Calgary Flames

Sunday Census: Expectations for Ward, and adding an Oiler?

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!

November has not been a great month for the Calgary Flames. Even for fans, it’s been tough dealing with mediocre to awful play on the ice, freak injury scares, and a complete disaster off the ice. Finally, it looks like the Flames are ready to move past the tough month and start a new chapter in December.

After such a crazy few weeks, we asked the Twitterverse probably one of the most hated questions we’ve ever sent out: which former Flame, now Oiler, would you want back the most?

As expected, responses were… mixed, to say the least. The lowest proportion of respondents wanted Mike Smith back, which is probably the right call. He was mostly awful during his time in Calgary, and despite starting out hot in Edmonton this season, he’s been regressing back to his mediocre norms the past few weeks.

You just hate to see it.

Alex Chiasson was an underrated choice. in my opinion. He’s always been a decent depth option and a solid penalty killer. He also has one of the most interesting nicknames in the NHL: Toaster.

James Neal took home the win in this poll with 41% of respondents wanting him back. It wasn’t surprising to see considering Neal’s 14 goals matches the Flames’ goal scoring leader, coupled with the fact that the man he was traded for, Milan Lucic, has exactly zero goals on the year. Who knows whether Neal would have found the same level of success in Calgary, or managed to work his way into a permanent top-six role, but I digress.

The most interesting wrinkle of the whole Neal saga is that according to rumours, one of the main reasons he was traded in the offseason was due to a rift he had with former coach Bill Peters. Now that Peters has been exposed as a not great guy, maybe Neal was right all along. Maybe under Geoff Ward’s leadership, Neal would have thrived.

And on that note, we move onto our second poll that dealt with expectations for the new head coach.

The ceiling for interim head coaches is definitely what Craig Berube did with the St. Louis Blues last season. Everyone knows the Blues were in last place on January 3rd and ended up hoisting the Stanley Cup in the Spring. That level of success is likely next to impossible to replicate, but it does show that anything can happen in this league.

Most respondents (52%) took the conservative answer of a slow and steady climb for the club, while just 2% of respondents felt the Flames would be a complete mess under Ward’s leadership.

Ward has a surprisingly impressive resume. He has been on coaching staffs for professional hockey teams in four different leagues spanning three countries and two continents, was named coach of the year in two of those leagues, has experience with three NHL teams, and has won a Stanley Cup. Not too shabby at all.

It’s a small sample size, but Ward is officially 2-0-0 in his coaching career, so as it stands right now, the 28% of respondents who said Ward’s promotion would lead the Flames to an instant turnaround are correct.

The answer probably lies somewhere between options two and three. The Flames have enjoyed a bit of a rebound recently, but there are still lots of areas in their game that requires more attention. Until they can string not only a few wins together but solid games in the process, this team will be difficult to trust. Early results are looking good, but time will tell how much of the team’s struggles so far this season can be fixed by simply replacing the coach.

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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