Just over a month into the abridged pandemic NHL season and the Calgary Flames are struggling. But if your glass half full kind of person then take a look at the standings.
With four games in hand if the flames could figure out all of their problems they could make a move up the standings and sit around third place. But that’s just the thing, the problems.
Where have we heard that word before? Inconsistent. It seems as though despite small changes year after year the same problems persist. There is a lack of secondary scoring, players can’t seem to figure out their game, and as a whole the team is struggling with the system. Let’s look at some individual names.
Jacob Markstrom in that is working. He came with a high price tag but is holding the fort. That despite being overplayed one month into the season. Last year’s All-Star (we have two) David Rittich has only seen 2 starts. Not good enough and last night’s game against Vancouver was an indication Markstrom is tired.
Johnny Gaudreau is alive and well. He’s off to a torrid start and leads the team in points. Can’t expect more from him.
On defence we finally get to see Valimaki and regular gameplay and he’s not disappointing. The ceiling is very high and now he’s even taking a roll on the ice cold power-play.
Newcomer Tanev is the basically the only skater matching expectations. He along with Hanafin are holding it down.
Lastly, Andrew Mangiapane is starting to find his game. He’s quietly good, like really good.
Per Evolving-Hockey's RAPM model, Andrew Mangiapane is now the best playdriver of the 2021 NHL season. He's been excellent defensively, and his ill fate offensively is starting to turn around with another goal last night against WPG. A great season is unfolding here #CofRed pic.twitter.com/3asvJjoO3c
— HBF Analytics (@HBFAnalytics) February 10, 2021
What’s not working?
4th line scoring is non-existent. Ryan is hurt but has no goals in his games. Leivo is a massive disappointment and has sat the past two games because his attitude on ice is impacting his performance. Simon gets top-line minutes if he gets into the lineup. That’s pressbox or line #1. His contributions are non-existent. A defensive liability too. Nordstrom? Gets a regular shift, kills penalties, and has had some terrible terrible games.
Up the lineup, Sam Bennett wants a trade but is going nowhere fast. His play on the top line shows promise but the coach keeps making mind boggling lineup changes.
Let’s talk about the coach. Geoff Ward seems to be floundering. He can’t find consistency in his players. That might be because there’s simply no consistency in lineups. The players don’t seem to be responding to whatever system he has that after the first three games, seems ineffective at best. No Ozone time, forecheck, breakouts from the D zone, and PP, everything looks bad. Let’s not talk about his inability to put someone competent on the Gaudreau line with any regularity. You get the sense that every game Calgary will be out coached and out played.
Speaking of showing up for games, the flames of year to string together 60 minutes. Their MO is take the first 20 minutes off. Some of the games they recently against Vancouver were embarrassing to watch. I can’t imagine if the ‘Dome was open and people had to pay to watch the on-ice debacle.
On defence Young and Fresh Mark Giordano is not so fresh and not so young. Old and tired is more like it. His minutes are going down and is a far cry from his Norris winning form two seasons ago.
Matt Tkachuk, Highest paid player on the team, apart from the first two games and a to go performance against Winnipeg, he has one goal. Not good enough. Dylan Dube not good enough. Milan Lucic, surprisingly doing more than nothing. Backlund, showing dominant form at times, but now is working through an injury.
Sean Monahan, boring as usual.
Apart from the goal, you get this feeling nobody is stepping up. Will the Flames move into the 2nd third with some energy and momentum as they pick up those games in hand? Or will they continue to struggle? The players only meeting a week into the season was a tell-tale sign they don’t know what’s going on, and this year, have little time to figure things out before they’re out of the playoff picture.
Assuming you’re even watching hockey these days. Seems as though in most ways there are more important things to do.