FN Mailbag - January 23, 2017

Kent Wilson
January 23 2017 08:00AM

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Another rollercoaster ride this week in Flames Nation, though the lows outnumbered the highs. After a December that saw Calgary right the ship and get back into the playoff race, fresh leaks have sprung up everywhere in the new year.

For sanity's sake, it's best to remember that the Flames are likely a season or two away from really being a playoff contender. This year was always about development and assessment more than contention. The goal was to take a step forward in aggregate over the Hartley regime and see where the club would need support and improvement moving forward. 

That sort of perspective is hard to regain, however, after a series of frustrating losses, particularly the blowout against the Oilers. This iteration of the Flames has made strides but still suffers from fundamental flaws - some expected, some not. The coaching staff has the rest of the year to figure out how to solve some of them and the executive staff has the summer to try to fix the rest. 

Deep breath everyone. Development is rarely linear in the NHL. And just as the Flames probably aren't as good as they seemed last month, they probably aren't as bad as they seem right now. 

Today we talk about the Flames' depth at C, particularly what to do with Sam Bennett and how much Mikael Backlund might cost to re-sign.

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WWYD: Re-sign Chad Johnson or Brian Elliott?

Kent Wilson
January 18 2017 02:00PM

Brad Treliving entered the season with a pretty clear plan in goal. Brian Elliott as the starter, Chad Johnson was the battle tested backup and David Rittich on the farm to support top prospect Jon Gillies. 

Unfortunately, reality hasn't played along. Johnson has been the better of the two veterans in aggregate while Rittich has outplayed Gillies on the farm. To make things ever more complicated, Elliott has arguably been the better goalie recently, but he's also older and therefore closer to his expiration date.

Elliott, Johnson and Rittich are all free agents next year. Who do you re-sign?

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FN Mailbag - January 16, 2017

Kent Wilson
January 16 2017 08:00AM

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The Flames had a glorious December, but it has been a January of inconsistency and frustration so far. Glen Gulutzan's crew has careened from dreadful to excellent on a game-to-game basis since the calendar flipped, a tendency that has them plodding along at .500 in 2017 (if you count the recently SO loss to Edmonton as a tie, that is). 

Another big part of the problem is the club's even strength offense has completely dried up. Since Jan. 1, the Flames have scored just nine times in seven games at 5on5 and are shooting at just 5%. They are also drawing fewer than three penalties per game this month, so it makes it very difficult for the powerplay to make up the difference.

The good news is this probably can't last much longer. Once the dry spell breaks, pucks will start going in for guys like Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett again. When that happens the Flames just have to figure out how to get up for the opening whistle every night.

In the mailbag today we deep look at the Flames' centre depth and the future of the Flames' goaltending.

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WWYD Wednesday: What to do with Sam Bennett

Kent Wilson
January 11 2017 02:00PM

If you're anything like me, you expected Sam Bennett to take a big step forward this year. I've said more than once that I think Bennett has a higher ceiling than Sean Monahan. 

For justifiable reasons, I think: Bennett is a better skater, is more tenacious and is a better puck handler. The Flames' highest draft pick ever was dominant in junior (despite suffering through a shoulder problem in his draft year) and was considered by some as a talent potentially worthy of going first overall.

Unfortunately, like Monahan, Bennett has more or less run in place this year. He's on pace to score fewer points than he did as a rookie (34 vs. 36), has been permanently bumped from the Flames' powerplay, and currently centres a line that struggles at even strength. There's really nothing in his game to be excited about right now.

So what's to be done with Sam Bennett?

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FN Mailbag - January 9, 2017

Kent Wilson
January 09 2017 08:00AM

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Just over a week into the new year and the Flames have crested an important threshold: they're a break even shot attempt team. 

As of today according to Corsica Hockey, the Flames' corsi ratio is 50.39, good for 13th in the league. This is a big step forward from the Hartley era, a fact our own Ryan Pike illustrated recently on Twitter:

The image shows the Flames' cumulative shot attempt differential over the course of each of the last three seasons (including this one). As you can see, the new Glen Gulutzan era has managed to keep things more of less even (despite a terrible start to the year), which is encouraging for both fans and management. 

Which isn't to say the Flames still don't have real issues and gaps to explore. However, Getting back to treading water possession-wise was a primary goal for the club. If they can keep this up for the rest of the season, I think Brad Treliving and the rest of the management group can consider this year a real step forward, even if the roster is still far from perfect. 

In the mailbag today we talk about trade targets, the trade deadline and why the PP is suddenly so much better.

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