Flames barely remaining in playoff chase

Over a 10-day stretch, the Calgary Flames split with Dallas, blew a two-goal lead before losing in a shootout at Minnesota, lost in overtime in Colorado, fell in a home shootout to Columbus and fell at Edmonton. Prior to Monday’s five-goal outburst, the Flames were outscored 14-6 in the five losses.

Would have, could have and should have.

With their season on the line, the Calgary Flames have blown chance after chance to realistically stay in the playoff race.

Monday’s 5-4 win over Dallas snapped a five-game skid for the fizzling Flames, but they are in 11th place in the Western Conference, three points behind eighth-place LA after being shut out by the Kings on Wednesday, two behind Phoenix and one behind Colorado.

After last week’s loss in Dallas, Mike Cammalleri stated the obvious to reporters: “We’re realists about it. It looks like we’re going to have to run the table here. We’ll have to use that as a liberating feeling. It’s a Cinderella story we’re going to have to have now. . . .  In our room we’ll feel like we have nothing to lose and that’s usually a fun way to play.”

But it never should have come to that.

“We had lots of shots, lots of chances. We had a lot of great scoring chances. Unfortunately, in these last five games, they just haven’t gone in for us,” captain Jarome Iginla said Saturday. “Sometimes you look back and you say, ‘Oh man we didn’t do this right, we didn’t do that right and we’re getting one goal a game.’ They had great scoring chances to get more than that.”

“You have to want to be in the playoffs, and right now we’re giving it away,” Alex Tanguay said after Thursday’s loss in Minnesota.

That same night, coach Brent Sutter paced in a hall down from the locker room and refused to speak with the media, instead sending out associate coach Craig Hartsburg.

Rumors floated that Sutter and general manager Jay Feaster clashed over the team’s list of shootout shooters: Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak, Blair Jones and Blake Comeau. Meanwhile on the bench were the likes of Iginla, Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen. Although Sutter and Feaster both quashed rumors of a rift, instead saying Feaster was trying to calm down Sutter, the question still needs to be asked: Why not go to battle for a desperately needed extra point with arguably your best scorers?

“You can’t continue to do things that don’t work — you have to be prepared to change, or you sink even deeper,” Sutter said the day after. "I want to use our top goal-scorers in the shootout, but if you’re not scoring, you have to do something different. Olli hasn’t scored in awhile, and Jarome just has trouble with the shootout."

Feaster said he supported the new shooters. Calgary is 4-9 in shootouts, including five straight losses.

Sutter, who could be a dead man walking if the Flames are hitting golf balls instead of hockey pucks in a couple of weeks, even has begun to question his own ability.

“I sit back and I think about what I could do different to help them through it,” he said Friday. “That’s my responsibility. I put that squarely on my shoulders, to try to find a way to get them through it.”

Yet, Feaster remains an eternal optimist.

“At this point in time, there’s no reason why we as a group can’t go on another run. We put together five in a row not that long ago. We have that ability, and we’re capable of that.”