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Is There Still Hope For the 2023-2024 Calgary Flames?

November 15, 2023, 4:06 PM ET [27 Comments]
Trevor Neufeld
Calgary Flames Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
How worried are you about Calgary’s 5-8-2 start?

Simple at first taste, but a question palettes in a way that could draw hours of discussion from even the most moderate follower of the team.

Calgary is still three wins below .500 following last night’s clash with the 7-6-2 Montreal Canadiens. A record like that from what the organization expected to be a Contender should be voice for some concern — but is there? Have you spoken to a Calgary fan who is upset beyond mild disappointment about this slow start?

Perhaps it was the seemingly endless sequence of back-breaking losses during the 2022-2023 Regular Season. Wins would only served as a mechanism to build up hope before being dashed by some combination of lost leads, overtime goals against and locker room drama.

The 2023-2024 Calgary Flames aren’t that. They’ve even been fun to watch when they lose aside from stinkers against Detroit, Edmonton, St. Louis and Ottawa.

Perhaps one reason for the lack of doom & gloom among the fanbase is the progress.

Last April President and CEO of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation John Bean and President of Hockey Operations Don Maloney took to a press table with the intent of addressing the media following General Manager Brad Treliving’s departure. What resulted was a barrage of affirmations and reiterations as they addressed questions from the media regarding team direction. One line dropped by John Bean gained big time traction.

When asked about a potential overhaul? John responded with this:
“You used the word not me, I’m not allowed to ever use the word ‘rebuild.’”

Whether the dreaded R-word is still banned within Saddledome walls is unconfirmed, but like it or not, the C-word has found it’s way into the picture.

That word of course is “Change”.

The Change Movement has been led by two early-season surprises. Contributing on both goals last night was Connor Zary who now has six points in six games. The 22 year old has been Calgary’s most productive forward since joining the team for November 1st’s 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars. A game where The Saskatoon Sniper scored on his first shot and could have potted three with better luck.

Not to be forgotten, Martin Pospisil kept pace with an assist of his own last night. The fiery Czech now has two goals and two assists in five games. All of those have been important points too. The 23 year old Czech answered back quickly to get the game tied up in the first period of the 6-3 win over Seattle. He tied the game 4-4 against Toronto. In a game where most of the team showed up flat against Ottawa at the end of a back-to-back? The former Sioux City Musketeer helped tie the game up with a back-door assist on top of registering six hits.

Last night was no different. Pospisil got a secondary assist on Zary’s game winner. A Marc Savard set-play making it’s debut at the Forum.

Speaking of.

Something to Watch
That set play was started with a clean win off the faceoff back to the left defenceman. MacKenzie Weegar was that defenceman this time. The puck then heads to the right point (Rasmus Andersson last night) and starts to draw the defence out with east-west passes along the right side to an available forward. This time that forward was Martin Pospisil. The two relay the puck until the right defence has dropped low enough to find a back door pass to the middle. Zary sunk the back door pass and a 2-1 lead was born.

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Here it is in action.

A couple more notes on the game, as well as the direction of the team.

Moving Forward
It could be that the Flames have already turned a corner. A 20-18 goal differential in November to go with a 3-2-1 record is indisputably better than a 2-6-1, 19-33 differential in October. Their points percentage through six games this month is .583. Good for seventh place in the Western Conference. If they maintain that percentage through the rest of their games they’ll finish with 90 points.

Nothing is assured, but if the team can avoid extended losing streaks and keep improving? There may yet be hope for the 2023-2024 campaign.

Adjusting Style
Against the Canadiens, we got to see another factor introducing itself: aggressive defensive zone exits. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a self-promoted selling point upon Ryan Huska’s appointment to the Head Coach position in Calgary.

Fun aspects to the game such as more odd man rushes, stretch passes and the aforementioned offensive zone set play all made their first appearances of the season in their 2-1 win over the Habs. Is it kind of sad that we’re celebrating odd man rushes once again being part of the Calgary Flames experience? Yes and no. Yes, it’s sad. No, it’s no longer sad because they’re nice again part of the experience. Even if it’s just a one-game sample. A glimmer of hope. A fire in the light. A reason to look forward to the next game.

Never a Doubt
It was encouraging to see Jacob Markstrom turn in a strong performance after taking two games off with an undisclosed ailment.

The Gavle, Sweden native posted a season high .971 save percentage stopping 34 of 35 shots.

We circle back to the original question proposed. The fun part about the 2023-2024 season to date is that there really isn’t a wrong answer. You’re justified in being jaded and just wanting a rebuild. You also won’t be judged too harshly if you like the progress the team has recently shown under Ryan Huska. You’re even allowed to have no opinion on team direction and simply enjoy the games for what they are.

Where do you stand on the issue? How worried are you about Calgary’s 5-8-2 start?


Trevor Neufeld


@Trevor_Neufeld


Stats courtesy of naturalstattrick.com, ESPN.com and nhl.com. Play draw-up graphic courtesy of icehockeysystems.com.
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