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Flames Watch: After embarrassment in San Jose, it's time to make a big change

There are two positives you can pull out of Monday’s humiliating 9-1 loss that ranks as one of the most embarrassing in the history of the Calgary franchise.

The first is, we’ve all heard it before, how the Flames responded last season after a 6-1 loss to the same San Jose Sharks Nov. 13. Calgary won 21 of the next 30 games en route to almost winning the division. It doesn’t mean the hot streak will happen again, but there should be a rebound based on player pride alone.

The second is, if a humbling loss and a five-game losing streak doesn’t convince the Sutters a personnel change is necessary, nothing will. Gentlemen, it’s time to bring in a proven producer.

This team has absolutely no confidence in its ability to score goals. It’s generating shots and chances, other than the 9-1 loss, but not enough to win games against the league’s upper crust.

GM Darryl Sutter has made it his personal mission to go into the playoffs with at least eight NHL-proven defensemen. The Flames have one of the league’s best top four defence units on paper and top eight in terms of depth. But it is now apparent he must deal from a position of presumed strength in order to shoe up a glaring weakness – at scoring forward on the first line.

Calgary’s top four defensemen make $20.8 million per season, the most in the NHL. Buffalo’s top four make less than half that, Nashville’s a little more than half. Funny thing is, Mark Giordano isn’t among Calgary’s top four in salary, yet he has been the team’s best this season.

The Flames must trade one of their top four and get a front-line center or winger in return. Robyn Regehr’s game has slowed considerably and teams are picking on him lately. But Dion Phaneuf is the one who must go. He’s an absolute liability defensively, doesn’t produce much offense and appears to be holding back the likes of Jay Bouwmeester, not to mention defense partner Regehr and prospect John Negrin on the farm.

What’s sad is Jarome Iginla is slowing down as well. There’s no jump in his game, no zip on his wrist shot, no offensive imagination. Could be the 14 games in 23 days wearing him down. Could be he doesn’t have a compatible linemate.

It’s time to save the season, fellas, and make a deal.

This article also appeared in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to You can find his blog each weekend.

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