Post-Game: Canucked

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In the final game of the 2016-17 exhibition season for the Calgary Flames, roughly four or five jobs were up for grabs. With that in mind, Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan devised a roster of players on the cusp of grabbing a roster spot, probably with the hope that all of that desperation would elevate the team.

Nope.

Without Johnny Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk and several others, the Flames lost handily by a 4-0 score in Vancouver to close out their preseason.

THE RUNDOWN

The Flames were okay in the first, but really biffed on an early power play opportunity. They just couldn’t get set up and were casual enough without the puck that Brandon Sutter roamed into their zone and beat Chad Johnson with a nice top-corner shot. It was a really nice shot, but one that they shouldn’t have been able to take.

Later in the period, another defensive lapse allowed Sven Baertschi to find Jake Virtanen all alone in the slot for a nice one-timer goal. Either Linden Vey (or Dennis Wideman) should’ve had him covered. Whoops. 2-0.

Shots were 10-8 in the first for Vancouver.

The Flames’ uninspired defensive play continued into the second. After X’s penalty expired, the Flames remained hemmed into their own end. With Loui Ericsson parked out front, Daniel Sedin got a nice shot off (that Ericsson) deflected past Johnson to make it 3-0. (Visible in the GIF? Calgary’s defenders just hanging out.)

Shots 9-8 in the second for Vancouver.

The Canucks seemed content to just hang out and run out the clock in the third. They added insult to injury with perhaps the wonkiest goal of the preseason, as Wideman over-skated the puck, a Henrik Sedin whack careened off a stantion and right to Ericsson for a tap-in on a wide-open net. Shots were 19-7 for the Flames, but few were impressive chances.

WHO LOOKED GOOD?

Hardly anybody, to be honest. Sean Monahan was fine, considering he hadn’t played in forever (and he was playing with fringe guys as his wingers). Ditto for Mikael Backlund. Aside from giving up four goals, Johnson was fairly solid on the shots he had a chance on. The Flames led in shot attempts 62-41, but a lot of them were perimeter attempts and they didn’t have many solid scoring chances on the evening.

If you’re looking for positives in a game like this, you’re probably grasping at straws.

GAME IN A TWEET

UP NEXT

The Flames make their last cuts likely sometime tomorrow, and then the games start counting for real beginning Wednesday night in Edmonton.

  • kid presentable

    really, really, really not looking forward to wideman skate around for another season in a flames jersey (with an ‘a’ no less)

    definitely thought he’d be gone by now

        • Derzie

          How many of this so called ‘AHL team’ are actually on our AHL team? Almost none. Calling them an AHL team when they are intended to be NHL-ers is not an excuse. They stunk and we’re disorganized. We’ve seen this throughout the pre-season. Coaching and depth are rotten right now. Our stars are still our stars but they can’t win by themselves.

    • FireScorpion

      Ah preseason. Good times. Only thing that saved Chiarelli from getting ripped off today was that he didn’t end up trading Yakupov. Too bad..but he’ll do it sooner rather than later

  • cberg

    Overall the team looked pretty terrible, which is not unexpected when 6 of your top 10 players are sitting it out.

    On a systems thing, not sure if I’m liking the “advance together” theme that GG is instituting. It just seems that is a recipe for a middling advance then big pile up in front of the net that pretty much negates our speed. I think if you examine the advanced stats we’re probably killing it in Corsi but the great scoring chances are not there. Part of that is of course the players, or lack thereof in many/most of the games but it also is a systems thing that has removed one of our biggest strengths, speed. Possession (Corsi) isn’t everything. We’ll see how it goes.

    • OKG

      What is removing our speed, is the lack of speed and skill.

      Grossmann, Higgins, Vey, Wideman, Wotherspoon, Stajan, Korpiskoski, Hamilton…

      Now replace with:

      Brodie, Frolik, Brouwer, Less Minutes, Giordano, Less Minutes, Gaudreau, Hathaway, Bennett, Tkachuk

      Suddenly you will have speed.

      • cberg

        The players are not the issue, its them waiting to move up all together versus a fast break type offence. Both can be successful but the latter utilizes our speed and catching the opponent unprepared versus overwhelming them with precision passing and brute force aggression.

    • piscera.infada

      On a systems thing, not sure if I’m liking the “advance together” theme that GG is instituting. It just seems that is a recipe for a middling advance then big pile up in front of the net that pretty much negates our speed. I think if you examine the advanced stats we’re probably killing it in Corsi but the great scoring chances are not there. Part of that is of course the players, or lack thereof in many/most of the games but it also is a systems thing that has removed one of our biggest strengths, speed. Possession (Corsi) isn’t everything. We’ll see how it goes.

