For the Calgary Flames, the 2020-21 season has been one that most of their players will soon like to look past if they can’t turn things around quickly. In the offseason, the team made some convincing acquisitions after their disappointing end to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, but they’ve continued to trend in the wrong direction this season. They now find themselves on the outside with only 16 games remaining.
The Flames have now dropped four straight contests, and their hopes of making the playoffs have almost sailed away. Due to a recent scheduling change, the club won’t play until Saturday now, meaning they will have four days off in between games. Stepping away from the rink and getting back to spending time with their families or enjoying some days off alone could be exactly what the team needs right now to bring back some positivity to their game.
Not Getting Results
There has been much speculation recently about who on the Flames could be playing hurt or if players truly are having a difficult year. Sean Monahan has struggled this season with only three even-strength goals, and Jacob Markstrom hasn’t looked the same since his collision with former teammate Tanner Pearson. For Monahan, it could just be an off-year, but regardless, it’s likely impacting the team’s decision on if he’ll be in the fold next season.
The club hasn’t come close to the expectations that management had set when they made their offseason adjustments, despite developing a roster with an abundance of skilled players who should have more to show for it at this point in the season, both individually and as a group. Instead, the team is facing the reality that playoffs could be too far out of reach and that changes will likely be made soon.
Flames’ head coach Darryl Sutter was very blunt about his current roster after the team dropped their eighth game in their last nine attempts on Monday at the Saddledome. “We don’t have a 30-goal scorer and we don’t have a 40-goal scorer in today’s game,” said Sutter.
How Close Are They?
One thing I’ve noticed throughout the NHL this season is how each team is staying connected, especially on the road. Many teams have found ways to keep their fans and players connected by hosting Zoom calls on their phones, and having fans ask questions. Other teams have been playing interactive games with the help of their phones, which seems to capture the lighter side of being away from their home city, and always seems to generate laughter. Some have even started their own social accounts where they show their life outside of hockey to try and bring fans closer.
Players have probably felt the pressure of being stuck inside a hotel room, but I’ve noticed that the Flames haven’t really shown a lot of their personal side this season with the fans, and in a season where Calgary faithful aren’t in the building, I wonder if the players are hurting from the disconnect of not feeling close with the fans.
It’s hard to fault the players or the team when everyone else in the league is dealing with the pressure and anxiety of not being able to leave their hotel rooms much while on the road, but I would like to see the players show us that they are a tight-knit group, rather than just repeating a narrative. It will be interesting to see how the Flames continue to try and become a closer team in such a difficult time where players aren’t allowed to visit each other in their hotel rooms.
Rest for the Wicked
Whether this team does get hot in their final 16 games or not, these four days off from game action could be beneficial for the Flames. The team has shown obvious signs of dejection when things seem to go wrong, as recently they tend to get down on themselves when even the smallest deficit shows on the scoreboard. This team needs to find a way to use this time away from the rink and change their approach when it’s time to return to it.
No matter how this turbulent season will end for Calgary, the time away from game action should give the players an opportunity to reset their focus and give anyone who is hurting some much-needed maintenance days. Although the team will still be practicing, some rest and relaxation could still serve a strong purpose. The Flames turn their focus to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, a game you’d expect both teams to put on a good show no matter where they are in the standings.