Gap between Flames and the NHL’s true elite crystallizes in latest setback

Blake Coleman’s return to Tampa included getting a new ring and a new perspective on the two-time defending Cup champions.

He knew his former team was as complete as any in the league, and that it wouldn’t be as much fun to be a visitor at Amalie Arena.

But the hope was that his new club was much closer to being ready to measure up than they ended up showing.

“Sometimes you learn lessons the hard way in this league and I thought we learned a lot of them tonight,” said the Lightning-turned-Flames grinder following a 4-1 setback in Tampa. “The last two games we’ve gotten looks at teams that are going to be there at the end of the season and when it matters most, and now we know the level we have to get our game to.”

The question is, can the Flames get there anytime soon?

Being outscored a combined 10-3 in the Sunshine State this week suggests they’re much further away than they thought.

“I would disagree with that statement,” said Coleman, who knows a thing or two about what it takes, as he received his second Stanley Cup ring from teammates earlier in the day, followed by a video tribute and ovation during the game. “As far as what we have in the room, I think there’s a lot of belief in our group.

“There’s a lot of guys not playing up to their potential…

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