Chance ahead to change for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:08 AM ET

It’s ugly for the Calgary Flames today.

They’re in 15th place, also known as last, in the NHL’s Western Conference, failed to win either game in Southern California on the most recent road trip, boast a 4-5-3 mark in the last 12 games and haven’t won consecutive games since late October.

As positive as anyone wants to be about the effort and performances being better in those dozen outings, it’s sobering to think that’s the best the Flames have managed following the 7-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in mid-November, which ended a stretch of regulation-time losses in seven of eight games that sent them plummeting.

Now a steady stream of rumours have smothered the Saddledome.

Pick your theory:

- Head coach Brent Sutter must go, and GM Darryl Sutter will step into that bench-boss role, too.

- Darryl Sutter will be axed, and assistant GM Jay Feaster will be promoted.

- Both Sutters will receive the pink slip, and Feaster will be given the keys to start a massive rebuild.

At the 30-game mark, it’s bleak, even though Jarome Iginla has regained his form the last 15 outings, goalies Miikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Karlsson have been solid enough, and a trio of blueliners in Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano are delivering to expectations.

Add the resurgence of Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison, Rene Bourque’s pace for a career-first 30-goal season and Curtis Glencross heading toward a 20-goal year, and things should be better.

They’re not.

With their 12-15-3 record, the Flames are even officially behind the Edmonton Oilers, who have won seven of 10 and are generating excitement in the Alberta capital.

Are there any positives amidst this mess?

Maybe.

For starters, did it appear the Flames were a team ready to throw in the towel against the Anaheim Ducks in Friday’s 3-2 shootout loss to get rid of their coach?

It didn’t seem that way. Sure, they needed a third-period comeback, but the pair of goals to tie the game were just reward for being the better squad.

The recurring theme is ‘falling short.’

The Flames are 4-7-3 in one-goal games and played well enough to win more often than not in those tilts. That’s a team without enough talent, not one looking for a coaching change.

Therefore, if the Flames want Brent Sutter to keep his job — or just to get out of the basement — they must turn those close losses into wins.

Their best opportunity is around the corner.

Even their most ardent critic has to admit the Flames had a tough go over the first 30 games — especially since the first week of November.

The Anaheim outing ended a stretch of 13 of 18 games on the road with multiple games in every time zone, including five in the Eastern area all coming on that seven-day trip which included games in Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The hardest part of their schedule is done. The next 10 games offer an opportunity to make hay.

True, this Flames team hasn’t proven it’s a sure thing against anybody, but considering they face Monday’s opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets twice, the Minnesota Wild twice and Toronto, Dallas, Buffalo, Colorado, Edmonton and the New York Islanders in the coming spell, the chance for a winning streak is there.

“A lot of those team are ones we’ve got to catch, so it’s nice to play them,” Iginla said.

Should they play as well as they did against the Ducks, it’s possible a turnaround is around the corner.

Sure, it may just mean up a few spots in the standings and eventually just mean a worse draft choice when they miss the playoffs, but the Flames must believe 52 games is enough time for a rebound.

That’s, of course, provided they build off a strong outing and get over the hump.

“There’s no other way to do it. Just keep going,” Sutter said. “That’s the effort you need. Everyone has to dig in and trust each other that we can get through this.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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