Photo credit:Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
What should the Calgary Flames have for their New Year’s resolutions?
1 month ago
It’s New Year’s Eve, and with 2023 coming to a close, that means a new beginning is here in 2024. A chance to “start fresh” on the calendar for everyone around the globe, but also a chance to start fresh from an athlete and sports team perspective as well.
The past year hasn’t been a banner one for the Flames. A former Jack Adams winning head coach was fired after turmoil within the locker room, the team missed the playoffs, and now, they’re struggling to put themselves back in the wild card race. Additionally, Jonathan Huberdeau, among others on the roster, has continued to struggle with every combination of linemates his two coaches have given him.
There are a lot of things that the Flames need to improve, but there are other things that have been good that the team needs to stay strong to help stay afloat. So, in the spirit of the new year, I’ve written down some potential resolutions for the Flames to help their playoff chase or their “sort of tank.”
Resolution 1: Keep Jacob Markstrom/the goaltending going
There haven’t been many positives this season for the Flames, but probably the biggest one has been the bounceback from Jacob Markstrom. From a 2.92 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage last season to a 2.71 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage this year, Markstrom’s return to form has been a huge help to the team. Of course, if he can’t get any scoring help, then none of this will make as big of a difference as it should, but it’s good to see Markstrom pulling through the adversity. With Dan Vladar still not finding a total rhythm yet in the goal crease despite a few decent performances (albeit some poor ones as well), Markstrom’s recovery became even more important.
Resolution 2: Fix. The. Power. Play.
This has been talked about ad nauseam both here on this website and around the Flames mediaverse for some time now, so I won’t go too deep into a rant about just how abysmal the power play is, but it needs to be fixed…bad. The man-advantage for the Flames sits 29th in the NHL at 12.3 percent and are only 1.4 percent away from having it be the worst of the 32 teams.
Not only are both of the units unable to convert on the chances they earn, but they don’t earn many chances to begin with because of their stagnant play on and off the puck. There isn’t much player movement, and the passing is mostly predictable and slower than it should be to try and get the defence scattered. If they were able to fix this major problem, then the likelihood of making the post-season would certainly go up (and that’s clearly the direction that management is aiming to go in), but as of now, we have yet to see many major improvements almost halfway through the season. Hopefully, the new year can fix that.
Resolution 3: Keep scoring shorthanded goals
How about another resolution that involves special teams, but this one is more positive?
While the power-play has struggled, the penalty kill has not. With an 83.6 percent success rate, the Flames sit seventh in the league in the category, along with a tie for first in shorthanded goals with nine. It has been one of the consistent bright spots (along with Markstrom’s play) for the team this season, and at times, it has been the sole reason that the team has been within games or won them. I mean, this goal is just smooth and is the epitome of what the penalty kill units have been doing all season:
Blake Coleman and Yegor Sharangovich have been two of the biggest contributors for the Flames this season, and a big reason for that has been their play on the penalty kill. That point also goes for captain Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm, who have been playing on the other penalty-kill unit.
Resolution 4: Decide on a route for the team
This is probably the biggest resolution that the Flames need to address as the 2023-24 season continues and 2024 rolls around.
Calgary currently sits below .500 and seven points out of the second wild-card spot. The likelihood of them making the postseason at this juncture seems just as possible as it did a few weeks into the season, which means general manager Craig Conroy needs to figure out what he’s doing about players that can be moved to other teams in return for prospects and picks as trade season gradually approaches. Making the playoffs is obviously of the utmost importance to management, coaches, and players, but there comes a point when other options need to be considered, especially given the kind of returns that some of the players on the current roster could fetch on the trade market.
Deciding on a route doesn’t necessarily mean tanking (although there is a section of people who believe that’s the best option). To me, it means making decisions as soon as possible about players that can be moved so as to maximize a possible return, especially given how the overall team is performing, or try and trade for players on the market to make the team better or even just try and increase team scoring or cohesiveness. No matter which way you lean on the subject, a clear decision has to be made, whether it’s through words or actions, and hopefully 2024 can bring some more clarity on management’s plans.
There is lots to look forward to in the year 2024, and even though the Flames haven’t had the best 2023, it has been a pleasure watching and writing about them for everyone on this platform. Here’s to a better 2024 with more power-play goals, stronger individual production from certain players, and continued strength in penalty killing and goaltending.
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