Flames sitting on the playoff bubble

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:01 PM ET

One month into the books and the Flames are right where we said they'd be: On the playoff bubble.

That's likely where they'll stay all season.

It will be the final days before we know what side of the fence they end up.

With 11 games in the books and a 6-5 record, the Flames are -- in the words of former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green -- "what we thought they were."

Which means a team that can be among the Western Conference's elite eight one day, but outside the next.

As the NHL restarts Monday after a league-wide day off, the Flames find themselves sitting ninth in the conference, tied with the seventh- and eight-place Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars with 12 points, but outside of a playoff spot having played one more game than those squads.

There have been good games and good moments, such as the 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks, and strong individual performances: Rene Bourque's offensive breakout; Brendan Morrison's better-than-expected point production; Niklas Hagman's four goals; and even Olli Jokinen scoring in consecutive games.

But there are problems. OK, nobody knew Jarome Iginla would struggle this much to start the season -- two goals, seven points and too much invisibility -- but if anyone expected this squad to be a model of consistency, they were fooling themselves.

The past has shown this is a crew which too often reverts to bad habits in tough times, which still seems like a shocking trend when you look at the age and experience on the ice. That's a pratfall you expect to see in young teams.

Likewise, the inability to hold leads and complete games isn't anything new. Jim Playfair and Mike Keenan had their moments to go crazy trying to figure out a solution for half-game efforts.

One month down and the Flames are in the mix. Sure, it would be nice to think they'd have done more with seven of those 11 games at home, but it's not like they're completely off track.

Wait for another month to make that assessment.

FLAMING C-NOTES

The tripping penalty Curtis Glencross took while shorthanded early in the second period greatly helped change momentum in the 7-2 Washington loss. It's a shame, because a case can be made the high-energy, third-line winger was probably Calgary's most consistent player at executing his role through the first month ... If Flames fans aren't starting to appreciate Tim Jackman, they're not paying attention. The winger who started on the third line because of all the injuries and now is on the fourth trio, has netted a couple of points, fought in each of the past four games and fired 16 shots on goal ... D Jay Bouwmeester hasn't delivered the offensive number expected when he was acquired and signed to that big-ticket contract, but he's obviously doing something right in the eyes of head coach Brent Sutter. Bouwmeester, who has been paired with Robyn Regehr against the top opposition players the past few games, is leading the team in ice time by a country mile and wearing an 'A' on his sweater.

LINES OF FIRE

The Flames will play their 29th annual wheelchair hockey game against the powerhouse Townsend Tigers Monday at the Alberta Children's Hospital. The Tigers are unbeaten against the Flames and feel free to insert your own joke about the Flames' defensive play of late ... The Flames will join the Hitmen in promoting the Movember movement of growing moustaches to promote prostate cancer awareness. Cory Sarich will be the face of the promotion for the Flames, and after his own-goal against Washington may very well come up with a bigger disguise ... Credit to co-worker Eric Francis for this tweet after Mark Giordano hooked, held, tripped and tackled Capitals forward David Steckel, which resulted in a penalty shot: "They either had to call a penalty shot on Giordano or hand him 8 minutes in minors." ... After the Washington loss, Calgary's Alex Tanguay wasn't available to the media because he had to see the team dentist for the high stick he took in the chops late in the second period.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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