FN Mailbag – November 14, 2016


The Flames are almost a quarter of the way through the 2016-17 season and you might be feeling a sense of deja vu. Right now they have the exact same record through 16 games as they did last year: 5-10-1. 

Brad Treliving overhauled his coaching staff in the offseason, took a sledgehammer to his right wing and re-signed two of his cornerstone player to expensive, long-term contracts. Things were supposed to be different this year. They were supposed to be better.

Unfortunately right now, we don’t know if this is some sort of aberrant run as the roster acclimates to the new coach or if the new bench boss and crew are hopelessly out of their depth. What we do know is that this spate of incompetence has likely sunk another season, dooming the Flames to another year of trade deadline selling and draft watching.

The question is what happens in the interim? Do the decision makers ride this out and re-evaluate in the summer or will they be prodded to make some sort of drastic move in the short term?

In the mailbag today we talk about special teams, goaltending and potential shake-up trades.

Brett Kulak establishing himself as an NHLer this year complicates Treliving’s life when it comes to the upcoming expansion draft. He was always going to be draft eligible, but being an effective NHLer rather than merely another prospect puts him on Vegas’ radar this summer. 

Previously, the choices to protect on the backend were easy: Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton. Add Kulak in the mix and the club has to leave at least one of them exposed, or trade one of them beforehand to avoid the risk. 

Remember, of course, that not protecting Kulak doesn’t necessarily he’ll be taken. Vegas will have the entire NHL to plunder to fill out their roster. Nevertheless, losing an effective, young and cheap defender just as he’s taking his first steps into the league would be less than optimal.

Giordano is a trade option. The captain has been an elite defensemen for three seasons but his deal is also likely to go south before it ends. Current rumours suggest the Flames are also shopping Dougie Hamilton, who has yet to really establish himself as a top pairing option in the eyes of two different coaching staffs in Calgary now.

All of that said, making any sort of trade now would be inadvisable for two reasons:

1.) The terrible start has undermined the perceived value of the Flames’ assets. Selling low on major assets is always a bad idea. 

2.) We still don’t really know what Kulak is at the NHL level despite the encouraging results so far. Come March or April our evaluation of him may have completely changed. No decisions should be made until we have much more information on him. 

Mostly because we were primed to expect Cameron to fail given his less than impressive results in Ottawa. The PP being spectacularly bad on home ice to start the year also likely contributed.

That said, none of the coaching staff are going to avoid being excoriated should these results continue much longer. 

It’s both, which is part of the reason the Flames seem so hopeless right now: they are making a lot of bad mistakes and a lot of those mistakes are ending up in the back of their net. 

According to Corsica.Hockey, the Flames are currently surrendering 9.79 high danger scoring chances/60 minutes of time at even strength, good for fourth worst in the NHL. Both goalies are also hovering around 74% in terms of high danger save ratio as well, about seven points below the league average of 81.53%. 

Chad Johnson is a career 79% goalie on HD chances, while Brian Elliott managed a 83.58 HD SV% up until this year. So both guys are not only below league average, but below their career norms (way, way below in Elliott’s case).

So the skaters need to clean up their defensive play and the goalies need to start making a few more stops. 

The lone positive Flames fans should hold on to right now is there is almost no way the team is actually this bad.

The PP (9.4%) and PK (73.0%) won’t be this bad forever, no matter how poor the coaching may or may not be. The worst PK in the league last year was the Flames at just over 75% and the PP was the Jets at 14.8%. So we can expect the special teams to get better, even if they are actually are the worst in the league.

In addition, we can reasonably expect all of the club’s stars to come around at some point. From Brian Elliott to Mark Giordano and Sean Monahan, we have years of data on all of these players suggesting they are much, much better than what they’ve shown so far. 

Even if the new coach is somehow suppressing his star players’ results, at some point they’ll start to perform something close to their established career norms. At that point, it’ll be easier to actually evaluate this club.

  • brodiegio4life

    this team is 10x better than what they’ve showed so far. Just looking at the roster you would assume they would at least be challenging for a wild card spot. Coaching is bringing them down

  • Parallex

    Someone needs to be fired.

    Right now this team is probably the biggest waste of money since the salary cap was imposed. Gulutzan is safe because of optics (don’t want to be paying two head coaches to not coach them) so here is what I propose for the remainder of the (increasingly looking like it’s already lost) season…

    1: Fire Dave Cameron

    2: Switch Jerrard to running the PP

    3: Switch Gelinas from Coach without Portfolio to PK

    … I know that doesn’t sound likely to be an improvement (because it isn’t). But here’s my thinking…

    A: for some (strange) reason the Flames kept Gelinas so the Flames don’t lose any money having him on the bench, No one from outside, of any quality, is going to want to be an interim assistent coach,

    B: When coaching assignments were handed out we all thought they should have been reversed so have Jerrard take the job we thought he should have had from the start

    C: Firing someone puts the team on notice even if he’s replaced internally.

