So, the Calgary Flames played poorly last night and they lost. They lost 5-2 to the Edmonton Oilers, and now have just a pair of points through the first five games of the season.
Thus far, they’ve lost four times – once each to Vancouver, St. Louis, Winnipeg and Edmonton. And they’ve been out-played through the majority of those games.
To quote The Simpsons, “Would you say it’s time to crack each others’ heads open and feast on the goo inside?” (Is it time for them to panic?)
So, the Flames have two points after five games. That sounds bad. It’s 20% of the available points that they could’ve gotten. How bad is it, really?
Recently, after five games:
- 2014-15: 3-2-0
- 2013-14: 3-0-2
- 2012-13: 1-3-1
- 2011-12: 2-3-0
- 2010-11: 3-2-0
Only twice have they had two points after five games: 1975-76 (where they started 1-4-0) and 1997-98 (where they started 0-3-2). They made the playoffs in 1975-76, barely, but missed in 1997-98. Starting off this poorly is not conducive to success.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?
Well, a lot.
The Flames have yet to play a full 60-minute game through their first five contests. That includes a trio of games against bitter historical rivals in Vancouver and Edmonton, as well as a game against Winnipeg (with their loud crowd) and a big test against St. Louis, a team that historically dominated them. It shouldn’t have been tough for them to get emotionally or mentally ready for any of these games, but they weren’t.
Goaltending has neither been their worst problem or their strength, but it’s made a difference – negatively – at key times, despite the team keeping three goalies on their roster. And their 88.5% save percentage at even-strength is among the league’s worst.
They’ve scored just 10 goals through five games, while allowing 19. That’s bad, particularly for (a) a team with three goalies and (b) a team whose defense was supposed to be their strength this season.
Their possession game is bad. They’re at 46.6% Corsi-For, which places them ahead of Colorado, Detroit, Vancouver, the Rangers and Edmonton. The fact that they spend so much time in their own end also makes it tough for them to score at even-strength, and they have the second-worst goal differential at 5-on-5 – only Columbus is worse (and they’ve played more games). The Flames have six even-strength goals through five games.
Faceoffs? 45.1% at even-strength (second-worst in the NHL), 46.2% overall (also second-worst in the NHL).
The power-play hasn’t been great, really struggling when they enter the zone to maintain control and then set up the passing schemes. And in general, they’re over-passing the puck in the offensive end, leading to turn-overs and sub-optimal shots.
And their vaunted ability to come out of the gates strong and make a game of it in the third period? Generally gone. It wasn’t expected to be successful every game, but you at least hoped they would show signs of life late in games.
HOW CAN THEY FIX IT?
Man, if I knew, I’d tell them. Some ideas?
The team desperately needs some kind of spark or change to shake them out of their comfort zone. Change lines up! Throw Joni Ortio in net! Figure out the whole roster situation – they don’t have much flexibility right now – so you can scratch under-performing veterans to put the fear into them. (It worked last year a ton!)
Bring some kids up and play them over veterans! Bench guys! Have Hartley call players out! Change the power-play set-up! For the love of God, start carrying the puck in and out of zones more often instead of relying on stretch passes so much. Make simple plays instead of trying to get cute. Shoot the puck more often!
Is that enough for starters?
And if those things don’t work, then it might be time to think about something drastic – like changing up the locker room via a trade or other move, or changing up the voices in the coaches’ room. You can’t trade the whole team, but you can change direction really quickly in other ways.
Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. But the club really needs a course correction in short order.
Is it time to panic? Not yet. But if there are any more uninspired, incomplete on-ice performances from this group, it might soon be.