VANCOUVER – A third straight year out of the playoffs has Calgary Flames players shaking their heads.
The slumping Flames were officially eliminated from the post-season race Saturday as they dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s worse than being disappointed,” said coach Brent Sutter. “We never got the job done. The last eight games, nine games now, you win one game in regulation. It’s not going to be good enough. We didn’t play as well as we needed to down the stretch.”
The Flames appeared to be in good shape three weeks ago. They reeled off five straight wins from March 6-15 and were playing their best hockey of the season. Since then, they’ve gone 1-4-4, scoring just 14 goals and allowing 26. Many of those games were against teams they were fighting with to make the post-season.
“The last nine games we had a tough time scoring goals,” said captain Jarome Iginla, “I ran into a drought, a lot of us ran into a drought and we didn’t get any goal support. Unfortunately we all went cold at the same time.”
Olli Jokinen was encouraged with Saturday’s performance against first-place Vancouver, but still disappointed.
“Once you put that jersey on you have to play for that logo and you have to show some pride,” said Jokinen, who scored Calgary’s first goal against Vancouver. “I think that way we showed up and we played pretty hard, but we felt short again.”
Flames GM Jay Feaster faces a plethora of difficult decisions this summer, but he has shown a reluctance to do a complete roster overhaul. He was a buyer prior to the trade deadline, acquiring Mike Cammalleri for Rene Bourque, and refused to part ways with veteran talent for prospects who could help in years to come.
Now he is faced with an aging core that includes Iginla (34), Jokinen (33) and Miikka Kiprusoff (35). Iginla and Kiprusoff were the key cogs in Calgary’s 2004 run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, but they are no longer in their prime.
In total, Calgary has nine players that are 30 or older.
“As a player you never want to believe that the answers aren’t in the room,” defenceman Mark Giordano said when asked if the team will be rebuilt.
“It’s tough because at times we’ve shown that we can be a really good hockey team and be a team that battles with good teams and is right there, but at times we haven’t. Until anyone tells us differently we believe in each other.”