Rangers 4, Flames 1 post-game embers: The bend in the break

Here we are friends, presumably some sort of new low that the Calgary Flames have sunk to. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, and it’s certainly not the end of the world – though the intrepid nature of sportswriters looking to find any opportunity to strike it rich with fervent hyperbole in a super-reactionary world of sports fans would like you to believe so.

Don’t worry though, there is some hyperbole here.

That said, we can all believe with varying degrees of certainty that the season that we’re witnessing now probably could have started better based on things said in the offseason. So how do you right the wrongs? How do you turn this around?

Glen Gulutzan – An Enigma Wrapped in a Suit

Strictly from a personal standpoint in the summer, I was hesitant, but welcoming to Glen Gulutzan as head coach. At the time of the hiring everything was said that seemed to fall perfectly into the ears of fans. A commitment to being a puck possession team (something that they’ve tried to adhere to), that they would play a different style (certainly true to varied degrees), and that this would be a new Calgary Flames team.

Not only that but the book on this guy screamed, “Hey, maybe this will work out? Maybe something new is a good thing!

But at the moment – strictly as a fan and strictly from a personal perspective – it feels like the doing of a snake oil salesman, doesn’t it? This isn’t appearing to be what was sold, right? Not every bend becomes a break, but many bends this team has had have resulted in breaks.

Player usage, but primarily player evaluation is an obvious one. Why Alex Chiasson on the top line? Why specific defensive pairings with specific forward lines? How come Nicklas Grossmann played as many games as he did? Why are the defense not carrying the puck through the neutral zone? Etc., etc., etc.

There is little questioning of these things. Most of which are honest questions that need honest answers.

Demanding that Gulutuzan be fired doesn’t guarantee anything. Demanding the return of Bob Hartley, a purely asinine attempt at capturing PDO magic in a bottle from 2014-15 isn’t going to help because that’s the past. The point here is this: it’s easy to believe things won’t get better when everything around your favourite team seems to suck.

However, we’re approaching the 20 games played mark which is usually a good indicator [at times] of things to come. Some teams do – anecdotally at least – take roughly that long to adapt to a new coach, new system, the shedding of old behaviors, and the adoption of new concepts. But unless this team magically wakes up and does what a lot of folks think they’re capable of doing then fans may be in for a long season.

Just keep in mind that rash, illogical, and questionable decision making will impact this team’s existing window to improve and start to compete. If Gulutzan were to be fired hypothetically, who do you replace him with? The last thing this franchise needs is an Oilers-esque era of coaching where a new coach is inserted every season or so until a fit is finally found.

Chiapet? Chainsaw? Chia-eh-san? Who Cares Anymore.

Alex Chiasson can seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of Gulutzan. He was rewarded with 19:33 of ice time, 3:14 of that gifted on the Dave Cameron’s Brexit-esque power play. Even if he finished the night with an impressive 70.97% CF at 5v5 riding shotgun to a slowly reawakening Johnny Gaudreau and despondent Sean Monahan he isn’t the right fit there.

The question that should be asked – not specific to Chiasson’s outputs and measurable results – is this: does he provide any actual value to the game, in his current usage that another forward could do, but better? It’s easy to draw attention to little things here and there, but this shift is an honest to god representation of his season so far:

Great work breaking up the pass, but the right opportunity to pass was before you stop up because Johnny was moving at full-speed. Kevin Klein read this play perfectly and recovered nicely.

All of this is to say that Chiasson, as a player, with his requisite skill set isn’t suited for the role he is being played in because he doesn’t create enough individually or positively impact his linemates to move the game in the Flames’ favor. And when he tries to – like in the video above – it doesn’t result in much because he is stifled.

Maximizing the talent, with correct usage of the top line, is a priority and it’s really the only way this team moves forward positively. Others on this roster deserve new opportunities up there on the top line. Do it, Glen; try to right this wrong and try something different for more than a game or two.

Best 5v5 Shift of The Game

Just before the Jimmy Vesey goal in the second period, the Flames played probably the best even strength shift in the game. A lot of it factored in various elements that in the past have worked: possessing the puck, using an actual offensive zone formation, being opportunistic, generating shots, and most of all scoring chances.

The opportunity to capitalize and try to strike because Nick Holden’s stick broke is key to the entire shift and it factored in some perplexing puck movement that saw Mark Giordano in the high slot while Michael Frolik covered for him on the point. Giordano, Gaudreau, Frolik, Mikael Backlund, and even Dennis Wideman all tried to make it a one goal game at that point.

