Searching for steadiness

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Mike Keenan isn't happy with where his Calgary Flames sit a quarter of the way through the NHL season.

But only because he believes they can be better and has his eyes set on hosting a playoff series.

"If we were happy, then we'd lower the bar in terms of what we expect from ourselves. For that reason, the answer is 'No, I'm not happy,' " said Keenan, whose Flames woke up yesterday in seventh spot in the Western Conference.

"I'd prefer that we'd reached some levels of play that would have put us in a little bit higher level than we are right now."

With an 11-9-1 record 21 games into their campaign, the players echo the sentiments of their coach.

They've been inconsistent -- sometimes from period-to-period, and certainly from week-to-week -- getting off to a lacklustre start before racking up a six-game winning streak.

Following that was a seven-game stretch during which they won just two games.

Most recently, following a tweak to their system play, they've put forth three solid efforts and come away with four of a possible six points.

"I think we realize how good we can be when we do things right. I think a lot of other teams know that, too -- we're not going to be an easy target for anyone," said defenceman Adrian Aucoin. "I think teams get up for us because they know how good we can be. We've proven that we have to do it from within the room and not worry about the other team."

Keenan says quarterly reports are more of a media evaluation than anything a team would use.

They break things down into much smaller segments with a big-picture plan in mind.

More like watching the Dow.

"In the coaching perspective, you get your report every morning -- it's called the standings," said Keenan.

The second quarter is especially important to the standings.

Historically, it's been when teams create the most separation.

"I like our personnel. I like our group. I like the potential of our team," said winger Michael Cammalleri. "At the same time, I don't think we've reached our full potential."

Cammalleri says the organization has an identity, and the team is looking for more of a personality.

So far, says fellow newcomer Todd Bertuzzi, it's been multiple personalities.

"It's almost two seasons in one. There's some games where we've done a lot of really good things and played well, and there's been some times that we haven't done exactly what we need to do to win out there," said Bertuzzi, who agrees with the idea the second group of 20 games will give their fans an idea of what the team is made of.

"The next 20 are vitally important," he said.

"You can take off in the standings and get rid of some teams or keep it tight, or end up being behind the eight-ball."

So far so good if you're happy with just a playoff spot.

The Flames -- and their coach -- want more.


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