Win in Gilbert Wake
MacNeil Leads Flames to
December 3rd, 2002
Al at the
Command: Al MacNeil and Jamie Hyslop look on at the Flames
Al MacNeil is a genius!
Officially at the helm less than 12
hours the man already had a win to his credit and Flame road trip
somewhat salvaged from total embarrassment.
He found a way to get Roman Turek back
on top of his game.
He motivated Oleg Saprykin to get his
first NHL goal in more than 18 months.
He redesigned the team's defensive
scheme resulting in a one goal blemish against he high powered Colorado
Avalanche in a 2-1 Flame victory on Tuesday night.
You'll forgive me if I remove the
tongue firmly planted in my cheek?
No Al MacNeil is not a saviour, not a beacon
to guide a listless hockey team from the thick fog of a season gone bad.
He's not a master of systems ... a task
master that commands respect in the dressing room ... a presence that
turned a team on it's ear and back to it's winning ways.
The man has only held the job less than
a day, no coach could perform these miracles.
Often, when a coaching change is made a
team will respond favourably.
Sometimes it's a sign that the club applauds
the change, and with the weight of a cast aside coach off their
collective backs they are free to ply their trade in the natural fashion
that the hockey gods intended.
Other times it's the exact opposite, a
sign of respect to their fallen chief, one final gut check in salute of
man that lost his job for mistakes made by other individuals.
Count on the latter in this case as
eluded to by Robyn Regher.
"We were disappointed. Each and
every one of us let the coaches down and we know it."
With Gilbert put out of his misery, the
onus now fell to the players themselves.
"You knew something was
coming," said Craig Conroy. "It was just not a good day for
us. We felt optimistic coming into the season and it hasn't been that
way. The guys in the room feel like we can win a bunch of games.
Everyone has to take the bull by the horns and get it going."
Whatever the case the Calgary Flames
put in their second straight solid effort in their final two games of a
distasteful five game road trip, but this time they were rewarded with a
huge victory in Colorado.
The Flames opened the scoring in the
second period when Jarome Iginla peeled out of the corner and found Oleg
Saprykin in a sniper stance in the slot. Saprykin made no mistake in
scoring his first of the season, and first goal since December 16th 2000
The Flames added to their lead when
captain Craig Conroy jumped on a rebound and scored his second goal in
two games on the powerplay ... a goal that stood up to be the game
The Avalanche pressed in the third
period and brought the game to within one goal when Radim Vrbata scored
with less than four minutes left, turning up the pressure on the
Roman Turek and his comrades stood tall
however in recording the club's second win in their last 13 games.
The Flames and Al MacNeil return home
to play the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, likely with a new full time
coach behind the bench.
At press time the rumblings suggest Jim
Playfair, the team's current AHL farm team coach, may be the man to
accept the reigns and attempt to end the clubs' run of futility.
If the team opts for experience look
for Kevin Constantine to return to Calgary in the lead role.