Hello, friends! We’re three games into the first playoff edition of the Battle of Alberta in 31 years. So far, it’s been eventful, entertaining, and occasionally nerve-wracking for fans of the Calgary Flames.
Let’s see how everybody’s feeling, via our weekly mailbag.
Let’s begin with one simple fact: Uh… the Kings lost to the Oilers. And a big part of that was Connor McDavid running roughshod over the Kings for several games. Now, the Kings did a good job using pace, structure and checking to make life tougher on the Oilers.
The Flames are a better team than the Kings, but they haven’t executed their game-plan or used their systems nearly as well as the Kings did against the Oilers. The Flames don’t need to abandon what they’ve been trying to do all season from a systems perspective: they just need to actually execute those systems.
I would argue that the “adjustments” would be trying to avoid penalties in order to have more five-on-five time. I’m also, admittedly, not a huge fan of how the power play has executed in this round so far. The Flames need their special teams units to cash in when they get chances, so they have a bit of breathing room for whenever McDavid does his magic at other times in the game.
The Flames need to stay out of the box, emphasize a five man defensive structure to make it tougher for McDavid to do wacky McDavid things – if he has to battle through five guys all the time it’ll wear him down – and avoid hanging their goalie out to dry by allowing odd-man rushes.
And they’re going with Jacob Markstrom. He’s their undisputed starting goalie.
To get Tyler Toffoli, Calle Jarnkrok and Ryan Carpenter in the trade market, the Flames traded away Tyler Pitlick, Emil Heineman, a 2022 1st-rounder, a 2022 2nd-rounder,, a 2023 3rd-rounder, a 2023 5th-rounder, a 2024 5th-rounder and a 2024 7th rounder.
Of the three, Toffoli is under contract for another two full seasons while Jarnkrok and Carpenter are pending unrestricted free agents. Carpenter hasn’t played in the playoffs and Jarnkrok has had some ups and downs, but Toffoli’s generally been quite good playing in the middle six and particularly good on the power play – though, admittedly, the Flames could use a bit more out of that entire PP1 grouping, as mentioned previously.
Was it a steep price? Oh yeah. But the Flames felt they had a good enough team (and a deep enough prospect pool) that they could make these moves without overly complicating things for themselves down the road. You’d probably wish for more from Jarnkrok in his role, but Toffoli’s generated enough strong scoring opportunities thus far that the price tag can be lived with.
This is a great question. We’ll get into this in more detail whenever the playoff run ends. But when the playoffs began, I argued that unless the Flames had playoff success and showed signs that they’ve turned the corner (as a group), maybe you reconsider the direction of the team.
If the Flames get past Edmonton, it’s a definitive sign that they’ve turned the corner. If they lose because they get McDavided, it falls into the category of “maybe” they’ve turned a corner, and then you have to dig into the specific hows and whys of how the series ends up unfolding.
As I noted, we’ll get into more detail later, but as of right now, I think the team has shown enough process that Brad Treliving and Darryl Sutter should (at the very least) be allowed to run out their contracts – both have deals that expire following the 2022-23 season.
Right now, I’d say fans shouldn’t panic.
The Flames are facing the best player in the world and they haven’t yet played nearly as well as they can. I had a feeling that this series would take awhile when it began – in our roundtable I predicted that the Flames would win in seven games – and that’s still my stance. We haven’t seen the Flames adjust yet, and when they play their game they’re excellent.
But can that team excellence be good enough to counter McDavid? I’m excited to see those two aspects of this series in the remaining games.
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