We’re probably at the most frustrating part of the Flames’ season (hopefully). They look so good but can’t score.
Sometimes, that happens. Rarely, it happens all during the same week or two. Some of it has been comical to watch (that 5-on-3 versus Nashville went predictably horrible. I must admit that I wasn’t even mad because I knew that the team would flail and flop). It’s a part of the game, but when the team is dropping points left and right for the same backbreaking reasons, it’s a cause for concern.
Some of that is just the randomness of the game. Some is manmade. Let’s find out which is which.
Will the Flames trade a D for offensive help?
— Sebastian (@Despo_Hockey) December 17, 2017
A bit of a loaded question when made vague. I really wouldn’t do it from just the basis of defence for offence. The defence hasn’t been the disaster it was just a few weeks prior, so I feel that the team would be very hesitant to break up a defence corps that is just starting to find its footing. They paid a hefty price to have three strong pairings; they aren’t going to get rid of it this early to handle an easily solved problem.
The Flames could stand to improve their forwards, but the solution can likely come from inside (hello Andew Mangiapane and Marek Hrivik) without having to sell a quality defenceman at a cut-rate price. GMs can smell blood in the water and if Brad Treliving comes offering a defender for forward help, it’s going to seem desperate and many are going to try and rip him off. I would avoid that situation.
If anyone gets moved, it’s probably Michael Stone to make room for a prospect, but that’s probably the only benefit. I can’t see why any team would give up a quality forward for defenders that, fairly or not, have been maligned through the season.
Which prospects do you think the flames would be most hesitant to trade?
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) December 17, 2017
On the topic of trading defencemen.
The Flames have a surplus of prospect blueliners, which makes for interesting trade speculation, but they’re probably very hesitant to trade any of them. Rasmus Andersson could probably be a strong third pairing defender right now at age 21, and Oliver Kylington isn’t that far behind. Adam Fox has Zach Werenski numbers in the NCAA, and 2017 first round pick Juuso Valimaki is looking very promising, too.
It’s hard to want to trade any of those players. The Flames have a potential to create a top four (with righty-lefty balance too!) that’s completely homegrown. I feel that Kylington could be the one that is moved first due to some perceived uncertainty about his ceiling, but it would take a decent haul to make Treliving trade him. The Flames didn’t part with Brandon Hickey (maybe a second pairing guy) until they could get a starting goaltender.
Speaking of goaltenders, the only goalie they’re certainly not going to trade is Tyler Parsons. He’s been very promising on a bad ECHL team, and could probably take the helm of the Stockton Heat if the Flames didn’t have such depth at goalie (not to say Jon Gillies is bad, just a bit more expendable). On the forward side, the only untouchables are probably Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Glenn Gawdin, and Matthew Phillips. I feel everyone else is fair game.
Is Dave Cameron the problem?
— Josh Senneker ن (@j_senneker) December 17, 2017
Another vague question, but we’ll assume you’re talking about the powerplay.
Dave Cameron was always a contentious choice for assistant coach, especially in the (presumed) role of PP coach. His powerplay numbers in Ottawa were awful at best, which still seems generous considering he was working with weapons like Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Mark Stone. He had some potent players and had nothing to show for results. Tell me if that sounds familiar.
But it’s not all his fault. If it is truly all is his work, what’s stopping Glen Gulutzan or any other coach from saying “this isn’t working”? How come there’s a situation where Troy Brouwer is the best right-handed forward shot on the team by default (you could make a case for Garnet Hathaway, but that needs to be tested)? Why is Dougie Hamilton, the best offensive defenceman on the team, not seeing powerplay time? The powerplay struggles aren’t just on one person.
Everything on the powerplay could improve. Cameron’s influence is certainly noticeable, but it’s not all on him. Sending him packing is probably a good first step, but it’s not going to solve the problem overnight.
Is it time to think about breaking up the 3M line? @karimkurji
— Khalid Keshavjee (@KMKeshavjee) December 17, 2017
Tyler Dellow had a great article over at the Athletic about the prospects of doing this. I didn’t necessarily agree with it, but there are some things to consider.
The reason to do this would be to spread out the offence. This was a concern earlier in the season when the third line was stuck in neutral and the first two lines were ripping it up. But with the third line coming along, it seems to not be a necessary action. Scoring has dried up recently (look below for that), but it’s not due to poor production from one particular line. Breaking up the 3M line is not the end of the world, but it seems to be an overreaction.
The Flames have been trying Matthew Tkachuk on his offwing with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau recently, trying to form an offensive superweapon on the first line. We’ll have to see if it works, but for now, it seems to be the idea heading forward. I can’t really disagree with the idea, but I’m not really fully on board with it.
Thoughts on starting with Frolik or Hathaway playing right wing on the top line – yes breaking up 3M is pretty much a curse word.
— Megan ?? (@meganror) December 17, 2017
This is kind of made redundant with Tkachuk being bumped up the rotation. You get the possession saavy of Michael Frolik with the shift-disturbing antics of Hathaway with a higher offensive ceiling than both of them. Tkachuk is the best of both worlds and you don’t really lose that much by moving him there.
Frolik is a steady option at the RW. He can provide a better all around game than Micheal Ferland, but doesn’t really add that much in terms of offence. I think it’s a slight improvement, but nothing that’s really going to move the needle. Hathaway is not an option I would consider right now. He’s been better than expected with the third line, but that’s not all that surprising given the sheltered treatment they get from the coach. He can succeed there, but it’s going to be different if he’s placed against first liners.
If they break up 3M, moving Tkachuk to the 1RW seems to be the best option available. Ferland could work well with the remaining two Ms while keeping the M balance intact (the 3Mikes line? The 3Mb line?) and the third line can continue to be a fine back pocket option.
Why is “sticking with it, it’ll come” an option at this point?
— Summiteer (@PlanetKyle) December 17, 2017
Hockey memory seems to be more short-term than any other sport, so I don’t blame people for forgetting that we’ve seen nearly the exact same thing this calendar year. Here’s Kent writing about a poor Flames streak all the way back in January. Look how much of that still holds up to the Flames of the recent few weeks. They’re outshooting and outplaying their opponents but their shooting percentage is in the garbage can. It’s randomness, and it strikes every so often in the hockey season.
Look at how the Flames are performing relative to the league. They’re doing great at 5v5 in CF% (5th), FF% (8th), SF% (9th), SCF% (6th), and HDSCF% (2nd). They’re fifth last in SH%. The former is determined by performance and is demonstrably repeatable. The latter is random and shown to fluctuate with no real reason. At 5v5, they’re dominating opponents. Shots aren’t going in, but they will eventually (see: Vancouver). Sticking with it is the best option forward and it’s going to pay off soon enough.
It’s not a blanket statement, however. We’ve already discussed the powerplay, which is also affected by shooting luck (it is really hard to go one for 24), even with a bad powerplay), but still certainly needs to change. The PK could also stand to get better. The Flames have most of the pieces in place and that’s what doesn’t need to change.