We're number 10.
We're number 10.
We're number 10 ... again!
That's not the mantra of the Calgary Flames, but it may as well be if things remain status quo.
Status quo means not having the courage to make a bold move after failing to make the playoffs yet again.
Bold would be pulling the trigger on trades involving franchise captain Jarome Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff in a rebuild this team is headed for.
It's an easy argument to keep Iginla and Kiprusoff in the fold as long as possible.
They are the cornerstones of this franchise, have been stars for years and potentially have a few more seasons of being at the top of their games.
But, the ammunition for making such a trade is simple: the Western Conference standings.
The Flames finished 10th in the 2009-10 season, a year in which Kiprusoff was outstanding from start to finish.
The Flames finished 10th in 2010-11, a year in which Iginla returned to being a 40-goal, point-per-game star.
What's the guarantee keeping those two, who are truly among the NHL's elite, will mean the Flames will return to the playoffs in 2011-12 instead of again finishing 10th?
More importantly, what's the guarantee the Flames will be Stanley Cup contenders?
This is not a campaign to get rid of two of the club's most popular players.
Kiprusoff is a great goalie and funny person to chat with.
Iginla's on-ice accolades speak for themselves, and he will forever remain on the all-time good-guy team for once making a point to come across the dressing room in Detroit to apologize because he felt his reply to a poorly worded question "embarrassed" yours truly.
Players and people like that don't come around often enough.
However, the time is coming for the Flames to turn the page.
Sure, the Flames can remain building a team around those two, but they don't have the pieces to place around them to be a Stanley Cup favourite.
A winning team in today's NHL requires building blocks from within, especially a few standout, top-six forwards and top-four defencemen on entry-level contracts.
The Flames simply don't have those.
After centre Mikael Backlund and defenceman T.J. Brodie, there are no others in the system expected to be here next season.
There are more candidates down the road -- sniper Ryan Howse, blueliner Tim Erixon -- but a young cavalry is two or three years away.
Which likely means more middling seasons with Iginla and Kiprusoff trying to pull the load without enough help.
That is unless the likes of Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan regain their form, Rene Bourque and Mark Giordano elevate to a new level, veterans such as Daymond Langkow have enough in the tank and Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester show they can be stars at crunch time.
Otherwise, the Flames will be in the exact same spot 12 months from now, and their star players will have wasted another year.
Iginla will turn 34 this summer. It's not time for a retirement home, but how many more seasons does he have it in him to carry the team, sometimes seemingly single handed?
Kiprusoff's 35th birthday will be in October. He can't keep playing 70 games every regular season and be expected to have enough in the tank for a lengthy playoff run.
However, given the right situation, those two could be major factors in a Stanley Cup chase, and teams out there would be willing to pay for them.
The prime candidates will show themselves after this year's playoff chase.
In fact, you could continue the rebuild by adding Robyn Regehr to the list of those for sale.
Not only would the Flames reel in a slew of draft picks and prospects, they would have plenty of salary cap space to work with, too.
Out of respect for those players, they deserve the choice to leave after the organization takes an honest assessment of where it is today and how it looks moving forward.
Otherwise, we can expect more of the same-old, same-old.
Who wants to chant, "We're number 10"?