clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Flame-On or Flame-Out: Road Trip Could be the Critical Point of the Season

This might be it.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Getting out of town might be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Calgary Flames. After five straight losses and four straight regulation losses, things are starting to move closer to full-blown panic mode in Calgary. As seen in Toronto today, it’s no longer too early in the season to start making major changes as the Maple Leafs fired Mike Babcock. There are some saying Calgary could be next to make a coaching change if they don’t start turning it around. Along with consistently starting games slow (sound familiar?), what really did Babcock in was the Leafs current six game losing streak and as I mentioned, we’re at five out here.

With a little over a week until American Thanksgiving (an informal measuring stick day league-wide), the Flames are tasked with four road games, far away from Calgary. Coupled with the injuries to Travis Hamonic, Sam Bennett, T.J. Brodie, and others, a trip out East seems like the perfect storm to create a cataclysmic event to this Flames core. The Flames are also tied for the 2nd most regulation road losses in the league entering the trip, another reason for concern.

Heading into the season it was clear that the Flames had very high expectations placed on them after a first place finish last year. It’s safe to say that they haven’t come close to meeting them as a team, even before this losing streak. As a result, there has been lots of chatter in the fanbase and in the media about stirring things up with major trades or management changes, so perhaps getting away from all of that for 10 days could really help the team regroup.

This could very well be their last stand. The chance to prove that this core can win big games with their back against the wall. People are going to point to the Blues from last year and say teams are never fully out of it this early in the season, but that an extremely rare instance across all of North American sports.

Speaking of the Blues, they’re the ones who started this long losing streak for the Flames with a 3-2 overtime win in Calgary back on November 9. Perhaps they can be the ones the Flames end it against as well as the road trip kicks off with a visit to the Enterprise Center.

Here’s a full breakdown of the Flames opponents on this road trip, and how Calgary has fared head-to-head against them recently.

Road Trip Breakdown

Date Opponent Standings Record 19/20 Home Record H2H Last 10 H2H Last 10 Away
Date Opponent Standings Record 19/20 Home Record H2H Last 10 H2H Last 10 Away
21-Oct St. Louis Blues 1st in West 13-4-5 6-2-3 5-4-1 3-7-0
23-Oct Philadelphia Flyers 8th in East 10-7-4 6-1-3 7-3-0 6-3-1
25-Oct Pittsburgh Penguins 7th in East 11-7-3 7-3-2 6-4-0 4-5-1
27-Oct Buffalo Sabres 9th in East 10-8-3 6-3-2 5-3-2 3-5-2

Calgary has their work cut out for them, starting with the NHL’s 2nd best team and defending Cup champions, before playing three straight against Eastern teams who are in the playoffs or just outside. These four teams are also carrying a combined 25-9-10 home ice record on the year, proving that it will be even more difficult for the Flames who have struggled on the road.

If there’s one player who I think will benefit the most by getting out of Calgary, it’s Johnny Gaudreau. His name has been leading the way in trade conversations over the last week or so, and whether he tries to tune it out or not, some of those conversations will get through to him and affect his game. The opportunity to get back home to the Philadelphia area, even for a day could really help Gaudreau step away from the pressures he’s been facing of late and let him get back to enjoying hockey a lot more. Gaudreau has fared well in his career against his hometown team, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that continue on Saturday.

Whether you like Gaudreau’s play without the puck or not, it’s clear that he has really driven the bus as far as Calgary’s offense has been concerned during his career in Calgary. As Gaudreau goes, so do the Flames. With just one assist over the five game losing streak, any chance for him to push the reset button should be welcomed with open arms. When Gaudreau is on, he’s up in the very elite company of top tier NHL scorers.

In a way, Calgary’s problems are simple to explain, yet difficult to solve. They’ve gotten the goaltending this year, they have a pretty solid defence core when healthy, it’s just that they haven’t gotten enough yet out of their two big guns in Gaudreau and Monahan. History says they should be able to turn it on, but we’ve been waiting for a while now, even when the Flames were winning earlier in the year.

If this trip can be their turning point offensively, then Calgary could quickly gain a lot of the ground they just lost. A clicking top line will open ice for the other three lines, allowing more depth scoring to kick in, and the Flames could be off to the races.

On the flip side, if the Flames don’t turn it on during this trip and they come home three or four games under fake .500, then this could be a seriously different discussion. With only one game between October 28 and November 5, the Flames will have more than enough time to make a big change if it’s needed. That’s why this road trip is so critical. It could make or break this iteration of the Calgary Flames as we know it.

There were some positive signs despite the loss last night against Colorado, but there is still much more work to be done on the trip, and it starts with a potential statement game against St. Louis tomorrow.

Poll

How many games will Calgary win on this road trip?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    0
    (14 votes)
  • 40%
    1
    (26 votes)
  • 13%
    2
    (9 votes)
  • 13%
    3
    (9 votes)
  • 10%
    4
    (7 votes)
65 votes total Vote Now