      It doesn’t negate your speed if you’re playing with your puck moving players. I will agree it looks slow when you’re essentially playing your bottom-6 forwards and Monahan, and your bottom-3 defensemen and Hamilton.

      One of the biggest problems with the Flames over the past couple of years was lack of structure on the rush and through the neutral zone. If you want countless examples of it, go watch any game against the Ducks during that time. Sure, the Flames “used” their “speed”, but it was generally in the most ineffective way possible. If the Flames didn’t score on the rush, they didn’t do anything.

      With more structure, the Flames should be able to produce more consistent offensive zone time, and thus more offense. It hasn’t paid dividends yet, but I’ll wait to see a game with the actual roster playing before I make definitive claims, but the numbers actually appear to point in the right direction here (and they have for the vast majority of the preseason).

      I’m not worried about a lack of goal scoring in preseason. This is a team that scored goals in the top-ten of the league the past two years. I don’t see a situation where (with a full roster) structure in the neutral zone and through to the offensive zone is going to drive those numbers down. You want puck control? You’re likely not going to have those break-neck odd man rushes as often as we had during Hartley’s tenure, but don’t confuse that with a lack of speed. As countless elite teams in the NHL prove time and again, control and speed aren’t mutually exclusive.

      • cberg

        I don’t totally disagree with your points, however it is slower going together versus shooting 1-2 guys at break-neck speed. You are correct, we have ended up getting way better offensive zone time, but usually that has meant a mad scramble in front of the net, or perimeter looks that have resulted in a massive increase in blocked shots against us and few open shots from the slot which was a clear hallmark of the past couple of years. Perhaps the guys learn how to convert in tight as they get more familiar with each other and the new systems but it isn’t apparent yet. Like I said earlier, we’ll have to see. Clearly the team is playing different, and that style is similar to teams like LAK and Anaheim who both have been effective at it so here’s to hoping…..

        • piscera.infada

          It’s not about faster versus slower though, it’s about what’s more sustainable. As I mentioned above, you try to limit low-percentage plays. I get it, it looks slower than a 2-on-2 or 3-on-2 entering the zone, full speed. How many times though, did we have to watch that outlet pass get picked off leading to exactly the same odd-manned opportunity the other way? Countless times–it went wrong more times then it went right.

          Watch Chicago play. They are one of the most structured teams in the neutral zone you’ll see. They do it with speed. To steal a football metaphor, the Flames are trying to employ a west-coast offense (quick, short passing game, built to consistently get down the field–and proven), last year they were throwing “post” and “go” routes (low percentage, “home-run” type) every second play. It worked sometimes because they have skilled players, but why not get those skilled players to attack in a much more sustainable and consistent way?

          An additional unintended consequence of the system Hartley employed last year, is that while it attempted to “stretch” the opposition vertically (using the winger’s speed), it usually ended up doing the same thing to the Flames only with much more deleterious effects. While the Flames were often trying to make a two-line breakout pass through three opposition players to hit a winger in full stride, all the defensive team had to do was simply intercept the pass, and two (sometimes three) Calgary forwards were caught deep.

          If what they’re doing in the zone once they get there is your problem, then that’s a completely different argument. Either their personnel isn’t good enough, or they aren’t playing a good system within the zone. The point is, they’re gaining the zone more effectively. Offense should flow from that.

  • smatic10

    I began to type up one of my individual player reviews, but then gave up. It was just an ugly game overall. We had almost zero legitimately dangerous chances. Understandable considering the personnel on the ice, but I was still expecting a better overall effort. Instead of a player review, here are my final pre-season thoughts.

    1. Every single PTO needs to be cut loose. None of them have proven they can be valuable enough to this team.

    2. Forget the numbers and just WATCH the PK and PP. Neither are good enough. I don’t sense confidence from the players on either specialty team. I remain optimistic though as there is too much talent on this team to have such poor specialty teams. I will keep giving it time.

    3. Elliott is fantastic. Johnson has proved he’s a great backup. (key word: backup). Can’t rely on him to be a number 1 but he’ll come in and play a steady and calm game when called upon.

    4. Ferland looks more determined. I expect a better season.

    5. I don’t recall any pre-season game (including the ones we’ve won) where we’ve seemed like an offensively dangerous team. Sure we’ll have some decent chances here and there. But we don’t look like a team that is a constant threat. Gaudreau is the engine of our offense. He makes everyone around him better. We can’t afford a single regular season game without him.

    6. Our defense does not look very strong. Even when Gio and Brodes are in the lineup. Puck battles are being lost and pucks are being turned over way more than they should. Either we need to tighten up the defense or we need to defend fast (both would be nice). Right now, we’re stuck in an unhappy medium.

