A chance to reflect

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Yesterday was a day for the country to remember.

The Calgary Flames, with a break in the schedule, also called it a recovery day.

For all of us, it was important to ponder those who sacrificed so much for our freedom.

For the Flames, it was also a chance to remember what it was like to win.

Check that. Having lost five games in a row, it's more trying to remember.

As much as the lazy Sunday away from the horror house known as the Saddledome was a chance for the beleaguered players to clear their minds, rest assured there was plenty of introspection going on.

Certainly, there are plenty of reasons for the Flames, with their under-achieving 6-8-3 record, to consider.

They've frittered away a home-heavy schedule that had 11 of those 17 games at the 'Dome, in which they've won only four times. They've frittered away half of an eight-game intra-division run.

They're floundering like Brittany Spears' career.

At least, the Calgary Stampeders playoff game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders gave the Flames something of a respite for a day. But rest assured, they'll return to work today in anticipation of tomorrow's meeting with the Minnesota Wild in the cross hairs of the city's sporting fanatics.

The targets are many, and everybody in the organization can be called into question at this point.

Everybody.

On the ice, no player -- not even Jarome Iginla, who was tied for third in the league's scoring race before last night's action -- is immune to criticism over what's transpired.

Nor is the coaching staff innocent, seeing as this club has lost its ability to score, can't keep the puck out of the net, can't stop sending players to the sin bin and has never been adept at penalty killing.

Even higher up, GM Darryl Sutter has to be called into question, seeing as he's the man who's built this team.

Sutter, who amazingly took the team from the ashes prior to the lockout, has made as many bad moves -- Toni Lydman, Chris Clark and Mike Commodore all dealt away for draft picks, poor signings such as Jeff Friesen, Darren McCarty, Tony Amonte and this year's struggling story Owen Nolan -- as good calls, like stealing Kristian Huselius from Florida, Daymond Langkow from Phoenix and signing key players to long-term deals with home-town discounts.

More important, though, is what those entities do from this point, because time is becoming of the essence.

As bleak as it looks right now, it says here the Flames will still make the playoffs.

Yes, it's true it's a team that's started with only six wins in 17 contests.

Yes, we know this horrid start has come on the heels of a last year's roller-coaster finish, when they bookended a season-saving six-game winning streak with seven losses to end the campaign and then became a team in utter disarray through its first-round playoff loss.

Yes, it's a squad that's sitting 26th in the league in goals against, ahead of teams like Los Angeles, Edmonton, Toronto and Atlanta, none of which most people perceive as playoff clubs.

But this is a team nowhere near as bad as it's been so far.

The Flames still have a Vezina-capable goaltender in Miikka Kiprusoff, although it's high time for the usually unflappable Finn to end his funk and stop surrendering that one bad or ill-timed goal at the wrong time.

They still boast a capable group of offensive players in the likes of Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Huselius, Langkow and Matthew Lombardi.

And they still have a defence corps that should be among the top third of the league.

Plus, their own history has shown mid-November isn't the time to panic. Before reaching the 2004 Stanley Cup finals, the Flames had only six wins in their first 16 games that season.

With a couple of good weeks, they're back in a playoff spot. Hey, maybe even with one good week.

Just a strong few weeks -- say ... a five-game winning streak -- and a shot reaching the top of the division doesn't seem far-fetched.

Don't misread the situation, there are plenty of issues to address.

Among the most flummoxing is the confidence level.

On one hand, the Flames still see themselves as a top team, which somewhat explains the lack of urgency in their game. On the other hand, they're as fragile as a group of Tykes, seemingly uncertain how to react when things don't go their way.

This losing skid is what the Flames need to tell them where they really stand.

They have the potential to be in the hunt for the Northwest crown, but they're not good enough to just show up.

It's a lesson worth remembering.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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