The Calgary Flames have completed 14 games of their 2020-21 schedule. They’re in the playoff mix, but some of their recent performances have been concerning in their lack of consistency.
Our mailbag questions reflect this level of concern.
Let’s dive in.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s a magic bullet solution to this. If there was, they probably would’ve tried it by now. But much like the problem is multi-faceted, so is the likely solution. It probably involves the team shaking up lines a bit so everyone’s a bit more engaged, but it also could involve a bit of changes in how the team is deployed within games (and some tinkering with coaching tendencies). (When players are comfortable, they might not be completely engaged in all three zones, so shuffling the lines enough that everyone’s a bit more aware of their new linemates is a good short-term solution.)
But it’s worth noting that the Flames have often been a Jekyll and Hyde team throughout the last decade (or so), particularly since the rebuild began in 2013. They’re seemingly at home being a more reactive, counter-punch team, rather than one that dictates the pace of the game from puck drop. Aside from changing up the entire team, I’m not sure what can be done to combat that tendency.
It’s pretty rare for any team to be 100% on their game all the time. Most teams have stretches of their games that aren’t amazing, but the hope is that most good teams have the ability to adjust what’s not working and course-correct within games before things get completely off the rails.
Where the Flames may be unique league-wide is their ability to look amazing or awful in the same game. Heck, sometimes in the same period. And clubs intend to build their prowess within games – and get better as they go along – sometimes the Flames can get away from what’s working within games rather than stick with brought them to the (proverbial) dance.
It might be a combination of both. Geoff Ward is the fourth coach that Brad Treliving has had as general manager, and the main components of the team haven’t fundamentally changed. Heck, the overall style of the team hasn’t fundamentally changed since Bob Hartley was coach, just some of the tendencies, deployments and supporting cast. At a certain point, they can’t just keep replacing the coaches, right?
The good news it that Mikael Backlund is day-to-day and probably won’t much too much time.
And that’s great, because Alex Galchenyuk is a weird player. He’s not a centre; he takes face-offs now and then, but he’s played less centre over the past few years than Sam Bennett, so he’s basically akin to DIllon Dube in that he can take draws but doesn’t usually. Galchenyuk also isn’t great at anything, and his trade to Carolina sees him land on his sixth team since the beginning of the 2017-18 season. For whatever reason, this guy keeps getting passed around from team to team and it’s spooky.
He can score – or at least he was able to generate points before he began bouncing around from team to team – but his defensive game is spotty at best and it would be easier just to lean on Sam Bennett or Glenn Gawdin at centre and build someone up rather than claim a Band-Aid off waivers and have to figure out what to do with him after Backlund (and Ryan) are medically cleared.
(Also, the Flames don’t really have the cap space to claim Galchenyuk in the first place. But even if they did, he’s not a great fit.)