October is associated with fear and horror thanks to Halloween. To be sure there was plenty of horror for the Flames, with the club stumbling to an excruciating 3-8-1 record. Only the Ducks’ baffling power outage has kept the Flames out of the bottom of the Western Conference through the first month of action.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this! Calgary was supposed to take a step forward after surprising everyone last season and improving the roster in the summer. The extreme discordance between Calgary’s finish to 2014-15 and their start to 2015-16 has the collective hand of the Flames fans base hovering ever closer to the panic button.
I think it’s important to note, however, that we’re talking about a stretch of 11 games. That feels like a lot, but it’s only about 1/8th (13%) of a single season. As the Ducks’ current predicament perfectly illustrates, sometimes everything goes wrong for small segments of games. It’s just too bad the consequences of such a lousy (though relatively brief) spate of games far outstrips its informational value when it comes to grading the roster.
Which is a very long way of saying that nobody should be jumping to wild conclusions just one month into a season. Unless a conclusion has a longer background and much more data to be be based on, everyone should resist the urge to start stringing up effigies or trading everyone not named “Gaudreau” for a dirty skate rag.
So let’s talk about trading goalies and firing coaches then shall we?
@Kent_Wilson as no goalie seems capable of holding down the starting spot, would you try to trade or just accept a rebuild year?
— Brits Can’t Hockey (@LiamPMcCausland) October 31, 2015
I’m perhaps the last person in Calgary who thinks this, but I’m not on the “we need to do something about the goalies” train of thought. Calgary got an entire season of at least average puck stopping out of the cadre of guys they have right now and Hiller has an entire career worth of results to suggest he’s above average. There’s just no way every single Flames goalie became an ECHL-quality starter over night.
Like a sniper who suddenly can’t find twine, sometimes everything goes in on goalies. Even good to great goalies have stretches where they can’t even break .900. Just look to Columbus, who have seen a former Vezina winner in Sergei Bobrovsky suddenly look like Andrew Raycroft despite multiple years of above board netminding.
To whit, I asked some of the more analytically inclined Twitter folks about the chances of an average goalie putting up an .870 SV% through 10 games. The response was 35 different NHL goaltenders have done it over the last 5 years or so and that the chances are any starter will experience a patch like this once every 4 seasons. Just by chance alone.
This isn’t to say the goaltending has been fine. Nor am I excusing the Flames’ defensive play, which has been a part of the problem. It’s just that sometimes this stuff happens and it doesn’t mean that the team needs to go out and immediately replace a goalie with a strong history of results because of it. Because there’s a good chance you won’t really be fixing anything.
@Kent_Wilson How much longer can this slump continue before management should turn its attention to next year’s lottery draft?
— smtorsch (@smtorsch) October 31, 2015
That’s a bit premature. I mean, if they have only 9 wins by the end of December, then yeah start considering which vets to sell off at the deadline. But for now, just look to continue getting better.
@Kent_Wilson It would be interesting to look at the Advanced Stats to see which Flames players are carrying the mail (possession wise).
— CA (@ChinookArchYYC) October 31, 2015
Easy enough. Here’s a visual snapshot of the Flames possession so far.
And here’s a link that will take you to the Flames relative possession ranking. Surprises so far? Engelland being better than average, Monahan getting beaten up and Russell somehow taking another giant step backwards.
@Kent_Wilson a lot of people have been saying fire Hartley. Who would be a good replacement for him right now?
— Lance Street (@lancestreet12) October 31, 2015
Although I was never the biggest Hartley booster, I think it’s fair to give him a bit more time to try to figure things out this year. If he can’t find a way to adjust the systems and start playing a game that doesn’t rely so much on counter punching, then it’s time to start looking for a replacement.
I personally don’t have anyone in mind, though if Claude Julien or Bruce Boudreau are let go from either Boston or Anaheim I wouldn’t be against giving either of them a call.
@Kent_Wilson 1/2 if Ryan johansen requests a trade out of Columbus, do you think we can come of with a good enough offer without giving up
— Geoff Grebliunas (@flamesfanatic04) October 31, 2015
@Kent_Wilson 2/2 one of guadreau, Monahan, Bennett, or Brodie in the package
— Geoff Grebliunas (@flamesfanatic04) October 31, 2015
I don’t think it’s likely Johansen will be asking out of Columbus, but I think it’s even less likely that the Flames will be able to put together a package for him without offering up a key piece in return. The Blue Jackets want to make it out of the basement as desperately as the Flames do, so they won’t be just giving away a blue chipper.
@Kent_Wilson Has Treliving reversing course Feaster’s “no longer then 3 year” contract rule exposed some flaws with the make-up of this team
— Jason O (@jay_ogi) October 31, 2015
No. Feaster instituted that rule because he was managing a team that really didn’t have anyone worth signing long term anyways. Except, of course, that he broke his rule for Dennis Wideman, but that’s a minor quibble.
The flaws that exist on the Flames were mostly apparent before the rough start, even if they were masked somewhat by Calgary’s turn as underdog darling last year. Treliving and company now have the best of times and the worst of times to help balance out their evaluation of the club. My hope is they don’t choose to use either of the two extremes to make their decisions.
@Kent_Wilson Why don’t they sit Russell for a couple of games and give Nakladal a shot. Can’t get much worse.
— Greg F (@greflem) November 1, 2015
Russell is definitely well liked in the room and by the coaches given how much more rope he’s gotten relative to others to start the year. And although I’ve been skeptical of his abilities as a top-4 defender for some time based on his always bad underlying numbers in Calgary, Hartley and co. obviously weight his other results from last season far more and fair enough.
So Russell won’t be sitting in favour of a kid or hopeful any time soon. I’d settle for a bump down the rotation myself though.