoning that involves a possible family feud, the apocalypse, and robots.
Keith of the Flames Insider ventures into "Atmosphere" territory with his open-ended assessment of the Flames' playoff chances, or lack thereof. Although I think you may find some of the comments more entertaining.
Over at Flames Nation, the obituaries are somewhat postponed, but Jean looks back on last night's dismal performance, the past few months, and takes a brief and bleak look at the Flames' immediate future.
The "Sign Nystrom" campaign has begun at Lighthouse Hockey, to which I say: Get your hands off our future captain!
The Herald's George Johnson delivers one of the most depressing game summaries I've ever read, interspersed with dark figures of speech and stale reiterations of quotes we've been hearing from coaches and players alike for most of the season. The comments on this one are also an interesting read.
From the "Just for Fun" file--Sportsnet's Mike Brophy manages to state the obvious while taking on the odious task of an in-depth analysis of the Flames' failings. I stopped reading at "Staios has played very well."
David Van der Gulik has been named Abbotsford's American Specialty/AHL Man Of The Year...who needs a call-up from the lousy Flames when you're Man Of The Year?
That's all for now folks, I hope to see some of you bright and early (for me anyways) at Flames Central for tomorrow afternoon's date with the Bruins and what might be our last chance to commiserate as a group before the season's end.
As always, add anything I forgot and start writing your own eulogies (preferably in Haiku format) in the comments. Remember the Five Stages.