Louie DeBrusk said this earlier in the broadcast: “You hear Glen Gulutzan talk about puck management a lot and what that means is making sure you’re doing the right things when you get the puck.” And we saw that on the shift, even if it didn’t result in a goal. It did show a glimmer of hope however.

Oh, Hey… A Power Play Goal By Ferland?

Let’s end on something positive: a power play goal by Micheal Ferland. Listen, Ferland has been working his butt off this season, putting up some stellar shot metrics, but he has struggled to get consistent opportunities to showcase himself beyond his existing usage. He got burned earlier in the night and made up for it by cleaning up in close.

The season that Ferland is putting up deserves more attention and obviously when he isn’t putting up traditional stats like points it’s harder for the casual fan to remember how capable of a forward he is. One of the best things Gulutzan has done this year is finally use him more as a left wing option.

There are two key points to this which are: handedness, and who he can play with.

The handedness factor has been a dire concern in Ferland’s game dating back to last season, specifically with entering the zone on the right side and having to make forehand passes to his centre or the left wing. This would result in two predominately common outcomes: the play was broken up, or the pass was intercepted and play went back up ice.

Moving to the left wing gives him an opportunity to play more on his forehand, but also gives the team a legitimate option to play with a variety of centres. As much as it would be nice to have more options on both sides with accompanied handedness, it’s still fantastic that he can play with Sam Bennett, Backlund, or elder statesman Matt Stajan.

Micheal Ferland is a good forward who shot abysmally last season and there are legitimate hopes he can become a regular secondary contributor. He’s on the right track shooting the puck as frequently as he does so lets hope it results in more goals.

  • Harry2

    I have news for you Flames fans. You already have an Oileresque coaching debacle. Gulutzan is Eakins 2.0 heck hes even got the hairdo.

    Just as with the Canucks the Flames need experience in the GM and coach positions. It took Katz years to figure that out for Flamers fans sake hopefully it doesnt take Burke that long.

  • brodiegio4life

    here’s an honest thought… where do you guys think the flames would currently be in the standings had the flames hired boudreau instead? (which also means no cameron) I think they’d be in a playoff spot no question

  • Nolan

    I’ve got it. Just dawned on me the reason they’ve pretty much wicked for last number of weeks. Anyone listen to the warmup music? Use to be all rock, Rage Against the Machine, Nickleback, etc. Now all pop and hip hop. They need rock back. Done deal. Easy Peazy

  • 1_4theMoney

    Glad I went with my gut and cancelled my season tickets after last year. Won’t spend another dime on the flames until the coaching/management gets its collective $h!t together

  • Dan the flames fan

    Last night’s game confirmed again that GG is not the head coach for this team. It was hard to accept that a team 2 years ago, and for the most part last year may have lost, but we’re extremely entertaining and gave 110% every game.

    This year they appear slow and worn. 2 years ago, they were accused of being overconfident, to the point of seeming “cocky”. This year they are apprehensive and almost fearful to make a decision.

    Is it a coincidence that last year the two fastest players on the team were JH and SB, and they played at a high speed tempo. This year they both are struggling. Does the system support their skillsets, or handcuff their creativity?

    A good systems balances both plays, and skillsets. GG’s system soes neither.

    IMO, both GG and BH are/were lacking the very skills that the other possesses. BH could motivate and challenge a team to succeed to their abilities, and beyond. GG can analyze the problems and generate systemic solutions. BH worked to the players skills. GG works the game.

    The coach we need can balance both needs. Maybe rid our ass our Cameron and have Hartley co-coach.

  • JoelOttosJock

    Heard a rumor the the flames are really considering sending Hamilton to Arizona..if so I’m hoping to see Domi come back or Strome and Duclair..we need TALENTED FORWARDS

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Who can say what any of the players are capable of during a season like this?

    I only watched the first 4 minutes of the game. Nobody was skating hard. Lots of errors. Easy goal on Elliot.

    Hung out with some UFC friends instead. Ironically, that was the first fight ever in Rangers home Madison Square Gardens.

    Paralysis by analysis. Yeah, might be something to that. I dunno, seems like they’ve just decided they arnt good enough. Luckily it’s just sports to me, not my career. Flames fan for life, but I’m taking a big step back until these guys give me a real reason to cheer for them.

