Time is of the essence for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

There aren't many years left for the Calgary Flames' core players to have their best chance to win a Stanley Cup.

Which may be the biggest reason players such as Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow, Olli Jokinen, Robyn Regehr and Miikka Kiprusoff had best buy into what head coach Brent Sutter is selling.

The one race no athlete wins is the one against Father Time. Iginla celebrated his 32nd birthday in the summer, while Langkow turned 33 last month, Jokinen will be 31 in December, Regehr 30 in April and Kiprusoff 33 in less than a couple of weeks.

The way the NHL is heading, players need to be young and fast to win. Sure, veteran experience will always be needed, but it revolves around youth, and a speedy core.

Calgary's crew is by no means ready for the old-folks home, but the clock is ticking.

So if Iginla wants to win a Stanley Cup with the Flames, and not just hold the all-time scoring marks, it will take ensuring he and the rest of the team figure out the new gameplan.

Yeah, the team is a solid 4-2-1 to start the season, but those wins came on the backs of great goaltending in crunch time by Kiprusoff, powerplay goals and a fourth-line performance for the ages against the Montreal Canadiens.

The past two seasons wasted away a couple of prime years for the likes of Iginla, Regehr, Langkow and Kiprusoff. This time, Flames GM Darryl Sutter made the right move by hiring the coach they should have brought into the fold in the summer of 2007, when the decision was made to replace Jim Playfair.

You know full well Brent Sutter will fulfil his side of the bargain.

Now, the onus is on to the Flames to show they really want to be champions.

That means committing to the defensive-zone play needed to win.

That means no longer sitting back after earning a lead.

That means playing the ultimate team game.

They have a couple of years to do it, tops.

Flaming C-notes

Among those watching the Flames melt down in Chicago was Steve Yzerman, who's heading up the Olympic team selections, along with Doug Armstrong. Not a great night for Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf to be part of a team that blew a 5-0 lead, since they're not locks for the team, unlike Jay Bouwmeester. Armstrong and Kevin Lowe were in Columbus the next night, too ... The last player we'd have guessed would struggle in the early going of the season is Daymond Langkow. Probably the team's most consistent player over the past few years, Langkow looked so good in pre-season. No way could it be imagined he'd have only one goal and one assist in seven games and be a league-worst minus-9 ... For the record, Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Regehr also looked to be in great form in the pre-season, and they're all struggling, too.

Hockey talky

The big shock of Alex Ovechkin's 12 points in the first six games: No powerplay goals ... Only a handful of games into his tenure as the No.-1 goalie in Chicago and already fears abound whether Cristobal Huet can play at the United Center anymore. The dislike from fans was eye-popping when Calgary scored three goals in a four-shot span on Huet, but made worse when Antti Niemi came in and held the fort in the Blackhawks' 6-5 comeback and then backstopped the team to a win over the Oilers ... Have to be worried Barry Trotz is going to soon lose his job in Nashville.

You don't say

"Well, if I had known we'd be 0-6, I still would have done that trade. I can't draft a player who is going have that kind of impact this year in this draft. This isn't about being better this year. But I'm not annoyed at any reaction from the fans. When you're 0-6, you should be grateful they're still coming to the games."

Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke on the Phil Kessel swap, which cost first-round picks in 2010 and 2011.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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