    … more drastic changes can and should come in the offseason but I think the above is something they can do tomorrow if they’re so inclined.

  • CalgaryCandle

    I think the coaching staff should get a fixed number of games to fix this mess. 40 would be my maximum. At that point the season will likely not be salvageable in terms of playoffs, but a perennially losing culture such as was up North will be avoided.

    At the very minimum a quiet search should be on for a new head coach now. As I’ve posted before, it seems like men against boys when GG creates a game plan against a savvy and experienced NHL coach like Sutter or Vigneault.

    A new head can then recruit competent assistants next year. Personally, I don’t expect this situation to get fixed in 40 games, but it does deal with the issue that perhaps the team is adjusting to GG’s “system” and that is the reason the star players are all underperforming.

    There have been positive signs from JG–I hold faint hope Gio, Monahan, etc will come around.

    Frustrated Flames Fan

  • Newbietwo

    Now I hear flames talking to Montreal.. do we have any intellect sitting in these executive offices? They say Hamilton for Desjardins.. that would be stupid

    If you ever consider trading Hamilton you trade him for one of those top defenceman recently drafted and that is where the conversation starts and ends!!

    We need to get rid of Monahan, Giordano and Johnny.. it clears a ton of cap room.. will get us draft picks and prospects and ultimately drain the swamp haha..

    It’s one thing losing and it’s another to lose because there’s no winning mentality. That being said I do have a few although out there but good suggestions

    -Trade Gio for one of of those recent top d drafted players
    -Trade Elliot and two second round picks consecutive years and a third for Bishop
    -Trade Johnny And Monahan for Sheifelle and Trouba or Ehlers

  • Kevin R

    The only way we trade a Hamilton is with a club that is having an equally disappointing time of it. Two teams that have interesting players & potentially table deals that would make sense for both clubs in need of a shake up is the Islanders & Colorado. I would say Tyson Barrie for DH straight up is an interesting trade, both are good young players with similar contracts. Islanders have Hamonic & some real nice looking young players they could possibly part with in Barzal, Strome or Collberg.

    At least we wouldn’t look like we were getting fleeced & both teams just needing a shakeup. Doubt anything like that happens though. We will just probably play through this & by the time we start to play the way they are capable, the season is lost & I won’t have to worry about writing a big cheque to prepay for playoff games.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    Just wanted to put things in perspective. Oilers on a road trip against teams we have lost to. ANA, LA, DAL. After that a home game against the Hawks and then a road game against the surprising AVS. Should they lose those games they will be 9-10-1. Should we win the next 5 games against MIN, ARI, CHI, DET and BUFF we would be sitting at 10-10-1.

    If, on the other hand, we lose the next 5, then all coaches except Gerrard should be canned. Bring in Gelly as the temp Head Coach and get a real NHL coach.

  • ComeOn

    Calling for the coaches head? Unfair, unreasonable, too soon?

    My thoughts are, if I bring in Scotty Bownman, Mike Babcock, Bruce Boudreau or Ken Hitchcock and things go poorly initially then fine, be patient and stay the course.

    I know you’re ahead of me, we didn’t bring in anybody like that. So let’s at least agree that the leash is much shorter than it would be with an established proven NHL coach while his players adapt to his ‘style’ or ‘system’.

    The issues I have with the coaching are the following:

    1. Aggressive powerplay – failed and went the dodo bird very quickly, didn’t take teams very long to figure that out…now we’ve Lance Bouma blocking shots…feel familiar?

    2. Powerplay? Talented players but no results, perhaps silence from the coaching staff would go further?

    3. 5 on 5? Ok, prone to big errors that result in goals. We’re constantly changing d combo’s and offensive lines seeking a spark. My feeling is that even if we have a spark appear, the rest of the team will be in such disarray that the mistakes will pile up quickly on the defensive end of the game. Settle the hell down with some lines and stick to it.

    4. Goaltending? Giant errors make for goals, personally I’m more than satisfied that both of the guys can get the job done.

    So, given that the coach is pretty inexperienced we have two options:

    a) Train a coach to be the coach that works out, and bear it however long it takes.

    b) Do something, anything.

    I know it’s too soon for the organization to embrace the reality that this isn’t going well. But it’s not too soon to make some changes within the coaching ranks.

    We can’t sit by and accept that ‘do as I say and it will work’ when it isn’t.

    I’m not ready to give up on the players, we’ve improved the team to a significant degree. Pick one head on that bench and watch it roll…NOW.

