Sutter, Iginla not on same page

Whether captain Jarome Iginla is buying into the gameplan Brent Sutter is laying down these days...

Whether captain Jarome Iginla is buying into the gameplan Brent Sutter is laying down these days has yet to be determined. But one thing seems certain, it appears as if the star and the Flames coach are on different pages with the team lack intensity. (QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

CALGARY - Brent Sutter is practically begging his players to buy in.

He wants each of them to depend on teammates to get things done in every area of the ice in order to have success.

But more than anyone, the Calgary Flames head coach needs that from his captain.

If Jarome Iginla can shake the idea he’s the only guy who can carry this team offensively and focus on other important aspects of his game first, others will follow his lead.

And then, the goals will likely come anyway.

At least that’s the vision Sutter has. During a 20-minute interview Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena, he made that pretty clear.

After his own 10-minute talk inside the locker-room moments later, it was hard to tell whether Iginla really sees things the same way.

“I understand individuals have done certain things in the past. Maybe I’m asking them to change their game a little bit for the betterment of the team. That’s probably what I’m doing to some degree, yes,” Sutter said during an impassioned scrum. “It’s the only way we’re going to have success.”

He points to teams like the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings as models of consistency, suggesting they have formed identities and committed to a style of play with and without the puck.

He offers Pavel Datsyuk — who the Flames will play Wednesday night at The Joe (5 p.m., TSN) — as an example of a guy who is perennially up for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward despite the fact he’s also one of the most creative offensive talents in the NHL.

“We don’t get engaged in our team game too much,” Sutter quipped. “There’s too much individualism.

“Some guys might be fighting it offensively, but what’s your security blanket always? Your security blanket is the guy sitting next to you, the guy across the room from you, the guy from the other side of the room … and thinking as a team.

“That’s what makes you feel good every day coming to the rink, knowing that, ‘I might have had a tough night last night, but boy our team was good. I’ll get through it because I know our team is good.’

“It’s that mental aspect. Thinking it the right way. It’s so important for success for any team.”

It seems Iginla still feels he’s got to continue to be the go-to guy, rack up 40 or so goals and 80-plus points, or the team won’t have the kind of success the coach is talking about.

He bristled a little, stung a bit by the suggestion maybe he’s being asked to make a move the way Steve Yzerman did in Detroit years ago by becoming more of a shut-down guy (who also happened to continue to accumulate more points than most in the league).

“I don’t think the situations are quite similar,” Iginla said. “When he switched, the Wings were an offensive powerhouse. They had (Sergei) Fedorov and (Luc) Robitaille and (Brendan) Shanahan. That’s what the team needed, and he took that role on. If I just turn into a pure defensive player, I don’t think you’re going to say that’s exactly what our team needs.

“I know there’s a combination. I’m trying on the defensive side to keep improving, and I will. There’s definitely been some breakdowns and things I can improve on.

“I do know you’ve got to be good on both sides of it. But I still think our team will need some offensive production. That’s hurt us. I haven’t been good enough. And our line hasn’t been good enough.”

That brings us back to Sutter, who says he’s “demanding” now rather than “asking” the team to buy in more than two seasons into his three-year term.

“It’s not their fault. It’s individual success but not a lot of team success (they’ve experienced), so that’s what you’re bred into. But as you get older in your career, the sooner you can accept change in your game, the better off you are and the longer you seem to play.

“And be the best you can be at that. It’s nothing against what you’ve accomplished. It’s always what’s right for the team.

“I was one of those players. I went from being a second-line (player) to a first-line to the second line to the third, and I finished my career as a fourth-line player. But I was able to play 18 years, and I had some success. Went to the Stanley Cup finals four times — won it twice.

“And my role was different every one of those times. But it’s always what is best for the environment of your hockey club, of your team.”

The sooner Iginla realizes that and deflates some of the pressure he feels from the outside as well as the pressure he puts on himself, the better the Flames’ hopes for turning things around.

Who knows? He might even put himself back on pace for 30-plus goals. More importantly, he’ll be out there for fewer against.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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