Despite tough weekend results, the Flames feel competitive and look to enjoy the rest of the season

Photo credit:Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
3 months ago
The time of year when playoff teams and seeding begin to become clearer is always interesting. Sure, NHL fans have the chance to read about all sorts of different successful teams, but the way players on non-playoff teams operate on a day-to-day basis has always captured my attention more.
It’s no different for me when looking at this year’s Calgary Flames.
Despite being much farther out of a playoff spot than the team (and, to some extent, the fans) may have wanted, the Flames have remained competitive in many of their games as of late, event the ones that have resulted in losses.
With only 12 games remaining, some might surmise that the team will just go through the motions and wait for the season to be over. They aren’t close to making the postseason cut, so why not pack it in?
But the players, despite back-to-back losses this past weekend, first to the Vancouver Canucks and then to the Buffalo Sabres, are not willing to let these last 12 games go for granted.
“It was a tough weekend for us,” Flames captain Mikael Backlund said to the media following the 4-1 loss to the Sabres. “I thought the compete level was there in both games, and we’re battling hard. Execution wasn’t as good as we wanted. It’s tough. But tomorrow is a new day, and we’ll focus on the next game. Either way, there are not many games left in the season, and you’ve got to enjoy them.”
It’s not a surprise that the team’s captain feels the way he does about the team’s compete level and performance over the rest of the season, but it’s important that Backlund and the rest of the leadership group believe the following games matter just as much as any because it’s about building good habits for the young players.
Oliver Kylington, who, despite missing all of last season and a fair bit of 2023-24 as well, is a major voice in the Flames locker room and concurs with Backlund’s sentiments.
“I agree 100% with [Backlund],” Kylington said. “We play for each other. Everyone as individuals has to come to work and do their part. We build that chemistry together, and we go out and play for each other. So, I agree with Backs. It doesn’t matter where we are in the standings and how everything looks; we have to go out and play for each other. That has to be there. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is.”
The Flames are still a young team that is failing to execute in times that it’s needed. However, this experience of fighting for a playoff spot and not succeeding down the stretch is going to be a valuable one for the young players if the situation arises again. Would they like to be in a wild card position? Of course. But, the feeling of sadness that has begun to set in with few games remaining is one that will stick with the team as they continue to mature and move their way closer to becoming postseason contenders again.
For now, though, it’s about cherishing every game and fighting for each of your teammates, as Kylington said, so that the team can continue to create a strong culture through the hard times and come out on the other side because of it.
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