Before last season, the term “Intellectual Honesty” was used by General Manager Jay Feaster to illustrate an impartial view of the makeup of the team and to take appropriate actions to address the needs of the organization. After the performances the last couple seasons, it became necessary to make changes from the top of the roster to the bottom. With the revitalization of the Calgary Flames already underway, being intellectually honest is as important now as it ever was.
As the Flames move forward in their rebuild, they are going to accumulate a lot of quality prospects and younger players. If you’ve watched anything Flames related during the summer, or since training camp started, you can see the beginnings of this. The Flames have many different styles of players filtering through their system, from beasts like Kanzig to small shifty guys like Gaudreau and everything in between.
This is where being intellectually honest comes into play. There are going to be quite a few players that will become quality NHL players from this current group. However, just because they are quality players does not necessarily mean that they will be the right players. To build a winning team, you need just the right amounts of leadership, skill, and attitude. Character and attitude are very underrated aspects to an NHL team, but are extremely important when it comes to the results. It’s one of the main reasons why the Flames have underperformed for the past few years despite having more than enough on paper talent to be a good team.
Looking back to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Vancouver Canucks had more skill and overall talent than the Boston Bruins. They finished the regular season with 14 more points and were the President’s Trophy winners. They should have defeated the Bruins easily. Yet, they turned in the worst 7 game series performance of any team in NHL history. The main difference between the two teams was the character of the two lineups. Boston played a hard nosed, in your face, determined game and they were relentless. Vancouver, well, it’s the Canucks. I don’t really need to go too deep with that.
As players graduate into the NHL, they will need to show that they can both play adeptly at the NHL level, but also that they have the right work ethic and attitude both on the ice and off. If any of them are not fitting those standards, they too should be moved elsewhere, just as Iginla and Bouwmeester were this past season. That doesn’t mean that anyone that isn’t fitting in will be given away though for spare parts. Looking back at Chicago before they won the first time, they had quite a few quality top 6 forwards. However, one of them wasn’t quite fitting what they needed as a team. So they sent Tuomo Ruutu to the Hurricanes for Andrew Ladd. Ladd wasn’t as skilled as Ruutu was at the time, but he played the game the right way and became one of the the key secondary players on their way to winning it all in 2010.
There will be growing pains over the next couple years. I’m looking forward to it though. It will be fun to see who emerges as the key players in the organization and who doesn’t quite make the cut. It makes for a more compelling and interesting story than will we maybe be good enough to finish in 7th or 8th if the stars align just the right way.
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