By Rob Ficiur
This month, former Calgary Flames defenseman, Robyn Regehr will have his first day to take the Stanley Cup to his home town. Flames fans still argue that his first chance should have been in 2004 when the Flames overtime goal in Game #6 (that would have won that Stanley Cup) was not noticed by anyone on ice or off ice.
After the Flames lost Game 7 in Tampa Bay, there was a long plane ride back to Calgary. During that flight, players vowed they would be back in the finals next year. Defenseman Rhett Warner, (now a commentator on Sportsnet 960 ) knew then how hard it was to get back to the finals. The 2004 finals loss was the third time Rhett had been to and lost in the final and neither team – Florida 1996 and Buffalo 1999 – has come close to making a playoff run since.
Returning to the NHL final next year after losing has become a nearly impossible task. The 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 1984 Edmonton Oilers are the last two teams to get back to the finals after losing the year before. Since 1970 only two other losing teams have returned the finals and won within two years. The Detroit Red Wings lost the 1995 final and came back to win in 1997; the New Jersey Devils lost the 2001 final and came back to win it all in 2003.
Many teams have gone through long losing streaks after losing in the Stanley Cup finals. The Calgary Flames have not won a playoff series since 2004. Other teams that have not won a playoff series since their Stanley Cup final loss include: Edmonton Oilers (2006) Vancouver (2011) and Florida Panthers (1996).
The 2005 NHL lockout hurt the Calgary Flames more than any other team. A year of no hockey clicked away time from contracts and lost momentum build in that 2004 playoff run. Ten years later only six of the 2004 Flames were still playing in the NHL last season: Jerome Iginla, Regher, Jordan Leopold, Tony Lydman, Andew Ference and Chuck Kobasew. Interesting to see that four of the Flames starting six defensemen in 2004 are still in the league ten years later. Kobasew spent most of last year in the Pittsburgh penguins minor league system. Matthew Lombardi signed this summer to play for the New York Rangers after playing last year in Europe.
When Robyn Regehr won the 2014 Stanley Cup with the LA Kings, he was only the fourth member of that 2004 team to win a Stanley Cup. Regehr was part of the Kings Miracle Comeback against the San Jose Sharks in round 1. Down three games to zero, the Kings rallied to become the fourth team in NHL history to win a series. In Game 1 of round two Robyn was injured and did not play again in the playoffs. By the Game 2 of the finals he had been cleared to play, but Coach Sutter (same coach Robyn had ten years ago) could not justify changing a winning line up. Kings players said that fans would never know the impact Regehr had in the dressing room…maybe fans did notice when Regehr was the first player to hold the cup after the captain.
(Two key members of the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning (Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis) were part of the New York Rangers team that lost to Regehr and Coach Sutter in 2014. Did they think about the Cup they stole from Calgary as they watched the Kings celebrate the 2014 Cup? Tampa GM Jay Feaster spent two years as GM in Calgary and was only harassed about the stolen Stanley Cup a few times. )
In 2006, former Flames defenseman, Mike Commodore won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flames used nine defenseman in the 2004 cup run. Commodore played on 12 regular season games, but due to injuries he played 20 of the team’s 26 playoff games. (Side note Flames defenseman Brendan Evans’ only played two NHL games in his career, both during the 2004 playoff run).
In 2011 – former Flames defenseman Andrew Ference won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins. Ference has since signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers – and was their captain last year.
The Coach and GM of the 2004 Flames was Daryl Sutter. He coached the Flames one more year (2006) and then moved upstairs to focus on job as General Manager. Coach Sutter is the only member of the 2004 Flames team to win two Stanley Cups – having won them as coach of the Kings in 2012 and again with Robyn in 2014.
Ten years later the Flames miracle run to the Stanley Cup final seems like yesterday. The team that had not been to the playoffs in seven years came within a goal of winning it all. Underdogs like them will be remembered longer than a championship team (like Tampa Bay) that win one championship and then disappear. Maybe we will remember them more because that goal really was in the net in Game #6 so the Flames were robbed.