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FN Mailbag – April 17, 2017

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“The curse” remains intact.

The Flames need to win in Anaheim (at least once) to somehow win this series, but just how to do that continues to elude this franchise.

Aside from the poor discipline and the brain cramps (*cough* bad change *cough*) I thought the Flames played well enough win to either game. That’s at least encouraging given the quality of team they are facing and the fact that they were on the road.

Moral victories are hollow at this time of year though. At some point the Flames are going to have to win at the Honda Center. Getting a few bounces wouldn’t hurt either.

Right to the point. I like that.

As mentioned, I believe Calgary could have won either game but for a handful bounces, breaks, and bad decisions.

In Game 1, the Flames shot themselves in the foot with a couple of bad penalties and a poor line change that would even make minor hockey coaches cringe.

In Game 2, Brian Elliott spotted the Ducks two marginal goals and then the hockey gods handed the game winner over for good measure. Discipline was again an issue, with Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie each taking a penalty in the last five minutes of the game.

The two clubs have been fairly evenly matched aside from those issues so far.

I’ve mostly liked what Glen Gulutzan has done this year behind the bench, but there are a couple of lingering issues with his decision making.

Perhaps the biggest is GG’s propensity for spreading out the ice time across the roster. While rolling four lines can help keep the big guns fresh, it also means allocating more ice time to the bottom of the rotation. Calgary is a fairly top-heavy team, making this even tendency even less sensible.

For example, during the regular season Mark Giordano averaged 17:45 in ES ice time per game. Dougie Hamilton averaged 16:32. And Deryk Engelland came in at 15:04. So the Flames’ near-Norris caliber defender and their top-10 offensive weapon on the backend played only marginally more than the club’s 35-year-old replacement-level rearguard at five-on-five.

There are similar examples up front. For instance, Mikael Backlund averaged only a minute more of even strength ice time than Troy Brouwer. One guy is a potential Selke candidate this year and centers one of the best ES lines in the league. The other guy is the Flames’ worst even strength forward by almost any measure you care to name.

Tyler Dellow raised this issue in a recent article for The Athletic, specifically on the playing time of top six vs bottom six players:

Top 6 ice time

As you can see, the Flames’ top six forwards accounted for less than 55% of ice time during the season.

Darcy McGrath of Calgarypuck also looked at GG’s player usage and ice times near the end of the year. Again, the issue is: Calgary doesn’t player their best enough.

On average the third defense pairing and fourth line only miss out on a half shift per period, amounting to a minute and a half to two minutes in the game overall (five on five).

By bumping the top two defense pairings and top two lines by 30 seconds a period he can drastically reduce the exposure to weak players both in pairings and lines, but also the number of times they are required to be on the ice at the same time.

To Glen’s credit, his player usage has been far more tilted towards his stars during the postseason so far, at least on the backend. Matt Bartkowski and Engelland are averaging just 13 and 11 even strength minutes per game, for example. The forwards aren’t quite as spread out at five-on-five, but then there has been a lot of special teams time so far.

Another Gulutzan habit that baffles me is his penchant for starting periods with the Flames’ third and fourth lines. He’s been doing it for weeks now and for the life of me I can’t figure out the tactical benefit of kicking off the game or a new period with the club’s worst even strength players.

The main adjustment is the Flames skaters just need to play smarter hockey. Eliminating dumb penalties and large scale errors like the infamous line change would go a long way to tipping things back in Calgary’s favour.

I think Calgary also needs to find a better way to break the trap when/if Anaheim falls back into clogging the neutral zone. Randy Carlyle has gone to four or five men at the redline in the third period of both games so far and the Flames have often struggled to effectively break through the clog.

Finally, the team needs a couple of its stars to step up. Dougie Hamilton has had trouble staying out of the penalty box and Johnny Gaudreau has yet to truly take over a game (although Calgary’s first line as a whole has been its best so far). The team also needs the 3M line to get back to the five-on-five dominance we saw from them during the regular season.

