Blues 6, Flames 4 post-game embers: What else is there to say?

In three of six games now, the Flames have scored four goals. They have won just one of those games, and the win came in overtime. They’re averaging three goals a game, which is good for middle of the pack in the NHL right now. When you’re scoring that often, you should have more than one win.

But they’re also giving up 4.33 goals against per game. The only team that’s doing worse? The Arizona Coyotes. (Coincidentally, the Coyotes are the only team lower than the Flames in the standings, too, though they’ve played two fewer games, so give it time.)

And it turns out that even Chad Johnson, in a good game, is vulnerable to it, too.

It’s both everybody and nobody’s fault. Though that kind of seems to be the theme this year, isn’t it? It’s the one thing that’s been consistent so far.

What’s a lead?

The Flames took the lead early in the second period when Kris Versteeg and Micheal Ferland both scored in 35 quick seconds. The Flames led the game for all of three and a half minutes, until a defensive breakdown allowed David Perron to get multiple whacks at the puck before getting his second goal of the night and tying it up at two.

Three and a half minutes. That’s how long the Flames led in this game. Sure, you can point to a valiant effort in the third period – and we will get to that in a second – but if you’re always chasing, you aren’t going to be doing a whole lot of winning.

And the Flames are always chasing. Through six games this season, they have led for 67:38. If you only count goals that they, themselves, have actually scored – so no charming Vancouver Canucks own-goals in here – they have led for 23:43.

The Flames have 18 goals to their name so far. None of them are insurance goals; they’ve never led by more than one. Five of their 18 goals (well, four; one of them was Loui Eriksson’s) have been to take the lead. The other 13 have been trying to tie it up.

Almost every time the Flames show a glimmer of hope – Mark Giordano and Versteeg being the latest embodiments of it – they’re still down.

What about that comeback?

The third period was easily the best effort the Flames put in the game. The Blues dominated the first period, as their 71.88% 5v5 CF would attest to; things evened out a bit more in the second, though.

But the third? The Flames had themselves a 60.71% 5v5 CF frame, plus those two goals to get them back into it. Though being down 4-2 to start – and then going down 5-2 – probably had a hand in that.

The Flames were lucky to get as far as they did, though. Ferland’s goal, in particular, absolutely should not have gone in. Fact of the matter is, though, the Blues had no need to dominate the third period. And they’re a good enough team that, when trouble started brewing for them, they were able to shut things right back down.

They were also smart enough to take a penalty to immediately extinguish the Flames’ comeback. Touche, Blues.

What’s to be done?

Tighten up the defence, for one thing.

This can’t all be blamed on Brian Elliott. He was very much not playing tonight, so that is certain. (It can’t all be blamed on Giordano, either, much as he – at least somewhat deservedly – tried to throw himself under the bus following the game.) But the general consensus of Johnson has been, in his appearances, he’s been capable and encouraging enough. He gave up five goals, anyway, including two on the powerplay, a rifle that could not have been stopped, a breakaway the result of a stupid giveaway, and just allowing Perron too many chances.

But we’ve been through that sort of thing, haven’t we?

In this particular loss, Natural Stat Trick registers the Flames as having gotten a grand total of three high danger chances at even strength. The Blues had 16. How do you compete with that? Probably by making Johnson’s life easier. And Elliott’s, too, for that matter.

A 5v5, the Flames have given up 58 high danger chances through the season. Change that to all strengths, and they’ve given up 79. The only team that’s been worse is Chicago, who have given up 59 HDC at even strength, and 82 overall. (Oh, hey there, next opponent.)

The Flames need to tighten up. Elliott and Johnson were the best possible goaltending switchover the Flames could have asked for this past offseason. I doubt any other pair of goalies would be faring much better under this right now.

Is there a fix?

If there’s any fix to be found at all, it’s going to be the Flames sticking with what they have, except maybe minus Dave Cameron.

When the entire team fails on this level, it’s easy to point to coaching. Heck, I’ve been happy enough to do it; it’s one of many things not up to snuff. But there’s no easy solution here.

Say the Flames give up on Glen Gulutzan right now. Right this second. Who’s the new head coach? The season’s only just started; everyone’s in place for the time being. Out of all the possible candidates we looked at early in the offseason, basically none of those guys are available now. We’d be looking at a John Tortorella kind of hire; the Blue Jackets brought him on board a year ago almost to the day. Or someone already with the organization, like Ryan Huska.

The time to decide on a coach was in the offseason. The Flames decided on one. We’ll see how long this lasts for, but the replacement probably isn’t going to be optimal – not for this season.

For real, though, what about the powerplay?

