Sutter's not Flames' problem

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

CALGARY -- The easy way to explain the recent offensive struggles of the Calgary Flames would be to pin it on Brent Sutter's system.

The simple thinking would be because the Flames have made a commitment to defence — going from 23rd last year to fourth this season prior to Friday night’s action — they’ve sacrificed offence.

Pure bunk.

Calgary’s goal-scoring struggles have nothing to do with the expectations the head coach has on his team when it comes to keeping pucks out of their net. The plan of attack has proven the past few games the Flames can generate enough chances to score more than one or two goals per game.

So has history.

Look how the New Jersey Devils fared when Sutter was at the helm for two seasons.

Last season, a year in which the Devils set a franchise record with 51 wins, they were in the middle of the pack in goal scoring.

To achieve that much offence, while maintaining a top-five defensive game even without the services of sure-fire hall-of-fame goalie Martin Brodeur for the majority of the season, the Devils had players go through breakout campaigns. Zach Parise went from 32 goals to 45 and Jamie Langenbrunner also set a career best with 29 goals.

Sure, during the 2007-08 season — Sutter’s first year in New Jersey — the Devils were closer to the bottom of the league in offensive attack, but it proves players can have individual success to go with team success within Sutter’s plan.

He knows it, too, which is why Sutter continues to push his club to stay the course despite posting just one victory in the past five games and struggling to light the lamp in all of those outings.

“It’s a little adversity we have to handle the right way,” Sutter said. “It’s about culture, and our culture has to be this way. We, all of a sudden, can’t think we’re a different team because we haven’t scored like we would like to. I’ve been through this process and experienced it first-hand as a coach. You can’t waiver on that side of it, get off track of what you’re about.”

The way the Flames have performed the last three games, he has a strong case.

Over the course of Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over Vancouver, Monday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Colorado and Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh, the Flames have been the attacking team.

They’ve outshot their opponents by a 124-69 margin. Scoring chances haven’t been all that closer.

They’re generating opportunities and creating second chances. They just haven’t received the reward.

The key, Sutter believes, is to not deviate from the program, and it appears the words are being heard.

“Sometimes, before a really good run as a team, it breaks open, and then you all get in a groove because the good habits are there,” said captain Jarome Iginla. “We’re getting shots to the net and quality scoring chances. We went over it, and it’s where we want it to be.”

Still, some changes are needed. For starters, players have to bury their chances. Also, Mark Giordano has been the lone defenceman jumping in the rush and it’s paid some dividends.

It wouldn’t hurt for Jay Bouwmeester to do the same.

A little creativity wouldn’t hurt.

“It’s not just about hard work. We’re tyring to work hard, but we’ve got to be a little more dynamic,” Iginla said. “Our line, we’re playing against top lines, and it’s our job to play them straight up and try to beat them.

“When you’re only scoring one line as a team, you feel it.”


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