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.