CALGARY — Everybody is beating the Calgary Flames these days.
Having extended their losing skid to six games with Thursday night’s 3-1 defeat to Chicago and fallen outside the Western Conference’s elite eight, the Flames run the risk of losing the mental battle.
Players have a tendency to kick themselves when they’re down.
“We probably deserve to have ourselves beaten up a little bit. Let’s not kid ourselves,” said coach Brent Sutter said after Friday’s practice. “It’s how you handle it, respond to it and deal with it so you can correct the issues at hand. That’s what is important.
“We’ve got to win games. No one is happy here. We’ve lost six games in a row. We’ve lost games at home. We haven’t played the way we need to play.
“Darn rights, it’s urgent time, and you have to look at it that way and deal with it the right way.”
So, anyone expecting Sutter will be handling his charges with kid gloves can guess again.
By no means has the Flames bench boss cracked the whip the way people may expect or call for, but he isn’t playing patty cake or letting anybody cry on his shoulder with a tale of “woe is me.”
Practice Friday started with a taste of being a skating-only session, but after a couple of quick bursts, the troops were gathered so drills could be explained. The message was to either execute the drills at high speed and with intensity or the pucks would be picked up and everyone would skate for an hour.
The result was a workmanlike session, with battle drills galore.
Call it a case of the Al Arbour effect, Sutter’s head coach when he broke into the league with the New York Islanders.
“Al was one of those guys who was firm on how things had to be done all the time and there was no questions asked and you trusted him in it,” Sutter said. “He could be hard on you and he knew there were times to back off, but one thing he expected from his players every day was the compete-level being there every day, whether it was in practice or in the games.
“That reflects back to what I say about practices — you practice the way you play, and he was big on that.”
Sutter played for a litany of coaches during his career, and from those experiences knows different bench bosses handle times like these different ways.However, he said, “One thing that was always constant was commitment from everyone to resolve it and get it fixed and correct the problems.”
There was no “bag” skate, but the coach insists he’ll keep hammering on the details.
“He’s intense and he wants what he wants,” said Flames centre Craig Conroy. “He hasn’t been getting it from us.
“He wasn’t mad for the sake of being mad. He’s got a purpose. It’s about going out there, competing, skating, moving your feet, battling.”
Added defenceman Jay Bouwmeester: “Everyone’s just got to get back on the same page, get working and not making the mistakes that cost us games — turning pucks over and not doing what we’re supposed to, be it on the forecheck or in our own end. There’s going to be mistakes made, but it can’t be for a lack of work.
“That’s how you work your way out of these things.”
Ultimately, no player will be allowed to feel sorry for himself.
“The coaching staff is doing everything they can. Now, it’s up to the guys in this room. We have to go out there, play the way we’re supposed to and battle,” Conroy said.
“We have to believe in one another, help guys out and be positive. We need to stick together as a team more than ever.
“This is when a team can come together or it won’t. I’ve got a feeling this team wants to come together.”