Yes. Even if this year ends in the terrible frustration of losing to the Ducks (again), the Flames have taken real steps forward in 2016-17. If Brad Treliving can use the summer to fill some gaps (or at least eliminate some of the bad deals), Calgary should be poised to take another step forward next season.

There’s no causal explanation for the Flames’ continued futility in Anaheim. Even if Calgary had been the worst team in the league over the last decade and the Anaheim the best, you’d expect the Flames to win a handful of games at the Honda Center as a matter of course. Both clubs have turned over entire rosters, coaching staffs and front offices during the streak of infamy, so the only constant has been the laundry and locations.

Sometimes weird, improbable things just… happen.

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    • FlamesRock

      Every GM makes mistakes. The question is how well does the GM fix his mistakes or does he keep making the same ones? Treliving has shown that he learns from his mistakes quick and doesn’t tend to make the same one twice. He is also willing to admit his mistakes and do something about it (Bollig).

      • OKG

        Is it just a mistake though?

        This team is trying too hard to be San Jose, St. Louis or Anaheim North when they need to be Pittsburgh, Toronto, or Chicago West. Byron VS Brouwer exemplifies this…one was a speedy, highly effective, but small player. The other is an ineffective, slow, but “big western conference style” player. Brouwer… Chiasson… Bouma… Engelland… Bartkowski…. Bollig… even Hathaway and Stone we need to replace each of those guys with skating and skill. We have size in guys like Ferland/Tkachuk/Hamilton/Monahan….we need more skate to run a team like the Ducks off the ice. Don’t let it be a one goal game where luck can be the difference. Believe in your strengths. I am skeptical Treliving will ever “get it” in that regard. We have the talent… Jankowski, Kulak, Klimchuk, and maybe even Shinkaruk… but if the GM is attached to his philosophy we will never get there. You win games by scoring more goals than the other team… that is the only intangible worth chasing even if your team doesn’t match up to your vision.

        • Newbietwo

          San Jose is a smaller type team now.. Karlson etc etc.. and they are losing! The flames are edging Anaheim and I’ll go as far as to say who wins this series and the one that follows wins the cup which means we are close.. next year we will be better yes.. Anderson, Jankowski will be up but we are doing well relax I still think we are gonna win this

          • OKG

            Sharks are a slow team. Pavelski is a rich man’s Monahan… Thornton is slow… Hertl is slow… Boedker can skate but is otherwise turribad (Mason Raymond basically)…. Marleau might be their best chance at keeping up and he is like 37 years old. The Oilers are skating them off the ice and anyone who knows me knows how I am extremely objective with respect to EDM and never buy into the media slobberfest of McRich Man’s Matthew Lombardi… not that I think the Oilers are particularily fast but they are their own team built around guys like Lucic, Draisaitl, Kassian, etc so size works for them. Size is not the Flames’ game… we are an offensive team that needs to win with skill and offense. Chicago did it 3 times. Detroit did it four times. Colorado did it twice. Pittsburgh did it twice. Playing in the west is just a lazy man excuse for not identifying your team’s best players and building a style and roster makeup around that.

          • jakethesnail

            OKG – Size works for the oilers now – they used to be the wimps of the NHL, easy to push around. They are big now because the new GM went and got those guys.

    • Newbietwo

      After several months I’m finally going to lash at you.. what’s so great WW about you? Do you have to attack everything? Bet that didn’t help in your relationship with your boyfriend

    • Burning Ring of Fire

      Brouwer has been sub-optimal but he is an asset and they are trying their hardest to pump up the value of that asset. BT’s contract is set to expire so we should know soon enough.

      • Thunder1

        Sometimes you come up with the darnedest things… I’d continue to read your drivel, but from now on, it’s going to cost my going rate of $500/ day, which is what I get for putting up with 14-year-old boys’ nonsense.

        Flames win big tonight… Book it!

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Not even close. BT is exceptional at some areas and weaker in other areas of his job. The Brouwer signing and the decision to wave Byron are two that stand out as do overs….but there are way more positives. I would love to see a better commitment to our prospects than the organization is showing but I am not sure that is on BT only.

