Forget the fact that the Flames lost 4-0 to the Maple Leafs in another game where they were no shows and gave up the first goal of the contest (8th straight game). The real showing that the Flames need a culture change and some sort of shakeup came around 12:30 of the second period.
Johnny Gaudreau had just played the puck and as he lifted his head up and Leo Komarov trucked Gaudreau and got him with what appeared to be a head shot. Gaudreau hit the ice in a heap and Komarov kept skating. Mark Giordano attempted to stand up for his player, but the fight he instigated dissipated quickly and that was it. Nothing more. No one really went after Komarov (sort of, we’ll get to that), no one attempted to make a Maple Leafs player pay. It was business as usual for the Flames as they coasted through the rest of the game and lost 4-0.
That play and the lack of response is the perfect example of why changes need to be made with this team: there is no fire. The Flames have had such lack luster effort lately it’s maddening. Your star player gets absolutely leveled and nothing happens. Look, Johnny Gaudreau is a big boy. He came back out on the ice after heading to the locker room and finished the game. Statistically he’s having a miserable season and isn’t providing the spark the Flames are paying him big money for. With all that said, he IS your star player and when an opposing player takes a shot like that at your star, there has to be some repercussions. Look at the Oilers. If someone so much as breathes on Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic is there to take care of business. The Flames? Nope. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Alex Chiasson attempted to take a run at Komarov in the 3rd, but barely got him and ended up in the box for 2 minutes for his troubles. I’m fine with that. He was trying to make a point, but what happened next is what’s really worrisome. Chiasson got a few shifts off thanks to Glen Gulutzan’s gutless coaching in this game. Gulutzan sat Chiasson right in front of him as punishment for attempting to defend one of his teammates. Yes, Chiasson’s penalty led to a Toronto PP goal, but who cares at that point? The Flames weren’t winning that game, so why not let the boys get a little physical and let Toronto know that the kind of crap they pulled earlier isn’t acceptable? Not Glen Gulutzan’s Flames. He’d rather his star player get smashed, barely question the call and ride out the storm. Gutless.
I’m not suggesting there be a line brawl like the one the Flames and Canucks engaged in a few years back or that the Flames need to “put on the foil.” I’m talking a good, solid shot at the guy who laid your player out. The Flames had ZERO sense of urgency through this game and taking a liberty or two with the Leafs might have been something the Flames needed. But they didn’t. They tucked their tails between their legs and let the Maple Leafs toy with them and taunt them the rest of the game. What a joke.
What do the Flames need to do? They need to play with bigger players. Micheal Ferland was a scratch for this contest (pretty sure because he was responsible for 2 Edmonton goals Saturday night) and Garnet Hathaway isn’t with the team due to an upper body injury. But when those 2 are back, they need to be in the lineup. Brian Burke talks a big game about truculence, but where is it? The Flames are soft without those 2 in the lineup. The Ducks and Kings both play with bigger guys in their lineup and it works for them. I’m not saying Hathaway and Ferland solve all the Flames problems, but they bring a certain edge to the arena when they are out there. Rest assured you can guarantee Ferland or Hathaway would have taken care of business if it needed taking care of. All of the “body guard” duties can’t fall on Deryk Engelland either. Engelland is always there to stand up for his teammates, but there has to be other guys to help. Teams know the Flames aren’t going to fight back, so the opposition is going to take liberties until Gulutzan stops being a Boy Scout troop leader and starts being a hockey coach.
The culture needs to change and it needs to change now. Calgary is losing it’s grip on that 8th playoff spot and if the current brand of hockey they are playing continues, the playoffs will be long out of sight and teams will look at the Flames as an easy mark on their schedule.