The Flames Factor: Calgary a Difference-Maker in the Playoffs

Steve McSween@dansallowsSenior Analyst IDecember 1, 2009

CALGARY, ALBERTA - MAY 16:  Curtis Brown #37 of the San Jose Sharks hits Dave Lowry #10 of the Calgary Flames during Game four of the 2004 NHL Western Conference Finals on May 16, 2004 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canda.  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Calgary Flames haven't had a very good track record in the playoffs over the past four seasons.

Let's face it, they have been about as successful as a new Kevin Costner flick.

That being said, the Flames have made a difference—even in their four consecutive first-round exits.

No team to play Calgary in the first round of the playoffs over the last four seasons has made it into the Stanley Cup finals, despite having well over 100 points, and in Detroit's (2007) and San Jose's (2008) cases, they were favoured to win.

Meeting the Flames has truly been a kiss of death when it comes to top-seeded teams playing them in the opening round.

So, what gives exactly?

Well, simple, Calgary is known for their hard-nosed physical brand of hockey; they basically wear teams down after a tough fought seven-game series.

They are the Randy Coutures of the NHL playoffs, losing more than they win in their old age but putting up a tough, punishing fight 'til the end.

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It is enough to take its toll on even the best of hockey teams. Just ask the Ducks, Wings, Sharks, and Blackhawks players—all of whom have had the unenviable task of meeting them in late April.

This season's edition of the Calgary Flames is no different; in fact they may just be a little more vicious with Brent Sutter behind the bench.

Sutter has increased the players' accountability, as well as lit a fire under their captain, Jarome Iginla.

Throw in Miikka Kiprusoff, who has been hotter than a make-out scene between Megan Fox and Angelina Jolie, and you have a playoff team who could be scary good.

Yeah, this is all a little premature as we are just 25 games into the season. Even if the club boasts the second-best record in the Western Conference at 16-6-3, there is a long way to go 'til late April.

But if the play of the Flames' supporting cast—like Nigel Dawes (who has scored in four straight), Rene Bourque (who led all Flames in scoring before being injured), Jay Bouwmeester (who has logged over 27 minutes per game and leads the defence in scoring)—can continue, it is tough not to be just a little optimistic.

Calgary may not hoist the Stanley Cup come June, but you can bet they will have something to say about which team does.

It is as certain as Bon Jovi coming out with another album, except the Flames will have more hits.

In any case, unlike past seasons, Brent Sutter won't put up with excuses and will demand nothing less than excellence from his club, much like his brother Darryl did behind the bench in 2004.

And I am sure Flames' fans all know the outcome of that season.

That may just be the difference the Calgary Flames need to be a much bigger factor in 2010.