The 8-8-1 Flames have struggled through the first six weeks of a condensed season. The offseason optimism seems like a fleeting feeling at this point. Was Brad Treliving wrong to only interview Geoff Ward? Is the core a problem or is mismanagement to blame? How much time can pass before the Flames wash their hands of the season?
Mismanagement is the biggest cause for concern. Geoff Ward was officially named head coach on September 14th, 2020. In his time as head coach, the Flames have gone 24-15-3. That’s not too bad considering he was working on winning over a room, coaching in the bubble, and the lack of a starting goaltender.
The Jacob Markstrom acquisition is the single best thing that happened in the Flames’ offseason. You finally have a goaltender who can carry a workload and play at a starting goalie level. The issue isn’t Markstrom. It’s with Ward’s inability to manage his workload.
David Rittich has only appeared in 4 games, starting 3. All of which have resulted in losses. He’s an easy scapegoat when he’s riding the bench and not learning from the team in front of him. It isn’t entirely his fault. How are you going to argue that you deserve to start more when you lost your job to Cam Talbot last season and there’s a talented six million dollar goalie now.
It’s time for the coaches to implement a rotational system. Get creative. Obviously, you aren’t going to do every other game basis. The Flames are currently in the middle of a 3 games in 4 days tilt. That’s a lot of work for everyone involved. After the humiliating 5-1 loss to Vancouver, things need to be reassessed.
You have a taxi squad and AHL team for a reason. When players aren’t performing, you scratch them and slot someone in who is more than capable of doing the job. Everyone is replaceable. If Sean Monahan is out for any period of time, I believe calling Glenn Gawdwin up from Stockton would be the only reasonable option.
If there’s fresh blood you want to bring in, start there.
One of Ward’s biggest mistakes this season is playing Brett Ritchie with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. There is no reason for him to be deployed with the stars of the team. He has appeared in two Flames games this season after not playing in the NHL for over a year.
Ritchie is not the player you want to be sending out there on a 4v4. He is not effective and has given Ward no sign of life to be out there. Why is Sam Bennett playing on the fourth line with Milan Lucic and Bryan Frose?
Sam Bennett. Sam Bennett was blindsided with a scratch against the Winnipeg Jets. Ward didn’t tell him personally. He found out through a piece of paper in the locker room.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Bennett told reporters. “I walked in and I was on the taxi squad and not dressing with the team, not skating with the team.”
Ward said he was using this as an opportunity to get some fresh blood in the lineup. Where is this mentality now? You have players who are generating turnover after turnover and proving to be nothing besides a liability. You could use the argument that Bennett has 9 giveaways this season but at the same time, there are defensemen who are putting up double digits still seeing the ice every night.
Matthew Tkachuk has been in a slump since the Jake Muzzin incident. I guess getting a puck thrown at you can rattle you. He’s been chasing his 100th career goal for about two weeks now and the pressure is on. The instigator we knew has been nowhere to be found. He leads the team with ( 10 ) penalty minutes and has tallied 10 points. He may be considered a ghost or phantom right now but he is still generating shots on net. He’s averaging about 3 per night which shows his confidence isn’t completely gone.
Tkachuk spoke with the media Saturday morning and puts a lot of pressure on himself, “It starts tonight and I’m prepared to do whatever I can. For me personally, I’ve got to get going. All the pressure should be on me to perform. It shouldn’t be on anyone else. I haven’t been at my best and it’s time to get going and help this team get some wins. I haven’t performed the way I’d like personally, so all the pressure should be on me to try to provide emotion from the drop of the puck tonight.”
The issue isn’t the players not giving a damn or wanting to be elsewhere. It comes back to the leaders. Is Mark Giordano doing enough as a captain? Why aren’t we seeing him talk about accountability? Is Ward truly holding the room or has he already lost it? There are so many questions when it comes to the Flames and the best thing they can do is give us answers.
Fundamentals, accountability, and teamwork. Let’s bring it back.