At the end of every regular season, fans of 16 of the NHL’s teams rejoice as their teams advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Unfortunately for fans of the other 14 teams, there’s very little to cheer for when your team misses the playoffs. With two whole months of hockey left to play, Flames fans can be forgiven if they want to keep watching rather than hit the links – especially given that snow is expected in Calgary this week.
So who should Flames fans cheer for?
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE
#1 Vancouver vs. #8 Chicago
Season Series: The Flames went 2-2 against Chicago and 1-4-1 against Vancouver.
Playoff History: The Flames have played the Canucks six times in the playoffs (going 4-2), with the winners of their last four meetings ending up in the Stanley Cup Finals. Meanwhile, the Flames have split four series with Chicago. Coincidentally, the Flames first (1981 preliminary round) and most recent (2009 conference quarter-finals) playoff appearances were against the Blackhawks.
Flames Alumni: Canucks F Chris Higgins played 12 games with Calgary in 2010. No Hawks have spent time in Cowtown.
The Verdict: There is too much recent bitterness between Calgary and Vancouver to justify cheering for the Canucks. Plus, Chicago has the bizarre historical connection to the Flames. Go Hawks Go!
#2 San Jose vs. #7 Los Angeles
Season Series: Calgary went 1-1-2 against the Kings and 1-2-1 vs. Sharks.
Playoff History: The Flames have split four series against the Kings (but haven’t played them since 1993), while winning one of three against the Sharks (although that was the 2004 Western Conference Finals).
Flames Alumni: Sharks F Scott Nichol played 128 games and D Ian White played 43 games.
The Verdict: The Sharks have the only alumni and have won fewer head-to-head series (and I’d argue that the Sharks series were all more entertaining than the King encounters). Go Sharks!
#3 Detroit vs. #6 Phoenix
Season Series: The Flames lost every single game against both teams this season, although they took the Red Wings to extra time twice and thus got the consolation (or “loser”) point.
Playoff History: The Flames have never played the Phoenix Coyotes in the playoffs. They have tangled with the Wings twice, splitting the series. Since I’m not examining Atlanta Flames history, I’m also ignoring Winnipeg Jets history.
Flames Alumni: Wings F Todd Bertuzzi played 66 games with Calgary, while D Brad Stuart played 27 games. Coyotes D Derek Morris played 343 games with the Flames and was their first round draft choice in 1996.
The Verdict: The Flames have no historical animosity against the Coyotes and a long-time Flame plays for them. Go Phoenix!
#4 Anaheim vs. #5 Nashville
Season Series: The Flames swept the Predators, winning all four games, while getting three loser points out of four games with the Ducks.
Playoff History: Flames fans recall the team playing the worst game seven in team history against the Ducks in 2006 in Calgary’s only playoff meeting with either of these teams.
Flames Alumni: Ducks D Toni Lydman played 289 games with the Flames. Predators F Matthew Lombardi played 347 with Calgary, plus Colin Wilson (son of Carey) and Ryan Suter (nephew of Gary) also toil in Nashville.
The Verdict: The Flames have no historical basis of Predator hate, plus three strong team connections. Plus, Nashville and Calgary both love their country music. Hee-haw!
THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
#1 Washington vs. #8 NY Rangers
Season Series: Calgary lost one game to each team.
Playoff History: None.
Flames Alumni: Rangers F Brandon Prust played 78 games in a Flames sweater.
The Verdict: Based entirely on the presence of Prust, cheer for the Rangers.
#2 Philadelphia vs. #7 Buffalo
Season Series: The Flames beat each team once.
Playoff History: Calgary beat Flyers in the 1981 playoffs.
Flames Alumni: In the weakest of weak connections, Flyers F Blair Betts played 35 games in Calgary nearly a decade ago. Meanwhile, Sabres F Rob Niedermayer (111 games), D Jordan Leopold (233 games) and D Steve Montador (94 games) all played more than a season in Flames silks.
The Verdict: Uh… Buffalo.
#3 Boston vs. #6 Montreal
Season Series: Calgary took three points from Montreal (including a shutout in the Heritage Classic), while they lost their only game against Boston.
Playoff History: The Flames played Montreal in both the 1986 and 1989 Stanley Cup Finals.
Flames Alumni: Bruins D Andrew Ference played 224 games for the Flames, more than Habs D Roman Hamrlik (126) and Mike Cammalleri (81) combined.
The Verdict: Despite the experience of Andrew Ference, Flames fans should respect Montreal…given the team’s dynasty and the fact Calgary beat them in their own building for a Stanley Cup. Plus, both the Flames and Habs wear red at home and have prominent Cs on their jersey crests. Go Habs Go!
#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Tampa Bay
Season Series: The Flames beat Tampa Bay and lost to Pittsburgh this season.
Playoff History: Calgary lost the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals to Tampa Bay. Jerks.
Flames Alumni: Lightning F Martin St. Louis (69), G Dwayne Roloson (70) and Penguins F Eric Godard (83) all played in Calgary, although none of the trio made a tremendous impact.
The Verdict: Until Calgary avenges their “loss” to Tampa Bay from seven years ago, the Lightning cannot be trusted or supported by Flames fans. (Unless they play Vancouver).