Prior to the season, I wrote a post saying not to panic if the Calgary Flames weren’t 15–0 to start the year. Well, we’re 14 games in and they’re at .500 with a 6–6–2 record. So, is it time to panic?
For the past few weeks, the team has been frustrating to watch to say the least. A seven-game losing streak was finally snapped with a win Saturday.
Although the first handful of games looked good, playing from behind but coming out with wins, there still was this feeling of pulling teeth when trying to gain chemistry. It’s no question that something needs to change, even early in the year there has to be a target on someone’s back.
With that said, who’s on the hot seat right now?
Lines. Lines. Lines.
That’s been the theme of Darryl and co.’s start to the year. It was expected, but it was also expected to have been solved five, even 10 games ago. Instead, we’ve had a game of musical chairs with Tyler Toffoli and Elias Lindholm seeing all of Adam Ruzicka, Milan Lucic and Jonathan Huberdeau for lengthy amounts of time. Meanwhile, the backend has been plagued with injury.
Darryl’s old style is really coming through focussing on getting all four lines on the ice making for some extremely harrowing stats when looking at time on ice per player.
Beyond the ice time management and line combinations, Sutter also made some interesting decisions with his netminders. Most recently, Markstrom started both games of a back-to-back last week, where the Flames fell to the Islanders 4–3 in overtime and then 3–2 to the Devils in regulation.
Although Markstrom didn’t lose either of those games for the team, an overnighter against two hot teams for a guy you want to manage better is a bit odd? Speculations were that the starts were scheduled to give Vladar a start against his former club the Boston Bruins to end the road trip.
The wise ol’ farm boy is coming off a fresh extension, but in my opinion, he is not living up to it with this new-look roster.
The on-ice performance has been lacklustre and overall confidence has been down.
This is a whole can of worms unto itself. There’s evident holes in scoring and while some of that comes from where their coach is placing them in the lineup, a lot of it has been flat out not finishing.
There has been hope regarding the on-ice product though. Through the Flames’ entire east coast road trip, the team did look great at times—and the emphasis is heavy on “at times.” They failed to play a full 60 minutes plus and turned leads to losses. However, the fact of the matter is that they are playing with leads, have looked better with their defensive zone possessions and breakouts, and finally on Saturday finished out a game with both points.
This in my eyes comes falls onto all the players when you’re experiencing a skid like the Flames just did. There’s only so much a coach can tell you, yell at you, or comfort you with at that point. The leadership group of this team needs to step up and build off their latest win and get back to playing a full 60 minutes. They can’t be fazed by what happens per period in a game, they need to play strong, confident hockey for three full periods. Confidence is this team’s key to success.
The “Summer of Brad” was called so for good reason. I’d feel wrong throwing the poor guy under the bus after boasting his bold offseason moves. However, there are still roster issues with the Flames that were identified immediately.
There is a glaring hole in the Flames lineup—primarily a top-six winger. The “Summer of Brad” can be made or unmade for this current season based solely on a move that hasn’t been made yet.. Reports of Calgary searching the trade market are already out, but this shouldn’t be to anyone’s surprise.
The outlook of this team is still extremely positive and really, it’s because of Treliving’s overnight rebuild of sorts. Brad put the franchise in the best possible position he could have with his given circumstances this summer. Making a competitive roster out of free agency opening night horrors keeps his head well above water.
Who’s to blame?
Brad’s done an overall great job and I don’t think he deserves any blame until things play out more. There’s a lot of time left in the year and as I mentioned earlier I think this lack of chemistry has boiled down to internal issues with the players. Athletes are people too, give it another road trip or two. The Flames have only played 14 games so far—not even 20% of the season. We can start dropping the axe once we hit Christmas.
The struggle to solve the puzzle with lines and production might just come down to missing a piece altogether. This does bring Treliving back into the equation. I feel as though picking one person to point fingers at right now would be a bold faced lie. Everyone’s at fault in this ongoing problem and will also be required in its solution. An NHL season is nothing but a revolving door of new challenges and this is only the first of the 2022–23 season.
The players need to finish out games and find some identity as a team, Sutter needs to find proper balance on the lines or just start properly giving the best players the most minutes, and Treliving needs to be the first to throw a wrench in the mix and move some pieces. Time will tell, but one thing for sure is there will be changes if this trend of play continues.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire