The last time the Calgary Flames got off to a good start, Matthew Tkachuk was playing peewee hockey in St. Louis.
His father, Keith, how quiet from the NHLers.
So was Miikka Kiprusoff, who edged out Roberto Luongo in the Flames’ latest win on opening night, sealed by a Brandon Prust winner, an empty net Dion Phaneuf and a 29-minute effort by Jay Bouwmeester.
It was the year 2009.
Since then, the club has embarked on a dubious 11-game losing streak on opening night, breaking the previous NHL record of seven held by the Minnesota North Stars and Buffalo Sabers.
It’s the longest active streak in the four major sports, three ahead of the Indianapolis Colts.
In fact, he is just two opening losses from the all-time record shared by the Memphis Grizzlies (2001-2013) and the Cleveland Browns (2005-2017). Chasing the wrong side of sports history.
But then, chasing is what has largely defined the Calgary flames of late. Putting more than a decade of season-opening humiliation on the current group isn’t fair, but this core group is primarily responsible for a troubling trend of poor starts that have had the Flames hot on their heels not just to open games, but to open the first weeks of the season.
For example, when asked about the team’s slow starts, Noah Hanifin sought clarification on whether the question was about games or seasons. Both have been a problem, to say the least.
“I don’t remember once since I was here, we got off to a good start and they put us in a good position the first 10 or 15 games,” said Tkachuk, who arrived in 2016.
“Even the year we ended up winning the west (2018-19) we were at .500 (ten) games.”
Johnny Gaudreau doubled down, noting that he hadn’t witnessed a solid start in his seven years in Calgary.
“I don’t know why,” said Gaudreau, whose club is seven losses on opening night ahead of second-place Arizona.
“We’ve been through a few different coaches, so it’s not that. Maybe we just have to push ourselves and realize how important those first ten games are to getting off to a good start and making sure you feel good. In the past we have not. It would be great for our team to finally do that and get off to a good start rather than trying to catch up. “
Over the past decade, the Flames have never had more than five wins in their first ten games.
Not even once.
He continually sets them up for a grueling chase the rest of the season, complicated by the losing point.
All of which brings us to Rogers Place on Saturday night, where the Flames will attempt to break their historic thread against their opening night kryptonite.
The Flames began the 11-game slump in 2010 with a 4-0 loss at Edmonton, which was one of three opening night setbacks on the network that has seen them outscored 14-4 by their fellow provincial punchers.
“That will be a great game and then we will go on a long road trip, something we haven’t done in over a year, go to the United States and play a long road trip,” said Noah Hanifin. “We cannot focus on the past. It is a new year. We have to be prepared “.
The roadie is a five-man player in the East following Monday’s home opener against the Ducks. It is not ideal.
“The schedule is really not in our favor, we have a lot going against us,” Tkachuk said. “But we have to play playoff hockey in the regular season. I know the first game in Edmonton is not going to play there. “
The Flames haven’t played since the last exhibition game on Friday, while the Oilers got their feet wet with a season-opener win on Wednesday. You can bet the hosts will be ready.
Given the recent history of the Flames in October, it’s hard to blame the fans who have been preparing for the worst since the schedule came out.
Former Flames coach Bill Peters often referred to first-quarter embarrassments as “not being on time.”
Try that against Connor McDavid at your own risk.
“We just need energy right away,” said Sean Monahan, one of many central players seeking a recovery season after missing the playoffs last year.
“The last two years I don’t think we were good to start seasons. I think this year is different. We have a different mindset. The camp has been different, the intensity is there right now. There are a lot of guys on this team who have something to prove. “
In fact, there are, and the man in charge of helping them, coach Darryl Sutter, is known for his preparation and how he helps players focus on the moment.
“It is up to the players to be prepared and marked from the beginning,” Elias Lindholm said.
“Obviously you want to be that team that comes out strong and wears out the other team for a couple of minutes. I feel like the last two years we’ve let the other team score first and we’re on our heels until third when we start playing and chasing the game, which is tough. “
As Hanifin added, “It sucks when you’re behind the eight ball early in the season.”
It’s worse to make history, for all the wrong reasons.
The last season of Flames begins:
• 2011-12 – 4-5-1
• 2012-13 – 3-4-3
• 2013-14 – 4-4-2
• 2014-15 – 5-4-1
• 2015-16 – 2-7-1
• 2016-17 – 4-5-1
• 2017-18 – 5-5
• 2018-19 – 5-5
• 2019-20 – 5-4-1
• 2020-21 – 4-5-1