Coming off a 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday and, once again, sitting two wins below a .500 points percentage; it’s time to look at some positives surrounding the 2023-2024 Calgary Flames.
The Power Play Will Improve
The hot topic around the Calgary Flames of late has been the dismal results on the man advantage. An 8.3% success rate on the month is unsustainably low.
It’s easy to see some of the overarching issues. You can see the two units working out the Xs and Os in real time. Let’s use unit one as an example. Elias Lindholm will win a face off, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri will head to the flanks of the umbrella formation and by the time Rasmus Andersson tees up a shot, maybe one Calgary player will be still moving their feet.
It will take some time, but Offensive Coach and former Flames Center Marc Savard wants rapid puck movement and evolving passing options.
Looking at a 27th ranked 11.8% conversion rate over 21 games brings on bad vibes, but it’s important to remember that these things balance out over a larger sample size. Even the worst power play in the league last season (Philadelphia) finished at 15.6%. Calgary will find their way in time. Savard has the Flames working on the power play during morning skate today, so the issue is certainly acknowledged.
On the note of patience.
The Adjustment Period Hasn’t Ended
You can make most situations look good by simply isolating the Flames’ 2-6-1 October. There have been more than a few wrinkles for the new coaching staff to iron out as the team approaches the end of month two.
There is progress. A 6-4-2 November is an indicator that Calgary is starting to make their new zone defence work (keyword: starting) and the offence is starting to shape up. 11 players on the roster are at or above 0.5 points per game in November, a primary scoring threat has emerged in the line of Zary-Kadri-Pospisil, and Jonathan Huberdeau’s high-danger passing game has begun to show signs of life.
With two days off after tonight’s match up against the Golden Knights, expect some areas of Calgary’s game to get another tidying-up.
The Youth Movement
The story line of the season has been the surprise emergence of 2020 24th overall pick Connor Zary. His ability to make plays and find seams in the opposing defence has been a game-breaker for the Calgary Flames. Calgary is currently 6-3-2 with Zary in the lineup and 2-7-1 without him.
The surge of younger players doesn’t stop there. Martin Pospisil has been a game breaker since joining the team on November 4. Four of Martin Pospisil’s five points in 11 games have either given the Flames a lead or tied the game up.
On the back end, Dennis Gilbert and Nick DeSimone continue to duke it out for the sixth and final spot on the blue line. Gilbert played a mere 12:03 on Saturday, so we may see Nick slotting back into the lineup in the near future.
Then there are the players waiting for their turn on the Wranglers.
Matthew Coronato leads the hype train with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 12 games since being sent down. It’s likely that the 20-year-old will get the first call if injury displaces a winger from the lineup.
Adam Klapka is likely next in line. With a team leading eight goals in 18 games and a hulking 6’8”, 230lb frame to go with it, Adam will likely see get his first NHL game when the Flames coaching staff feels a need for muscle down the right side.
A freak collision with Abbotsford’s Vasili Podkolzin has Jeremie Poirier sidelined indefinitely after getting surgery on a laceration. The 21 year old tore up the opposition for a song at the beginning of the season. Over four games the Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec native recorded one goal and six assists. If he picks up where he left off upon returning, Flames General Manager Craig Conroy will have a tough decision or two to make.
Also waiting on defense is Belarussian Ilya Solovyov. The 23-year-old held his own in two appearances with the big team earlier in the season. Given his age and waiver ineligibility, Soloyov has time to grow his game with the Wranglers, but with four of six Flames defensemen eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1st; Solovyov is in a good position to make a push after the deadline.
It would be unfair not to mention goaltending blue chip prospect Dustin Wolf. The two-time recipient of both the Del Wilson Award (Best Goaltender in the WHL) and Baz Bastien Award (Best Goaltender in the AHL) is once again starting strong. An 8-3-0 record, a 2.50 goals against average and a .916 save percentage has him looking primed for another look with the big team.