Flames change for the better

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

For years -- actually, it seems like forever -- the Calgary Flames locker-room has been set up in the same fashion.

Year after year, the entire defence corps would be on the left as you walked through the door.

The goalies would be on your immediate right, and the rest of the space and down along the right wall was where the forwards would sit.

It's been flipped this fall: Forwards mainly on the left. Blueliners to the right.

"I walked in and thought, 'I sit right there where Dion (Phaneuf) is. He's got my seat,' " said Flames veteran Craig Conroy. "But now, I'm comfortable here and don't mind it."

On the surface, it would seem to be no big deal where players sit in the room.

But hockey players are creatures of habit, down to which equipment they put in what order.

And there is a method to the madness of head coach Brent Sutter.

"A fresh start. It's what I've said from the start. It's a fresh start," Sutter said. "A whole new coaching staff -- we see things differently, want things done differently ... It's a fresh start for the players, too, so if you're gonna do it, why go halfway.

"Let's do it the right way."

It really is a new era with the Flames. Whether that means anything come playoff time remains to be seen, but Sutter certainly is putting his stamp on things as the team readies for Thursday's season-opener.

Every practice brings something unique, it seems.

Yesterday's session had a twist. The players were so quiet, first instinct said they were scolded to the third degree for a terrible performance Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Not the case.

It was a teaching practice, and the players were told to listen and learn.

"A lot of new things, different plays, powerplay things and plays off the faceoff," said defenceman Adam Pardy. "We just wanted to walk through it and make sure we knew all the information and guys were absorbing it.

"He gets his point across, and it's a lot of attention to detail. He doesn't want any bad habits, wants to make sure we're doing it right every time. It's a good thing. He's not afraid to blow it down and tell a guy he's in the wrong position."

Sutter admitted practices will include plenty of repetition, but that's by design.

"It's an everyday thing here," Sutter said. "We are creatures of habit, and if you let little things slip in that aren't good habits, all of a sudden it's big things and you have a problem.

"We have to nail in the bud any time something bad creeps in, and we want to make sure our habits are very good. That starts in practice. You don't just don't turn on a switch and say, 'It's game day.' "

The attention to detail doesn't end with Sutter. Assistant coaches Ryan McGill and Dave Lowry are sticklers, too, and have no qualms about letting veterans know when they're doing things the wrong way.

"Last year, if I curled toward the boards, nobody would say it," Conroy said. "But every time, I'm told, 'I don't want you curling and looking away from the puck.' It's little things like that.

"A lot of things are different. It's very straightforward."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos