How have the Flames responded to losing a season opener?

So the Flames lost their season opener for the ninth time in a row. That’s not a great record, but it’s also not losing-streak-in-Anaheim bad, so maybe there’s hope yet?

It hasn’t been since the 2009-10 season – a long ago time that only Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund would remember as Flames – that the team won its first game of the season, getting off to an above .500 start. For all the good that did them, as it was also the first time they failed to make the playoffs since the 2004 run.

Picking up points helps, but just as failing to start the year with two doesn’t guarantee you to miss the playoffs, getting two right off the bat doesn’t mean you’re in, either. There are still 81 games to go.

Eighty-one games that were played out in the prior eight seasons in which the Flames started off with a loss. Let’s take a glance at how things turned out for them then.

Season First loss Next game First 10 games record First 10 goal differential Season record Season goal differential Playoffs?
2010-11 0-4 @ EDM 3-1 vs LAK 6-4-0 +4 41-29-12 +11 No
2011-12 3-5 vs PIT 2-5 @ STL 4-5-1 -5 37-29-16 -18 No
2013 1-4 vs SJS 4-5 vs ANA 3-4-3 -9 19-25-4 -29 No
2013-14 4-5 (SO) @ WSH 4-3 @ CBJ 4-4-2 -8 35-40-7 -36 No
2014-15 2-4 vs VAN 5-2 @ EDM 5-4-1 +4 45-30-7 +24 2nd round
2015-16 1-5 vs VAN 3-2 (OT) @ VAN 2-7-1 -20 35-40-7 -28 No
2016-17 4-7 @ EDM 3-5 vs EDM 4-5-1 -4 45-33-4 +3 1st round
2017-18 0-3 @ EDM 6-3 vs WPG 5-5-0 -5 37-35-10 -27 No

The Flames have really only ended up having a handful of decent seasons following losing their first game – just three seasons with 40+ wins, including two 45-win seasons, which were the only years they were able to make the playoffs – but that comes with having a team that just wasn’t up for it, whether they were prolonging their rebuild, finally rebuilding, or crawling out of their rebuild.

Half of their first game losses were at home; the other half were on the road. Five times out of eight they were able to win their next game: one of those five they made the playoffs, while back-to-back losses to start the season still saw them make the playoffs the other time, anyway.

What really jumps out, though, is their record over their first 10 games: 2015-16 aside (a year so bad it saw them picking sixth overall), they’ve mostly hovered around the .500 mark, and haven’t been over since 2010-11 and 2014-15, barely. That might be the first indication of what sort of season we’re headed for: will this supposedly improved roster, with a new and supposedly better head coach, be able to pull itself up from the troughs of mediocrity? If yes, we may be in for a good year; if not, then starting to panic might be more justified.

Another possible indication: in only two of the past eight seasons have the Flames had a positive goal differential 10 games into their year. Teams with positive goal differentials tend to make the postseason; while one year with a positive differential saw them outside the playoffs, a positive goal differential early saw them carry that through the entire year and make it in, in 2014-15. In 2016-17, they were able to pull themselves up from a mediocre start and get in, albeit just barely, and it took a 10-game winning streak to do it.

This year, the Flames will play their 10th game of the season when they host the Penguins on Oct. 25; it’ll be their fourth home game of the season, and they’ll already have gone through a three-game Central swing and a two-game road trip out east. They’ll face projected good teams and bad alike; it isn’t an easy schedule, but it isn’t a nightmare, either.

It isn’t just how they respond in their next game that we’ll be looking for, but how they respond over most of October. While a good start is no guarantee, it certainly puts them in a better position down the line – and maybe indicates they’ll have what it takes to make the dance.

Most of the time, they haven’t been able to do that. The goal this year is for that to change. A winning record with a positive goal differential 10 games in would be out of their norm – and a good first sign.

  • Al Rain

    Are we going to get this after every loss?

    Every team, with the possible exception of the 1976-77 Habs, has had to deal with adversity. Every Cup winner has had horrible stretches, played way worse than the Flames on Wednesday. Also, we’ve had had massive turnover from last season.

    Indications of the season we’re headed for? Justified panic? I tend to lean toward calling it one game with some areas to work on and a few positive things to build on.

    • Cfan in Van

      Yeah, the win/loss results of season openers doesn’t really project much at all. I’d say some of the weaknesses they showed in that game could be more of a predictor, but an L or W in the first game of the season is not cause for much panic or celebration, in and of itself.