    • JoelOttosJock

      Train the coach? That’s what THE AHLUWALIA is for or at the very least they could have had a coach in place for the entire rebuild. If you re-read your 4 points..you could easily give it the title Coaching Woes InCowtown. The management needs to man up and admit their coaching experiment didn’t work..move some plugs for talent and start playing Jokipakka ..am I missing something..is he hurt? He looked great in the world Cup when playing with talent and given ice..

      • ComeOn

        I hate to see trades to try to work our way out of this when it’s not the root cause, that being said, if the trades actually make the squad better I’m all for it.

        We do seem to have a more offensively focused and talented d core than we do a defensively gifted one. That made a tonne of sense under that previous coaching approach, if we’re really going to try to play a perfect defensive game it probably requires change.

        • JoelOttosJock

          For sure it does..do you trade for Ovechkin and tell him he’s now your 4th line grinder and then wonder why it’s not working? No. Calgary is infamous for this..look at Mason Raymond..top 2 line forward but never used in the right role..now doing the same thing with multiple wingers.

  • RedMan

    I wonder if FLAMES NATION has anyone capable of breaking down the “system” that GG is trying to implement, and contrast/compare it to other “systems” in the league.

    What systems are having success? Which coaches use which system? Where does GG’S system fit, and is anyone having success with it?

    • JoelOttosJock

      Not sure that’s very beneficial..What’s used in Edmonton isn’t going to work here..we don’t have a Connor McDavid nor Milan Lucic..this guy should have looked at what worked for the core group last year and two years ago and tinkered with that. Maybe the management group should look around at what other teams are doing though..seed..talent and then size..not let’s over pay troy Brouwer like he’s the anwser. Good role guy..but c’ mon.

    • NHL93

      I wonder if anyone truly has a grasp of GG’s system. The reason being that the players seem incapable of executing it.. or perhaps they are executing the system and therein lies the problem.

      But I too would welcome some sort of system analysis. If for nothing more than a wonderful distraction from the current dumpster fire the team is right now.

  • Theo4HoF

    The flames should stop practicing the power play because its not helping, the skilled players should be able to figure it out on their own.

    It would be so flames to trade Hamilton and then he becomes a star where ever he ends up. History would show the flames are good at that. Don’t know if he will sustain it but Paul Byron is looking pretty good right now, wouldn’t mind trying him on our top line.

  • Ogie Oglethorp

    There is so much talk of ‘knowing’ what we have and players getting back to what we know they can do etc.

    I’m not so sure.

    For some of the kids, this is based on relatively small sample sizes. What if Sean IS 2016 Sean. His rookie year he struggled mightily. Then he had 2 good years riding Johnnys wave. Now Johnny has a slump and Sean looks like rookie Sean.

    Are we SURE this year is a slump and not at least a reflection of the real guy? If this year continues, it’s not really valid to keep using the argument that “we know what we have with Sean, he will come around” because the data will be pretty even between good and bad. 2 bad years sandwiched between 2 bad. Whose to say the good years were anomalies? Are we THAT sure he is a $6.5 mil guy?!?

    And with Gio, why do people keep saying he will come around and we know what we got. He is 34. This is when players drop off cliffs. I don’t think he will, he seems to be a beast, BUT its worth discussing. I’d say it’s equally as likely that he is on the decline. Whether his decline is this bad or not, its plausible, perhaps likely that Gio will never return to form, because he is old and getting old every day. No matter what you think of this is basically a fact his best days are behind him.

    Not saying we know with either, but I’m puzzled why there is this sense of certainty on knowing what we got or that these guys will eventually come around. What if they don’t. What if it’s not coaching?

    • dontcryWOLF88

      When you look at collective team wide drop offs then it becomes highly unlikely that individual players are suddenly revealing themselves as less than expected.

      The group mentality is off. I won’t go as far as to say corrupted, but certainly off. As far as my opinion goes, the solution lies somewhere in locating why that has happened. I don’t think it helps anyone at this point to look at individual players stats for an answer to this.

      I think so often it’s the coaches who take the blame for the teams failure, and that’s not always deserved. In this case I think it might be justified. I have a feeling GG just doesn’t have the phycological dexterity to put a winning team together. A good coach will inspire his team to play their best, GG’S coaching is doing the opposite so far. Another part of a good coach is reading the game, putting effective systems together, and improving weak spots. GG doesn’t seem to be doing that either. At least with Hartley we got one of those ( not a fan , but everyone can agree he was an excellent motivator at times)

      GG window is shrinking rapidly, if not already closed. That’s a problem we can only even begin to think about when the season is over though. I think looking to fix with a trade is a doomed red herring