Flames’ season up in smoke

The Calgary Flames are trying to finish their NHL season respectably, while everybody else is already thinking about what’s going to happen to the team in the off-season.

Calgary Flames Rene Bourque (17) Niklas Hagman

Calgary Flames Rene Bourque (17) Niklas Hagman

CALGARY — The Calgary Flames are trying to finish their NHL season respectably, while everybody else is already thinking about what’s going to happen to the team in the off-season.

That’s the price the Flames pay for their elimination from the NHL playoff race Tuesday with two games remaining in the regular season.

They’ve left no other options for their unhappy fans other than second-guessing this season or moving onto next-year territory.

They’ve watched their team steadily increase its payroll, get eliminated in the first round of playoffs the last four seasons and then finish out of the post-season entirely this year. They demanded on radio call-in shows and on websites Wednesday for change from the fourth-line forwards to just below the ownership level.

General manager Darryl Sutter and team president and CEO Ken King are expected to address the season publicly early next week.

Head coach Brent Sutter, hired by brother Darryl last summer to push the Flames further in the playoffs, was in no mood Wednesday to parse the season with games remaining Thursday at home against Minnesota and Saturday in Vancouver.

A weary-looking captain Jarome Iginla, the subject of trade speculation, was more reflective. For those who felt problems in the dressing room or a lack of team chemistry were factors in Calgary’s inability to score goals, he said more than once Wednesday that wasn’t an issue.

“There’s going to be a lot said from the outside that we have a bad locker-room,” Iginla said. “That’s not true. The guys who have come had great attitudes, they wanted to win, they worked hard, they blocked shots, fought. We were one of the top teams in fights, which is commitment and courage.

“The guys who came in here were 100 per cent committed. They weren’t pouting. They weren’t complaining about the coach. Guys got along. Guys like each other, they like working for each other.”

One of the reasons Darryl hired his brother was because Brent preached responsible, disciplined play on the defensive side of the puck. Calgary ranked 23rd in goals-against at the end of the 2008-09 season. The GM demanded improvement in that area.

The Flames accomplished that and will finish in the top five or six teams in the league defensively. Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff had a strong year with a top-six ranking in both goals-against average and save percentage.

Iginla pointed to Calgary’s improved defence as proof against the notion the team did not work hard enough.

“Defence is commitment and hard work,” he said.

But the team that was supposed to score by committee, led by Iginla, did not do so. Calgary will finish among the league’s bottom four in goal production. The power-play was a weak 16.5 per cent Wednesday. In the fateful 2-1 loss to San Jose on Tuesday, Calgary did not score on four chances.

“We just didn’t do enough in the offensive zone,” acknowledged Sutter. “There’s nights like last night, you get 39 shots on net and you have some great opportunities to score and you don’t capitalize on them.

“There’s a fine line there. Offensively we stayed below the line and defensively we were way above it.”

Too much emphasis on defence?

“It has nothing to do with systems,” Sutter said. “The system is what 99 per cent of the teams play in the NHL. It’s just that level inside of it that you have to play every night.”

The Flames spent close to the salary cap of US$56,800,000 this season. The majority of Calgary’s roster is under contract for next year with defenceman Ian White the notable exception.

Acquired from Toronto in a package deal that sent Dion Phaneuf to the Leafs, White was an asset on the blue-line. The 25-year old will command a raise on his US$950,000 salary when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer.

Three different coaches in the last four years and multiple player trades and signings during that span were all moves that were supposed to push Calgary higher in the standings. Some fans were wondering if the team should just shed expensive, veteran talent and build anew.

That’s the well from which the Iginla speculation sprung. The two-time goalscoring champion will finish with around 70 points, which is still the best on the team, but his lowest numbers in five seasons. After assisting on Sidney Crosby’s goal that won the Olympic gold medal on Feb. 28, Iginla scored five goals in 18 games for the Flames.

Iginla would fetch young talent on the market, but he has to agree to be traded first. The 32-year-old isn’t an advocate of a scorched-earth policy and says he doesn’t want out.

“I want to be part of the solution here and I don’t think we’re that far,” Iginla said. “It’s tough today. I know there’s going to be lots of talk and everything. From my point of view, I want to be here, not just because it’s comfortable or it’s a nice city or the fans are into it, but also that I think we can win.”

Calgary made the playoffs every season from 2003 to 2009. The Flames reached the Stanley Cup final and lost to Tampa Bay in seven games in 2004. It was an uncomfortable feeling for Iginla and company Wednesday, on the outside looking in.

“It’s tough and its gets even tougher when you are watching the other teams play,” the captain said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta reported an additional 1,980 cases of COVID-19 Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer adds 37th death from COVID-19, active cases drop

Alberta Health identified an additional 1,980 cases of the virus province-wide

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
Kris Sturgess with Calgary Ghostbusters. (Photo from GoFundMe)
GoFundMe account salutes Red Deer prop builder

Kris Sturgess died unexpectedly April 28

The City of Red Deer says it has not implemented a curfew and will continue to explore options and do what is necessary based on provincial direction. (Advocate file photo).
COVID curfew not on Red Deer city council’s agenda

Red Deer creeping up to 1,000 COVID-19 cases

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

A man watches the financial numbers on the digital ticker tape at the TMX Group in Toronto's financial district on Friday, May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
TSX up for 10th week with gain as weak jobs reports support continued easy money

TSX up for 10th week with gain as weak jobs reports support continued easy money

The Enbridge logo is shown at the company's annual meeting in Calgary on May 9, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Enbridge CEO warns of ‘bad things’ for shippers, consumers if Line 5 shut down

Enbridge CEO warns of ‘bad things’ for shippers, consumers if Line 5 shut down

Cenovus logo seen at the company's headquarters in Calgary, Alta., November 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Cenovus Energy reports $220M first-quarter profit compared with a loss a year ago

Cenovus Energy reports $220M first-quarter profit compared with a loss a year ago

The retail sector has been hit hardest by job-shedding in the COVID-19 pandemic, with stricter restrictions on the operation of non-essential stores implemented in April in Ontario, Alberta and several regions of Quebec, according to the national statistics gathering agency. Included in those losses is Joyce Garant, a beauty adviser for Clinique makeup and skin care at Hudson's Bay department store in Windsor, Ont., seen in an undated handout self-portrait. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Joyce Garant, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Will I ever have the money to pay bills?’ Retail worker faces third layoff in April

‘Will I ever have the money to pay bills?’ Retail worker faces third layoff in April

A Telus sign is seen on a storefront in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Telus CEO says it’s on track to lower capital spending sharply in 2023

Telus CEO says it’s on track to lower capital spending sharply in 2023

The Keystone Steele City pumping station, into which the planned Keystone XL pipeline was to connect into, in Steele City, Neb., Nov. 3, 2015. TC Energy Corp. is reporting a first-quarter net loss of $1.1 billion after taking a $2.2-billion after-tax asset impairment charge on its cancelled Keystone XL export oil pipeline. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Nati Harnik
TC Energy reports $1.1-billion net loss after $2.2-billion writedown on Keystone XL

TC Energy reports $1.1-billion net loss after $2.2-billion writedown on Keystone XL

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior pastor at Middle Collegiate Church, speaks during an interfaith gathering outside of the Judson Memorial Church near Washington Square Park in New York. Muslims, Jews, Christians and Buddhists came together to show solidarity among faith communities as the country awaited the final result of the U.S. presidential election. (AP Photo/Emily Leshner, File)
National Day of Prayer inspires pleas for unity and justice

National Day of Prayer inspires pleas for unity and justice

Most Read