Flames put through paces

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

You didn't have to be on the ice listening to Brent Sutter's early practice pep talk to know what it was all about.

All you had to do was watch the morning's drills.

"That's for us to discuss internally. I don't think we have to comment on what was said," Dion Phaneuf said after the hard-hitting and heavy skating that filled more than an hour of their day. "I think the practice showed what we deserved."

With the Calgary Flames dropping two straight games they could have won with more physical play and hard work, they were forced to put out the effort yesterday.

Even for professional athletes, the session was exhausting.

But it wasn't unexpected.

"We all knew it was coming, I think. It wasn't a surprise to anyone," said Flames winger Curtis Glencross, who was one of the guys singled out after a poor performance Saturday night in a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

"We're not competing enough. We're kind of hurting ourselves."

Never one to shy away from a little contact, even in practice, Phaneuf was just as willing as everyone else in the locker-room to learn the lesson.

"That was basically the lesson of the day -- we did it to ourselves," Phaneuf said. "That's what you get when you're not playing well."

How they respond remains to be seen.

A bigger wonder is why it took a bag skate and one-on-one drills that pitted teammate against teammate in physical battles worthy of football practices for Flames players to take note of what Sutter is trying to teach?

"The words of the day were work hard, learn how to practise hard, try to kick some old habits and get some new thinking in here -- he was trying to drill it into us," Phaneuf said.

It shouldn't have to be drilled. Sutter said himself in his media gathering it has nothing to do with systems anymore.

It's all about effort.

Expecting the Flames to give their best every night -- and every morning during practice for that matter -- shouldn't be a struggle.

But Sutter is finding what his predecessors Mike Keenan and Jim Playfair discovered was a challenge when they took the reins from a demanding Darryl Sutter -- the Flames need constant attention.

"I remember when Darryl used to come in and you just knew (it was going to be tough)," Craig Conroy recalled of the days when the current GM was coaching and having to put the team through its paces in practice because of a lack of effort in games.

"You knew coming to practice (yesterday) it wasn't gonna be good."

Lacking execution in a couple of the early drills only added to Brent Sutter's anger yesterday, which led to more skating and more hitting.

But you have to believe the physical aspect of practice was coming either way.

It's arguably the biggest missing ingredient the last couple of games.

"If we got out there and hit teams like we just hit our own teammates, we can be a much better team," Conroy said. "We've got a big team, and you could see it in practice that when we're knocking guys over and battling it only creates more room for us.

"He let it be known this is how we have to play in a game."

If they don't, you might see a sellout crowd at the Saddledome later this week for practice following a two-game road trip.

It was that entertaining. Just not for the players.

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos