The Flames Are Heading Into Some Tough Sledding

Remember in that episode of The Simpsons, when Homer joins the Stonecutters? Of course you do, it happened in the classic 1995 episode “Homer The Great.” In that episode, Homer is initiated into the ancient organization through a series of paddles to the backside.

That’s kind of how I picture the next 12 days going for the Calgary Flames. Because not only do they have a lot of games in rapid succession, but they’re against a lot of good teams. And Edmonton.

THE GAUNTLET

So tonight, the Flames host the Washington Capitals (3-1-0). On Friday (not Thursday), it’s the Detroit Red Wings (3-2-0). And after that, the schedule gets awful-er.

So Calgary plays in Manhattan against the 4-2-1 New York Rangers on Sunday night, then play in Brooklyn against the 3-1-1 New York Islanders the next night. At least the travel isn’t bad, but both of those games would be tough to win normally, and the Flames are getting those teams back-to-back. And after that, it’s off to Ottawa to face the Senators (3-2-1), and then back home for a back-to-back against the currently-undefeated Montreal Canadiens (6-0-0) and then the Oilers (2-4-0) again.

A GOOD OR BAD THING?

The way the team is currently playing, it’s hard to see a seven-games-in-12-days stretch as anything but a bad thing. But this season’s entire schedule to-date has been rather scattershot – alternating home and away dates with random off-days – and it’s likely been hard for the team to gain a rhythm.

But one of the things coaches most often want early in a season is a long road trip. It gives teams time away from girlfriends, wives, kids and off-ice distractions and basically forces them to bond with the teammates off-ice and focus on playing the games on the ice.

Let’s be honest here: if they keep playing the way they have over the next seven games, they could get spanked thoroughly over the next 12 days. And if that happens, I think we’ll see some significant changes. But there’s also a chance – not a massive one, but a non-trivial chance – that this tough stretch (and particularly the three game road trip) could be a great opportunity for them to get their game together and actually get back to playing the style of hockey that brought them to the dance.

The opportunity is upon them. Will they take advantage of this chance and build upon it? Or will management be forced to swing the wrecking ball?

  • Let’s hope we show up tonight. And don’t let freaking Ovie hangout by himself on the PP, he scores from the same spot every time.

    Not sure how I feel about Frolik on the top line. The guy is a great possession forward but not a dynamic offensive talent. Here’s hoping I have to eat my words..

  • piscera.infada

    Well, that was nice to wake up to after last night. It’s like a night of drinking tequila & suddenly realizing in the morning who you slept with that night :-{

    Well this should put some hair on their sticks. & Brodie is out for how long……..?

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    I think there is a bit of a perfect storm brewing that could create a divide between management and Hartley. Pinder (smart) and Boomer (less smart) also pointed it out this morning.

    Why would the Flames resign Ramo? One hypothesis is Hartley likes him, which explains why he consistently goes back to him when he’s never been any better than Hiller. At best he an Hiller have been fairly equal.

    Second, why would the Flames be so eager to not lose Ortio, that they have him sitting in the press box? This could suggest management wants to back and keep Ortio, but Hartley doesn’t want to play him and would rather back veterans.

    Third, Hartley has answered a few questions in really odd ways. When asked about his personnel decisions, in a critical way, he’s responded more than once that “we and management decided as a group to invest in our young players” and left it at that. That sounds a little like passing the torch.

    While everyone here knows that I am not in Hartley’s camp, some weird decisions make it look like the honeymoon isn’t as rosy as one would expect.

    • piscera.infada

      This makes no sense. So you’re saying that Hartley somehow forced management to sign Ramo, even though management likes Ortio?

      What does he have goatse pics of Burke?

    • Cfan in Vic

      To add to this conjecture I found Hartley’s comments about waiving Byron interesting. He definitely pointed at management and distanced himself from the decision and in my opinion, he was not happy.
      Again, this is just conjecture, but I do find this very interesting.

      • And these are the days of our lives 🙂

        I will say, the Byron thing, and a few others, are the first time I’ve seen Hartley dismiss himself from wrong, or at least distance himself from certain decisions. It could make for some interesting storylines in the media if the Flames aren’t able to pull themselves out of this funk.

      • Derbyherb

        Yeah this sort of roster battle between coach and GM is a common thing in the NHL. Friedman had a 30 Thoughts last year where he told of an (anonymous) GM who waived a veteran so his coach would have to play a rookie.

