Should The Flames Panic Five Games In?

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?)

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

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.

  • CofRed4Life

    It’s easy to get critical of everyone when things aren’t going well. Yes, we look lost out there, but it’s not like it’s the apocalypse or something. Hartley has made some questionable lineup decisions, but that’s no reason to can him. We have to remember that our core is extremely young, and a good portion of our lineup (including Johnny hockey) has played less than 100 NHL games. Let’s keep showing support for our great hockey team like the awesome fans I know you all are.

  • CofRed4Life

    Oh, and I also think having 3 goalies is a terrible idea, and that needs to change. Not sure how, but it needs to. Waiving a goalie is likely the best answer at this point, since neither is showcasing much value right now.

  • BurningSensation

    The problems as I see them;

    Our vaunted defense features;

    – Giordano, who has essentially missed the last 6 months due to injury
    – No TJ Brodie
    – Hamilton who is still getting used to our systems, new partners, etc.
    – A bunch of guys who are bad at possession outside of the top three (Wideman, Russell, Engelland, etc.)

    So with Brodie out, and Hamilton and Gio struggling, that vaunted group of defenseman looks really ordinary.

    – By eye, I’d say we are missing a veteran possession winger/center to compliment all the kids. Frolik is nice, and so is Bennett, but we could really use an Ericksson, or E.Staal to round out the forward core.

    – The good news? I understand that this Mathews kid is pretty good. He’d look pretty sweet in Flames silks if things don’t get turned around.

  • FeyWest

    I had a big post about Us as fans being an important part of the team and our cheering and support is important to helping the Flames find their way. Reflecting back on the Oil “fans” booing the team on the Ice and in the halls, let’s never let that happen because that is not conducive to positive support and in my mind makes it harder for the team to find their way. They are lost for some reason and we can help show them our support and hopefully they can make their way back to us sooner than later.

    Doesn’t mean we can’t be questioning their performance thus far, I wouldnt expect us as Flames fans going to such lows as throwing jerseys and booing and I hope it stays that way. You guys have been great so far and I heard us trying to bring the team to life, let’s just keep up the support. I’m here through thick and thin, the highs and lows, there are things to fix and I expect the team to dig deep. I think this loss really is a good thing in disguise for the long term this season and hope it drove home the fact that we need to go back to the Flames style that made us successful last year. #GFG #NeverQuit

    (I was going to insert the Gio never quit video link here from last year but couldn’t find it and lost my last post, if someone has it can they post it?)

    *edit* Yes Its cheesy but when I honestly think it’s a mental side issue more than talent or skill this is what happens….

  • Oil City Roller

    How about that McJesus! He can pass, he can score. He can turn flames d-men inside out. Is there anything that kid can’t do? Welcome to the next fifteen years flamers!

  • OKG

    Don’t panic. It is year 3 of the rebuild and we were due for a fall back. However, tying up big money in a 32 year old defender rather than trade his affordable contract for a bounty could be a real big mistake.

  • #97TRAIN

    Hamilton willtake sometime to get used to the WC big slot/box penetration.
    But you have brodie, hamilton, giordano for some time.

    Hartly needs to preach better hsca defence.

  • #97TRAIN

    I am a little concerned for dougie hamilton and Gio, Two high priced highly regarded ‘d’ who are supposedly making our defense one of the best in the league.

    Well if an 18 year old (5 game veteran) makes our STUD ‘d’ look turnstiles then either mcdcvid is the second coming of Lemieux or we have been drinking the kool aid by the gallon.

  • RKD

    No, without Brodie on the blueline and Hamilton still adjusting it may take a while. Gio doesn’t look quite himself which could be a byproduct of his injury or getting used to playing with Hamilton. They need to get back to competing, they need to show more desperation and urgency to their game. They need secondary offence from players not named Hudler, Gaudreau or Monahan.

    • #97TRAIN

      Flames need some higher caliber NHL talent. Heart and Hartley will only get you so far. When the heart gets punished – you go nowhere. The rest of the NHL had an entire offseason to see through the Flames smoke and mirrors from a year ago. How many coaches do the Flames have – seems ridiculously high? Too many cooks tend to spoil the broth – even a broth made with questionable ingredients. As an outsider, I see a flash and dash team that will struggle and fall short of the making playoffs.

    • FeyWest

      Not trying to stir the pot just reading comments & what I don’t hear anybody saying is the fact that McDavid is an exceptional talent & he has already made a lot of good NHL d-man look pretty silly. Give the kid some credit along with the Oilers who were on their game Saturday.

      • #97TRAIN

        The Oilers caught a team on a back to back that were expecting an EZ win because that’s what playing the Oilers has meant for most of these players’ careers. I guess The Oilers can get credit for not being an EZ Win for the first time in these players’ careers.

      • #97TRAIN

        Not to burst your bubble, but it would have been the same result if they would have played any other team that night.

        You have to realize that it was the worst game the Flames have played in a long time.

        McDavid probably could have scored 6 goals that night.. like the one Hiller robbed him on.

      • Derzie

        McDavid’s fan base dropped to 1 team and the media the day he was drafted into the sweatpants lodge region. He can score as much as he likes but 29 teams fans will look the other way for their entertainment.

  • Oil City Roller

    Oilers with a win in Vancouver. Back to back games didn’t seem to be a problem. McJesus with a sick assist to Yak. Don’t worry you guys have Johnny Jockey and the Chin-Up Kid.

