The Calgary Flames wrapped up a seven-game road trip Thursday night by getting blown out 9-0 by the Boston Bruins. They haven't won in five games, although they managed to eke out a point for a regulation tie four games ago.
While it is becoming more and more clear that the Flames are not talented enough to make a playoff run, the fact that they are rolling over and dying lately speaks to a lack of heart and dedication up and down the roster, and that is truly unacceptable.
Head coach Brent Sutter's defense-first mindset has not been popular with the team for quite some time now. Team captain Jarome Iginla in particular has not been able to find the balance between taking care of his defensive responsibilities and meeting his own targets for scoring. The net result is that they're not scoring and they're not defending.
The Flames have the fifth-fewest goals for (100) and the third-most goals against (123) in the NHL's Western Conference right now.
A game like Thursday's, however, also indicates that this team has quit trying and that's an even bigger problem. It's one thing to simply not have the horses and end up getting beaten by a better team. Just up the road from Calgary, the Edmonton Oilers are continuing to experience growing pains as they stick with their youth movement. At this time, they don't have the experience to win consistently, but they have been showing some improvement over the last couple years and seem poised to turn the corner and become a quality hockey team.
Not so the Flames.
Calgary has a number of veterans on the roster who have been to the Stanley Cup finals and know what it takes to win. They just aren't showing it.
When the Flames made their last Cup run in 2004, they beat the odds by ousting three successive division champs to get to the finals. On paper, the Flames were outmatched in every series, but they persevered, mainly by outworking their opponents, battling in the corners, taking the man, fighting for every opportunity. That took heart. It took determination. It took dedication to the team.
The current version of this team doesn't have that.
Ironically, the Flames lack fire. And this is completely unacceptable. When you are a highly-paid athlete, there is an expectation that you will earn that paycheck by going out and doing your job to the best of your abilities every night. These guys, however, are just going through the motions.
Has Sutter lost the team? It looks that way. The players aren't executing the system, don't seem to care and, as a result, a quality team like Bruins can steamroll them. That shows a lack of respect for their coach and a lack of pride. Both completely unacceptable in a group of professional athletes.
I get that the modern sports world has a significant number of pampered, prima-donna players who don't like to be pushed and don't respond well to demands that they put team ahead of personal stats. But that doesn't make it right, nor does it excuse a team like the Flames for lying down and quitting on each other.
They need to look themselves in the mirror and start asking themselves if this is what they're prepared to settle for or if they're going to knuckle down and find a way to do what it takes to earn a playoff spot this year.
In the meantime, it's shaping up to be another long winter for the Flames and their fans.