When Glen Gulutzan took the job in Calgary, he called the Flames a team “on the cusp.”
Fourteen games into the season, however, and it’s clear the new head coach still has work to do. The Flames fell to 5-8-1 after a very tough weekend in California. They got stomped, 5-0, by the Kings on Saturday, then dropped a 4-1 decision to the Ducks on Sunday.
“Obviously we’re not generating (offense), but it’s the goals against that’s a concern,” Gulutzan said, per the Calgary Herald. “The last two games, that’s the biggest concern for me.”
The Flames haven’t been all bad this season. Two weeks ago, they won back-to-back in Chicago and St. Louis, then got back to .500 with a third straight victory over Ottawa.
But they weren’t able to sustain that form. Four losses in their next five followed, and the numbers after 14 games paint a pretty ugly picture:
Goals for: 22nd.
Goals against: 28th.
The power play: 28th.
The penalty kill: 29th.
Brian Elliott: 3-6-0 with an .887 save percentage.
Johnny Gaudreau: minus-11.
Sean Monahan: minus-10.
Gaudreau and Monahan each have just one assist in their last five games, so expect them to go even further under the microscope. Those two are getting paid big money now; they’re supposed to be Calgary’s version of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
As for Elliott, he strung together a few solid outings at the end of last month, but it’s going to take a lot more than that before his numbers are back to respectable.
None of the above is to say Gulutzan was wrong about the potential in Calgary. Gaudreau is only 23, Monahan 22. Beyond those two, Sam Bennett is only 20, Matthew Tkachuk just 18. There is definitely potential.
But there is also urgency. The Flames’ best defenseman, Mark Giordano, turned 33 last month, and that’s not exactly young. True, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, and Jyrki Jokipakka are still in their mid-20s, but unless you believe it’s one of those three, there is no future No. 1 defenseman who can replace Giordano. (Calgary has not chosen a d-man in the first round since Tim Erixon in 2009.)
It begs the question: how long can Giordano maintain his high level of play? For comparison’s sake, Zdeno Chara was 34 when he won his first Stanley Cup in 2011. He remained among the NHL’s best for a couple of more years, but alas, even the greats slow down with age.
The Flames have a few days off before the Dallas Stars pay a visit Thursday. They’ll want to make hay with four home games in their next five, because a six-game road trip is looming at the end of the month.