It’s not time to panic, but the Calgary Flames look sure looked like a team that lost some significant pieces this offseason.
That’s not to say they won’t be better in the long run. However, if anyone was expecting the new-look Flames to shoot out of the gate with sticks on fire, prepare for the slow burn.
Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk had a rare chemistry you can’t recreate in a matter of weeks. It doesn’t matter how good Jonathan Huberdeau is — even if he’s maybe the best passer the franchise has ever had, as head coach Darryl Sutter suggests.
That was obvious again on Wednesday night as the Flames dropped a 5-0 decision on the road against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets’ top line was impressive. Kyle Connor finished with a pair of goals, Nikolaj Ehlers led the way with a goal and two helpers, and Mark Scheifele scored one as well.
The Flames’ top trio of Huberdeau, Lindholm and — for now — Tyler Toffolli was blanked.
Still in search of a connection, they often looked like a hiker searching for a signal on his phone. Toffoli has had a difficult time picking up Huberdeau’s passes, and the timing for the entire trio is starting to sound like the clock from Stranger Things.
But this is preseason hockey.
It’s intended for working out the kinks.
And it has illustrated something Calgary Flames fans might not have realized they’d need after an offseason that offered an exciting shift with Huberdeau joined by Nazem Kadri and MacKenzie Weeger after the loss of Gaudreau and Tkachuk.
The big question there may be how much of that Sutter has for the Huberdeau line.
Is GM Brad Treliving going to be able to bring in any more reinforcements. Either via the NHL trade block or perhaps another waiver attempt?
His recent claim, Radim Zohorna, had one noticeable opportunity in his debut. But the puck wasn’t going in for any of the Flames.
Former Calgary Flames fan favourite David Rittich made 37 saves for the shutout.
If there’s a silver lining, the chemistry is definitely there for Kadri, Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube. They looked dangerous all night long.
(Dangerous may also describe the third-period hit Kadri threw into Jets youngster Cole Perfetti’s back).
And Dan Vladar might have wrapped his preseason up with a bow. The expectation is that starter Jacob Markstrom will play all of Friday night’s finale. If that’s the case, Vladar finishes his preseason portfolio with 97 stops on 103 shots. In parts of four games of action. That’s a .942 save percentage.
Maybe these stellar Flames goaltenders should let a few more in in practice to give the forwards some more confidence.