***Welcome Iqbal, he’s posting his first article as part of a process to become a FlamesForum blogger.***

Coming off one of the more crushing defeats of the year in a game the Flames needed in order to win the Northwest, give some guys some much needed rest (ahem *cough* Kiprusoff), the Flames.. choked yet again this season. That seems to be the theme of the year for this year’s club.

Truth be told, this was one of Calgary’s more inspiring efforts of the campaign. They came out like gangbusters and peppered Luongo with quality shots early on. They created turnovers, they were playing at a high rate of speed and were the one team on the ice, at least thru two periods, that was playing like this was the much ballyhooed and hyped up late season battle for Northwest division supremacy.

The difference in this game was quite simple, it was Roberto Luongo. Luongo seems to be in the Flames heads at this point. They seem to be unsure whether they can beat the big Italian and Luongo seems to feel he has their number and seemingly ups his game vs the Flames. ‘Bobby Lou’ was simply outstanding last night. An already large goalie, Luongo was playing like a mythical giant that covered every inch of the net last night.

The fact that Calgary simply doesn’t seem to have the conditioning to sustain a hard, physical effort for 60 mins+ does them in on a lot of nights. They also lack something.. its not talent, I can tell you that… it’s heart. During the Cup run that was the one thing you could count on, the Flames were going to play hard, they were going to be intense and they were going to play with the collective heart of their Captain.

That no longer seems to be the case. Yes, their best defenseman was not playing in Regehr and they were without one of their best forwards this season in R.Bourque. So the team wasn’t at full strength. However, that’s no excuse. Sutter has assembled enough depth and talent that this team should be able to rise up to the occasion and cease the moment.

You feel when the games are close the Flames will choke. They grip their sticks tighter, they become more frazzled, a lot of the “leaders” (minus Iginla) seem to fizzle as the magnitude increases. That’s not the sign of a Championship caliber team.

Yes, the effort was better in a back to back situation last night than other nights where the effort seems to be almost non-existent… but the result is the same. The Flames have sleepwalked thru parts of this year. They might feel this way because they are so uber-talented collectively at every level that they simply don’t put in the necessary effort required each night.

Kipper’s spent, the back-end, the former strong suit of the team is no longer an area of strength. The forwards, for all their talent seem to have problems generating any offense on some nights and their power-play is abysmal. Yet, again.. the most frightening thing is not even mentioned here… it’s their compete level. It’s not there every night.

If the offense is stagnant than you need to have the confidence and gumption to give the lesser likes that battle hard some #1 unit power play time. Increase their minutes and let them try and generate some offense and show some of the other more well compensated players how to battle for stretches. Curtis Glencross has offensive talent. He’s shown that in more than just spurts wherever he’s played. He needs to get more time, both with a playmaker that can set him up and on specialty teams.

Eric Nystrom competes hard, let him play some PP. Get Bourque back and immediately insert him into the PP unit. Look, the sleepwalkers like Bertuzzi need a good wake up call. I don’t care if I got Conroy, Nystrom and Glencross getting significant PP time in a game where the offense isn’t being generated from anywhere. Let Lundmark start to eat into Cammy’s minutes a bit if that’s what it takes.

Let Vandermeer and the kids Pardy and Pelech play more minutes and cut into Phaneuf’s 25+ a night. If we’re going to lose at least give the younger d-men that invaluable big game experience that bodes well for the future.

At this rate, if the Flames don’t suddenly realize who they are, start competing like a scrappy team that just eeked into the playoffs as an #8 seed, and begin to understand how much collective talent that’s been assembled here.. it is going to be a short run, probably one and done (AGAIN) in the playoffs.