The 3 biggest Calgary Flames worries

The Calgary Flames are officially in a slump. Following their 5-1 loss in Montreal on Tuesday night, the Flames have now lost four straight and eight of their last 11. With one more game before the All-Star Break and just four games between now and Feb. 13, Calgary is in a pretty pivotal part of their schedule. There’s no question this team is struggling right now, but three things concern me more than anything else.

Points percentage

The Flames have been protecting a playoff spot for the better part of the last two months, which is an accomplishment, especially considering the start to their season. That said, Calgary’s playoff position has been tenuous for quite some time due to their higher number of games played.

Competing teams have held games in hand basically all season but, thanks to this 3-7-1 stretch of late, they’re becoming much more of a concern. Back in November we took a look at the Western Conference standings and their projected points and things didn’t look rosy for the Flames. Two months later, they look slightly better, but Calgary’s point projection still has them on the outside looking in.

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What might be the scariest part about these projected standings  is how little things have changed. If you go back and reference the article I linked to above, you’ll see the eight teams in the playoffs hasn’t changed, only their order. That fact just further illustrates how hard it is to play from behind in this league, which the Flames have essentially been doing from day one.

Again, projected finishes are not iron clad and there is much that can change. That said, it’s clear Calgary needs to snap out of this slump soon and, more importantly, get on a meaningful roll in the near future if they’re going to want to be a playoff team.

Goaltending

From Nov. 15 through Dec. 10, the Flames were getting elite level goaltending from Chad Johnson. Since that point, though, Johnson has come back to reality a little bit while Brian Elliott hasn’t been able to gain any traction in the opportunities he’s been given. In fact, during this rough 11 game stretch when things have really fallen off, Calgary has gotten some of the worst goaltending in the league when you take a look at team metrics.

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There have been a lot of issues during this 11 game slump, but goaltending has been at the top of the list. In fact, since Johnson’s epic run in November and December, the Flames have struggled to get number one stuff from either of their guys.

Between Nov. 15 and Dec. 10, Johnson started 13 of 15 games for Calgary, went 11-2-0, and posted a sparkling 0.946 save percentage. Since that point, though, the Flames have played 20 games and neither Johnson nor Elliott have gotten the job done on a consistent basis.

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Maybe I’m still being blinded by Johnson’s stellar month earlier this season, but I still haven’t thrown in the towel on him. Heck, I even wrote about a potential contract extension a few weeks ago. In saying that, though, I fully realize Johnson, just like Elliott, needs to be significantly better for Calgary to turn things around.

Johnny Gaudreau

Gaudreau has one goal and four points in his last 14 games. He’s dropped to sixth on the team in scoring and he’s been generally ineffective for much of this stretch, especially by his standards. Two years ago, or even last year, this would be unfortunate but chalked up to a young player still growing. While that might still be the case, he’s also now the team’s highest paid player, so slumps like this become magnified much more, justifiably so.

I hate using phrases like “your best players need to be your best players”, but it’s absolutely valid in this case. Gaudreau is being paid like this team’s best player and, as we’ve seen for more than two years, he is Calgary’s most dynamic and impactful offensive player. He just isn’t playing like it during this 14 game stretch, as illustrated below.

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Gaudreau is still getting fed plenty of offensive high ground but he really isn’t doing anything with it right now. While some want to point to linemates like Sam Bennett or Alex Chiasson, I know what I’ve seen with my own eyes, too. Gaudreau looks frustrated, he looks like he’s trying to do too much, and he’s been a liability defensively far too often.

By no means have I changed my opinion on Gaudreau. He is still one of the NHL’s most dynamic players and he remains one of the most important pieces on this team. Gaudreau just isn’t playing very well right now and that needs to change. If the Flames want to turn this around and be a playoff team come April, Gaudreau has to be a driving force.

    • Oilers fan here. Not trolling, but this looks eerily similar to the Dallas Eakins era that set the club back another two years. 6 of 7 of your best scorers have regressed, defence pairings are highly questionable, goalies cant stop a beach ball. Show of hands, how many fans believe Alex Chiasson belongs on the first line on any NHL team? Point being ownership wont like it but GG has to go, sooner rather than later or it will just continue to drag the club down to the spiral Oiler fans enjoyed for a decade.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        Gully is part of the problem. Maybe the goalie coach is causing some of the issues in nets. How many goalies need to die a horrendous death here to point to something other than the goalies themselves. Hartley used to say that the goalie coach was the one who recommended the next starter. In what alternate reality does CJ get the nod after consecutive poor showings?

