The Calgary Flames announced an ALS fundraiser on behalf of assistant GM Chris Snow Wednesday, allowing fans to be part of the crowd via cardboard cutouts.
It didn’t take long for the feel-good gesture to be overshadowed by frustrated fans wondering if they could partake by submitting photos with bags over their heads.
Concealing identity is a hot topic around these parts, as no one seems to know who or what the Calgary Flames are anymore.
“If you had an identity for our team, we’re an inconsistent team,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving, adding his two cents to the local debate.
“That’s not usually the identity you draw up. When I say inconsistency, I’m talking about the highs and the lows. You’re not going to have your ‘A’ game every night. Good teams have a good ‘B’ game where they can have success some nights, playing air-tight defensively and being good on special teams. Our problem is we’ve got an ‘A’ game and a ‘D’ game.”
Harsh but accurate, as is the bulk of criticism being directed at the club of late.
“We’re not spending a whole lot of time on what the white noise is, but I get it — everybody is up in arms,” said Treliving, whose 10-11-3 club sits three points out of a playoff spot as they approach the halfway mark.
“When you don’t perform, there are consequences. Everyone should be taking shots at you. Enough of the preaching, it all comes down to actions, not sucking your thumb and pissing and moaning. Our players have got to be better — all of us have to be better. It’s easy to point fingers. That doesn’t help us get to where we need to be.”
While every team in the league goes through peaks and valleys, the schizophrenic nature of his current crew has the odd Rocky Mountain high followed by the type of lows Jacques Cousteau plunged to.
“We haven’t seen the ‘A’ game nearly enough… and then we have ‘D’ games,” continued Treliving, whose team is coming off two blowout losses to Ottawa that sandwiched a 6-3 win.
“We see it within games, too, playing well one period and then drastically outplayed the next.
“There’s going to be ebbs and flows. You’re in a good division, you’re not going to dominate.
“You’ve got a find a ‘B’ game.”
And they’ve got to do it by way of an improved work ethic that has been the root of the team’s problems.
“Whatever the narrative is, we’ve got to be more detailed and much more consistent,” said Treliving, whose club gets a chance on Thursday to bounce back from a 5-1 blowout against an Ottawa club that has a winning record against just one team: Calgary.
“Whether it be work ethic, being responsible, playing hard — you can’t do that in flashes.
“Can we work harder? Yes we can. Can we stop turning pucks over? Absolutely. Can we be a more consistent team? You bet. I know everybody wants to talk about identity, but you don’t just say, ‘here’s what we are.’ To me, what your identity is, is what you become every day. The identity we have now is not where we want it to be.”
So what is it Treliving envisions his team’s identity could be given his personnel?
“I want to be hard to play against, hard-working, physical, tight-checking and have the skill and the ability to generate offence,” said Treliving, whose club should get a boost from having Jacob Markstrom and Derek Ryan back in the lineup Thursday.
“Have we played to that identity? No. At points, yes.”
One of those points was last summer in the bubble where the team demonstrated the type of focus and dedication that made them a “checking team that can score,” as Milan Lucic and Mark Giordano described their identity last week.
This team can’t do either with any regularity this season, ranking 17th in hits and 27th in goals per game.
“The bubble wasn’t a big success story, but I think there was an identity for the team there — we’ve seen it in fits and sports,” said Treliving, whose club was ousted in the first round by Dallas after dominating a depleted Winnipeg squad in the play-in.
“The team hasn’t changed.”
No, it is indeed the same core group — the same group that has been dogged by questions and criticism the last two seasons.
But never louder than now, and everyone from the backup goalie to the coach is fair game.
If things don’t improve, the GM will also be called into question for not doing anything to affect change — something some believe the players are now waiting for.
“I don’t know what waiting for something to happen means,” said the GM, who doesn’t believe in storming the dressing room to address the players en masse.
“Your job is your job. Do it to the best of your ability and it’s amazing how things can change.”