Flames settling into stretch drive with a playoff mentality
CALGARY, AB -- It doesn't take a mathematician to realize the Calgary Flames' chances of making the playoffs are slim.
At 22-30-7, the team sits 13th in the Western Conference, ahead of the Edmonton Oilers by four points.
But Bob Hartley and his coaching staff refuse to allow their charges to fall into a state of self-pity or defeat. Allowing a losing mentality to creep into players heads is the worst possible scenario for the organization as that can be a habit, a mindset that takes a long time to break.
"I want them in a playoff mode," Hartley stated. "It's going to be a gauge to where we're at, how we can cope with a playoff feeling. At the same time, I believe it's a great investment for everyone because let's face it, we have many young players who don't have or have very little NHL playoff experience.
"It's not NHL playoffs but we're going to put ourselves in playoff mode."
That means, rebuild or not, loses won't be deemed as acceptable. Games aren't viewed as learning experiences, where results aren't the main focus. Victories are key and that's what the team is striving for, every single night.
"We have a lot of young guys on this team and they've got to learn how to win young in their career. It's going to help their development," defenceman Derek Smith said. "Everybody wants to win ... it's going to help everybody out in the long run."
Hartley has broken down the stretch drive schedule into two seven-game segments - just like playoff series - and has left the last 10 outings open for different options. Those seven-game chunks will consist of playoff-like scheduling; morning skates may be optional, off-day practices may also be deemed as optional, and there will be more days off for the players.
"I want to see how the players will react to this," Hartley said, noting many of his charges aren't used to this kind of postseason-esque schedule. "Whether they react good or bad, I think it's going to be a great investment for the future for us."
If Hartley and his staff aren't pleased with how the group responds to these series, practices may become more arduous and will feel like skates held during September, not April.
"We're going to go back to square one and really invest for next training camp."
The players have wholeheartedly bought into this mentality and understand the importance in staying focused. Captain Mark Giordano stressed how this mindset has to be every player's first priority when approaching each and every game remaining on the schedule.
"It's going to be good for our team," Giordano said. "We need to try to get into these games and win them. It's a longshot for us to get back into the mix but if we put a streak together ... everyone is going to be battling for points, it's that time of year, and it's really easy to get up for games.
"That's the only way we can look at it. It's very important to get wins down the stretch for our team. We can learn a lot from playing in these games."