Calgary Flames

Sunday Census: Wrapping up the good and the bad of the playoffs

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 Flames have officially been knocked out of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. They won their qualifying round in a deciding four-game series against the Jets, but lost in six games to the Dallas Stars in Round 1.

This series will be known as the one that got away. The Flames were just seconds away from winning the crucial game four that would have put them up 3-1 in the series, but it wasn’t meant to be. They dropped three straight ending in a ridiculous 7-3 loss.

It’s never fun being eliminated, but there were some fun moments along the way. Our first poll asked Flames fans which performance from former Oilers players did they enjoy the most?

This poll ended in what was basically a three-way tie, and honestly, it makes sense. The Flames were buoyed by former Oilers the whole postseason, most importantly by Cam Talbot.

The Flames netminder was nothing short of spectacular outside of the final game, and was easily the team’s MVP of the playoffs. Talbot came into the postseason as the likely backup goalie, but he earned the starting job on day one and never gave it up. He actually performed better than any Flames goalie has in the playoffs since 2004 and it’s no surprise the team is looking to re-sign him for next season.

Tobias Rieder’s Oilers experience was probably one of the worst in recent memory. Oilers’ president Bob Nicholson famously said a one year ago that if Rieder had scored 10-12 goals for the Oilers instead of the zero he put up that season, the Oilers would have been a playoff team. It was a crazy statement then and it’s made even better with Rieder scoring a whopping three shorthanded goals for the Flames in the playoffs, in the Oilers’ home building no less. Rieder was so much fun to watch this postseason and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in a Flames uniform next season.

Finally, the best for last: Milan Lucic. He was regarded as one of, if not the worst player in the NHL before he got to Calgary at the start of the 2019-20 season. Fast forward to the playoffs and Lucic had a five-game point streak, was a steady defensive player for the Flames, and fit in seamlessly on the dynamite third line with Sam Bennett and Dillon Dube. Add in the fact that Lucic has been a model teammate and role model and you really can’t hate the trade that brought him in. The bonus third round pick is nice, too.

As nice as these performances were though, this was a critical year for the Flames’ top players and core. After their disappointing first-round exit last season at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, the Flames needed to get past the first round this year. Despite the unique circumstances of the 2020 playoffs, the same result happened: a first round exit. Dallas dominated the Flames even more than Colorado did last year, and the Flames’ top line was abysmal at 5v5. It does look like big changes are coming to the Flames, perhaps even a trade involving superstar Johnny Gaudreau.

It was tough to watch because the players, coaches, and management all said confidently that this team was better than last year’s. They were better equipped to handle the intensity of the playoffs and were in a much better spot to improve on their shockingly bad performance last year. That didn’t happen, which leads us to our second poll of the week:

The overwhelming majority of respondents selected the players as the being the group most at fault. It’s hard to disagree with that too. At the end of the day, it’s the players who are on the ice, playing the games, and going to war for the franchise. They didn’t play well against the Stars and didn’t deserve to win the series. End of story…

Or is it? Coaching, with the second most votes, is under the spotlight as well. A few questionable decisions by Geoff Ward likely cost the team this year as well. He started the top line and most offensively gifted players in the defensive zone more often than not, which is contrary to conventional deployment tactics where offensive players start their shifts in the offensive zone. On top of that, Ward’s decision to pull Talbot in Game 6 despite the game being tied and Talbot being the team’s best player up to that point, was controversial to say the least. Many point to that decision as the one that changed the tied of Game 6, largely because David Rittich was asked to come into the game cold and save the day.

That being said, management, the group of people responsible for putting this team together, is also at fault. Did they build a team that was able to compete in the playoffs? Are there enough good pieces in the right places for the team to do well? Maybe not.

At the end of the day, the Flames’ loss is a combination of all three departments falling short of expectations, which is why there are rumblings that big changes could be coming soon to the Flames. Who knows if that will happen or not, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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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