October 13 2010 10:01AM
Any given 10 game segment from any given NHL season isn't going to tell you too much about a hockey team - there's a tiny signal-to-noise raio when it comes to a sample that small. That said, I would argue that games 1-10 is even less indicative of a team's true talents for a number of reasons.
There's the obvious stuff: players and coaches coming off of vacation, not "having their legs under them" etc. There may be something to that, although since it's true of every team to I don't know what kind if effect it would have on wins and losses.
What likely has a greater effect is off-season changes: new team members, new line mates, new coaches, etc. To one degree or another, decision makers and players are becoming familiar with each other through the first few weeks of the season. As coaches test to see what they have, the effect can be mis-matched pairings, mis-matched line-ups and poorly arranged assignments while the bench boss susses out who can do what.
Flames fans should be keenly aware of the deceptive "first 10" record. In 2001-02, the team got off to a franchise best start going 7-2-1 and charging out to the division lead...before rapidly falling of contention and the playoff picture altogether. Similarly, last year the club started well by the results, but not by the underlying numbers.
A shy high shooting percentage at both ES and on the PP cloudy the fact the Flames were outshot and outchanced through the first month or two last season, mainly because Brent Sutter was laboring under the perception that Iginla+Jokinen and a random winger could play against other top lines. Like 2001-02, the fantasy faded rapidly and the team missed the playoffs.
This season, the first 10 is likely to be just as misrepresentative of the club's abilities, but for a different reason. Thanks to all the injuries, the current iteration of the Flames looks nothing like it will once a few bodies start returning to the line-up.
As such, the analysis and projections yielded from the first month of Flames hockey should probably be restrained and muted, no matter which way the record falls. Come November, I'll consider any record at or above .500 a victory, but certainly not a true sign of things to come.