Calgary Flames fans are seeing red these days in more ways than one.
They see the red jerseys on the ice, but don't seem to have faith that the players wearing them have what it takes to contend for the Stanley Cup, and in Calgary, that translates to figurative red, as in anger.
The Flames, a proud organization in a hockey hotbed that won a Stanley Cup in 1989 and lost to Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the Cup final in 2004 on a controversial finish, are an NHL team on the decline. It may not be long before they hit the bottom and face a rebuilding project as their neighbours to the north, Edmonton Oilers, have done with a core of young superstars in the making.
While most teams around the NHL have a young star or two, the best under-30 scorer the Flames have on their roster is Rene Bourque, who scored 27 goals last year. Matt Stajan and Curtis Glencross, players who hardly give NHL goaltenders sleepless nights, are the only other Flames' 20-somethings who scored in double figures last year.
Oh, what the Flames would give for a Jordan Eberle, a Steven Stamkos, a Jonathan Toews or a Sedin (take your pick) around whom to build for the future. Sadly, the Flames offence revolves around aging Jarome Iginla, who turned 33 this summer and whose best days are in his rear view mirror. Since scoring 50 goals in 2007-08, Iginla's goal production dropped to 35, then 32 and this year, with two goals in his first 11 games, he was on pace for a 15-goal campaign.
The Flames are competitive because they have a world-class goaltender in Miikka Kiprusoff and one of the league's best defence crews, led by Jay Bouwmeester and Robyn Regehr.
GM Darryl Sutter and his head coach brother, Brent, have high offensive hopes for Mikael Backlund, a 21-year-old Swede, but he hasn't exactly made Calgarians forget Flames' greats Lanny McDonald, Joe Nieuwendyk or Joe Mullen. Backlund managed only 15 goals with Abbotsford last year, and was tied with Iginla with a mere two goals after 11 games in his first full NHL season.
Calgarians would love to have a reason to once again fire up the Red Mile, the 17th Avenue party scene that celebrated victories during the Flames' glory days. The Red Mile has faded. As have the red smiles.
Toronto comedian Frenchie McFarlane: "Just how boring is Habs' coach Jacques Martin? He's so boring that when he's on his death bed, and is just about to pass away, Joe Clark's life will flash before his eyes."
Comedy writer Jim Barach: "Ron Artest's NBA ring raffle has netted at least $120,000. As an extra bonus, Artest will put the ring on and use it to punch the winner in the face.
Barach again: The Philadelphia Phillies have cut their ties with 47-year-old pitcher Jamie Moyer, who is going to become a free agent. He hasn't quite yet decided if he will be shopping himself for shuffleboard or bingo."
Comedy writer Jerry Perisho: "Paul, the octopus that predicted World Cup winners last summer, died. Just hours earlier, he predicted he'd be stir fried and not grilled.
More on poor Paul: Seattle Times reader Bill Littlejohn, on the death of Paul the Octopus: "He's scheduled to make one final appearance at a Red Wings game."
Headline at Fark.com, after Redskins DB DeAngelo Hall intercepted four Bears passes: "It looks like Jay Cutler has finally settled on a favorite receiver."
"If Brett Favre really wants to impress women," a female friend suggested to The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi, "he should text them photos of his paycheque."
Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on the Miami Heat: "Who, exactly, is Chris Bosh? Remember the Three Tenors? Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and . . . the other guy. I love Bosh's game, but to many casual observers, the Heat's Three Tenors are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and . . . the other guy."
Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, on the Heat Three: "LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are trading places as stars most nights - and (Chris) Bosh is the third contestant on Jeopardy!, just watching. He has become Ringo while John and Paul crank out the hits."
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "It was good to see Tiger Woods in the house at the Magic's new $480 million arena Thursday night. Tiger was probably thinking, "480 million? That's my alimony payment!"
Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com, quoting an anonymous source after Texas Rangers' pitcher Derek Holland threw 12 balls in 13 pitches in the World Series: "Holland now has the title of 'Walker, Texas Ranger."
Cam Hutchinson of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: "James Naismith's original handwritten 13 rules of basketball will soon be on the auction block. Sadly, three of the rules weren't followed: 3. No weapons in dressing rooms; 2. Provide condoms to players; 1. Don't put the biggest jerks in the league on the same team."