Flames might have hit rock bottom vs. Senators, right after Canadiens did

Flames might have hit rock bottom vs. Senators, right after Canadiens did
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If you believe that frustrating losses to the Senators served as the last straw for Claude Julien in Montreal, then you’d have to think that Flames head coach Geoff Ward is sweating it after Thursday. From certain angles, the Flames’ post-Senators-plight looks an awful lot worse than what the Habs were staring down earlier this week.

It’s starting to feel like losses to the Senators might serve as other, more ambitious Canadian (North Division) teams’ “rock bottom” moments. After all, losing 6-1 to the Senators had to raise some eyebrows among Flames fans.

Flames reach new low in 6-1 loss to Senators

It’s tempting to describe Erik Brannstrom’s near-center-ice goal against David Rittich as a metaphor for the Flames’ frustrating 2020-21 season.

Then again, maybe the real Flames symbol was Rittich bashing his head in frustration after being pulled. You be the judge:

Hey, when the Canadiens lost to the Senators, at least it was close. Those past two defeats came via overtime and a shootout. (Allows Habs fans to also vent about the goal review controversies.)

The Flames couldn’t make that argument following Thursday’s 6-1 loss to the Senators.

Now, the reflex might be to explain that sometimes games get away from you. That’s the way the puck bounces, right?

But this loss instead feels like the worst chapter in a book of recent Flames failures. Even before this embarrassing Flames loss to the Senators, Kent Wilson pointed out a longer stretch that carried quite the stench:

There are many things that were remarkable about the Canadiens firing Claude Julien. One was that, through all of that teeth-gnashing, the Canadiens currently sit in playoff position (9-5-4 heading into Thursday’s game against the Jets).

At 9-10-2, the Flames have less standings points (20 to Montreal’s 22) despite playing in more games (21 to Montreal’s 19). Even if the Habs lose in regulation on Thursday, Calgary’s outlook really only improves by a baby step.

Circling back to reflexes, it might be tempting to preach calm. Even great NHL teams can hit dry spells. In an exciting-but-flawed Canadian North Division, you really might only need to be good.

Is a short window even smaller than expected?

But the Flames also don’t have all the time in the world. Mark Giordano is already 37 years old. Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau, and Matthew Tkachuk all need new contracts after 2021-22.

With that in mind, it seemed like the Flames’ window, beyond the Tkachuks of the world, was for two years. But that was under the assumption that Calgary would make two at-least-semi-credible runs at a Stanley Cup.

What happens if this expensive team just doesn’t have it this year? Should that cost Geoff Ward his job, and possibly soon? Should the Flames retool on the fly by punting this season? Might this prompt the risky decision to trade Gaudreau and/or Sean Monahan?

These are uncomfortable questions. Maybe they’re downright unfair.

Yet, with only two wins in their last eight games, and playoff hopes fading, the Flames have to do some soul-searching; losing to the Senators like this can do that to you.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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