Well, now that people are talking playoffs, I will be reviewing the seasons of teams as they're either eliminated from the playoffs or eliminated from playoff contention before the end of the season. Obviously, the last team reviewed will be the one that wins the Cup.
Now the next team to be eliminated from playoff contention: The Calgary Flames.
Season expectations: Many people in Alberta expected these guys to go deep into the playoffs this season. They acquired Olli Jokinen from the Phoenix Coyotes to give them a big first-line center, Jay Bouwmeester joined a defensive corps that featured Dion Phaneuf, and goaltender Miikka Kipprusoff is regarded as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
They spent a lot of money on their top guys while not necessarily having the best fortification on the lower lines. Heck, they really didn't have much of a secondary scoring line and while Nigel Dawes was solid at the start of the season, they eventually started to cool. I forewarned in my preseason preview that "This team looks like a Jenga game to me... if that one piece at the bottom gets removed at the wrong time, expect disaster and nothing else."
My prediction: The team will finish third in the Northwest Division and tenth overall in the Western Conference.
The truth: The team was the last team to be eliminated from playoff contention following their loss to the San Jose Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche's victory over the Vancouver Canucks. They'll likely finish third and ninth, respectively.
What went wrong?: You mean aside from the salary structure that made building a balanced team nearly impossible?
I can't fault how they've paid Kipprusoff but they didn't use Curtis McElhinney nearly enough and even when they got a proven backup in Vesa Toskala, coach Brent Sutter may have rode Kipprusoff a little too hard.
The Jay Bouwmeester signing didn't pan-out as well as they hoped and that lead to Dion Phaneuf, who was considered to be the defensive face of the franchise, leaving via trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The rest of the defense was very underwhelming. Maybe too underwhelming from what they were being paid.
Finally, the depth forwards were essentially rebuild out of cast-offs from a losing Phoenix Coyotes team. While Dawes was a bright spot, Jokinen and Sjostrom ended up moved due mid-season while Brian McGrattan hasn't been in a game since the end of January. There's some guys who wanna win and there's some guys who wanna paycheck. Calgary learned that the hard way.
So what's next?: Massive reconstruction that may have to involve biting the financial bullet or salary banishment to the AHL. These guys already have over $49M committed to next season. They're gonna have to eat some salaries for trades certainly but who's going to take Daymond Langkow at $4.5M? Next year might be just as bad, folks.