Next-year tag 'over the top'

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

Out in the Centre of the Universe this week, after the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their first contests, the headline was eye-catching.

Leafs: Wait 'Til Next Year, screamed the Toronto Sun.

Sure, that's awfully early to write off a team. It might even be a record.

Funny thing is, the Leafs opened the season the exact same way as the Calgary Flames.

Out here in the Stampede City, are we already in next year country?

"I'd say that's a bit over the top, but that's the Canadian media," said Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener.

"When the Leafs go on a five-game winning streak -- when we go on a five-game winning streak -- nobody's looking back. They're reading today's papers.

"You can say whatever you want. When things aren't going well it's easy to point fingers, but we all believe in that room it's going to be a fun year."

By the way, yesterday's edition of the Toronto Sun, on the heels of the Leafs' overtime win over Montreal said, That's More Like It.

Warrener and his Flames comrades may have big expectations, but the season hasn't started out a barrel of laughs.

Here's the quick recap:

Two games.

Two sleepwalked periods (is that sleepskated?).

Two late losses.

Too similar to years past.

In defeats to Philadelphia and Vancouver -- in overtime -- the Flames fell behind thanks to a bad period, battled hard to draw even, but then lost because of a late, bad-bounce play.

"Easy to make excuses. It's results that matter," Warrener said. "I would say we were a little unfortunate, but if we played the full 60 minutes (Saturday) night like we played in the third -- and I think we won the first -- a lucky bounce isn't gonna matter.

"In our eyes, it's the way we played the second period, not a lucky bounce that was the difference. We have to decide how good we want to be and how to do it consistently. We put ourselves in a hole and then we allow ourselves to play.

"We've just got to play from the start, but we let the game dictate our effort, but our effort should be dictating the games."

Head coach Mike Keenan had the same message.

"You admire the tenacity to come back and stay involved in the game, but we have to continue to get better as a group to develop more consistency in our game," he said.

Certainly life doesn't get any easier for the Flames.

Next up is a four-game road trip that starts Wednesday in Detroit before moving to Dallas, Nashville and then Colorado.

Considering the rallying cries heading into the season were to start strong and improve on last year's miserable road record, it's not a good beginning.


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