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Even the intangibles don't favour the Flames

Fancy stats yadayada. A lot of last season's success was attributed to heart, grit, determination, and hard work. Well what happens if even that's missing? A 1-5 start, apparently.

Look how many of the heads are down. This was game five.
Look how many of the heads are down. This was game five.
Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Upon joining Matchsticks, I had no idea about fancy stats. Corsi was a motorbike rider to me, PDO sounded like a darts championship and ZSO% was alien. I figure that is probably the same to most hockey fans. A lot of people aren't interested in how many times somebody started in the offensive zone, or how often somebody enters the zone - they just like to see good hockey.

I think it's called the "eye test". We judge on what we see on the ice, what the eyes tell us. There's nothing wrong with that. I still watch hockey that way. If I am writing something that relies on advanced stats to back up the argument, I will use them, but a lot of what I write is based on what I see.

It will come as no surprise that the Flames aren't passing the eye test.

They're not good offensively, they're not good defensively. They've not got good goaltending. Everywhere across the board, the Flames are failing. Fancy stats back this up, but they're not the reason the Flames are failing. They're simply evidence.

You could blame a lack of talent, injuries to "key" guys, different methods and systems. However, the Flames had this - and some - last year, and they still managed to make the second round of the playoffs.

So what's the difference?

Those attributes that folks like to call the "intangibles". The sort of things you can't measure in numbers and percentages. The heart of a team, the determination to win, the complete commitment to the cause.

It was there last year. It drove them on in the face of a season-ending injury to the captain. Shots were blocked at a record-breaking rate. Players were throwing more hits than they ever had before. They even had an element of luck - they were getting the right bounces, shots were going in against probability.

Can any of that be said this year?

Kris Russell has blocked 20 shots this year, in just six games. But he's not showing much else. There's no fire in his belly, he's not taking the man, he's not bursting around the ice like he was last year. But he's not the only one.

Micheal Ferland has 23 hits on the year, but that's more or less all he's doing. Regardless, the next "best" hitter is only on 12, half of Ferland's tally. For a team whose "heart" was so evident last year, it seems to have gone into hiding this.

Injuries have already hit the side. T.J. Brodie is a big miss, but he isn't what's missing at the back. He's not the player to stay at home, clear the crease, do all the dirty work for 25+ minutes. Lance Bouma is another player who often passes the eye test, and his impetus is probably lacking right now. But he wouldn't solve the problems of a misfiring top line.

The main thing on the eye test, though, is that the players look like they care. That the players look like they're trying. That the players look committed.

Again, can you say that this season?

There's been too many instances where players have simply given up on plays. They haven't chased the puck down, they've let a man skate past them with no effort or intention of stopping them, or they've simply watched by as a shot goes past them and past the goalie.

Neither goalie has been good this year, but they've both been let down by a team that just isn't showing the commitment to the cause that it did last season.

The team motto is #NeverQuit, right? It looks like half the team already have.