The Flames Blogosphere is oddly quiet after the Flames performance during hockey night in Canada. Oddly quiet. I feel a long post coming on . . . Perhaps it is time to reflect on a great many things. As fans we want our team to win. Not unlike the Roman mob in ancient times we are a fickle bunch. When our team does well we love them. When the Romans' blood lust was not satisfied heads started rolling in the sandy dirt of the Coliseum. Or in our case, the firing of coaches, the public criticism of players and the terrifying bag skate during practice. As fans, especially Calgary fans oft accused of being bandwagoneers, we need to learn patience. If you only support the winners you'd be a Senators fan this year but a Wings fan last year. Allegiance is a good character trait.
What is going on:
Kipper is not Kipper right now. I cannot provide a solid reason but his .867 save percentage and GAA of 3.73 are wildly uncharacteristic. Equally odd, a 5 game skid. This hasn't happened EVER in Kipper's tenure as a Flame. Expect a wild turnaround in short order.
Once regarded as the stingiest, grittiest, and hardest working team in the NHL, the Flames are now an even money bet on the PK. Opponents salivate during 5 on 4s because they can taste the rubber and twine mixing after a blast from the point sneaking past a screened Kipper. Oh the humanity, when Edmonton scores on the PP you know things are in trouble. 69.6% effective on the PK, that's a painful stat.
Coming off the heels of Rocktober, scoring a healthy 3.5 goals a night the Flames offensive output has, apparently, gone on strike. A measly 1.4 goals an outing thus far in November. Secondary scoring or not, this is not a good stat when your goals against is high. Get stingy or get scoring.
The Keenan Factor:
We have not progressed far enough into the season to know the impact of Keenan. Is he losing the room? Crushing confidence and ego with reckless abandon behind closed doors? Or is he ridding the Flames of the lackidasical whimsy that afflicted them last season?
Sutter and Contracts:
We have some big names on the cusp of free agency. Are these players worrying more about themselves as individuals than as members of a championship worthy team? I would not presume this to be a large factor but it would be on the minds of Juice, lanks and Dion. If the team continues to slide these boys may lose solidarity and confidence in the team as a whole. Have Sutter's more dubious personnel decisions come to haunt him? Kobasew and Ferrence look mighty appealing right now given the numbers Kobasew is posting down in Boston. Andy was always a strong leader in the dressing room. I look at the current faces, Aucoin, Nolan, Eriksson and I long for some of the 2004 vintage grit and determination.
Identity, Edge and Confidence
Right now the professional analysts like to truck out the concepts of edge, identity, and confidence as they relate to NHL teams/organizations. I have never been fond of the hazy abstract concepts of confidence and edge. In my daily work life, my employer rarely evaluates my confidence. I am a resource, a unit of work. Basically, I do shit. If that shit does not get done there is someone beating down my door until it is done. If I fail, I am replaced. Not much room to build confidence in there. Edge is another ill defined concept. NHL pundits act as though edge is a commodity, something you can package and sell. I tried putting it in the soft skills section of my resume and was laughed out of an interview. But identity I understand. This is the brand the Flames provide, what defines them as an opponent, what they can sell down at the marketplace commonly known as a rink. I would contend the Flames are embroiled in an identity crisis. Who are they, how do opponents view them and when you step on the ice against them what are you facing? In years past it was a gritty, highly defensive, low scoring jauggernaut with the conditioning and discipline to make opponents wary of crossing the blue line. The Flames made you earn your pucks in the corners, they made those little battles in the neutral zone pivotal and if you wanted that bit of bouncing rubber you best be prepared to eat plexiglass to get it. Discipline, determination, grit and winning battles for loose pucks formed the mantra of a winning Flames team. Were I a member of the Flames, I would remember this now and return to the style of game that made them great. Gentlemen, remind your rivals why they should fear you.