Calgary 3 – Edmonton 7
For the first time since the 80s, the Edmonton Oilers swept the season series of the Battle of Alberta.
In perhaps the most important game of the season, the Flames put up their worst effort of the season. We know Edmonton is an improved team, ten years of draft wins will do that, what we didn’t know was how BAD the Flames are and how many missing pieces they have, some of which could be solved in house, and others just plain head scratchers.
As the season creeps past the mid-way point here are some observations as to WHY the Flames are in the place they are now, a downward trend with a Wild Card playoff spot slipping away.
- Coaching Blunders. At the beginning of the season the head scratching decisions made by head coach Glen Gulutzan included the likes of starting Nik Grossman on D, playing Dennis Wideman in a top pairing, and special teams. Special teams has since righted itself in a big way, but lineup problems persist. Alex Chiasson seems to be the answer for Johnny Gaudreau scoring woes, as he played game in hand game out on the wing with Gaudreau. He started the season on the fourth line which is where he belongs. Dennis Wideman still plays top four minutes, and although he has been a serviceable at times, his defensive game is gone (Plus factor in the #widemaneffect on the Flames’ relationship with on-ice officials). Then there’s the horrible starts. GG is a coaching style is more hands-off and buddy buddy with the players. Game day preparation seems to be an issue as the team struggles to come out of the gate, going down early in games forcing them to play catch up against good teams they can’t beat.
- Top players aren’t the top players. Gaudreau and Monahan may be putting up the odd point, but they are far from dominant. Giordano is having unforgettable season, giving up odd-man rushes with routine. If it wasn’t for the ‘third line’ with Backlund this team would be with Phoenix.
- 5v5 play has gotten worse at the season has progressed. Part of problem is the lineup. Bennett at centre is a problem. Chiasson with Gaudreau is a problem. Monahan’s inability to generate offence on his own is a problem. Forecheck apart from the third line is a problem.
- Recently it seems, apart from the dying minutes when they sit behind, the effort and intensity is missing.
There doesn’t seem to be an immediate solution for the team that still has a lot of promise. Let’s be honest, this is a young team and there’re a number of players with huge upside who aren’t performing right now. Also, with expansion looming, the options to make changes are limited. You don’t want to trade away any young players, and you don’t have any spare parts to get rid of, unless that part is Chaisson (any others?)
In the meantime you’re stuck with the team you have and can only groans as teams with games in hand (all of them) kick it into high gear and pass the Flames who’ve been left standing.