Yeah a drastic change has to be made here though. The powerplay is where the Flames go to die. It’s where hopes and dreams go to die. The blue line is littered with the skeletons of failed zone entires, their bones piling on top of one another, just making it harder to one day maybe enter the offensive zone and get an actual setup going. I don’t know where this metaphor is going. 

The Flames are middle of the pack in scoring and that’s with a powerplay success rate of 4%. If they had something competent they would probably be in the top 10. As garbage as the defence has been and as few stops as they’re getting when things really matter, a competent powerplay probably has the team at at least a .500 record.

They’re 1-4-1. They close out this month against Chicago, St. Louis, Ottawa, and Washington. Unless they tighten up immediately and fix the powerplay just as quick, they’ll probably finish October well under .500.

  • Eggs Bennett

    The defence needs to be able to hold the line under pressure. I got nervous everytime the puck came back to the point because there seemed like a 50% chance of a breakaway or odd man rush going the other way. This is true for PP and 5V5…

  • TurkeyLips

    Our established vets who we depend and rely on have checked out. See Giordano and Brodie.

    Everything is on the backs of these young kids as a result. They are crumbling under the pressure

    Look at the point leaders of other teams. It’s their best players, the perennial leaders. The ones your team relies on season in and season out.

    Going from a respectable blue line to horrifically lackluster in a single off-season is troubling to say the least.

    Our forward depth isn’t nearly good enough to compensate for two nonexistent top lines.

    Players don’t seem to respect GG.

    It’s a perfect storm.

  • knappsacked

    I felt like were were going to tie the game… Then we got a powerplay. Killed our momentum. I feel like we may have tied it if we played at even strength. Then, we called a time out. And when i saw it was cameron giving the play, well then i knew it was over.

      • The GREAT WW

        I’m starting to think that we leave this coaching crew together for the rest of the year, maybe give Cameron some additional responsibilities…..the season is lost, no reason to give up a good lottery ticket by winning a few down the stretch…

        WW

    • The GREAT WW

      Brilliant trade proposal!

      I wish I would have thought of that….

      No problem getting first pairing minutes with the Flames this year.

      I think the Flames have asked Hamilton to be more physical this year, Hamilton has responded by taking a boat load of dumb penalties…

      WW

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Tre committing grand larceny in getting Hamilton from the Bs was the highlight of the ’15 Draft for every hockey observer regardless of team affiliation. It was absolutely unprecedented for a player of Hammy’s age and caliber to be acquired for a package of draft picks that did not include the 1st overall.

        So now a year later, after Hammy came off his best season offensively, he suddenly forgot how to play, his tremendous skills diminished in the offseason, the new coach doesn’t give him the love Hartley did?

        Get off the ledge, folks. The Flames have played 6 games. Ain’t nothing wrong with Hammy. Early prediction–he breaks his point total from last year.

        • Rock

          Hamilton was terrible last year as well the only reason it didn’t show as bad is because he played with a better defense partner he did get some points but he cost the team way more points.
          Tre didn’t commit grand larceny the B’s already knew what Hamilton was worth and pawned him off on the first rookie GM that came along.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    You really don’t need stats (counting, advanced or whatever) to see that the Flames are not a dangerous team offensively. While in the O-zone, they are largely a perimeter team that cannot establish meaningful zone time, and opposing d-cores and their goalies rarely look to be in danger. In contrast, they’ve made every opponent look very dangerous this year. The defense (regardless of the player or pairing) as well as their forward support looks completely unable to limit offensive risk.

    It’s hard to assess the systems in place, since the Flames aren’t able to execute properly. If I were describe the Flames with a single play it would be “missed pass”. I know this will sound like a cliche, but back to basics and start to execute with purpose.

    I’m now just looking for signs the team is working out of this. Regrettably I haven’t seen any signs of improvement.

  • Zorn

    On my Friday drive home from work I listened to Pat Steinberg rant on about how it is too early to be thinking about a coaching change. “We are only 5 games in” he said, “still 93.9 % of the season left”.

    That is true in terms of games, but, in terms of time, 2 months or 28.6 % of the season is finished. I think time is the most relevant measurement here. GG and company had one month of training camp to teach their new systems. I know that not everyone was available for camp, for whatever reason, but this is true for all teams, so that excuse doesn’t wash.

    The Flames are right up against the cap and have very little wiggle room for roster changes. That only leaves the coaching staff (Burke should be on this list too, but that is another story). Cameron should be gone (replace him with Hartley who is still on the payroll, if that position is really needed) and GG should be on a very short leash. Yes, Ari, I agree that now is not the optimum time to find a better replacement.