    • #97TRAIN

      Not sure how Sedin chipped that one over the net? Any ways back to back wins on the road. Spectacular goaltending as well.!!
      MCDAVID with a beauty set up. Yak with the big one timer!

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    Wow oilers win 2 games and now they are the greatest team ever…funny there were no comments when you lost the first 4 of the season..get a grip and expect flames fans to be humble when we enjoy post season action and wait to see who you pick 1st overall again

    • #97TRAIN

      I don’t know if humble is the right word. I know fans on ON and FN get really high and really low.
      After the first round win and the subsequent signing of Hamilton ,expectations here were that you were Stanley Cup contenders.
      Fans were excited and rightfully so ,but don’t think FN is any different or more humble than other fan bases.

          • The Real Slim Brodie

            Some people work for a living…oh good for you. I also have a job I wonder if d stain has a job…oh right i forgot he gets up super early before work so he can troll a flames site..it’s the highlight of his day.

          • #97TRAIN

            I don’t know if humble is the right word. I know fans on ON and FN get really high and really low. After the first round win and the subsequent signing of Hamilton ,expectations here were that you were Stanley Cup contenders. Fans were excited and rightfully so ,but don’t think FN is any different or more humble than other fan bases.

            Brodie!!! HOW IS THIS STATEMENT TROLLING!

          • Cfan in Vic

            What do you think I’m doing? Running g a multi million dollar facility to prop your dipper voting lazy self
            It’s called night shift, gas plant t’s don’t run themselves you pinko commie

  • BurningSensation

    After thinking this over, you can change the lines and send messages to the veterans all you want, but at the end of the day it will come back to the basics: Hartley’s system.

    They were all over the place Saturday, like a ship without a rudder. They’re going to have to make that their focus NOW…

    The Flames were such a disciplined team last year, no stupid penalties, no one giving away the puck. They are going to have to really work on their game, and play smart hockey.

    They should be embarrassed after that game.

    • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

      I love McDavid, the player… but I HATE McDavid the Oiler.

      You Losers didn’t deserve to get him. Out of the playoffs for 9 straight years, 3 more #1 overall picks plus a #3 in the last 5 years.

      You must be so proud.

      Last year you losers were throwing Jersey’s on the ice and shouting the team off the ice, and now you’re all cocky because SOMEHOW you lucked out and got McDavid?

      You should be ashamed.

      Go away and come back when your team of #1’s makes the playoffs or at least achieves something other than winning a couple of games in a row.

      • Buddy, I know you take some abuse on her from others but well said. I like McDavid & will totally be cheering him for Team Canada Gold Medals.
        We’re not stupid & know quality players when we see them & the kid is going to be a good player. What I wouldn’t do for just 1 stinking #1 overall pick, just stinking 1!!!! Cant imagine having 4, a 3rd & #7 in the last 6 years.
        It blows me away that so many come on here & rub our noses after 1 game. Be happy about your team but keep it to Oil Nation. In this league, all glory is fleeting. These Oiler clowns are sure tempting a twist of fate over their lack of humility over what is looking like finally good things to get excited about their team. Flames were amazing last year & I never went on ON to stick it to them after our 5th straight victory last year over them.But this is the internet.

        • Cfan in Vic

          I know.

          It seems some people think that the “Blog Battle” is war that needs to be fought and somehow won. Both these teams have the majority of fans reading this stuff, and thinking “wow, what an idiot. He’s just wasting everyone’s time here”.

          But yet day in, day out, there’s these guys who think that somehow they are proving a point. I’ve heard this so many times: “I’m over here trolling because we get trolled by you guys all the time”.

          Well guess what. The people that hate the BS trolling aren’t the ones who go to ON to beak off. The ones who beak off on your site would probably love to engage in this imaginary “war in the trenches”, or whatever you think it is. That just propagates the problem, while instilling some sort of false sense of accomplishment (of what?). Well, I wish there was a specific sight for that BS, so I could avoid it, because that stuff is for an elementary school playground, and is a complete waste of time.

          I don’t get it. Does it compensate for something else that is missing from your life?

          • Captain Ron

            Great stuff Cfan. Please copy this somewhere and repost it often. So many blogs are destroyed over this nonsense. For the few that come here from ON to troll us just know this, about 98% of us never go to your site to troll you. Even during your most miserable of times nearly all of us didn’t bother to post anything one way or the other in your comment section. Making us somehow responsible for those that do is really juvenile on your part. I get it that there should be some good nature fun among enemies in sport fan world but some of you take it way too far. Internet comment sections are full of tough guys who never accomplished anything in the real world.

            Congrats on finally beating us in a regular season game. Whoop whoop!

            Come back when you have at least made the playoffs and won a round or two.

      • Can’t agree more with this comment. With that much raw talent that the Oilers have been gifted it is amazing that they still have zero humility. Especially that McDavid lottery.

        I thought Hall was incredible that game. Just schooling everyone. Love that he plays for Team Canada.

  • Cfan in Vic

    Oilers just won the 2-game Stanley Cup playoffs against Calgary/Vancouver… Yaaayyyy!

    2 whole days after the win over Calgary, and their still trying to gloat. That’s fairly pathetic. 2 wins, that’s all it takes. You sure do have some high expectations guys. Find some humility.