CALGARY - Some of you are doing your best Dennis Green impressions regarding the Calgary Flames right now.
(“They are who we thought they were.”)
Outside the organization, pundits were predicting another rocky season before the puck dropped. And now that we’re seven games in, the early review looks to back that up.
The Flames woke up Sunday morning sitting second-last in the Western Conference standings with a 2-4-1 record. They’ve lost their last two on home ice and are 1-1-1 in the first half of a six-game homestand.
Things don’t look great.
In fact, over the first 10 games of the last two seasons — which both resulted in the team missing the post-season — the Flames actually had winning records.
They didn’t start really sucking until after that point last year, when they kicked off the campaign with a 6-4 record before dropping 11 of their next 15.
And two seasons ago, they kicked off with a 7-2-1 record before stumbling through the month of January with four wins the entire month.
So while there’s time to turn things around, and inside the organization you won’t find anyone who considers this slow start as a sign of things to come, they’ll have to win much more consistently over the next month or so to avoid a third straight spring watching from the sidelines.
Even that miraculous run from December to March last season wasn’t enough to dig them out of a massive gap in the standings thanks to their first couple of months.
And right now, the problems are obvious in every category of play.
Offence has been the team’s biggest problem so far. They’ve scored two or fewer goals in five of their seven games this season, and that has been good enough for one victory — against the Edmonton Oilers in a late 2-1 comeback that saw them score twice in the last few minutes of the game.
Their annual leader in the department, Jarome Iginla, is just starting to round into form and so far has just a pair of tallies after missing the pre-season and most of training camp with back problems.
The challenge is for the Flames to turn things around offensively without hurting themselves defensively.
As for the defence, the absence of Robyn Regehr is evident. The idea was to get quicker and move the puck better, and while they generally haven’t been prone to getting pinned in their own zone for long periods of time, there is definitely a lack of intimidation from the Flames’ back end. Cory Sarich has been a physical presence, but far too many battles are being lost in the corners. Teams are taking advantage.
There have been some offensive contributions from the back end. Scott Hannan and Mark Giordano each have a goal and three points, Jay Bouwmeester has a goal and an assist, and Chris Butler has a pair of helpers, but the unit hasn’t been playing with intelligence and is making untimely bad decisions.
The Predators scored on both of their odd-man rush attempts Saturday.
Special teams have been another sore spot. During the last half of last season, they had a powerplay that was clicking. So far, it’s been inconsistent and incapable of scoring at key moments in games.
There’s time — 75 games, to be exact — to prove the doubters wrong, but right now, those pre-season predictions are playing out.
We’ll see if they get themselves off the hook.