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.

  • Rockmorton65

    I got a third through until I realized this was a Lambert article. Won’t even start another one. He must be volunteering his time to FN, because I can’t see anyone paying hm for his incompetent ramblings. What a joke.

  • T&A4Flames

    It’s actually hilarious to read Lambert’s articles, I get a kick out of the pessimism. I don’t think he is a bad writer, just a controversial one. We are all so protective of our team and the players that it’s like having a new born baby and then your buddy tells you he looks like a clydesdale kicked it in the face. Of course they are going to be bad and of course there are going to be long nights but just dont keep rubbing it in our face. We want to focus on the positives, like keeping Sean Monahan. And we want to read about the future of this team because the current incarnation consist of Butler, McGrattan etc….. On the bright side though, i think we win tonight in a shootout and Ramo plays amazing!!!!

  • ngthagg

    I’m not sure how the Monahan decision can be called terrible. Unlike many decisions made by an NHL GM (drafting, free agency), the ramifications can be laid out with a great degree of precision:

    The Downside: for one season, three years from now, the Flames will pay Monahan a greater sum of money, and be that much closer to the salary cap. This will, in turn, only be relevant if two conditions are fulfilled: the Flames are a cap team that year, and there is a desirable free agent that they are unable to to sign. (The Flames also lose out, in theory, whenever Monahan’s contract comes up in the future, but there are far too many variations for that to be worth considering.)

    The Upside: First, the Flames benefit from the addition of Monahan to the roster this year. This is actually a downside if you are convinced we need to tank for the next few years, but if you believe that, then you are not worried that cap concerns three years from now will cost us an expensive free agent.

    And second, Monahan’s development will be improved. This would be a debatable point if he was getting his head beat in every night, but he isn’t. The quality of competition, teammates, and coaching will be better in the NHL. He will be a better player sooner because of this. And potentially, he will hit a higher peak.

    If we miss out on a stellar free agent three years from now because we don’t have the cap space for him, I will freely admit I am wrong. But if that unlikely event does not happen, keeping Monahan up is the smart move.

  • Tenbrucelees

    Sorry but I won’t read any more articles by this guy. The one trick of being deliberately antagonistic is pretty insulting to the readership.

    I also think it reflects badly on the editorial policy of the site in general.
    It’s true lowest common denominator, sensationalist content.

    Honestly I expect better. Pull your socks up FN.

  • jonahgo

    I never read the article but read the comments. I’m glad my sentiments on Lambert’s articles are being echoed by almost everyone on here. How this guy still writes for this website is beyond me. I mean last year I seemed to agree with Lambert’s 5 things because the represented the opinions of many fans. While many of us fans are on board with the new direction and understand that its gonna be a long road, Lambert continues to be antagonistic toward the very people who visit this website. #BoycottLambert