          • Tomas Oppolzer

            We never really got a true sense about how the coaching staff and management honestly viewed each other last year. When you are winning, the media never asks. They just assumed, or ask leading questions “Tell us what about your relationship has made you so successful”. BT’s hands were kind of tied where the team was having some success, so it didn’t make a ton of sense to move on from Hartley. This skid, if anything, can highlight some of the places their opinions differ. We as fans can then decide which side we agree with. It’s kind of like marriage. You learn the most about your significant other when one or both of you is stressed out. For the Flames, it should highlight exactly what pieces the team still needs to push through this rebuild.

  • Captain Ron

    We need TJ Brodie back on defence ASAP. I will reserve judgment on the team until he has been back in the lineup for a few games. This next stretch of games is going to be very difficult. We need to come out of this with at least a .500 record if at all possible but it won’t be easy. The Wings, Sens, and Oilers games are winnable and we usually play well against Montreal but….

    • Captain Ron

      Hey Captain! How’s your Golden doing? Mine is 10 & a 1/2, her face is sure white & she sure likes to take her time on the walks, they seem to be shorter & take longer. :-}

      • Captain Ron

        Hey Kevin I had been wondering about your Golden and how old she is now. Happy to hear she is with you and you are still enjoying the time together!

        Unfortunately I have to report that we lost Riley on the morning of March 1st at a little over 13 years old. He passed peacefully in his sleep that morning without any fuss what so ever. I had arranged for the vet to come over and put him down later that afternoon but he decided to leave us on his terms. 8 months prior to that I had taken him in for x rays as he seemed to be having some trouble on his back legs every now and then. Turns out his joints were in near perfect condition which was remarkable considering all the running he did up to at least 12 years old. Sadly though he had developed tumors that metastasized to other places in his body and we were unable to do anything to save him. He was riding around with me as usual on Thursday and then died on Sunday Morning. We were told that when it happens it will be pretty quick. They were right as the last couple of days he was with us there was a very noticeable change in him.

        Sure miss him. He was the best dog ever! He was regularly invited into the many places we went. He is the dog you saw playing hockey or basketball on the driveway, or walking around in the auto parts store or credit union etc. etc. Kids on the street used to come over just to visit with him. With his great personality I’m sure he was the most popular member of our family.

        Thanks for caring enough to ask about him. I really hope you are able to enjoy a few more years yet!

        My apologies to everyone for being off topic.

        • Captain Ron

          Hey Captain! So sorry to hear about Riley. I can see Molly slowing down & realize the life spans of these incredible animals is so short. They are the best dog breed ever & they embrace being part of your family as much as we cherish them as being part of ours. So sorry for your loss & yes I give Molly big hugs every morning knowing I will be going down the same path as you. 13 is a good life span for these dogs, I cling to stories from people about their’s being 14 & 15.

          I hope you are able to bless another Golden in your life yet. They are worthy of being part of loving families like yourself. Take care & I think Im going to go & give Molly a hug & treat.

          Sorry for the digression FN.

  • piscera.infada

    It definitely seems like management and the coaching staff aren’t on the same page. Could Hartley be fighting them with his actions? Possibly. If so, they need to work things out soon, because it’s hurting the team on so many levels.

    • Christian Roatis

      Hoping that what Frolik will bring to that line is what he brings to every line, time in the offensive zone. Once they’re there, Monahan and Gaudreau should be able to do the rest.

      Problem is that top line hasn’t spent an awful lot of time on offence to begin the season, Frolik should help remedy that.

  • RexLibris

    That is a tough stretch.

    Of those seven the Flames are probably lucky to get 3 wins, although the safer bet at this time might be 2 – one home and one away.

    Friedman’s thoughts are up today (http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/30-thoughts-reeling-blue-jackets-search-for-answers/)and he has something specifically on the Flames.

    19. As Calgary starts slowly, remember the Flames shot 8.9 per cent at five-on-five in 2014-15. That was second-best in the NHL.

    It’s early, but they are 22nd so far this season, at 5.8 per cent. And opponents seem determined not to let Calgary kill them with the long bomb, an important weapon from a year ago.

    Something to consider in this next stretch against good teams and with Hartley losing the last-change/matchup advantage.

    • RexLibris

      Does anyone have a good gauge of what Hartley is even trying to do with his matchups? I haven’t been able to get a good read.

      I’ve seen some power versus power. I’ve also seen some more frightening things, like moving Bollig up the lineup to offset size, or using Russell Wideman to weather the storm defensively. Maybe losing last change helps the Flames?

      • I don’t think Hartley has figured out the match-ups. His top d-pairing is struggling and his top offensive line can’t defend.

        He’s been waffling between Stajan and Backlund as shut down options in response (mostly burying Stajan), but nothing has stuck. Because nothing has worked.

