Calgary Flames: Is It Time to Panic?

The Calgary Flames have had a tough go of things as of late. After starting the 2022-23 season 5-1-0, they have since gone on to win just four of their past 15 outings. It has been a very disappointing stretch for a team that had high expectations entering the year.

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There are plenty of reasons why this team isn’t performing right now, which we will dive into down below. While there is still time to get things back on track, it is starting to get to the point where you have to ask yourself, is it time to panic in Calgary?

Flames’ Not So Easy Season Struggles

While it may be easy to dismiss this team’s struggles as early-season woes, that isn’t exactly the case anymore. At 21 games played, they are already a quarter way through the 2022-23 campaign, and as of now have a rather lousy 9-9-3 record to show for it.

Darryl Sutter Head Coach of the Calgary Flames
Darryl Sutter, Head Coach of the Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Aside from that previously mentioned 5-1-0 start, there haven’t been a ton of positives for this Flames team as of yet. Their 2.86 goals per game rank 25th amongst the NHL’s 32 teams, while their 3.16 goals-against per game is right in the middle of the pack at 16th. That number is a significant drop off from a season ago, in which they averaged 2.51 goals against per game, which was good enough for third in the league.

After a red-hot start to the season for Nazem Kadri, he has failed to record a point in his last five. Meanwhile, his teammate Elias Lindholm hasn’t been at his best this season and still leads the team in scoring with 16 points in 21 games. That is quite a low total for a team that possesses the weapons they do, one being Jonathan Huberdeau, who has struggled so far with 10 points in 18 games.

Play on the back end hasn’t been a whole lot better. Rasmus Andersson started the season strong but has just one point in his past six outings. Meanwhile, MacKenzie Weegar has yet to score with his new club and has just five assists thus far.

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In net, Jacob Markstrom hasn’t seemed to have shaken the demons that plagued him during last season’s playoff performance versus the Edmonton Oilers. Coming off of a 2021-22 campaign in which he ended up as a Vezina finalist, he has an ugly 3.03 goals against average (GAA) along with a .889 save percentage (SV%). Meanwhile, his counterpart in Dan Vladar has performed better with a 2.82 GAA and a .908 SV%, but has a disappointing 1-4-1 record.

There is also the concern surrounding Oliver Kylington, who was expected to be a mainstay in the team’s top four this season. Instead, he has yet to play due to a personal matter, and a return date remains unknown. His skating ability and offensive instincts have been missed.

Flames Current Team Feels Similar to 2020-21 Roster

It is important to note that many cautioned it could take some time for this new Flames team to gel. After all, they lost their two top scorers this summer in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, and though they were able to replace them with Huberdeau and Kadri, they are still adjusting to their new surroundings. Simply put, there are plenty of reasons to believe this season can be turned around in a short time.

On the contrary, this Flames team has somewhat of a similar feel to their 2020-21 squad, one which entered the year with relatively high expectations. Playing in what was a 56-game shortened season, they didn’t have a very good start, which most believed would soon change. It never did, as inconsistent play plagued them throughout, and they finished with a 26-27-3 record, missing the playoffs entirely.

The issue that season, it seemed, was that the players treated it as though they had enough time to turn things around. Eventually, they ran out of time in what was an extremely disappointing year. If they aren’t careful, that is exactly what could happen here.

Flames’ Lineup on Paper Remains Very Strong

While there is certainly some reason for concern, the Flames entered the season as Stanley Cup favorites for a reason. On paper, they have a roster as talented as any in the NHL. If they are able to figure things out chemistry-wise and bring their best moving forward, they should be in line for success. Boding well for them is that they play in arguably the weakest division in the NHL, and currently sit just one point shy of a wild card position. That said, if they don’t get things figured out soon, that gap could widen and make things plenty more difficult. They need to turn things around, and soon.

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