CALGARY, AB -- Concern? Yes. Urgency? Absolutely. Panic?
Despite a 1-4-0 record, and three straight losses to start the season on Scotiabank Saddledome ice for the first time since 2000-01, panic has yet to set in on the Calgary Flames.
“There’s not panic,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano following an upbeat practice Monday from Canada Olympic Park’s WinSport facility. “The minute you start panicking, that’s when it can get worse. There’s some concern and urgency. It’s got to come up. You can only say you’re not panicking for so long before it becomes reality that you’re too far out of it. We’ve got to get back to work, do the little things right, and it all starts in the defensive zone and goes from there.”
There’s plenty to be alarmed about.
A 5-2 loss in demoralizing fashion to Connor McDavid the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, who were winless in their first four games of the season.
Calgary too has just one win of their own in five games to open the season.
They’ve been outscored 8-2 in second periods this season, 7-3 in the third.
They sit 24th in the National Hockey League in goals for at 10, 28th overall in goals against with 19, and 29th overall in goal differential at minus-9.
The standings depict a similar tale: 14th (dead last) in the Western Conference, and 29th overall.
“We came in real hungry last year and we had that us against the world type attitude,” said Joe Colborne, a spectator through the first five games while he recovers from a broken thumb. “We’ve seen it in spurts. It’s tough. Watching those games, I didn’t recognize our hockey team sometimes. It’s something that we’ve got a lot of proud guys in that room and our veteran leadership is second to none in my opinion.
“Nobody likes it when you’re losing, especially with how highly we think of ourselves. With the goals that we’ve set, what we’ve had so far isn’t good enough.”
It won’t get any easier, either.
The Flames host the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings, and then swing out east to challenge the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Ottawa Senators. They return to host the Montreal Canadiens, then a rematch against the Oilers.
Urgency is expected, and understood.
“It’s always about being urgent,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “Everything we do is about being urgent. We just have to get back to our good habits, get back to our preparation, and we’re going to be fine. No one feels sorry for us right now. No one will do it for us; we have to do it on our own. That’s what we’ve been addressing to the players. Those guys, they’ve done it in the past so it’s not a fluke. It’s a matter of doing it better, focusing on the job, focusing on the positives. Right now there are lots of negatives around us, but we have to wash them away and start fresh.”
To do so, they’ll have to erase one of their worst starts in recent memory, from the memory banks.
“It’s been a bad start,” Giordano said. “There’s no sugar coating it, it hasn’t been good. Sitting here today, I think we’re still in a position that we can come back, get some points, get some wins, and get back in it. We’ve got to play with a higher level of energy, hard work, and compete. We’ll be fine.
“There’s no panic, but I think we went over some things today and it’s pretty obvious our effort and our compete level is nowhere near it needs to be, especially in that last game. The bottom line is that teams are winning games and moving away from us, so we’ve got to clean this up and get some wins ourselves.”
Laurels rested, perhaps, following a surprising season that not only saw the qualification of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the home side for the first time since 2009, but a series win too, again a first dating back to 2004.
“That’s human nature,” Hartley said. “Sometimes you don’t even see it. You don’t realize that you’re not at 100 percent. For many people, being at 85 percent is good enough. Here it’s not good enough. Those are not the standards that we’ve set and now we need to bring them back.”