SUN Hockey Pool

'A' for effort from patient Flames GM

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA — At first glance, there could be some thought Darryl Sutter’s presence on his team’s road trip would mean fire and brimstone is coming.

The Calgary Flames have just two wins in 12 games, so the GM could very well be poised to remind the charges of the expectations that surround them.

However, Sutter — who joined up with the squad in time to see Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils — was preaching patience after the practice in preparation for Friday’s matinee against the Philadelphia Flyers.

“We could have won all three games. We’ve played pretty well. We could just as easily be 3-0 on it. It’s disappointing we don’t have two more points, but the work has been there and the commitment’s been there,” Sutter said of Calgary’s performance in the first three tilts of this five-game trip.

“I’d rather be .500 right now, but at the same time,

I like the way we’ve played on the trip.”

The Flames opened with an overtime loss in Detroit before falling to the New York Rangers in a one-goal game and dropping the Devils clash in the skills contest.

They had a two-goal lead with 10 minutes remaining before falling to the Red Wings, and outplayed both the Rangers and Devils only to fall short.

Sutter is as disappointed as anybody, but he says he believes a turnaround is around the corner because the team has shown a willingness to stick with the gameplan and displayed the required work ethic.

“There was a point about three or four weeks ago where I questioned our work ethic, and I don’t now,” he said.

“That’s the most important part because that’s your leadership group.

“When Robyn (Regehr), Bo (Jay Bouwmeester) and Jarome (Iginla) are your hardest working guys, and you recognize that because you know them, then you know there are positives.”

That said, he’s not going to spout all is rosy outside the win-loss record.

“Our goals-against has to be better. As long as we keep our goals-against down, we’ll be winning. It’s simple,” Sutter said.

“This big mantra about needing to score more goals isn’t right. You do it over the course of the year. We have enough goals in our lineup, if everybody’s healthy, but our goals against has to be better.

“Score three and give up two-and-a-half, you’re a playoff team. Give up three, you’re not. Over the course of the year, that is a fact, not an opinion.”

The Flames sit 19th in the league in goals-against after placing fifth last season.

They’ve surrendered an average of a half-goal per game more this season compared to the 2009-10 campaign, while, in Sutter’s opinion, having a positive ratio of scoring chances for compared to the number against.

“We’ve given up soft goals as a team. It’s not being critical of the goaltending, it’s that we’ve given up soft goals at points of games because of faceoffs or because of turnovers or because of odd-man rushes, something like that,” he said.

“Those are things not involving the system or style of play. Those are individual responsibility plays.

“In New York, everybody said (the difference) was a bad penalty (to Curtis Glencross). It was a bad faceoff loss without anybody getting out to the shooter. It was just a shot to the goalie. That was more important than the penalty.”

David Moss lost the draw and Rene Bourque wasn’t quick enough to cover the point man.

With the Flames sitting 14th in the Western Conference, it’s easy to find followers ready to throw in the towel. He’s obviously not at that point.

“We’re six points out of a playoff spot, and that’s where we were when we left for the trip,” he said. “I’d like to get a couple of those back and get a couple of players back.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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