Predators 2, Flames 1 post-game embers: That’s all, folks

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Photo credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

The Flames are, by the thinnest of definitions, still in the playoff race. They’re currently eight points out of the Pacific’s final playoff spot with a game in hand, although the Ducks, fourth in the division, have a game in hand on the Flames and are a mere two points out.

So mathematically, they still have a chance. But anybody who’s being honest with themselves – and anybody whose job doesn’t rely on stepping on the ice or behind a bench – knows it’s over, and it’s time to look to the future.

It’s probably a good thing.

The slowest of starts

The Flames’ first shot attempt came 4:52 into the game, when Kris Russell shot the puck wide. A couple of blocked shots later, and the Flames’ actual first shot on net came 8:35 into the game, courtesy of Lance Bouma.

By the time the Flames got a shot on net, the Predators already had 11 attempts of their own, as well as an actual goal.

The Flames managed four shots in the first period. They had 11 through two. And then, when down by two – Shea Weber’s goal coming late in the second period – they piled 16 shots on Carter Hutton, and had 29 total attempts for a dominating, albeit mostly fruitless, third period.

Last season, the Flames would have won the game. Last season, they were able to buy into the mythos surrounding their third periods. “Never quit” was the motto, the belief that they could do anything they put their minds to – when they actually bothered to do so – the prevalent theme. 

Last season was an aberration.

It was great for the kids to get some playoff experience. You don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve experienced it, right? Missing the playoffs isn’t just an early end to their season for them now; now, it’s about no longer going into battle, no longer getting caught up in the adrenaline rush, no longer seeing an entire city turn out for you in a feverish, unwavering support with an intensity near impossible to match.

And now, it’s good for them to miss the playoffs, so they can have that extra drive to work on their mistakes and ensure it won’t happen again.

Because a playoff-bound team does not muster up a mere four shots against a team travelling on the second of a back-to-back. A playoff-bound team knows they can’t erase their mistakes with a shiny shooting percentage and over-polished third period (which was, to be fair, a very good frame for them, with tons of legitimate, extremely close chances from a number of players). And they’ll be better for it in the long run – and that’s to say nothing of the draft pick that comes with it.

Noncommittal line shuffling

For some reason, the Flames went with totally new outlooks to start the game, and then ditched them after just one period.

I don’t get that. If you want to shake things up, that’s understandable; this is a team at the bottom of the league standings that needs to start stringing wins together pronto, and it’s the coach’s job to determine just how to do that. Shaking up a lineup can do the trick.

… But not if the shakeup only lasts for one period. How are you supposed to know what you have after just 20 minutes of play? If you’re committed to changing the lines, then actually stay committed.

I don’t think there was a correlation between line combinations and performances. The entire team was bad until they fell behind by two and eventually scored a goal of their own. They could have started with their normal line combinations and things probably wouldn’t have played out differently.

I was rather looking forward to seeing Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett playing together, actually. They’re arguably the two most intriguing, explosive forwards on this team, but because they both play left wing, they never get to actually play together. They did to start this game, though, and through a desolate first period, they – along with Mikael Backlund – formed a line that had a lot of jump to it, that seemed to dance through the opposition at times, even if they couldn’t make anything come of it.

It was beautiful to watch, actually.

And then it ended. What we got after its end were Gaudreau and Bennett being incredible to watch on their own, and boosting their own linemates up with them; but again, nothing came of it, Mark Giordano’s lone goal at the end of a pressuring shift by the reunited Gaudreau, Monahan, and Hudler line aside.

(Speaking of Jiri Hudler: he doesn’t look quite as brutal as he once did, and led the team with four shots on net last night. Now’s as good a time as any to turn the corner; maybe just keep him with Gaudreau and Monahan until he’s no longer a Flame.)

Gaudreau and Bennett deserve more than a period of tryout, though. If you’re going to change the lines, change the lines. Commit to them. Because at this point, really, what’s left to lose?

The crosscheck

It’s impossible to spin Dennis Wideman’s crosscheck linesman Don Henderson any way but negative. (It… it was a crosscheck on an official.) Either Wideman had malicious intent, he himself was hurt and unaware, or he was reckless and stupid.

If he had malicious intent, then it was bizarre, misplaced, and the book needs to be thrown at him. But Wideman himself already said he did not intend to do what he did, and none of us are mind readers or have behind the scenes access, so that point of contention really isn’t up to us. The same can be said for if he was just being an idiot; actions have consequences, and run of the mill ignorance is never an excuse.

