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Flames Watch: What went wrong?

I wouldn’t blame Darryl and Brent Sutter if they felt the hockey gods were conspiring against them this season. It seems everything that’s happening lately is working against the Calgary Flames making the playoffs.

The nine straight losses in January? That6*8 was the team’s own undoing and the defining moment in a season that looks as though it will end without a playoff appearance. It didn’t help that the Flames always seemed to run into hot goaltenders, but maybe it was Calgary’s abysmal playmaking and shot execution that made good goalies looks exceptional.

The Flames have played quite well since the Olympic break (six wins in 10 games, almost a 100-point pace), but who would have predicted both the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings, the teams they’re chasing for a playoff spot, would be scorching hot.

There was the hope overachievers Phoenix and Colorado would fall back to earth in the final stretch. Instead, the Coyotes have reeled off nine straight wins and the Avs haven’t tanked. With the Predators moving out of reach, the focus shifted to Colorado moving back to the pack, but wouldn’t you know it the Avs scored with 10 seconds remaining to earn a valuable point in an overtime loss to Los Angeles Monday.

So where did it all go wrong for the Sutters? If I was team president Ken King or a Flames shareholder, here are some burning questions I’d ask in 2009-10 season post-mortem.

How do you explain Jay Bouwmeester, the team’s $6.68 million man, having a stunning regression into a stay-at-home defenseman? Why did it take him until Game 71 to start pinching with regularity and rushing the puck?

What’s the deal with the Ales Kotalik acquisition and how do you make his $3 million over each of the next two years disappear?

How do find room in the budget to sign both Ian White and Mark Giordano, Calgary’s two best and lowest paid defensemen this season, when there’s almost no salary cap room left in 2010-11?

Did you really have to offer Matt Stajan $14 million over four years when the jury was still out on his credentials as a No. 1 center in the NHL?

Why didn’t you play Miikka Kiprusoff in that must-win game versus Minnesota – and all games down the stretch?

Why are the Flames so bad on faceoffs and ineffective on the power play?

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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