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Calgary Flames

Wednesday Wailings: Mikael Backlund and Hartley’s True Colours

With injuries piling up, one would think it a fine time to showcase some young talent. Goaltenders and Monahan excluded, this hasn't been the case. Should Flames fans brace for the same old, same old?



The season started with a bang.

Sean Monahan had a hot start. Jiri Hudler, points in 9 straight games. Mark Giordano was on fire – Canadian National Team murmurs abound. Karri Ramo was putting up nice EVSV% numbers against stiff competition. The Calgary Flames jumped out to a 3-0-2 start.

Safe to say the honeymoon period is over as the club has cooled considerably and is playing much closer to the kind of record most were expecting going 3-7 in their last 10 and giving up 4 or more goals in 5 of the last 7 games.

The injuries are mounting and Bob Hartley is choosing to sit some of the teams best young talent. Add to that a lazy effort last night in Minnesota and it's starting to look like not much has changed.

On Backlund

Hartley wants to see more offense out of Mikael Backlund.

That’s fine. I think it’s safe to say we all would like that. That notion came from Bob Hartley following Backlund being a healthy scratch against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Since that time, Hartley has given Backlund an average of right about 10 minutes of ice time. MORE OFFENSE.

Barely double digits in ice time, and, with the likes of Brian McGrattan and Lance Bouma as linemates. MORE OFFENSE.

The Flames barely have a legitimate NHL centre on their roster and the one player who might be able to rise above and become a decent top 6er is being given the tough love treatment.

The benching is not even warranted. Backlund is being given a 41.2% OZone start and playing tough competition while still producing a positive ES corsi rate and sitting with the top RelCorsi% of the team's forwards. MORE OFFENSE.

These are the types of questionable coaching decisions we've been used to with Jim Playfair, Mike Keenan and Brent Sutter.

Did someone say meritocracy?

Bob Hartley, Head Coach of the "Rebuilding"(?) Calgary Flames

It appears we've been right all along to question the actual integrity of the "rebuild" here in Calgary. Jay Feaster admitted at the end of last season that they would be doing just that, but that they expected it to be a short one.

Hartley benches the youngsters and gives his vets all the rope they can possibly handle. The argument there is that they've "earned" that right.

They've "earned" the right to coast? Hasn't that been one of the big problems of this club since "Big D" stepped down?

Hartley isn't coaching a rebuild. He's trying to coach a bottom-5 team into the playoffs.

We're talking about a team with not a single top line forward, top line defenseman or number 1 goaltender. In fact, there's not a goalie on the roster capable of putting up league-average numbers.

It's becoming more and more worrisome as the year progresses that not everyone is on the same page; one of either in the organization between Hartley and Jay Feaster, or the expectations of the organization and the expectations of the fan base.

With every passing loss and every new benching I just keep waiting for the announcement that the club has given up on one of these talented youngsters in exchange for experience in the room or more size and toughness.

Outside of maybe Sean Monahan (wait and see), there is not a single elite young player or prospect that this club can build around and it is certainly not time to prepare for a short rebuild. The team hasn’t even hit rock bottom yet. This should be the beginning, the time to start feeling out your team and looking for more opportunities to add youth to your club – not expose and alienate them.

I must sound like a broken record.

It felt new to start the season. It felt like the club was really moving towards creating a new regime and a new culture. But, as things progress, the old ways that got this franchise into so much trouble keep creeping in over and over again.

The cautious optimism I was feeling for the first month is slowly eroding to the old blind hope once again.

Surely this organization doesn't actually think that one decent stockpile draft has prompted a swift turnaround?

by Scott