CALGARY - If youíre looking for further proof the NHL season is too long, just check out how the final four clubs from last season are doing.
Sure, itís only two weeks into the season, therefore not much of a sample size, but the grind of 82-game schedule and playoff marathon has to be a factor in the current states of the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks.
Itís the only reason all four of those teams are struggling, but it must be more than a co-incidence.
Going into last nightís games, the Bruins greeted Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs with just two wins in the first six games. It was the same for the Canucks when the puck dropped on their game against the Nashville Predators.
The Lightning went into its game against the New York Islanders with only one victory in six outings, and the Sharks are 1-3-0 to start the year.
Of those four teams, does anybody expect them to not be in the mix when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin? OK, weíre not sold on the Lightning, who were in trouble last season until goalie Dwayne Roloson showed up and are not receiving the same performance between the pipes so far this season, but the other three squads are just as strong as they were a year ago.
Reduce the regular-season schedule to a more realistic length, which would require adjustments to salaries.
Sure, it would be a big change for everybody involved, but it would mean all parties were thinking about their fans.
The ticket-buying public is being shortchanged by the fact players donít have enough time to heal their bodies in the off-season, both physically and mentally.
Assuming Raitis Ivanans never returns to the Flames after being sent to the minors Thursday, the book will close on him after playing in eight minutes and 20 seconds of one game, in which he was minus-1 and collected five penalty minutes and one horrible concussion. Cost to the Flames in salary will total US$1.2 million ... You sure canít help but wonder whether the Flames would have re-signed Anton Babchuk this past summer had Tim Erixon, their 2009 first-round draft choice, inked a deal instead of forcing his way to another team. Babchuk has played just two of five games this season ó not a good sign for a player making $2.5 million per season, which is more than Chris Butler, Scott Hannan and Derek Smith, all of whom apparently higher on the depth chart ... If the Flames werenít listening to offers on any players, including Rene Bourque, GM Jay Feaster wouldnít be doing his job. The tricky part for Feaster would be finding a deal at this time which didnít appear to be throwing in the towel on this season. A lateral move ó say, swapping for a Tuomo Ruutu out of Carolina ó really wouldnít help this club as much as a deal that brought draft picks and/or prospects. If the Flames are going to move a player such as Bourque, whose name has been in the rumour mill, it would be best to wait until closer to the deadline, when they know where they are in the playoff chase and could be looking at a good return.
Only in the NHL. The New York Rangers went into Thursdayís game with the Flames having lost three of their first four games, but with a 1-1-2 record, they could boast about being a .500 team ... Sad stat courtesy Jesse Spector of The Sporting News: The Ottawa Senators went into their game against the Winnipeg Jets on pace to surrender 410 goals this season. The last NHL team to allow more than 400 goals in a season was the 1992-93 San Jose Sharks, who were torched for 414 in 84 games. The Sharks have the distinction of being the last team to surrender more than 350, allowing 357 in the 1995-96 season. In fact, the last team to surrender more than 300 goals was the 2006-07 Philadelphia Flyers (303) ... Weíre not sure whatís next for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but losing Jeff Carter for a week or two will only make a bad situation worse. In their last 28 games, dating back to last season, the Blue Jackets have just one regulation-time win and a 3-17-8 record ... After watching the Edmonton Oilers defence corps in action, you canít help but wonder how not having Sheldon Souray makes them better.
YOU DONíT SAY
ďItís a couple weeks late, just like my game.Ē
ó Struggling Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo on his new mask, showing a willingness to join the legion of fans disappointed in his play.