New year, new resolutions, new team. That was the mindset the Calgary Flames were going for in 2014, after a less-than-stellar end to the previous year.
It has proved to be easier said than done for the team who just can’t seem to climb any higher than 28th in the league.
And it certainly hasn’t helped that some of the opponents the Flames faced in the month of January are amongst the best in the league (Penguins, Sharks, and Blackhawks just to name a few).
Still flip-flopping between starting goalies and struggling to find their offensive spark, Calgary has won only 4 of their last 14 games, and has been shut out in 3 games. The majority of those wins were decided by only one goal. The new year has dealt the team some record lows, such as back-to-back shutout losses –6-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes and 5-0 to the St. Louis Blues– and penalty-ridden games featuring line brawls and coaches going crazy. And in the middle of all of it, the Flames have managed to pick up only nine points of a potential 24.
Not to mention that the team is without a few key players due to injury like Mike Cammalleri (concussion) and Curtis Glencross (high ankle sprain).
To say the least, it’s been a pretty miserable month for the Calgary Flames.
For Flames fans, their team’s plight is now old news, and focus is shifting towards who the team should start eyeing come the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
At the rate that the Flames are going, they are slated to get a pretty high pick from the draft class. (Unfortunately, it appears that the Edmonton Oilers will get an even higher pick once again, which seems terribly unfair considering the Flames’ biggest rivals have gotten the first-overall pick three times in the last four years.)
As per midseason draft rankings, Aaron Ekblad is the current favourite to go first overall. While going with a defenceman as the first overall pick is usually a rarity, the 17-year old captain of the Barrie Colts would fit in well with the rebuilding Calgary Flames, who have yet to develop a good core of outstanding blueliners, despite the leadership of Mark Giordano.
Ekblad is a large body who can skate well, and in addition to his defensive talents, has also drawn attention to his offensive abilities.
Like every other potential first overall pick before him, the hockey world is already searching for legendary names to compare Ekblad to. So far, the name Bobby Orr has come up a few times. Not a bad comparison, one would say.
In the midst of the Flames’ struggles, rookie Sean Monahan has been a ray of light for the team. Having Ekblad join the roster would brighten the team’s future significantly. And with a couple of veteran names like Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak popping up on the trade circuit, the opportunities for more first-rounders could speed the Flames’ rebuild right along.
As frustrating as it may be to follow a team whose only consistencies are low scoring and losing, the promise of a better team ahead is beckoning the Calgary Flames.
The upcoming month will be a light one for the team, playing only five games and facing off against only one seriously scary opponent in the L.A. Kings. Whether or not the Flames will continue to struggle and slowly secure their bid for the top pick in the draft remains to be seen.
The Flames have yet to hit rock bottom, though they came dangerously close in the last few weeks. And although it’s a notion most fans would rather not entertain, there is one benefit to hitting rock bottom: from there, there’s nowhere to go but up.
Graduate of Mount Royal University’s Journalism program and a freelance sports writer from Calgary, Alberta.