After a disappointing month of December which suffered a big blow to the Calgary Flames’ playoff hopes, a wake-up call of some sort needs to be made.
At the end of November, life seemed good for the Calgary Flames. They were third in the Pacific Division, Mike Smith was stealing games left and right and Johnny Gaudreau was third in NHL scoring with some thinking he could contend for the Art Ross Trophy. Gaudreau’s fall from 3rd to 13th in the scoring race acts as a metaphor for the Flames performance in December. Lackluster execution. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just Gaudreau, it’s everyone.
The Calgary Flames now find themselves 3 points out of a wild card spot and have some tough teams to pass in order to get into that position. Concern is creeping in fast. Talk of coach firings and blockbuster trades are swirling around the team, and rightfully so in my opinion. Let’s take a look at what I think would be the best move.
Glen Gulutzan is officially in the hot-seat as coach of the Flames. I’ve seen many fans calling for his head lately and while it does seem tempting, I think it may be an unwarranted knee-jerk reaction. For now. If the team keeps losing, the GM will either have to give him the dreaded vote of confidence or cut him loose.
I, like many, am frustrated by Gulutzan’s questionable choices for line matchups and special teams (and his post-game interviews). I am just worried about the quality, or lack thereof, of his successor. If the team can find a mid-season replacement who is better than Gulutzan, then I am all for it. I am just not sure they can find one 40 games into the year, as opposed to the offseason. That being said, just look at the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who did exactly that.
I think it’s safe to say that we collectively pull our hair out everytime the team gets a man advantage. The Flames are 20th in PP%, and quickly slipping with only 4 goals in their last 63 powerplays. I don’t know if I have ever seen a more predictable PP unit than the Flames. It has an odd effect as it seems everytime they waste another powerplay opportunity, momentum and energy shifts to the opposing team. A big reason it has suffered is the absence of Kris Versteeg due to injury, but nobody could have predicted this big of a struggle solely due to them missing one player. You have to appreciate the effort by the coaching staff in trying to shake up both units, but it’s not enough. The two options are a coaching staff change, which we talked about, or a roster change.
It’s no secret the Flames are in the market for a scoring winger who could bolster the ailing powerplay. Mike Hoffman and Evander Kane are the two leading candidates and would be welcome additions. Kane is a riskier option because he is a UFA this upcoming offseason, but he can definitely put the puck in the net. Hoffman is the better option as he can play on the 3rd or 4th line, but also deliver a deadly shot on the 1st unit powerplay. Kane would need first or second line minutes. Curiously, Calgary has been mentioned around neither Kane or Hoffman. Hey, you never know. Dougie Hamilton’s name wasn’t being thrown around with the Flames and that happened.
An AHL Call-Up
Calgary has an excellent prospect pool with an abundance of talented players to choose from for a call-up. Just look at Mark Jankowski for proof. Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson, Hunter Shinkaruk and Emile Poirier come to mind. An injection of energy with young legs could prove to be very beneficial for the Flames. Who knows, there might even be a diamond in the rough. If the losses continue, give the kids a shot.
If one thing is clear, it’s that the Calgary Flames need to alter something. Whether it’s big or small, an adjustment would only help the team. This is not a playoff roster, and certainly not a cup contending one. If the results aren’t coming, changes certainly will.