    7. This team will benefit enormously whenever the dead weight is removed (Staj, Wides, Engo, Bollig). Frankly, replacing them with better players (trade, call-ups, however) will automatically make this team better. I trust Tree in continuing to construct this team going forward but he has a lot of work to do with these players.

    It may seem like a negative list, but I watched pretty much all of the preseason games. Calling it like I see it. I am optimistic though. Who knows, the team could suddenly all be on the same page and follow the game plan, Tree could make a shrewd trade or two and we’ll start stringing some wins together. Let’s see what happens.

    • everton fc

      Good to hear Ferland’s focused. I assumed he would be.

      Even though this was bacisally an AHL team, I still agree with your assessment. On offence, we’ll have to collectively hope Gaudreau is signed soon, he and Monahan can gel with Ferland, the 2nd line of Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer is for real… That Backlund and Frolik continue to have that chemistry (is Shinkaukr the LW on this line?), and a 4th line of Bouma-Stajan/Freddie H./Vey-Chiasson can be difficult to deal with. I have my doubts on many fronts…

      Defencively, Gio, Brodie and Hamilton will be fine, though Hamilton has had a sub-par camp (Is a “slow start” part of Dougie’s game? I wonder…) Jokipaaka as a #4 d-man – this needs to be given to Kulak, with a prayer he can follow through. I can deal with Engelland and Jokipaaka as our 5/6. But Wideman? What to do with this guy??

      Wotherspoon will never be an NHL regular. I am convinced of this. Grossman did the best, as PTO, but all need to go. I hope Hathaway makes the team, because he “gives” just like Ferland, every shift.

      Overall… we are not a playoff team, “on paper”. Or on the ice. Gulutzan and his staff have their hands full.

    • KACaribou

      I am starting to come to Smatic instead of the FN blog writer for a synopsis of the game. More thorough and far more effort and knowledge of what happened… and no Gif fillers to take up space.

      Last exhibition game and the bubble guys play like this? Bad sign for them.

      Bad PK and PP so that hasn’t changed.

      Johnson’s second bad game in goal. He could have kept the game closer, but he was leaky.

      The team misses Johnny. Our PP and general offense can be weak as pointed out, and when he is in there he creates chances. Also, this game points out how important the Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer line has been producing goals and chances in pre-season.

      Bouma seemed to be wandering this night also, losing his man several times. But at least he was tossing some hits. We have to remember our top two D-men were not playing either. And our lines were all scrambled up.

      I look forward to:

      Johnny-Mony-Ferland

      Tkackuk-Bennett-Brouwer

      Bouma-Backs-Frolik

      Doesn’tMatter-Staj-Doesn’tMatter

    • cberg

      Nice job summing things up. Here’s a few more observations:

      1. Our Corsi and possession game is hugely up from last year. Having said that our scoring chances, and especially dangerous scoring chances are way down. It is debatable at this point whether its a net win or not.

      2. 100% agree on the PTOs, not a single one should be signed. They have offered next to nothing, and we can easily get that way cheaper from our own prospects, with upside.

      3. At least half of the games dressed a line-up so wonky that the results are largely irrelevant. 100% of the games missed key personnel, i.e. Gaudreau. Monahan got into only 1 game. Because of this its next to impossible to truly evaluate the pre-season, nor the coaching. Assuming Gaudreau is signed before the season I’d anticipate a slow start because these guys just haven’t played together yet. Great goaltending might offset that deficit.

      4. Tkachuk is for real, ready and consistently in the top 3-4 Flames every single game. He’s not going anywhere. As a corollary, Bennett has looked really good and I’m believing he will make a huge jump this season. Brouwer has really helped them both and is looking like an astute pick-up at this point.

      5. Defensive play has been very spotty overall. There just isn’t a lot of effort put into keeping their heads on a swivel and covering up the open guy. The PK has looked better but they need to show consistency.

      6. These guys are a huge drag on the team, and we’ll continue to struggle till there are upgrades: Stajan, Bollig, ~Wideman and Chiasson. Can’t really say with Vey since he hasn’t been on much. Engelland has been fine, and Bouma seems to be coming, slowly, but neither has been really impressive.