    • Achilles

      In what world is 2 months considered ample time to master a whole new system and to habituate to the style and persona of a new coach? Then the added difficulty of not having your full or final roster for most of that first month.

      Moreover, while other teams similarly had players unavailable, not all teams are trying to learn, let alone properly implement, a new system. Add to that the unique fact about Calgary that they had multiple years of questiomable coaching, systems-wise.

      Would it have been awesome if they soaked up every drop of GG knowledge like a sponge and hit the ground running from season start? Absolutely. Was that a reasonably expected outcome. Not at all.

    • Willi P

      “That is true in terms of games, but, in terms of time, 2 months or 28.6 % of the season is finished”

      Huh? Season started less than two weeks ago. Even if you use the start of training camp, which was September 22, that is ONE month ago yesterday. One does not equal two and Pat’s logic/math is much more accurate than yours.

      Further, there is no way, ever, that anybody from the coaching staff will be changed before new year (and highly unlikely during this season) no matter how bad the record is.

      What you see is what you get, they (coach and players) are going to have to figure it out.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    They all look nervous out there – Its palpable. Hammy has the talent, not too sure about his passion. He plays with very little grit in his game. With his size he should make some opponents worry for their well being – but they aren’t. I think it was the 5th goal where he coughed up the puck in the neutral zone, the Blues swooped into the Flames end and scored while Hammy’s back check was non-existant.

    Maybe a long road trip will help gel this group that has very little chemistry right now.

  • everton fc

    GG’s 3 year deal, Hartley’s firing from a team that appears to have some leadership/dedication issues (or so it seems…)

    There are two people responsible for “finding” GG and letting him hire this bench staff, after a “long, diligent search…”

    BT and BB. Everyone taks about firing GG and his staff. Who hired them – and for three years? Hartley would be better than GG.

    Simple. They also brought in Dougie H., who we all agree has major issues. A steal of a deal now has some posting Hamilton for Trouba deals.

    The worst thing this organization did was losing Darryl behind the bench. We’ve not been the same, since. All talk, all hype, no results. Except under Hartley – old school, like Darryl.

    Darryl continues to win. We continue to be also-rans.

    I thought the Gio contract was madness. I am now wondering about Monahan’s, as well. Bennett has stifled, as well. Johnny Hockey is now trying to do too much, on his own, ignoring his teammates.

    There is zero chemistry and zero confidence in this bunch. Stajan and Ferland – and Kulak – have been the only players I’ve seen really giving consistent effort. Busting it every shift. Frolik and Backlund seem to be doing a bit of the same, and Versteeg certainly did last evening. Brouwer has also tried to push his game. But the rest look defeated. Perhaps guys like Jankowski, Shinkaruk, Hathaway, Kylington, even Wotherspoon deserve a chance to perhaps this team out of the ashes. Or is it a dung heap?

    As they say, “rant over”.

  • The GREAT WW

    BT has signed some young players to “very reasonable” long term contracts….in other words; he has beat all the confidence out of these players during negotiations and the players are playing like it…I’m not sure this strategy is working well…

    Hamilton, Gaudreau, Monahan….

    WW

    • Achilles

      This literally makes no sense, totally unsubstantiated by any facts whatsoever.

      Did PK Subban have “all the confidence” beat out of him when Bergevin refused to give a Norris trophy winner the contract he wanted? No, he went and kicked butt and earned himself that contract.

      Has Steven Stamkos floundered because he was not given 10mill per year by Stevey Y? Nope, he took the deal he was offered presumably because he put the team before himself.

      Also, Dougie, after signing a bargain of a deal, went on to work out the early kinks in his game last season and ultimately equalled his career high in points.

        • Achilles

          So this is what we do now: we take sample sizes of 6 games, as opposed to the whole season last year where Russell and Sekera played meh hockey, and that’s the foundation to invalidate the pre-existing overwhelming consensus that the Dougie deal was a bargain.

          Please, come back to me when Sekera or Russell produce two 40 point seasons by the age of 23. Oh wait….that’s right, they are old and worse than him already.

          • Wheels

            Who cares what Sekera and Russell do. Dougie is slow, flat-footed, doesn’t play an ounce physical, and is poor defensively. Now he’s not even scoring. With the way him and the team are playing, he’s only going to regress.

          • Achilles

            You are missing the point.

            Dougie has a greater track record of success, extending back to his Boston days, indicating any poor play and lack of production to start this season is no reason to worry. Right now, the team, and all of its players, is playing very poorly. They will all round into form.

            As for his being “flat footed”, does not really match the eye test. Guy has been skating well, and unlike some of his counterparts, has not been getting burned in tbe same fashion. In fact, one of the lone bright spots this season was how Dougie and Kevin paired up well.

