wow this team is so good and now they’re not? what’s up with that.

I’m literally writing this on the toilet.

I think the biggest struggle the Flames had in the offseason wasn’t making moves, drafting well, growing as individuals (and as a team), or even finding ways to avoid the dreaded regression we all became aware of. It wasn’t any of that, in fact the biggest hurdle was living up to expectations imposed by media, both local and national. Included and not to be forgotten in any regard is the fan expectation that they be playoff capable and improve.

It’s the assumption by many sports minds (obviously neglecting logic and fact) that the way the team played last season was a recipe for any repeatable success. However, there is always the possibility they could overcome obstacles while not adjusting. That chance now should be proven to be impossible. And to be very clear, I’m frustrated with the players and how they’re playing but I’m more frustrated with Bob Hartley and his coaching staff. A group of individuals I have long since doubted for their abilities to actually adapt and learn. Again, it’s not personal, I’m sure they’re all nice men but they’re bad at their jobs. We’re going to circle back to this later.

The Flames so far this season
The Flames so far this season

The players, the ones you would count on to be great are bad right now. There are limited exceptions from game to game that standout. Tonight was Johnny Gaudreau; on Saturday it was Backlund, Frolik, Kulak, and hell even Engelland. Giordano is turd city besides a goal tonight. His partner, new Flame Dougie Hamilton is having immense issues in the defensive zone and the neutral zone. Always beloved but always awful trash twins Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman are playing like they belong in the ECHL. Rookie Brett Kulak has growing pains (tonight showed) and his partner is a barely capable replacement-level defenseman named Deryk Engelland.

And we haven’t even discussed the forward group yet, a forward group who is capable enough for the NHL (minus one exception) and yet cannot fully piece it together. Sean Monahan’s inability to play capable hockey in the defensive zone is approaching concerning levels, even if he’s had two seasons of hockey under his belt. Underlying numbers from last season suggests he is a drag on shot attempt generation too. His play overall this season might be more nauseating than most players on this team, though his hair is immaculate.

Johnny Gaudreau is the only bright spot on a top line that exceeded all expectations last season (again a core concern I have). Father figure Jiri Hudler isn’t his regular self either. Rookie Sam Bennett is receiving unfair levels of criticism about his game when he isn’t the worst guy out there. A rookie who is still finding his game at the NHL level will take time. Assuming he will just turn it on like previous rookies is incredibly ignorant.

Mikael Backlund, who was relegated to the toilet of the roster after a slow start has improved, but even as an unabashed fan I feel he can pick up a bit more. Though, I think given his time with Frolik, he will get to that point. On the topic of Michael Frolik,  he is easily the best forward of the early season and it shows so far. He is worth every dollar the Flames tossed at him and he is going to make others better. Down the roster it’s just a perpetual clogged up shitter of disappointment. Between the waiving of Paul Byron to the not so surprising love affair with Brandon Bollig to the player usage through games one to four is just honest to Gord shit. And it’s all on one guy’s shoulders right now, where it should be: Bob “Jack Adams” Hartley.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like him or his coaching style. I’ll be the first to admit he is also a good motivator. I’ll even go so far as saying he is an NHL coach. But, this is pushing everyone to the limit. Die-hard, stay positive fans that are super defensive of the coot are having issues with his decisions and inability to fix things. Critics, like myself who have beaten the drum about his style and methodology are losing their minds.

You got the dud!
You got the dud!

There is no chance this team is playoff bound if they keep playing this way. It’s easy to say that, but it’s also a systems issue. Hartley is utilizing the same systems from previous years and they’re not working anymore. Shooting an incredibly above-average amount in the third period dried up as expected. Having illogical shooting percentages magically disappeared. Being outshot all the time is again proving a problem for the team as expected. Not finding a way to generate shot attempts is a problem still and its impact is showing as expected. Using a stretch pass WAY TOO FUCKING MUCH isn’t going to fix this. Playing Kris Rusell and Dennis Wideman like they’re top pairing guys — hell top four defensemen isn’t helping.

The list goes on and on and on. It is just phenomenal at the ineptitude involved with all of this. And then you get shit like Hartley’s post-game quotes speak volumes about how lost in the woods everyone is about of it:

 


 

Like, are you fucking serious? Wow, it’s like reading a fucking Sun Tsu book on coaching.

And TJ Brodie isn’t going to fix it when he comes back. Sure, he’ll make a defensive impact and hopeful impact offensively for the team. Nor will playing Joni Ortio, a goalie who in reality has a ceiling very similar to Karri Ramo. That’s not to say he can’t prove folks wrong, but everything about him, like Ramo screams backup. Goaltending is a tire fire right now, but alternating goalies won’t fix it. I’ve been pro-Hiller since he joined the team and the likelihood of him being your guy is still there.

Here’s the main thing to wrap this rant up with:

HARTLEYYYY
lol i’m bob fartley

You go out, get yourself a decent defenseman (hell decent is underselling what Hamilton is, though he isn’t playing that way right now) and a solid top-nine winger to improve a team this summer. You go into the draft, blow everyone’s minds by drafting not one but two top quality prospects in the second round. You even go so far as drafting a few other gems too then showcase the fuck out of them in Penticton. Then you go into the preseason, lose your second best defenseman to injury before the season, and then continue the same trends as last season only to realize it’s not working out. BUT, and here’s the key thing to remember here, you absolutely with no doubt in your mind refuse the opportunity to adapt and actually improve.

It’s migraine inducing, guys. You’re going to see guys write wax poetics about Lance Bouma’s absence now, claiming he could have fixed it. Hell we might actually see a Smid poetic any day now. All while the writers and such gloss over the obvious issues because they don’t want to change their stories now.

Now my legs are asleep and I need to get off this toilet and go eat some leftover pizza.

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