The season is over.
The controversy isn’t.
For the second time in a week, Flames fans are left wondering how the league can butcher the most crucial of goal calls.
Last week, the Flames had a goal disallowed in a devastating loss to Anaheim.
Last night, the other team Calgary was chasing — Chicago — received a gift from the league in the form of a Marian Hossa goal that was not only kicked in but never proven to have crossed the goal-line. It allowed the defending Stanley Cup champs to climb out of a 2-0 hole to win 4-3 in overtime.
It eliminated any chance the Flames had of catching them, a move mirrored in Anaheim by the Ducks hours later, ending the Flames season.
Following one of the lengthiest video reviews of the season, NHL VP Mike Murphy said from the war room in Toronto that Hossa touched the puck with his stick after he kicked it off one post and it trickled towards the other post along the goal-line.
With all due respect, it was the wrong call, as it’s just as impossible to suggest his stick touched it as it would’ve been to suggest the puck went over the line.
“We were inconclusive on whether it crossed the goal-line,” said Murphy of the second half of the review.
“Our view was limited once the goalie’s glove covers the puck. Ref called ‘goal’ on the ice, so the call on the ice stands.”
St. Louis goalie Ty Conklin told reporters after the game, “Do we really have to make it that obvious the league wants them in (the playoffs)?”
Conspiracy theories aside, the Flames’ fate as an also-ran for the second-straight season was determined far from the rink they were playing in.
And while fans can argue all they want about how things might have been different had the war room got one or both calls right, the fact is the Flames put themselves in a position where such bad breaks could cost them so dearly.
They only have themselves to blame for a start that had them battling for last in the west with the same Edmonton farm club they toyed with last night in a 6-1 beatdown.
While the forthcoming dissection is sure to include irrational talk of trading everyone from Jarome Iginla to Matt Stajan (neither is possible for different reasons), one thing that must be said is just how much credit the lads deserve for their improbable second-half surge.
They defied all odds, a front-office shakeup and even a rare slump from Miikka Kiprusoff to climb back into a race that made the Flames exciting again.
Great coaching. Great heart.
Even those who wanted to blow the thing sky high so their roster resembled that of the pitiful Oilers last night have to be wondering if the REAL Calgary Flames are the ones from the first half or the second.
Acting GM Jay Feaster inherits a team that doesn’t really have many options contractually to ice anything but a similar squad next year.
None of this is to suggest last night was a waste of time, as Iginla followed up the pre-game ceremony honouring his 1,000th point with a hat trick that had a full house chanting his name. Even though everyone in the building knew the Hawks had won and Anaheim was rolling up on San Jose, they threw hats, brought out the ol’ “Oilers Suck” refrain and seemed to enjoy an otherwise meaningless event.
Those who stayed stood at the final horn.
In the quiet Flames dressing room afterwards, you almost expected to hear Iginla say he’d trade his four-point night for a playoff spot.
Sadly for the city, that’s not possible.
And no matter how tempting the argument might be, there’s nothing the league’s war room could’ve done to change that.