  • calgaryfan

    Gaudreau has no one to play with. The other teams just put two or three players on him and he has no where to go. Where’s Monahan? The Flames have not replaced Hudler on the right side and it shows.
    The Flames are not a good team and I do not blame the players or the coach. Treliving and Burke have built this disaster.

  • Cold Hard Truth

    BT has proven to be a shrewd negotiator, but his judgement of talent, of both players and coaching staff, has been questionable. GG will go down as his biggest blunder.

  • Kevin R

    We are so screwed. Last year we blamed the slow start to Brodie’s injury & Hammy acclimatizing to a new coach & new team. We also blamed Hartley’s player usage & some overpaid bad contracts littering the lineup.

    Now we have the same pissy start & we are blaming a new system, new coach, player usage blah blah blah. What, no one didn’t see this coming???? These players are lost out there, they are making 5 foot passes when a defender is right there & we wonder why there is a turnover. Their positioning is lost. Our “elite pairing” of Brodano are playing so differently, they no longer look elite anymore. They carry the puck & hit centre ice & realize, oh crap, this isn’t the new system, so they shoot the puck in. Hartley always give these guys the green light to be part of the offence knowing that was their strengths, so when in doubt, it’s not hard to to see why these guys revert to old Hartley habits & abandon GG’s system. Hate to break it, but Tre should have known this season was probably going to go they we have seen & not some magical cinderella ride.

    What I am frustrated about & a big criticism of Tre is he didn’t deal with contracts & players when he should of. I think Elliott will get his game & Johnson is an awesome backup. But it was the wrong move. Our hands are so tied because of cap, we don’t have the luxury of calling up guys & press box some vets to shake up this line up. We needed to get rid of one of our real ugly contracts & Tre refused to sweeten the pot to do so. I preached last May the move we should have done was with Dallas. We should have flipped Wideman for either Lehtonen or Niemi, both had 2 years left, (would have been perfect for Las Vegas draft) & then just signed Johnson as backup. I know many trashed me & didn’t like either Dallas goalie option but it would have opened up our blue line. Maybe we could signed Nakladal & get Kulak in there as well. Maybe we should have given up that 2nd to Arizona or throw in Klimchuk to taking on Wideman. There’s a price you pay & now we are stuck with worst case scenario & no options until one of our players go down with an injury.

    GG can’t go anywhere so I don’t even go there in that way of thinking, Cameron will be the casualty out of all this. Gonna be a long year boys. By the time we can inject some of our youth into the lineup, it’ll be too little too late.

  • Oyo

    I agree this year hasnt exactly started the way I thought, I cannot believe the immediate and total abandonment of the team.

    We were all singing BT’s praises when he signed JG to that contract. We loved the Hamilton deal and while he does make some blunders (lasts nights brutal giveaway for example), would you really rather not have him at all?

    I personally havent seen many reasons to believe that this season is going to end positively but I also am level headed enough to know that this level of futility cannot continue.

    Can you all quit making extreme examples of what ifs and should have dones, when we all have ZERO idea as to how things came to fruition? Maybe they did try to deal Wideman for Yakupov. Maybe the did offer Hamilton for Trouba. Who knows.

    It’s funny to me that everyone here thought Brouwer was overpaid when he signed but now that he is one of the leaders on the team and one of our most consistent players, no one says anything.

    I feel just as frustrated but some of the posts here are moronic and that’s not too strong a word. It feels like I am reading a blog about the Flames but only reading comments from Oilers fans.

    Tough to swallow. I hope the improve drastically.

    • Juan Valdez

      “We loved the Hamilton deal and while he does make some blunders (lasts nights brutal giveaway for example), would you really rather not have him at all?”

      Yes, really.

      • Oyo

        So your plan would be to put Kulak, a largely untested rookie in his place as the third D man?

        Or would you want one of our other veteran D that everyone raves about? Which one of the following would you rather have take those minutes: Wideman, Engelland, or Kevin?

  • Joe Flames

    On another topic, it was strange to an old timer like me to see #s 10, 25 etc. skating around in the old uniforms.

    We really should retire the numbers from our past greats.

  • VoRaCS

    I’d like to see Brodie paired up with Kulak. I think they could thrive as a top pairing defensive unit. I wished we would have signed Nakladal instead of Grossman.

    On another note, as much as Gio has been a warrior for us in the past. I’m not convinced that his contract is justified. What could we get for him? or does his contract make that deal impossible mid-season?

    Lastly, could we please have someone with a proven track record oversee the power play. With the talent we have, it should be a strength not a liability. Nothing kills momentum worse than a pathetic power play.