SUN Hockey Pool

Will Flames rebound tonight?

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

We're about to find out what the Calgary Flames are made of.

Tonight, and over the course of the next two weeks, the Flames will either rebound from the humiliation of Tuesday's bloodbath or they'll continue a slide that has many people believing its just the same old club heading towards the same old first round exit.

And Brent Sutter is as anxious as anyone to see which way they'll go.

“Enough is enough,” spat the Flames coach Wednesday, sting stinging from a 9-1 loss that represents the lowest point of the Darryl Sutter era in Calgary

“You look at what we've been through this year. There are ups and downs but, at some point, you need to figure it out. We're at that point. It's important that we do respond the right way. It can't be a wishy-washy thing. Responding is the right wording for it. Actions speak louder than words. All the right things are being said but there has to be production.”

More to the point there has to be accountability. Cohesiveness. An elevated compete level. Heck, with five straight losses, there has to be a win. A bunch of ’em.

Either that, or everyone from Sutter to Joe Public is going to believe the core group of players in that room are indeed coach-killers who can’t possibly flourish here as is.

No more excuses about “learning the system” or getting settled in any way: The dress rehearsal is over and now it’s showtime. Crunchtime.

“There’s a certain way it has to be done — everyone has to buy in,” said Sutter, who figures it all boils down to the players realizing what sort of effort and mindset it takes to win consistently at the NHL level.

“We’re 50 games into the season. How much longer do we have to go? Are we getting it or not getting it? Hey, let’s get it because that gives us our best chance to succeed. You look back at teams that have success over and over again. I just came from one (New Jersey) and there’s a reason why it happens. I know that firsthand. That’s the way it has to be done here. I’m not going to waver on it. It doesn’t work any other way.”

Fact is, the last time the Flames suffered through similar humiliation (a 7-1 loss to tonight’s visitor, Chicago) they rebounded to collect 11 of a possible 12 points.

A stinker in San Jose last year was also the sort of wake up call necessary to return to being considered a top-10 team in the NHL.

At season’s end, this is indeed the moment Flames fans, players and management will look back on as the turning point of the season —one way or another. Especially considering the Blackhawks are perhaps the best measuring stick in the league.

Only the Flames players can decide if the public flogging and questioning of their character is justified.

Sutter is convinced he’s changed the culture here, but the last two weeks suggest otherwise, prompting most observers to reiterate the old boys club needs to be broken up.

“Everyone talks about responsibility, but now you have to show it,” said Sutter following a spirited-yet-civil practice.

“In September, I knew some things would have to be different. The only time you get past it is when there is an acceptance and say, ‘this is how it is now.’ We’re at that point. Let’s start accepting what’s here and let’s start doing what we’re supposed to be doing. Maybe some embarrassment along the way makes it hit a head here and say enough is enough.”

Rene Bourque agreed.

“I hope so — after getting a beating like that there’s no reason why we shouldn’t come out and respond, especially at home where our record isn’t as good as we want,” he said, agreeing the bad press is justified.

“It’s not the first time we hit a little rough patch. But we had a similar result last year in San Jose and we responded well after that for the next few months so hopefully we do something similar.”

Indeed, the real Calgary Flames are about to stand up.

For better or worse.


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