Flames miss Cammalleri big time

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:04 PM ET

Breakups are tough, and usually far worse for the one who gets dumped.

Imagine having to watch your former partner flaunt a new and more successful relationship all over national TV.

People in Calgary are still talking about the loss of winger Michael Cammalleri last summer.

It’s an unrestricted free-agent departure that has turned out pretty well for the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL playoffs so far as they push the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to the brink of elimination in the second round.

Might the Flames have been in the running for the ‘Canada’s Team’ title had they managed to keep the 27-year-old sniper instead of handing nearly $7-million to defenceman Jay Bouwmeester?

Hypotheticals are enough to give NHL GMs fits.

It’s easy to find fault with many moves made in the off-season, pre-season, or mid-season when viewing them in the rearview mirror.

But with all due respect to the heroics of goalie Jaroslav Halak, it’s Cammalleri’s play in the post-season that has the Habs in a Game 7 showdown with the Penguins Wednesday night.

At the top of the scoring charts with 11 goals in the 2010 playoffs, Cammalleri has proven he can play with speed and sense, and still go to the ‘hard areas’ where the penalty for being in position to score sometimes involves a smack or two.

A lack of scoring punch contributed to the Flames missing the playoffs altogether.

Another goal here or there during the regular-season and the Flames might have been the underdog people are rallying behind right now instead of the Canadiens.

Scoring 201 goals in

82 games — the second-lowest total in the league — the Flames sure could have used those 39 tallies posted by Cammalleri in his first and only season in Flames silks in 2008-09 before skipping over to the Eastern Conference with a deal worth $30-million over five years courtesy of the Canadiens.

Cammalleri was laughing all the way to the bank, while the Habs cashed in on the diminutive winger’s skills early and often.

The 5-foot-9 (on skates?), 182-pounder punched in all 26 of his regular-season goals in his first 53 games in Original Six silks before a knee injury knocked him out of

the lineup for nearly two months.

To that point, his production was on par with what he showed he could do with the Flames — on pace for about 40 goals if he stayed healthy and kept it for a full season.

Posting just a pair of assists over the last dozen games of the regular season upon his return, the lull that followed had people concerned down the stretch.

The knock on his brief time in Calgary was that the little guy wasn’t as noticeable when the games got tougher late in the winter and early in the spring.

Managing just one goal and three points in the Flames’

six-game exit — his first taste of the NHL playoffs — against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round last year, Cammalleri was labelled a playoff flop.

Too small.

Too soft.

Too hard to spot on the ice in the post-season.

But maybe a little playoff seasoning was all he needed.

“(Scott Gomez) keeps teasing me about it,” Cammalleri told reporters Monday night after scoring twice in a 4-3 win in Game 6.

“When we won Game 7 in Washington, I walked into the room and he said, ‘Welcome to the second round, Cammy.’ He was having some fun

with me.

“It didn’t go so well the first five or six years. I don't think surprised is the word, but I am trying to do my best to help the team.

“It is pretty exciting hockey.”

Exciting hockey — something fans in Calgary are dying to experience again.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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