5 Reasons Why the Flames Will Lose

After Ryan’s dose of sunny optimism earlier today, it’s time for a cold dose of reality. And who better to deliver that dose than FlamesNation’s founding father, the great Kent Wilson.

For almost a decade now I’ve written season preview pieces for the Calgary Flames. They have almost always featured a series of “what if” questions, sketching the various situations and scenarios that would have to happen for the team to succeed. They have never all hit simultaneously.

Until this year. With the exception of the injury to Mark Giordano injury, everything that could have possibly fallen in Calgary’s favour, did. All of their notable kids took huge strides forward. Almost half the roster experienced career high point rates. The team was deadly in third periods, extra time and at 4on4. They drew tons of penalties, took very few and got above average goaltending. If anyone were to sketch out a convoluted plan of how to win despite bottom basement possession, it would be what the Flames managed this year.

It was fun, thrilling, incredible and altogether unlikely. 

That means it is also therefore unlikely to continue indefinitely. When you need that many different factors to fall together all at once to succeed, you’re running a high tab with the hockey gods. And they always come back to collect eventually. 

Anyways, just to rain on the parade a little, here are 5 reasons the Flames will lose to the Canucksin the first round.

They can’t control play at 5on5

Let’s get the obvious one out of the war first. As I note in my recent article for the Herald, the Flames have the lowest possession rate of any team to make the playoffs so far in the modern era (post 2004 lock-out). Of the three other clubs in same ballpark who made it previously, none of them won a round, or even made it into the post-season the next year. 

It’s very, very hard to continue to win when the other team has the puck in your end at even strength. And even though the Canucks aren’t great at it themselves, they were still better than Calgary this year. 

There’s no shoot-out or 4on4 OT

The Flames had a 65% win rate in extra time this year, one of the better records in the league. Unfortunately, there’s no gimmicks or skills competition in OT in the playoffs – just more 5on5 play. 

The whistles get put away

Calgary’s great discipline and sky high penalty differential was another reason they survived past-82 games. As well all know, however, the refs tend to get stingier when it comes to calling stuff in the playoffs, with things veering much closer to a “let them play” philosophy. 

If a looser standard of officiating prevails in the first round, it definitely plays into the Canucks favour.

No Mark Giordano

And therefore no legitimate shut-down defense pairing. Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell managed to outblock and outscore their way through the final 20-or so games of the regular season, but the truth is they are not an ideal #1 duo, particularly south of the redline. The Sedin twins aren’t quite the scary elite first liners they once were, but they’re still good enough to feast on opposition who isn’t up to snuff in their own end. 

Gio out also means Deryk Engelland will be in the top-4, and you really don’t want him to face the Sedin twins too often. 

The Revenge of Sven Baertschi

You all know he is going to score a gut punch, OT game winner over the Flames, right? Because at some point all the breaks can’t possibly keep going Calgary’s way.

  • Toofun

    All valid points Kent. Calgary will have to over-achieve to win this. Either that or else Vancouver could under-achieve.

    We don’t even need a reversion for either of those things to happen. In this case the trend is our friend.

  • RedMan

    if the Flames lose this series (and they definitely are not favored for legitimate reasons) then there will be reasons they lose, and likely some of them are listed above.

    what a crazy year – they just cannot win, and then they do. they get outplayed, and win anyway. they fight back and never stop, they seem buried then all of a sudden they explode for 2 or 3, they have pulled off the impossible with such regularity that one starts to wonder why we bother calling anything impossible anymore.

    this team has been so much fun, so unpredictable, full of surprises, the little engine that could.

    like I noted in the other 5 reasons article, this team has already won, and playoff experience for the youngsters is such a bonus that it’s hardly fair to the other rebuilding teams.

    what an unexpected, beautiful year full of extra Christmases

    • RedMan

      you know, i would be the first to agree that Burke made a mistake by calling out Baertschi publicly before the jet that brought him here was even refueled. I respect Burke’s intelligence, but I do not like his leadership style. I am one of those guys who does not work well under the “type A” leadership style Burke seems to have.

      On the other hand, I also think there was legitimate concerns about Baetschi – not only his 1 zone play, but also his willingness to go all out every shift, every game, which has been the mantra of this team this year.

      it seemed to me, going from memory, that Baertschi came to the youngstars tournament with a huge chip n his shoalder, making it clear he did not think he should be playing with the “prospects”.

      It seems to me, by all reports, that he came to camp out of condidtion.

      It has been quietly implied that he had or has an attitude problem. Now – Burke calling him out didn’t help, as obviously he responded the opposite way desired, but the fact remains, instead of proving his doubters wrong, he proved them right with the long slumps he had and not fighting through it.

      Backlund and Stajan were also both whipping boys, but worked through it to earn their place and respect. Baerschi did not.

      He may burn the Flames in the future, but that doesn’t not mean he would have been a positive addition to the Flames team. Some teams do OK with a bunch of individualistic players and are not built on character. The Flames on the other hand, from Giordano down, have all bought into a team first attitude that expects 100% all the time from everyone. It could be that his presence would have had a negative effect on the room. I don’t know. Pure speculation, but to assume that even if he would emerge as a legit top 6, that he would have or ever could have been the same with the Flames.

