When you get a message 20 minutes before the puck drop that says "is Gaudreau really a healthy scratch tonight? Why?" you know it's going to be a good night. And yes, as you all know by now, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were all healthy scratches for Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Why? Here's what Mark Spector from Sportsnet.ca has to say:
Apparently each player showed up late for Monday's practice and Bob Hartley cut practice short and was none too thrilled:
When your two leading scorers and Lance Bouma show up late and are, shall we say, not all there, there's reason to be upset. The Flames are fighting for their playoff lives and need any and all wins they can get. So I'm sure it irked the heck out of Hartley when his young gun, one of his three Associate Captains and Lance Bouma decided to have too much fun on a Sunday and be late and not ready for practice. These are professional athletes who are paid a good chunk of change to be on time and ready to go. I get it.
Two of these guys are also young. Extremely young. Monahan is 21. Johnny Gaudreau is 22. Lance Bouma is 25. They're basically kids and kids make mistakes. And before you get all high and mighty, remember being that age. And if you never did anything stupid or weren't late for work or had too much fun and were off your game the next day, well, you're a better person than most of us. They each made a mistake and paid the price for it. Was this the first time it happened? It's doubtful we will ever know and maybe it doesn't matter. Again, this is professional sports, where every day people's jobs are on the line. And it's a big money business as well, ask Gaudreau and Monahan who are scheduled to get major paydays this offseason. So I totally understand Hartley being fed up and angry with the 3 of them. Calgary sits in a precarious position. One or two loses here or there and the playoffs are long gone and these guys show up to practice late and "under the weather." Hartley remaining the coach of the Flames is tied directly to winning and Gaudreau and Monahan directly can effect that bottom line. So, I understand that discipline was necessary and that Hartley and team management were all on the same page.
Now, people are singing the Flames' front office praises. Bold move. Bravo. Had to be done. Slow down. This was the perfect alignment for the Flames to make this decision. Yes, they needed a win, but they were playing the Maple Leafs. The worst team in the NHL. The same Maple Leafs who traded their Captain Dion Phaneuf Tuesday afternoon 5 hours before game time. The same Maple Leafs who sent 3 other players (and a prospect) to Ottawa and have lost 5 in a row in Calgary. So, yes, good for Calgary for making the decision to sit those three. HOWEVER, you are out of your mind if you think this same thing would happen if this incident occured with the Canucks, Ducks, Sharks, Coyotes or Kings waiting in the wings. This was an easy decision because they Flames probably thought they could beat the Leafs (and they did) without those three.
I don't have access to the Flames. I'm not a credentialed member of the press in Canada, so I don't have access to the players or know any of them personally. What I do see of them in the media tells me that these three will be humbled by this experience. Johnny Gaudreau, seems by all accounts, to be a very humble and down to Earth kind of guy. He's always doing work in the community and he rarely speaks of himself instead of the team. Same with Sean Monahan. #23 seems to be that quiet type leader who let's his game speak for him. Bouma is your classic, blue collar, lunch pail type guy. He's never going to be the star, but he busts his hump and works as hard as anyone out there. Nothing about these three players says they won't learn from this and be remorseful.
We'll probably never know the full extent of what happened behind closed doors and that's fine. As fans we should be able to trust that management and Captain Mark Giordano took care of things out of the public eye. The decision to sit the 3 of them makes perfect sense. But the timing was perfect as well. If Tuesday night was a game that had conference points on the line, I think there'd be a different thought process. The Flames might deny that idea, but then they wouldn't be being honest with themselves or their players and fans.