        Gully’s issues starts with his insistence that Chaisson needs to be stapled to Gaudreau. He also believes that Brodie belongs on the left side, even though he’s had career years on the right. Add to that playing Ferland on RW, where he has never shown anything great.

        Treliving filled some of the biggest holes with 2nd rate solutions. Chaisson is basically a 4th liner, so why is BT okay with Gully using him with their best forward. Vesteeg is a good depth guy with a RHS. Being used as a LW. Again, a coach’s decisions. Wideman being used as anything more than a depth D-man is perplexing. His value is low, so why continue to play him.

        Stubbornness by a coach is something that the GM has to deal with. Hartley made choices that the GM didn’t agree with. The only way to take away those choices was to deal the player. Colborne and Russell gone. BT needs to try and make some moves that actually help.

        RW – need a decent player that can finish.
        Top 4D – need a player like Hamonic that has some toughness.

        Some possible options:

        Trade Bennett for Duchene or Landeskog
        Trade Brodie for Hamonic
        Sit Wideman or dress 7D and play him only on the PP.

        • Just seems a lot of the underlying issues are the same the Oilers had. Everyone can see the problems (Fans), egos and pride get in the way (MGMT). BT has not exactly done a sterling job IMO, appears to have the same stubborn streak as Mac-T. BT is in a tough spot, no contract for next year makes it kind of tough to fire your hand picked coach who is under contract. Cant see him surviving this, just hope you guys don’t have to put up with Burke as your new GM.Wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

          • FlamesFanOtherCity

            Look at some of the deals COL has made over the years. I would debate their craziness. Besides, what do EDM fans know about value. Nothing. Just because Eberle is a weak sister that doesn’t bring back any pieces of value doesn’t mean GM’s don’t recognize talent. Doesn’t matter that he is underperforming in their current role, if the GM sees the potential.

          • PrairieStew

            Bennett and this year’s first would probably do it. Bennett a second and either Kylington or Andersson would also probably do it. I’m not going there in any case. Sam will be fine.

        • Stanley

          “Trade Bennett for Duchene or Landeskog”

          No way would the Av’s trade Either of those guys for Bennett.

          If your going to suggest crazy trade proposals why not just trade Gadreau for McDavid?

        • everton fc

          I think you got thumbs down here for you proposal to move Bennett. Otherwise, your spot-on.

          “On paper”, outside the young “stars”… OUr first line… Our three top d-men… A few spare parts (Ferland, Kulak)… we aren’t that good, “on paper”.

          Tkachuk should be tried on RW w/Gaudreau and Monahan. He’s played/and is comfortable on RW. Or so he says. To me, this kid can plug in anywhere. Move Bennett to the LW w/Backlund and Frolik and see what happens.

          I’d keep Brodie. Play him 3/4-right-side, with Gio as his partner. Gio is slowly becoming a 3/4 defender himself. Keep Hamilton on one of the 1/2 spots and find a good 1/2 d-man. Hamonic would be a nice fit here. We’d have no “true” #1 defender, but we’d be better than we are. Kulak/Engelland would be a good 5/6, unless one of the young defenders on the farm is ready next season. I have my doubts on this, though.

          • Kevin R

            Yup not right now but why in God’s name would we want to trade a 20 year blue chip centre at this point where his value couldn’t be lower. When was the last time Duschene or Landeskog turned the league on fire?? Theres a reason they are available.

        • Bennet for Duchene or Landeskog?! Right now Bennet wouldn’t get you Iggy back. Holy man, thats not even close. Brodie for Hamonic is fair I think, Although Hamonic’s cap hit raises his value. I’d still do the deal.

        • 24% body fat

          bennet isnt getting you duchene or landeskog

          Bennets value is that of a mid first round pick right now, landeskog would be a first plus a good prospect, and duchene is worth more than that

      • Kevin R

        Hahahaha, I told my Oiler fan buddy last night that I think some Edmonton potlicker did cosmetic surgery on Eakins to look like GG.

