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What We Learned: When going all-in for NHL playoffs is a big mistake

By Ryan Lambert

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

It should of course be noted that "blowing it up" isn't always the answer to a team's problems. For every Pittsburgh Penguins success story, there is also an Edmonton Oilers and Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets tragedy.

But what you don't hear very much is the story of teams that got mediocre and stayed that way for years at a time: Your Minnesota Wilds, your Florida Panthers, your Calgary Flames.

The problem with being a team like that is management seems very eager indeed to enter every season looking to compete very legitimately for a playoff spot (as opposed to those like Edmonton and the Islanders who pay lip service to competing but actually have no shot of doing so). Most spend middling amounts of money and seem somehow shocked when they receive middling results.

But at least they're not the Flames. Calgary, having missed the playoffs two years running after spending a few post-lockout seasons at the top of the Northwest Division, entered the season with one of the largest payrolls in the NHL and have never once looked especially like a team that had real playoff aspirations. The big-name, big-money players are there, of course. Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Jay Bouwmeester are all booking north of $5.8 million against the cap, and there was once again very little roster turnover under new GM Jay Feaster.

That was interesting. You can see Darryl Sutter's point in not flipping a what portions of the roster he could in the wake of that first missed postseason, because it may have been an aberration. After two such seasons, there weren't really any signs that the organization saw reasons for concern: several players from that group, in fact, were given multi-year extensions (the most egregious and baffling of which was Anton Babchuk's, which pays him $2.5 million for each of the next two years and comes with a no-trade clause).

After Feaster traded for Mike Cammalleri — a mildly prudent move, given how bad Rene Bourque has been in Montreal — he flatly told ESPN that the Flames were "going for it." And then came a flood of derision. At the time, Calgary was 12th in the West, and though Feaster wisely stood pat at the deadline, the team has done little to improve its position.

Calgary currently sits 11th, three points back of that big jumble of teams jockeying for the final two playoff spots, despite earlier this month putting together a five-game winning streak and climbing as high as a tie for ninth two points back of the final playoff spot. But since then, they've been dragged mercilessly back into the muck and mire that better fits their actual quality as a team.

(Coming Up: Teemu teases another season; Nassau Coliseum might be dangerous to your lungs; Blues chase NHL defense record; Toews inching back; Radulov's Nashville return; sick feed from Kyle Brodziak; Travis Zajac is lucky; a winning team in Toronto; Matt Cooke's argument against the red line; the joys of NCAA hockey; Quebec City gets a minus; John Tavares to the Rangers [yup]; and Henrik Sedin offers a little hypocrisy on player safety.)

Since that winning streak ended, Calgary has rattled off five straight losses, including some to positively abysmal teams like Edmonton, Columbus, and Minnesota. All the while, everyone said all the right things about staying competitive.

And it was Dallas on Saturday afternoon that drove the final nail into the casket on Calgary's playoff hopes, though the team still has six games remaining. They needed to be desperate and competitive, and instead gave up a goal 97 seconds in en route to a 4-1 loss.

You could have guessed that Calgary would fail to make it in September, November, January and last week, and you'd have been right. It was a stupid decision to enter the season with this team, and even stupider to stick with it when it became apparent that things weren't going to work out.

And so this is what teams who make the mistake of "going for it" get when the roster very obviously doesn't have the goods to make the playoffs: They don't make the playoffs.

There's no great mystery to it.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne might not be retiring at the end of this season after all. "There's more inside me that wants to play than retire," Selanne admitted. "But it's got to be 100 percent when I make the decision." Let's hope like hell it's 100 percent. Teemu forever.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins' win over the Kings on Saturday night snapped two streaks: It was the Bruins' first road win in five tries, and ended a six-game winning run for LA. Zdeno Chara, who had no points but effectively bottled the Kings' now-potent attack, was named the No. 1 star in his 1,000th career game.

Buffalo Sabres: Is it any coincidence at all that the Sabres keep winning now that they're riding Ryan Miller like Secretariat down the stretch? He's started 28 of the last 30 games, and shockingly he's only lost 10 of them. Why it's almost like he's one of the best goalies in the world. Whoa!

Calgary Flames: Miikka Kiprusoff was announced as the Flames' nominee for the Masterton, presumably because he hasn't retired instead of playing behind these bums.

Carolina Hurricanes: Chip Alexander, who covers the team for the Raleigh News and Observer, tweeted that the 'Canes loss to Detroit was "arguably [the] toughest of the season." My nominee: Getting drilled by Columbus 5-1 on Friday, which came just a day after a column headlined "Canes still hope to make playoffs." Oof.

Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews and Steve Montador are both practicing with the team after their concussions but their return dates, obviously, remain undetermined. Montador has missed 22 games, and Toews 16. Getting either one back, you'd think, would be incredibly helpful.

