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Sarich Sounds Off

by Peter Zuurbier / Calgary Flames
Cory Sarich couldn't hide his disappointment when meeting with reporters following his final physical at the 'Dome Wednesday.

The season that contained so much promise ended Monday night as the Flames were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks. Sarich attributes the unfulfilling finish to two main factors: inconsistent play, and insurmountable injuries.

While injuries over the course of 82 games are commonplace, the Flames temperamental play during the last few weeks of the regular season made it difficult for the team to raise their play when the post-season arrived.

"It's frustrating; this time of year is always frustrating for us. We were a little too inconsistent coming down the stretch and it showed up in the playoffs. Through the mid part of the season we had taken (inconsistency) out of our game and were playing a consistent game every night. Unfortunately we couldn't have that spill over for the time we needed it," said Sarich.

"We made some changes at the start of the year and I thought we really settled into those changes. We had a good defensive structure on which to base things off of, we were having success and then for some reason, we got away from it and our play became erratic."

Sarich was a warrior down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs, holding a Flames defensive corps together after Robyn Regehr, Mark Giordano, and Dion Phaneuf all missed time, and despite being hobbled himself with a fractured ankle.

"It wasn't too bad actually; once I got going it just took a little time to get it warmed up. The break spot wasn't too bad at all, it was around the tendon, from being in the boot that was in rough shape," said Sarich of his own injuries.

During the waning days of the regular season, the injuries to key players began to mount, and Sarich admitted the attrition took its toll on the locker room.

"Guys in the room are definitely focused on playing hockey, as much as you don't want to let it creep in, the injuries to our team affected everybody. You try to be as mentally strong as you can when you see guys go down, sometimes it wears on you."

Yet despite the myriad of injuries, the Flames found themselves in control of their own destiny to finish the regular season. Unfortunately they ceded the northwest division title to the Vancouver Canucks in the final days of the campaign, and began the playoffs in a decidedly weaker position than they had anticipated.
"I think a few (bad habits) crept in (to the playoffs). As much as you try not to, you've gotta go into the playoffs doing well, it's tough to just turn things on," said Sarich. "You don't play your best hockey in the week or two leading up to it and it spills over into your game."

"For us this year it comes back to consistency, when we did things right you saw what kind of a hockey club we can be, but it just wasn't often enough... it comes down to individuals all wanting to do it, you've gotta have everyone on board, some nights we did, some nights we didn't."

The Flames style of play has been a subject of debate in the wake of the Flames ousting, but Sarich feels the system is effective when the entire team buys in.

"When you see us take care of our own end, when you see us all focus on that first and foremost... when we got away from that, when we were sloppy, it's not the way to play hockey, you're never going to win like that," said Sarich, who believes each individual player needs to reflect and re-focus this summer.

"As individuals you have to assess your own game, basically it comes down to applying yourself. When you don't you're effective, and when you don't you see the other result."

The team is sure to see a great deal of turnover following their disappointing first-round exit. Sarich himself intends to take a moment before reflecting on the past few months and preparing for the next campaign.

"As is always in this game I'm sure we're going to see a few players moved, whether it's by choice or not... It'll take me a while to gather my thoughts and get geared up for next season," said Sarich.

"You've got to take a step back now and look at what was successful and what wasn't. Whether you need change or not you go with what was successful and that's what you have to go back to square-one and start with."
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