        Maybe, just maybe GG isn’t the guy to take this team to the next level. Our analytics maybe better than the Hartley era, but darn, our young guns were exciting, performed well & we had lots of hope. Right now this team plays like the Iginla/Tanguay era just before the trades. No excitement, Gaudreau has lost his creativity out there that made him so dangerous. He’s so predictable, I know exactly what he’s going to do when he skates in the blue line & the opposition are waiting for it. He lost his vision on the ice, that for the first 2 years I had called Gretzky vision, he rarely finds that open man out there. Thing is, it’s most of our young stars that are struggling & I never would have thought Brody’s play would slip back this far. I don’t know what GG promised Tre to get hired, but he is so focused on trying to accomplish that instead of being flexible & adapting himself to using the players he has to what they were successful with. I just hope we don’t make any stupid moves trying to make this team fit GG’s system.

        This team & I laugh when I call them a team, are not playing like a team. I blame coaches right now. I find it really odd that established goalies are crashing & burning in Calgary. Yes we can keep blaming goalies, but something else is causing this infliction, Price would have a sub .900 save percentage on this team.

      • Greg

        I don’t know if GG is the problem, but I keep looking at minessota in the standings and wondering why exactly we didn’t at least contact Beaudreau last year?

    • Greatsave

      Of course, but the title of this article is the 3 *biggest*.

      You can certainly argue there are other worries bigger than these, but saying there are more than 3 is rather missing the point.

    • Greg

      The only thing that’s giving me any hope right now?

      Over half the team is way below expectations (seriously, outside the 3M line and Hamilton, and maybe Johnson, has anyone met expectations this year??), and yet the flames have still climbed significantly in the standings over last year. That makes me think (hope?) there are still brighter days ahead and the rebuild is not oiler-esque.

      Assuming the entire team doesn’t have a career-worst year again next season.

      • #97TRAIN

        They have significantly climbed in the standings?? Last year 21-22-3 on this same date.This year at the same time 24-24-3. I wouldn’t call that significant.

  • Bob Cobb

    I love how the Flames have given up 20 goals in the last 4 games but defense isn’t an issue, its all on the goalies for not making saves and Johnny for not scoring enough.

  • StarIV

    When I look at the standings, I like to look at games above and below .500 (Pts – GP or W – L). Point projection is more accurate, but this is quick to calculate. By this metric, the Flames were consistently holding down or tied for the second wild card over the last month. This four game skid has changed this though.

    The good news is that this team isn’t this bad. Gaudreau will never finish a season with less than 30 points (5/14 pace) and our goalies aren’t the worst in the league. The bad news is that if this slump continues, the Flames will have no chance to make the playoffs, because as Pat pointed out, it’s very difficult to come from behind in this league.

  • Rockmorton65

    Flames three biggest worries

    1. Coaching
    2. Team toughness
    3. Heart failure

    Honourable mention – team defence

    (Please note – nowhere is anything related to “making playoffs” mentioned.)

  • Derian Hatcher

    I don’t see the massive ego that Eakins had with GG. Eakins acted like he was the second coming and had the solution to everything. He ended up being in way, way over his head.

    I would really like GG to succeed and i see so many similarities between the Flames situation and Oilers Tambellini / MacTavish / Eakins era. I think BT is a good GM…not sure about GG. Flames have some outstanding talent, they just have to put it together, add some pieces with a solid goaltender.

  • Trevy

    I agree it goes well beyond the 3 points Pat outlined. This team has lost all identity. No one on the team knows what type of team they have. I always believed a team is built from the goalie out. Not only do we not have a true #1 goalie, our defense is a joke. Granted I truly think Wideman is the biggest reason as he’s dragging Brodie down, but there’s no grit or intimidation back there. Aside from Engelland, who we should definitely resign, there’s no passion, structure or chemistry on the backend.

    Moving to the forwards, that’s an even bigger mess. Pretty much everything I mentioned about the defense can be copy and pasted to the front end. Our best players are not performing and I’m pretty sure that’s to do mostly with GG’s system and our bottom 6 provide no aggression, intimidation or enthusiasm.

    This is eerily familiar to the Oilers Eakins days and management can’t be that blind or naive not to recognize that. Treliving is a great GM and I hope his contract is extended. All GM’s make mistakes, but he needs to rectify this coaching mistake soon or it’ll cost both their jobs.