    • Kevin R

      Given the randomness basis of an analytics site, wouldnt one think that we we would win one of these stinking openers for a change. That they actually come out of the gate skating, perhaps a smudge more urgency given the historical futile record of consecutive losses.

  • everton fc

    While I maintain my biggest concerns are our lack of toughness, and goaltending… The Bruins lost 7-0 in their home opener. They were in China. They went through the same scenario, as the Flames, for the most part. Are they doomed?

  • Raffydog

    I can’t speak for everyone, but the frustration for me comes from the fact that this was supposed to be a different team from last season. They bring in a bunch of new faces that are supposed to help with depth scoring. A new coach who was supposed to bring an up tempo, faster game with a tenacious forecheck. A new assistant coach who was supposed to improve the power play. But after all thise changes we got a carbon copy of the team from last season. If somebody had recorded that last game they probably had to check and make sure they weren’t watching a game from last season by mistake.

    • Cfan in Van

      I fully agree they looked like last year’s team. That said, we can’t just expect that after 2 years of adhering to a tight (yet horrible) system, they’re just going to flick a light switch and be a polished opposite of last year. The players and coaches deserve some transition time, especially given the odd preseason they went through while trying to adjust to a bunch of new everything. Game 1 is not the time to throw in the towel.

      • Kevin R

        I think Im irritable because I thought I was watching the same useless f***ing power play as last year. In fact they played better on the PP during exhibition & kept that stupid pass back to a minimum during the China games.

    • Off the wall

      @ Raffydog,

      Hey Raffy, you need to contact me if you’ve decided to watch the game with Chucky and I on Saturday. I know you’re coming from Nanaimo, so it’s best if you email me @ [email protected]

      The venue has changed ( for viewing the game on Saturday)
      We won’t be watching at the Oak Pub in Duncan.
      Contact me for changes..

  • buts

    Watch the pens/caps highlights to see how many goals were scored from point shots either cleanly thru or a deflection or rebound. This is what’s wrong with our PP. Brodie won’t shoot and only passes which makes it easy for the PK. Generally the whole group doesn’t shoot and when you see 6 shots in 7 PP’s on Wednesday it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see one of the problems along with zone entry. Stone was good on the PP with the hitmen and has a hard shot….I know most hate him but Al MacInnis wasn’t he best skater and look what he did with our PP shooting….we had the number 1 or #2 PP for many years. Tomorrow I would insert Peluso and Prout to add some toughness to show that we are not going to get pushed around especially on home ice. Our lack of size is evident and is needed.

    • Puck Head

      Janko will shoot the puck and Foo has a reputation for peppering shots. If things don’t change give Janko a try on the PP and bring up Foo to send a message.

    • Cfan in Van

      I agree about the point shot, but firmly disagree that Stone is the answer. His shot is super hard, but misses the net most of the time and the puck ends up back in our own end. He’s also a defensive liability if he gets caught out, being so slow. Especially if they go with one D on the PP, I don’t want to see Stone as that guy.

  • ComeOn

    Media obsession with this is a afar greater concern to me than actually loosing the first game. Bush league, Toronto style media pressure only serves to erode a team’s chance of Success. How about a data driven article on that!

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

    50% of NHL teams loose their first game of the season.
    Of those teams who lost their first game of the season, 100% of fanbase whom may be identified as armchair managers freak out and become immediately dour about the future of the team.

    The statistics are shocking, I know.

  • Chucky

    Tomorrow will tell us a lot about this team with this coach. Last year it seemed like they accepted loss, that is not the attitude of a good team.
    It would be nice to see the Flames come out with fire in their eyes and take it to the Canucks early. That would give me confidence that they are united as a team and the coach can motivate them to achieve success.

    • deantheraven

      What you said, only I’d add a proper beat down, like 7-0. I’m tired of watching a “better on paper team” be a consistently “worse on ice team”. But hey, top corsi team!

      • Cfan in Van

        If that Canucks work like they did on Wednesday, we can’t expect a 7-0 beat down. They played pretty well, and deserve some credit. Given the PP opportunities, I wouldn’t say that 7 goals for is out of the question though.

  • Armchair genius

    I can hear the singing already in most arenas across the league! Na na na naaa, na na na naaaa, hey hey hey GOODBYE!
    GOG! Good luck this year fLames with the draft.

  • MDG1600

    Given the new coach, number of new players and the trip to China I suggest as fans we wait to see what happens in games 10 through 20 before passing judgement on the team.

  • freethe flames

    Fortunately for me I was in class Wednesday and missed the game and so I did not comment yesterday; there were enough boo birds on the thread anyways. It is one game folks, I wonder if the bruin fans are in full meltdown like some of the writers here are? Is it concerning that the PP looked aweful; yes. Is it time to panic; no.

  • Porcupine at a balloon party

    After reading the comments in two post game articles and now this one, just need to say, “RELAX PEOPLE!” Seriously, one game doesn’t make a season. If score was reversed I would hope we wouldn’t be planning the parade route either.

    As for toughness on the team, the answer is simple, make them pay on the power play. That was definitely the biggest let down from Wednesday; particularly zone entries and with it, setting up once entering. I’ll reserve judgement on this for a bit, let’s see what they do on Saturday.

    What I really don’t get is this cry for toughness. Yes size is great, and I am all for a tough team, but we didn’t lose the game because Dube drew an interference penalty and didn’t have a head smasher to respond. We lost because our strength is skill and it was no where to be found, we were out worked badly, and then hit the all too familiar from last year ‘self destruct button’ …

    Just cause Burke comes on and says some dumb media comment doesn’t make it so. You want people to not take liberties on your team, score on the power play.

    Now, that being said, if you can get someone big that can play and fight, great, dress him! But Prout & Peluso aren’t the answer… Plus, who are you going to sit? Bennett? I don’t think so. Czarnik? He’s played his way onto Backlund’s line (I hope). So Frolik then? C’mon, you can’t tell me a face puncher is a better option than a 40 pt guy can you?

    And would you rather dress Prout over Andersen now that Hamonic is injured? Stone I get is an easy target, but you’re not going to put Prout with valamaki or on the second pairing either.

    • Mickey O'Reaves

      “You want people to not take liberties on your team, score on the power play.”

      Travis Hamonic: “Right on, we scored on the PP after the penalty. That’ll show ’em!”

  • Honkydonk

    The flames have a new coach and 9 new players on the roster. That is reality.

    Knowing this the way they approached pre season is the reason they lost the home opener.

    They did not play one game with a collective line up. They seemingly don’t expect performance during pre season and if you have a losing record during pre season all jokes aside and saying it’s because they are playing the young guys. It is for that reason exactly why the full roster on ice for first time after a pre season loses a home opener.

    Pur and simple they were not prepared. Put and simple they had no composure and purr and simple they missed the desire structure the coaches wanted.

    They were giving up pucks left right and centre.. they were lacking chemistry missing passes or reads purely because they did not get one pre season game as a full squad.

    It’s all crap a giggles and it’s unnaceptable.

    If Vancouver can beat us however it’s because of the same persisting issues. Johnny didn’t score, Monu didn’t score, we lost most of our face offs, our power play barely had a shot on net. These are all the same issues.

    Giordano should not be on a power play, Brodie should not be on a power play. Frolik should not be on tha second line.

    They did this to themselves again

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Only one game. Glad to see Peters abandon the bump pass on on the PP and go with the dump and chase, which was more effective, GG would have continued to try the bump pass back all night.
    I agree the guys have to shoot more, quit trying for the picture perfect goal. Are the guys not listening to the coach, I’m positive he’s telling them to shoot. If they won’t follow the coaches instructions, maybe they should be replaced with guys that will. If I didn’t listen to my boss, and did my own thing, I’d be gone.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    A lot of us have thought about it but why is Bennett not penciled in with Backlund? I think Bennett and Janko need to be separated. Bennett is what he is. Put him in an environment where he has succeeded in the past and where scoring is secondary to shutting down the opposition.

    I think if you want the best out of a player you need to put him in a position to succeed. Janko has played one game with Johnny and did ok by scoring 4 goals. If the season had not ended even GG would not have broken this line up for the next game. My thinking is that you break up some of these lines so they are jacked to be reunited on the PP.

    -Johnny needs some fire back in his game
    …Neal is that fire. Johnny needs big bodies and grit and Janko needs to play with skilled players.

    -put Tkachuk with skilled offensive players you might be surprised

    Dube may get a dose of playing against top lines but this line
    would be relentless on the forecheck and a threat

    -Czarnik on his off wing but line defensively responsible

    It is a long season but this is my wish list.

  • Pizzaman

    It’s not about needing “toughness” or a lout like Prout – it’s about emotion and engagement. A refuse to lose mentality that will translate into toughness – mental toughness, not face punchers. Burke is right on grit, but not louts. Mental toughness can intimidate too.