With two games in the books, the Calgary Flames seem to be suffering from a bit of Jekyll and Hyde syndrome.
First came the bad, a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 7 when the Flames’ apparent veteran poise clearly took a backseat to the Oilers’ youthful vitality.
Then, just three nights later, the Flames seemed to wipe the slate clean, riding steady pressure to a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in their home opener.
Two games, two very different teams.
This doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise, as in recent years the Flames have made a habit of playing down to the NHL’s basement dwellers in one game and then giving the league’s top guns a run for their money the next.
Still, many questions remain about Calgary’s durability, as everyone knows the NHL regular-season campaign is a marathon not a sprint.
Both Rene Bourque and Adam Pardy were sidelined with injuries before even breaking a sweat against the Kings. As well, David Moss, Matt Stajan, Daymond Langkow and the ever-incapable Ales Kotalik have still yet to log a single minute of ice time as they nurse various shoulder and knee pains.
And then there’s heavyweight Rainitis Ivanans, who’s still unscrambling his brain after being knocked flat out by Oilers brute Steve MacIntyre in his first game as a Flame.
The Latvian’s potential absence is not really a worry, as replacement Tim Jackman seemed a much more capable fourth-liner against the Kings.
Moving from injuries to healthy scratches, longtime defenders Cory Sarich and Steve Staios, whose contracts total more than $6 million, have found themselves confined to the press box after doing little to inspire management’s confidence in the pre-season. Now that’s good bang for your buck.
On the ice, Calgary’s much-discussed top-line trio seems to lack scoring touch. Captain Jarome Iginla along with Flames returnees Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen have logged more than 20 shots on goal through 120 minutes of gameplay; however, they have yet to bulge the twine a single time.
How long before the Sutters pull the plug on this threesome yet again?
Injuries, wasted dollars and underwhelming performances aside, the Flames faithful can still take comfort in the contributions made by a few of the team’s fresh faces.
Last-minute pickup Brendan Morrison seems to be fitting in well, having already logged two assists. Don’t forget, the 35-year-old recorded more than 40 points for the Washington Capitals last season and still has the ability to thrive in the right system.
As well, Brett Sutter found his way onto the scoresheet with an assist against the Kings.
This marked a fitting end to a week-long saga that saw the son of Darryl Sutter get placed on waivers — imagine the awkward family dinner after that one — clear waivers, be sent down to the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat, get called back up to fill in for Kotalik and then dress for the Flames’ first two games.
And then there’s upstart defender T.J. Brodie, who forced his way into the lineup with a remarkable pre-season effort. The 20-year-old has been kept relatively quiet since the puck dropped on the regular season; however, he could prove extremely effective if given more time in the big leagues.
Overall, the Flames management is staring at a complex equation; so many skaters hoping to make an impact, so many variables to sort through.
What this team needs is steady leadership and sound decision-making from the front office, something they have not had the past few seasons.
Players need to be evaluated on their talent and potential role on this year’s team, not some underlying sense of loyalty forged during year after year of disappointing playoff runs.
Are the Flames a contender for Lord Stanley’s prize this season? Highly unlikely, but the pieces are there to at least inject a little excitement back into a franchise sorely lacking in direction.
Needless to say, the team’s loyal fanbase could certainly use something to cheer about.
Jeremy Nolais is a Calgary-area columnist whose column appears in the Advocate every second Wednesday