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Op-Ed: Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks fiasco all on Bob Hartley

By Marcus Hondro     Jan 20, 2014 in Sports
Let's start here: the Calgary Flames are a pathetic excuse for an NHL hockey team and coach Bob Hartley should concentrate on making them a viable on-ice product. Not on fighting. Not on creating a circus-like atmosphere.
And certainly not on ordering his henchmen on to the ice to start games with a brawl like he did in Vancouver Saturday night. And that is the most salient thing here: not only did he order his tough guys out to start the game, but he clearly told them to fight. As soon as the puck was dropped his guy jumped the Canucks guy. Right away. The puck dropped and Kevin Westgarth went for Kevin Bieksa while over on his wing Brian McGrattan went for Tom Sestito.
John Tortorella faced the music on this and was suspended for 15 days, a total of 6 games (Hartley got a slap on the wrists in the form of a $25,000 fine). But it isn't hard to see the frustration Tortorella must have felt, frustration that lead to his storming the hallway outside the Flames dressing room after the first period.
Calgary Flames: no interest in hockey
To have seen the line-up. To see the puck drop and Kevin Westgarth, he of the 3 NHL goals in 143 games, jump Kevin Bieksa, who moved up from defence to take the opening draw, wanting to make certain Kellan Lain, in his first NHL game, didn't have to deal with any of the bush tactics Mr. Hartley may have decided upon. Hartley stood there, Mr. Innocent, blank expression.
We know though, Bob.
The puck dropped and Westgarth went for Bieksa. Grabbed him to fight, no pretense even to play hockey. The officials very quickly separated Bieksa and Westgarth so one might have thought Hartley's tactic would not work. But no, he had a two-front attack planned as McGrattan jumped Sestito, again no pretense to play the game, just attack. In the melee that followed Westgarth wound up gunning for Lain anyhow, who acquitted himself well, and Bieksa ended up fighting Ladislav Smid.
The exchange certainly worked for the Flames. Other than Mark Giordano and Jiri Hudler, who Hartley made sure were not on the ice, they don't have players as good as Bieska and Jason Garrison, who were both tossed. Calgary lost the game anyways but in a shootout, so perhaps Hartley's cheap tactics got his club a point, though what good that does is debatable given they're already 20 points out of the playoffs.
The Flames have scored just 109 goals in 49 games, the 29th worst offence in the NHL. Of course you're not going to improve on those numbers by starting Chris Butler, Westgarth (at center?) and McGrattan - the three are offensive flame-outs, having managed a combined total of 20 goals in 738 games.
Tortorella: Refuses to put Sedins at risk
It is not surprising John Tortorella responded in the manner he did after viewing Hartley's attempt to employ brawn to generate a rare win. “I see the starting lineup and I know the other guy across the bench, and it’s easy for people to say, ‘Well, put the Sedins out there and it’s deflated,’ ” Tortorella told media. “I can’t put our players at risk like that. With the lineup that he had, I am not going to put those types of players at risk."
Were I a Calgary Flames fan I'd resist the temptation to embrace Hartley giving me more than yet another shutout to watch (in their prior 15 games Calgary had been shutout 6 times and only scored more than 2 goals three times). And were I the NHL I'd have suspended Hartley along with Tortorella. And were I Hartley?
Were I Hartley, rather than a side-show I'd try to ice an NHL team.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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