U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

Peak Performance

The Calgary Flames should have got right back on the bus after this craptacular warmup on Monday night

Have you wondered why a team loses a game it should win on paper? I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about this over the years as a function of the chumps I choose to root for. Is it mentality? Do they “play down” to the opposition? Is it Xs and Os? Is recruitment and development too focused on skill and not chemistry? Is there some sort of pagan curse hovering over the team that can only be broken by a 33rd win in the 33th year of the 33th century? Honestly, tough to say, but in the case of the Calgary Flames on Monday night, the answer is obvious:

It was 110% because of their warm-up.

You can practically hear “Yakety Sax” blaring over the loudspeaker. Two different sets of players colliding. Milan Lucic just sitting down in the corner for some reason. Sean Monahan taking a Johnny Gaudreau backhander right off the side of the face while skating around without a helmet on. As you probably guessed from this absolute sh*tshow, the Flames would get absolutely steamrolled by a very bad Senators team 5-1, becoming the only Canadian team to lose to the Sens in regulation twice this season. Shocker, I know.

We’re not sure what’s wrong with the Flames this season. They’re now 10-11-2 and easily one of the most underachieving teams in the NHL, but take it from a guy who’s seen it: This sort of warm-up isn’t some fluke thing. It points to larger rot. Guys not getting along off the ice. Geoff Ward losing the locker room. Disinterested veteran leaders not stepping up and slapping Molson’s out of the kids’ hands the day before a game. Could be any number of those things, but we know this: That warm-up, however abysmal, is a symptom, not the disease.