Brent Sutter joined Pat Quinn and Ron Wilson in a trifecta of angry bench bosses North of the border in his post-game tirade after the Flames' 3-2 loss to the cellar-dwelling Blue Jackets. It wasn't quite on par with a John Tortorella-esque profanity-laced meltdown, but it ranked pretty high on the Brent Sutter Surliness Meter. Watch the video, since I can't be bothered to type it out verbatim:
Everyone wants a consistent, predictable hockey team. We want to know that they are going to come out and play a specific style of game every night, and when they don't, they'll do it the next night. Coming from New Jersey, one of the most consistent franchises of all time, this situation is obviously new to Sutter. Sure, there was an adjustment period when he took over coaching duties and the team learnt his "systems," but they still earned a 46-29-7 record, good for ninety-nine points, in 2007-08. The season after that? Even better; the Devils went 51-27-4 with 106 points in a year where Martin Brodeur missed a good chunk of the season due to injury.
The New Jersey franchise has long been the picture of success and consistency. The players within the organization know what is expected of them night in and night out: to be responsible defensively and still score enough goals to beat the opposition. This is not an uncommon philosophy, and one that the Sutter brothers clearly share. Players that have been in Calgary long enough--Iginla, Conroy, Langkow, Regehr--know that this is what is expected of them. What else can a coach or a general manager do or say to reinforce this? The onus really is on the players.
The fact of the matter is, this team simply isn't talented enough to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon it. They are not built to excel in the regular season, nevermind the playoffs. From the crease to the blueline, sure, but even then I have my doubts, namely about Robyn Regehr's health and Dion Phaneuf's career potential. Up front is where the real problems begin. Anything more than the production we are currently seeing from the forwards is simply overachievement, as we learnt at the beginning of the season. Sure, the defence could chip in a little more, but that's not what they're there for. Your top-six guys are supposed to carry the team, and the bottom six guys are meant to provide supplementary scoring when the big guns can't get it done. As of now, not a single forward on this team is fulfilling their role. The fact that the Flames don't really have much of a distinction between top-six and bottom-six on their roster outside of three, maybe four forwards is where the situation gets even more convoluted.
I am well aware that the Flames aren't the only team in the league with this problem. If they had a real first line that didn't rely on offensive production from AHL call-ups, they might be able to mask the problem a little better. While a trade for a top-six forward still seems like the most viable solution to this team's problems, there is still the matter of said forward finding chemistry with teammates and fitting into the lineup at his desired position. Sometimes, that doesn't happen (ie: Tanguay, Jokinen). The Flames seem to have bad luck in trading for the aforementioned coveted first-liner, and Cammalleri was really the only one that had success in that position, but Darryl screwed that one up royally when he acquired Jokinen at last year's trade deadline.
I don't want to perpetuate any rumours circulating out there on the web, but if there is any truth to the claims that scouts from several teams have been in attendance at some of the Flames' recent games, a deal could be more imminent than anyone in the organization is willing to let on. The Flames' well documented surplus in defencemen fuels speculation that a blueliner could be on the move, in return for some scoring help. Then again, Hockey Buzz has Olli Jokinen on the move to Nashville, which I would truly love to believe.
As for tonight's game, the Flames had some bad puck luck and the stats weren't all that bad (I think), but their effort wasn't near good enough in all zones. Too many turnovers, odd-man rushes, lax defensive coverage, not enough shots on goal, and bad decisions with the puck all added up to a Flames loss; their second in a row and second to a non-playoff team. These are invaluable points, up for grabs against a team that shouldn't be beating the Flames at all, never mind in their own building.
If this was all they could muster against the Blue Jackets, I hate to imagine what the end result of tomorrow's game in Vancouver (8PM, CBC) will be. Playing a rested Canucks team that has gone 11-1-2 in their past fourteen games, boasting the league's hottest line, on the second night of back-to-backs on the road undoubtably equals one massive failure. I'm considering taking bets on the over/under for how many goals the Sedin-Sedin-Burrows line will score in the first period alone. I'm past the point where I hope for miracles against good teams, or hope to be pleasantly surprised by this team's performance. I usually know when to expect a win, and when to expect a loss. The Flames' upcoming schedule will not be kind to them in terms of results, and as hard as I'm trying to accept that, I know I'll still be disappointed when they lose; and that's the worst part of it all.
Being a fan is not an easy job. Trying to put it into words is even harder.
Go Flames Go.