The goals that got away


Who says the Flames aren’t in the playoffs? Every time I turn on the TV, I’m seeing them – and they’re playing pretty damned well, too.

A shame for Calgary that they’re all former Flames.

They’re all over the place. Brad Stuart and Todd Bertuzzi played their butts off for Detroit. Matt Lombardi, Derek Morris and Adrian Aucoin were pillars in Phoenix’s exciting first-round run. Defencemen Roman Hamrlik in Montreal, Jordan Leopold in Pittsburgh and Andrew Ference in Boston are all playing substantial roles.

But the most conspicuous is, of course, Montreal’s Mike Cammalleri.

Remember him? He’s the guy who racked up 39 goals and 82 points as a Flame in 2008-2009, leading the team in goals and power play goals along the way – only to be let go to free agency because the Flames felt they needed high-priced, do-nothing Olli Jokinen more.

Jokinen scored 11 goals in 56 games for Calgary this year before being shipped to the Rangers. Cammalleri has 9 goals IN THE PLAYOFFS ALONE for the Canadiens. (That ties him for the playoff lead, in case you were keeping score. I know I am.)

Cammy, already an established natural goal-scorer, is proving himself a big-game performer now, too. Gee, what did the Flames gripe all season they were lacking? Let’s see now…goal-scorers and guys who could rise to the occasion…hmmm…

Maybe Darryl Sutter has one of them hot-tub time machines in the GM office. Maybe he could just go back a year or so, wipe the drool off his chin over Jokinen (being a “big centre” only counts if you can actually play) and sign the little guy with the talent rather than keeping the big waste of space. That would be nice. Let’s get right on that, shall we?

And speaking of guys that got away, where might we find that high-skill passing centre who is supposed to be the solution to all of Jarome Iginla’s (and by extension, the entire franchise’s) problems? You know, the guy Jokinen was supposed to be, and was worth sacrificing an undersized 39-goal scorer for, but clearly (to everyone but Darryl Sutter) wasn’t?

We’d find him in Boston, where Marc Savard is on the verge of leading the Bruins to the Eastern Conference finals. The little guy has shaken off a major concussion and is making a menace of himself around Philadephia’s net – when he’s not scoring he’s royally pissing the Flyers off.

Savard was Iginla’s centre when Iggy emerged as a major NHL scoring star and won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer. Savard’s reward? A few games into the next season, Calgary traded him to Atlanta.

Now, here’s a trivia question for all time: Who did Calgary get for Savard – a guy who, after the trade, emerged as one of the top skill-centres in the NHL, and has stayed near the top ever since?

Ruslan Zainullin. (Um, WHO???) The guy never played a single game in the NHL. Nice deal.

Sure, Savard was defensively lazy and inconsistent. Sure, he was feuding with then-coach Greg Gilbert and asked to be traded. But still – we basically traded a top-flight NHL set-up man for a sasquatch (only rumoured to exist). And eight years later, we’re STILL looking for that centre for Iginla.

At least Darryl Sutter can’t be blamed for that one; he wasn’t even in town yet. Craig Button swung the deal. And Button himself admits that he botched his handling of Savard on so many levels. Thanks, Craig, I feel better now that I know you’ve spanked yourself for it.

(Speaking of undersized over-achievers who could have helped the Flames’ anemic offence this year, does anyone else think Theo Fleury would have been a breath of fresh air for that stale offence? But maybe we’ll save that particular can of worms for another day…)