I’m not used to this

Well, yeah. I’m NOT used to this.

Having my team be the favourite, I mean. I suppose I should be. The NBA’s Pistons have been consistently good for years, and the NFL’s Steelers and CFL’s Stampeders won the Super Bowl and Grey Cup this year, respectively. The Jays… well, I still love the Jays, even if they haven’t given the slightest impression they’re interested in winning this season.

But, the Flames… well, they were always an underdog, the scrappy team that outworked you. Even when they’ve been good, it wasn’t a “we have more skill than you” good, it was a “we’re going to work you into submission” good. But we’ve taken that success for granted at times in Calgary. It wasn’t always this way. As recently as 2003, I remember conversations with people that said “We don’t need the Flames”, and that we should let them move. This was, of course, a symptom of them being mediocre for years.

But back to the current day. There was the worry about the Flames that they’d peaked. That even though the magical run of ’04 (was it THAT long ago?) had re-sparked a city’s love for it’s hockey team, that GM Darryl Sutter and his style had run it’s course. I can recall myself saying that, especially with the hiring of Mike Keenanwho had done nothing since Mark Messier was good– and the signing of noted thug Todd Bertuzzi.

But, like any good fan (and one who spent significant time talking himself into said hirings/signings), I put my misgivings aside and cheered for the logo on the front of the jersey. The Flames have been really good this year, third best in the Western Conference, and a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup. The scoring is better than it’s been for a while, and Mike Cammalleri and Rene Bourque have been revelations. Still, there’s some warts… Kiprusoff and Phaneuf have taken steps back, and they’ve had some injuries.

I expected this year’s trade deadline to come and go without a lot of activity… the NBA’s did, mostly due to the economic climate, and the NHL is nowhere near it’s roundball counterpart in terms of economic health. And the Flames, who usually make one or two trades, have never really made ‘blockbuster’ deals, preferring to tweak around the edges and get lucky. Which they have, at times, but there were times when more than tweaking was called for.

I don’t know if this year was one of them. But I was very excited when it did.

Olli Jokinen, and Jordan Leopold. Um… wow.

Rumors have had the Flames after Jokinen since sometime last millenium, while Leopold is a familiar face to most people around here. But he’s not the important one.. Jokinen, a legit #1 centre, is.

Should we be excited? Absolutely, yes. Will it make them Cup favourites? Probably, even if there’s no real way to know until he’s, y’know, played with the team (Leopold’s excused from this, since he’s been here before).

Dennis had a great comment, about how GM Darryl Sutter said the day before that “they weren’t going after a #1 centre or a puck moving defenseman”, and ended up getting both. Why should the media EVER trust what GMs tell them? They’re going to say what they want people to hear… and correctly so, because it’s in the best interest of their organization. On a related note, Sutter is awesome.

All in all, a good time to be a Flames fan. Even if Jokinen does, as Dennis suggests, look a little creepy…

He is kind of creepy, when you look at him.

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