    • Sammy p

      Back in December you wanted GG strung up and then drawn and quartered,now it’s Bt that should be run off for signing Brouwer,okay it wasn’t a great decision,but how about getting Dougie Hamilton by out manouvering the Oilers,and then sneaking Versteeg out from under Peter Chiarellis nose?
      The signing of Curtis Lazar is going to be viewed as a steal in time to come.
      And Walter your credentials for acting as the resident team expert are ?

    • BringtheFire

      Frolik, Elliott, Johnson, Hamilton, re-signed Brodie for pennies, got Johnny re-signed for less than market value, drafted Tkachuk and the Brouwer/Byron shuttle crashes can be blamed on Burke.

      Yeah. Let’s run that guy out of town.

  • Newbietwo

    With last call I’m interested in seeing the matchups tonight.. specifically if we will put our top guys up against their bottom six and how often and at what risk? I do feel our fourth line needs to be a bit more physical and specifically a few shifts against a perry or getslaf or Kessler.. agitate and fight them using our bottom guys as it only helps out matchups

  • Newbietwo

    I’m also interested to see if Sportsnet has new announcers given what has come out and more specifically if they actually care to broadcast us a good flames televised session including the period breaks or if they go all god all mighty maple leafs.. sportsnet might have won the tv rights but they have not done a good job localizing events at all

    • class1div1

      Why are our games starting at 8:30 ? So they can fill in all the replays from the eastern games before the torontarians go to bed. They truly are the centre of the universe.

  • Newbietwo

    Another joke listening to hockey central right now.. first 30 minutes all leafs, the rest all us based teams like Minnesota and Columbus.. who cares about those teams in canada.. not even a word on the flames.. I wish sportsnet loses its broadcasting rights

    • Derzie

      The hidden irony in all of this is with all the Leafs worship on Sportsnet, they got fleeced by Bettman in that TSN has the regional Leafs (and Sens & Jets) broadcasts. Sportsnet paid billions for the non-Leaf leftovers. And don’t kid yourself, the TorontoSportsNetwork is even worse with Leafs homerism. Flames fans are better served to listen to the Fan960, watch the games on mute, or both.

    • Cfan in Van

      I set my PVR to record game 2, since I was out of town with family. Because of Leafs double-OT, I didn’t get to watch most of the 1st… But the worst part was the delay of switching the broadcast over for the end of the 1st (so that we could have a gigantic 10-min LEAFS-WIN circle jerk, complete with interviews). I was a fair bit infuriated. No respect for the “Other Team” fans.

  • Kevin R

    It’s too bad we can’t seem to get both the 3M line & the MGF lines flying at the same time. The Benny line has raised their level of play & doing their part. 3M were pretty invisible in Game 1 & was good to see Matty starting to beak a bit at Duck players & get into their heads. Must win game tonight, an 8-3 win by us sure would go a long way.

  • Justthateasy

    Regarding the first part, I disagree that they could have won either game. These close playoff games need to be locked down. And that comes after you’ve got the lead having made extreme sacrifice and effort. The Flames gave it that alright (see Backlund’s shorty and the power play goal). But they had to climb out of a hole. So don’t give up stupid goals and don’t take stupid penalties when you are tied or have the lead. That’s where lock down comes in and that’s what they just cannot do.
    I guess we forgot how to play kitty-bar-door.
    The Ducks are not much better and won’t go far either.
    Can we get some roast duck here tonight!

  • RKD

    They should have won game 1, they totally outplayed the Ducks in that second period in game 2. The Ducks turned the puck over so many times at their own blueline. The Getzlaf goal off of Bouma was a fluke. The biggest thing is to stop taking penalties. If they don’t take penalties they can win tonight and the series.

