What Happened to Kris Russell?

Kent Wilson
December 02 2015 11:00AM

Kris Russell has played a lot of hockey for the Calgary the last few years. The Flames' alternate captain was a top-2 defender for the team last year after Mark Giordano went down with injury. This year, he's third in average even strength ice time on the team behind only Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie. He's one of the team's alternate captains, a favourite of Bob Hartley's and one of the best shot blockers in the league. 

The problem with all that is, Russell struggles to suppress shots against, which is one of the primary roles of a defender. By struggles, I mean he's been one of the worst players in the entire league since coming to Calgary. What's strange is, he wasn't that bad until he arrived in town. 

So what changed?

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FN Mailbag - November 30, 2015

Kent Wilson
November 30 2015 08:00AM


It's end of November and the Flames are tied for last in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers. They have just three regulation wins through more than a quarter of the season and they have the worst special teams and goaltending in the league. And the second worst score-corrected possession rate. Yuck. 

It's safe to say Calgary won't be visiting the playoffs again this year. While I don't think the current results accurately reflect the team's true talent (seriously bad goaltending will always salt in the field), the Flames haven't made enough real strides to turn the horse around in such a short period of time. Calgary's probably not this bad, but they aren't good either.

So the rebuild is back on. Start daydreaming about Auston Mattews, Matthew Tkachuk or one of the big Finnish kids everyone. 

In this edition of the FN Mailbag, we talk about the future of Bob Hartley, the club's untouchable players, trade deadline and what to do about the Flames goaltending. 

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Post-Game: Close Only Counts in Horseshoes

Kent Wilson
November 27 2015 10:00PM

November has been a roller coaster ride for Flames fans. After an abysmal opening month, the last four weeks have been a wild up-and-down ride featuring some of the team's best and worst performances this season. 

After dominating the Chicago Blackhawks on home ice, the Flames took to the road and were promptly outclassed by the Ducks in California, a fitting example of the November pattern. And while playing well at least occasionally can be considered an improvement, taking a step forward and then step back is a bad way to get yourself back into the playoff picture.

Tonight the Flames tried to get back on track - hopefully permanently - against the Coyotes in Arizona. Did they succeed?

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FN Mailbag - Nov 22, 2015

Kent Wilson
November 22 2015 11:46AM


Well at least not all of last year's magic has gone away. 

Although much of what made the Flames a Cinderella sensation last season hasn't carried over, at least they are still deadly in extra time. Or, should I say, at least Johnny Gaudreau is deadly. The Flames' pint-sized sophomore is a 3-on-3 assassin and the primary reason Calgary is currently 5-0 when it comes to OT this year. The latest win over the Blackhawks probably should have ended in regulation - it was the Flames' best overall game this season - but Gaudreau's single-handed effort to win it in the final five minutes was worth the price of admission. He's Calgary's best forward and it's not much of a contest right now. 

This mailbag session isn't about Gaudreau - he's the one element on this team about whom no questions need to be asked - but we talk a bit about his line mates, the health of the Flames rebuild, CalgaryNext and the Travis Hamonic thing, of course.

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FN Mailbag - November 16, 2015

Kent Wilson
November 16 2015 02:30PM


"Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain..."

- The prophet Axl Rose

The month of November has featured almost all of the Flames best performances this season. The problem is, there hasn't been enough of those yet. Even with the unexpected OT win over the Capitals recently, Calgary currently sits second last in the West, ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers (ha!). The Flames are third last in the entire league, with only the Columbus Blue Jackets trailing them from the East. Yes, even the Buffalo Sabres are ahead of the Flames right now (by four points. In two fewer games). 

It's been rough sledding. The Flames magic from last year not only dissipated, but imploded inwards. Their league best shooting percentage cratered. Their three-headed goaltending monster turned out to be a paper tiger. The "league's best blueline" seems leakier than a roach motel sink.  

All is not quite lost just yet, however. There are hints of improvement. The club's possession rate has been marginally better. Pucks are starting to go in again. The goaltending is starting to look at least average. 

That said, the Flames have dug themselves a very deep hole. It will take an astonishing turn around to get them back into the playoff picture. So the question is...at what point should the team call it a day and start concentrating on next year?

We look at this (and related questions) in the mailbag, as well as the trade deadline, Mark Giordano and Sean Monahan.

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