The Flames have five games under their belt so far in the 2023–24 season and thus far it’s been a complete mixed bag results-wise. As is tradition, the team sits exactly at the .500 mark with a 2–2–1 record and has alternated wins and losses so far. It may be too early to ring any alarm bells, but there have certainly been some worrying performances across the lineup thus far.
We asked you who has had the most worrying results on the team to start the 2023–24 season. Here’s how you answered.
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Some worrying Flames performances
As mentioned, it’s been a complete mixed bag to start the season in Calgary. After a summer of intrigue and optimism with a new coaching staff and attitude in the organization, the Flames haven’t exactly shown many signs of improvement thus far. One of the main reasons for the team’s underwhelming start has been some worrying starts from the Flames’ top players once again in Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau. Newcomer Yegor Sharangovich meanwhile has also failed to make much of an impression while new head coach Ryan Huska hasn’t exactly made a big imprint on this team so far.
Which of the four deserves the most scrutiny? Here’s how people have voted.
Kadri was the runaway winner in the poll—it wasn’t even close. That shouldn’t come as a shock. Being as nice as possible, Kadri’s had a dreadful start to the year. The fact he’s one of the team’s most important players is already worrying but it doesn’t help that he’s entering just the second year of a mega seven-year deal that pays him $7 million a year. The Flames need Kadri to be one of their best players and instead, he’s been arguably their worst.
So far through five games, Kadri has just one single point—an assist that came in the fourth game of the season. It’s the worst five-game start of his entire career, a worrying sign for a player entering his mid-30s with six years left on his term. All this is despite leading all Flames forwards with 65 minutes of 5v5 ice time to start the season.
The Flames have been getting crushed so far at 5v5 with Kadri on the ice. Here’s how he sits in terms of some key metrics. All numbers are 5v5, score- and venue-adjusted, courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com.
|Metric||Nazem Kadri||Team rank among Flames Forwards|
Yes it’s only been five games and there’s tons of time for Kadri to turn it around, but there’s no doubt he’s had the most worrying start to the year of any Flame. He’s playing more like a replacement-level forward instead of a forward being paid $7 million a year. Given his contract and role on the team, the Flames desperately need him to be a key contributor and he’s been everything but so far this season.
Finishing second in the poll was Jonathan Huberdeau. After last season’s disaster, no player had more pressure on them to start the 2023–24 season on the right foot. Although Huberdeau’s start hasn’t been a complete disaster, it’s still been rather underwhelming. This one is a classic case of a player’s contract swaying opinions.
Huberdeau has chipped in offensively so far, sitting with four points which ranks second on the team. His three 5v5 points actually rank first on the team, a positive sign after he struggled a ton at 5v5 last year. That said as mentioned above, when you’re being paid $10.5 million a year, there’s going to be much higher expectations on you. Being just okay isn’t good enough and Huberdeau has been exactly that so far.
Here’s where he ranks on the team in some key metrics.
|Metric||Jonathan Huberdeau||Team rank among Flames Forwards|
Are Huberdeau’s results horrible? Not at all. Are they up to standard for one of the league’s highest-paid players? Not even close. Although he’s certainly made some progress from last season, we’re still very much seeing the same issues that plagued Huberdeau last year and that’s a major concern for a team that lacks star talent. Huberdeau’s eye test thus far has been abysmal.
Huberdeau has simply been unable to impact the game the way a $10.5 million player should as he’s routinely fallen into the background most nights. That’s not a good sign for a player who many expected a massive rebound year from.
Receiving the third most votes by a slim margin was Yegor Sharangovich. It helps to have the least expectations of the group here as Yegor’s disappointing start has taken a backseat to some other more important players and staff members. That said, it’s certainly a tad worrying to see Sharangovich currently sitting tied for dead last among Flames forwards with just one point, and no goals.
Sharangovich was brought in as a direct replacement for the departing Tyler Toffoli, with the hope he’d be able to help soften the blow of losing their highest goal scorer. Instead, he’s gone from starting training camp on the first line and first power play to skating as the fourth line centre and off the power play within a month.
In fairness to Sharangovich, he perhaps was unfairly removed from the power play before the season even started which is out of his control. He has also looked solid at centre on the teams’ fourth line which has been one of their better lines this season. The problem is the Flames were really hoping for Sharangovich to rediscover his 20-goal form, which doesn’t come from playing fourth line centre.
A bit a spicier pick, new head coach Ryan Huska finished with the fourth most votes. After Darryl Sutter’s disastrous 2022–23, it was widely assumed that the main cause of the Flames’ struggles was the man behind the bench. With Huska now calling the shots, the expectation was that the Flames would look much different, and much more effective this season, especially on offence. Instead, they look… arguably even worse? Take a look at the Flames’ impact in the offensive zone through five games.
Now obviously five games is an incredibly small sample size, but it’s certainly worrying to see the Flames employing nearly the exact same tactic as last season. That tactic of course is taking all their shots from the outside and not the high-danger areas. So far this season the Flames have completely failed to generate any chances in the centre of the ice, which was a major issue with the team last year.
Typically when a new coach comes on board the team sees a considerable bump through the first few games. Instead this season the Flames have looked very similar to last season on offence, which is not a good thing. Now it obviously takes longer than five games to implement a new system, but so far we really haven’t seen anything new or exciting under Huska that would give us optimism that things will get better.
Still plenty of time for Calgary
It clearly hasn’t been a perfect start to the Flames season, but it also hasn’t been a disastrous one either. One of the main reasons for the teams’ underwhelming start is the worrying starts for the above players and coaching outcomes. These are certainly worth monitoring as the season goes on as it’s obviously too early to make any concrete judgements. That said it makes sense that worry has already set in as the Flames don’t have much time to spare as they look to get things in order.
In particular, Kadri’s start has clearly been the most worrying thus far, as there are barely any positives to speak of right now. For a player who is currently the second highest paid on the team and one of the most important pieces at forward, Kadri needs to find his game soon or the panic button may be hit in the near future.
Who do you think will be the first to turn things around? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire