Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: A reflection on Calgary’s playoff outcome

The Calgary Flames’ season was cut short as they were bested in the long-anticipated Battle of Alberta. With the Edmonton Oilers advancing to the Western Conference Final, that leaves the Flames looking for answers as their offseason gets underway. Now that the Flames’ season is over, what are your thoughts on the Flames’ playoff outcome? We asked, you answered.

The Calgary Flames offseason begins now

The Flames came into the playoff as legitimate favourites for a deep playoff run. Statistical models and pundits alike had the Flames pegged as strong contenders for the Cup, or at the very least one of the best teams in the West. We all know how that ended.

After a shocking 4–1 series defeat, the summary of the round was that Flames were beat by the better team at the time in the Oilers. The Battle of Alberta had everything in it, and was top-tier playoffs hockey, blowing expectations right out of the water. It’s a shame the series didn’t last longer purely for the entertainment value (but also to not see the Flames exit so early).

However, this version of the Flames did something previous versions haven’t managed to do in seven years: get past the first round. The joy of staving off playoff demons leading right into the Battle of Alberta has to be right up there for Flames fans seeing their dreams come true. Of course, it ended with the nightmare of losing to Edmonton, but the atmosphere in Calgary was electric for weeks—there’s no denying that.

Now that the initial shock of being ousted from the playoffs via an overtime goal by Connor McDavid is less traumatic, what are the overall thoughts on the Flames’ playoff performance?

A lot of “what ifs” for the Flames

The main sentiment is that this Flames team not making it further into the playoffs is a missed opportunity. The reasoning behind this is clear. The Flames were simply a dominant team with very little weaknesses. When things went right for them, every aspect of their performance was that of an elite team.

A plethora of career-highs were reached by virtually the whole roster, Flame stars Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk both put up over 100 points in contract years, Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington had impressive breakout years, and so much more went right for the Flames.

They were the league’s healthiest team too, seeing very few man-games lost due to injury. Throughout the whole season, the Flames looked like they had what it takes.

What if things don’t ever align as well as they did for the Flames again? How will contracts be handled in the offseason with major question marks coming in for the four aforementioned players? Will Sutter’s system work with inevitable roster turnover?

For this version of the Flames, it’s not unreasonable to think this has been the strongest team that’s suited up in years, and all the possible changes in this exact offseason has the makings that can lead to this playoff run being one of the biggest missed opportunities to pass by for the Flames.

We’ll just never know what could have been.

Pride versus disappointment

When looking at how many fans are proud versus how many are disappointed, there’s slightly more disappointment. Of course that’s not an exact comparison as selecting the other two options don’t directly account for a sense of pride nor disappointment. However, it’s still clear that it’s hard to be unanimously and vehemently proud of the Flames.

Pride on how far they got stems from the preseason through the regular season—no one really expected the Flames to dominate as much as they did, and being first in the Pacific Division was a pipedream for many at the start of the season.

However, the dominance during the regular season set the expectations for the playoffs at a much higher level, which can be why the exit is more disappointing than not. The Flames set themselves up for success, but were unable to execute when they needed to most.

On the flipside of that, as mentioned earlier, this Flames team played in 12 playoff contests this season. That’s a nice threshold to reach after failing to make it out of the first round for the past several playoff runs. The series against the Dallas Stars was an all-time series with everyone watching on the edge of their seats.

The first round was a defining moment for the Flames. Slaying playoff demons of years’ past was no easy task, and the Stars took the Flames to the limit for seven insanely stressful games. That’s playoff hockey for you. Just as much as it’s easy to be disappointed the Flames didn’t make it further, the Game 7 overtime winner from Gaudreau will forever be etched as one of the biggest moments of Gaudreau’s career and a huge turning point for the Flames as a team.

Distinctly kicked out of the playoffs

Now, the last bit of shock here revolves around the controversial no-goal call that negated a tie-breaking goal late in Game 5. Blake Coleman had a goal waived off for a kicking motion that has broke the hockey world at large. No one knows what a distinct kicking motion is anymore, and it’s clear the NHL war room is consistently inconsistent.

Not many people are suggesting that had that goal counted, the Flames could have won the series—no, it was clear the Flames weren’t playing to their strengths much of the second round, while the Oilers were deploying their strategy much more effectively.

However, it wasn’t just about winning the series… It was about winning possibly the last home game of the season. It was about not letting Edmonton advance on four straight wins. It was about seeing the C of Red blast the roof off of the Saddledome one more time.

Of course, the Stanley Cup is one of professional sports hardest earned trophies, but getting one victory could have ignited the Flames to bring the series to a closer battle.

That no-goal call stings. But Flames fans know all too well that missed calls and Flames playoff runs go hand in hand.

No days off for the Flames

Now that the offseason is here, there’s much to tend to. Of course, as more news on injuries come out, it’ll be clear just how beaten and battered the Flames were in the second round, so tending to the health of their players is at the forefront of priorities. Tkachuk, Mangiapane, Chris Tanev, Milan Lucic, and Nikita Zadorov had injuries confirmed so far.

Then of course, there are the contracts. That’s a whole new post for another time, but to say this offseason is the most critical on the Flames have had in years is an understatement. Between re-signing players and managing the salary cap, general manager Brad Treliving will have his hands absolutely full with free agent frenzy and the NHL draft.

The Flames’ season is over, but the chaos is just beginning.

How are you feeling about the Flames heading into the offseason? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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