SUN Hockey Pool

November gain

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Chillax.

Parents with teenagers under their roof surely have heard this strange hybrid word.

So, how is it used?

Here's an example:

Flames fans are likely upset about the team's poor performance during the early portion of an NHL season it was expected to dominate.

These Flames fans should remember to 'chillax.'

Chill. Relax. The Flames should be OK.

Yes, Calgary's record after seven games (2-4-1) is well off the pace expected by nearly everyone in the hockey world.

It's certainly not what you'd expect from a team with so many building blocks in place and pegged to be a frontrunner in the new NHL.

That said, it's awfully early for fans to jump off the bandwagon -- even with news yesterday that centre Matthew Lombardi may miss a couple months with a bum ankle.

History has shown one must wait at least until the end of November to obtain an accurate, legitimate read on the direction the club is heading.

Case in point: Calgary's magical 2003-04 season.

Through the month of October, the Flames were at .500 and, by the middle of November, they were two games below that mark and sitting 14th in the Western Conference.

That's when things clicked.

The Flames found that mystical intangible which transforms losers into winners and climbed the standings.

We all know where that went, right?

Looking for more proof? Go to 2002-03.

That season, a solid start through the first four weeks found Calgary two games above .500 but the wheels fell off. By the end of November, the course for a seventh consecutive playoff-free campaign was charted.

Indeed, great starts don't guarantee post-season play.

Remember the 13-2-4-2 start Calgary had to the 2001-02 season?

When the calender flipped to December, the Flames were on a four-game losing streak, a six-game winless run and were plummeting out of the playoff picture.

This year's Flames roster, assembled by GM/head coach Darryl Sutter, is far from perfect and certainly shouldn't have had pundits fawning all over the club with Stanley Cup expectations.

But the Flames have too much in place to be a weak sister.

The defence corps is still one of the league's best, with Robyn Regehr still out of the mix, and is rounding into form, as shown by the last three contests.

Same goes for goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. He's shaken the struggles of the opening road trip.

Plus, the depth up front is still better than seen around these parts for a decade.

It all adds up to a team good enough to earn a playoff spot.

That said, all is not well.

Superstar Jarome Iginla is off to his customary slow start and not leading the offensive charge. Frankly, 21 shots in seven games isn't enough for a sniper capable of pacing the league.

As well, the chemistry between Iginla, Tony Amonte and Daymond Langkow is still developing.

It goes deeper, too.

Roman Hamrlik was supposed to help the powerplay but has been a non-factor with the man-advantage, leaving rookie Dion Phaneuf the lone defenceman to be accomplishing much of anything.

Meanwhile, secondary scoring hasn't been delivered by players pegged to fill that role, notably Chris Simon and Shean Donovan.

Good news is time will cure the chemistry issues. These are on-ice, not dressing-room, problems, after all.

The next six weeks will prove it.


Videos

Photos