Calgary Flames

Sunday Census: Potential changes to the Calgary Flames amidst dark times

Welcome back to The Sunday Census. Throughout the week, The Win Column will be posing topical and intriguing polls on Twitter (@wincolumnblog) to gauge the fan-base’s stance on pressing issues. Want to make sure your opinion is taken into effect? Vote in the polls, start a debate, and propose alternative suggestions on the polls!

The Calgary Flames finally picked up a win yesterday afternoon, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in a shootout. However, despite picking up two points, the Flames weren’t really that great in the contest. It was their first win in seven tries, and they have just two regulation wins in their past 16 games. It’s been one of the worst stretches of Flames hockey in recent memory, and it’s made worse by the fact that this team had sky high expectations heading into the season.

This losing stretch has prompted lots of fans to call for change both on and off the ice. Because a lot of the issues with the team right now has to do with goal scoring, and specifically the lack of goal scoring from the top line that seemed to score at will last year, trade talk is fervent.

We posed the question: Who should the Flames consider trading? Of the 425 respondents, the most popular choice was Sean Monahan, followed by Johnny Gaudreau. Let’s not get into why trading Gaudreau would probably be one of the worst decisions the organization could make, and instead spend some time discussing Monahan.

To be perfectly honest, it was very surprising to see Monahan “win” this poll. Monahan has been known as a sniper and goal scorer throughout his entire career. He’s been good for 30 goals almost every season he’s played in the league, and his shot is probably one of the most lethal in the game right now.

The other parts of his game, particularly the defensive and physical sides of the game where he’s received a lot of criticism. It has always been that if Monahan wasn’t scoring, he wasn’t doing anything to help the team. It’s the main reason why there is always debate surrounding his place among number one centers in the NHL (that’s not a debate we’re going to get into now), and it’s the reason fans have been suggesting trading him prior to this season.

What is surprising is that these areas of weakness from seasons past have been Monahan’s strong suits so far this season. He hasn’t been scoring at nearly the rate he’s expected to, but his defensive game has been much improved, he’s winning faceoffs at the highest rate of his career, and he’s added an effective physical element to his game as well. Out of all the struggling Flames forwards, Monahan has arguably done the best job at helping the team despite being in a scoring funk.

Monahan will always have his fans and will always have his criticizers, but credit where credit is due: Monahan looks to be turning into a much more well-rounded player, and once the inevitable (hopefully) regression to his normal shooting percentage comes, he’ll be a formidable weapon down the middle for the Flames.

The other two options, Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund, are clear parts of the Flames’ culture and trading them could lead to severe problems shortly thereafter. Backlund has quietly been one of the Flames’ most consistent and reliable defensive centers. Giordano is much more than just the captain on this team, too. He leads by example, has done an excellent job mentoring Rasmus Andersson who is off to a tremendous start to the season, and has also been quietly more effective than people give him credit for.

In his media availability this past week, General Manager Brad Treliving made it very clear that he wasn’t going to trade any of the Flames’ top players. So, while the players included in the poll above are likely staying for the long haul, it’s very possible that depth pieces could be on the move if the Flames don’t right the ship.

On a similar note, we polled the Twitterverse on who the Flames’ coach will be by April. With the Toronto Maple Leafs firing Mike Babcock last week, fingers started to point to Flames’ coach Bill Peters. Babcock was fired after the Leafs went on a season-long six game losing streak, the same streak the Flames were in before winning yesterday.

Most respondents felt that Peters would remain the Flames’ coach until the end of the season at the very least. This is definitely the best decision considering he’s coached just over 100 regular season games with the team and for the vast majority of those games has had success. This 20 game slump isn’t a reason to discount the past full 82 game season that saw the Flames win 50 games and resulted in Peters finishing fourth in Jack Adams voting for coach of the year.

Peters is still a good coach. Most of the things he’s said following losses this season has had to do with execution from the players, specifically the complete abandonment of things discussed in practice and in team meetings. It’s not Peters’ fault if the players don’t execute his plan; he can only do so much.

As well, the Flames’ rivals up north can attest to the dangers of hiring and firing coaches with too much frequency. There’s benefit to staying the course and forcing players to figure things out, especially within a system that was so successful last season.

In comparison, Babcock was, according to accounts from current and former players, widely disliked. He was also the Leafs’ coach for five seasons including this one, wasn’t hired by the current GM of the team Kyle Dubas, and his coaching style was vastly different than Peters’. The situations are very different and drawing comparisons between the two coaches’ tenures isn’t that fair.

In the same media availability discussed above, Treliving also said the coaching staff wasn’t going anywhere. Peters is probably safe, at least until the end of the season. It would be interesting to see if current assistants Martin Gelinas and Ryan Huska, as well as associate coach Geoff Ward eventually get opportunities to be head coaches in the NHL. Gelinas has said he doesn’t have immediate plans to ever be a head coach, the it wouldn’t be surprising to see the other two make their way into that type of role at some point in the future.

Want to be a part of the conversation next time around? Follow us on Twitter @wincolumnblog and be sure to keep a look out for our polls throughout the week.

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