  • Prototype369

    The game was positively awful. No one played great, but our bottom depth played awful. Bouma, Higgins, Vey, Chiasson, Bollig, Stajan, Freddie H, Korpikoski, all awful. I wouldnt mind icing a bunch of kids and losing than watching this tire fire. Grossman doesn’t belong on an NHL team, and Wideman needs to stop showing up to games. And lastly, even with Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett and Tkachuk, overall were a shit team

  • Prototype369

    No one played great, but most of our depth players played awful. Bouma, Higgins, Vey, Chiasson, Stajan, Bollig, Korpikoski, Freddie, all played terrible. Grossman doesn’t belong in the NHL anymore, and Wideman needs to stop showing up to games. And lastly, despite having Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett and Tkachuk, were a shit team

  • beloch

    Just to put the doom and gloom in perspective…

    This was a version of the Flames that could have been improved by substituting in some of the kids who have already been sent to Stockton. They were playing a version of the Canucks that is nearly identical to what their opening day roster will be.

    They outshot the ‘nucks 36 to 26.

    The Flames played their backup netminder while the Canucks played Ryan Miller. Had the Flames played Elliott and had just a tiny bit of luck they could have won. That’s actually pretty damned encouraging.

    Honestly, I think the Flames have a real shot at sweeping the season series against the Canucks this season.

  • FireScorpion

    Hopefully Korpikoski being on the ice for 3 out of the 4 goals closes the book on him.
    Also Kulak was the only defenseman not to be on the ice for a goal. 21.5 minutes as well. Should clinch a spot for him I’d think.
    Chiasson with 5 shots in 12 minutes? How did he look? I missed the whole game but these are just a few things that jumped off the stats sheet

    • The GREAT WW

      The great hair….?

      Seriously though, if you want an insight into GG as a coach, Google some of his coaching seminars……see how inspired you are after watching for 10 minutes…

      This guy is in way over his head.

      WW

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    There will be better options on the waiver wire than the PTO’s in camp. I wonder if the Stockton house cleaning and the crappiness of the PTO’s signed speaks to Treliving’s backup plan… that being the waiver wire. Flames have fewer of the 50 contract spots used than any other team. The waiver dismissals will only get better. Last night’s game makes the decision easier. Doesn’t Detroit have like 15 forwards still. Anthanasiou anyone?

    I bet there is some quality forwards to hit the waiver wire before season starts. Cut EVERY PTO, get the kids the development they need if they aren’t ready (Shink) and claim a player for free!

    EDIT: Anthansiou is waivers exempt 🙁

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Further to that thought, Rangers have 15 forwards on contract, waiver eligible bubble guys are:
    – Josh Jooris
    – Nathan Gerbe
    – Oscar Lindberg
    – Jesper Fast

    Red Wings have 15, bubble guys?
    – Tomas Jurco
    – Teemu Pulkkinen
    – Steve Ott
    – Luke Glendening
    – Drew Miller
    – Joe Vitale

    LA Kings have 15, bubble?
    – Andy Andreoff
    – Michael Latta
    – Nick Shore
    – Nic Dowd

    Winnipeg Jets have 16, however much of their guys are young and are waiver exempt, possibilities though?
    – Joel Armia
    – Anthony Peluso

    This isn’t to mention those from other teams that still get waived as PTO, other signings or trades make it.

  • freethe flames

    My preseason thoughts could be called “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”(after the great old Western) or the Naked Truth.

    The Good: The Bennett line looks legit and will be a good 2nd power play unit. Elliot is the real deal. We should be able to play 3 effective lines once the team gets the minor details worked out and it appears we head into the regular season healthy.Some of the young guys we sent back to the CHL look like the real deal but are a couple of years away and both Janko and Kylington look very close to being NHL ready.

    The Bad: Johnny is still not signed(this could end up being in the ugly if he misses any regular season games). Both our top 2 centers missed much of the preseason with injuries and the lack of depth in the organization is evident as no one really stepped up. Young guys who should have stepped up and grabbed spots did not really stand out.(Shinkaruk, Ferland while ready could have been better; good enough to make the team but not as good as I hoped). New signees and guys who need bounce back years did not play with enough fire to suggest that this will happen.(Bouma, Chiasson, Vey, Wides)

    The Ugly: The fact that fringe players from last year are likely to still be on the team.(Bollig, Stajan). The amount of time wasted on the PTO’s the only good that came out of this is a healthy squad to start the season. That some of our prospects have not taken the next step(Poirier, Klimchuk and Andersson- get in NHL shape) That the Flames did not sign Nakladal and the rumors are they are still interested in Russell.

    The Naked Truth:

    The Flames need Johnny. The Flames can play 3 good NHL lines and two good NHL pairings on D. The problem is to be a playoff team you need 4 lines and 3 pairings and we seem to be short on these. I would rather watch young guys make mistakes and grow than veterans who cannot keep up.

