I wanted to highlight how I approach this thang.
The Flames did not makes the playoffs. So you could very reasonably ask "Why not?", but I don't. When I hear "Team X didn't make the playoffs" I think it is also reasonable to ask "Were they expected to?"
Right? There is a world of difference between the Pittsburgh Pirates not making the playoffs, and the New York Yankees missing the playoffs. Hell, there is even a difference between the Pirates making the playoffs and the Yankees making the playoffs. And it is because of expectation; in the one market, years of cheap ownership has eroded hope, while in the other lavish spending has grown it. The same dull reaction a Yankee playoff birth elicits from their fans also escapes the mouths of Pirate fans upon another season ending in the summer.
The Calgary Flames did not make the playoffs. OK. Were they expected to? Because before I get angry at the team, I should probably decide on what grounds I should base it on. So, did the Flames signal to the market, to the fans, to expect a playoff birth? Did they set expectations level to 'make the playoffs'?
Why yes, yes they did. From my own piece on the issue:
"Expectations for the team: Feaster said that the expectations for the team were to be a 'playoff team'. He then qualified that with 'strong playoff team' and specifically said the team was 'not going to be one of those teams that squeaks in at the last minute at the 8th spot'. He then goes on to say that the club is going to challenge for the division. Which is nice bluster, for sure. But what if it doesn't happen?"
Or if you'd like a more, ahem, professional source, here is Feaster talking to TSN:
"Still, Feaster isn't afraid of making guarantees. "We'll make the playoffs this year," he (Feaster) said."
(That looks pretty 'Ouch' now, doesn't it?)
The Calgary Flames organization set the expectation level for their fans to have for them at 'Make the playoffs'. When we go forward in evaluating the season, we therefore have to evaluate it at that level. While many people now, and even before the season started, questioned whether this team was a playoff caliber team, that isn't really pertinent. The organization told us they were going to make the playoffs. They get judged at that level. Therefore, not making the playoffs means they failed in their (meager) goal.
Now that that is established, we can ask 'Why not?' to the statement of 'the Flames didn't make the playoffs'.
To me, how I approach things, it almost always comes down to talent. There are other factors at play for sure, but I really don't know how much they influence the chance to win, so it's hard for me to assign values of weight to them. For instance, I am convinced Brent Sutter is a bad coach because he does things like ice the 4th line in the oppositions zone. But theoretically he could be doing something in the locker room with the players that is acting as counter balance to his tactical mistakes. I don't know, and moreover, I can't really prove his tactical mistakes cost us points (HEY I CAN REMEMBER THAT STUPID SHOOTOUT SELECTION HAHA!) without resorting to pouring over video, which, uhh, no.
Besides, coach's are essentially at the mercy of two forces they don't control, expectation and player talent. And I have shown that there was expectation. So naturally we should look at the talent.
At the beginning of the season, when expectation was set at 'make the playoffs', what did outside observers think of the Flames roster, and hence, their chances to make the playoffs. I'll offer two, Puck Daddy's and TSN's. PD said no, the Flames would not make the playoffs. TSN was a little more generous: they shrugged their shoulders and went 'ehhh, maybe?'.
I don't think I am being outrageous when I suggest that the expectation levels set for this team, however meager they were, (and folks, 8th place is a pretty terrible goal for a team that enjoys as much fan support as the Flames do) may have been hard to justify given the talent level on the team.
The organization, however, made their bed, and now it will have to sleep in it. When discussing how it is that the Flames missed the playoffs, the answer is simple: the talent. At the same time, however, I am not saying blame the players for one reason: We knew that they were not good enough to begin with!
Obviously the players are the issue. But the issue isn't the players lack of character (although I think it is eminently fair to call out a team out that lost to Edmonton and Columbus in season making or breaking games on their 'give a fuck' meter), or at least to me it isn't. To me the issue is who assembled this group to begin with. I repeat, I blame the front office only because it was the front office who told me I should expect a playoff birth.
So to me, the approach is:
1. Flames didn't make the playoffs.
2. Where they expected to?
(Yes they were.)
3. Who set expectations?
(The teams front office.)
4. Why didn't the Flames make the playoffs?
5. Were the players thought of as a talented enough group to make the playoffs?
(Kinda, but not really. At least not at any level that the organization should have been making guarantees or anything.)
6. So management over-promised and under-delivered?
7. They broke the bloody Disney Rule?
(That is correct.)
8. Blame management.
Furthermore, I think