He was hit before the crosscheck, though, slumped over and attempting to get back to his bench. He righted himself the closer he got, until suddenly there was a dude in front of him, and he snaps so quickly to action – putting his hands and, along with them, his stick, up in bracing motion – that he may not have been thinking as he did so. But again, not mind readers. His body language indicates someone taken by surprise, so it’s completely plausible he’s telling the truth in his statement. What we see was not necessarily what he experienced as his reality at the time.

That’s pretty much impossible to prove, but if Wideman’s actions were the result of the collision he sustained seconds before, then it’s not a bad look on him – but it’s a bad look on everybody else. Get him back on your bench. Take him down the tunnel. Check him out, which should have been done as a bare minimum action, because suddenly crosschecking an official is not normal behaviour. This was not a stray punch in a scrum, a heat of the moment action, or the work of a noted dirty player. This drew the attention of the hockey world because it was so bizarre, and to not pull aside the player, even for a moment, and determine if everything was okay is negligent at best.

Even if nothing is actually wrong with him, you make sure. Nobody’s gotten hurt by taking precautions. Instead, he skated his next shift two minutes later.

  • cberg

    Your take on Wideman was pretty good from my perspective. It is hard to imagine he intentionally checked the ref, like because no one called an earlier penalty. I think he was dazed, but then again, why no further examination? I suspect he’ll get a penalty and perhaps the team fi its determined he was dazed.

    As for the lines, yes B-B-G looked amazing for a shift or two in the first period. Congrats to BH for trying something different, because obviously things were not working and this was an opportunity to shake stuff up/send a message? I’m not too concerned it only lasted 1 period. If it was a message, message sent. Otherwise it clearly wasn’t working, so back to the old. Hey, let’s not get too mad it didn’t last, people here have been clamouring for changes and that’s what we got.

    As for the game, very disappointing the poor effort in the first 40 minutes. Not sure what is going on, but it has been pretty consistent. I wonder if trades/TDL issues are weighing down certain players?

    • TRAIN#97

      So because you are dazed you cross check the ref? I don’t buy that for a moment. The video speaks pretty clearly.
      Wideman himself said that his neck and shoulder were in pain . He said nothing of having his bell rung.
      From his reaction he looked like he was pissed off.

      • TRAIN#97

        No need for you to discuss in two threads. You want to talk about other aspects of the game or players in general, fine. I think you made whatever point you wanted to make in the other thread, no point in starting the same stuff here.

        Bennett’s usage is weird. He is a center, but the decision is to use him as a LW with a shut-down center and a shut-down RW. Backlund is good at maintaining possession, so what do I know. You will notice that most of Bennett’s high-danger changes are him taking the puck to the net or taking a shot on the rush. I have seen all of one goal where he simply had to tap it in.

        His abilities are why I question pairing him with a 2-way center. Sam is most effective driving up mainstreet with the puck, and occasionally shooting from the wing. Having Backlund is useful only for getting the puck to him. He does have chemistry with Frolik and Johnny though.

        • TRAIN#97

          You don’t want me to discuss it in two different threads but yet there are two different threads where people are discussing it??

          Anyways Bennett is looking way better now so I don’t see why they just don’t let him play center with Johnny on his left side. What’s the harm in trying. I don’t see how it could hurt.

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    I haven’t seen Torres, Cooke, Kassian or any other awful human being cross check an official, I have a hard time believing Dennis Wiedeman did this out of anger… I honestly think he was confused after getting hit, he saw someone in his way to getting on the bench and wasn’t sure who it was, might have thought it was a Nashville player. Nothing about that makes sense especially from a guy not known to be violent….

    • TRAIN#97

      Looking at this from a league standpoint I would say they have to suspend him. Even if they believe a concussed theory, which is unlikely, if they don’t suspend him you are opening a can of worms by allowing any player to say ” I was concussed and I didn’t know what was happening”
      I could be wrong but I think he is getting time off .

      • CofRed4Life

        I agree. As a Flames fan, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but from a league standpoint, discipline must be taken. Seeing the article from last night with the rulebook, I would interpret it as a category II and give him 10+ games, but the league could see it differently.

        Sigh, it’s not every day I agree with TRAIN#97…

      • DeadRedRedemption

        I hate that the league does this. I can’t stand the Optics game that the NHL plays.

        Why punish the Wideman’s and the Scott’s of the league because of Optics?

        Wideman is clearly innocent here, in my mind.

    • DeadRedRedemption

      THIS!!

      100% agree. I think he was still dazed from that hit, found a body in front of the opposition bench and…

      That said, he still deserves a suspension. Whether he intended to hit the linesman or not, he did.