      Burke was unwise to call it publicly, Baertschi was immature and unable to overcome the criticism, and didn’t come to camp in shape and had an attitude issue over having to appear in the rookie tournament. It became a no win, and much of this is on Baertschi.

      • RKD

        Complete and utter unsubstantiated speculation.

        I remember suggesting trading Baerstchi numerous times while he was still in favor with the masses (to try and get a young D) and was always resoundingly trashed. When it became obvious he’d fallen out of favor with the team he suddenly became a sulky whiner. I heard these same arguments when players like Savard and St Louis were shipped out. Brutal hypocrisy, but that seems to be the trend on these boards more and more.

        Like when I continually suggested Monahan should play on the top line rather than Granlund. Trashed galore. Once Bob finally did it permanently…..greatest line ever.

        Same people who think Jankowski is still a legit prospect. Bizarre.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Just checks Canucks Nation. Yep… no article proclaiming the Flames as victors.

    C’mon Kent, when most everyone is calling it a toss-up, don’t you gotta go with the home team?

    We need all the homer bias we can get to pump us up for the series 🙂

    • RedMan

      I think this is just a balance to the other, “5 reasons Flames will win” – split into two articles to separate the perspective.

      I’m ok with this article – not exactly what I want to hear, but still legitimate. the reasons are sound and legitimate, just like the 5 reasons Flames will win are.

    • piscera.infada

      I would assume this, and the “Five Reasons the Flames Will Win” article were part of a two-part series… It’s showing both sides of a series that, as your stated, is a toss-up. The Canucks aren’t great at 5-on-5 either.

      Frankly, I think the series will be great, and that’s part and parcel of it being very close between the two teams. I hate the Canucks, don’t really care for the city either, and honestly, I hope the Flames can embarrass them. However, I wouldn’t be surprised with either result.

      I’m nervous as hell. I’m excited as hell. It’s great! (It sure beats being “nervous” about the draft lottery!)

  • scoopz

    Vancouver has the 9th best power play in the league. Anyone have the % of total goals scored on the PP this year for them? For the Sedins in particular?

    If the refs put the whistles away, that’s an advantage for Calgary IMO. Kent, I realize that you probably think that will hurt the Flames possession wise, which is why you included #3 (and I don’t wholly disagree with you here), but this is where you have look at the physical makeup of a team.

    We are bigger than VAN. If they put the whistles away, does that make it easier or harder on guys like the Sedins? guys like Ferland and Bouma are going to have a heyday with that team. Byron is going to play physical as well. VAN is soft and this will show.

    Yes, I’m saying #GRITCHART will play a factor in this series.

  • X Man

    Phooey!!!

    Oh Mr. Wilson, why’d you have to go and join the dark side?

    Lambert’s been saying this stuff all year and has been proved wrong all year…

    GFG!

  • RKD

    The Flames have more heart. The Flames have a lot of intangibles that just cannot be measured. They play as a unit and as a team. The 2004 team did get far on Kipper’s goaltending but that team had tons of heart. A supposedly skilled team the Canucks had in 2004 could not put away a team that grinded its opponents down. Bennett could be an X factor, he is still a neophyte but he could give the Flames another option to spread out the offense. The Canucks d will have to keep up with the speed of the Flames. The Flames d provides a lot of offense from the Last year or maybe the year before there were more than 22 2 goal comebacks in the playoffs. Possession can’t be fixed overnight and it may take some off season moves to get more of the right type of players but the Flames will and can overcome that like they have all season long.

  • Captain Ron

    I posted this on the why they will win article. May as well leave it here too.

    Sven is no where near good enough as a player right now for us to be worried about him. He might be one day but only time will tell. Frankly I hope he plays. It should give us an advantage when he is on the ice

  • RKD

    Kypreos and McLennan. The Flames top line has been lights out when it mattered most down the stretch… Top shot blocking club on the circuit. Have the edge with puck moving defenceman as with Hiller over Lack. Hrudey: Gaudreau has the Gretzky like sense and is comparable to Patty Kane. Both Stanley Cup MVPS. Generally those types of guys don’t get tripped up in the first round against a team on the brink of full on rebuild.

    Corsi / advanced stat blinders? Calgary allows you to play on the perimeter, while waiting to pounce. Why run around and chase when you can contain, maintain energy and sprint when the moment arises? Kinda like the last game against the kings. Low possession, they held the puck along the walls but were contained.

    I’d go on to dissect the points a bit by the writer, like Giordano being an issue. I think that point has been moot for some time after the injury.

    The glaring omission is with the reduction in penalty calls apparently going in the Canucks favor. The advantage goes to the most disciplined team especially when one or two additional additional power plays can swing a series. Sorry your arguement here is not how it works when advantages are slim in a tight match-up and being disciplined is in fact an advantage, not a deterrent.

  • Parallex

    its beyond obvious to me that Kent wrote this as a counter piece to the other 5 reasons article. That was the entire point. Yet he gets trashed for being too ‘negative.’ Dont debate the article points or anything. Not sure what’s so hard to understand, but here you have it.

  • Parallex

    after a tentative first they found ways to dominate 5on5. Historical references of how a low possession team has never won a first round does not indight a team or prove future events like corsi can’t predict the regular season. I just can’t get over how unsupportive the base points were related to the article title by the author. We are all entitled to our opinions. Where does blocked shots and third period goals offset a corsi calculation? X-D