        It won’t until either Giordano/Hamilton find their way out of the woods and/or Monahan gets things together. The team isn’t built to withstand those guys getting run over every shift.

    • Cfan in Vic

      As true as that quote is, I think it’s fairly obvious to those who have watched the games.

      The stretch is being heavily guarded, check. Shooting % down, check… But, I have a feeling that this early season SH% is more about the disjointed play of the team and the subsequent lack of offence from good positions, compared to last year.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they’ll naturally shoot 9%, but I think there is a lot going on behind their lack of offence than just “regression”.

      • RexLibris

        The %s are regression in part but also the result of a mis-cast roster and the opposition leaving a man back for the stretch pass.

        Flames aren’t being given the score off the rush anymore and defenders are letting Gaudreau pass the puck rather than shoot which is taking away their best pure sniper right now.

        I think the main culprits are threefold, but we’ll see what Hartley does tonight and the next few games to adjust.

    • Cfan in Vic

      Thanks Rex,

      The Flames have been turning pucks over constantly and have been really disorganized in their own end. The D are the key to our whole system and I think their awful play lately is why teams been able to dismantle our attack.

      Last year Giordano and Brodie were masters at getting the puck out and making the stretch pass. I think once Hamilton catches on, and Brodie returns.. we should still be able to use speed to our advantage.

      In the meantime the Flames need to stay out of the penalty box, and keep this simple to avoid giving away the puck.

      • RexLibris

        The stretch pass isn’t working so move to skating it out and moving it through the NZ or an aggressive chip-and-chase.

        Dump ins suck for possession but that ship has sailed long ago, so use the Flames’ speed and willingness to engage physically to chip and chase and see if you can create some chaos in a Off zone.

        Leave the Monahan/Gaudreau line to carry it in with control.

        What I’m seeing thus far is Hartley hammering away at square pegs/round holes.

  • ville de champignons

    Perfect storm metaphor is a good one on many levels. Brutal schedule against tough opposition and the Flames’ boat is riding low in the water already.

    Being an optimist, right now I would gladly take a record of 3-4 over the next 7. Anything more would be sheer, jeezly bodaciousness.

    The prospects and consequences of being 1-11 at the end of October are too gloomy to consider.

    *Pours another shot of 40 Creek at 11AM…leaves office for a ‘dental appointment’…*

  • Christian Roatis

    God Almighty what a drag this place has become.

    Notley running the province, Trudeau running the country and Noone running the Flames and everyone flocking from miles around to lift their leg and hose down the hockey club. What a garbage time we live in. Depressing as hell

    I’m gone for a while

  • Derbyherb

    It’ll be an incredibly tough stretch that will test the team’s character and talent level. If they bomb that trip we may as well start the Auston Matthews watch because they’ll be little hope for recovery.

    • RexLibris

      Matthews, Chychrun and Puljujarvi (yes, I had to look it up) are all excellent prospects.

      The new draft system is a bane to bottom three teams and a boon to teams that finish between 27th and 20th overall, based on percentages.

      Flames could flush October and get things into gear by November with a .500 record that month.

      They play the Avs, Blackhawks (2), Flyers, Coyotes, Pens, Panthers, Lightning, Caps, Devils, Sharks and Ducks. 12 games, maybe 6 wins there. It isn’t over.

      • Tomas Oppolzer

        Of course not, it’s only five games. However, if they’re 2-10 or something after that road trip it’ll be damn near impossible to recover. What I’m saying is, is its time for the real Calgary Flames to please step up. If they don’t, then there’s even more work to do than I thought.

  • RexLibris

    Perfect timing for Yost’s article:

    http://www.tsn.ca/flames-fighting-uphill-battle-against-regression-1.379689

    Some things to take away.

    Recall how I linked to GMoney’s work on the repeatability of sv% and sh%, showing that even good teams have trouble carrying over those numbers year-to-year? Players can to a degree, but an entire team is virtually unheard-of.

    Also, this excerpt:

    Bob Hartley and the rest of the coaching staff need to take a very close look at what they’re doing from a systems and usage level and apply adjustments as required. What they’re doing right now just isn’t working, and it hasn’t worked for a couple of seasons now.

    Yost is a very astute observer of the game and isn’t one to write with an axe to grind. He’ll make a point if he feels it deserves attention and he is bang on in this last one.

    I strongly encourage readers here to check out the article, it isn’t gloom and doom and may talk some of you off the ledge, but it also highlights a systemic issue with the Flames that coaching has not addressed for some time now.