  • Hacker

    I feel for Wideman. He was obviously pissed off from the dirty hit moments before. He was in a vulnerable position and the Nashville player didn’t let up. Refs need to do better to recognize dirty hits. That said hitting the linesman was a stupid thing to do. He could have seriously hurt the linesman. Maybe direct that same anger at the preds or give the referee an earful, but to crank a linesman makes no sense. I’m guessing the instant he sat on the bench he felt like a chump.

  • TRAIN#97

    It’s the coaches job to make sure his team is ready to play night in and night out, and more often than not this team comes out of the gate completely asleep with zero compete level, effort, or even care.

    If Hartley hasn’t already lost the room, it’s pretty obvious he’s starting to. Can’t wait to get rid of this guy in the offseason.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      So how did the Coach of the Year in the 2014-15 season become a brainless idiot in 2015-16 and how come the great Brad Treliving couldn’t foresee this and not extend him last season? I’d really like to know.

  • everton fc

    The trade deadline will be interesting. Lot of dead wood to clear out. We have many big contracts already. This will pose a challenge, in uncertain, volatile economic times.

    We need to solidify our goaltending situation, but I am comfortable w/Ramo, and if they are able to move Hiller I’d call up Poulin and give him games with Ramo. Why not, he’s only 25. I wonder what a Bernier for Hiller swap would do for us, while Gillies recovers, and Ortio proves he can play consistently at the AHL level. Gillies needs a full season in the “A”, me thinks. We are not deep in net, and don’t really have the cash to splash in this area. Going with Ramo/Bernier/Poulin next season – part of the rebuild – to let the younger goalies catch up, might be a good move. Or do they go after the Ducks Anderson… ??

    As for the forwards, move Stajan (good guy, has done zero offensively this year), Raymond (minors – give one of the kids a chance), Bollig (likeable, but obsolete), Hudler (obvious move), and maybe Jones, whose offensive side might help a team at the deadline, pushing for the playoff. On the backend, move Wideman (for whatever we can get), Russell, who will have value at the deadline, and maybe Smid, who is only 29, and may bring back something, though Smid as a 6/7 d-man here next season doesn’t scare me. But those 5/6 roles have to change… Can’t be Wideman/Engelland/Smid. And Russell’s not a 3/4 d-man. He’s a good 5/6 with much less minutes than he’s playing now.

    The core players to build around are Gaudreau, Bennett, Monahan, Frolik, Backlund, Gio (for now), Brodie, Hamilton, and Ferland. In this mix of forwards, you have two very good line (through we need a legit RW to play with these other forwards – Ferland may have to be a 3rd line player here). These are the players I’d hold onto. I’d give Jooris way more ice time for the rest of the season, to see what role he may provide long-term. Do the same with Colborne and Granlund – test these guys in every and all situations (add Ferland to this list. Bouma, too.) I’d call up “some” of Kulak, Nakladal, Poirier, Hamilton-2, Shore, Agostino, Grant, Arnold, Hathaway, Van Brabant, Elson, at same point during the remainder of this campaign and see that they can do at this level. I don’t think we are very deep on the farm. Why?

    We need to look at the farm closely. Are the right people developing our kids? I am still not 100% convinced we have the right people in head office (Burke, in particular), but thas not going to change, and I do think Treliving is as shrewd a businessman as his dad. Might be time for bench boss and his staff to go (what about Conroy, is he helping us?)

    Can you imagine if we could have landed Jim Nill, where we’d be?? Hindsight always being 20/20, but I want to see us win. Be one of the top teams. Consistently. In a bad economy, we’ll have trouble signing big names. We’ll have to be very wise with our drafting and our young guys. And we’ll have to be the same, at the trade deadline and in the summer.

    If you look at the Coyotes, what they’ve done this year with a wise coach and some shrewd moves (Duclair was a nice pickup, and Tinordi may prove the same)…. Everyone pegged them for the basement. Look where they are. Look at their roster. Not much different than ours…

  • everton fc

    I know we have been critical of Monahan lately but how about him winning all those draws at the end of the game when we where trying to tie it. He won 3 or 4 in a row and we almost scored. I thought that was pretty clutch by Mony.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    He’s got to play it like he was just surprised and caught off guard, and be willing to take whatever the league gives him for it.

    If he says that he was dazed, then the team should have followed the concussion protocols. But they didn’t and should then be investigated for not looking out for player safety. Is Wideman really looking to be the guy that gets a franchise in trouble for this? He’d have to consider his next contract and whether or not any team would be willing to pay “that” guy. He could also try to be a hero and force the concussion issue to be further investigated and enforced by the league, but like most everyone else, he might choose to wait until he’s retired to do that. Again, IF he says he was dazed.

    The 3rd option is that he got all WIDEMAN SMASH, but that’s not going to happen.