"Always earned, never given." That's the slogan the Flames have been trotting out this preseason. It means that there are no guaranteed spots. You need to work for your spot, and if you don't earn it, you will be cut.
It is not feasible in a cap league and the Flames should really stop saying it, because it's clearly bullshit.
Joni Ortio was going down no matter what. He'll be Adirondack's starter, and hopefully improve on a stellar rookie season.
That leaves the two forwards, though, both of who made compelling cases to stay up.
Sven Baertschi's fate was written the second he was listed a healthy scratch for the final preseason game. The 22-year-old (yup, today's his birthday) came into camp an improved player. He was stronger on the puck, he battled harder, he was much more aggressive. A rocky start turned into a controlling presence as he played alongside fellow skilled linemates. He only managed to score one goal in a handful of games, and he was sent down.
Josh Jooris, meanwhile, was a surprise. Out of nowhere, the 24-year-old had a stellar September, and just kept going. He scored goals. He hit. He was in the right place at the right time, and he was tried at all positions, despite being one of the Flames' few right wingers of actual note. There probably wasn't anything else he could have done. He was cut.
Jooris probably earned the chance to start the year in the NHL. Baertschi was up there as well. They didn't make it to the final cuts.
You can't judge a player's value in just a few preseason games. It's too small a sample size, and you have to take a player's history into count. This is clearly what happened here, because Baertschi and Jooris were undoubtedly better than a handful of players you could easily name (and I'll leave that to you to point the fingers; if you've read me enough, my thoughts on just who should be gone are pretty clear).
(Ah, what the hell: I'll remind you that Baertschi literally tossed a Jet around while Brian McGrattan, whose sole purpose is protection, stood by and watched. And Jooris was trusted with more ice time than David Jones last night. There are more, but those are a few examples.)
What it comes down to: depending on who gets hurt, Baertschi and Jooris will be among the first call ups. If it's a bottom sixer, look out for Jooris (or even Michael Ferland, another early casualty). If it's a top sixer, that's suited to Baertschi's style, and other than Markus Granlund - who is currently injured, but will probably be one of the last cuts - the Flames don't have many more prospects who play that game who will be eligible for recall. We'll probably see both of them again this year.
The Flames are specifically choosing to dress a roster worse than they're capable of, though.
So maybe the team should just stop talking all together. Of course they have to say they're trying for the playoffs, but if you keep bad players on the team over good ones, that goes against what you're saying.
And stop saying "Always earned, never given." You're embarrassing yourself.