And if they miss, then it will be up to ownership to make a hard decision. Almost from the moment Darryl Sutter arrived to coach and then manage the team, the front-office motto has been In Darryl We Trust. That trust may start to slip, if the Calgary slide becomes a Calgary freefall.
RUMORS DU JOUR: There's something admirable about the way the Carolina Hurricanes are going about their rebuilding phase, without any pretence about their prospects for the current season, which are lost anyway. First, they installed Eric Staal as captain in place of Rod Brind'Amour, so he can adjust to the yoke of leadership, with comparatively little stress. Secondly, they've acknowledged publicly via general manager Jim Rutherford what everybody knew already - they will be sellers at this year's NHL trading deadline and that any number of veteran players with Stanley Cup championships on their resumes (Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen, Scott Walker, Joe Corvo, Niclas Wallin) will be available to the highest bidder. In recent years, teams have paid a premium for 11th-hour help just because the buyers vastly outnumbered the sellers. This year, the separation between the good and the bad came earlier in half-a-dozen precincts, meaning the market could be deeper than it has been.
FURTHERMORE: If the Atlanta Thrashers do make Ilya Kovalchuk available, but at the same time, do not want to wave the white flag on their season, would they have any interest in the Maple Leafs' Alexei Ponikarovsky? Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov had some chemistry before in Toronto; he might be a short term fit in Atlanta and maybe that would permit the Leafs to get a first-round draft pick in return … And if we're fuelling wild trade talk in Leaf Nation anyway, would the Pittsburgh Penguins ever make a meaningful offer to Toronto for Nikolai Kulemin, with a view to reuniting him with reigning scoring champion Evgeni Malkin? Kulemin and Malkin were linemates during the latter's final year in Russia; and the fact that the Penguins didn't grab Petr Sykora off waivers this week suggests they have different ideas about how to bolster their flanks for a possible Stanley Cup defence. Kulemin has been solid for the Leafs this season, but he is a restricted free agent and if he gets to July 1 unsigned, the KHL will presumably figure into the equation as well.
FINN STAYING PUT?: Teemu Selanne will almost certainly retire after this season as an Anaheim Duck and the only reason that any one thinks he might not is if the Los Angeles Kings make an offer on his services. Selanne doesn't want to leave southern California, but with the Kings, he wouldn't have to. And the man running Los Angeles, general manager Dean Lombardi, made that deal once before. That was at the 2001 trading deadline when Lombardi, then in charge of the San Jose Sharks, gave the Ducks Jeff Friesen, Steve Shields and a second-round pick, in exchange for Selanne. History - not often but sometimes - does repeat … Calgary, meanwhile, is desperate for additional scoring, but would they ever take underachieving Alex Tanguay off of Tampa's hands? Tanguay did 81 points (and 59 assists) in his first of two seasons with the Flames and might be the set-up man Iginla so desperately lacks. Of course, Tanguay was supposed to be the set-up man that Vincent Lecavalier lacked with the Lightning - and that hasn't worked out so well either … The Thrashers' Colby Armstrong was linked to the Flames in trade talks this past week and why wouldn't they take the former Red Deer Rebel? Armstrong scored for the first time in 19 games Thursday vs. Carolina. With those kinds of numbers, he'd be a perfect fit in Calgary … Flames' general manager Darryl Sutter was in Philadelphia last night to scout the Rangers-Flyers' game, but sources indicate there is nothing brewing between the teams, even though Philly could use a depth defenceman and Calgary has oodles of them to spare.