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.
— daniel knapp (@danielknappkins) November 11, 2016
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.
— Kyle Lentz (@kyleslentz) November 12, 2016
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.
— Greg Ashby (@ashbygreg) November 12, 2016
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.
— Ricky-Bobby McHockey (@icedawg_42) November 11, 2016
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.