  • Jakethesnail

    If Dougie is gone then Freddie won’t be far behind. He has always carried Freddie around and if he is not part of a deal he gets really upset .

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Do you sit around thinking up stuff? Boston spent a long time trying to come to terms with him. He was the hold out. They traded him because there was no deal in the near future for some draft picks.

      As far as his brother goes, you do realize he was a Shark, then on Colorado.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          DO you ever read up on things or just make up crap because it suits your point of view. Freddie was traded to the Flames for a conditional draft pick.
          How does your story even make sense?

          Flames trade at the draft for Dougie. Sign him June 30th. Trade for Freddie In October. BTW, Boston had reportedly offered the same or more than the Flames, so your other “facts” are just as laughable.

          Go back to the Oilers threads and talk smack about the Flames. You don;t know enough about them to even present a viable argument.

  • Tanner

    I feel that we should go a little easier on Dougie Hamilton. He has a CF% of 52.12% at 5 v 5, but a GF% of 30.43% at 5 v 5. This tells me that he may just have been a little unlucky at this point. This point is substantiated by his PDO of 91.27. Therefore, I don’t think we should give up on Hamilton! He has not been bad at all. In fact, he’s been pretty good. He’s just also been unlucky. I got my data from puckalytics.com.

    • trox

      Thank you for actually doing some analysis…this might prevent at least a few visitors to the site from beating the “Trade Hamilton” drum. Hamilton, Brodie, Gio, Bennett, Monahan, Gaudreau…all of them are playing poorly, so it seems like their is a systemic problem.

  • Tanner

    I know that we’re all jumping on Glen Gulutzan, but I am of the very unpopular opinion that we should give GG a full season, at least. For one thing, I’ll be it in a very small sample size in 2016-2017, the team has improved its CF% at 5 v 5 from 48.1 to 51.1. I know that it has not correlated with winning, but I think the Flames have been slightly unlucky with a 5 v 5 PDO of 97.6 leading to a GF% at 5 v 5 of 44.8. So, 5 v 5, the Flames haven’t been terrible, more just unlucky.

    Of course, the thing that has been killing the Flames is the special teams. GG is partly responsible for this for sure, but I feel this will improve if we give it time. Don’t get me wrong, the PP has been straight abysmal. But I think the penalty kill is bound to get better based on underlying numbers.

    Puckalytics.com

  • I am Batman

    Hello, Oiler fan here, but I am not here to troll. It is not fun to see what is happening with your team and at this point it is not even fun to make fun of it.

    I have watched a few of the Flames games (aside from the two they lost against the Oilers) and I am a bit surprised of the lack of performance and results. I really thought this was an improved team from last year.

    In saying that…. I do not know how much accountability you are placing in Brian Elliot. The coach might be whatever, but Elliot has not stolen you one single game and I am surprised that I do not see in blogs or comment threads how the goalie is not being what he was supposed to be when you guys got him. Maybe time to ride Johnson, how long of a leash does Eliott have that they keep playing him even when he is losing time after time?

    I say you start with the goalie and see if anything changes and so on, the season is becoming lost, so might as well. The Flames are supposed to be very good defensively and have some exciting youngsters up front…. it is not showing.

    I hope the BoA becomes more interesting, I still think that Oilers rule and Flames suck, but… thought of letting you all know that this week… I feel your pain and I hope your team gets better.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      First game against the Hawks, Elliott made the save of the year near the end of the third to get the point, stoned the Hawks on about 6 PP shots in OT and then blanked them in about 7 rounds of SO. No Elliott hasn’t won a single game for the Flames.

      Get off of this forum and go back to worshipping McDingleberry’s jock.

      • I am Batman

        Very classy reply.

        Jealousy is not a good thing child, the fact that your team sucks (and will suck for a while) does not entitle you to conduct yourself with lack of courtesy and education, especially considering you are hiding behind a keyboard in your momma’s basement.

        But you are right, that Shames game I did miss, but I did hear that Elliott was very good. I guess he is the true solution, his 0.882 save percentage is worth of a Vezina. He willl single handedly carry the shames to respectability. He did win you one game, and those are not coming in abundance so…. yeah.

        • dontcryWOLF88

          I never understand how people rationalize attacking someone elses tasteless response by doing the same thing themselves. Ironic to say the least.

          Did you really just say “jealousy is not a good thing child” haha, patronizing drivel. Very classy!

          • dontcryWOLF88

            So you feel you handled his challenge in a tasteful way, then? That speculation about him being in his grandma’s basement was an acedemic, logical addition?