    This team needs more of a veteran coaching style. Gallant is currently up for grabs or if they wait a bit longer, I’m sure Julien will be as well!

  • C Watson

    Isn’t it funny how nobody, including the Calgary media, ever shit on Hartley until after he was fired. Then, all hell broke loose and everyone tried to outdo each other is describing how bad a coach Bob was. Bet you, secretly, you all want him back now.

  • Parallex

    “Gully’s issues starts with his insistence that Chaisson needs to be stapled to Gaudreau. He also believes that Brodie belongs on the left side, even though he’s had career years on the right. Add to that playing Ferland on RW, where he has never shown anything great.”

    The problem is that every coach does dumbass things like that. Remove Gulutzan and we’ll end up with a coach that thinks Bollig should be up on the 3M line, or that Engellend is a legit 2nd pairing defender, or that Monahan & Gaudreau should be taking the bulk of the defensive zone draws, or that the 4th line should get as many EV minutes as the 1st line, or that dump’n’chase is better then a carry-in.

    Every coach has those dumbass blindspots (not those specifically but blindspots in general)… I’d rather the F.O. continue to work on eliminating Gulutzan’s then hire a new guy and have to start over from scratch first finding out what the dumbass blindspots are then start from square 1 on removing them.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Jagr talked about Kevin Constantine once upon a time. While they didn’t agree on how they should play the game I remember reading how Constantine would be hard on the boys when they were playing well and winning and ease up when they struggled.

    Heard GG’s post game presser and I couldn’t decide whether I was listening to a career AHL coach or just a plain loser. That “pep talk” might ensure the Flames win maybe 1 of their next 5.

    Ease up man. You are not a genius when you win two in a row. The world isn’t ending when you lose 3 in a row.

    His act is that of the worst hockey parent I know.

    • everton fc

      GG was snarky at times.

      One comment I think I heard him make – I’m listening to is as I type – was a direct dig at the 4th line’ “We have our 4th line out there, they decide to take one more crack at it, because they’ve score so many goals… They all come off, and let them fly into our zone, let them catch our other line off guard… That’s what happened on that first goal.”

      Our 4th line has played well this season. My feeling is he just tossed them under the bus.

      What I learned in my career leading people, and in coaching young people in sports (I work from home now, thankfully!) is sometimes… When your group, your team isn’t doing well… sometimes you have to look at yourself, your preperation, your attention to your people, the details, your attitude, and so on.

      One other thing GG said; “We all have too look at oursleves – everyone in the organization.” This was the most truthful thing he said. He’s their leader. The coach. “We play when it’s easy,” he said. That’s a cultural attitude. The leaders are the ones who creates the culture. For better or worse

  • Bob's Hockey Stick

    too bad teams can’t trade coaches… Think of it as a dream trade. Flames send Gully, cameron, and siglet to boston. In exchange flames get Julien.

    Unfortunatly that isn’t a possiblity. Even NHL 17 laughs at that.

    Team needs work alot of work. BT has to be feeling the pressure. Something has to be done and soon. How the rest of the season plays out will tell the fans where we sit Organizationally with BT, Gully, the players. And what if any sort of long term plan Management has for this team.

    I wish I had answers but I’m a fan not a coach or a gm. Just the fan that pays good money to watch a team struggle and be mired in mediocracy. It’s painful and depressing. What happened to the team that was entertaining , fun, and had heart and character ? I want that team back please.

  • Dreadguy

    Oiler fan from Oilers Nation here. All trolling BS aside, the Flames fans deserve a better effort from their team. From an Oiler fan’s perspective, for years the Flames have trounced us even though we had “high end” offensive talent. The Flames simply played better as a team and worked harder and that was good enough to beat a bunch of 6mil dollar brats (and take their lunch money too). It really sucked to watch my team fold in so many games. It took a complete change of culture, from top to bottom within the organization to change this. I am not saying it’s easy, or that I have the answer, but the Flames look fractured. I was genuinely concerned about how good the Flames looked on paper coming into this season. It appeared that the goaltending had been shored up, the young stars were signed and ready, and the team still had plenty of that signature Flames toughness that has been the calling card of the team for quite some time (added Brouwer too which I thought was a good move). It is perplexing to see what appears to be a solid NHL lineup give up on each other. I really hope this get figured out, because the BOA is no fun at all when one of the teams plays without heart.

