Flames hope to keep momentum
DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
|Calgary Flames' Tim Jackman celebrates a goal with teammates against the Colorado Avalanche. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)
The news surprisingly came after the Calgary Flames had snapped a three-game losing skid.
But once Darryl Sutter stepped down as GM, it would have been easy for the club to fold the tent and consider the year a writeoff, leaving it up to interim GM Jay Feaster to clean up the mess.
Instead, the Flames dug in their heals, pushed back a little harder and, heading into their contest against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, put together a modest three-game winning streak, matching their longest of the season.
“It’s always tough to see somebody lose their job because of us,” said Flames centre Olli Jokinen. “If we would have played better earlier in the year, Darryl would have been able to keep his job. We take full responsibility. At the end of the day, the GM is the one who puts the team together, but he’s not the one out there playing.
“You have to go out and play hard. We respect Darryl so much, we want to show everyone that he put a good team together, we want to play for him, even though he’s no longer our GM. At the end of the day, he’s the guy that put this team together. Our message is pretty clear in the room, we want to play hard for him, to make him look good, too.”
The Flames went into their contest against the Oilers having beaten an explosive Colorado Avalanche team 3-2 the night before.
They had also taken out the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars on their current win streak. They hadn’t won three straight prior to that since October.
“I think we played very well before everything happened,” said Flames winger Alex Tanguay. “But as far as we’re concerned, we feel that Darryl has put us in a position, with the players that we have, to be in a playoff spot. We’re nowhere near that right now and it’s desperation time for us right now.
“As far as a player is concerned, if you need that to effect your performance and if you need that to play better, you’re definitely in the wrong business. You get paid, you have a job to do and your job is to put your best effort out there to help your team, night in and night out.”
As a team built to contend for a playoff spot this season, the Flames were underachieving, forcing a change at the top.
They were seven points out of a playoff spot at the start of the day on Saturday.
“I think we’re in a position where we’re desperate and we need to find a way to win games,” Tanguay said. “In the last few games we’ve been outworking other teams and we’ve been pretty successful at it.
“We know Jay is going to have an input as far as what the team is going to be doing over the future, but as of right now, I don’t think anything’s changed. We just have to try and put our best effort forward and win games.”
The Flames figure they will need between 92 and 94 points in order to make the post-season this year.
That leaves them needing to earn roughly 55 points in their remaining 44 games.
“It’s like our playoffs started on Dec. 25, so that was a nice Christmas gift,” smiled Tanguay. “Our goal is still for us to make the playoffs and we know, in order for us to get there, we still have lots of work to do.”