Monday, October 12, 2009

Flames blow 5-0 lead, lose to Hawks: Time to put my faith in Brent Sutter

From what I've seen of Brent Sutter, he isn't a coach who's going to react impulsively or lose his patience quickly. This goes back to my days watching him in his early days of coaching the Red Deer Rebels, then carrying on to coach Canada's junior teams and then the Devils.

But when he decides something needs to change, it will change, and he won't be nice about it. And I think he selected Ryan McGill and Dave Lowry as assistant coaches because, among other things, they're the same way.

For that reason alone, as much as I'm, uh, upset about tonight's utter collapse by the Flames (at the hands of a team that they ought to have been motivated enough to close out), I'm by no means panicking about the prospects for this season.

Have there been numerous bad trends through the first six games? Absolutely.

But here's what we have so far to be "concerned" about:

• Ineffective Iginla-Jokinen combination
• Ineffective Regehr
• Inability to sustain quality of play through three periods
• Difficulty getting shots on goal

Meanwhile, here's the good news:

• Goaltender who was everyone's biggest concern team's best player until tonight
• Fifth-year defenceman who was everyone's second biggest concern much improved until tonight
• Mostly effective power-play
• Mostly effective third and fourth lines

And, most importantly in a league where it can be difficult to recover from a bad start:

• Four wins and points in five of the team's first six games

There are clearly a lot of bad Keenan habits from last year that Sutter and co. have yet to break. The Flames don't consistently initiate contact. They don't sustain game-plans through three periods. They keep trotting O. Jokinen out on the ice at the same time as J. Iginla.

But there are good signs, too. The only player favoured heavily over others for ice time is Jay Bouwmeester, and that's a GOOD thing. Secondary scoring has largely made up for the sluggish beginnings of Iginla-Jokinen. Bouwmeester-Giordano has been a strong pairing.

I think you probably need 10 games, if not more, to get a good enough idea of what you have from an NHL team before you can start prescribing solutions. But, I do believe in the roster that's been assembled here, and I believe that Brent Sutter will not let his pride or suspicions get in the way of his team winning.

Beacuse, if nothing else, he sure as hell won't ever want to have a team he's coaching blow a 5-0 lead EVER again. I'm guessing that, at this point, everyone is on notice.


KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

Answer me a question, please, if you can, for I do not know the answer and haven't watched the Flames a whole lot so far. They're giving up an awful lot of goals. How can that be explained away? Poor support by the forwards, Kiprusoff being a little soft, bad luck?

duncan said...

KiPA: A little bit of all that, plus some pretty weak play in close and along the boards by the defence. Kiprusoff was lights out for the first two games, spotty in the next two and average-to-poor against Chicago.

Flames are also prone to conceding the zone and giving up a lot of shots. They aren't all great ones, but eventually you're going to get scored against when you give up 35 shots.

walkinvisible said...

while i'm concerned, yes, i'm also taking a patient stance ---especially since there have been a helluva lot of games with very little practice time in between. therefore i would HOPE that the coaching staff know what changes need to be implemented, and must wait for a chance to do it.

Mike H. said...

This morning I went over to m&g to review the game comments, and I think I found the point at which the game went in the toilet:

"We are on pace to win 20-0."

Then we crested the hill and came down something like this.

The worst part of last night's broadcast? I didn't catch any golf tips from Cory Sarich.

WI - Either the next PPV game is on me or I owe you a beer at the Ship. Hope the Jager went down smooth.

walkinvisible said...

jager, beer & pinball til the wee hours.... well, that's what it felt like. i think everyone was gone/in bed by 1030.

that's what happens when you start watching a game at 6 and feel the need to drink yourself into a coma by 9.

Calgarian in SJ said...

Best thing that could have ever happened to the Flames this early in the season. Record has been a smokescreen up to this point; all shortcomings were exposed in Chicago. And to think we walked out of there with a point. I agree, faith is in Sutter.
He preaches SOG pretty hard ... yet that's the one area the Flames have not got under control. ?

KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

Appreciate the input, duncan. I've got Kiprusoff in a fantasy league, so please tell the team to stop giving up goals. ;)

duncan said...

If it's any consolation, there's just no way that Sutter will allow this SOG problem to continue. That said, Kipper's been on a pretty dramatic four-year decline ...

KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

Yeah, pretty disturbing trend with Kipper...wonder how much he has left.

Calgarian in SJ said...