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What the Hell Are the Flames Doing?

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September has been ugly for this franchise.

NHL: Preseason-Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a very ugly month for the Calgary Flames.

I have had a lot of life going on this month, so although there has been a lot I have wanted to say, I had not found the time. But lets go through a little rundown of all the problems going on with this organization right now.

The Arena

I am only touching on this, as I am not Albertan, do not live in Calgary and thus have no say in how the citizens of Calgary should live their lives (Hey, Gary!).

Right around playoff time, the Flames made some unnecessarily pessimistic remarks about the Arena situation, trying to cast a shadow over the excitement generated among the fanbase for having the best looking team the club has had in almost a decade.

Then with the buzz starting about Training Camp opening, the Flames come out again and start making threats about moving the team, trying to back Mayor Nenshi into a corner for trying to do right by his constituents. They are trying to sway this election toward a candidate more beneficial to them. The blatantness of their behaviour in this (Hey again, Gary) is honestly quite revolting. I am nowhere near informed enough on the financial structure and economic implications regarding buildings of arenas with Public Funding, but there are plenty of great articles out there that provide the objective truths about the situation.

Unlike some in the local media who are happy to shill in local newspapers for the Flames benefit. Quite embarrassing but not very surprising.

Seriously, where would the Flames go where they would make more money than they do in Calgary? Unless the NHL is finally willing to make a second team in Toronto (they are not at all), I don’t think anywhere exists in North America.

Now, on to the actual hockey team.

Right-Wing

I like Micheal Ferland and Michael Frolik. Frolik is a legitimate top-six forward who has spent most of his career on the RW. Micheal Ferland looks like he could prove to be a good it long-term with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. The Mikes are all good.

But seriously, after that, it gets horrendously abysmal.

We all know Troy Brouwer is ridiculously overpaid for what he provides. We all know how adversely he impacted Sam Bennett’s play last year. So why, in the 2nd last game of the pre-season, is Troy Brouwer back on Sam Bennett’s wing?

The best answer is, cause who else? Curtis Lazar has been awful this pre-season. Just like he has been for the entirety of his career. Sure, he is young but how many chances does he get to show nothing? Emile Poirier and Hunter Shinkaruk have had less opportunity than him and at least they showed something in the pre-season (more so Poirier). It looks like he is not trending to be in the opening night line up, which really is not all that shocking. Why did they burn a second round pick on him?

Then, there is Freddie Hamilton, who I do not mind at all as a 4th line/utility player, but he is not going to provide anything special. Garnet Hathaway is the other right-wing still up right now and he is basically a less good Lance Bouma who they bought out in June.

So, how did we get to this point? How did the Flames neglect the right-wing position so significantly to this point?

Spencer Foo looked promising, but it was not reasonable to expect him to immediately be an NHLer. Although, he did show more than Lazar did.

So, the hierarchy as of day is: Frolik, Ferland, Brouwer, Hamilton, Lazar, Hathaway. That is very troubling.

Reportedly 3 teams are talking with Jagr. I hope the Flames are one of them. A 40-year-old Jarome Iginla would likely be an upgrade over any of the last 4 guys too.

They inexplicably did not make a claim on Beau Bennett who would automatically be their third best RW and they let go of Alex Chiasson in the off-season, who would be the third best RW on the team if he was around.

Something should probably be done here.

The Bottom Pair

Are we really heading into the season with Matt Bartkowski and Michael Stone as the bottom-pairing?

Matt Bartkowski makes incredibly poor decisions defensively for a guy that provides no offence. He’s a 7th D at best, he got beat by Derek Dorsett last night. He is not the sort of guy playing regularly on a contender.

Brett Kulak and Tyler Wotherspoon have not been great this pre-season, but I would like to see Kulak, who has shown well in the past, a chance in the line up to start the year. Why invest more time in a 29-year-old defenseman with a track record of performing poorly, over a 23-year-old who has impressed in the past?

Mike Stone has not been all that good either. In fact, I would say Rasmus Andersson has had a more impressive pre-season than Stone. Not entirely surprising, as Stone really is not anything more than a bottom pair guy, while Rasmus Andersson is an excellent prospect, coming off a great first AHL season. However, Michael Stone got the long-term, somewhat big money extension, despite the circumstances.

Tough to see Rasmus getting to play on the right side of the third-pair on opening night over Stone. It’s too bad because he has earned it.

If I was trying to win on opening night, my bottom-pair would be:

Kulak-Andersson.

I’m expecting:

Bartkowski-Stone.

The Goaltending

If you told me after the Flames got eliminated by the Ducks in April, that they would be opening up the 2017-18 season with Mike Smith and Eddie Lack, I would not have believed you and I would have been appalled by such a bad idea.

Yet, here we are.

Personally, I would feel a lot more comfortable today if we were going into this season with Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson. They both had their struggles at times last year, but they have a much better track record over their careers than Smith and Lack. Judging Elliott so harshly for a very short series against the Ducks after being so dominant down the stretch, is really something.

If the Flames signed Elliott and Johnson to the contracts they signed with Philadelphia and Buffalo respectively, they would be paying about $400,000 less than they are currently paying the tandem they have today.

The Collection of Not-At-All NHL Caliber Players Still Hanging Around

The following players probably should not be NHL regulars on any competing team

  • Tanner Glass
  • Luke Gazdic
  • Garnet Hathaway
  • Freddie Hamilton
  • Curtis Lazar
  • Matt Bartkowski

A case can be made for Troy Brouwer and Eddie Lack as well, based off their most recent years.

Multiple of these players are going to be in the opening night line up. Dang.

The Positives

This has been an incredibly depressing article, because honestly, there are a lot of really bad things going on with the organization right now. However, there are a few shining lights that should keep you from burning all your Flames gear.

  • They have not played in regular season form yet, but the team possesses a sweet top-4 Defence group. Hopefully it can cover for lost ground in other areas.
  • Dillon Dube had an awesome camp, despite having sub-optimal linemates.
  • Mark Jankowski has looked great as well, he is the best thing about this whole training camp.
  • Rasmus Andersson, Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington have done a great job representing the next generation of defence in the organization, to varying degrees. Lots to like from this group.
  • The actually good players on the team have overall looked quite good.
  • Sam Bennett was a monster when he was not saddled with Brouwer. There is probably a lesson here, Flames organization.

Real hockey starts Wednesday. Hopefully Tre and Co. can sort some things out in that time, there is definitely plenty of work to be done.

As well, maybe the Flames Ownership Group will learn to stop embarrassing themselves in the community.