      • flames2015

        Bouma should be replaced by Freddie, or Lazar even. He had contributed nothing in these last 2 games, for an energy guy 4 hits total, 0 blocked shots, an untimely stupid penalty and a bad deflection (argueable fluke yes but you don’t turn your skate to block, when you are angeled right at the net). Hamilton is the better option, he hits more, as more offensive/posession upside, can play on the PK, and he’s excellent on the dot, something we need as the ducks are a great faceoff team. Having a new guy in the line up can spark the guys, would probably give dougie that extra to play with his brother. It’s a short series if we don’t make any adjustments.

  • Sammy p

    Look for Dougie to have his best game of the year tonight ,and Johnny to reappear after a three game disappearance,the Flames will be hot..but then there is Brouwer.

      • trox

        He took dumb penalties in game 1. But as for game 2, hindsight is 20/20. He made a split second instinctive reaction after getting interfered with by Perry who initiated the contact. Stop blaming him for that one–it was a terrible call.

  • MontanaMan

    I haven’t liked the series to date by the 3M line – invisible most of the time – and I know it’s a lot to ask of a 19 year old but Tkachuk needs to elevate his game for the Flames to win. I thought the Monahan line played decent in San Jose and I’m confident they will bring it tonight. Gil or Hamilton need to step up with a big goal and Elliott needs to make some clutch saves. It’s there for the taking boys – go get a win.

  • Kman15

    as much as i hate the flames as an oilers fan that goal that was disallowed was absolute garbage series should be tied 1-1 still hoping for a BOA in the second round

  • Skylardog

    How messed up is the ice time in the playoffs? Best line down the stretch, JH, SM, MF. Ferland is averaging 11:34 per game, yet he is the physical presence. Tkachuk, 13:38, less than 1/4 of the game. Shifts per game – or how much the coach uses his players: Ferland 17, Tkachuk 18, Bennett 19, Brouwer 19.5, Chaisson 20. Really, Chaisson, Brouwer and Bennett should have more than either Ferland or Tkachuk? Yet Bouma 17, and Stajan 18 get as many shifts as Ferland and Tkachuk. Make any sense at all? If Tkachuk is not getting ice time then it explains why the 3M line is not producing.
    During the season, Ferland leads the team with 6.77 points per 60 mins of PP time, with Backlund next at 5.79. Brouwer is near the bottom of those forwards that play the PP with 3.69. Yet Brouwer had 178:45 minutes of PP time during the season, Ferland 35:27. Again – Ferland hasn’t played a second in the playoffs on the PP.
    Game 2, Ferland 11:19, Tkachuk 15:03, Brouwer 16:02. Logic in this?
    Hits – Ferland leads with 8, yet has anyone seen him running around and out of place to make a hit – No. He has been disciplined.
    Defensively, ice time makes good sense. But I will note this. If Bartkowski is making mistakes, and is a weakness, then perhaps 13:06 is too much. How about sitting Bartkowsi, putting in Wideman, and ONLY using him on the PP. On the PP during the season, top D-man in PP Points per 60 minutes of PP time is Wideman at 5.02, next is Hamilton at 4.58 with Gio at 4.01 and Brodie at 3.17.
    My point, Gulutzan has no clue who his performers are and has extremely poor bench management skills. That shows up in his bench presence. He can’t hide his incompetence, it shines through, and he knows it. All of this, falls on his shoulders. You can’t be a good coach in the league if you don’t know how to manage ice time. He needs to go and lets stop candy coating it.

    • Raffydog

      I think a lot of that diminished ice time is due to the amount of penalties the Flames are taking. Not gonna get those guys much ice time when you spend half the game short handed

  • herringchoker

    I hope the moral of this story is……no more free agents on forward. Here’s what I hope next season. Bouma needs to go, Freddy Hamilton needs to go. Thank god all of Smid, Englland, and wideman are gone. If we have any luck hopefully Brouwer will go to Vegas. We need to graduate some kids and get a youth infusion. Our priority should be to get Bennett wingers or move him to a wing so Janko can play. I’m a huge advocate of a Bennett/Janko/Lazar third line. I’m also an advocate of a Shinkarek or