I took great joy in watching the Flames get beat down by the Washington Capitals last Saturday night. We were at the Bottlehouse Beer Parlour enjoying some good food with friends and watching the action. As the only non-Flames fan in the place, I was subjected to some good natured needling early in the game as the Flames took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
In an effort to wind up my friends, I jumped squarely on the Capitals bandwagon. I sang the praises of Alex Ovechkin, going as far as promising to order an OV as my next beer when he scored*. At 3:43 of the second OV did in fact score and the beer was ordered. Twelve seconds later he scored again and I suddenly had a lot of beer on our table.
* For those residing outside of the Canadian prairies, OV is horrible beer produced by Molson. It was made popular by grandfathers like mine, who apparently weren’t concerned about taste. The actual name of the beer is Old Vienna. OV? Oh Yeah! Just say OV.
The route was on as Washington scored six times in the second period. Mikka Kiprusoff skated straight to the bench and was pulled after the fifth goal. At the time, I said to the table that it looked like Kipper was pulling himself. The way he left the net reminded me of a game during my final year of minor midget AA hockey when I had pulled myself early in the second period after the opposition had scored their fourth or fifth goal.
When I got to the bench my coach was furious. He ordered me back in the net and I refused. I had been playing really well of late and I felt like my mojo would be gone if I suffered through the rest of the game. A selfish move in hindsight but I knew that the only way our team would win games is if I was stellar in net. We simply were not a good enough team to overcome mediocre goaltending.
Having gone home after the second period, I did not realize that Coach Brian Sutter put Kiprusoff back in to play the third period. Kiprusoff had in fact pulled himself from the game and the coach decided to remind him who was boss. On the one hand, I applaud Sutter for taking charge.* On the other hand, goalies are a fickle bunch that rely heavily on confidence. It may have been better in the long run to let Kipper have his way and explain to the media that you were in the process of pulling him when he skated to the bench.
* Other recent examples of a coach showing that ‘I’m the boss’ include John MacLean in New Jersey benching Ilya Kovalchuk last week and Brad Childress waiving Randy Moss earlier today. Both men may soon go from ‘I’m the boss’ to ‘I’m looking for work’.
The Flames ended last season with a whimper, missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-2004 season. Despite the public calls for sweeping changes last offseason, Daryl Sutter retained his job as GM of the club and spent the offseason bringing back Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay for a second call of duty.
The Flames’ results through eleven games have been inconsistent, with six wins and five losses. Coach Sutter has already taken to publicly calling out his players, a card the coach usually gets to play once per season in an effort to wake up his team. To burn the card so early in the season suggests the players are not buying what the Sutters are selling.
Wrapping up my story from minor hockey days, our coach eventually lost control of the team to the point that the players pushed him out in favour of one of the assistant coaches. The team rallied together and we went on an unlikely run to the Saskatoon city finals. While I don’t care much about whether or not the Flames turn things around, at some point the team may need a coaching change to shake things up. Such a change would involve a Sutter firing a Sutter. Flames fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. OV? Oh yeah!