It’s no secret the Calgary Flames have been one of the most underwhelming teams in the NHL this year.
Calgary got off to a rough start to put it lightly, losing five of their first six games. The Flames dropped back-to-back games against Edmonton to start the season, as well as losing to rebuilding teams, Carolina and Buffalo.
However, for a couple games after that, Calgary looked like a completely different team, winning three games in a row against Chicago, St. Louis and Ottawa, who are all poised to be playoff teams.
But now after once again hitting a losing skid and dropping four of their last five games, nobody really knows what’s going on with the Flames. Considering the wide spectrum of their performances this year, Calgary could really finish anywhere when the season draws to a close. But if the Flames are looking to make the playoffs, what do they need to do to get there?
Brian Elliott Needs to be Consistent
Brian Elliott has had some game-saving performances for Calgary this year, and then he’s had some game-losing performances — and it seems like there’s no in-between.
In four of Elliott’s games, he’s had a save percentage ranging between .929 and .958, and has allowed only seven goals on 118 shots. The Flames have gone 3-1 in these games.
However, in his other five, he’s had a save percentage ranging between .778 and .875, and has allowed 23 goals on 137 shots. The Flames have gone 0-5 in these games.
Now obviously, the losses can’t be completely attributed to Elliott. Calgary’s defence has left him hung out to dry on too many goals to count. But that being said, he’s currently sitting at a save percentage of .889, which puts him at 45th in the league. Elliott was a key offseason acquisition by the Flames, and was supposed to solve last year’s goaltending disaster that was Jonas Hiller. But so far, it’s hard to say Elliott’s done his part in creating success.
With the talent the Flames have up front, combined with the shots they have coming from their blue line, Calgary’s power play should be, at the very least, average for the NHL. However, the Flames’ power play currently sits dead last in the NHL, operating at a horrible 8.3 percent. Calgary hasn’t scored a power-play goal in their last six games, and has gone 0 for 15 in that period of time.
On the flip side, Calgary’s penalty kill has been just as disastrous, currently sitting 29th in the NHL at just 72.4 percent. The Flames have given up power-play goals in six of their last seven games, and it’s been a main source of the goals they allow. Eight of their last 22 goals have been given up while penalty killing, which is no doubt a heavy factor to the skid they’re on.
Calgary has been horrible when it comes to special teams, and so far they’ve been one of the largest detriments to the Flames. Unlike many of their issues regarding individual problems, this is something that does fall on head coach Glen Gulutzan, and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Their Best Players Need to Be Their Best Players
The sum of $13 million can buy a lot of things. You could buy a celebrity house, over 60 ferraris, or even rent “The Wolf of Wall Street” yacht for about two years. So when you’re spending this much money on two players, you expect them to perform. But so far, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan haven’t lived up to their salaries.
Despite being first and second in ice time among forwards, Gaudreau has the worst plus/minus on the Flames at minus-11, while Monahan falls close behind at minus-10. On the offensive side, Monahan has just five points in 14 games, while Gaudreau has only eight. As of now, both Monahan and Gaudreau are on pace for the worst season of their careers. But if the Flames want any chance of a postseason birth, Calgary’s two best forwards will need to be their two best forwards the rest of the season.
Another key player who’s gotten off to a slow start is TJ Brodie. Brodie has just two points in 14 games, and is a brutal minus-10. Brodie was arguably Calgary’s second best defenceman last year only behind captain Mark Giordano, but so far has been disappointing on the back end, to put it lightly. Calgary’s defence this season has been bad as a whole, but Brodie’s play has particularly stuck out as needing to improve.
Monahan, Gaudreau, Elliott and Brodie will need to find their game, and special teams will need to improve for the Flames to have a shot at the playoffs. Calgary has the potential and the talent, but if this skid continues for much longer, they’re only going to be digging a deeper hole to climb out of.
Ben is a journalism student at Ryerson University and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs.