Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Been There, Done That: Marty Gelinas Recalls Flames Worst Offensive Skid Ever

As frustrating as this current stretch is for the Calgary Flames – shut out twice in a row and in three of its last six games, this is nothing compared to November 2002.

In a tumultuous seven-game stretch from Nov. 7-21 -- under the guidance of head coach Greg Gilbert (who would be fired less than two weeks after), the Flames were shut out four times and scored one goal in the other three games. A meager output of three goals in seven games stands as the worst stretch of offensive futility this club has ever experienced. Current Flames assistant coach Marty Gelinas, as he not-so-fondly recalls, was on that team having just signed in the summer as a free agent.

(Take a insightful and nostalgic look back at the Flames history of being shut out in consecutive games -- or not being shut out at all for several seasons. Craig Button, Marc Savard, Bill Ranford, Valeri Bure and Miikka Kiprusoff are just some of the names that make an appearance.) 

“When you don’t score goals, you always question your ability,” said Gelinas after Monday’s practice. “But as you get older, there’s one thing that you’ve got to keep doing and that’s getting pucks at the net and crashing the net. It’s simple, it’s basic and if you do that, eventually the odds are on your side that you’re going to get a goal or two. It might not be a pretty goal, but it will be a goal.”

Sixty-Two Minutes From a Team Record

During that offensive skid 11 years ago, the latter set of back-to-back shutouts were both on home ice – a 1-0 loss to St. Louis and a 5-0 setback to Detroit. In total, the Flames went 186 minutes and 39 seconds at the Saddledome without scoring a goal. That is the team record.  Calgary will enter the New Year’s Eve game with Philadelphia having not scored at home in 125 minutes and 5 seconds.

“When you go through a stretch like this. You have to take some ownership on your shoulders as a player and say, ‘I’m going to be the guy that will put the team back on the right track,’” Gelinas said.

The goal that mercifully ended the drought of 2002 came from Czech defenceman Petr Buzek, one of only four goals he scored in two seasons with the Flames. The goal, which came against Tommy Salo and the Edmonton Oilers, was set up by Gelinas and Mathias Johansson.

“Now that was an odd guy to score a goal, wasn't it?” said Gelinas, with a laugh. “But it shows that it doesn’t matter where it comes from. You’ve just got to have everybody in that room wanting to be that guy that will be the difference.”

Many Flames Squeezing the Stick

There are several Flames that are mired in extended scoring funks. TJ Galiardi has no goals in his last 24 games, Joe Colborne has none in his last 15, David Jones hasn’t scored in his last 13. After four goals in the season’s first 10 games, Lee Stempniak has just two goals in his last 22 since returning from injury. The reliable Mike Cammalleri has just two goals in his last 12 and Matt Stajan has no goals in his last 7. Even rookie Sean Monahan has cooled off with no goals in his last six and having mustered just four shots during that span.

“I always said when things are tough, I don’t care how I score. If I have to take the goalie with me, I’ll take the goalie with me,” Gelinas said. “You have to find a way and that’s the nature of this game, you’ve got to find a way and we will.”

Gelinas says for a perfect example of what Calgary needs to get back to doing more of, they just need to look at video of the Edmonton game.

“Sometimes goals come easy but usually it takes determination and takes some kind of desire to get in front of the net and be willing to pay a price. You look at Ryan Smyth’s goal that he scored against us. It hit him in the crest. You have to be in that position to be able to score a goal. You have to be able to screen the goalies,” Gelinas said. “Those little details will eventually get you back on the right track. The work ethic is here, we work, but we have to work smarter and once the puck is there, you’ve got to have that burning desire to want to be the guy that will get the ball rolling.”

Power Play Misses Kris Russell

Gelinas spends much of his time working on the Flames power play. It’s only had three chances to score in these past two games so it’s not exactly the main culprit with the dried up offence but even so, he admits when they do get chances, they need to be better.

“We’ve got to create more on the power play which is a little tougher when you have a lot of pieces that you’re missing -- Glennie is missing, Russell is missing, so we’re putting in some pieces that have never played there. But you have to make it work,” said Gelinas.

In particular, Gelinas acknowledged what a pivotal role Kris Russell played with the man-advantage. Russell is out 4-6 weeks with a sprained knee.

“To me, he was our best defenceman on it,” said Gelinas. “I felt confident whenever he took the puck out from behind the net that we were going to get one. I love him as a player.”

Gelinas offered up an interesting comparable for Russell -- and by comparable, this does not mean they’re exactly similar, but more so have similar qualities.

“To me, I look at him, and I don’t want to put him in that category because he’s not quite there, but he’s a little like a Duncan Keith,” Gelinas said. “Speed-wise, smarts-wise, and defensively, he’s probably one of our best because he’s always got a good stick in a good position and he’s just a small guy.

“That tells you if you have speed, you’ve got hands, and you’re willing to learn the game and play the game the right way. Ijust  think he’s awesome. You wouldn’t know that he’s just a little guy because he’s got a lot of heart and he gives it all the time.”

Flames coach Bob Hartley said his team spent 95 percent of its practice on Monday working on drills around scoring goals. We'll see if it that extra focus pays off.

Calgary could certainly use a goal to kick start an offence that wasn’t shut out at all in the season’s first 33 games. If they don’t score and they’re shut out in regulation again, they’ll close within two minutes of eclipsing that record from November 2002 and making the worst type of history.

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