The pun-packed headline read, “Internal Combustion: Young guns look to ignite the rebuild with a culture of accountability in place.”
Affixed to the top of the page: a prediction, “7th in Pacific,” and Stanley Cup odds of 125 to 1.
It was the Calgary Flames preview in THN’s Yearbook for the start of 2014-15. Oddly enough, 412 days later, it still rings true. If you fell off your bike Oct. 8, 2014 and sustained a coma-inducing head injury, only to wake up today, the Flames would be exactly what you thought they were. You wouldn’t believe the story of Calgary’s magical 2014-15 season.
“Jiri Hudler had 76 points and won the Lady Byng? Sean Monahan scored 30 goals as a 20-year-old? Little Johnny Gaudreau became a legit NHL star as a rookie? Kris Russell set a single-season record for blocked shots? Bob Hartley won the Jack Adams? MY Flames finished third in the Pacific Division, ahead of the Los Angeles Kings? And won a playoff series? That’s it. I’m going back to bed for another year.”
It was a mind-blowing season because the Calgary Flames were so darned ahead of schedule. There was a reason they picked fourth overall at the 2014 draft, snagging future franchise player Sam Bennett: they were deep in the rebuild stage, years away from contention, slowly trying to amass prospects. Then last year happened, and everything went haywire.
Of course, we knew what the advanced statistics suggested: that Calgary was among the NHL’s luckiest teams, that it played way over its head and would regress the next season, just as the Colorado Avalanche from 2013-14 to 2014-15 and the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Bad habits come back to bite you, and the Calgary Flames had too many. They finished with 97 points despite a pitiful 5-on-5 score-adjusted Corsi For percentage of 44.2, good for 28th in the NHL. They actually regressed from 2013-14 to 2014-15. They allowed far more shot attempts than they generated. Winning was not sustainable.