If you’re a Calgary Flames fan, there are not many things to be unhappy about in 2021-22. Expectations for this team were very low after a terrible 2020-21 campaign that saw them fail to make the playoffs. However, several players’ bounce-back years have led to much more success.
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Although the team’s improvement is encouraging, it was clear last week that they still have some work to do before being considered a Stanley Cup contender. The schedule for the Flames’ game last week would have shown that they had a lot of work ahead of them, with three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes. It is clear that this team is not among the elite.
In all three of their contests, they were defeated quite easily. They were defeated 6-2 by the Panthers. The Lightning won 4-1, followed by the Hurricanes, who won 6-3. The Lightning game could have gone a lot worse. The Flames were relentless throughout the night and lost far too many scoring opportunities. If it wasn’t for some big saves by Dan Vladar, the score could have been much uglier than it was.
Improvements in Flames Areas
One thing that many fans noticed was how out of sync the Flames’ bottom-six forward group looked compared to the teams they were playing. All three teams that they faced this week had great depth. That is what makes great teams. The Panthers are perhaps the most notable example, with several players in the bottom six who can produce secondary offense, something that the Flames sadly lack.
Frank Vatrano, for example, who is currently playing on the Panthers’ third line on the left side, is on pace for 20 goals this season and scored 18 in just 56 games a season prior. Patric Hornqvist is playing on the right-side of the fourth line. Despite his short time, he still has 17 goals and 41 points.
For comparison’s sake, four bottom six players on the Flames, Treliving either brought in or re-signed this season in Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis, Tyler Pitlick and Brett Ritchie, have combined for just 13 points on the year. This shows that the team is winning despite the changes Treliving made in his forward group and not because of them. This begs the question many people asked in the preseason: Why don’t they give their youth a chance?
Stockton Talent available
If the Flames want to try and match the talent on other teams’ bottom lines, they have young talent in the waiting in Stockton. One that springs to mind Matthew Phillips is the right person to call immediatelyAlthough he has played nearly every game in the American Hockey League (AHL), he has only one NHL game. Jakob Pelletier is another, despite only being 20 years old, and has scored 31 points in 29 games this year.
Glenn Gawdin is another member of the team, but he was not able to make it out of camp.Stockton reassignedHe was able to return to the team shortly thereafter. He has a record of 10 goals and 26 points in 27 games this season with the Heat. The final option is Adam Ruzicka, who was able to suit up in the Flames’ most recent game against the Canes but has since been reassigned to the taxi squad. His combination of skill and size makes him a worthy candidate for a larger look in 2021-22.
Though Sutter clearly likes his veteran players in guys like Richardson, Lewis, Pitlick and Ritchie, it is clear that they lack skill when compared to the elite team’s bottom-six forwards. Treliving might make a trade in order to help. However, it would be wise to first check if there are any solutions within the company.
In defence of both Vladar and Jacob Markstrom these past three games, they didn’t have a whole lot of help. But it was troubling to see Vladar be forced to take back-toback starts against Markstrom’s Lightning and Hurricanes. This raises the question of whether the Flames should look into adding goaltending depth to their team ahead of the trade deadline. Markstrom is expected to be out of action in the near future. Vladar’s play has been solid this season.
If the Flames want to take this route, there are many goaltenders who are available at a fraction of the cost. most notable being Joonas KorpisaloFrom the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are trying to get Korpisalo moved before the deadline, with Elvis Merzlikins as their number one. Given the fact he is a pending unrestricted free agent, paired with him having a rough start to the season, he wouldn’t cost much to acquire and may be worth considering.
It’s time to go all in
No matter what Treliving does to help his team, he must make adjustments and give the roster every opportunity for a deep playoff run. We’ve seen him be far too conservative many times. That needs to change this year. Johnny Gaudreau, his top forward, is not signed to a contract for next season. This should be the year that the Flames go all-in and attempt to win the championship.
Colton Pankiw, a former Jr. A hockey player, now shares his knowledge through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed journalist for the Calgary Flames and also writes features about other teams within the league. He also contributes writing to: Oil on Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com?, Markerzone.com. Colton is also co-host of both Oilers Overtime Flames faceoff podcasts. He can also be reached for content and interview requests. Twitter. You can see his work here.