DETROIT, MI -- Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter has spoken in great detail on more than one occasion this season about the importance of playing a team game and on Tuesday afternoon it was the first topic he brought up with the media.
He extrapolated on that concept for close to twenty minutes after the Flames practice at the Joe Louis Arena, stating every single player on the team needs to a) play as a team rather than playing as individuals and b) understand their roles and abilities.
"To be quite honest, I'm not asking them to do it anymore," he said. "I'm demanding it has to be done. That's just the bottom line because it's been something that has been ongoing."
The team mentality so frequently spoken about boils down to a complete effort in all zones. Forwards need to extremely responsible in the neutral zone and defensive zone while blueliners need to show poise and accountability if they opt to jump into a more offensive role. Awareness by every player needs to shown in every single shift.
And focusing on keeping the team successful must take priority over trying to attain personal accomplishments and milestones.
"For us to be an upper echelon team, it's going thrived on work. And compete. And battle. If we want to beat those types of teams, that's how we have to play.
"At the end of the night, we don't look at 'Well, who got goals for us?' or 'Who scored for us?' We look at 'Okay, as a team, how did we play? How did individuals play within the team concept?'"
The last two games the Flames have played are perfect examples of what Sutter is talking about. The team was a cohesive unit on Friday night, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 5-2.
On Monday, against the League's worst team in the Columbus Blue Jackets, they seemed fragmented. Passes weren't connecting, players were out of sync with one another and their coverage in the neutral zone and defensive zone? Inconsistent. Because of that, they fell 4-1 and denied themselves the opportunity to climb up to .500.
The victory over the Blackhawks wasn't without error but the overall buy-in by the entire club allowed them to recovery quickly from mistakes. That team game also allowed them to flourish offensively - something that did not happen in Ohio.
quot;When we don't play the team game, we don't have any offence in our game," Sutter shrugged. "Our offence is right up there because our team game is right up there. Through that team game, individuals are going to get what they need to get."
As for tackling which players he felt needed to adjust their game, Sutter wouldn't single out individuals. He stated it was an adjustment every player would some day face, one that members of his club needed to remember every now and then if they wanted to remain a successful, contributing member of any team.
"Players have to make adjustments. They have to. For the betterment of the front of that jersey, for the betterment of that organization, you have to make adjustments to it.
"You have to sacrifice a little bit for the betterment of this. That's what we're asking the whole group to do."
It isn't just theory for Sutter. It's a concept he's personally very familiar with.
"I was one of those players," he declared. "I was able to play 18 years and I had some success. I went to the Stanley Cup finals four times. Won it twice. And my role was different every one of those times."
Sutter acknowledges getting his team to consistently buy into the structure and game he knows they need to be effective is still a work in progress but he has full confidence in the group. And once the details the club has been working on become habit, the team game will be solidified as the Flames identity.
"Every player that comes to the Calgary Flames knows that this is what (we're) about. This is how we play. This is how we do things. It just becomes natural. You can put anybody in the lineup and everyone is doing the same thing."