I think Game 7 was the perfect microcosm of this Flames season; the Flames were over matched, they had a few steamboats (Iginla, Regehr, Nolan, Lombardi) a lot of inconsistency (Kipprusoff, Phaneuf) and a lot of anchors (Tanguay, Conroy, Eriksson).
While San Jose has had their share of problems this post season, they had a lot of guys step up that weren't expected to. Turns out that you can't stop Ryane Clowe, you can only contain him... and Jeremy Roenick, he's still alive? The reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated apparently.
To think that the Flames actually had a lead at one point of this game 7 is pretty unbelievable, especially considering the shot differential. Matt at BoA has been talking a lot about how odds eventually come into play into hockey games, players who get a lot of shots eventually tend to get a lot of goals, and teams that get a lot of shots do the same. San Jose's PP, which had been stagnant at times, came alive and buried the Flames. 2 PPGs plus one scored 25 seconds or so after the PK with Robyn Regehr out on forward. Game-set-match.
I know that I predicted the Flames to do even worse, and I was pleasantly surprised by their competitiveness, but this team should've had higher expectations. No first round victories in 3 years is simply not acceptable for this team. The Flames went 15 or so years in between 1st round victories: 1989 (beating Vancouver) to 2004 (beating Vancouver again). Flames fans have no desire to wait that long again.
Calgary now has a laundry list of off-season questions:
Mike Keenan: Stay or go?
There were a lot of things I liked about Mike Keenan - he appreciated the significance of line matching very well, he seemed to be surprisingly calm under fire, he definitely seemed to get good performances out of Iginla who had arguably his best season ever, and Dion Phaneuf who in my opinion made leaps and bounds of improvements this year.
On the other hand he made a lot of questionable roster moves, (Godard, Eriksson, Hale), made some very strange decisions in at least game 7 (why was Nystrom on right after that PK? was pulling Kiprusoff the best move in a 2 goal game?) and worst of all, he seemed to alienate some of the most useful players on the team. Miikka Kiprusoff had his worst season ever, and I find it hard to believe the correlation of Keenan and the path of destroyed goaltender confidence that follows him around is just a coincidence. Kiprusoff is the $8 million dollar man, Keenan has a one year contract, you do the math.
I firmly believe Kristian Huselius has the skill set to be a very useful hockey player - despite all the criticism he's taken, the benchings, etc. he still finished second on team scoring. Did Keenan rightfully expect more out of Huselius? Probably. But one sign of a good coach is selecting the right tool for the right job. Juice is a precision screwdriver, not a hammer. If you need a hammer, grab a hammer, don't use a screwdriver. I thought he was pretty effective playing on a line with Nolan and he showed us some of his best. He made some important plays in this series, and if I had the choice between Juice or Keenan, I would choose Juice.
What is the point of Conroy, Tanguay, Eriksson or Aucoin?
Poor Craig Conroy, I appreciate what he's done for this franchise, I really do, but this series was a very clear example of how far his usefulness as a player has dipped. He took a lot of penalties, many of them good ones to take, but I noticed the reason he took most of his penalties is he was simply out of position. Whether he's not thinking the game right or he just isn't quick enough doesn't matter. He just gets beat far too often and he doesn't contribute anything offensively.
Can somebody explain to me exactly what Tanguay's role is? He doesn't score, he can barely set up his teammates, he can't play physical, he isn't good defensively...what else is there? Tanguay is great at skating fast with the puck and giving it away. He got severely outplayed by a lot of players on the Flames and even more Sharks.
Eriksson is quite simply one of the worst defenceman in the National Hockey League. He's unpredictable defensively, he contributes nothing offensively. What is the point?
Adrian Aucoin gets eaten up by halfway decent competition, he's completely immobile, he's not a great decision maker, and that $4 million dollar shot wasn't exactly a revelation.
Oh, and special mention to Rhett Warrener; please man, just retire. You're too injured to even hit the ice, let alone play effectively. I wish you all the best.
Who get's resigned?
Calgary has 10 UFA's according to nhlnumbers.com. Of that group I would like to see back:
Owen Nolan - proved his value more so than ever in the playoffs.
Daymond Langkow - be smart with an offer to Langkow, don't go too high, but he is a good player.
Kristian Huselius - I don't think he'll garner a huge number on the open market and I believe he's a very strong 2nd liner. Provides depth.
David Hale - I think he's a very strong 3rd pairing defenceman. No offensive capabilities but you know what you're gonna get from him every night.
Curtis Joseph - a very good backup if he's offered the right price
Stephane Yelle - I think he's still got some game left in him. He can play a great 4th line role and his PK abilities are still respectable.
The rest of the UFAs can be let go as far as I'm concerned.
Craig Conroy Mark Smith Eric Godard Jim Vandermeer
That's all I've got for now, now leave me in my grief.
update: linky to MG's near mirror image thoughts at FHF