Colorado Avalanche: The Canucks have beaten Colorado five times this year, but in Saturday's game, the Avs at least picked up a crucial loser point that surely had Dallas, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Phoenix screaming, "Oh come ON, Luongo!" Just like every Canucks fan.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Here's a headline that just made me want to cry: "On The Line When Columbus Hosts Edmonton." Pride in what, exactly?

Dallas Stars: Dallas' 4-1 win over Calgary on Saturday propelled them back into the division lead in the Pacific. They were, however, still tied with Phoenix at 87 points.

Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Here's Todd Bertuzzi swatting a puck out of mid-air to help the Wings snap a six-game losing streak.

Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Jones has recently found himself on a line with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and whoa hey look at that he had four points in his last five games headed into Sunday's game with Columbus. Odd how that happens.

Florida Panthers: Ed Jovanovski has been a huge help to the Panthers this season as they attempt to make the playoffs so good for him. And hey, they only have to pay him more than $4 million against the cap for the next three seasons.

Los Angeles Kings: Tough way for the Kings to end a winning streak, in their last tilt before a four-game road trip that sees them travel first to Vancouver, then Calgary, Edmonton, and Minnesota between Monday and Saturday. Not that most of those games aren't extremely winnable, but with only seven left on the schedule, any letdown will be a really bad thing.

Minnesota Wild: The feed on this Steve Kampfer goal from Kyle Brodziak is just unreal.

Montreal Canadiens: Does Erik Cole's hat trick in less than six minutes on Friday night prove the Canadiens are forming a new identity? No. No it doesn't.

Nashville Predators: Alex Radulov's first game in back Nashville had the potential to go unpleasantly, as you never know how fans might have reacted to his return. Fortunately, so few were around back when he bolted, that he was hailed as a conquering hero.

New Jersey Devils: Travis Zajac has played just eight games this season, and upon his return, instantly got to center the Kovalchuk-Parise line. Some guys have all the luck.

New York Islanders: Nassau Coliseum might have a ton of asbestos in it, proving that it's not just Alexei Yashin causing cancer in the dressing room.

New York Rangers: The Rangers won 5-4 in a shootout over Toronto on Saturday and John Tortorella was pretty pissed. Is that his default life mode? Yes. But giving up four and going to overtime against the Leafs isn't acceptable on any level in his world. Nor should it be.

Ottawa Senators: Eugene say relax. Well, no, his hat say relax. Yes, the owner of a professional sports team who is fabulously wealthy wore a hat that said "Relax." I don't know why that is so funny to me.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers clinched a playoff spot last night but more importantly, Chris Pronger was in the building and looked to be in good spirits.

Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes cannot be happy that they surrendered a shootout loss to the Sharks, with whom they are competing for a playoff spot. But again, they at least got the point out of it.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Definitive evidence we should never bring back the red line ever: This play right here for a Matt Cooke goal.

San Jose Sharks: With respect to the last playoff spots in the West being so tight, and the Sharks having six games left against teams within a point or three of them, Todd McLellan says at least the fans are gonna get to see some good hockey.

St. Louis Blues: If the Blues can keep this defending up just a little bit longer, they'll set the NHL record for fewest goals allowed in a season. That's fairly crazy.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Vinny Lecavalier is back practicing with the team and will travel to Philadelphia for a three-game road trip. Hey cool, just in time for the season to have been over for a couple weeks.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Hey at least the Marlies are good, right? RIGHT?

Vancouver Canucks: Dear NHLers, please be respectful of other players, asks Henrik Sedin, who apparently had his eyes closed when his brother hit Duncan Keith in the noodle with his shoulder.

Washington Capitals: Vintage Alex Ovechkin on this goal from Friday. Too bad the Caps lost in overtime after leading 3-0.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets keep losing back-to-back games. They're 1-10 in them this season. And hey remember all that talk about how much better the team is this year? They have one more win than Atlanta did last year, and you can pretty much blame that on Washington being awful.

Gold Star Award

I love NCAA hockey. If it was as accessible as the NHL, I wouldn't be able to pick Sid Crosby out of a lineup.

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Minus of the Weekend

They're going to break ground on an "NHL-style" rink in Quebec City, scheduled to be ready in 2015. Which means three more years of hearing about a team moving there. Just because Winnipeg got the Thrashers, now every city in Canada with more than 20,000 people thinks it has a birthright to have its own team.

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Play of the Weekend

What a save by Jon Quick. Shame the NHL video isn't from the Boston feed, because Jack Edwards lost his mind.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "nrf83" is off his rocker.

To NYR John Taveres

To NYI Michael Del Zotto, Dylan McIlrath, Derek Stepan

Well I think that just about does it.


Well, let's make it four o'clock then. My thanks for your visit.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.


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