CALGARY - His team is sitting in 11th spot in the NHL’s Western Conference.
With nine games remaining in the regular season, the Calgary Flames are a couple of points behind the playoff pace.
So it seems a little late for Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter to be forced to make a plea for his team to show more passion.
Yet there he was Monday, in the aftermath dropping games to the 29th and 30th place teams on the weekend, imploring his charges to find their inner fire.
“Our team is a real good hockey team when we have emotion and we have intensity, but when we don’t bring that, we’re not a very good hockey team,” Sutter said after a third of his squad was put through the paces in Monday’s practice before venturing on the road.
“When we have it, we can play and compete against anybody in this league. That tells you what the makeup of your team is and what the strength and identity is. We need to have that emotion and intensity firing on all cylinders.
“It’s not about Xs and Os right now. You know your systems. You know what you have to do,” Sutter continued. “It’s about having the will and the compete needed to beat your opposition. We got off that these last two games.”
And now the Flames are skating into do-or-die territory.
If the Flames run the table during their upcoming three-game trek, which starts Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche (7 p.m., Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960), they’ll certainly keep themselves in the playoff hunt. But should they continue to struggle, the Flames will be in the land of “wait-until-next-year”.
“If you pick up points in those games, you give yourself a chance to be in the hunt those last five games. That’s what we need to do,” said Flames forward David Moss. “We beat these teams and we give ourselves a chance.”
A few days ago, the Flames were staring at a perfect position. Beat the Edmonton Oilers on Friday and they would have been in a playoff position and in control of their destiny.
Now, after falling in that game and losing 2-1 in a shootout to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets a couple of nights later, the Flames need a winning spree and help on the out-of-town scoreboard.
“Every time we’ve been written off, we’ve found a way to claw back into it and defy the odds,” said Flames winger Lee Stempniak. “We have a lot of guys who believe we’re going to make it. There wasn’t a huge sense of panic after Sunday’s game. We got a point. We know we can do better, and we can do that in Colorado.”
Added Flames winger Blake Comeau: “We still control our own fate. We know it’s not going to be easy.
“They are in somewhat the same position as us. They need to get points. We realize that, so we know we need to come out hard and play hard.”
The good news for the Flames is they go to Colorado looking to run their winning streak against the Avs to 10 games overall and eight straight at the Pepsi Center.
The bad news is they’re facing an Avs team on a 6-1-1 roll.
Or is it so bad?
“This team seems to play to the level of its opposition,” Sutter said. “That’s what you work on as a coaching staff.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing the Edmontons, Columbuses, Colorados, San Joses — every game is an important game for your own team.
“Our play has to be at a certain level, and our emotion has to be at a certain level.”
Time will tell whether that message is heeded.
On Twitter @SUNRandySportak