After a very solid start to the 2021-22 season, the Calgary Flames have hit a massive rut. Not only have they lost four straight, but they have picked up wins in just two of their previous 10 games and have gotten outplayed badly in several of those contests.
The fans, who were starting to come around and believe in this team after a bad 2020-21 season, are frustrated. The head coach in Darryl Sutter is frustrated. The players are claiming to be frustrated and likely are, though their play on the ice has appeared to show a level of disinterest as of late. It is starting to become a legitimate concern given how they looked a season prior.
Flames Reverting Back to 2020-21
It’s one thing to lose games simply due to a lack of talent. The thing fans want to see is hard work. The same can be said of Sutter, who has been known to get the most out of his teams throughout his lengthy coaching career. He, too, is concerned with some of the things he sees from his team, indicating how real the issue is.
“The big thing is with our team, I’d like to get in some sort of rhythm of playing games,” Sutter said after his team dropped their fourth straight game to the Ottawa Senators last Thursday. “I don’t think there’s enough disappointment when they lose and just not enough emotion in our game right now.
“We’ve got some guys that are on the ice for too many goals against the last little, which is a concern. I just think the emotional level of our group has been lacking for a period of time now.”
While Sutter has been known to use the media to get a spark out of his team in the past, these comments are still very concerning. The fact that he believes his team isn’t disappointed enough after losing games suggests that the level of care is not where it needs to be, especially for a team that has dropped out of a playoff spot due to this skid. It is baffling to think that any professional sports team would lack emotion, but it is hard to argue with Sutter’s evaluation based on their play as of late.
The most concerning of this is that it is eerily similar to how they played in 2020-21. Oftentimes, it appeared they were not invested in games. Clearly, they had enough talent to win but were often getting outworked. Everyone assumed that Sutter had fixed that problem with the start they had this season, but as of late, it appears that the lack of emotion is creeping back into their game.
Where Do the Problems Lie?
Perhaps the Flames are just in a rut and can turn things around, possibly even as soon as their next game on Tuesday versus the Florida Panthers. If this skid continues much longer, however, there will be some serious questions as to what is wrong with this group. It obviously cannot be blamed on coaching, given that they just fired Geoff Ward last season for this very same reason.
If not for the coaching, though, what is it? Could it be an issue in the dressing room? Some may remember, but last season, former Flame Rhett Warrener made it clear he believed the problem to be exactly that.
“There is something wrong in that room, and we should just say it,” Warrener said on Fan 960. “That room’s terrible. Don’t tell me that you’re a good room. Don’t tell me that. If that’s a good room, and that’s how you play for each other, then I’m glad I’m not a part of that.”
Some will disagree with that notion, given that last season, the Flames had who most considered to be a great leader in Mark Giordano, while also having several well-respected veterans, the most notable being Milan Lucic. Still, it is hard to not at the very least consider Warrener’s sentiment, given the fact that no one can seem to explain why it is this team lacks emotion.
Treliving Has Opportunity to Improve the Room
Despite the struggles as of late, the Flames sit just four points shy of the San Jose Sharks for the final wild card position in the Western Conference while also having a massive six games in hand. To put it simply, they are still well within striking distance of a playoff spot, and it is expected of them to regain one. With their best player in Johnny Gaudreau set to become a free agent this summer, general manager Brad Treliving needs to put this team in a position to go on a run. Adding some skilled veteran players into the mix ahead of the trade deadline could go a long way in helping them do just that.
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.