What is wrong with the Flames?
Typically here I’d start with what is right with the Flames, but I’m not going to do that. Honestly because outside of Michael Frolik and Johnny Gaudreau there isn’t much going right with the Flames. So here are the top things – in order – that the Calgary Flames must fix.
- Dougie Hamilton – Let’s recap the start of the season shall we? First, his $5.5M contract makes him the highest-paid player on the team. Offensively he has one point in six games, despite being on the ice for over 22 minutes a game and on the first powerplay unit. Defensively he is an abysmal -6 for the season. He also averages a minor penalty per game. He’s getting pushed around despite being 6’6” and 220 lbs. He’s standing and watching guys make passes through his feet and what is most frustrating is that he is letting guys have time in front of the net. There was an argument for lack of chemistry or time learning the system before, but these are fundamental mistakes no NHL defenceman should make.
The solution? Move him to the bottom six or make him sit a game or two. He’s just hurting you now and can continue his ‘learning process’ from the press box.
- Goaltending – Hiller is sporting a very bad .833 save percentage. Ramo an even more awful .778. You can say that it’s not the goaltenders fault when your defence can’t defend, but that’s not true. No matter how good the chances are that you give up, everything will average out over the course of a game – or in this case six. Save percentages this bad are unacceptable, and Bob Hartley’s plan of showcasing Hiller as trade bait has backfired. Now you’re lucky if you can trade him as a serviceable backup to someone.
The solution? This one’s a no-brainer, mostly because you have no choice at this point. Joni Ortio starts the next game and Hartley is hoping like heck that he stands on his head.
Defence – Outside of Hamilton we have another defensive problem, and it’s a big one. Wideman has 5 points already (yay!) but is a -5 (boo!) on the season. Russell has no points and is a -7. Mark Giordano is a -6. So it isn’t just Hamilton, it’s really the top four which was supposed to be among the best top four in the league. Interestingly enough, Deryk Engelland is -2 and Brett Kulak is -1, making them your best defensive pairing, although you could argue that with more ice-time comes more goals allowed.
The solution? You have to break up the pairings. I understand the Russell / Wideman communication benefits, but breaking them all up will force them – and everyone else – to focus on fundamentals.
- The third line – First of all I don’t want to let the first two lines off the hook. Monahan and Gaudreau have scored, yes, but the top line’s 14 points this year are nullified by a combined +/- of -12. I think that Frolik has been a bright spot on the second line, but both Bennett and Backlund are off to slow starts. The fourth line has done everything you could ask of them, Stajan has been a really good fourth-liner, and Jooris, Bollig and Raymond have all been the fine when in the line-up. But the third line of David Jones, Micheal Ferland and until recently Mikael Backlund and Lance Bouma, have been invisible most nights. They are here to intimidate, to bring energy, to chip in offensively, to shut down lines, and none of that has happened so far this year.
The solution? Well I actually think we’re in mid-solution right now. Backlund has moved up to the second line to get him going, and the absence of Bouma has already made a difference in Ferland, perhaps the added pressure of being the energy-guy helps? Also the return of Joe Colborne means you can juggle him and Stajan as your 3rd and 4th line centres.
Captain Mark Giordano says he doesn’t know why the Flames just can’t keep it together. “It’s everything. It’s not one thing. If we can put our finger on one thing we would stop this, but it’s all of us making bad plays, bad decisions and getting out-battled. Bottom line is this is as disappointing of a stretch as I can remember in a long time and we’ve got to turn it around.”
You’re welcome Gio, I’ve pinpointed the things you have to fix and even how to do it. I’ll expect an 8×10 of the Jack Adams sitting on Hartley’s shelf any day now.
I know the season is young, but that excuse can only last for two more games because at that point they are 10% of the way through the season. And even if they win both games they still started the year 3-5-0 – if. Yikes.
Oh yeah, the game
This has been the same story all year long. Mediocre start, brutal second, not enough third period to save the game.
The Flames came out okay, not too energetic but also not too lethargic. Calgary and Washington had seven shots apiece in the first period, but that’s with four minutes of Calgary powerplay time to Washington’s zero. The powerplay looked just awful. Karri Ramo looked shaky, but made a couple amazing stops to keep them in the game.
Then the second period happened. I’m not sure how the second has become the Achilles heel of the Flames, perhaps they are so focused on good starts and strong finishes that they’ve forgotten there is still a third of the game sandwiched between. On Tuesday the Capitals outshot the Flames 13 to 4 in the middle period, which is how it should be if you have four minutes of powerplay time to your opponents zero (as the Caps had). After letting in a couple real stinkers, Ramo was replaced by Hiller, who wasn’t much better.
The third period was a little more even, but by this point the Flames were down 4-1 and that was simply too much to overcome. Alex Ovechkin reached the 900-point mark with a second-period goal and also had an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 6-2 victory against the Calgary Flames. The home loss made it four-straight to start the season, which is the worst home start in franchise history.