1. We gotta call it
At this point, we have to just concede that there’s no more reason to watch the Calgary Flames for the remainder of the season, right? Well, apart from masochism.
Obviously everyone on the planet knew they were going to be bad this year. I thought they’d be the worst in the league, and they’re certainly trending that way, but a lot of very smart people had them a year away from bottoming out. I don’t know how you get much worse than this.
Apart from that, ahem, “hot” start, they’ve not only been bad, but difficult to watch as well. They were effectively .500 on Nov. 3 when they inexplicably beat the Blackhawks, but that was the beginning of the end, as they lost their next six games and gave away points in three more after that.
Since that big W, the Flames are 9-16-4 (.379 winning percentage), and that includes just three regulation wins. Using the Sabres as a frame of reference, the Flames are actually worse than the worst team in the league. Since Nov. 6, Buffalo is 9-12-3 (.438). The Oilers, the only team in the West currently below the Flames in the standings, are 10-16-3 (.397).
It’s going to be a hell of a race to the bottom.
2. The offense, or lack thereof (again)
Well that was a real nice streak they had once. After a run of scoring just one goal in 240 minutes of hockey, the Flames rained hell on JS Giguere, whose numbers are starting to come back to earth after an absurd start. Four goals on just 19 shots, because when 87 of the previous 88 get stopped, that’s what happens. Only having 88 shots in four games, by the way, is appalling.
But there was the four on 19, and everything seemed like it might have turned the corner. And then Tuesday. Another shutout. This time on 27 shots.
Again, as a point of reference, the Sabres have been shut out six times this season. The Flames? Five. And things seem like they’re only going to get worse; all five of those shutouts have been in the last 10 games, and during that time they’ve scored 13 goals. Thirteen. Thirteen!
3. What happens with Gillies?
To that end, the comments of Brian Burke, who was in Providence for the game, about his ongoing contract situation are so interesting.
"Obviously he’s had a terrific first year and a half as a Friar. And there’s no reason to think that that won’t continue.
"I know there’s a lot of speculation that he’s going to be asked to turn pro after the season, but we have not in fact made any determination yet as to his status. I met with him (Monday) and told him that. We have not promised him that he’s being offered a contract at the end of the year.
"We’re going to wait and see how the rest of the year goes. Certainly we’re happy with his play. He’s a big guy. He stops the puck. He competes. He’s technically sound.”
For the record, though, Tuesday was also one of the worst games I’ve ever seen him play — his coach refused to comment on the performance, in which he stopped 27 of 29 — but the two he allowed came with 34 seconds left in regulation and then just 12 seconds into overtime. Neither was one he should have had any particular amount of trouble with.
4. Other NCAA notes
A few more musings here about how the Flames’ prospects are doing in the NCAAs that I’ve seen in the last few weeks.
First and foremost I have to give credit where it’s due to the much- and (deservedly-) maligned first rounder Mark Jankowski, who I thought played exceptionally on Tuesday night in that loss to Northeastern. He only attempted two shots, but both got on net and one was dangerous, and he seemed much more interested in getting his linemates the puck. They combined for six more shot attempts, four of which got on net. He also went 13 of 18 at the dot, which was probably the best performance I’ve ever seen him turn in by a wide margin.
Not a bad performance on the fourth line at all. Which, yeah, you don’t wanna see a first-round pick demoted for the fourth line, but I thought he made hay even if his game tailed off in the third period (which itself was highlighted by his being muscled off a loose puck by a guy who’s listed somewhat generously as 5-foot-7). I’m not ready to start referring to him in any terms as an effective player, especially due to his invisibility against Merrimack on Saturday, but it’s not nothing.
Then, of course, there’s the play of Johnny Gaudreau and Billy Arnold, who have been absurd in the last month thanks to one reconfiguration in the lineup. On Dec. 6, coach Jerry York added Chicago’s 2010 first-round pick Kevin Hayes on their line, and they’ve taken off in no uncertain terms. In the five games since (NCAA takes off a three-week stretch in mid-December for winter break), the three have combined for 10 goals and 34 shots. That’s 10 goals in five games. As far as I can tell, they’ve been on the ice for just one even-strength goal against that entire time.
And one has to keep in mind, too, that York has a policy of effectively benching his first line when the Eagles start to run up the score, so Arnold and Gaudreau’s combined 7-11-18 (again, in just FIVE games) should actually be a lot uglier than it already is.
5. I tried
I couldn’t balance out the negativity at the top with the positivity at the bottom. Just not a lot to go around. But you knew that. I couldn’t even talk about the Olympic team selections because the most notable of those was, in fact, Hudler being left off. Tough week. Tough season.