Oh, behave yourselves

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

It's in the players' hands now.

With the WHL playoffs just around the corner, the Calgary Hitmen are at a critical crossroads.

The Hitmen have surrendered 23 powerplay attempts over the past three games, including Sunday's third-period meltdown against the Ice when a parade to the penalty box erased any thoughts of a late rally.

Discipline, says GM/head coach Kelly Kisio, is a problem the club must solve soon or the post-season will be over in the blink of an eye.

"It's always a concern," Kisio says. "If you don't have discipline going into the playoffs, you're not going to last long.

"Right now, there's a question mark on our hockey team as far as discipline goes."

And at this stage of the game, Kisio has his hands tied.

A coach's threats can only be used early in the season.

Kisio ripped the 'C' off Ryan Getzlaf's jersey in November because the squad's most talented player was taking too many misconducts for talking to the refs. He's also benched players for failure to fall in line.

Heading into the playoffs, that's not an option.

"That's just it, you can't do that," Kisio says. "They have to take it upon themselves to discipline themselves. We can't threaten them at this stage of the game."

Getzlaf agrees.

"And he shouldn't need to," the Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect says. "Guys need to look at what they're doing and how it's hurting the team. When I got that penalty Sunday, I was frustrated that it was called but you have the feeling you let your team down.

"And the last thing you want to do is let your teammates down at a point like this."

Getzlaf was given a slashing major late in Sunday's loss, one of nine powerplays handed to the Ice, who scored the winner with the man advantage.

Kisio insists the recent penalty troubles are more of a hiccup than a long-term illness.

Calgary sits in the middle of the WHL, averaging 20.4 PIMs per game.

"It was fine up until the last game," Kisio says. "They just went off on their own page because they were a little frustrated."

The squad's final two regular-season games, in Lethbridge Friday and Red Deer the following night, don't mean much as far as the standings are concerned.

But it does present an opportunity for the players to prove they'll put the team first by keeping their noses clean. The real question will be whether the Hitmen veterans turn over a new leaf -- or at least the other cheek.

Kisio says the leadership is in place.

"You'd like to think so," Kisio says. "The kids know exactly what the problem is and who is taking the undisciplined penalties. They've been told and I don't think we need to have one-on-ones to tell them again."

Power forward Andrew Ladd questioned the commitment of some of his teammates following Sunday's fiasco. Overager Shaun Landolt used the words "selfish" and "lazy" to describe the performance.

The problem, Getzlaf says, needs to be solved in the dressing room.

"It's tough any time you have to stand up in front of your peers and guys are getting in your face," the captain says.

"It's not good that we need to have a talk this late in the year. Guys need to realize what we're doing and take accountability."

* Who's to blame for the Hitmen's lack of discipline? -- Vote at www.calgarysun.com


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