Detroit defeat no disgrace

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

There's no shame in losing to a better team.

But shame on you if you still believe the 2006-07 version of the Calgary Flames was superior to the Detroit Red Wings.

Nothing that happened during the regular season gave anyone reason to believe the Western Conference's eighth seed would pull off the upset.

Still, some Flames fans fumed till the bitter end waiting for a team they believe has all the talent in the world to finally find its way and make another run to the Stanley Cup final.

Losing in six games to the Red Wings -- a group that could very well hoist the Cup in a couple of months -- shouldn't cause anyone to panic. There will be changes but disbanding the core would be taking a step backward if you believe building a championship team takes time.

The Red Wings in 2002 won their third championship in a six-year span and cemented their spot as one of the NHL's elite franchises. Seven current Wings -- Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Dominik Hasek -- were part of that last championship and the supporting cast may be even better now.

But after a first-round upset at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers last year, a second-round exit against the upstart Flames in 2004 and a stunning sweep by the Anaheim Ducks the year before, people aren't taking the Wings seriously these days.

"I haven't been in Detroit very long but our fans, the people at the rink, the media, I don't know if they think we have got some sort of a disease that we're going to fail or whatever but to me we carried that around," said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock after his team eliminated the Flames Sunday night.

"This team isn't about '03 or '04 or '06, it's about this year. People said we weren't going to be very good and we are good. We've got a determined group and I think we have a shot."

Losing in six games to the Wings may be a blessing in disguise for the Flames.

To rid this city of the unrealistic expectations of a lengthy playoff run every spring can do nothing but good -- for the fans now balding from pulling out their hair, to the players who say outside pressures don't affect them but can't possibly enjoy answering the same negative questions every morning.

That doesn't mean the city shouldn't have high hopes for the Flames, just be realistic when grading this year's performance.

It starts with making the playoffs, regardless of how the berth is clinched. Of the league's 30 franchises, only 16 make it.

The Flames are the only squad in the Northwest Division to qualify in each of the last three seasons. They deserve credit for that.

Despite being unable to duplicate the same success on the road, the Flames won a league-high 30 games at the Saddledome this season.

They deserve a pat on the back for that, too.

But the better team won this playoff series. That happens every once in a while.


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