Attitude adjustment on defence

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Robyn Regehr wants changes.

Before the next season, the Flames defenceman wants a different attitude among his teammates.

"We have to make some changes, first of all, in the way we as players are approaching the game," Regehr said yesterday amidst the exit-day events at the Saddledome.

"I think the last couple of years, we've gotten away from what originally made this team successful getting into the playoffs.

"That was a little bit more emphasis on keeping pucks out of our net and playing with more responsibility in our own zone.

"Now, we can score goals -- we have that ability not just with Jarome (Iginla) but have lots of depth and guys on defence that can help out -- but I think there's been a little bit of a disappearance of that emphasis on playing hard in our zone.

"That's led to inconsistencies with the way we win games and lose games. That's probably the biggest thing that we need to address."

Valid numbers back up Regehr's claim. The year Calgary went to the Stanley Cup finals, 2003-04, the Flames were third in the league with a 2.15 team goals-against average.

The 2005-06 season, the first after the lockout, they were best in the NHL at 2.35. Since then, it's been a constant slide down the charts, falling to 11th in 2006-07 (2.70), 15th last season (2.73) and 23rd this season (3.00).

The Sea of Red may be filled with fans wanting wholesale changes, which can mean anything from players to coaches to management.

Regehr, whose absence from the team's series with the Chicago Blackhawks was a factor in their six-game defeat, believes first and foremost the attention to defensive detail must be increased first.

"We have to talk about it here as players before we go our separate ways and figure out how to take the next step forward," Regehr said.

"I know that people are talking about massive, sweeping changes here, but you have to look at where we are. We're a team that has made the playoffs the last four-five years, and that's an accomplishment even though we haven't been out of the first round, so we don't have to start from ground zero.

"We just need to address a few of these issues, and I think that will help us take the next step and move on. Not just get into the playoffs but move on in the playoffs and eventually be winning."

Regehr isn't alone in feeling attention to defensive-zone detail was lacking. Especially down the stretch.

"We had made some changes at the start of the year, and I thought we had really settled into those changes. We had a good defensive structure to base things off of," defenceman Cory Sarich said. "We were having success. Then for some reason at the end of the season, we got away from it again. Our play became erratic.

"When you see us take care of our end, when you see us all focus on that first, I think that's the biggest thing. When we got away from that, we were sloppy. You're never going to win like that. I think that's what you have to go back to square one and start with."

Head coach Mike Keenan has never been considered a defence-first coach, but he said part of the problem was injuries, including Regehr's.

"You look at the core group on de-fence and stack us up against Chicago with our complete team, we wouldn't be standing here right now," Keenan said.

Regehr's knee injury was a "serious MCL sprain."

"I didn't tear it completely off, I wear braces on both knees for protection and it probably helped," he said. "But still hurt it bad enough I wasn't able to play.

"When you're not playing, it's a helpless feeling. Having to sit there and just watch the guys is very tough."

Sarich was playing despite a fractured ankle, Dion Phaneuf was battling back and hip problems before the playoffs and missed the final game due to shoulder and rib injuries, plus Mark Giordano and Rhett Warrener didn't play due to shoulder problems.

Had the Flames advanced to the second round, Regehr figured he would have played.

"I would have had to seen how things were going and was hoping to skate the next day or so," he said. "From there, if it didn't feel too bad, I was thinking a week. Now, I'll take a couple of weeks and do nothing, or not too much, and then start training again."


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