Darryl Sutter knew the question was coming.
That's why the Calgary Flames general manager let out a chuckle yesterday when asked whether head coach Jim Playfair's job was in jeopardy.
"I don't know why it's the same thing over and over," Sutter said yesterday while watching a handful of players put through their paces at the Saddledome. "I said it early in the year, I wasn't happy with our team and that meant everybody. Now it's up to everybody, it's not up to one individual.
"I don't know how to say it properly but I think it's everybody's responsibility to, when you're in a playoff race, battle every day. You have to analyze it over the whole year.
"This is a team and it's about the whole team."
Of late, the whole Calgary Flames team has been a disappointment. They've lost three straight games -- and five of six -- and have seen their hold on a playoff spot become increasingly tenuous.
A little more than a week ago, they were 10 points ahead of Colorado for eighth place in the Western Conference and talking of a push for the division title. After the Avs beat San Jose last night 4-3 in overtime, that edge was down to four. Both teams have 10 games remaining.
His team may be on the verge of a collapse, with calls for the head coach to be fired, but Sutter doesn't plan to push panic buttons.
"Anybody who knows me, understands that I'm a pretty balanced guy," he said. "What I see is what I told everybody in August and September and October, there's not a difference in our division.
"There's five teams in our division I thought would all be fighting for a playoff spot at this time. Edmonton took a bit of a dip, so they're not but the other four teams are. We're fighting for a spot and it's the time of the year experience, when you've been through every year, you know it gets harder to score, harder to win battles, harder on the boards."
Of late, it's all been too hard for the Flames, a club certainly with the talent to be leading the Northwest Division. They've let leads slip away. They've come up short in third periods. Key players have not come through in the clutch.
Which begs the question, what's wrong?
"There's nothing wrong," Sutter insisted. "...Since the first of October, we've put ourselves in a position to fight for a playoff spot, that's what we have to do."
Sutter points out his team still controls its destiny.
"Would you like to say you've secured a spot with 10 games left? Well, very few teams can say that. But I know there's 16 teams that would love to be in our situation right now," he said.
"Colorado has played really well. They have a very good record the last while.
"But you take the last 10 games, the last 12 games and look at the two teams, and instead of jumping on the negative side and staying on the positive, our team's record is pretty good."