MacKenzie Weegar calls out effort after latest Flames loss

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CALGARY — There it was, the Flames’ season in a nutshell.

One game after what was arguably their most complete effort of the season, the Calgary Flames returned to Earth with another dud against a bottom-feeder.

Although the results don’t exactly matter this late in the game, the team’s wild swings in structure and execution are what define the 2023-24 campaign.

“I guess you could say that,” said MacKenzie Weegar following a 5-3 loss to the 30th-place Anaheim Ducks Tuesday.

“Yeah, there are lots of ups and downs for sure.

“The consistency I would say wouldn’t be there, and that’s something we’re going to have to work on and build on next year, for sure.

“If you want to be a great team in this league you’ve got to consistently win, and we’re going to need that.”

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Then came the kicker.

“I don’t care if we lose the next eight games,” spat Weegar, miffed about the effort on this night.

“Come to battle and work for each other.”

In those last eight games, with the playoffs out of reach, some of the biggest team goals left for this radically refurbished bunch is to firm up structure and hammer home expectations.

And do it consistently.

“For 60 minutes you want to play structured hockey,” said Weegar, on a roll.

“We just did, to a playoff team, last game.

“I don’t know why it just flips so quickly like that. It’s weird and I don’t get it.

“That effort is not acceptable, especially when we have a younger group now. We’ve got to set the standard now.”

Five losses in their last six outings is irrelevant at this point.

It’s actually advantageous, given the draft lottery odds at stake.

But as Ryan Huska’s squad trudges towards the dreaded year-end meetings, they do so knowing their biggest issue of the year was consistency.

“Yeah, one of the issues for sure,” said Huska, whose team is 74 games into a never-ending series of three and four-game winning and losing skids, peppered regularly with losses to several of the team’s worst outfits.

“We had swings where we had good stretches and were winning games, and had swings where you have to stop the bleeding before it gets to a point where you can’t recover.”

They hit that point a while ago, and then came the final few significant roster subtractions no team could be expected to recover from.

The hope in all this is that when the Flames play the way Huska wants, they have proven they can skate with anyone.

They just can’t do it regularly enough, which really is the defining line between a good team and a playoff team.

“Five-on-five versus L.A. our play was really good,” said Huska, referencing Saturday’s 4-2 win over the playoff-bound Kings.

“Tonight we were awful.”

Huska was bang-on with who to point the finger at.

“We had a handful of players come to play tonight,” said Huska, adding that it was easy to see who they were.

“The rest did not.

“We looked for an easy game, in my opinion, and that’s what we ended up getting.”

The lone bright spot was the Nazem Kadri, Martin Pospisil, Andrei Kuzmenko trio, which saw the Russian winger score twice.

Kuzmenko has four goals and six points in his last three outings with his new line, which is being driven by Kadri and Pospisil.

“Naz is competitive, Posp knows his role really well — I think he had seven hits tonight — and Kuzy is starting to feel good about his offensive game,” the coach said.

“He wants the puck and wants to be around it. I think the three are starting to feed off each other.”

A small sample size of success.

Something the Flames know all too much about.

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