'Try to win every game': Flames say standards won't slip in final nine games

‘We want to play well every night and play to our structure and system and play with bite, regardless of the situation we’re in,’ said Flames captain Mikael Backlund

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The standards stay the same.

The Calgary Flames know they’re not making the playoffs this season. They’ll probably be officially eliminated from post-season contention at some point later this week, but the writing has been on the wall for a while now.

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So they’ve got to find ways to stay motivated and engaged for their final nine games.

And while you wouldn’t expect them to say anything else, the message from leadership is simple: The standards and expectations haven’t changed.

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“Until the end here, we’re going to compete and play as hard as we can and try to win every game,” said Flames captain Mikael Backlund. “The performance, obviously, is the main focus. We want to play well every night and play to our structure and system and play with bite, regardless of the situation we’re in.”

That’s something the Flames are taking seriously.

While there are some in the fanbase who would love to see them lose as many of their remaining nine games as possible to improve their chances in the draft lottery, the Flames themselves are all too aware of the repercussions of normalizing the idea that losing is OK.

If the team has any hope of getting back to being a playoff team in the next couple of years, they need to have a culture of winning. That might be a bit of a sports cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

“We want to instil the right culture, the right attitude,” said Flames winger Blake Coleman. “Our reality is what it is right now, it can challenge you when you’re in this spot to be a better person, leader, teammate. You’ve still got to show up and leave it out there.

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“For me and the rest of the guys who have been around a bit, it’s more just about showing the culture we expect from ourselves and from the young guys. At the end of the day you don’t want to have a losing attitude and I think the guys have done a good job keeping that out of our room.”

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The Flames certainly didn’t look like a team that was mailing it in on Saturday night when they put in a solid 60-minute effort against a good Los Angeles Kings team and won 4-2.

To be fair, that victory did snap a five-game losing streak, so it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses recently for the Flames, but it’s also not as if they were getting blown out in most of those recent defeats.

And the results matter less than the effort and the improvements the group makes playing within the Flames’ system.

“I don’t think it changes from the beginning of the year,” said Flames head coach Ryan Huska. “They have to learn to play the game hard and play every game like it’s the last one they may play.

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“That should be your mentality all the time, whether you’re in Game 1 of the regular season or Game 82, if you’re in the playoffs or out of the playoffs … If you don’t play with that mindset, then you’re not going to improve and people will pass you by eventually, so they need to make sure they’re ready to go all the time.”


Rasmus Andersson didn’t skate at Monday’s practice at WinSport but Huska said it was just a maintenance day for the defenceman … Jacob Markstrom snapped a stick after allowing a goal midway through practice, so we know he’s still got the competitive juices flowing … Andrew Mangiapane skated on his own prior to the rest of the group.

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