Oilers 7, Flames 1: Falling down the stairs, but hockey
Photo credit:Perry Nelson/USA Today Sports
By Mike Gould1 year ago
“This is the sound that comes up in my head when I think about a fail. Like the Mets losing a ballgame to the Phillies 10-0.”
On Feb. 18, 2010, YouTube user DK1536 wrote that description to accompany this video.
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Both the Mets and Phillies finished well outside the playoff picture in the NL East last season, but that’s okay. It is no longer necessary to reference New York’s third-favourite baseball team to properly illustrate the implications of “Price is right losing horn.”
On a day where the NHL managed to mess up an outdoor game by failing to account for the possibility of a “sun issue,” the Calgary Flames somehow put forth an even worse performance. They lost 7-1 to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, extending their losing streak to three consecutive regulation decisions.
The Flames entered yesterday’s game in the midst of a gloomy four-game stretch of allowing their opponents to score first. Against Vancouver on Feb. 17, the Flames conceded the opening goal to Jordie Benn just 1:46 into the game, giving the rugged defenseman his first tally in 25 contests. The Canucks ended up winning that game by a 5-1 score.
But Flames head coach Geoff Ward described his team’s performance on Feb. 19 against Edmonton as “a step in the right direction.” They managed to play 5:41 of penalty-free hockey in the first period before allowing Jesse Puljujarvi to open the scoring for Edmonton. The Oilers scored the next goal, too, and eventually won 2-1. Did I mention that the Flames entered Saturday’s game having also allowed the first two goals in three consecutive games?
On Saturday, the Flames once again returned to allowing a goal in the game’s first five minutes. Alex Chiasson quickly put the Oilers in the lead just 3:29 into the first period, and his team wasn’t done there. The Oilers proceeded to score just 66 seconds into the middle frame and 36 seconds into the third period, too. The Flames started on the wrong foot in all three periods.
Connor McDavid had five points in the first 28 minutes and 12 seconds of the game. He probably could have had more if Oilers coach Dave Tippett had given him more than six shifts in the second half. McDavid potted a natural hat trick on Saturday in the span of 11:01. After McDavid’s third goal, the Flames pulled Jacob Markstrom for the second consecutive start.
Look, the Flames probably should have scored more than once on Saturday. It simply was not their night. Oilers netminder Mikko Koskinen looked close to being unbeatable, only surrendering a goal after Darnell Nurse plowed Matthew Tkachuk into him. As a side note, Andrew Mangiapane might be the Flames’ best player at this point in time.
The Flames outshot Edmonton 44-24 on the night. They generated more than twice as many expected goals. On a night where Calgary threw 17 high-danger chances towards Mikko Koskinen, they got outscored 7-1. But it just goes to show how difficult it can be to play from behind.
Have you forgotten what it’s like to watch the Flames play with a lead? Out of the 180 elapsed minutes in their last three games, the Flames have spent 169:04 down by at least one goal and the other 10:56 in a scoreless tie. That’s bleak.
Very little is working right now. The Flames’ coaching staff routinely makes strange decisions like deploying Byron Froese for an offensive-zone faceoff while down a goal in the dying minutes of the third period. The power play has turned as cold as ice, converting just four times on its last 35 attempts (11.4%). Josh Leivo, Dominik Simon, Brett Ritchie, and Buddy Robinson have all taken turns playing on Johnny Gaudreau’s opposite wing, and all of them remain stuck at zero goals.
Will anything change? Probably not. Under general manager Brad Treliving, the Flames hardly ever make any in-season personnel moves beyond adding third-pairing defensemen or low-upside reclamation projects. Here is a list of every single player Treliving has acquired in a mid-season move during his tenure:
- Drew Shore
- David Schlemko
- Kevin Poulin
- Hunter Shinkaruk
- Jyrki Jokipakka
- Brett Pollock
- Nicklas Backstrom
- Michael Stone
- Curtis Lazar
- Mike Kostka
- Matt Bartkowski
- Dalton Prout
- Nick Shore
- Chris Stewart
- Andrew Nielsen
- Oscar Fantenberg
- Erik Gustafsson
- Derek Forbort
How many of those players moved the needle for the Flames? Did any of them really change the outcome of current or future seasons—and did any of them really have the potential to do so?
It can be extremely difficult to make roster changes during a season. The cap is in full swing and salaries are accumulating towards that ceiling on a daily basis. That said, the Flames might be running out of time to get results out of their current core. Standing pat in 2016-17, when Johnny Gaudreau had five more seasons on his contract and the team was only just becoming competitive, was understandable. Now, with Gaudreau set to become a UFA after next year, it might be time for the Flames to start taking more risks.
Believe it or not, there are many teams out there in more dire situations than that of the Flames. Nothing is working in Nashville right now, with the Predators off to a 7-10-0 start and, according to Elliotte Friedman, only Roman Josi, Pekka Rinne, and Ryan Ellis are off the table. Things are looking even worse in Buffalo, with Taylor Hall and Jack Eichel combining for three goals in the Sabres’ first 14 games. Bottom-feeding teams like Ottawa, Detroit, New Jersey, and Anaheim have assets worth exploring.
Maybe adding a player like Viktor Arvidsson helps the Flames to more evenly distribute their talent across all four of their lines. Arvidsson, 27, is signed through 2024—with that term, would it make sense for the Flames to surrender their 2021 first-round pick in a deal to acquire him?
Or, is this iteration of the Flames a lost cause? At this point in the Flames’ arc, it’s basically impossible to ignore a bad season. If this one goes by the wayside and the team becomes a seller in the cellar, how should management approach Gaudreau’s situation with just 82 games separating him from unrestricted free-agency?
Should the Flames change things up behind the bench? Geoff Ward is already Treliving’s fourth head coach; can the GM survive firing this one, or will the axe also fall on him? The Flames haven’t fired a coach during a season strictly for performance-related reasons since Greg Gilbert’s dismissal in 2002-03.
Right now, the Flames’ season is at a crossroads. In a typical year, being 18 games in might still be considered “early.” But when the Flames finish their next contest, they’ll be over a third of the way through their 56-game 2020-21 schedule.
The Flames will return to action on Monday at 5:00 PM for a road game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In semi-related news, the Stockton Heat will make their season debut on Sunday, taking on the Toronto Marlies in the Scotiabank Saddledome at 2:00 PM.
(There are no Gould Stars tonight).
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