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Inconsistency is one of many things plaguing the Calgary Flames early in 2023-24

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Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
5 months ago
Expectations for the Calgary Flames at this juncture are very low. Many fans have wanted this franchise to start a rebuild for a few years now, and their cries are being heard louder than ever now (and for good reason). Players just aren’t gelling with one another, primarily in the forward group, but there have been some problems on defence as well, and no one is taking charge in the goal-scoring department.
Head coach Ryan Huska talked about consistency in his press conference after the Flames loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the Heritage Classic:
“I think there needs to be consistency. We’ve talked a lot in Calgary about our struggles early on this year of taking care of the puck. Every time there’s a little bit of pressure, we want to throw it into the middle of the ice. Well, that’s a recipe for a turnover. So we have to get ourselves committed to putting it behind and bringing speed to the puck.”
Essentially, not only do the Flames need consistent output in the box score from their players who are being paid big money to score, but they also need consistency in how they play within their system. Whether it’s making sure that pucks get out of the defensive zone off the glass or out wide promptly and are then chased down by the forwards on the ice immediately, or it’s loosening the grip that the players clearly have on their sticks and waiting that extra second for an option to open up in an area, the Flames need to start making things happen with some consistency.
One of the most frustrating shifts that I think encapsulated the issues that are being talked about with consistency on both ends of the ice is this one in the defensive zone by Jonathan Huberdeau against the New York Rangers. If you’re not familiar with this clip already, focus your eyes on Huberdeau on the far side wing and watch him for the entire clip.
In a 22-second clip, Huberdeau manages to make two spins in the far circle, completes a needless and utterly ineffective slash on the shin pad of Filip Chytil, and loses his man Erik Gustafsson because he was puck-watching, and Gustafsson gets the goal.
Not only has Huberdeau not been nearly good enough with the Flames for the last 91 games the Flames have played as a team, but the clip above is the kind of shift from a player that cannot happen, especially one with the paycheck and recent offensive performance of Huberdeau. If this Flames team is going to find a way to succeed, it’s through consistency in every zone. Players need to commit to playing a strong defensive game just like they need to commit to a creative, free-flowing, but hard-on-pucks offensive game. Once you can build the foundation of a system, you will be able to find consistency, and the perfect example of that right now is the Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, and Blake Coleman line. They have done an excellent job of playing the kind of hockey Flames fans are expecting from this Huska system, and it has paid off tremendously in the form of solid box score numbers and some of the top analytics in the NHL.
Too many mistakes are happening at the hands of players on the ice taking shifts off or not being smart with the puck. Some of the shifts from certain lines have been solid in recent games, but then they revert back to a more lazy version of themselves, and that’s a frustrating product to watch. The only consistency for this team has been inconsistency, and that needs to change if the goal is to make the post-season.

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