Calgary Flames fans have had to temper their expectations through the first quarter of the 2022-23 season, as their team has gotten off to a disappointing 12-10-3 record. It was far from the start anyone had envisioned, as they entered the year being considered Stanley Cup contenders. The good news, however, is that there is still plenty of time left, though they will have to figure things out sooner than later.
As for why they have struggled, there is a huge list of reasons. Few individuals on this roster have played up to their potential thus far, which is recipe for disaster on any team. It isn’t something fans are used to with this group, as it seemed everybody had a career year, or very close to it, just a season ago. With all that said, however, here are the five biggest disappointments for this team through their first 25 games.
Huberdeau Having Tough Time Finding Chemistry
Though the Flames lost their 115-point scorer from a season prior in Johnny Gaudreau, they were able to quickly replace him with Jonathan Huberdeau, who oddly enough happened to have the exact same 115 points in 2021-22 himself. Thanks to that great season, along with several other outstanding ones years prior, he was given an eight-year, $84 million extension from general manager Brad Treliving.
While it is still too early to panic, things haven’t worked out as planned thus far. Through 23 games, he has just four goals and 16 points, totals far lower than anyone would have expected prior to the season beginning. That said, it can’t be easy to adjust to a new city after spending the first 10 seasons of your career with the same organization. He should figure things out soon enough, but his start has been far from ideal.
Sutter’s Stubbornness Becoming an Issue
While wins ultimately come down to the way the players on the ice perform, head coach Darryl Sutter hasn’t helped. The reigning Jack Adams Award winner has been ridiculously stubborn, failing to make the changes necessary to help give his team a better chance in games. A perfect example comes from his usage of Milan Lucic, a player who has yet to be healthy scratched this season despite having not scored a single goal. In fact, he hasn’t scored in his last 47 games dating back to 2021-22, and 59 overall if you include playoffs.
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On a Flames team that has struggled to find the back of the net as a group this season, there is no reason why a player on the farm such as Matthew Phillips hasn’t gotten an opportunity yet. That said, Sutter seemed to dismiss the notion entirely when asked about giving the 24-year-old a shot, proving that he is being far too stubborn right now. That will have to change moving forward.
Markstrom Struggling to Regain Form
The 2021-22 season wasn’t just Jacob Markstrom’s best as a Flame, but the best of his NHL career. The Swedish netminder led all goaltenders with nine shutouts last season, while also recording a very stellar 2.22 goals against average (GAA), paired with a .922 save percentage (SV%) in 63 outings. To no one’s surprise, the great season earned him his first-ever Vezina Trophy finalist nomination.
The expectation was that Markstrom would pick right back up where he left off, but that hasn’t been the case. He has struggled to the tune of a 2.97 GAA and a .889 SV% through 17 games, and as a result of those struggles has seen plenty of time on the bench as of late. While there is still plenty of time to right the ship, you have to wonder if his postseason struggles against the Edmonton Oilers have him doubting himself.
Weegar’s Presence Yet to Be Felt
One of the other big Flames acquisitions this offseason was that of MacKenzie Weegar, who was acquired alongside Huberdeau from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk. He was expected by many to make an immediate impact on the back end, particularly on the offensive side of things, after registering a career-best 44 points last season.
Early on, that has not been the case, as the 28-year-old is goalless with just six assists through 25 games. He looks far from the player that finished top 15 in Norris Trophy voting in each of the past two seasons, as he too has struggled to fit in with his new club. Perhaps going from a team who played more of a run-and-gun system to one with a more defensive-minded approach has him gripping the stick a little too tight right now.
Mangiapane in a Funk
It seems that Andrew Mangiapane has improved at a rapid rate each and every season since making his NHL debut. That is, until this season. After flying out of the gate to begin the 2021-22 campaign and finishing with an extremely impressive 35 goals, he has been far less effective in 2022-23.
Through his first 25 outings of the season, ‘Bread Man’ has just six goals and 11 points. It’s certainly been a disappointing start for a player who is very valuable to this team, though the good news is that he has always been very streaky. It shouldn’t surprise anyone at all if he is able to heat up in the near future.
Playoffs Remain In Reach
While there certainly have been some disappointments to this point in the 2022-23 season, the good news for the Flames is that the playoffs are still very much a possibility. Even with their subpar play thus far, they sit just three points shy of the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific Division, and are tied with the Colorado Avalanche points-wise for the final wild card position in the Western Conference. Assuming they get back on track soon, they should have no problem moving up several spots in the standings given how tight things are right now.
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Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.