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Eyes on the current status of the Calgary Flames from a different perspective

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
7 months ago
The Calgary Flames look to be progressing further toward the kind of system they want to play. However, many questions remain about their next move. Should they sell off their movable assets to acquire draft capital and more young players for the prospect pool (and potentially the NHL lineup)? Or should they stay the course, continuing to focus on winning games and seeing where that takes them?
This has been a hot-button topic on Flames Twitter and around Flames social media in general (although I tend not to venture long into different avenues), and it’s a topic that had made an appearance plenty of times throughout last season when I started covering this team and even before that.
For those who don’t know much about my background, I’m from Nashville, Tennessee. As someone who has written about the Nashville Predators for almost as long as I have been writing about hockey as a whole and watching them for as long as I can remember, I’ve been able to experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I’m familiar with the kind of turmoil Calgary fans have faced over the last few years.
It’s almost uncanny how similar the two franchises are to each other. Both have had recent success followed up by mediocrity or straight-up poor results. The systems under former head coaches were horrible, and there were problems within the fanbases with how the coaches used certain players on the roster. There are (and were) guys on both teams who were signed to bad contracts by general managers who are now gone, and when it came to last season, there were some big decisions to make regarding how each franchise would move forward for the future, and this is where the two franchises diverge in approach.
The Predators decided to sell off assets like Mattias Ekholm and Tanner Jeannot to get players, prospects, and a stockpile of picks. They traded Ryan Johansen and retained half of his salary, bought out Matt Duchene, and new general manager Barry Trotz decided to go all-in on a “culture change” by bringing in players like Ryan O’Reilly on a four-year deal to help the young players mature in the right ways because he knows how to win.
The Flames, on the other hand, are still in limbo, costing them valuable time, considering they have some valuable assets they need to move. They need to make a decision, and considering the kind of results this roster is producing (and the kind of impact that the young players are having as they’re being inserted into the lineup), it feels as if the best plan of action is the same way that the Predators went.
Of course, it’s important to note that general manager Craig Conroy doesn’t sound like he’s against making deals to move out some players on expiring deals, and it’s good that he’s willing to wait until the right deal comes in from another team. Patience is a virtue, and Conroy has a lot of it. However, as we wait, things get more desperate, and at the end of the day, the last thing lots of fans want to see is the spending of more money on players that aren’t worth what they believe their value is (Elias Lindholm).
It’s also important to note that the Predators sit close to the bottom of the NHL standings. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for them at all. However, head coach Andrew Brunette is instilling a system that allows for creativity and creates tons of high-danger opportunities, which helps to build good habits. Even though they’ve had some trouble in some areas, they’re a fun team to watch with a direction for the future. The fanbase has no expectations other than for the young players to get plenty of playing time and for the draft pick at the end of the season to be relatively high.
Although the Predators have a better prospect pool than the Flames, in the opinions of most draft analysts, the Flames still have plenty of pieces to work with. Giving some of their higher-tier prospects chances in the lineup is a good start, but now, for many, it’s about taking the next step and moving out pieces to acquire more young players and picks as well.
As someone who writes about the Predators and pays attention to the fanbase, I think it would do the Flames a lot of good to follow the same route that Nashville has for this season and the future instead of trying to prolong the need to win. Building for the future involves losing, but there are ways to make the team not unbearable to watch. Change is good, and the Flames have found their way into that lane. Now, it’s about moving that extra inch further.

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