September 29 2009 07:26PM
The first instinct is to trot out the old shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic metaphor, but that would be gratuitous.
In case you missed the self-wetting news, the Flames have rearranged the seating arrangement in their dressing room and the party line is that the stall shuffle is a further reminder that things are going to be a little different now that Marshal Brent C. Sutter is patrolling these parts.
Leave it to Robyn Regehr, one of the more astute members of the dressing room, to grasp the symbolism of moving day.
“If some people were comfortable in the seat they were in -- or the situation they were in -- it's to try to make them a little uncomfortable,” said the veteran rearguard.
That remark may seem relatively innocuous in and of itself but if you know the back-story – it was Regehr who dropped occasional broad hints last winter about teammates who weren’t pulling the load and it was Regehr who suggested that perhaps the game had passed Mike Keenan by when the moustachioed skipper was shown the door – then it takes on new meaning.
When Sutter ambled into the Saddledome with a vow to bring defensive responsibility back into the Flaming-C game plan, that sound you heard was Regehr high-fiving himself. Perhaps that’s the reaction you’d expect from a man who has gone 581 days without a goal, but maybe the guy simply realizes that defensive laxness was standing in the way of the Flames playing May hockey.
Of course if you’re a Flames fan, at this point you’re probably saying: “Well golly gee whiz, good intentions are wonderful in September but good intentions alone won’t feed the bulldog in October.” OK, so maybe you wouldn't say that but on the off chance you did, you'd be correct.
Come to think of it, if you want to run the risk of putting stock in pre-season results, good intentions didn’t mean jack-squat during the Flames’ exhibition finale when a squad that was a reasonable facsimile of Calgary’s regular-season product was beaten and outplayed by a Vancouver squad that was a slightly ’roided-up version of the Manitoba Moose.
Maybe that’s why the new coach has been pretty low-key this week when talking about the Flames’ prospects for the upcoming season. Not pessimistic, mind you, but very forceful in his declarations that the team and the individuals therein have some work to do to meet his expectations. By unofficial tally, four players met with his approval for their performance during the tune-ups, which leaves an awful lot of guys in the guilty-by-omission category.
The bottom line is the Flames have good reason to be hopeful about their chances in a Western Conference that figures to be less top-heavy in 2009-10 but also just cause to be concerned that the same old bugaboos that did in Jim Playfair and Keenan will also be a pebble in Sutter's boot.
Elsewhere on this site this week, you’ll see all kinds of predictions and bold declarations about what you’re supposedly going to see in the coming months starting with Thursday’s opener when the Flames will trot out their Reggie Lemelin-vintage all-red kits to face Vancouver. Well, here’s another one – no matter how many accusations are tossed their way about backing into the division title a year ago, no matter how many snide remarks are blurted about Roberto Luongo’s seven-goal game last spring and no matter how many junior-high jokes are made about the Sedin Sisters, the Canucks look every inch the team to beat in the Northwest Division in 2009-10. (Although Flames Nation’s Kent Wilson brings up a major caveat that should not be ignored)
Also, bear in mind that you’re reading the words of an idiot whose pre-season pick for the Art Ross Trophy a few years back ultimately finished the season with 10 points. Still, until Miikka Kiprusoff converts all those assurances about a renewed commitment to fitness into a reversal of his downward career trend, Calgary goes into the season as the second bananas in the Northwest.