Five things: Rocky road

1. Roadtrippin’ ain’t easy

So the Flames enter today 1-3-0 on their current roadtrip, and 2-3-1 away from the Saddledome overall. In those six games, they’ve given up (get this) 22 goals, which is obviously way too many. Frankly, in the three games in which they’ve gotten their five road points, they’ve been lucky to escape; that Washington game was a disaster, the Columbus game flat-out bizarre, and the win over the Kings muddled by a slew of late penalties.

This is, one suspects, kind of the Flames everyone thought they’d be getting when the year began. They have seemingly little in the way of an ability to put together a complete game, particularly away from home, and that’s kind of the hallmark of deeply flawed NHL teams these days. They’ll occasionally do things well, even more rarely they’ll do them really well, but there’s always a deficiency of some kind: defensive letdown, offensive sputtering, goaltending gaffes (and man, the team’s save percentage to this point in the season is a robust .894), special teams trauma. These have all plagued the team at one point or another on the road. Fortunately, the road run comes to an end tonight with what will probably be a loss to Dallas (statistically speaking).

The Flames schedule, in looking at it, is weird, isn’t it? Three-game homestands abound in the early going, though two are merely broken up by a one-game swing out to Winnipeg and back in mid-November. Maybe the team builds up its confidence again starting on Saturday, but the stretch at the end of this coming home run is brutal. Hosting Detroit, at Chicago, at Minnesota, at St. Louis, at Colorado, hosting San Jose. Woof. Really good chance they might come out of that with zero points.

2. Monahan’s increased responsibility

By the time you read this the Flames will have already announced their in-no-way-shocking decision to keep Sean Monahan with the big club despite the fact that it’s a terrible idea, and in the run-up to that announcement they’ve done all they can to justify it.

He jumped from 15:10 at San Jose, where he was eaten alive at even strength, to 21:11 at Los Angeles, where he was eaten alive. That was then scaled back, somewhat, to 19:26 in Phoenix, where he actually did pretty well (something in the 48 percent corsi-for range). Of course, in those three games he also had two goals and an assist, the latter of which was actually at 5-on-5, so all the evidence mounted perfectly for Hartley and Feaster to make this wrong decision.

No crying when he stops getting literally every bounce to go his way a month from now.

3. Everyone coming back

What has been remarkable about the Flames’ ability to continually be at least in some ways competitive during this early-season stretch is that there are still so many important players hurt. The run-up to the Phoenix game saw Calgary bring David Jones back into the lineup, and Matt Stajan was along for the ride as a kind of prelude to their likely returns tonight in Dallas. Of course, then Mark Giorgado got injured in warmups (something I’ll address in a minute) and now the whole thing is on its ear again.

The good news is that all these players slotting back into the lineup for the first time in weeks puts the team in a position to start sitting Brian McGrattan for once, and that’s always going to be viewed by all sane people as a good decision,

4. The Giordano injury

Boy does this put the Flames in a bad position. Chris Breen drew in Tuesday night as a result, which was nice for him since it was his first-ever NHL game, but that is a gaping hole in the defense to leave. The Flames’ bottom-3 or 4 defensemen are, of course, uniformly garbage. The odds, I think, are probably good that Chris Butler is reinstated back into the lineup even though it’s a terrible idea, just because you don’t know how Breen holds up over a long period. (As I write this, I should note that there’s been no word whatsoever on his status or how much time he’ll miss.)

At some point, you’d almost rather just have TJ Brodie push Wideman-like minutes every night just to make up some of the difference so the goalies don’t get shelled. Not that it matters, really, since that’s already happening, but this has to be a major point of concern.

5. Something that just occurred to me

The Flames’ third loss in four games the other night kind of reminded me that I hadn’t checked where they were in the standings for a minute, and also served to re-inform me that oh yeah Phoenix is a division game now. I was legitimately shocked, therefore, to see the Flames, who have only lost three games out of their first nine, sitting sixth in the division.

Granted, they have a game in hand on a few teams ahead of them, but nonetheless, they already appear to be on the outside looking in. What was that stat Elliotte Friedman had the other day about being four-plus points out of the playoffs on Nov. 1 being really in tough to make it? Well, the Flames are currently four back of Phoenix for the third and final guaranteed playoff spot in the Pacific, and that could be a major problem going forward.

That’s interesting, though. We could more or less know the Flames’ chances of making the playoffs a week from now. Never too early to start the fire sale, I guess.

  • Section205

    Meh, whatever.

    Unfortunately the thing about the playoffs is mostly true. The teams that have playoff spots by Ammurrican Thanksgiving almost always get in.

    But nobody was expecting this team to make the playoffs, were they?

  • prendrefeu

    This article will be bookmarked so I can refer to it, among others, why I refer to the author Ryan Lambert of Flamesnation as Cryin’ Lamebert.

    Sorry, you’re doing this to yourself bud.

  • MichaelD

    Wow, I woke up this morning, the sun is shining and birds are singing. I was about to belt out a rendition of zippidy do da, but decided instead to read a ryan lambert story. Now I’m looking for hose to put in the exhaust pipe. Really are things going this bad?

    First, I don’t think anyone expects Monohan to score every game. He will go into a drought no doubt. I don’t really care about advanced stats, but from the eye he looks like he belongs. I’d say, from some of the games I’ve seen, he and Baertshi were the best players on the ice. Like Feaster said, this is the best thing for Monohans development. Instead of sitting on buses and scoring a hundred goals for a losing team in the O, he is playing against men in the league that he is destined to star in. He’s not the personality or skill set that struggling in scoring for a period of time will ruin his confidence. He is where he belongs.

    And playoffs??? Are you actually talking about playoffs?? Who cares, its a rebuild. When ever was the plan to make the playoffs?

    J

  • Section205

    One article on Flamesnation this morning, and unfortunately its Lambert.

    Looking forward to the day Lambert finds other things to do, and someone else can take his place in the lineup.

    • piscera.infada

      Reading anything Lambert writes on anything the Flames brass decides, despite being a terrible idea, can easily be shrugged off with a laugh and an understanding that having Monahan playing great hockey is a good problem to have.

      @gussey

      Monahan*… Even though he’s railed against people who think this team might not be horrible enough to finish last or next-to-last, Lambert now uses not making the playoffs as yet another switch with which to chastise management for being incompetent.

  • T&A4Flames

    Not surprising to see Lambert trashing the Monahan decision when all others in the hockey world seem to be applauding it.

    Gio’s injury only creates opportunity for more prospects to strut their stuff. Of course, Hartley needs to play them. I thought Breen did ok in his very limited TOI. A few more team practices and maybe he gets more time and does ok. Bring up Cundari etc, rotate them trough. That’s what this year is for.

  • Parallex

    Ease up on the double expressos and take a deep breath. While still a work in progress there are a number of positives for the team. After years in the Sutter wilderness it is good to be a Flames fan again. Get with the program Lambert!

  • Derzie

    Was this authored while teetering on the edge of a tall building about to plummet? I’m a critical thinker and none of these observations are flat out wrong BUT the idea of this season is rebuild. Coach with a plan, players buying into the plan, finding strengths, addressing weakness longer term, growing players and winning a few games. Talking about playoffs and position is a fool’s game. Lots of players had good efforts and results so far, some are weak links, we are not a playoff team but are finding out why that is the case. We don’t need Nov.1 to tell us where we are. We knew that on March 27 2013 when brass let go of the Iginla era. We’re in a rebuild. And already better than the Coilers of SweatPants Lodge.