Flames season sunk

The Calgary Flames bench reacts to the third goal by Minnesota Wild.  (REUTERS/Craig Lassig)

The Calgary Flames bench reacts to the third goal by Minnesota Wild. (REUTERS/Craig Lassig)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

In all likelihood, their season is already over.

In more frank terms, they’re pretty much screwed.

Fourteenth in the Western Conference — eight points out of a playoff spot as of Wednesday morning — the Flames have lost three straight games and five of their last seven.

They can’t score, can’t keep up with quicker teams, and can’t find ways to win close games. Even when they play pretty decent games, they’re falling to teams that aren’t as good on paper.

History has shown that anything is possible — the Flames watched a massive division lead of their own disappear when they went cold down the stretch in 2007 and the red-hot Vancouver Canucks passed them to claim the Northwest crown.

But not only do these Flames need help in the form of a collapse by one of the current playoff contenders, they have to put together massive strings of victories to do their part in an unlikely surge into the top eight.

We’re talking as many as 30 wins in their last 47 games. To hit the magic number of about 95 points, they need to average about 1.4 points per game for the rest of the regular season.

With 31 points in 35 games played so far, they’ve averaged just .89 per contest to this point.

That’s a pretty dramatic turnaround.

And while players and coaches can’t possibly call it quits in spite of the next-to-impossible odds they face, management and ownership need to start focusing on the future.

Before this team inevitably checks out mentally for the year, it’s time to assess the assets and think about getting value before they depreciate.

Start with Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars.

Start Henrik Karlsson for a second straight game. See what he can do. Who knows what good could come of it? His emergence as a potential No.-1 goaltender in the NHL could make Miikka Kiprusoff expendable.

No Flames player would have more value on the trade market than the Finnish netminder.

Brent Sutter certainly has nothing to lose based on the way Karlsson has been playing recently. And the organization has a lot to gain — draft picks and talented young players — should it decide to give the 34-year-old Kiprusoff a chance to go to a new team with a serious chance to win.

He deserves it. He probably wouldn’t even fight it.

Offer Jarome Iginla that same option.

If he wants to stick around in Calgary, he’s earned that right. But if he decides to move on so the team can potentially find its next young leader, he’s earned the right to move to a winner and have another crack at a Stanley Cup, too.

Same goes for Robyn Regehr.

This team has more no-trade clauses in player contracts than any other in the NHL, but if things stay the same from management personalities on down, then it would be tough to blame those who own that option for waiving it.

Whomever is assigned the job of taking this team into a new era as GM (and it should be pretty clear by now Darryl Sutter isn’t that guy), surround what is considered the currently ‘young’ core — guys such as 27-year-old Matt Stajan, 29-year-old Rene Bourque, 27-year-old Jay Bouwmeester and 27-year-old Mark Giordano — with real youngsters and let them learn and grow together.

It can’t be any more frustrating than seeing a veteran-filled club continue to struggle.

Bring up T.J. Brodie. Take Mikael Backlund off the bench. Don’t dare consider dealing a prospect before this year’s deadline.

Sutter’s moves have handcuffed the team in terms of cap space and contracts. Olli Jokinen, Tom Kostopoulos, Ales Kotalik, Niklas Hagman and Raitis Ivanans could all still be around a year from now.

But it’s time to focus on what the team should look like a couple of seasons down the road. And do something about it soon.

It will likely take at least that long to see any real improvement if things remain the same.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve

Santa Clause

No-movement contracts

(Can’t be sent to minors, or traded unless players Oks deal)

Jarome Iginla $7 million

Daymond Langkow $4.5 million

Olli Jokinen $3 million

Alex Tanguay $1.7 million

Robyn Regehr $4.02 million

Cory Sarich $3.6 million

Miikka Kiprusoff $5.83 million

No-trade deals

(Can be sent to minors, must clear waivers. Can’t be traded)

Matt Stajan $3.5 million

Rene Bourque $3.33 million

Ales Kotalik $3 million

Jay Bouwmeester $6.68 million


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