Flames need to re-evaluate mentality

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:22 PM ET

CALGARY — The biggest problem facing the Calgary Flames has nothing to do with its GM, coach, captain, goaltender or the team’s inability to score.

It has to do with a mission statement that defies any semblance of logic: Win every year.

Oh sure, it likely sounded like a great plan in the boardroom seven years ago when ownership hired Darryl Sutter and the lads chuckled approvingly when it was suggested they should simply build contenders every year.

It’s the kind of concept you’d expect to get authorization from in a roomful of some of the nation’s most successful entrepreneurs who’ve made a habit of defying the odds.

However, the reality is that only one team in the history of sport has proven to have the staying power to win year after year: The Harlem Globetrotters.

But while experts continue to work on determining just how the hardwood legends have managed to dominate the hardwood all this time (while simultaneously pulling off the ol’ confetti bucket trick,) the reality is that unless the Flames suit up against the Washington Generals night after night, there’s no chance for similar success.

Fact is, while every team aims to be as good as possible every year, the Flames are the only team in pro sport attempting to do the unthinkable by putting resources into trying to win annually.

Sooner or later, that approach will catch up to you, and many believe that time is now for the Flames.

Devoid of any high-end prospects or meaningful draft picks this summer, the aging Flames club Sutter has scratched together faces a very uncertain future given the way he mortgaged the future for a desperate shot at this year’s playoffs.

Insisting at Monday’s press conference that any team that makes the playoffs is a Cup contender, Sutter thus figures he’d fulfilled his mandate the previous five years by finishing top eight in the west.

But with four straight first-round exits to show before this year’s collapse, all the club has really done is ensure it’s incredibly average.

And that’s all they’ll ever be under their self-imposed guidelines.

Unless they change their guiding principle, ownership is going to watch this club continue to sink in the standings as every team in every sport inevitably does.

It’s just part of the ebb and flow of pro sports, especially in league’s governed by salary caps.

“Some time ago Darryl and I, supported by the ownership group, made a pretty critical determination that we would be a very good team every year,” explained team president Ken King of their philosophy.

“When we made that decision we knew that we would make life difficult for ourselves. We knew we would create enormous expectations and anything short year after year would be a challenge and it comes as no surprise that’s exactly what has taken place.”

As King said later, he doesn’t expect the team will ever be drafting very high by virtue of the lofty finishes he foresees.

As Sutter added in the understatement of the year, “to stay competitive is not as easy as one would think.”

So why would anyone believe they’re capable of defying the odds established by hundreds of years of pro sports in which no one can maintain excellence indefinitely.

There comes a time for every organization in every sport to recognize when potential windows of opportunity are closing or when those same windows may start to be opening.

Despite their denials, the Flames are rapidly approaching one of those junctures and need to realize that even if they poured efforts into trying to contend next year it would be even more detrimental to future squads.

“If we ever decided to step back and retool we’ll be very forthcoming about it,” said King.

Right now this club’s only real guaranteed success for next year comes in the form of gate receipts.

Other than that, all bets are off.


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