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Rhetro in the Morning: The Importance of Team Chemistry

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No, I'm not a Rogers employee. This is not an ad for Sportsnet 960's morning show although it may feel like it just a skosh.

If Mike Richards' morning show was the Louis CK of sports radio comedy, then current 960 morning show host, Boomer, is more like The Big Bang Theory of sports radio comedy. Needless to say, it's very hit or miss and completely across the spectrum from what Richards brought to the table. A few chuckles here or there mixed in with way too many references to anything and all things Red Deer.

This morning, in between Andrew Walker's token Kris Versteeg nugget (I swear he's his brother or something with how often he brings him up), Rhett Warrener was let loose. I came in mid-segment but they were talking about chemistry and real TEAMS, like Quenneville's cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks. Rhetro touched on a couple of things that I thought were interesting when related to where the Calgary Flames currently sit.

Warrener is a breath of fresh air on the notoriously apologetic host of the Flames. He brings a lot of candid opinions on the team and his comments this morning gave us a just a small glimpse into one of the many reasons the Flames are where they are now.

I first should apologize for going all Bruce Dowbiggin on everyone here and writing a column based solely on stuff I heard on another program, but I felt this warranted a share. And, I haven't had much to write about lately as I think I've exhausted all my thoughts on the Flames current situation... so, you get this.

In talking about the importance of chemistry to a team, Warrener first brought up his time with the Florida Panthers as a 19 year-old. He said this was the first real team he ever played on and not just because they were part of the NHL. After practice nearly every day when they were in Florida they would go as a team, or the majority of the team, for lunch at the same old pub. He said it was these types of small things that made a difference for them growing as a team. Being close like that makes you want to fight and win with your teammates.

From there, he told a hilarious story about being invited to his first team party at John Vanbiesbrouck's house. I won't get into all the gory details, but it ended with captain Brian Skrudland getting him wasted and Warrener slamming a bowl of spinach dip in Beeser's wife's hair followed by Vanbiesbrouck chasing Rhett around the house.

Anyway, back to the task at hand. He then related this to the Flames, saying the 2004 team was far and away the best TEAM he'd ever been a part of. Not talent-wise, but the chemistry was amazing. This was a tight-knit group of guys that was willing to do anything for one of their teammates, similar to Florida but to a greater extent.

Boomer asked him the question, "what was the first move made that really affected the team?"

It was a great question, I honestly thought he might tip-toe around it - but he responded instantly, as he always does.

The Kobasew-Ference trade.

I know, myself, I was happy with that trade at first because getting Brad Stuart was a big deal for the Flames. Even though Dutter completely threw Ference under the bus, signing him to an extension and then dealing him, but whatever, it looked like he improved the team. Warrener bringing this up makes it obvious that the team disagreed and it would later become apparent to even dolts like myself that Ference was an integral part of that team in the locker room and in the community. Warrener said the business side of pro sports really hit him after that trade. Of course, Stuart would sign with the Kings because apparently his wife wanted to live in SoCal, Wayne Primeau would be overpaid and become dead weight and Ference would be a big part of the Bruins Stanley Cup run last season.

After thinking for another moment, he brought up the actual first move that affected the team.

Not bringing back Martin Gelinas.

He said the team loved to have fun and do things together, and Gelinas was no different - he'd be a part of all the team activities. But, his impact came in the way he then would still prepare for the season and all the games. Sure, he'd go out and have fun with the boys but then he'd be the first one to the rink and the last one to leave. He was a major example to the team and everyone loved him.

I'm sure that some of us fans already suspected that these things played a role in the slow regression of the Flames, but I thought it was still worth noting. Darryl Sutter underestimated the importance of the chemistry of that team and it hurt them down the road. Now, they look like a team that lacks motivation and lacks that hard-working team mentality and identity that they used to have.

These moves happened 5+ years ago and it's hard to say what, if any, impact this has on the current Calgary Flames team, but I'd say it tells us more about Sutter's ego than anything. To me though, it also shows us what the Flames don't have anymore; the guys willing to do whatever it takes to win a hockey game. Players will follow the leader, and along with Gelinas, Jarome Iginla used to be that guy but it's obvious he can't be that sacrificial leader anymore. I believe that Curtis Glencross needs to be that guy but that's really a post for another day.