Let me start this post with a disclaimer of: I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong that my predictions based on the caliber of Flames play is wrong and the team turns their game around in time for the post-season. No, I’m not jumping off the bandwagon, but the fact remains, the Flames are on an uncontrollable downward spiral while other playoff teams are fine tuning their game.
The result? Calgary will not only finish out of the Division lead, but they ‘ll drop below Chicago too. When they do reach the post-season they’ll go out in seven as well. Hard to swallow after such a promising season.
As Vancouver sets Calgary in its sights, riding the best record in hockey since the All-Star break, the Flames are .410 in the month of March–way below five hundred.
The cause of the deflating trend? There isn’t a single cause, but you can definitely single-out the problems.
Let’s start with the top line. In recent games they are on the ice for AT MINIMUM one opposing goal. That takes its toll on the team. Although you score, floating for breakaways does not constitute defence.
Speaking of defence, they suck. They shouldn’t because they are the highest paid in the league. But when Dion Phaneuf makes routine poor decisions and is off to a season low in all categories, something is amiss. When players and defencemen are out of position when they face a little bit of speed then something needs to be changed.
A major change? Probably not, look at how the Flames performed before March–only recently have they forgotten their defensive ways. The answer is not Rhett Warrner or even Adam Pardy, but attention to details and perhaps a bit of help from the forwards.
Speaking of forwards their backchecking is crucial to Flames success. With help on transitions and in the neutral zone, the defence wouldn’t look so vulnerable. The team has more problems on the defensive side rather than the scoring, although Iginla hasn’t scored in six games and lines 2-4 are sporadic at best.
Consistently is probably the single greatest problem with the Flames. They are consistently inconsistent, they loose to terrible teams and beat great ones. They have some good shifts and then forwards forget to backcheck and the puck is in the net.
One of the key reasons why the Flames started losing in a big and bad way was the loss of the entire second line. Add in two more changes at trade deadline and you have FIVE major changes to the team, far too many for them to deal with.
The program goes out the window with that turnaround. Maybe not the entire program, but the well oiled machine now has borrowed parts that don’t fit quite as nice. All teams face injuries, the Flames had theirs at one of the worst times of the season.
All of these aspects are things that a team at the beginning of the season contend with, not with 10 games remaining. Flames fans thought the Olli Jokinen signing was a ticket to the finals. What they didn’t expect was for the wheels to fall off on every other facet of the Flames game.
Unfortunately, at the rate they are going, they are going to struggle mightily in the first round regardless who they play against. If the Pittsburgh game showed us anything it’s that the Flames are slow on defence, can’t match intensity, and can’t score when they get outworked and out hit.
If were were optimists for a moment what would be required for a quick turn around? It is possible the Flames can pull this out of the hat, that the old team will get healthy and return to form, and they make a deep push into the playoffs.
In order for that to happen the following needs to occur:
1) Dion Phaneuf learns how to play defence.
2) The top line learns how to play in their defensive zone.
3) the forth line gets more than 1 goal every 20 games.
4) The defence play punishing tight defence.
5) Jarome Iginla scores goals.
6) Kiprusoff stays consistently good.
7) The second line gets healthy.
8) The powerplay stops sucking pucks.
9) The penalty kill stops sucking pucks.
10) They do all the above for 60 minutes (and possible 80 or 100).
Then and only then will the Flames break out of the first round victorious. At this rate though, it’s too late for it to come together. I hope I’m wrong.
P.S. If anybody, and I mean anybody, wants to write a rebuttal that’s positive, please contact us and we’ll put it up.