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Is This Just A Slump, or Something Worse?

Things continue to spiral for the Flames

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

When Glen Gulutzan finally called out his team after Tuesday’s loss in Montreal, he emphasized what had been on the mind of Flames fans in the previous three losses, and even dating back as far as the January 9th loss in Winnipeg.

“We were pathetic. It was a pathetic display. No bite back, no kick back, accept it. Right down, our top guys didn’t do anything. We need somebody to step up.” Gulutzan told.

Well, on the bright side at least he realizes what the fans had been saying for a while. By calling out the team’s effort this way, he must understand that he needs to fix things before Thursday’s contest in Ottawa, and the Flames need to respond.

Even in the victories against San Jose and Florida, the Flames lacked emotion and drive, seemingly playing the game because their contracts said they had to, not because they wanted to.

Now the losses have piled up and the team continues to show little effort or care.

But for now, we need to ask ourselves, is this just a simple slump?

Every team goes through losing streaks every season, just like every team goes on winning streaks. With the parity in today’s NHL, most games are evenly matched and close, so when other teams stumble upon the Flames who lack confidence right now, they know to take advantage.

The last two losses seem to be carbon copies on one another, the opposition scored late goals in both first periods to take a 1-0 lead after the Flames had played very solid road periods.

If they could’ve had both games at 0-0 after the first period, it would have done wonders for their confidence.

Then in both games they’d start the second period decently well, but would have the opposition score relatively weak goals against the rush to make it 2-0.

From there the Flames would slowly start to wither away and before you knew it, it was 3-0. And then you could tell that the game was figuratively over even with over a period left to play.

But why are the Flames losing? Well it seems to be a combination of factors:

First and foremost it seems as though Chad Johnson, who was the only reason the Flames were anywhere near the playoffs in Nov/Dec has started to cool down, as he’s been shelled the last little while. Also Brian Elliott hasn’t done any better.

Next we see that the 3M line has slowed down, but that’s to be expected after the torrid pace they were on for a large portion of the season. They were solely winning games for the Flames on a lot of nights, but they’ve struggled to establish themselves in the last few games.

We’ve also seen the Flames have no puck luck in these losses as other teams seem to get weird deflections that perfectly find their way into the net, or they just happen to accidentally block a great Flames scoring chance. But as they say, you have to be good to be lucky, and lucky to be good. The Flames really haven’t been good, but even a fortunate bounce could be all they need to start to turn around.

The Flames have allowed the opening goal in nine straight games (which we believe ties a league record) and their confidence is completely shot as a result. They need to find a way to even get a weird goal early in their next game, because there has been little resolve for this team after falling behind to battle back.

Johnny Gaudreau continues to be snake-bitten which has caused frustration and in my opinion he needs the All-Star Break more than anyone in the league as he’ll travel to LA to clear his head playing among some of the league’s best.

You can really start to see the effects of this prolonged slump on him, as for the first time in his career we’ve seen him flattened by hits in both the Oiler and Leaf games. Occasionally, he’d be hit hard in the previous 2 and a half seasons, but it seems to signal that his head is out of the game with the way he is blatantly getting knocked to the ice.

At the end of the day, this streak could just be the combination of a lot of players slumping, but with the lack of emotion, confidence, and resolve we’ve seen from this team, something needs to be done to change it whether it be within the team or by management.