The 2017 edition of the Calgary Flames is a study in frustration.
Some games they are terrible and rightfully lose. Other games they are dominant… but still lose, either because their scorers can’t score or because their goalies can’t stop the puck. Or because the club takes too many penalties.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that none of these problems were supposed to be problems. Last season, Calgary was the least penalized team in the league. This year, they’re the most. Every single high priced player that Brad Treliving has re-signed in the last 12 months is having a down year, hobbling the Flames offense. And the goaltending that should have been vastly improved, isn’t. It’s a minor miracle Calgary is within throwing distance of a playoff spot despite all of these issues.
We’re nine days away from the trade deadline and Treliving must be scratching his head. Almost of his assumptions heading into the season have likely been undermined. Many of his core players haven’t been primary contributors, his goaltending remains shaky, his blueline is still top heavy, his big UFA signing isn’t working out and his farm team has just finished losing 10 in a row.
Nevertheless, the playoffs are still possible. So what’s next?
— Iggy Smalls (@FlamingMoses79) February 17, 2017
That’s the million dollar question right now.
Honestly, if any one of the issues mentioned in the intro improves or reverses, Calgary would be far more competitive. At some point one would expect the scorers to rediscover their touch, the goalies to get hot, or the penalty differential to even out.
Beyond hoping for one of those things to improve, the Flames still desperately need another top six forward and top four defender. Troy Brouwer’s lackluster performance and Sam Bennett’s inability to take a step forward (on top of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan struggling) has harmed the Flames’ attack.
In the backend, we’re all well aware by now that the club simply doesn’t have an apt partner for T.J. Brodie at the top of the rotation. In the offseason, the organization will also need to iron out the goalie question. Neither Chad Johnson nor Brian Elliott have made a case for being long term solutions in net. At some point, Calgary really needs to find a guy who can consistently provide league average or better netminding over the long term.
— Colin (@DragonsDeck) February 17, 2017
I think the goal is to move him down the rotation rather than remove him completely. That said, if Treliving can find another, more capable RH defender at the deadline, it wouldn’t surprise me if Wideman gets shuffled to the pressbox.
@Kent_Wilson If you were George McPhee who would you take from the Flames in the expansion draft (take your best guess on who’s available)?
— James Foster (@YKJFosterYYC) February 17, 2017
If I was McPhee, I’d look at Brett Kulak, Micheal Ferland or Matt Stajan, depending on my needs and cap budget. Ferland would probably be at the top of the list given his age and skill set, assuming the Flames expose the player, of course.
— Ian Duval (@duvie27) February 17, 2017
I think we’re starting to get a good sense of the coaching, although to some degree I’d like to see how GG operates when at least one of his expensive, star players is actually performing to expectations (or one of his goalies is stopping pucks).
There’s a sense he may be to blame for the drop in performance in the Flames’ stars, but that’s potentially correlation/causation confusion. A more systematic investigation would be in order to determine if the changes that have led to improved shot volumes and differentials is also suppressing his players’ offense.
— Cameron Hilton (@cameron_hilton) February 18, 2017
It is, if only because the organization has so much money and cap space invested in other players. Mikael Backlund is the fifth highest paid player amongst Flames forwards at $3.757M/year and the ninth highest paid player on the team overall.
That means a whole lot of guys ahead of him are having relatively unimpressive seasons. While we have argued for years that Backlund is actually a core player on the team thanks to his 5on5 play, it means the club is getting bad value for all of their big investments if Backs is leading the way.
@Kent_Wilson Flames have 3D/5F worth protecting. Some teams have 4D and 5+F. Any F for D trade matches there? Something like Bennet-Trouba?
— Greg Ashby (@ashbygreg) February 19, 2017
This is a very interesting proposal. By leveraging Sam Bennett in a trade for a top four defender, protecting four forwards and four defenders suddenly seems more palatable.
By moving Bennett, the Flames would be left with Gaudreau, Monahan, Backlund and Michael Frolik as the guys to protect up front. Management would need to feel comfortable with leaving Brouwer and Ferland unprotected, but that’s impossible (I think they should expose Brouwer either way, personally).
Targets for this kind of trade include the aforementioned Jacob Trouba, but also one of the young defenders from the Carolina Hurricanes including Justin Faulk or Jaccob Slavin.