The good, bad and ugly of the Calgary Flames: Games 6-10
Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
24 days ago
We’re back with another good, bad and ugly of the Calgary Flames. Today we are looking at their last five games. It was one of, if not the worst stretch of games I have ever seen from the Flames in my time watching them. They lost every game, couldn’t score, and were boring to watch.
Just take a look at their numbers during that time.
Outscored 4.2-1.6 per game.
Jonathan Huberdeau: 0 Goals. 1 Assist. Minus-9
Booed off the ice in two home games.
It was an ugly five game segment, but fortunately we did see a slight glimmer of hope during the Flames loss on Wednesday night against the Dallas Stars.
Let’s dive into the good bad and ugly.
He only played in one game, and it was the last of this five-game stretch. But Connor Zary was by far the most positive storyline for the Flames over the last couple weeks.
Playing on a line with Nazem Kadri and Yegor Sharangovich, Zary dominated in his NHL debut. You could make a strong argument that he was the Flames best forward against the Stars. He brought speed, skill, and some swagger to a Flames team that is in desperate need of those elements.
One thing I loved about Zary’s game was his confidence and his willingness to go to tough areas. He was all around the front of the net which is where he scored his first NHL goal. He made confident plays like his highlight reel end to end rush. And when he did make a mistake, he was the first forward on the back check to break up a play defensively.
The numbers back up his strong play as well.
We should temper our expectations for the player. It was only his first NHL game. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs in his development as a player. But man, it was fun to be a part of that performance on Wednesday night.
Craig Conroy hitting pause
Elliotte Friedman and Eric Francis both reported that the Calgary Flames have hit the pause button on all contract talks with their pending UFAs. Thank God.
The Flames are in no position to be committing to this group of players for the long term. Especially when you consider the contracts already on the books.
With the way the team is playing and trending, how does it make any sense to sign every one of your pending UFAs? Maybe sign one of them? You still need to fill out your lineup with NHL players even in a rebuild. But to have huge contract extensions on the table for Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov makes no sense.
On the surface, the Flames start to the season may seem like a negative. But the fact that it has saved them from making multiple, long-term mistakes should be viewed as a good thing.
I don’t think there are many, if any, Flames fans out there that want to watch this collection of players for the next 4-9 years.
The potential to lose a generation of fans
I was at the Calgary Wranglers home opener last Saturday afternoon. A 2-1 win against the Colorado Eagles.
During the first intermission, a local hockey team played a short scrimmage on Saddledome ice. After they finished, the in-arena host was interviewing one of the kids. He asked the young hockey player who is favourite Calgary Flame player is. His response: “I don’t know.”
Now, maybe the young player was shy and nervous talking In front of the Wrangler crowd. But I don’t think that was the case. I don’t think he truly had a favourite Flame player.
That should scare the you-know-what out of Murray Edwards and John Bean.
Because of the last 18 months, and the insistence on never rebuilding, the Flames run the risk of losing a generation of local hockey fans.
There really is nothing to cheer about for young people who are entering their prime years of fandom. What Flame players are they going to come to the dome to watch? Which Flame are they going to put on the back of their jersey? Who are they going to idolize? The answer is stars from other teams if the Flames don’t start drafting and developing young talent.
It’s never been easier for young fans to watch NHL teams from outside their local market with on demand highlights and streaming services. Because of that, kids are going to want to watch the Connor McDavids and Nathan MacKinnons of the NHL. Not the Huberdeau and Kadris.
Previous generations had star players to look up to on their local team. In the ’80s it was McDonald, MacInnis, Nieuwendyk, Vernon. The ’90s had Fleury. The 2000s had Iginla and Kiprusoff. The 2010s had Gaudreau and Tkachuk.
What does this generation have? The answer is no one.
Don’t get me wrong, the Flames have good hockey players on their roster. But there are no stars. No one who gets you out of your seat. No one who makes you want to go to the ‘Dome just to watch them.
That should be a massive concern for the Flames business operations. The Flames are in the entertainment business. You need stars to sell your product. That’s why it is so critical that the Flames transition their focus to drafting and developing the next wave of Calgary Flames.
This is going to be one of the last times I discuss Huberdeau in the good, bad and ugly. I don’t want to pile on the guy all season. We already know that he is hurting the team on the ice with his play, and off the ice with his catastrophe of a contract.
In the last five games, Huberdeau has one point which was a secondary assist, is minus nine (-9), and has two high danger shot attempts.
It’s nowhere close to being good enough from someone who is taking up 13% of the Flames salary cap this season.
The most concerning thing to me is Huberdeau’s inability to make plays. To be honest, I don’t care how many goals Huberdeau scores. He is not a natural goal scorer, and he has a mediocre shot at the best of times. What the Flames need Huberdeau to be is an elite passer. Someone who can set his linemates up for tap in goals. Someone who can rip cross ice passes on the power play to get the goalie moving side to side.
In theory, Huberdeau should be the type of player who makes a 20-goal scorer a 25-goal scorer or a 30-goal scorer a 40-goal scorer. The Flames need him to make his teammates better. But unfortunately, he’s making them worse.
He is a turnover machine. He puts pucks in his teammate’s skates. He is having a difficult time making simple plays. It’s incredibly frustrating for fans to watch.
How do the Flames fix this problem? I don’t have that answer today. But hopefully Ryan Huska and his staff are being supportive and doing everything they can to turn this around. If they can’t turn it around, Huberdeau and Flames fans are going to be in for a long eight years together.
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