Friends, if there’s one useful takeaway from the first two Calgary Flames game at the 2022 Young Stars Classic, it’s probably this: the club’s defensive game hasn’t been very good.
But it’s also probably nothing to worry about when you factor who’s involved and the situation they’re in.
The Flames were out-scored in their two games, losing 3-0 to Vancouver and 4-1 to Edmonton. Each game featured some flashes of brilliance from the Flames forwards at times, but they ended up spending more and more time in their own zone as the game went along.
If you look at some of the goals they allowed, the culprit was some spotty defensive zone coverage.
When you see the clips, there’s a bad line change (and a defender getting beaten out for a rebound), a blueliner getting beaten one-on-one, and a bunch of 50/50 pucks that the Flames lost out on. That’s not ideal.
But let’s bear in mind one thing: there’s a lot of inexperienced bodies at this event for the Flames on the back end. Here’s the seven blueliners who played over the first two games, with number of pro games they’ve played in brackets:
- Ilya Solovyov [51 AHL, 41 KHL]
- Yan Kuznetsov [6 AHL]
- Jeremie Poirier 
- Simon Lavigne 
- Christoffer Sedoff 
- Cole Jordan (vs. Vancouver) 
- Rhett Rhinehart (vs. Edmonton) 
The most experienced blueliner, Solovyov, is just 22 years old and was a third-pairing defender for Stockton last season. When you factor in the number of defenders signed to pro deals for the coming season, he might not even play that high in the rotation for the Wranglers.
Are the Flames’ defensive prospects impressing so far in Penticton? Not really, no. They look like a bunch of inexperienced teenagers and 20-year-olds at times. But… that’s what they are, and the entire point of events like the Young Stars Classic is to get those players developmental reps in these types of situations so the Flames can figure out what these youngsters need to improve in their efforts to reach the NHL.
It would be great if the Flames had a bevvy of young defenders in Penticton that looked like the second coming of Bobby Orr. Heck, the second coming of Rasmus Andersson would be nice. They don’t have that right now. But nobody playing in Penticton on the blueline will likely factor into the NHL club’s plans for the coming season – and Solovyov might only be a depth piece for the Wranglers this season.
The Flames haven’t been great early at the Young Stars Classic. But the stakes couldn’t possibly be lower, and the young players that are having challenges on the back end are still extremely young and in a position to bounce back from these struggles and improve in the future.
The Flames conclude the Young Stars Classic at noon MT on Monday when they face the Winnipeg Jets.