CALGARY - Nobody can question whether Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla and head coach Brent Sutter are on the same page.
At least according to them.
They both spent time Friday insisting they’re in sync. And both stated there are no concerns with the face of the franchise buying into the program Sutter is continuing to implement at the Saddledome.
In the wake of the team’s 6-5 loss to the Colordao Avalanche, Sutter said “our top players have to buy into what we’re doing”. Naturally, the belief is a big finger was being pointed at Iginla, and his willingness to follow the coach’s gameplan.
After Friday’s practice, Sutter wanted to clarify — essentially saying people misread his words.
“I never mentioned anybody individually. I always talk about our team,” Sutter said. “We have a lot of top players. We work on trying to get ourselves better on a daily basis, both staff and players working together. I want to see all our players have success and succeed, and we’ve got to be a rock-solid team to do so and we’ve got to play a certain way to do so.
“That was my point.”
Iginla insisted he’s been on-board from the start.
“We believe in the coach’s message. There’s nobody saying, ‘Oh man, he has no idea what he’s talking about.’ Nobody is saying that,” Iginla said.
“It’s not about buying in. Last year, we weren’t good enough. We didn’t make the playoffs. We didn’t play to our ability, but we didn’t create enough (offence). The big message last year was being a good defensive club, and we did. People say we didn’t make the playoffs last year because we didn’t buy in. No, we bought in. We might not have been good enough and we might have made mistakes, but we did buy in and we were a good defensive team.
“This year, we know we have to be good on both sides. That’s our goal. We’ve had hiccups, had some mistakes, but we’ve also done some good things.
So, is Sutter guilty of using the wrong words?
It seems he meant players aren’t staying with the system through extreme adversity or, in the case of the last two games, when the squad has built a lead.
“It’s getting it going on a consistent basis, where we can say and we know every night, ‘This is what we expect from ourselves. This is what we expect from our group. This is the way we need to play, and how we have to play to be successful,’ ” Sutter said
“It’s about a whole group of guys we need playing at their level we think they can play at, and doing it for 60 minutes, and making sure the next guys in line are doing the same thing.”
By no means is he charging players are more concerned about individual glory than team success.
“What I’m saying is we need to be a team willing to play our system for 60 minutes,” he said. “Every player in there, and coaches know, individual goals always come second.
“I do not have one thing negative about anybody inside that dressing room. They’re all very caring guys, I’ve said that before, but we just have to find our way to being a consistent team on a nightly basis.”
The perception, however, when a coach says players aren’t buying into the system is the opposite.
Iginla adamantly stated such a belief would be inaccurate, saying nobody is “sitting in here grumpy if we win and they don’t get goals or assists.”
“We’ve definitely made mistakes and we’ve had some mental errors. I’d say it’s our focus, the killer instinct and putting (teams) away,” Iginla said. “We might have had the hiccups, absolutely, but I don’t believe it’s about guys being selfish and I don’t believe it’s about guys not buying in.
“I take it personally because I think guys are trying hard in that area and we’ve made some strides, and we’re gonna keep making them.”