It may seem absurd to be dissatisfied with the team after a 7-4-1 opening month. But I am. A relatively soft schedule and a lot of favorable bounces hid the fact that the Flames played mostly mediocre hockey in October and will be in line for a "correction" down the road if they don't turn things around.
Their struggles are best reflected by their shot differential: -5.1/game. That's one of the worst differentials in the league, which is especially disconcerting given the fact that the Flames primary strength last year was possession/outshooting.
What's perhaps more worrisome is the fact that it's Calgary's money players up front that are the deepest under water. Jokinen and Iginla have the worst relative corsi rates amongst regular forwards, and that's despite the fact that neither of them has been seeing the tough going for the last couple of weeks. As a result, they are both scoring at about the rate of your average 4th liner at ES right now (1.63 ESP/60 for Iginla, 1.36 ESP/60 for Jokinen) and it's not like they're knocking it out of the park defensively or on special teams to make up for it.
The good news is, it looks like the support players are going to be quality again. Which means the team should be able to keep it's head above water while things are straightened out with the Captain and Pumpkinhead...assuming they can be, of course.
Pursuant to some comments in RO's post game thread, here's some line-up changes I would make if the organization was silly enough to hand me the keys to the bench for a night:
Bourque - Langkow - Iginla
The "second line" has continued to be relatively effective, despite being fed to the wolves over the last few games. Rene Bourque has probably been the Flames best forward through the first dozen contests and Daymond Langkow is indisputably the best center on the team in terms of two-way play. This is a trio that could probably do the heavy lifting, as long as Iginla rediscovers some measure of his previous effectiveness.
Glencross - Conroy - Moss
In many ways, this line drove the bus for the Flames last year. They were outstanding at moving the puck in the right direction and were instrumental in setting the pricier players up at the good end of the rink with a lot of offensive zone draws. Conroy doesn't have the hands anymore, but he still has one of the best corsi rates on the club, despite a team worst zone start ratio. Not sure how he does it, quite frankly. Glencross and Moss haven't looked quite as good lately so maybe a reunion is in order.
Boyd - Jokinen - Dawes
Honestly, I'd prefer to see Boyd in the middle and Jokinen playing the wing, but that's probably never going to happen. Dawes and Boyd have both taken turns at looking pretty damn good this year and I think the pair of them can do damage, at least against lesser lights. Jokinen has looked awful no matter who he's played with or against, but to be fair, playing him with guys like Nystrom and/or Sjostrom isn't going net you much beyond breaking even most nights. This line would have to be carefully managed, but that's probably true of any trio that includes Jokinen at this point. At least play him with some guys that have some hope of scoring some goals now and then. This could double as the 2nd PP unit as well.
Sjostrom - Prust - Nystrom
This threesome kicked the oppositions teeth in a bunch to start the season so I'd like to see them put back together.
At some point, the Flames will have to get at least one of Iginla or Jokinen going. The primary emphasis is going to be on the players to figure things out, but it's probably best to put them in a position to succeed in an effort to kick start the rebound.
Feel free to disagree vehemently and share your own combos in the comments.