More Than Just Consistency Missing from Calgary Flames

After enduring the years of boring and excitement-killing trends from ‘defensive’ to the ‘left-wing lock’ to the cringe-worthy ‘trap’, NHL hockey being played today is perhaps the closest it’s been to the fast-paced open style of the 1980s, albeit with a larger average-sized player.

For fans of the Calgary Flames, this year presents a quandary.  Flirting in and out of a playoff spot, this season has been defined by hot and cold.  They have shown talent and cohesiveness during winning streaks of 3 or 4 games, and then will lose a handful while appearing confused and even frustrated. 

On paper, this roster appears to offer a good blend of speed, skill, and size.  It features young, highly-ranked players with a good foundation of grinders and veterans.  And any defence with Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton should be feared by opponents.

So what’s the problem? 

Comparing the 1989 and 2017 rosters on the basis of talent would be moot, not because the ‘game has changed’ (as stated, the two eras have many similarities), but for two reasons: the 1989 team was undoubtedly more talented in practically all areas; and because skill isn’t a main factor in what’s hampering the current crew.

Comparing the character of the players is what should get some attention.  Superior statistics aside, one look at that roster offers multiple players who could fill the coveted ‘face of the franchise’ role.  That season marked the final year for the legendary Lanny McDonald, who obviously was the icon of that team. 

But if one was to remove the Moustached One from consideration, you were left with the likes of Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, Tim Hunter, Al MacInnis, Brad McCrimmon, Joel Otto, Jim Peplinski, and hometown goaltender Mike Vernon as potential role-fillers. 

They also had rookie and next-gen face of the franchise Theoren Fleury.

Then came the era of Jarome Iginla.

Any one of these former Flames would automatically assume that role on today’s squad.  Not solely because of who they are, but also because that is one area lacking on this team.  Mark Giordano has been the closest player, and has done an admirable job.  But with all due respect, Mark Giordano is no Gary Roberts.

There are others in the line-up who could possibly be considered, but for whatever reason, none have really stepped up.  Sean Monahan is undoubtedly a leader on this team, and a good young talent who just might grow into that role.  Johnny Gaudreau, coming off well-publicized contract negotiations, has had flashes of brilliance in a season that has been filled with mild disappointment, sitting at 11 goals in 47 games. 

The truth is, the team icon role hasn’t been filled since Iginla’s departure. 

Stats aside, will Johnny Hockey verify the predictions of those who consider his Flames destiny to be ‘the Face’?

Or will it be Backlund?  Brodie?  Maybe impressive rookie Matthew Tkachuk?  Underachieving sophomore Sam Bennett?

There has always been that one player you think of when it comes to the Calgary Flames. Who will be the next Face?

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