  • jakethesnail

    Sign Reto Berra quick! At least he scored a goal for the Flames…

    What a waste of manpower – playing fringe players in the final pre-season game…and the Canucks dressed what looks like their opening night lineup. Last year Tre gave us the three-headed goalie monster to start the season and this year he gave us GG, an unproven NHL coach to start the season.

    GG must be fully confident that his real roster of players have grasped his concepts and will turn it on when the season opens.

    We will see how the season unfolds…I have confidence in the real talent on this team. The PTOs will fall by the wayside hopefully today.

  • Backburner

    I didn’t get a chance to watch this game.. could anyone tell me how Shinkaruk looked?

    I’m really starting to wish Treliving would have stayed with Jooris/Colborne.

    • FlamesGabe

      Shinkaruk tried to much, he was a bit overwhelmed, he tripped in his own skates and fell twice, although he made a couple of good passes and he tried to play more direct, straight towards the net. I believe he’s getting there.

      • Backburner

        Thanks 🙂

        Yeah I went to the game against the Oilers and had the same observation. He would trip himself up quite a bit, but did show some energy. Not sure if he will make the cut.

  • jakethesnail

    @cberg says: “On a systems thing, not sure if I’m liking the “advance together” theme that GG is instituting.”

    The Swarm Offense of Dallas GG or the Swarm Defense of Dallas Eakins. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    • piscera.infada

      “Advance together” simply means that the team moves up the ice as a five-man unit. This, opposed to Hartley’s “have one, or both wingers fly the zone immediately upon the defenseman touching the puck”. That was always a recipe for disaster, save for odd long outlet pass that worked just because they tried it so damn often.

      Shorter passes through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone is how professional hockey teams should play the game. Christ, it’s how beer league teams should play. Minimise the amount of low-percentage plays, and build speed through the neutral zone as opposed to relying on that speed as means of one-on-one attack.

      The “swarm defense” comparison is a false equivalency.

  • Stu Cazz

    Although preseason means nothing it was an opportunity for many to step-up…other than an 18 year old (Tkachuk) no body did. Some significant concern areas remain and became apparent in preseason…1) 1st line RW 2) LW to play with Backlund/Frolik 3) Productive 3rd/4th line players 4) Backup goalie (Johnson was a disappointment).

    This team requires goal scoring…the addition of JG is not enough. Trades and the upcoming waiver wire may be a solution. Regardless this team requires another year of rebuild/develop at least to clear the remaining 4 garbage contracts (Bolig, Wideman, Engelland, Stajan (buyout end of season).

  • redwhiteblack

    Tkachuk is for real. That alone is exciting. Bennett seems ready for a break out year. Potential of 4 awesome forwards.

    My hope is this year is not a train wreck and that the core group of guys excel. Need to set things up well for next year however. The coaching change will be interesting. Hopefully it begins to show promise with more regulars in the lineup.

  • Super Scout

    As the final preseason game for the Flames you play the bubble players left to see what they can do. Because we all expect them to step it up does not mean they will or can . Now we move to the regular season with the proven roster ( best one anyway ) and say goodbye to the remaining players ( cut or send down to the farm team ).

    We all would like to see some adjustments first , like trade Wideman put Bollig on the wire, but they could happen soon then later.

    To keep things in line just ask yourself — Was there any surprises last night on the Flames good or bad. ?

  • Cheeky

    I watched the game last night and can comment on a few of the players:
    Defense – Kulak looked good and mature/calm – he should make this team. Wotherspoon disappointed me. I’ve been an cheerleader for him but he let a couple players out muscle him (notably Sven on Virtanen’s goal) along the boards. As much as I hate to say this Grossmann looked ok, he is slow and lost position a couple times, however he is strong and isn’t afraid to hit (completed a couple nice big ones). I still think he shouldn’t make the team. Wideman SUCKS!
    Forwards – Monahan and Backlund were quite good. Higgins and Koriposki should consider themselves very lucky to play with Backs than Stajan. They both should not make the team however. Both Bouma and Ferland were steady with some pressure and hits, they bring what they are meant to do – some mean. Shink was always in on the puck, I like his competitiveness however would like to have seen him score as he did have some chances. Bollig SUCKS!
    Goal – Johnson was actually good considering he got peppered with some really good chances. The team in front let him down by allowing Van to have far too many wide open chances. He had to be sharp on many occasions and a couple of the goals (Wideman’s assist) he had no chance on.
    My biggest question is what the coaching staff is doing. Van iced pretty close to their starting team and we iced an AHL team for the last exhibition. This game should have been a warm up to the regular season by the regulars. The team that was iced could have been used against Arizona to finalize roster spots with this one to mesh and warm up (like Van did). Van out coached us and out played us badly. Only saving grace was this was pre-season…