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At What Point Is It Not About Coaching?

Sure, there’s a guy on the bench who’s the captain of the ship, but they aren’t the one’s playing the game.

Calgary Flames v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Before we start this isn’t a reactionary piece to the loss to Nashville. Carry on.

This is an honest question: when is it not about the coach? And I’m being serious. When does the Flames underachieving lack of success get placed on the guys with the helmets, skates and gloves?

The Flames are starting (some would say have been) to crumble as the season heads towards the 60 game mark. Calgary currently has dropped five out of their last six, including three in a row. The cries of “new coach” are getting louder by the day, but is Geoff Ward really the problem? Is he the answer? Who the hell knows, but at this point the Flames have bigger problems than the guy in the suit and tie.

Bob Hartley. Glenn Gulutzan. Bill Peters. Now Geoff Ward. That’s four coaches for the Calgary Flames that have been attached to either the entire or partial “core” of this Flames team and what does Calgary have to show for it? Nada.

Johhnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund. T. J. Brodie and Mark Giordano have ALL played for every single one of those coaches. Matthew Tkachuk, who by the way is the least of the Flames problems, did not play for Hartley. Every single one of those coaches was sent packing, with Peters “leaving on his own” and the jury still being out on Ward. They all had that talented group mentioned above and it begs the question: when does it become about the players?

NHL: APR 19 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round - Avalanche at Flames Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I think we’re at that point. It’s time to, excuse the pun, hold the Flames players feet to the fire and hold them responsible for this team’s lack of success and drive since they’ve been together. This core group had career seasons last year under Peters with the addition of Elias Lindholm. What did they do after finishing as the second best team in the NHL during the 2018-19 season? Jack friggin squat. Calgary was sent packing by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and their star players were absolute no-show’s (sorry to Matthew Tkachuk as he was decent in that series). Johnny Gaudreau and his one assist was invisible and looked like playoff hockey was too big for him. Sean Monahan was hurt, but he brought only two points. Mark Giordano was a -3 with two points.

Important games against important teams? Gaudreau has 7 points in his last 8 games against the Oilers. Not enough for a “star” player in games that mean something. In the Flames last 14 games, where their record is 7-6-1, Gaudreau has been no help, scoing four times. Sean Monahan? In his last 7 against Vegas he has two goals and was absent during the playoffs last season. Mikael Backlund is having a horrendous season and in 20 career playoff games he has 8 points. Mark Giordano can be given a partial mulligan due to his out of this world season last year, but before getting injured Tuesday night he only had one goal in 37 games. In nine playoff games with this group he has three points.

Are we seeing the trend: maybe it’s this group of players and not the coaches. Heck, I’ll even give you that those stats all looked cherry picked to make the point, but is that really the case? What has this team done with all this fire power? I’ll answer that for you: nothing. Sure, sometimes coaching sinks things and injuries can derail the train, but after 4 coaches and the same group of players maybe we need to look at the guys on the ice and not the guy on the bench.

The trade deadline is coming up and clearly the Flames are trending towards being a partial seller as opposed to a buyer. IF a move is going to be made it’ll come in the off-season for sure. There’s zero chance the Flames move a big named player at the deadline, but don’t be shocked if there’s a few guys on this current roster playing somewhere else when the puck drops in October of 2020.

There are still 27 games left in the current season and the Pacific Division is such a dumpster fire that there’s a chance the Flames could make the playoffs. But, do you really have any confidence in this group of players to do anything? They tend to shrink or disappear in big games and there are times where you find yourself asking the question “was So and So even on the ice tonight?” There’s a HUGE game coming Saturday night and to quote Joe Maddon, the former manager of the Chicago Cubs, “try not to suck.”

Is the sky falling? Maybe-ish, but it’s high time the Flames best players pull up their boot straps and start carrying this team. Otherwise, it’ll be another disappointing end to a Flames season and a coach’s livelihood will be on the line. All this while underachieving players will be living high off the hog, collecting their fat paychecks for not showing up when it counted the most. Prove me wrong Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Mikael Backlund. Make me look like an idiot for writing this piece. But if past performance in big games is any indication, I’m going to be just fine with writing this.

It’s time to forget about placing blame on the coach. It’s time to wield it directly at those who deserve it the most: the players.