Flames in 5: Consistency
Welcome to a special edition of Flames In 5, where we cover the last 5 games of the Calgary Flames and grade how they performed. This time we’ll be covering the last 10 games, where the Flames went 5-4-1. While it’s a respectable number, their Pacific division counterparts are starting to leave them in the dust.
The Calgary Flames have had an interesting start to the 2022-2023 season. Not just interesting, but streaky. From starting the season 5-1 to a 7-game losing streak, the Flames are the definition of a team that just can’t string together good games for a long period of time. Let’s look at how they fared over this stretch.
HOW IT WENT
The Flames beat some good teams during this stretch, including beating Florida twice. They also lost to both good teams and not-so-good teams. They dropped 4-1 to Tampa, 3-0 to Washington, 3-2 to Carolina, and 2-1 to…Montréal. The real issue throughout the 10-game stretch hasn’t been their record, but how they play. Games such as Montréal showed just how dominant the Flames can be when they’re at their best. Games such as Tampa showed that when they’re off their game, they look like a basement team. So, the question remains – which team is the real Calgary Flames? Contender or basement? Time will tell but they need to start making up ground, fast.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PLAYER – DAN VLADAR
The arrival of Dan Vladar has been a welcome sight. With Markstrom playing some of his worst hockey as a Flame, the team needed Vladar to step up in his absence and he has. Vladar started receiving consistent starts and has made the most of it, winning against Florida, Washington, and Arizona while keeping the game close in Carolina and Pittsburgh. Over the course of these starts he’s averaged a .930 save percentage across all games, and allowed the Flames to win more than a couple games that they didn’t deserve to win.
To begin the year, one of my breakout candidates was Dan Vladar as Sutter had publicly stated that he was going to try and start him at least once a week. Although I firmly believe that the starters net belongs to Markstrom, Vladar’s performance has challenged that notion.
LEAST IMPRESSIVE PLAYER – MILAN LUCIC
Milan Lucic is a polarizing Flames player, and honestly most of it isn’t his fault. It’s not his fault that he’s overplayed by a coach that loves size over skill. It’s not his fault that he gets elevated in the lineup to a top-6 role that he clearly isn’t suited for. Hell, it’s not even his fault that he gets paid way too much for a bottom-6 role.
The problem is that he’s just not effective even in his current role as a bottom-6 player. In his first few seasons as a Calgary Flame, he was still paid too much, but he was effective in his role as be put up decent defensive metrics.
This season is a different story. It has become clear that he’s no longer suited for that role, let alone an NHL role. He needs to be scratched for someone that can make a difference, especially with the Flames lack of scoring.
My final thoughts are a bit of philosophical. Calgary needs an identity. Last year, their identity was the top line and the team’s ability to dominate even strength play. This year, while they still control a high percentage of chances (4th league-wide) and xGF (7th league-wide), something still seems to be lacking in their approach.
While it’s still early in the season and I think this team has the potential to be much better, the clock is ticking. Their Pacific Division rivals are starting to make headway within the division. If they pick up their game too late, it might not matter in the long term.
Next 5 games: Minnesota, Columbus, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver.
All data is taken from naturalstattrick. Betting odds via Betway.