October, World Upside Down

D'Arcy McGrath

October 30th, 2001

With Halloween just an evening away the Flames have closed the book on the month of October.

And for a change, the only fear, chills, and ghastly sights will be on Calgary's streets and not near the bottom of the NHL's standings.

In fact, the shoe (complete with chain and a very large anvil) appears to not only be on the other foot, but on some other team's ankles freeing the Flames and their fans to a whole new perspective.


However, with any lofty perch claimed, there is bound to be some apprehension. How long can this last? When is it no longer "early"? Just how are these guys doing this?

The best tonic to cure this apprehension can be found somewhere between standard role reversal, and an elephant's memory.

The Flames are very familiar with the opposite scenario that has them off to a terrible start; which means the math is the same, but this time the number crunching creates happy faces and not wall to wall frowns.

Simply put ... you can't have it both ways.

If last year's awful October ended the Flames season, then can't the same be said for teams like Vancouver and Los Angeles, off to similarly discouraging campaigns this year?

One team's buffer is another team's mountain.

The evidence can be seen in the quote. In pro sports, nothing turns the cliche machine on faster than a tough start.

Exhibit A: "You never want to think you'll be in a position like this. We can't look at excuses, whether it injuries or suspensions or anything. We put ourselves in this position by letting some games slip away from us. We can't feel sorry for ourselves because we put ourselves in this predicament. It's up to us to get out of it."

Exhibit B: "It's little things that are costing us games, but the little things add up. In order for us to be successful, everybody in here has to be accountable. Everyone has to buy into the system, and if you're not a believer, become one and give it a chance.

Exhibit C: "What's been a little confusing is some of our guys who can do some things (offensively) haven't accepted that and haven't done it. We need some of our guys to extend themselves, to go outside the comfort zone."

Can you put the quote with the source?

Exhibit A is the fine work of the Canuck's Ed Jovanovski, lamenting Vancouver's start just this past week.

Andy Murray, coach of the Kings, another 2001 playoff team off to a very tough start, coined exhibit C this season.

Exhibit B is none other than Flames assistant coach Brian Skrudland, looking to explain another debacle in Calgary, a year ago today.

All three are offering theories, all three seem to indicate that there is still time, yet all three likely understood just how uphill their climb is set to be.

In reality, a tough start can literally sink a season. NHL parity is at an all time high, gone are the days where two teams can sneak in the back door with sub .500 seasons.

With a target of 90 points, a team simply can't afford to be three, four or five games under the mark with 70 games to play. Ninety points is eight games over the break even barrier, leaving a 10 to 13 game swing ahead for the willing combatants.

The remaining source of hope is to wish ill on your fellow competitors, something clearly visible in Vancouver GM Brian Burke's comments this week.

"If you're suggesting the gap right now [from the playoffs] is unfordable, that's absurd," Burke said. "Some teams ahead of us are playing at a clip they can't sustain, and we're going to come out of this."

Whatever you say Mr. Burke, the people of Calgary have seen this script before, this time they're banking on a happy ending, one with the protagonist sporting red.