It’s getting to be crunch time in Calgary and lately the Flames have all the “crunch” of cereal that’s been sitting in a bowl of milk for an hour. The Flames have lost 6 in a row and while they were able to collect a point in 4 of those six loses, they haven’t looked good at all. The Flames have scored first in 5 of the 6 games they have lost and the one they didn’t they recovered to take a 2-1 lead against Vegas. All of those games ended up in the loss column.
So what gives? Let’s start with the most recent loss, the 7-4 debacle against the Lightning. Tampa is the best team in hockey, so no shame in losing there, BUT you had a 4-2 lead. Mike Smith was the clear reason they lost that contest as he gave up for softies in a row and the Flames were toast. The 4-2 loss to Vegas was brutal due to a fluke play and a bad shift on defence, all within 10 seconds of each other. The other losses the Flames scored 3 times and lost to Edmonton and the other 3 losses were 2-1. So goaltending, fluke plays and no offence.
The Flames special teams have been a lightning rod all season and during this streak they are as well. In particular, the PP is non-existent. When the Flames have the man advantage they are an unthinkable 2-21. Look at that number. You have an extra skater, for a minimum 2 minutes, yet you can’t get any kind of offence going. This unit is the responsibility of Dave Cameron and he’s surely taken a ton of heat for the PP unit’s lack of scoring. And he should. He isn’t on the ice skating with this group, but he’s also the one who “prepares” them and gives them a game plan. How many times can you give the puck to Johnny Gaudreau and let him bring it up the ice and try to skate through the entire opponents PK before you realize it isn’t working?
Is it the head coach? Glen Gulutzan turned to his inner Incredible Hulk and threw a stick and cursed the team out at practice....and they won 7 straight (part of that streak had already started). But how many times can a coach do that before it’s ineffective? Gultuzan seems married to certain players on the ice and while some have played “better” recently, why are they above being a healthy scratch? Troy Brouwer’s struggles since coming to Calgary are WELL documented, and yes he’s been serviceable lately, but why can’t he take a night off? Is his salary and the “A” on his jersey indicative that he must be in the lineup? Matt Stajan scored a goal (!) against Tampa and is clearly a pillar of the community, but why can’t he take a night or 2 off? Are the Flames trying to win games or a popularity contest?
Calgary has Andrew Mangiapane, Marek Hrivik and Ryan Lomberg collecting dust in the press box. What’s the point of them being there if they aren’t going to play? Wouldn’t they be better off in Stockton, actually getting ice time? Sure, there’s something to be said for looking at the game from a different angle, but it’s crazy to think the Flames would be worse with any or all of them in the lineup. That’s on the coach.....or is it?
Who is calling these shots? Is it Gulutzan or is it Brad Treliving? Is Flames management forcing Brouwer and Stajan down Gulutzan’s throat? Are they trying to save face by playing these ridiculous contracts? I’m a big fan of: if you can play, play. Who cares what you make. I can guarantee Flames fans would care less if Brouwer or Stajan or Lazar (I disagree here) and their contracts sat while some of the kids got a chance to make them obsolete.
Winning cures all, that we know. During the 7 game winning streak the complaints were minimal and the talk of a playoff run was hot. But now the Flames have dropped 6 straight and some in spectacular fashion. What looked like a playoff lock, is now in question. Calgary, after Thursday night’s collapse, is 5th in the Pacific, 11th in the West and yet they are still only 2 points out of the Wild Card. The West is so bad/mediocre right now that the Flames are in a log jam with LA, Colorado, Anaheim, San Jose and Minnesota in the Western Conference playoff race.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the 19 guys who take the ice every night for the Flames. As much as coaching and management take the fall for this stuff, the Flames are too damn talented to be this bad. Johnny Gaudreau is 7th in the league in points (58). Mike Smith is 7th in Save% and 10th in wins. Sean Monahan’s 23 goals are good for 13th in the NHL. Micheal Ferland has 20 goals, 6 on the PP. Mark Giordano is having what might be his best year defensively AND he’s 5th among defenceman in the NHL in points with 23. Dougie Hamilton is 11th in scoring by blue liners with 26 points and he’s playing solid defence as well. Matthew Tkachuk. Mikael Backlund. Young players like Mark Jankowski and Brett Kulak taking on major roles on this team and contributing, yet the Flames are struggling.
The Flames, on paper, are too talented to be in the position they are in right now, but the results speak volumes. The Flames can’t win in a shoot out. They are brutal. They’ve lost by 1 goal 12 times this season. They’ve scored 2 or less goals 24 times this season, winning only 4 times when doing so. During this 6 game losing streak the Flames have lost: 2-1 SO, 2-1 OT, 2-1 OT, 4-3 SO, 4-2 and 7-4. In 2 of those games the Flames, in theory, scored enough to win, yet they didn’t.
So, who is to blame? EVERYONE it would seem, but it’s starts at the top an works it’s way to the ice. Management gave Glen Gulutzan this team and it’s his job to figure out who slots where and when. He’s done an average job this season, but his reluctance to REALLY shake things up may end up hurting he and the Flames in the end. The players could do their coach a solid and score and not blow any leads, which would be a huge help.
One thing that should seem obvious is that Dave Cameron isn’t getting it done on his end and he should not be back at the end of the season. Gulutzan? That remains to be seen, but he’s got some work to do if he intends on coaching this group in 2018-19. Brad Treliving? As a GM he’s insulated by the fact that he can throw everything on his coach and shrug his shoulders. There will be roster turnover after this season and maybe even at the trade deadline if the Flames are out, but for now they need to find a way to win hockey games.
There’s only so many sticks that can get tossed into the stands before it all falls on deaf ears. The season isn’t over and the sky isn’t totally falling, but it’s time to fix it or forget it.
Who’s To Blame?
This poll is closed
It’s All A Hot Mess.