The Calgary Flames shouldn’t prioritize a playoff spot over building for the future

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
4 months ago
Despite a couple of setbacks against the Toronto Maple Leafs (or should we say, the Toronto Auston Matthews because he scored three of their four goals and had an assist on the other) and the Edmonton Oilers due to a fluke goal, the Calgary Flames have found ways to win over the month of January, even in games they had no business coming out of victorious.
The big question that arises, though, is what do the Flames do if they manage to continue to play like this and win most of their games before the All-Star break hits? Do they stand pat with the team they have and risk losing their pending unrestricted free agents for nothing because they have a real shot at the playoffs? Or do they still move out assets?
Longtime media figure John Shannon believes that the Flames don’t they’re out of it, which, why would they? That’s not the mindset you want a team to have. He also mentioned on a recent appearance on Sekeres and Price that he doesn’t believe team ownership is willing to move players out yet, even if Craig Conroy is.
The Flames started the season 2-7-1, and that start, combined with the current contract situation for some players on the team, set the stage for a season where selling at the trade deadline or before it felt like a necessity for fans. And even though the Flames have recovered from that horrendous start, going 19-14-4 since their Heritage Classic loss to the Oilers, they’re still out of a playoff position by four points and five points behind third place in the Pacific Division. Not only that, but the season has been defined by the constant “one step forward, two steps back” movement. Every time they seem to make progress in the standings and have a chance to catch up to one of the teams in front of them, they find a way to lose a game or two and halt any momentum they had previously.
The month of January, relatively speaking, has been good for the Flames. However, even though they’re still technically in the playoff race, it should not deter the ownership or the management team from selling off their assets that they may lose for free in the off-season if they don’t.
Take the Nashville Predators, for example. When they knew it was time to sell off their assets last season, they did, and they were still able to compete for a playoff spot (and are currently in a playoff spot) after giving more of their young players a chance at a consistent roster spot. We’ve seen Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil come up and make a consistent impact, but being able to give Matt Coronato some top-six ice time and some power play time with above-average linemates consistently (the operative word) could do a lot for his confidence.
As of now, the only thing keeping the Flames from the bottom of the barrel is fantastic goaltending. Jacob Markstrom has been excellent this season, and Dan Vladar hasn’t gotten the run support he needs to win games when he’s in the net. Good goaltending can mask a lot of issues (see, the Predators, again), and even though the Flames are still in the playoff hunt, the focus should be on finding the best trade for their pending unrestricted free agents. Selling assets and providing young players more opportunities is not a bad thing, and we’ve seen teams still fight their way to the last few games of the season for a post-season opportunity after making that decision.
Making the right decision for the future of the franchise, in terms of players currently in the system and giving Conroy and his scouting staff more room to operate in the draft, does not mean giving up on the post-season, and wins shouldn’t be a deterrent from that.

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