Flames feel the agony of defeat

Calgary Flames' Ales Kotalik, David Moss, Nigel Dawes and Eric Nystrom react at the end of their...

Calgary Flames' Ales Kotalik, David Moss, Nigel Dawes and Eric Nystrom react at the end of their game against the San Jose Sharks. (REUTERS/Jack Cusano)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

The Calgary Flames congregated Wednesday morning for the annual team photo.

Chances are, not many guys were smiling. Not after being officially knocked out of playoff contention the previous night.

“It’s a terrible feeling to have,” said Flames defenceman Steve Staios.

“You wake up in the morning waiting to compete and go out there and be part of the team and compete to get into the playoffs. So when that’s not there, it’s difficult to deal with.

“It’s all about competing and having something to compete for. To get into the playoffs is what we were looking to do, and when it’s not there, it’s kind of an empty feeling.

“It was a real difficult night (Tuesday) night, but even more today because I think the reality has sort of sunk in.”

Oh, that sinking feeling.

Tuesday’s 2-1 home loss to the San Jose Sharks left Brent Sutter’s squad skating on thin ice in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot. It didn’t take long to fall through.

When the eighth-place Colorado Avalanche nipped the Vancouver Canucks in a 4-3 shootout win less than an hour later, Calgary’s fate was sealed.

For the first time since 2002-03, the Flames failed to earn an invite to the spring dance.

“It’s tough, but we have to deal with it and remember this feeling, and make sure that next year, we’re not feeling it,” said centre Matt Stajan.

“Obviously, physically, everybody is worn out in the entire league. But mentally, it has been a grind, and that’s what would have made it that much better to get into playoffs.

“But every team goes through it — that’s part of the game. You have to be prepared to play every night and we fell short. There’s nothing we can really say ...

“It’s all done.”

One by one, the disheartened Flames emerged to face a throng of media after Wednesday morning’s practice session at the Saddledome.

There were more questions than answers. Even with two games left on their slate, including Thursday’s clash with the Minnesota Wild, the bulk of the interrogation in the Flames locker-room centred around the bigger picture.

“Am I disappointed? Yes, absolutely, I am,” Sutter said.

“But you’ve got to hold your chest out and your head up and, as a coach, you’ve got to continue to make sure your team is ready to play.

“It was a difficult night (Tuesday) night and it’s been a difficult day. But tomorrow, when we wake up, hey, the sun will be out there and we’ve gotta forge ahead.

“What transpires at the end of the season when it’s all over, said and done, let’s give it time.”

For this edition of the Flames, there’ll be plenty of time to ponder what went wrong.

Saturday’s visit to Vancouver to face off against the Canucks — the team they were supposed to battle for bragging rights in the Northwest Division — will mark the end of the road on a lost season. Monday will likely be garbage bag day, but it almost felt that way Wednesday morning.

“We’re only in this situation because of ourselves,” said left-winger Eric Nystrom.

“There were stretches where we just weren’t good enough — we’d win some and then lose some. Inconsistent play is tough to get into the playoffs. There’s nobody to blame but ourselves, and that’s the way it is.

“I’d say it’s pretty fair to say that it’s on us.”


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