Now that the dust has settled and the abbreviated playoff appearance is over, fans can look back at the debacle that was this year’s first round series vs the Anaheim Ducks. Going into the series everyone remarked how this team was better than the one that went out 4-1 two years ago against a similar Ducks team. Instead, it was worse, much worse. Although in some of the stats columns (this is why stats are meaningless in the playoffs) Calgary dominated, and Anaheim got help from lucky bounces, the refs, and the league, for 3 out 4 games, ultimately the blame lands squarely on the players, and they didn’t produce.
Why? How? Who? What? Here’s a rundown, my analysis, ranking the performance of each Flames.
Mikael Backlund – B
The formidable second line faced stiff competition all series. They were given the worst zone starts yet still managed to drive the play. Backlund led the way in this regard but struggled to put up points. He did score a short-handed goal in Game 3, but we know what happened after.
Sam Bennett – B+
Probably the single Flames that emerged as a surprise. We got ‘Playoff 18-year-old 20 year-old Sam Bennett’ and he’s good. No flash or dash, just hard hitting, drive to the net kind of play. He’s going to improve as a third C for next season. It was good to see him step up for the playoffs.
Lance Bouma D-
It’s no secret what I think of Bouma. He’s a plug. After his phantom 17 goal season, and the 2.2 million he got after, you knew you saw the best of Bouma, TWO seasons ago. He was non-existent on the fourth line, caused the loss in Game 2, and took a stupid penalty in Game 1. I hope Vegas takes him. It’s either him or,
Troy Brouwer C-
Brouwer was a disappoint all season. Management knew, but tried to play soft saying what he did in game 83 was what mattered. Well, game 83-86 happened and Brouwer did nothing. He was on the ice screening for a few PP goals, so I guess GG thinks he contributed, but he was playing #1 line minutes, sometimes at even strength, and did little to contribute. I hope Vegas takes him and his 4+ million salary in the draft.
Alex Chiasson C+
Chiasson should be a fourth line winger where Bouma is in an ideal world. He did well to pressure along the boards all series. No goals, not a difference maker, but played his role when called upon.
Micheal Ferland B-
Came out strong in Game 1 and 2, but tapered off in Game 3, and was non-existent in Game 4. Hard hits, but has to work on his conditioning. I think he might be the solution on the top line for next season, but GG refused to use him in that spot, opting for Brouwer for half of this minutes. THat was a shame because he was performing really well, generating chances, opening space. We’ll need an improved Ferland next season, which will be the defining season, IMO, as to whether he’s better than most have projected him to be.
Michael Frolik C-
Not sure where Frolik disappeared to, apart from riding Backlund’s coat-tails. His production tapered off towards the end of the season, and apart from the penalty kill, wasn’t a factor.
Johnny Gaudreau F
I’ve failed Gaudreau. He’s a big money player expected to show up in big games and I think we got a good picture that Gaudreau cannot show up in big heavy games.. The playoffs are not for Gaudreau, he wilts and can’t compete. You have even less space in the playoffs and Gaudreau can’t handle it. He can’t take a hit, has a weak shot, and struggled to produce. I think he’s a QB for the PP, not Versteeg, where he can control the play. When GG can figure out how to use him better he’ll improve. He needs an off-season to gain some muscle or he’s going to continuously be a bitter playoff performer.
Freddie Hamilton & Curtis Lazar
Sample size too small. They got into Game 4, which was a surprise, but had little work. Not sure what the verdict is on Lazar. He hasn’t played enough to warrant protecting him (but it’s him over Brouwer IMO). Hamilton has always been a spare part, but competent. He’ll be back next year and we would benefit from playing him more often.
Sean Monahan B+
Didn’t generate much 5v5, doesn’t hit, which has always been a problem. Was intimidated by Kesler all series, but did turn clutch on the PP with 4 goals. He along with Bennett are the bright spots going into future playoffs series’. He just needs a mean streak or something. But then again, he is ‘Boring’ Sean Monahan.
Matt Stajan C-
Scratched Game 4, Stajan was on the PK and took some D-zone face-offs. That was it. He’s signed long term, so I dont know where he factors in next year with more C’s coming up from the minors.
Matthew Tkachuk C+
He’s only 19, had a great season, and will use this series as experience. Didn’t factor in the playoffs, although was on the defensive, offensive, unit with Backs. He wasn’t an agitator, didn’t lay out big hits, didn’t score. Need him to do all 3. Take a look at Perry’s performance, that’s what we need in the future.
Kris Versteeg B+
For his size, he was in the middle of everything, and setup a number of chances. He played himself into another contract for next season. The same can’t be said for others.
Matt Bartkowski D
Always iffy when he steps on the ice, and he only benefits from being on a team where the only alternative is Dennis Wideman. At times you wanted to see the latter….He’s back next season, but I’m guessing headed to the AHL after the entry-draft.
TJ Brodie C-
Struggled at times, took dumb penalties, tried to push the play. Brodie has had a tough year, and was average during the playoffs. He has the capacity to be a standout rearguard but something was missing….
Deryk Engelland C+
Sandpaper. Did what was asked, but was also in that bottom pairing where you had to bite your nails the entire time they were on the ice. We can use the grit for next year, but unsure whether his price tag will be worth re-signing.
Mark Giordano C-
For the team leader he couldn’t lead when it mattered. The team collapsed in Game 3, didn’t show up for Game 4, and lost their marbles in Game 1. Giordano’s play wasn’t along the lines of the elite D men you hear about in the playoffs. Another 6 years at 6+millino with this guy. You can’t get a better pairing with Hamilton either, albeit his playoff was terrible.
Dougie Hamilton D-
Hamilton blew the game 1 minute in in Game 1. His lack of experience was noticed. After a stellar regular season he was very poor in the playoffs. He’ll learn to be better and what it takes to win post-season, but this wasn’t the year. Too many bad penalties, too many giveaways, not enough offence generated. Not what you need from a #1 D man.
Michael Stone C+
Not bad, not great, just Michael STone. I think he’s played well enough to get a contract and stick with the club. He works well in the #4 spot, even if the statisticians don’t think he’s better than Wideman.
Sample size too small. He played OK in the last game. He was average down the stretch, but if you want a competent backup next year he may be your man, unless Gillies is coming up next year. Which leaves us with,
He’s played in his last game as a Flame. You saw him in the jersey last night for the last time. How many times can I type ‘last’. Elliott was dynamite in the second half, but he was October-Elliott in this series. Although he made a lot of saves in Game 1 and 2, he needs to make the saves that MATTER. Although Gibson looked shaky throughout, he made the timely save. The difference in this series wasn’t the refs, the league, the play (well it was), it was goaltending, and TWO soft goals that changed the game in 3 and 4 were the difference. Despite his great run, you can’t trust him to come back, even though the price paid for him (2nd rounder) was steep. Bye, bye, Elliott, it was the best of times, and it was the blurst of times.
There you have it. This playoff performance in the books with the bulk of the team displaying they have ways to go before emerging as a strong contender. Even Edmonton looks strong, on the back of some size, speed, and good goaltending. Calgary lacks all 3.
The only consolation for us, we can get our lives back and don’t have to put up with those terrible 830PM game starts.