  • oilersuck

    At the end of the day Calgary isn’t as bad as they are playing right now and they aren’t as good as they were playing in December. The real team is somewhere in between. Which is pretty much where everyone thought they would be. They aren’t winning the Stanley Cup but playoffs would be nice, if not it doesn’t change much in the long run.

  • oilersuck

    This team is better than last years team. Next year will be better than this year. Flames loose some dead weight (Wideman, Engelland) No huge brutal contracts like Lucic. Some smart moves in the off season and this team keeps trending upwards.

    Knee jerk moves like trading Brodie or Bennett when they are playing their worst never work out. The rest of this year should be spent on developing the young guys, and deciding if either of these goalies are worth bringing back. It sucks right now but the team will pull out of this tailspin.

    • everton fc

      Engelland is not dead weight. Nor is Stajan. Both have played well. Both have played at a level of intensity and purpose their teammates could take heed of.

      Add Backlund, Frolik and Tkachuk to this list. Also Ferland and Versteeg, some evenings.

      Note the names missing. Our highest paid guys. Missing. MIA.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    Oil Fan. Fire one GG AND HIRE THE OTHER.
    Gerard Gallant, seriously. do yourselves a favor. This Club is too good as much as I hate to say it.

    Gallant in , Burke and B.T out. take the pain and move forward, the team for the most part is solid.

  • Flaymin Frank

    A rookie GM went out and hired a rookie head coach. I’m sure GG interviewed well, with his technically correct answers and the beautiful hair gel’d do. I imagine it was a similar room when MacT interviewed Eakins. Most likely he’s highly skilled and knowledgeable in most areas except for one; communicating with his players.

    Just like any other workplace, ego’s and pride sometimes get in the way of doing the right thing.

    We’re limping into the All-star break. Let’s hope we come out on the other side and start with a solid set of games to get this good ship home.

    GFG

  • Dan the flames fan

    Watch JH play right now, and it’s very evident that he is snake-bit. He is so terrified of getting hacked, slashed, or generally bullied by the other team that he is making mistakes. The giveaway last night is a great example of that. His focus was not on the pass, or the play. It was on not getting hit or slashed again. The flames need to get meaner in front of JH, and he needs to get more retaliatory. A little “Theo” in JH would go a long way.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    The optics of firing GG before or at the end of this season would be HORRIBLE because of all legwork and due diligence Mr. Tre put in to hiring his old drinking buddy in the first place. It was the longest, most exhaustive and most expensive search for a coach in Flames’ history. Hell, Tre was doing telephone interviews in Beijing while waiting for a connector! For Tre to say in the next few months, “Sorry, I goofed” followed by a big girly giggle would make him lose all credibility and the team’s image to be further tarnished.

    If GG is an early casualty, then Tre must go at the same time for the team to save face. They have a perfectly capable Don Maloney in the stable to run the show as GM. I think Maloney would be an easy sell to the locals because of his amazing work with the Coyotes. I reckon he also has enough connections in the league to hire a more suitable coach than Tre did.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    At the end of the season, I would have Johnny put on a minimum of 15 pounds of muscles. If he can’t bench press a Buick when they come to camp in September, I’d relegate him to practicing with the rookies and then to Stockton until he gets himself to an acceptable size.

  • Franko J

    Most people here at FN are blaming the coaching with good reason.

    I for one think ultimately the outcome of every game comes down to three to five plays. Whichever team is successful in executing those plays wins the game. N

    Right now the Flames lack execution, attitude, and ability to believe in another.

    Last night Price made a couple of solid saves at the beginning of the game for the Habs. Who knows the if the Flames score, might be a different outcome.

    My worry is have the players mentally checked out? From the goaltending to the forwards the look on their faces and body language sure do point to a team full of apathy which is not a good thing.

    As many fans have pointed out on FN, win or lose, at least make the game enjoyable to watch. From a pure entrainment standpoint this team at this moment are not worth their value.

    Come tomorrow in Ottawa I would just like to see the players give an honest effort, out work the Senators, have whomever is net make one or two timely saves and have some fun.