Unfortunately this is a story that is becoming all too familiar. The Flames tendency to take one step forward and then one, or even two, steps back is starting to take its toll on many people. There are more questions arising each day than answers can be provided. What has me scratching my head is that if the fans, players, coaches and management are all asking the same thing… then why the hell isn’t something being done about it? The buck stops somewhere eventually and when it does, the sounds of the death knell may not be too far behind.
Before we all get too excited and up in arms, or before icedawg goes and punches jeremywilhelm’s cat, let’s slow down and take a look at what it is everyone is saying. Is everyone just throwing out cliches and lip service, or are they saying the right things, and we’re just not listening? The other night I was really trying to listen to Feaster, in his 1-on-1 with Roger Millions. Not because the volume was too low, but because I wanted to listen for something written between the lines, that I had somehow missed up until now.
S#!T FLOWS DOWN HILL
So that should take care of the trade rumours… for now. What struck me as funny was when Feaster started talking about patience wearing thin. I wonder to whom he is referring to specifically? I’m wondering if there is not some dissension building between the coaching staff and management. I have to believe that all levels of this organization are feeling frustrated. What was going to be the reaction of Sutter and the players to what Jay had said publicly? Well when Sutter was asked to comment on the statements made by the GM, he turned it around on the media.
"What was our record in the last six games? 4 and 2? That’s positive. I’m not answering that question." – Brent Sutter
Interesting? i thought we were all on the same page here and especially Jay and Brent was spoon feeding the media from the same soup bowl. However, that may not be the case anymore, After all, Brent has been facing major criticism from the fan base, not that we as fans carry any decision making weight to begin with, but Brent has to be feeling just as much pressure from above as the players, if not more. What really made me think there might be a crack in the armor of this united front was what Brent had to say later in the scrum.
"What’s being said elsewhere is, it has no bearing on how we have to go about our business downstairs here."
This statement really caught me off guard because although this is a fairly generic statement made by coaches all over the league, Brent made this one just a little more targeted at the end by adding in "our business downstairs here." I may be reading too much into that, and I hope I am, but what this tells me is Sutter is feeling the heat from high upon Mount Olympus and perhaps is just as frustrated with management’s reluctance to make a deal, as he is with the players lackluster play. He is obviously doing his part to communicate this sentiment to Jay, as he has no problem putting over $7.7 Mil in the press box, between Morrison, Hagman and Sarich. The team philosophy of ‘Meritocracy’ seems to be hit and miss and only apply to some players. For the record, despite what some have said around Flames \Nation and on Overtime, the Flames are not going to bench Jarome Iginla. It may not seem fair to some or even right to most, but let’s face it, it’s just not going to happen, nor should it.
For the life of me, I will never know what merit PL3 has that warrants him being put into the line-up over Nik Hagman. In talking with Steinberg on overtime, he said he hasn’t been that overly impressed with the play of Hagman. Fine, he may not be playing good to great hockey, but he is sure a hell of a lot better option than Lablond. Especially given that Clutterbuck was a scratch from the Wild’s line-up. Even if Kyle did dress, Jackman is more than capable enough to square off against him if needed. Add to the fact that when we did see two fights ensue, it was Jackman dancing with Staubitz, and Iginla to drop the gloves with Johnson. PL3 was nowhere to be seen. Its decisions and moves like this that adds to the frustration that comes from what is deemed the ‘effort’ that is being displayed on… oh let’s say the power play?
The recent game against Minnesota, had to be evidence of that. The Flames came out like gang busters and were all over the Wild but couldn’t manage to put themselves into the driver’s seat. Once again it was special teams that beat the home team, not the opposition. In the comments made after the game by both players and coach, the power play was the topic. Sutter was so infuriated that he didn’t even want to discuss the matter. Rather, he focused his comments not on the play of the team, but how certain players play on special teams. One of his targets was Alex Tanguay. Sutter was so bold as to say Alex was an "easy" player to play against on the PP, because the opposition knows he is always looking to pass off to Jarome. It makes it very easy to play against him in that situation. Can’t argue with that! Tanguay has a great shot and the bottom line is, he needs to use it more. He may be the Flames top scorer, but let’s face it, he should have more. According to Brent, Tanguay can shoot the puck just as good as anyone on the team. There is no doubt that Iginla is solely a trigger man; his bread and butter is the one-timer from the top of the circle. However, if that play isn’t there, then the other four guys have to realize that they can’t just stand in the same spot and expect him to eventually get open.
Holding the puck too long on the point, compounded with the lack of movement from the forwards down low, and there should be little surprise as to why the Flames went 0 for 7 and blew 17 min in PP time last night. I’ve seen quicker movements on a chess board.
"We know what’s at stake…"
I certainly hope Alex believes in what he is saying; that the team does know what’s at stake. I’m no PP specialist but from what I saw, the problems the Flames have on the power play are not special teams issues; they are basic hockey issues. Making more than two consecutive passes in a row, knowing that when you are on the right point, you probably shouldn’t bounce a pass to the bottom left corner; I’m looking at you Olli Jokinen. This seems like a pretty basic issue, and the players should know better… then again, if they did, they probably wouldn’t be 2 for 35 at home.
I would be remiss if in my role as "Voice of the Nation" if I didn’t mention the events following the Colorado game, Saturday night at Schanks. We all know the popularity and what a great job our own Pat Steinberg does with Overtime. I think Pat and Rob, and now Bryn deserve all the credit in the world for the work they put into the Flames broadcasts and I think they deserve even more credit when you take into account that for all road games, they put themselves out in the open at Schanks, where let’s be clear, anyone has open access to them!
That brings me to our good friend Ryan. To say that Ryan is a fan does not even begin to scratch the surface. He was at Schanks for the game, with a buddy that had flown in from Winnipeg to catch the Stamps – Bombers game. They were in fine form by the time Mr. Steinberg had started Overtime.
When Ryan walked by the Fan960 booth and saw Steinberg doing overtime, live AND in colour… well this was like Christmas just came early to the young lad. He was up and over the glass, getting my attention, as not to disturb "P-Stein". He asked if Pat was actually doing OT live from the bar and when I said yes, I swear to God he squealed. He asked who I was, to which I replied, "no one special".. but he was already on cloud nine and asked if he could buy Pat and I a drink. I told him I would talk to Pat during the next break, but it would have to wait till after the show. From that moment on, this dude let me know whenever he so much as moved 10 ft from his last check-in point. He would walk by with friends, yelling Pat "effing" Steinberg… Oh and the dude from Flames Nation.
When the show had come to a close, I’m sure Pat was anxious to get out and go home… Ummm .. Nope. This guy had eagle eyes on Pat as he walked to his car, promising every 5 steps, that he was coming back. "Don’t you "effing" leave P-Stein. Then he would turn to his friends.. "Do you know who THAT is? That’s Pat ‘effing’ Steinberg! P-Stein!!" I swear he said that like 20 times over the course of us being there.
Pat asked me if I had time for a drink. Being the good friend I am, there was no way I was leaving him there alone. Having flashes of that movie Misery going through my head. In the end, we both made it out unscathed, and with that, and without further ado.. I give you, P-Stein’s mancrush… Stan err.. Ryan!