            ..although, please feel free to explain how your comma changes the meaning of that sentence

          • I am Batman

            What challenge?

            I do not know about tasteful, but it was polite and educated. Albeit, a bit sarcastic, I give you that.

            What is wrong with somebody’s momma’s basement? Mom’s do not have basements in Calgary ?

            Anyways, I was just presenting an opinion on what could be wrong with your team, I can be wrong, but when this goalie has an under 0.900 season, chances are I am being right, at least partially.

            That was all my point, now, if your thing is defending kids in distress from the mean Oiler that comes to distress your peace: good for you.

            Hopefully, you are not doing it from anybody’s basement.

          • dontcryWOLF88

            Theres no high horse for you to get on here pal. Thanks for coming over and sharing that wonderful insight into the Flames goalie situation.

            Youre not disrupting any peace here, youll remember from the last 10 years in Edmonton that fans arnt in a very peaceful state of mind when their team is struggling. Im sure thats why your here though, to revel in it. We all appreciate that immensely btw. Just dont be shocked if you have to eat those words later if the Oilers lose pace.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            “Jealousy is not a good thing child, the fact that your team sucks (and will suck for a while) does not entitle you to conduct yourself with lack of courtesy and education, especially considering you are hiding behind a keyboard in your momma’s basement.”

            You have never answered the dude as to the purpose of that comma, so I’ll ask. Why is there a comma there? My dear momma always taught me to use a period at the end of an independent clause or a semicolon if the next independent clause is closely related in meaning to the first. Mamma said what you did was a mistake. She called it a comma splice and said that ignorant people who didn’t know any better and people who wrote carelessly and didn’t proofread their writing were prone to making this mistake.

            Momma sure knows a lot of stuff.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      ^This. GG isn’t going anywhere this early. Flames can play shift after shift in the other end and the first shift in their end and the puck ends up in the back of the net. Any little turnover… back of the net.

      Is save percentage a team stat? Perhaps slightly influenced, but years of data suggest not.

      The mental fragility this team is displaying has started in their net and spread throughout the team.

      Who is most affected? The guys carrying the weight of expectations:

      -Elliot finally getting a chance to be a number one in a contract year. Tons of pressure

      -Johnny & Monny – sign big deals out of ELC’s, expected to carry the mail offensively – tons of pressure.

      – Gio – first year of big money deal. Supposed to carry the scoring from the back end and as captain, right the ship – tons of pressure

      – Bennett – Contract year and the year he is supposed to show he is an effective center in the NHL – tons of pressure.

      Good pro athletes are supposed to thrive off the pressure and use it to make them better. I’m afraid their confidence in their goaltender is affecting everyone’s mental state and play.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    I don’t think any big names will be traded during the season. Obviously this season is going awry, but I have a tentative, yet existent, trust that Flames management arnt going to make that kind of panic based decision. My guess is that they ride out the year with the group present, then reassess at that time.

    Nobody actually knows what the problem is here yet anyways. Is it coaching? That is looking more and more the case, but still, who knows? Lack of 1st line RW? Bad luck? Player confidence? Growing pains? Are they sucking by design?

    Whatever it is, the source of the problem is ambiguous at this point. Can’t solve a problem until you figure that out. It’s probably a combination of factors though. I don’t envy the people with their reputations tied up in this.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    It seems to me that Michael Grabner would have been a great RW acquisition for our top line. Now he likely would not have 10 goals playing in our system but he can keep up Johny.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    gonna be interesting to see how elliot plays the rest of the year. his numbers are way below his average, meaning when it comes time for him to sign anotehr contract at the end of the year he might not be looking at a lot of money, unless he picks it up.

    Theres a silver lining in there. IF he is playing poorly due to team spasms from bad coaching/systems etc, and not because he magically lost his ability, then we might be able to sign him for cheap, and then fix the coaching/confidence/systems problems for next year and find ourselves with a very affordable goalie. This arguement could work for Bennett as well. If the Flames suck this year he wont get many points, and will have a hard time asking for a ton of money. After his deal is made, its possilble the team can turn the corner and his true potential might open up leaving us with a very affordable high talent player.

    This is all pure speculation. However, I struggle to find many other positive ways to looks at the Flames right now, so Im gonna stick to it!

    …also, gonna have some actionable cap room next year to fill holes. Wideman’s 5.5$ mil could buy a very talented 1st line RW me thinks!