If the Flames fail, who takes the fall?
Each week, CBCSports.ca's senior hockey writers conduct (mostly) friendly banter on the latest hot-button issues in the NHL. Tim Wharnsby and Scott Morrison square off in this edition.
1. Who is responsible for failure of the Calgary Flames this season?
WHARNSBY: As Darryl Sittler used to remark when discussing the Toronto Maple Leafs ineptitude in the 1980s, "a fish rots from the head down." The former Toronto captain blamed owner Harold Ballard for the Leafs struggles. While the Flames have a strong ownership group, team president and CEO Ken King's decision to add the general manager title to Darryl Sutter's portfolio in 2003 was not a good long-term solution. Sure Calgary advanced to the 2004 Stanley Cup final, but since then the franchise's circle of winning has broken. Four consecutive first-round exits, four different coaches (Sutter, Jim Playfair, Mike Keenan and Brent Sutter) and unless a miracle occurs in the final two weeks, Calgarians will have Stanley Cup-playoff less spring. The Flames also are without a first, two seconds and third-round selections in the next two drafts.
MORRISON: Well, the season certainly hasn't unfolded the way they would like but they are just four points behind the Avalanche, so the playoffs are still a possibility and redemption could be on that horizon. Having said that, if they miss then I would suggest the yeomen's share of the blame has to fall at the feet of King and Sutter. They have changed coaches, as you mentioned, and changed players and it hasn't worked and they don't appear to be in a good position moving forward.
2. Will Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik Sedin become the first player from a Canadian NHL team to win the Art Ross Trophy since Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers in 1986-87?
MORRISON: Sedin has had a tremendous season, no question about that. I just have a hard time believing he will out-point Alex Ovechkin down the stretch. Remember, Ovechkin is averaging more points per game and has played 10 fewer than Sedin. So my answer is no.
WHARNSBY: I have faith in Henrik. He has been the bigger point producer since the Olympics (21 points in 14 games to Ovechkin's seven in 11). The Capitals have little to play for and as a result will coast into the playoffs. The Canucks have more to play for in the final two weeks. Plus, there always is the possibility the Great Eight could be suspended again.
3. The meltdown from Abbotsford Heat coach Jim Playfair has hockey fans reminiscing about their favourite coaching tirade. What coach's outburst do you most remember?
WHARNSBY: Having a passion for doughnuts, I can't help but think about New Jersey Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld's altercation with referee Don Koharski underneath the stands in the 1988 Stanley Cup playoffs. Koharski accused Schoenfeld of pushing him. To which Schoenfeld shouted, "good, cause you fell, you fat pig. Have another doughnut. Have another doughnut." In a strange twist, 22 years later Playfair's anger was directed at AHL referee Jamie Koharski. Yup, the son of the aforementioned Don Koharski.
MORRISON: No question, the number one melt down was former Maple Leafs coach John Brophy after a game in Minnesota. Broph was a guy who used the f-word a lot, but never like he did that night. I can't remember the number of times he used the word, but in his post-game rant it was into the hundreds as he talked about how fed up he was with his players dragging the crest through the mud. Unbelievable and ultimately high-end comedy.