November 20 2009 05:06AM
If there's any comfort to be found for Flames fans after their club's ignominious stumbling past the unofficial quarter-pole of the 2009-10 campaign, it's the look on Brent Sutter's face.
Now Ol' Pup rarely is confused with a member of the Up With People touring group but on a lot of nights this season — and especially Thursday evening when the Flames did an excellent imitation of the Dairy Queen Peewee AA Tigers — Sutter has the countenance of a man who has ingested whole, unskinned porcupines.
Of all the reasons the Flames should easily be able to avoid the temptation to be smug despite a 12-6-2 record through 20 contests, few are as compelling as the utter domination of the Calgarians by the Chicago Blackhawks over the past 103 minutes of head-to-head action. Let's face it, there are only so many ways to spin a 13-1 Hawks advantage on the scoreboard. No wonder the skipper looks like he's ready to impale his No. 1 centreman by using his top defenceman as a sword.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a flawed hockey club and it seems no one knows that better than the guy behind the bench, who with each passing ulcer-exacerbating night must be wondering why he ever left Newark (if it's possible for a human being to wonder such a thing). Short of having something productive and useful happen — like, oh, let's say convincing the Phoenix Coyotes there was a fine-print money-back guarantee on Olli Jokinen — it must be of some consolation, however small, that Sutter looks as hacked off as the fans feel.
Some will say that any Friday angst about the Flames' fortunes is an over-reaction to Thursday's events, but that's only true if you were swayed by those nights — Saturday's visit to Toronto, for instance — Calgary claimed unconvincing victories.
But yet again, we come to the point that no matter how much one believes something drastic needs to happen, the options that don't involve Sutter wrapping his mitts around selected throats are scarce. Screaming for a major trade is a familiar rally cry in such situations but because of contrast clauses and/or the logic that says NHL clubs won't line up to acquire No. 5 defencemen making $3.7 million, that solution doesn't exist in any meaningful way for Calgary.
And though the Flames have a spiffy 6-1-2 mark away from the Saddledome, a schedule that features just one home game in the next 18 days would appear to be an unlikely stretch for the team's ills to be cured. Then again, this gang is just as likely to piece together a 6-2-1 stretch that will make the next debacle and crisis of faith all the more frustrating for the diehards.