Flames must address 'laundry list' of issues after disappointing season
Power play among many things that went wrong for Calgary
Adding veterans Mike Smith and Travis Hamonic to a young Flames team coming off a playoff appearance the season prior was supposed to set Calgary up for greater success in 2017-18.
That didn't happen.
Instead of preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday, the mood at the Scotiabank Saddledome was one of frustration and disappointment as the players departed for a long off-season.
Calgary has missed the playoffs in seven of the last nine years.
"When you don't meet those expectations, you have to start asking yourself some real difficult questions," said general manager Brad Treliving. "We felt we were capable of more and when you feel you're capable of more, that means you've got some good people in place, you've got some good pieces in place, but we're obviously missing something."
In what Treliving described as a "laundry list" of things that went wrong, one was the power play, which finished 29th (16.0 per cent) including a miserable 2-for-55 skid over the final 19 games.
"It cost us games, it's as simple as that," Treliving lamented.
It's on the man advantage where a healthy Sean Monahan could have really helped. The extent of the 23-year-old's injury situation and that he had played hurt for months was the day's most startling revelation. Since being shut down on March 21, Monahan has had four surgeries — wrist, two hernias and groin. He is expected to be 100 per cent by training camp.
'We relied on too few to do too much'
"I was freezing my hand every game. Mentally, it wears on you," said Monahan, who still tied a career high with 31 goals. "I felt like I was playing with one hand for a while. I lost all my grip strength in my hand. It definitely limits you."
Monahan's will just wasn't enough though in a season where Treliving said, "We relied on too few to do too much."
Coming to Calgary after six years with Arizona, Smith was excellent early, but the last third of the season was one of frustration for the 36-year-old, whose performance slipped while also missing a month with a lower-body injury.
"Not the way we wanted to go into the summer, for sure," said Smith. "Coming into this season, the excitement around this team, you feel like you've let the organization down in a way."
He admits when he did return from injury on March 11, he tried to do too much himself.
"I tried to come back and save the world and put a lot of extra pressure on myself to turn our season around. It probably affected the way I played more than I let on."
Second in the Pacific Division at the time of their bye week in mid-January and on a seven-game winning streak, Calgary went winless in six coming out of the five-day break and never got back on track.
"Last year's team was the epitome of [what we want.] We did a good job of putting a team together," said coach Glen Gulutzan. "This year, honestly, we had better players, we just didn't have as consistent of a team effort."
One positive is the Flames core is still young. In addition to Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, 24, had a career year with 84 points (24 goals, 60 assists). Matthew Tkachuk, 20, sidelined the final four weeks due to a concussion, had a terrific sophomore season with 49 points (24 goals, 25 assists) in 68 games. Dougie Hamilton, 24, tied for the league-lead in goals by a defenceman with 17.
'Different things went wrong'
"Sometimes it was special teams, some nights it was not being hard enough to play against," said captain Mark Giordano. "At different points of the year, different things went wrong, but the one that sticks out for me is we have to have a better home record."
Calgary's 17-20-4 mark was the worst performance in their own building since 2000-01 and leaves the Flames once again left to watch the post-season on television.
"Every year, every opportunity missed, it feels like you're not going to get many more down the road," said Giordano, 34, who has played just 12 playoff games in his career.
Asked to assess Gulutzan's second season, Treliving stated, "We have a good coach," but then added that like his own performance as GM, everyone's performance will be reviewed.
"We're going to evaluate everything, without prejudice, without blame, but with one singular goal of how do we get better."
Help from the draft with the Flames doesn't appear likely with the club having no picks in the first three rounds in 2018 thanks to the Hamonic and Smith trades.
As for potential departures, veterans Matt Stajan and Kris Versteeg are both unrestricted free agents.