It is hard to think of an offseason in recent memory where Calgary Flames fans are as frustrated as they were this summer. The lack of change to this team’s core has been discussed at a constant and has many believing this organization is doing nothing other than spinning its tires.
Even the most positive Flames fans are aware that a big chunk of the fan base is not happy. What no one likely would have expected, however, was that this fan base is currently one of the least optimistic about the state of their team throughout the entire NHL.
According to an article written by Sean Gentille of The Athletic, the Flames fan base ranks 31 out of all 32 teams in terms of fan optimism heading into the 2021-22 season. (from “Sean Gentille: NHL Hope-O-Meter results: Ranking fans’ optimism for all 32 NHL teams,” The Athletic 10/08/21). Of all Flames fans who responded to the survey, just 18.6% said they were optimistic heading into this season. This research was conducted by a poll answered by over 10,000 fans, which certainly doesn’t cover the entire hockey world but is a good sample size nonetheless.
Fan Base Optimism Review
While the Flames spot on this list may seem low, even to the most upset of fans, it is hard to argue given that the rest looks entirely accurate. For example, the Buffalo Sabres came in last on the list, which makes a ton of sense given their current disfunction. At the top of the list is the Florida Panthers, which is reasonable given their significant improvements over the past few seasons, while the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are coming off of back-to-back Stanley Cup wins, is in second.
As for divisional rivals, the Edmonton Oilers lead at seventh in the entire league, with a percentage of 92.6. Again, this seems to make sense given that their general manager in Ken Holland made several big changes this offseason, the most notable being the signing of Zach Hyman. The next optimistic fan base in the Pacific Division appears to be that of the Los Angeles Kings, with a percentage of 89.6. The Vegas Golden Knights appear soon after, as do the Seattle Kraken. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks come near the end of the list, just slightly above the Flames.
Flames Have Talent
Before anyone gets too worked up here, it is important to realize that this list has nothing to do with standings or any predictions on the outcome of the 2021-22 season. It is simply just related to how happy or unhappy fan bases are feeling. Of course, the better the team, the happier the fan base, which explains why most teams near the top of this list are some of the league’s best.
Just because the Flames came 31st on this list does not mean they will finish 31st in the standings. In fact, they stand a good chance at getting back into the playoffs this season. However, it is very indicative of how tired they are of this organization trying to do the same thing repeatedly with no success.
Sure, getting back into the playoffs may change some fans’ perspectives. Still, if it results in yet another first-round playoff exit, it is hard to imagine the majority of the fanbase being happy with the direction the franchise is going.
How the Flames can Change the Perspective
If general manager Brad Treliving wanted to make this fan base more optimistic, he would have had to make some serious changes this offseason. That likely would have involved trading at least one player from the current core and bringing in a high-profile player, one like Jack Eichel, for example. In his defense, it was confirmed recently by Elliotte Friedman that he tried to make that happen, but at the end of the day, fans don’t want to hear that he is “trying.”
As mentioned, if this team can make the playoffs in 2021-22, that may appease a small portion of the fan base. However, if they are to miss for a second straight season or are eliminated from the playoffs early, the only thing that would make the majority of fans happy at that point would be to either make a big trade or blow things up entirely and head into a rebuild.
No one ever wants to rebuild, as it can result in years of frustration. However, for this organization, it would at least give them a sense of direction. That is something that has been missing for far too long. Clearly, fans agree, as they are as upset as they have been in some time heading into 2021-22 and want to see some change. Until that happens, their perspective will remain the same.
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.