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Stoking The Rivalry Keeps Getting Harder

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photo courtesy of Dave Sandford/Getty

I want, more than anything, for the Calgary Flames to become the number one rival of the Colorado Avalanche, filling the huge vacancy left by the Detroit Red Wings a few years ago when they quit having a collective personality and when the Avs got kind of stinky.

I hate the Flames because I don't like their players, their coach, their history of trades with Colorado or the way they play hockey.  I think Dion Phaneuf (pictured above getting leveled) is a cocky prima donna who can't back up his loud mouth or his cheap hits with his slow fists.  I'm not a big fan of Jarome Iginla or Alex Tanguay, either.  And I think Miikka Kiprusoff is just short of Dominic Hasek on the crazy goalie meter.  I also think the Flames have the potential to be a great team---but I've been wrong before and it looks like I'll be wrong about this, too.

I submit two key pieces to evidence.  First is this off-hand little comment made by Avalanche beat writer Adrian Dater:

Calgary is going to implode soon. I’ve talked to a few former Flames and they say there is just plain bad chemistry in their locker room. I don’t see Mike Keenan changing that much.

First of all, they've already imploded to a certain extent.  The Flame-Outs have lost five straight games, none in overtime, and all but one to division rivals.  That's pretty similar to imploding, I'd say.

And as for Mike Keenan helping the "bad chemistry" in the locker room, when has Iron Mike ever improved chemistry?  He's not exactly a touchy-feely guy, you know?  Maybe his popular nickname "Iron Mike" suggests something different to other people than it does to me, but his cold, stern demeanor is pretty well-documented.  If there's any kind of bad blood in the Flames locker room, it won't be the coach that fixes it.

The second piece of evidence is this little gem of an article, posted on Canada.com yesterday.  The headline: "Keenan Criticizes Media, Not Kiprusoff."  Any time a coach turns on the reporters for "misreporting" something he said about one of his players, chances are the media got it dead-on the first time.

Following Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, Keenan had been asked about his boys coughing up another two power-play goals.

The coach figuratively shoved his goalie to front and centre on a first-period tally by Robert Nilsson. His statement included the line: "It's pretty difficult to criticize the people on the penalty-killing situation when your goaltender is not part of the solution."

Damning stuff.

Which Iron Mike took measures to clarify Monday.

"Well, first of all, the media has misconstrued the comments," started Keenan. "The question was, 'What about the penalty-killing?' So you didn't ask me about Miikka Kiprusoff, you asked me about the penalty killing, and I said that he missed a shot that he'd like to have back and he's part of the penalty killing. So that was addressing the question, 'What happened to your penalty-killing tonight?' So it wasn't talking about the goaltender."

He concluded with a stern tut-tut.

Riiiiiiight.  

One sign that the wheels are coming off of any organization (or have already come off) is when the representatives of that organization start accusing the media of twisting the facts and misreporting things on purpose.  Just look at the US government over the past, oh, four years or so.  It's not that things are as bad as they seem, oh no, the media just won't report the good news.  

The good news for the Colorado Avalanche is that it has owned the Flames this year, winning two games in overtime and one in regulation against them.  And as the Flames collapses in a heap, the Avalanche can write off one more divisional rival as it presses forward to claim another banner for the Pepsi Center rafters.  

Too bad the rivalry is so one-sided so far.  Maybe someday the Flame-Outs will get their crap together, but I'm not betting on it.  Not yet.