Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports
This was a genuine improvement from the game against Los Angeles. The same number of goals were scored, but this time, at least the Flames got one of them.
They also looked more put together. That isn’t to say they were particularly great, but they were better than they were the night before. These are very low standards, here, but we’re at the point where we need to take the lowest standards, go a little lower, and then maybe, just maybe, find a silver lining somewhere in the hole this team has dug itself into.
The Flames have played more games than anyone else in the NHL. They are 28th in points percentage. So, when do you guys want us to start draft coverage?
What’s a goal?
Not too long ago, the Flames were scoring an average of three goals a game. Over the course of this four-game road trip, they scored five goals, three of which came in their one win. Let’s see how the Flames are doing now…
So, they’re now at 2.50 goals per game. They were from on the cusp of being a top 10 team in scoring and now they’re 22nd in the NHL. That seems unideal. If you want to win a hockey game, it helps if you can score goals, after all.
The Flames handily won the possession battle. They looked slightly more alive out there. So that was cool.
You know what’s not cool? They have a goal differential of -15 now, the worst in the entire NHL. They couldn’t have asked for a better goaltending tandem than Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson this past offseason. Neither have been perfect, but no goalie is. The problems run far, far deeper than who’s in net.
Their powerplay is the third worst in the NHL. Their penalty kill is the second worst, and they’re the most penalized team in the league. Combine that with the scoring going down, and there you have it: they suck as a collective whole.
How do you fix this?
Well, you can’t fire an entire roster. You can wait for the bad contracts to clear out, but that’s not a quick fix; that’s a purgatory answer for what has increasingly approached being a waste of a season.
After this year, the entire trainwreck that is the bottom half of the defence will be cleared out. (This assumes there aren’t any more surprise Nicklas Grossmann signings, which I’m not entirely sure we can trust management on at this point.) The forwards will stay the same, though, maybe minus an Alex Chiasson and a Kris Versteeg. You figure Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk will continue to improve; you remember Lance Bouma continues to take up too much cap space as an overpaid fourth liner.
It’s very easy to point fingers at the new coaching staff, and it’s very much deserved at this point. (We’re now 14 games into the season, the correct defence combinations are only just now being played, and I still don’t trust them to actually be put out there for the next game.) They’re also a prominent common denominator behind seemingly every single star player on the Flames completely forgetting how to play hockey.
Anyway, here’s a list of NHL coaches by games coached. If you need a moment of reactionary catharsis, you can sort it from least to most you can play a fun game in guessing where Glen Gulutzan ends up! He is actually at 144 now because of his time with the Dallas Stars earlier, but he’s at 14 on this current tenure. I’m a young’un, so I don’t recognize most of the names on the list, but Pierre McGuire lasted 67 games. Though I guess at that point, you’ve already lasted pretty much a full season…
And no, people, the answer is not Bob Hartley. He led the team to a 26th place finish last year. I guess that’s technically better than what the Flames are at right now, but not really. Or did you think coming from behind every third period 82 nights a year was a good strategy? The 2014-15 season was fun, and a hell of an anomaly.
This is inconceivable to me
You remember what the last training camp battle was? It was between Brett Kulak and Grossmann. The Flames decided to keep both, if the latter only for cap purposes. (Someone did forget to inform the coach of that, though, apparently.)
Anyway, here’s the thing I don’t get: how on earth could anyone, at any point in time, watch Grossmann and then watch Kulak and think there was a competition there? Let alone professionals paid to decide the roster? How does that happen?
How was Kulak scratched for eight games? He looks amazing out there. He gets powerplay time now. With 17:28 played, he technically got top four minutes. He’s speedy and mobile and it’s fun to watch him jump up into the play and he doesn’t really get burned by his aggressiveness. He’s really, really fun to watch. He is literally everything Grossmann isn’t.
Which is unfortunate because of that whole expansion draft thing. It’s really early yet, but assuming this keeps up, and the Flames only protect three defencemen so they can protect more forwards, and those defencemen are Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton, then Kulak is my early pick to be going to Vegas. Kid is a delight to watch.
When will Micheal Ferland get the ice time he deserves?
This one is also inconceivable to me.
Micheal Ferland averages 11:08 a game. He played 10:33 last night. Everyone else, including perpetual scratch-slash-noted 13th forward Freddie Hamilton played more.
Ferland had four shots last night. The only other player who matched him in putting that many pucks on the net was Ryan Getzlaf, and he had an extra seven minutes to work with.
So, quite simply, what the hell? Putting Hunter Shinkaruk on Bennett’s line is a fine move, but Ferland is being completely wasted on fourth line minutes. He isn’t Bouma. He’s someone who’s tied with Tkachuk and Dougie Hamilton in scoring despite playing basically the least out of everybody. Tkachuk is starting to get his minutes – well he didn’t last night, but his first fight probably had a fair bit to do with that – and it’s time for Ferland to get the same.
If Ferland can’t play the right wing, then find another way to shift things around so he gets more ice time. He has more than earned it at this point. This is stupid.
Though I suppose, depending on which forwards are protected, Ferland could be a Vegas candidate, too.
Three days off
And so, we are freed from watching this team play for another three days. That’s three nights we all get to spend however the hell else we want, all of which should be less disappointing, ummm except maybe for Tuesday if you’re into that sort of thing.
Then the Flames will have a two-game homestand against the Dallas Stars, who are not doing super hot right now but are still performing much better, and the New York Rangers, who are doing very much super hot right now. I’m sure we’ll have all sorts of fun nonsense narratives for the Stars game, like how pissed off the Flames are and how they’re ready to buckle down and really work at it for real this time now, and how this was Gulutzan’s old team and he’ll probably be looking for redemption and some other stuff literally none of us care about at this point, and we’ll probably hear the phrase “compete level” at least 50 times, and Grossmann will be dressed for reasons none of us will ever comprehend.
Is anyone else tired of listening to broadcasters make excuses for this team? Yikes.